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contest winnersFrom left, engineering students Shibin Pennickara, Hajjar Al-Hasna Ahmad Rizal, Yanting Liu, and Stephanie Shaw took top honours in the Water Environment Association of Ontario student design contest.

Design contest win secures free trip to New Orleans for engineering students

A group of fourth-year engineering students will get an all-expenses paid trip to New Orleans this fall after taking top honours in a contest that required them to design a new wastewater treatment plan for a rapidly growing region north of Toronto.

Civil and environmental engineering students Shibin Pennickara, Hajjar Al-Hasna Ahmad Rizal, Yanting Liu, and Stephanie Shaw won first place in the Water Environment Association of Ontario student design competition, held April 6 at the London Convention Center.

The students designed a storm water management system for the East Holland River watershed area, which encompasses portions of the towns of Aurora and Newmarket. Besides designing a system to treat the increased amounts of storm water runoff in the area as a result of rapid urbanization, the students also had to discuss innovative methods of mitigating the environmental impact of that increased growth.

Shaw said one of the judges who reviewed their project was an employee at the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority – the organization that manages the watershed – which leant the entire exercise a sense of real-world experience.

“This is what they do,” she said. “So it felt really great to apply everything we’ve learned and present it to people who actually work in the field. They gave us some very good feedback, and we got to meet a lot of new contacts.”

All of the students said they may be interested in working in the field of wastewater and storm water management after graduation.

“If they go into consulting, this would be a really important part of their work,” said Tirupati Bolisetti, one of two professors who helped supervise the students.

The students will take their presentation to the Water Environment Federation conference in New Orleans in October.

“It’s the biggest wastewater conference in the world,” said Rajesh Seth, their other supervisor. “Almost 20,000 people attend, and New Orleans is one of the few places that can accommodate a conference that size.”