OSU-Cascades engineering students win big

Trio earns top award for energy project

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Jun 7, 2014 at 12:01AM

Three Oregon State University-Cascades students have earned statewide recognition for their plan to help store and utilize clean energy that’s being wasted at a facility in Washington state.

Stephen MacDonald, Chazrick Branson and Daniel Shaw were awarded the Student Project of the Year award from the Oregon Association of Professional Energy Managers on Friday in Portland, a first for any OSU team from Bend or Corvallis.

The students are all enrolled in OSU-Cascades’ energy systems engineering program. As part of the program’s capstone project, the students addressed an issue that arises when energy production from the nuclear Columbia Generating Station and Nine Canyon Wind Project in Washington exceeds demand in the spring and fails to cover needs in the winter.

To fix this, the team proposed the creation of a hydrolysis storage facility, which could store energy produced by the turbines and the nuclear plant by converting energy produced in the spring into hydrogen gas for storage. In the winter, the gas could be combusted to produce additional energy.

“It’s just awesome,” said MacDonald, 31. “It was a unanimous decision by the board, which was a humbling experience.”

Lauren Sternfeld, who works for Dent Instruments in Bend, was one of the judges who selected the OSU-Cascades proposal.

“I think one thing people really liked about it was that it had a good regional scope,” Sternfeld said. “It was a Pacific Northwest project that really could make a difference in today’s energy industry. It was very creative and in-depth, and the analysis they had done was spot-on, which the members really appreciated.”

Robin Feuerbacher, an assistant professor and program lead for the energy systems engineering program, said the project was the result of six months of work.

“We have them focus on real problems that are proposed by the industry,” Feuerbacher said. “The students work on collecting the requirements of the client and researching how to meet them. There’s a lot of heavy report writing, which is also done in the industry. In this case, they also created a computer simulation model to evaluate their design.”

Feuerbacher added he was proud of the recognition earned by his students, but his main concern is getting his students jobs, noting that in the previous year, all 11 of the program’s graduates were placed.

This has also been a focus of MacDonald’s, who during his time at OSU-Cascades, helped found a student chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers, which was just recognized last month.

“There’s this weird phenomena, as OSU-Cascades piggybacks on (Central Oregon Community College),” MacDonald said. “There’s all these students coming up beneath us from COCC, and I wanted to combine everyone into one group to foster camaraderie and a sense of identity, to get us together and talking.”

MacDonald added that the group should help with networking by creating a connection between the students and professionals. MacDonald, who graduates this month, doesn’t yet have a job lined up, but he does have an interview with Energy Northwest, which presented the challenge that became the winning project.

“I guess we’ll see what happens,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com