Trine teams win AIChE safety award

Two student teams from Trine University were named the winners of the Safety and Health Division Student Design Competition Award for Safety given by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE).

A team made up of Lucas Krupp, from Hecker, Illinois; Nicholas Cassidy, from Archbold, Ohio; and Caleb Knust from Plainfield, Indiana; and another team made up of Jennifer Jackemeyer, from Buchanan, Michigan, and Amanda Kempher, from Clinton, Michigan, were declared winners of the competition. All five students graduated from Trine University in May with Bachelor of Science degrees in chemical engineering.

Each team will receive a $600 cash award to be divided among members. Members also will receive an award certificate and free registration to the AIChE Annual Student Conference, held Nov. 11-14 in San Francisco, where they will be recognized during the student awards ceremony.

In the annual competition, chemical engineers from a designated company devise and judge a student contest problem that typifies a real, working, chemical engineering design situation. For this year’s competition, the teams had to design a facility to manufacture neural stem cells to be used to treat spinal cord injuries.  

“We had one month to research, design and write a report on how we would accomplish this facility while maintaining a specific profit margin,” said Cassidy.

To win the Safety Award, the teams had to design the plant for easier and effective maintainability, design the plant with less waste, design the plant with special features that demonstrate inherent safety and include design concepts regarding the entire life cycle.

“This design was challenging due to the vague problem description and the lack of industry knowledge regarding the large scale processing of stem cells,” said Kempher. “We spent nearly half of our time researching bioprocessing concepts, new technologies and historical studies.”

Krupp said what his team had learned in class from John Wagner, Ph.D., professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical & Bioprocess Engineering, was key in designing their project.

“My teammates and I made sure to go the extra mile and include an extensive safety section. We utilized everything Dr. Wagner had taught us about safety in designs and processes, and then added more specific safety measures due to the project being of a biological nature,” said Krupp. “Since the final product of the design would be used to treat humans, this brought in FDA guidelines and heightened safety measures to ensure a pure product.”

“I’m so thankful for the support that the entire chemical engineering department gave us leading up to and during the competition,” said Jackemeyer. “The department did a fantastic job preparing us for the design competition through our classwork over our four years at Trine, and while they couldn’t directly help us during the competition, they definitely were supportive of us during the entire process.”

Trine University students have excelled in the AIChE student competition; student teams previously captured the safety award from 2007-2010 and 2012-2014. Michael Sheperd of Bryan, Ohio, another Trine student, took first prize this year in the Student Design Competition — Individual Category, the fifth year in the last 10 that a Trine student has won that award.