Trine students win awards in AIChE competition

Continuing the university’s tradition of success, two Trine University students won individual awards in the annual American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) Student Design Competition.

Both students graduated in May with bachelor of science degrees in chemical engineering.

SkyeOanh (Skye) Nguyen, now living in Seattle, Washington, earned the A. McLaren White Award for first prize in the competition’s individual category, and a Safety and Health Division Student Design Competition Award for Inherently Safer Design Award.

The McLaren White Award comes with a $500 cash prize, and the Safety award comes with a $600 prize.

Kevin Mercks, who now works as a sustainability engineer for XTO Energy in Houston, Texas, won the Walter Howard Design Award, also known as the SAChE Individual Design Competition Award for Overall Safety, and also received a Safety and Health Division Student Design Competition Award for Inherently Safer Design Award.

In addition to the $600 award for the Safety award, Mercks will receive a $200 award for the Walter Howard Design Award.

Nguyen and Mercks also will each receive an award plaque; free registration to the 2017 AIChE Annual Student Conference, Oct. 27-30 in Minneapolis, Minnesota; recognition during the Student Awards Ceremony and on the AIChE website; and an opportunity to present their design solution during the conference.

For the competition, students had to design a facility to produce 85 million pounds per year of a common form of nylon through the reaction of adipic acid and hexamethylenediamine. The facility had to be able to cut production by one-third at any time.

“The process is already is already well-researched, so the major focuses for this design were increased sustainability and safety,” said Mercks.

“I am extremely honored to receive the safety awards for my design. I put a lot of time and effort into it and I am glad I was able to continue the winning tradition for Trine's Chemical Engineering department,” he said. “I have joined a great group of engineers from Trine who have won numerous awards throughout the years, showing that our department is one of the best in the country. I am very proud of the achievement and thankful for the professors and others who helped me along the way.”

Nguyen said her classes had prepared her for the competition and she felt very confident going in.

“I am so excited that my work is being recognized and also very grateful to have the Chemical Engineering Department behind me every step of the way,” she said. “Besides providing us with the best education, the department showed nothing but tremendous support to its students. Dr. John Wagner did a great job ‘easing’ us into design with his creative teaching techniques and I definitely applied a lot of the knowledge gained from that class to my project.”

Photo: Skye Nguyen