UNL student design teams take home prizes from AEI competition

UNL student design teams take home prizes from AEI competition

Calendar Icon Apr 30, 2015      Person Bust Icon By Karl Vogel     RSS Feed RSS

The UNL team of (from left) Geof Wright, Andrew Reinke and Josh Wilson took first place in electrical systems design at the recent Architectural Engineering Institute’s student design competition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
The UNL team of (from left) Geof Wright, Andrew Reinke and Josh Wilson took first place in electrical systems design at the recent Architectural Engineering Institute’s student design competition in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A team of UNL engineering students took home two awards from the recent Architectural Engineering Institute’s student design competition.

The competing teams were tasked with designing a vertical farm building for a non-profit growing power. The building would have to be constructed in the diverse climates of both Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Miami, Florida.

Eleven teams entered the competition and the top six entries in each of the five categories were asked to present their designs at the annual AEI conference in Milwaukee in late March.

The UNL team of Geof Wright, Andrew Reinke and Josh Wilson won in the electrical systems design category and the mechanical systems design team of Alycia Noble, Sara Robbins, Wyatt Suddarth and Brianna Brass was a runner-up. Wright also competed in the construction design category, and Linsey Rohe, Adam Steinbach and Katie Fickle were the structural design team.

Wright, a senior architectural engineering with a lighting/electrical emphasis, said the experience he had gained from an internship this past summer helped him better understand the demands of the project.

“I worked on a lot of Nike store projects as an intern, and each location was different. You still have to design each building even though they’re essentially cookie-cutter stores,” Wright said. “That’s why with our overall systems, we tried to keep it all the same but make slight changes that each building would need.

“We had to factor in hurricanes and wind speeds, the fact that there are, typically, no basements in Miami and that we had the potential for a lot more daylighting. A lot of other teams didn’t really mention it.”

Wright said the UNL overall design was “the most practical” of all those entered and probably better fit the demands of having a non-profit organization as a client. Wright said practicality was a key element in his team’s victory.

The UNL electrical design kept the same fuel cell for both buildings, but decreased the load for Miami and decided to use more solar panels to take advantage of a greater amount of sunlight in South Florida. Instead of a geothermal pump or well system, the UNL team wanted a heat-down system and suggested that the Miami building increase the size of its cooling equipment.

That plan, Wright said, was part of the team’s overall strategy.

“We chose to keep the architecture the same. All the other teams chose to change the architecture in some way, which you probably wouldn’t do in real life,” Wright said. “The architect would give you the building and you design everything else accordingly.

“Our building could be built, the other teams were a little more forward-thinking and impractical and probably couldn’t be built, especially by a non-profit. We looked at maintenance issues. They’re not going to spend a bunch of money on a maintenance or repair person when they could spend that elsewhere.”

Convincing the architectural engineering faculty from UNL and mentors from industry, Wright said, also bolstered the team’s design.

“I think the reason our building was so practical was because of all the industry involvement we get in our program,” Wright said.

“As team we would give presentations and then meet with mentors and they would give us feedback. A lot of our mentors are from industry, so they don’t think about what’s the most innovative, but want us to make sure we do something that will be practical. The mechanical team had to sell their mentor on an evaporative cooling system because he didn’t think it was that practical.”

It was the second year that Wright had been on the AEI design team. There were only three seniors on this year’s team, and that’s something that Wright figures will help the team build for future competitions.

“I’ll be a grad student next year, but I plan to in the competition again,” Wright said. “The three seniors were all planning to be on the team next year, so we’ll have a leg up. We’re all pretty competitive, so we want to make this a tradition.”