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Engineering, communication pay off for Broncos at P3 competition

Competing at P3: People, Prosperity and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability, Bronco engineers won $90,000 to develop an innovative fuel cell.

In 2011, teammates Sandeep Lele ’12, Ross Pimentel ’12, Jeffrey Schwartz ’13, Michael Sizemore ’12, and Sutyen Zalawadia ’12 traveled to Nicaragua with assistant professor Daniel Strickland to gain insight into the needs of the population and the engineering problems their device should address. Tragically, Dr. Strickland, 27, was killed in an automobile accident shortly after their return. Dealing with their loss and grief, the students were determined to continue the research of their beloved professor, working tirelessly to develop a portable, autonomous and unitized regenerative fuel cell that, coupled with a photovoltaic cell, is capable of continuous, sustainable energy for those in off-grid areas.

p3In addition to the technical expertise they have gained, Lele reports “working on this project has given me more experience in general communication skills—something I believe many people take for granted. By talking with the people in Nicaragua, we learned a few things that we would never have guessed, particularly how they use and maintain their energy system.” Communication played a significant role in their success at the competition, as well. Team advisor and electrical engineering associate professor Shoba Krishnan said, “It is when we go to conferences that we can see how our students excel in communicating difficult technical ideas with such ease. Dan would have been so proud of his team.”

“Dr. Strickland was a great mentor and friend to us,” said Lele; continuing, “Especially on our trip to Nicaragua, it was apparent that he was very excited about applying his knowledge to develop a technology that could be used in poor, remote communities. It was his dedication and passion that drives us to continue his work.”