Engineering Students Capture Top Award in Statewide Competition for Second Consecutive Year
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Engineering Students Capture Top Award in Statewide Competition for Second Consecutive Year

CT Skills Challenge

For the second year in a row, students from the University of Hartford’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Architecture (CETA) placed first in Connecticut’s annual College Tech Challenge. The engineering skills competition included ten teams from colleges and universities across the state.

Electrical engineering majors David Norris ’19 and Eric Sims ’20, computer engineering major Salman Hussain ’20, and mechanical engineering majors Stefan Keilich ’18 and Mark Markiewicz ’18, will share this year’s $5,000 prize for their forward-thinking ‘city farming solution’. 

“Essentially, our idea was to create large scale vertical farms in major cities like New York,” says Salman Hussain ‘20. “The farms would function exactly how traditional farms would, except that plants would be grown indoors and the roots would sit in nutrient-rich water.” Salman explains that vertical farms stack crops up instead of out. “This reduces the amount of land needed, thereby reducing the cost of food and decreasing the carbon costs of bringing food into the city.”

The students also came up with ways to reduce food waste in cities, including biodegradable plastic bags that keep food fresher longer and a ‘Smart Food Algorithm and App’ to warn users when the produce in their fridge is close to expiration. “We also researched how much the cost of produce could be reduced if farms were located closer to customers,” shares Mark Markiewicz. “We determined a vertical farm housed in a vacant 40,000 square foot warehouse in Brooklyn, New York could allow us to supply lettuce at a cost of $0.89 per pound versus the current market price of $2.50.

“We are so pleased to have placed first in this skills challenge for two consecutive years,” says Lou Manzione, dean of CETA and UHart’s director of Research, Collaboration, and Economic Development. “Our students have not only demonstrated their ability to work as a team, but showcased how proficient they are at applying practical and innovative solutions to the problems they are investigating.”

Last year, two CETA teams earned top honors for coming up with a water filtration system and a low-cost, low-maintenance water distiller to improve global access to clean water. (Read more about their win here.) Rosemarie Day ’17, one of those winners, participated this year as a student mentor representing Avon, Conn.-based iDevices, where she works as a software engineer.

The annual competition, hosted by the Connecticut Technology Council and judged by industry professionals, also included a job and internship fair for all participants.