February 12, 2016

Contact: Amy Hewes

Cal Poly Wins ASHRAE Applied Engineering Challenge for Second Consecutive Year

SAN LUIS OBISPO — Four Cal Poly mechanical engineering seniors put the heat on to win first place in ASHRAE’s 2015 Applied Engineering Challenge. It was the second win in a row by a senior design team from Cal Poly’s Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigerating concentration.

This year’s event challenged students to design a portable structure that could be quickly assembled in the field to treat heat-induced illness, including heat stroke and exhaustion. The competition specifically targeted construction sites in the hot-and-dry and hot-and-humid climates of Sacramento, Calif. and Atlanta, respectively.

ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers), presented the award at its winter conference held Jan. 23-27 in Orlando, Fla. The award included a $2,000 cash prize.

“Cal Poly participated for the first time last year, and this back-to-back win demonstrates how outstanding and competitive our students are,” said Jesse Maddren, mechanical engineering professor and faculty advisor.

The Cal Poly team, all of whom have now embarked on their careers, included Miren Aizpitarte from Eagle, Idaho, a project engineer at Critchfield Mechanical Inc.; Cinthya Mendez from Fresno, Calif., a mechanical engineer at Western Allied Mechanical; Julia Stone from San Diego, a mechanical facilities engineer at Intel; and Willis Tang from Alhambra, Calif., a design engineer at ACCO Engineered Systems.

“One of the greatest challenges was finding the most effective solution within the constraints of the contest,” said Tang. “For starters, we were limited to storing our shelter within a container no larger than 3 feet long by 3 feet wide by 3 feet high, and it could weigh no more than 150 pounds.”

The team proposed a pentagonal structure with an airbed and chilled pad inside. The structure is cooled by a portable air-conditioning unit with an evaporative cooling option for dry climates. The tent walls, doors and roof are thinly insulated and also feature air gaps and layers of nylon shading material. There is also a clear plastic observation window.

Team members credit their developing a simulated model of the shelter for giving them an extra edge.

“Using computer software, we were able to model our portable shelter and see the effects of cooling on a victim’s internal body temperature over time,’ said Tang. “We could see exactly which solution presented the best results.”

“I was most proud of how these tools validated our research and proved — for us as well as the judges — that our solution was best,” added Mendez.

ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is a global society advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment. The society and its more than 50,000 members worldwide focus on building systems, energy efficiency, indoor air quality, refrigeration and sustainability.

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