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NMSU engineering student team places at international design competition


New Mexico State University’s team of student engineers, E^2M3, placed second at this year’s Invent For The Planet (IFTP) international design competition for their project EcoArt.

With EcoArt, electronic devices could soon be charged with the power generated from a punching bag disguised as an interactive art installation.

After taking first place in the initial IFTP round, E^2M3 was selected as one of seven teams to participate in the final round at the Texas A&M University (TAMU) campus in College Station, Texas.

“To get that far was an amazing experience,” said Megan Trujillo, team member and mechanical engineering graduate student. “My team was ecstatic to be placed in the top three of the international competition.”

This is the second time a team from NMSU is selected for the final round and the first time a team placed in the top three.

“After seeing everyone else’s ideas and presentations I thought that there was no way we were going to place,” Chase Austin, mechanical engineering graduate student said. “We had a huge outcry of support and congratulations from all of our family and friends who had watched us, and I think that’s when it set in that we had just accomplished something pretty special.”

IFTP challenges students to develop solutions for today’s most pressing issues including food shortages, renewable energy and pollution, in a 48-hour competition hosted by universities all around the world.

At NMSU, the Aggie Innovation Space (AIS) hosts the first round and prepares students for the final presentation if selected by the judges at TAMU. Similar to the final round, NMSU students have the opportunity to win cash prizes if they place in the top three spots. There is also an additional award for judges’ favorite.

“The AIS started hosting the local round of the IFTP competition in 2019 where we started with only one team,” said Kelsey Hayes, graduate student and AIS lead innovator. “In 2020, we grew the participation to four teams competing at the local level, one of which went on to be selected for the IFTP finals, which unfortunately were virtual that year.

“It is so exciting for the AIS and for NMSU to have a team selected to compete in the finals for two years in a row,” Hayes added. “Especially since the competitions begin with over 50 teams from all over the world.”

The final round of IFTP awarded the top three teams cash prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.

E^2M3 will continue to improve on their design while they seek advice from NMSU’s Arrowhead Center to patent their design.

Power Punch: How energy from a punching bag could charge your devices

EcoArt utilizes a Triboelectric Generator comprised of a polarized dielectric material that generates an alternating current when interacting with a parallel array of conductive elements, converting oscillating mechanical motion to electrical energy. The energy created can be stored in power banks and used to charge electronic devices.

The triboelectric effect happens when certain materials become electrically charged after they are separated from a different material they were in contact with. E^2M3 created a punching bag with the mechanisms to generate electricity inside. The punching bag can then be placed in a high-traffic area where people passing by can punch it, causing it to move side to side and generate power.

To learn more about E^2M3’s project, watch their team video here: