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NC State Grand Challenges Scholars headed to London

A team of 5 students from NCSU was chosen as one of only 5 teams from the U.S. to compete in London this September at the Global Grand Challenges Summit (GGCS). The global summit is jointly organized by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Two CCEE students are on the NCSU team. Silvana Alfieri is a junior in environmental engineering, and Kevin Duke is a sophomore in civil engineering. Other students on the team include Rachel Figard, a sophomore in industrial engineering; Grant Jordon, a sophomore in industrial engineering; and Pippin Payne, a sophomore in mechanical engineering.

“Through this project, I was able to implement some of the practical knowledge that I have learned from my environmental engineering classes, on a real life project. I was able to better understand the relationships and connections between a variety of engineering problems and disciplines and learn about entrepreneurship and business development.”         Silvana Alfieri

CCEE students Kevin Duke and Silvana Alfieri.

The student competition is based on innovation, design, and the development of a business model based on themes related to a major challenge facing society and the planet. The NC State Grand Challenges Scholars addressed the problem of toxic wastewater that is created when processing coffee beans. Following is their winning project description:

Coffee beans are grown inside of a fruit, and to extract the bean from the fruit, coffee goes through two rounds of processing. This processing creates a toxic wastewater which is often released into the environment without treatment, where it negatively affects most locals. Billions of gallons of this wastewater are produced every year, harming tens of millions of people worldwide. Our business, Peak Coffee Processing, invented an affordable treatment process to filter the wastewater into clean water and fertilizer. This will produce purified water while creating a product that economically benefits coffee producers through increasing crop yields and reducing topsoil erosion.

“When we gave our presentation in Washington, DC I felt like we were surrounded by some of the smartest people I have ever known. The President of NAE was sitting right beside me, and he was really interested in our work. We had been so focused on developing and perfecting a business model, and talking to as many experts as we could to help us win this competition, but suddenly I didn’t care about winning, because I realized we have the ability to make a difference for society.”     Kevin Duke

Congratulations, and good luck to this winning team of engineering students!

Read more about the upcoming summit and the five teams chosen to compete.