Oct. 21, 2020

Cross-border partnership pays off for Schulich engineering student

UCalgary student joins Montana State University team for international design competition

An international team effort between a University of Calgary engineering student and collaborators from Montana State University (MSU) has earned a top award at a global competition testing the ability to design a complex, energy-efficient cooling and ventilation system.

Schulich School of Engineering mechanical engineering student Vlad Timofyeyev, along with MSU’s Scott Dorsett, Steven Fordyce and Megan Oaklief, placed second in the HVAC Design Calculations category at the 2020 ASHRAE Student Design Competition for a project they completed last spring semester.

“I teamed up with MSU as they have shown to be organized and had clear objectives with which I could help, not to mention the advantage of being in the same time zone,” explained Timofyeyev, who originally entered the competition alone, before realizing he would have more impact as part of a team.

A highlight of engineering undergrad degree

And the outstanding result shows the joint effort was the right choice for Albertans and Montanans alike.

“When my teammates first shared the result with me, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it,” said Timofyeyev, who graduated in spring and is now working as a mechanical engineering technician at a local hydroponics startup.

“This has been one of the most valuable experiences of my degree, and it felt really gratifying, knowing how hard we worked and how much time we put into the project  all while balancing the transition to online courses and finals.”

Team advanced from regionals to international competition

The team was selected from among 24 teams that previously advanced from the competition's regional level to the international event. To get to the international competition, the team advanced past 13 teams at the regional and society levels.

"It feels really good because the work put into it paid off," said Oaklief, who is majoring in mechanical engineering technology. Dorsett and Fordyce both graduated in May with bachelor's degrees from MSU's Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Fresh air and cooling for Mumbai archive centre

The team was tasked with designing a mechanical system providing cooling and fresh air to a 17,500-square-foot document storage and archive center in Mumbai, India. The space included a residence for a caretaker and served as a classroom, which created different demands on the HVAC system, Oaklief said.

"We had to figure out how to efficiently and effectively cool the space while following a specific schedule," and while ensuring proper air circulation and low humidity for preserving the documents, Oaklief said. The project involved using specialized software to make a model of the building and perform HVAC calculations, learning ASHRAE standards and consulting with local HVAC professionals before putting together a 35-page report to submit to the selection committee.

First time in competition for international team

The win was particularly significant because this was the students' first time entering the competition, and they did it on their own time, according to Kevin Amende, MSU associate professor of mechanical engineering. It's common for teams at other universities to compete as part of a class, he said.

"This was a team of students who went above and beyond because they were genuinely interested," said Amende, who served as the team's adviser. "It was their gusto that made it happen." The MSU team also volunteered through the regional ASHRAE network to collaborate with Timofyeyev so he could participate.

– with files from Michael Platt, University of Calgary