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Chemical Engineering Students Add to Record of National Honors

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

 [chemical engineering]

Two University of Kansas chemical engineering graduates have added to the program's string of success at the national level.

Seth Sheldon and Scott Roberts took first and second place, respectively, in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers annual student design contest. Both graduated with degrees in chemical engineering in May 2004.

Sheldon is a first-year medical student in the KU School of Medicine. He is the son of Sam and Amy Sheldon, Overland Park, and a graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest High School.

Roberts, who is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, is the son of Alan and Linda Roberts of Arma and a graduate of Northeast High School there.

KU students have won more honors in the AIChE individual design competition than students from any other school in the nation in the last 20 years. KU won first place in 2003, 2000, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1986 and 1985. KU students also won second- and third-place and honorable mention honors several times. Participating universities may submit projects from only two students.

"We are obviously pleased for Seth and Scott, as well as for their classmates. These awards are one way of demonstrating how prepared our talented students are for the work environment they will soon enter,©˜ said Stuart R. Bell, dean of the School of Engineering. "The stakes are very high in industry, and clearly our students are up to the challenges they will face."

Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Professor Colin Howat, who has taught the senior-level chemical engineering design courses for more than 20 years, said:

"The students can compete with any in the country. They have the talent, motivation, discipline and dedication. ? The department structures the curriculum to take advantage of their talents. Then, in the senior year, (the students) are willing to change the way they approach schoolwork from that of a student to that of an engineer."

The AIChE competition has students develop solutions to a problem from industry. This year's challenge was "Disposal of Cavern-Stored Ethylchloroacetate by Reaction with Caustic (NaOH)."

"Basically, the scenario put forth is that off-spec product had been disposed of legally in a salt dome on the Gulf Coast," Howat said. "The law was changed and the company was under mandate to permanently dispose of the ethylchloroacetate and return the salt dome to its predisposal condition. The material had to be pumped from the dome, treated, byproducts recovered and sold, and the resultant nontoxic salt properly handled."

Roberts also won the 2004 Ted Ventrone Award for the best design project discussing inherent safety. Sheldon was given the Safety and Health Award. Both awards are new and are presented by the Safety and Health Division of AIChE. Sheldon also won the Safety and Chemical Engineering Education Committee Award.

Both Sheldon and Roberts received cash awards. Sheldon also had an opportunity to present his solution at the AIChE annual student conference Nov. 8, 2004, in Austin, Texas.

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