Engineering students compete strongly at ITHERM

Undergraduate students from Trinity finished among the front-runners when tasked with solving a real-world engineering problem in an international competition sponsored by multinational, GE.

Representing a Trinity team comprising the 2018/19 class of the problem-based 5B3 engineering module was Owen Murphy. He attended the ITHERM 2019 conference in Las Vegas for the final stage of the Student Heat Sink Design Challenge, which provided the competitors with a taste of additive manufacturing.

The Trinity team's design (back row, far right) compared with those from other university teams.

ITHERM brings big companies such as IBM, DELL, and GE together with researchers to talk about the latest technologies for electronics cooling.

Additive manufacturing represents a rising dawn within the field of engineering – what once was impossible to make is no longer so, which means that design is unleashed and that tomorrow’s engineers must develop creativity when learning their craft.

Tony Robinson, Associate Professor in Trinity’s School of Engineering, said:

Now that the additive manufacturing era is upon us, we can design the right solution to a problem as opposed to coming up with the best solution considering the manufacturing circumstances. This was the challenge our students faced at ITHERM. There were a few curve-balls in the design brief but our undergraduates rose to the challenge and beat a number of teams comprising PhD students from some of the highest-ranked universities in the US.

Specifically, the Student Heat Sink Design Challenge, sponsored by GE, asked students to design, analyse and optimise an aluminium additively manufactured heat sink to cool a constant heat flux power electronics module subject to forced convection.

All competing designs were evaluated based on a series of design and manufacturing criteria, with teams with the most effective and creative designs handed the opportunity to test their design using the additive manufacturing facilities at GE and by using state-of-the-art equipment at Oregon State University.

Professor Robinson added:

To put into context the scale of the challenge it’s important to note that our students weren’t just asked to come up with a design – they actually implemented the Simulation-Driven Design process, using computational fluid mechanics, built the test facility that would be used in the competition, got the final design printed and then tested it.

Along with Professor Robinson, Dr Nicolas Baudin taught Trinity’s 5B3 engineering class last term and was also proud to see the Trinity team perform so well in the US.

Dr Baudin said:

5B3 aims to teach students how to design and manufacture thermal solutions for real engineering problems that we face today – from heating a room to cooling a processor. The module places a strong emphasis on problem-based, experiential learning, so it is fantastic to see our undergraduates compete so strongly against some of the brightest young minds in the world when faced with a real-world problem that didn’t have an existing solution.

I’m very proud of their success, which underlines that Trinity’s students leave the university with the skills and creativity they need to excel in today’s engineering world.