• A screenshot from CEE student Sid Pai's winning video about Protoprint, a project in India that gives waste-pickers technology to convert plastic waste into filament to create 3-D-printed objects they can sell.

    A screenshot from CEE student Sid Pai's winning video about Protoprint, a project in India that gives waste-pickers technology to convert plastic waste into filament to create 3-D-printed objects they can sell.

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New video for old problems

Poster of CEE's first ever video competition.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering sponsors a video-making competition for its students.


On March 14, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) held its first ever video competition in Room 32-155, complete with popcorn and candy. Competitors included teams of students, faculty, and staff from various departments who came together to screen and evaluate short videos made to illustrate how engineering advances of the past 50 years hold clues to designing a sustainable future for the next 50, and beyond.  

Ten groups responded to the department’s call for entries. All but one of the final videos were shot, edited, and produced entirely by students. The videos were screened for a crowd of more than 80 attendees — the video makers themselves; their friends and peer students; and faculty and staff from CEE. At the conclusion of the event, the audience voted for their favorites. Official judges Christopher Kaiser, biology professor and former provost, and CEE’s John Williams, weighed audience data and added their own assessments. The winners were announced after the final screening.

First prize of $1,000 went to CEE undergraduate Sid Pai for a video chronicling a project, called Protoprint, in India through which waste-pickers retrieve and clean plastic waste that is then broken down and used in a 3-D printer to create objects the pickers can sell. The result is an earned income that is fifteen times greater than collecting the plastic alone.

Second prize of $500 was awarded to a team of CEE and Department of Mechanical Engineering graduate students Leon Dimas, Dieter Brommer, and Tristen Giesa. Their submission, a rap video narrated by students and faculty from CEE, highlighted advances in their fields — the oldest engineering disciplines, but ones that are undergoing renewal as new tools from statistical physics, quantum chemistry, and biologically inspired engineering are being introduced.

Third prize of $250 went to Jennifer Apell, a CEE graduate student, for “New Samplers for Old Problems.” Her video looks at lowering pollutant levels in contaminated sediment through the use of a plastic sampler that will help focus cleanup efforts to areas where it matters most. 

“The idea for the competition stemmed from a call for short videos by the National Academy of Engineering to illustrate the relationship between our past accomplishments as engineers and our future ambitions,” says Civil and Environmental Engineering department head Markus Buehler.

“Video is a powerful way to communicate the work we do, and to inspire new generations of students,” Buehler adds. “I know our students are talented and creative both in the lab and outside. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.”


Topics: Civil and environmental engineering, Mechanical engineering, Contests and academic competitions, Video, 3-D printing, Students

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