Sheffield students through to final of the Ultimate Field Trip competition

Ultimate Field Trip FinalistsBy Nadene Chandler, 1st year Journalism Studies student

UPDATE 13.03.15: We’re pleased to announce that team OxiDANE were successful in the final of the Ultimate Field Trip, and are now the 2015 winners. What an amazing achievement for them and also for our University.

The team have won a £500 Amazon voucher, as well as the trip of a lifetime to BP operations in Trinidad and Tobago, along with other regional winners from Angola, Canada and the USA.

Our students impressed BP judges at London’s British museum on Tuesday. Chiamaka Nnadozie from the winning team said: “It’s been an absolutely amazing experience. It really does feel good to win because our hard work has paid off, it’s still unbelievable but it will sink in eventually!”

Team OxiDANE will begin their two-week field trip in June.

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Three Sheffield students have made it through to the National Final of the Ultimate Field Trip competition which is to be held on Tuesday 10 March.

Excited by there opportunity they’ve been a part of, I sat down for a chat with 4th year MEng Chemical and Biological Engineering students Chiamaka Nnaedozie, Wai Choon Liong and Arona Othusitse to hear all about their experiences of the challenge so far.

What is the competition and why did you want to get involved?

The Ultimate Field Trip is a competition run by BP, carried out in 4 countries this year, Angola, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States of America. BP sets a challenge each year, with the challenge for 2015 involving coming up with a novel idea to reduce the amount of water used in the oil and gas industry and/or finding an effective use for the water produced in the industry to meet environmental regulations and ensure sustainable water use. The prize this year is a two week field trip to BP operations in Trinidad & Tobago

“It’s an annual competition and has been running for five years now, each year, participants are set a challenge, where students around the UK form into a group of three to work towards this challenge and provide a ‘solution.’ This year, the challenge is about problems involving water, and water treatments.

“We joined because it’s something different to a lecture, it especially links in with engineering.”

What is your entry for the competition and how does it work?

“Produced water from operations such as hydraulic fracturing is injected into underground wells due to high total dissolved solids levels. This is a socially unsustainable practice. To deal with these high total dissolved solids levels, we have proposed a novel thermal desalination unit, the therMICROTM . The novelty in this system lies in small, miniature bubbles. The hot air microbubbles evaporate the water to produce clean potable water. By manipulating the surface area over volume ratio of these microbubbles, heat and mass transfer rates are enhanced. This improves water recovery rates and thermal efficiency of the system.”

How did you come up with the idea?

“Our solution has been greatly inspired by research carried out by the Microfluidics research group in the department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, following the advent of the fluidic oscillator, an energy efficient microbubble generator, by Professor Zimmerman and his research team.

“We looked into the number one issue affecting water. So we wanted to produce a solution that doesn’t use as much energy, and a technology that reduces components.”

“The social perceptions around fracking are mainly negative, so we wanted to change those perceptions, so by introducing a valuable resource of treatment reuse instead of disposal, we should help to prevent negative social perceptions.

“There’s an economic aspect with the challenge, you have to make sure your solution fits social, political and legal aspects of the country you’ve decided to produce it for. You have to know the area and make sure your solution complies with laws of the country.”

What is your experience of the competition so far?

Wai: “It’s been good, we’ve been able to use different skills to come up with solutions. It was also great to be able to translate our engineering knowledge that we’ve learnt at uni so far.”

Arona: “It’s the perfect getaway from lecture theatre to the industry.”

Chiamaka: “We’ve been able to gain valuable experience in presenting and having to produce things to develop particular skills. You get a feel of actual work, and what we could be going into once we graduate. It’s a great thing to be a part of and to introduce to uni students.”

What will the final involve?

In the semi final, teams of 3 from universities across the UK submited their novel technical ideas and 12 teams were then selected to present their solutions to a panel of BP technical judges in BP headquarters, Sunbury.  

Following this semi final round, 4 teams were then selected to present their ideas to a panel of BP executives, scheduled for the 10th of March at the British Museum, London, where the winning solution will be selected to join winners from the other participating countries on the field trip. 

“The final will involve us presenting our solution to the executives behind the well-known company, BP. We will then answer questions and explain further our solution to the problem. We’ll use a video and poster to help us with our presenting.”

“We’re really looking forward to the final, the main highlight is known to be the question and answer session in front of an audience of over 200 people!

“Any students out there should really consider joining the challenge. You don’t have to be an engineering student, you can come from any course as it’s open to the whole university. You just have to be in a group of three. There’s so many opportunities with this, and you really do learn more about yourself.”

We’d like to wish Arona, Wai and Chiamaka the best of luck for the final this week. If anyone is thinking of taking part, head to the Ultimate Field Trip website