Thinking on Your Feet as an Engineer

June 9, 2023

Senior Engineering Students are Mining the Future

Group of Engineering students presenting their project poster

Team 23103 ("Railveyor"). 2nd from right: Juanita Peterson.

What are new ways to promote sustainability in a mine site? How can we combat emissions in a mine through new hauling measures? These, and other questions, are the real-world problems being solved by Wildcat engineers during their capstone projects.
For students hoping to graduate from the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering, they must complete a final interdisciplinary capstone project. “[The project is] a good learning experience,” says Keegan Pierson from 23039. “It’s about learning to think on your feet as an engineer.” For team 23039: Mechanical Energy Storage System, their sponsor Resolution Copper came to them with an open-ended question: how can electrical energy be stored in a mechanical way using mining shafts?
Keegan Pierson explains his capstone group project at Design Day 2023

Keegan Pierson explains Team 23039's project on the UArizona mall

The team spent the year developing a small-scale prototype generator to create a feasibility test. At the end of the year, it was a great learning experience for the group. While the prototype remains in development and must be re-examined and re-shaped, the team members feel that they have grown stronger as engineers, learning through collaboration, scheduling, and communication. For most of the teams, including this one, the engineering students come from different academic backgrounds. This team was comprised of electrical, mechanical, and other engineering backgrounds, with no previous background in mining. This project helped expose the students to a wide world of where their degrees could take them.

Team 23069: Sustainable Building Using Mine Tailings learned more about materials acquisition during their project. Aiming to 3D print materials from tailings waste, the team learned that there is never enough time in the project. In the end they developed an axis prototype for future development. The team feels that they have learned about time and project management: important skills for future engineers to have.

Mine Design for Real World Applications

For team 23102: SME Metallic Mine Design Competition the unconventional design project led them to success. “Don’t be afraid to learn from others,” says Katie Slaughter, Mining Engineering graduate ‘23. The team relied on team member Sebastian Hog’s excellent metallurgical knowledge to lead them through designing metallurgical engineering aspects of their mine design competition project. The SME Mine Design Competition is an international competition where teams at various school chapters compete to create a mine design that is both feasible and economical in a real world setting. In their project, the team developed a mine design based on a real world example of a mine to propose a functioning mine extraction system. The team won second overall, and they gained real world experience to take them into the workforce.

Group of students presenting their project poster

Team 23100 presenting their capstone project. 3rd from left: Daouda Berthe.

Mine design also played a central role for team 23100: Autonomous Mine Design with their project exploring autonomous haul truck machinery in a mine. The team looked at various rates of implementation for different types of autonomous vehicles that could be used in a real world mine environment and tested for feasibility. The team’s advice for students? Start early and communicate a lot. The team discovered it wasn’t easy finding all of the information they needed. Daouda Berthe, one of the group members reflected on the growth he experienced, learning more about the mining industry, and sustainability.

Creating Solutions for Real World Problems

Hauling elements out of a mine is a key challenge in the mining industry, and haul trucks aren’t the only potential solution. Team 23103: Railveyor explored possibilities of implementing a conveyor belt type system that can be used in hauling materials at a specific real world mine site. While these are in operation at some mines, this team looked at the feasibility of implementing this at a specific mine site. Their feasibility testing showed how there are many different options in mining and alternatives to common problems. Their advice to students? “Keep in contact with your sponsors,” says Juanita Parkerson. Also, figure out everything you need up front in order to help with the progress of the project.

Caelen Burand and Koseku Buzugbe

Caelen Burand of Team 23101 with a fellow student

Team 23101: Vumbula Resources – Optimizing Geological Exploration in Uganda knows that it can be hard to gather information, as it was a common issue most teams faced in order to complete their projects. This team examined ways to create new methods of identifying economic mineral deposits in order to optimize geological exploration. They focused on Uganda which is resource rich. In their project, they highlighted the new methods being used to identify these deposits as well as potential social and political issues within mining, emphasizing sustainability and mining impacts.

For these engineering students and so many more, they found their design project successful. In spite of setbacks, the students learned what it was like to try their hands at engineering, learning real world skills to set themselves up for a great career in whatever field they choose. We can’t wait to see what Wildcats do next!

In their own words

If you want to know more about these projects watch their short presentation videos below:

  • 23039 - Sustainable Building Using Mine Tailings
  • 23101 - Vumbula Resources – Optimizing Geological Exploration in Uganda
  • 23102 - SME Metallic Mine Design Competition
  • 23103 - Railveyor

Or check out this playlist for more project inspiration!