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5 UNL students achieve 5th place in Smarter Planet Challenge

  • Layla Younis | DN
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Teamwork united a group of five University of Nebraska-Lincoln students for a fifth-place finish in an international technology competition.

In the 2012 Smarter Planet Challenge, an international competition for college/university teams to create technology solutions, the team’s goal was to find a place in New Hampshire through a geographic information systems (GIS) analysis suitable for a wind farm and able to provide electricity to a nearby city with minimal cost and damage to the environment.

Electrical engineering graduate students Salman Kahrobaee and Dingguo Lu led the team. Although the group didn’t visit New Hampshire for their project, data collection helped them prepare, the members said.

David Gibbs, a second-year graduate student majoring in geography, worked on the system, a computer-based tool that helped the team figure out where to place the wind farm.

Members had to look for a place where the wind farm wouldn’t interfere with local bird populations and would be far away from airports and high slopes, according to the final report of UNL’s team’s submission of the project.

“We really didn’t have any problems,” Gibbs said in reference to finding the perfect spot for the wind farm.

After gathering data, the team decided to place its wind farm north of Gorham, N.H., and south of Berlin, N.H., both of which are located in the northeast part of the state.

Gibbs said they came up with the data together and mostly used online reports from government agencies that are public to everyone.

Team member Tarlan Razzaghi, a second year Ph.D. student studying GIS and remote sensing, said the initial idea came from a previous project that they worked on, but the team needed to change it to fit within the Smarter Planet competition.

“We slightly changed (the previous project),” Razzaghi said.

In total, it took the members a semester for the previous project and then another semester to finalize their submission for the Smarter Planet Competition. If implemented, the wind farm could power 25,000 houses, Kahrobaee said.

Members are unsure if their project will actually become a reality in New Hampshire.

“My guess is probably not,” said team member Anthony Nguy-Robertson, a second year Ph.D. student studying GIS and remote sensing.

For their efforts, the team won $1,000 for winning fifth place and plans to evenly split the cost among all five members of the team.

When the team members found out they won fifth place, they were excited.

“(We were) very proud of ourselves and being successful with the project,” Lu said. “We have made some achievements throughout the semester,”

Another reason they were so successful was because everyone had a science background and it was an interdisciplinary project that connected students from both East Campus and City Campus.

“One reason we won was because we worked together,” Nguy-Robertson said.

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