Three students from Virginia Tech’s Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering recently won first place in Carlson Software’s National Senior Mine Design Competition, marking the fifth straight year Virginia Tech students have placed first in the prominent mine design competition.

Class of 2011 seniors Erich Dohm of Gainesville, Ga., and Wilson Lin and Jason Yeager, both of Manassas, Va., won this year’s event with their project titled “Flat Creek Quarry,” a proposed greenstone hard rock quarry located in Virginia’s south central Piedmont region. 

Teams from the University of Nevada at Reno and the University of Kentucky took second and third places, respectively.

As the winning team, Virginia Tech will receive an award of $2,000. A certificate documenting the achievement is also presented to each team member. The win will be also noted on a running competition plaque in Virginia Tech’s Mining and Minerals Engineering Department.

Carlson Software specializes in computer-aided design software for civil engineering, construction, and mining industries and sponsors the annual competition open to the mining engineering schools that are members of the Accredited Board for Engineering and Technology. “The competition allows Carlson to support the mining industry directly,” said Steve Richards, director of Carlson’s Mining Sales and Support division. “It helps students as they prepare to step into the working world at a time when a little money and a resume enhancer are appreciated. It also serves as a good indicator of a university’s effectiveness in mining engineering.”

Student teams submit a complete mine feasibility and design report, prepared as part of their senior design project — a capstone course in which students design a mine from exploration to closure, drawing from over three years of mining engineering education. “The students went into the competition with a great report,” said Erik Westman, associate professor of mining and minerals engineering and instructor of the senior design course. “Their project stood out for being technically complete and clearly written.”

The projects are judged by a panel of Carlson engineers and private industry consultants and are evaluated on more than 30 categories. “One of the things I really appreciate is the consistency of format and professional appearance of the presentation,” Richards said of the Virginia Tech team project. “The completeness must be there to be considered.”

Virginia Tech’s mining students have enjoyed a string of successes in the Carlson Software competition. In addition to coming in first place for five consecutive years, they have ranked in the top three places 12 out of the competition’s 14 years. “Virginia Tech has done very well over the years,” noted Richards. “Dr. Westman is doing a great job with the senior design course. The professionalism of the reports consistently stands out, and I credit some of that to the department’s writing program as well.”

"In my opinion, Virginia Tech's success in the Carlson Senior Design Competition says a lot about the quality of this program and the faculty involved,” remarked Greg Adel, department head and professor of mining and minerals engineering. “And I think specific credit goes to Dr. Erik Westman who provides the technical guidance on our senior design projects and to Mr. Angelo Biviano, director of our writing and communications program, who works with our students on their written presentations. We are the only mining engineering program in the country that has a full-time instructor dedicated to undergraduate communications skills, and I think the results speak for themselves."

Carlson Software will present its National Senior Design Competition awards to this year’s winners during the Joint Fall Meeting of the Kentucky Coal Association and the Central Appalachian Section of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, to be held Oct. 20-22, 2011, at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort in Lexington, Ky.

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