First Place Goes to Gonzaga in Student Design Competition

student team and lab equipment

May 01, 2024
Janean J Schmidt | School of Engineering and Applied Science

The Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association awarded 1st Place in a student design competition to "Water Security Against Wildfire Impacts."

The students investigated the impacts the Labor Day Wildfires that burned the summer of 2020 in Oregon had on a downstream drinking water treatment plant by analyzing pre- and post-fire data. The team also tested if a wildfire that burned in the summer of 2022 in the Salmon Creek Watershed continued to impact water quality in the spring of 2024, and how to best removed these contaminants.

The four civil engineering students conducting the research are Mark Chayka, Adam Chin, Matt Foley, and Noah Hoefer. The team's fifth member, Pablo Gomez, is an engineering management major with a concentration in civil engineering.

All of the judges scored the team highly on technical knowledge and applying a creative, innovative and feasible design solution to the challenge.

The winning team is invited to represent PNCWA and Gonzaga at a global water quality convention this October in New Orleans.

The project is an initial stage of an $850,000 grant from the USDA Forest Service to examine how public water systems in the region can better prepare for and respond to the impacts of wildfires. Gonzaga civil engineering faculty Kyle Shimabuku advised the team, while co-researcher Amanda Hohner from Montana State University served as a liaison to the greater research goals.