Engineering Days at CSU: From renewable energy to Ram Racing

Christina Vessa

Electric vehicles, mine ventilation fans and the creation of gasoline from brewery waste were only a few of the innovative projects showcased at Engineering Days in the Lory Student Center Friday. The annual event allowed visitors to interact with projects designed by senior engineering students at Colorado State University.

There were over 40 projects this year, and students began working on their projects in the fall.


One team presented their idea of how to produce a renewable energy source from spent brewery grains.

“Northern Colorado is big on breweries,” said Will Masters, a senior chemical and biological engineering major. “There (are) a lot of spent grains, we wanted to convert that into a way to replace fossil fuels. You put the biomass into a gassification reactor, and it turns into synthesis gas — it is combustible. You pass that into another reactor, and it will convert it into hydrocarbon chains. … so basically gasoline and Diesel. Then, we just had to separate it out.”

The team said renewable energy and brewing are popular in Colorado. They said spent brewery grain is currently being used to feed cattle.

“Being chemical engineers in Colorado, we were thinking of the best way to do a project that is related to brewing science,” said Andrew Dennis, a senior chemical and biological engineering major. “From that, the other big question now a days is energy. Combining the two seemed like a natural good step.”

The team said New Belgium Brewery was helpful by providing information such as the moisture content of spent grain.

“Seeing that we could take what is pretty much trash from a brewery,” Masters said. “And turn it into gasoline, that was the coolest part. I had no idea that was possible.”

Another team built an internal combustion electric vehicle for the Formula SAE inter-collegian design competition. The Ram Racing team has been on campus since 1996, but this is the first year that an electric vehicle was designed.

(Photo credit: Christina Vessa)

“We have an overall green initiative here at Colorado State University,” said Team Manager Adam Grabish, a senior mechanical engineering major. “There is a lot of alternative energy research in the mechanical engineering department. We were at the limit of what we could do with internal combustion, plus you get a lot more performance out of an electric car than you do with an internal combustion car.”

Grabish said more than 16,000 hours were spent by the senior design team, and the hardest part was time management. The race will take place June 17 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Another team applied familiar principles to design an explosion-proof variable frequency drive that could be used in ventilating coal mines.


“I have been in a mine before,” said Team Manager Kristin Jordan, a senior mechanical engineering major. “So I know what it is for and the use of it. Seeing that the mining industry is a little bit behind on technology, knowing that we are helping improve the technologies in mines and helping the way of life down there. We had a very good team dynamic.”

Collegian Assistant News Editor Christina Vessa can be reached online at or on Twitter at @chrissyvessa.