APSC students win big at 2018 Western Engineering Competition

Navjashan Singh and Jenny Yang Left to right: Andrew Ydenberg (WEC 2018 Chair), Navjashan Singh, Jenny Yang, Spencer Pollock (Director of Programming)

UBC engineering students have won first place in the programming category and second place in the reengineering category at the Western Engineering Competition (WEC), the largest engineering competition for undergraduates in Canada. Other UBC teams came third in the junior and senior design categories.

Since 1985, the WEC has aimed to “[bring] talented students together to practice and exhibit their problem solving, team-building, and communication skills.” This year’s event, themed “Innovation for a Complex World,” saw over a dozen western Canadian universities face off in eight categories: Innovative Design, Communications, Programming, Reengineering, Debate, Junior Design, Senior Design and Consulting.

Programming competitors were tasked with designing and delivering an efficiency-boosting time management app in just nine hours. The two-to-four-person teams would be judged not only on the quality of their products — how easy they are to use, how fast and responsive they are, what distinguishing features they have, among other things — but also on the delivery, style and content of their presentations to the judges.

Engineering physics student Jenny Yang and ECE major Navjashan Singh’s winning app, designed for the Android, featured a timer, calendar and note-taking capabilities. In addition to declaring Yang and Singh’s presentation to be the most polished and their methods of implementing certain features to be the most innovative (“We used a lot of APIs [application programming interfaces],” says Yang), the judges noted that their product was one they would actually use.

Shengyang Zhang and Laurie Jiang
Left to right: Andrew Ydenberg (WEC 2018 Chair), Shengyang Zhang, Laurie Jiang, Evan Tsuji (Director of Reengineering)

In the reengineering category, students were required to creatively repurpose both a natural gas-fueled thermal power plant and the brine waste discharged from a thermal desalination plant. The new functionalities needed to be technically and economically feasible, as well as sustainable, marketable and socially beneficial.

Over the course of six hours, CHBE students Shengyang Zhang and Laurie Jiang researched and prepared their solutions, which proposed viable ways to transform brine into bleach and to fuel thermal power plants with landfill gas, a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy source.

The WEC took place over three days at the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s main campus in Burnaby. The first- and second-place teams will go on to compete in the nationwide Canadian Engineering Competition, to be held in Toronto in March.