U.S. University Students Compete in Second Annual Corrosion Detection Competition

Students from the winning U.S. Air Force team worked to design an autonomous corrosion detection system as part of the competition. Photo courtesy of USDASC.

NACE International recently welcomed university and military students to Houston, Texas, for the second annual University Student Design and Applied Solutions Competition (USDASC), the only student competition focused on designing technology for corrosion control.

The competition requires the design of an applied solution that must be demonstrated. Although research is a component of the competition, it is not the sole focus. Students were informed of the exact substrate material, coatings used, application methods, and dimensions before designing and testing prototypes to detect corrosion on a sample structure. 

Held in April 2017, this year’s version of the two-day event hosted engineering students from the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) (Colorado Springs, Colorado), Louisiana State University (LSU) (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia), Alfred University (Alfred, New York), and Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas).

Each team brought unique technological solutions to the competition. In the end, the USAFA team took the first place prize, while students at LSU and George Mason won the second place and third place awards, respectively. It was the second consecutive year for the USAFA to claim top honors.

The competition gives students an opportunity to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to real-world problems by replicating conditions encountered by corrosion professionals. Successful teams must exhibit problem solving skills, strategy, and resourcefulness during the competition.

Teams showcased their technologies in oral presentations followed by a practical application of their devices. Designed to operate autonomously, each team’s device navigated a small entrance of a 4-ft (1.2-m) by 6-ft (1.8-m) structure comprised of steel and aluminum. Once inside the structure, each device had to detect the presence of corrosion within 1 sq. in., and then report the data back to the team. Inspections were not allowed to involve any human touch.

Each team then had to succinctly report findings in an easy-to-read format for judges and operators. Findings included the presence of water or other liquids, the presence of surface corrosion and depth of corrosion penetration, and the extent of coating degradation.

The autonomous corrosion detection systems designed by the students were presented to judges Harvey Hack, Ph.D., past president of NACE International and senior advisory engineer at Northrop Grumman (Falls Church, Virginia); Ron Latanision, Ph.D., emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Cambridge, Massachusetts); and Christopher Scurlock, Ph.D., senior consultant at government consulting group LMI (Tysons, Virginia) and executive secretary of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Technical Corrosion Collaboration.

The judges were impressed with the students’ engineering skills, ingenuity, teamwork, and their ability to solve a complex problem under pressure.

“As an engineer, having an understanding of corrosion and mitigation is a huge benefit,” says Bob Chalker, CEO of NACE International. “NACE is a resource for anything you are designing in your future career.”

The annual competition is run as a partnership between NACE and the DoD’s Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office (Washington, DC).

Source: USDASC, usdasc.com.