Earthquake-resistant design wins college’s 3MT competition

BYU innovation hit a high note at the annual college 3MT competition when graduate students presented their thesis work to a panel of judges. The wide array of ideas presented varied from a drone system that provides accessible internet worldwide to super strong steel and a radiation resistant organism.

3MT (or Three Minute Thesis) is a research presentation competition that originated at the University of Queensland in 2008.  Since then, the program has spread to over 200 universities worldwide.  Students participating in 3MT have three minutes and one slide to give a presentation based on their thesis. 

Daniel Schwicht, a civil engineering major, won first place and $500 at the competition for his thesis on making an anti-earthquake design for the high-speed rail connecting L.A. and San Francisco. To test the integrity of the rail and the embankment that it rests on he simulated an earthquake with two massive hydraulic pistons. Schwicht’s design is projected to help tracks and trains last longer and resist greater stress.

If algae is a college student then phosphorus is its ramen according to Jacob Olsen, the second place winner, who presented solutions to one of the great afflictions facing Utah Lake, the overgrowth of algae. Olsen’s research found that phosphorus feeds algae, increasing its growth exponentially.

PJ Stanley, the third place winner, designed wind turbines that work more efficiently in conjunction with other turbines than have ever previously existed. His designs are projected to increase efficiency by five percent, which would translate to millions of dollars per year saved.

Jacob Greenwood, the people’s choice winner, designed mechanisms that can move like the armor that superheroes such as Iron Man use in movies. The mechanisms that Greenwood designed are some of the first to work on a curved surface.  

Schwicht will have a chance to compete for $5,000 as he represents the college at the university competition on Thursday, March 8 at 11 a.m. in the Varsity Theatre.

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