Andrew Freeman Competition team takes the cake
Minnkota Power Cooperative has recognized the UND engineering students behind the “Batter Shaker” as its annual innovation contest winners.
The most beloved inventions are often those that solve an irritating problem faced by everyday people. For Andrew L. Freeman, former general manager of Minnkota Power Cooperative, the irritating problem was his vehicle not starting during North Dakota’s coldest winter days, and the solution was his invention of the headbolt heater – now called an engine block heater.
In the spirit of making life a little sweeter, the winners of the 2023 Andrew Freeman Design Innovation Competition created a contraption called the “Batter Shaker,” which shakes cake batter on a platform to remove bubbles that cause voids in a cake. The four-person team of University of North Dakota (UND) engineering students responded to a request from a national company to develop the appliance. They impressed the competition sponsors at Minnkota with their simple ingenuity and teamwork and were awarded the $2,000 prize for demonstrating the innovative spirit of Minnkota’s first leader.
“There were three values that he held dear: teamwork, innovation and communication,” said Brendan Kennelly, Minnkota Vice President of Power Delivery, to the room of competition finalists on May 5. “That’s how we rated the presentations and projects, based on his principles.”
The Andrew Freeman Design Innovation Competition began with a 1996 endowment honoring Freeman’s history with UND’s College of Engineering & Mines. The first awards were given in 2000, and the contest has become an annual source of pride for UND’s brightest aspiring engineers.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Batter Shaker team member Riley Sondrol, a mechanical engineering student set to graduate in spring 2023. “We knew we would enter our project in the career expo, but I didn’t know we could go on to the Andrew L. Freeman Competition – and stand a chance of winning it.”
“It’s amazing,” added fellow mechanical engineering student and teammate Michael Ramseth.
Two student teams tied for second place in the competition, earning them both a $1,000 prize. One group determined the feasibility of using a steam-iron process to produce hydrogen from syngas. They found that the steam-iron process would be more environmentally and economically beneficial than the standard method that is widely used today. The other group developed a proof-of-concept prototype to show the benefits of a laser-based wireless power transmission system.
“We’re very impressed with your ability. The projects, and the technical content of the projects, and being able to communicate them,” Kennelly told the participants, noting the fact that several teams – including the winner – were mixed teams of on-campus and online students. “Remote work is just a part of the equation now, in the workforce as well, and you guys flew right through that. You did a really nice job.”
UND College of Engineering & Mines Dean Brian Tande congratulated the top teams, and he offered his gratitude to Minnkota for shining a light on the generation’s next problem solvers.
“This longstanding partnership is indescribable,” he said. “We’re happy to have your support, so thanks for coming back and doing this every year.”
MAIN IMAGE: Minnkota engineers Kasey Borboa (far left) and Brendan Kennelly (far right) grab a photo with competition winners Riley Sondrol (middle left) and Michael Ramseth (middle right). Online teammates not pictured: David Barber and Robbie Robison.