Student engineers recognized in annual Freeman Competition

Minnkota continued its support of up-and-coming innovators with the 2021 Andrew Freeman Design Innovation Competition.


Kaylee Cusack


May 18, 2021

A year of COVID challenges didn’t stop the University of North Dakota’s (UND) engineering students from using teamwork and innovation to enhance lives, and they were recognized for their perseverance at the 2021 Andrew Freeman Design Innovation Competition awards ceremony.

This spring, several undergraduate teams presented their senior design projects to industry leaders – including representatives from Minnkota, which has sponsored the Freeman Competition for more than 20 years. The winning project was a safety app developed by two engineering students for the Grand Forks County Emergency Management Department.

“It’s something we had always talked about doing, with my computer science background,” said first-place recipient Gannon Engkvist, who will continue improving the app during his work for Grand Forks County this summer. “We want to gather a lot of user input and feedback and go around to rural fire departments and figure out what they’d like to see in the app. We want to be able to tailor the app directly to the community.”

Engkvist and his teammate, Sean Larsen, received a $2,000 award for their work, supported by an endowment established in 1996 to honor Andrew “Andy” Freeman, a UND engineering alumnus and former 42-year Minnkota general manager.

“Andrew Freeman was innovative, creative, a great communicator, and preached teamwork,” said Brendan Kennelly, Minnkota senior manager for power delivery engineering, as he spoke at the May 12 awards presentation at UND. “Freeman is very well respected – not only at Minnkota, but industry wide.”

Minnkota's Brendan Kennelly (left) presents UND student Gannon Engkvist with a first-place award in the Andrew Freeman Design Innovation Competition. (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft)

Kennelly recounted Freeman’s role in expanding rural electrification in the region, taking the reins of Minnkota at just 31 years old. Freeman is also celebrated as the inventor of the electric block heater, an invaluable piece of technology for northern drivers.

The second-place team recognized in the competition developed a process to produce a bio-based substance that can be used in flexible polyether for adhesives and foams. Third place was awarded to a project that revamped an assembly station at the Grand Forks-based manufacturing company Retrax to increase efficiency, savings and safety. The teams received $1,000 and $500 awards, respectively.

MAIN IMAGE (Minnkota/Michael Hoeft) Left to right: Gannon Engkvist, first-place team; Levi Stegner, second-place team; Brendan Kennelly, Minnkota; Akash Gogate, second-place team; Maddisyn Kemmer, second-place team; Emily Myskewitz, second-place team; John Munro, third-place team; Kevin Simon, third-place team. Not pictured: Sean Larsen, first-place team; Pablo Guerrero, third-place team (distance student); Jaxon Kriewald, third-place team; Lucas Strozinsky, third-place team (distance student)


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