Top student teams take aim at RevCon Challenge
Months of hard work and preparation by competing student/faculty teams culminated in the 4th Annual International Field-Reversible Thermal Connector [RevCon] Challenge, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency [DARPA] and held Oct. 23 at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and Lafferre Hall on the campus of the University of Missouri.
The 2015 edition was the second hosted by MU, which also was the host site in 2014. Seven final student teams participated in the event, which consisted of a presentation and a demonstration of their thermal connector prototypes. The purpose of the connectors is cooling high-powered, military-grade electronics systems. Teams had to design the connectors to be inserted and removed multiple times from a set enclosure while not sacrificing their overall performance.
Nearly a year’s worth of work went into the prototype and presentation each team put together. The field eventually was narrowed to seven final teams — MU, Ozyegin University [Turkey], National Tsing Hua University [Taiwan], Donghua University [China], Georgia Tech, University of California-Merced and the University of Maryland.
The day opened with remarks from College of Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa, a networking lunch hosted by Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department chair Yuwen Zhang and wrapped with a campus tour and award reception. In between, seven industry judges graded each team on both the presentations and prototype performances and assigned top marks in each of seven categories. The industry judges represented Advanced Cooling Technologies, the Air Force Research Laboratory [AFRL], BAE Systems, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems and Rockwell Collins.
The University of Maryland took home top overall honors. Additional awards include:
- Best Thermal Performance: Donghua University
- Most Multidisciplinary Approach: Georgia Tech
- Most Innovative: National Tsing Hua University
- Best Commercial Potential: Ozyegin University
- Most Comprehensive Analysis: University of California-Merced
- DARPA Hard: University of Missouri
“We got the DARPA Hard award because the judges thought our project was as hard as a DARPA project,” MU team member and graduate student Haolun Xu said. “I was excited after getting this award.”
Xu said the opportunity to present in front of accomplished industry members was invaluable and could come in handy as he transitions into industry after his academic career ends.
“I think this will help my future research because it already let me know how to do a presentation in front of judges and how to answer their critical questions,” Xu said. “Also, how to cooperate with my teammates and also how to do engineering design, which must be reasonable and economic.”C.L. Chen, a professor of mechanical engineering at MU, directed the Challenge, with help from associate professor and master of ceremonies Gary Solbrekken and assistant professor Simon Chen as well as members of the MAE faculty, staff and students.
In addition to DARPA and AFRL and industrial judges, Chen acknowledged the support from the dean’s office and the MAE department, Mizzou Advantage, campus and engineering contract offices, and their colleagues, postdoctorates and students.
“They are the people behind the scene who made this event a success,” Chen said. “Doing this kind of thing really takes lots of time and administration effort, not just me.”
““However the impact is broad. It seems that more people feel this is something good for everyone [International students, industry judges, DARPA and MU]. When students come that day, that Friday, it’s a rewarding experience. You feel everything’s worthwhile.”
Chen said the experience of hosting in 2014 allowed him to work out the kinks heading into this year’s event, including trimming the event from two days to one. The biggest key, he said, is the dual benefit received by the student participants and DARPA. And it’s that dual benefit that has Chen hopeful the event will continue in 2016.
“Students can gain a lot of experience and knowledge from the judges. But on the other hand, students can inspire those judges, which I believe is what DARPA wants — a way to benefit our industry with innovative ideas,” Chen said.