“The Hydro Think Tank was a fantastic learning experience and provided a great deal of perspective on the opportunities in the hydropower industry. It built on material covered throughout my Electrical Engineering program and gave me fantastic opportunities to network with industry professionals and see the depth of potential in my future. I am grateful for the invitation to participate and found the experience invaluable.”
– Zachary Springer, Electrical Engineer, Washington State University.
2023 Hydro Think Tank
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Southern Company is the 2023 Hosting Utility for the SE Hydro Think Tank in Auburn, AL. The event is made possible by Kleinschmidt.
HYDRO THINK TANK HISTORY
2023 will mark the 3rd Pacific Northwest Hydro Think Tank™ and 4th in the United States. In 2018, the Foundation launched The Hydro Think Tank™ to bring students directly into the heart of the hydro industry. Kenneth Odom, past president of the Hydropower Foundation’s Board of Directors and Principal Engineer for Southern Company, saw an opportunity to hold a competition to solve a water quality challenge impacting downstream compliance requirements at Southern Company’s Logan Martin Dam in Alabama. Like many projects in the southeast, the Logan Martin Hydropower Project dealt with dissolved oxygen compliance issues downstream of the dam.
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THE COMPETITION FORMAT
- The Hydro Think Tank™ competition brings regional university and trade-school students to compete in teams to solve a hydropower and renewable energy challenge.
- The top three teams win cash prizes.
- The three-day competition includes exploration, training, and teamwork, a resume booster, and the opportunity for potential internships and or jobs with the partnering organizations.
- The Hydro Think Tank™ student participants compete in teams of three to four students and are judged by a panel of company executives and industry engineers on ingenuity, the practicality of solution, and presentation.
- The opportunity offers students practice with real-life business, engineering, water resources management, and communication skills, refining their individual talents and ability to apply their knowledge to extend viable solutions to a pressing need in our nation’s river systems.
- Students are only responsible for getting to the competition. However, food & lodging will be provided.
“The Hydro Think Tank is about so much more than just a student competition. It is about inspiring industry leaders and students to solve today’s most difficult hydropower challenges,”
– Dale Campbell, Grant County PUD
Contact Bree Mendlin at email@example.com with questions.
“As a fourth-year Ph.D. looking for a job, the connections I made were invaluable. During the competition, I learned a lot about what a MW of Hydropower can “buy” you. It put into perspective how much energy we need to power the world and the challenges stemming from intermittent renewables.”
- Colin Sasthav, University of Tennessee
“McMillen Jacobs Associates truly appreciated the opportunity to sponsor the Hydro Think Tank. It was wonderful to engage with so many bright minds and potential future hydro enthusiasts, as they saw firsthand how our industry strives to be responsible stewards of the environment.”
– Mike Manwaring, McMillen Jacobs
2023 Hydro Think Tank™ SE Gallery
Hydro Think Tank history, continued
“The Hydro Think Tank allowed us to spend some very meaningful time with top students from various universities in Alabama, teaching them about all the hydropower that’s right here in our state,” Odom said. And Southern got the benefit of the student’s out-of-the-box thinking. Twelve students were divided into four teams competing for prizes for the best solution. Dissolved oxygen becomes a problem after extreme rainfall, which occurs regularly on the upper Coosa River above Southern Company’s Logan Martin Dam. Students were challenged to find an innovative way to increase and optimize dissolved oxygen levels. Teams were asked to put themselves in the shoes of Southern Company’s dissolved oxygen expert and determine the best way to operate the plant’s aeration systems to remediate the high dissolved oxygen levels with minimal cost. To find a solution, students could use the plant’s blower and forebay diffuser systems to increase the dissolved oxygen level. The goal was to record a minimum of 5 milligrams per liter during generation at the regulatory monitor located half a mile below the dam. While the students’ efforts focused on problem-solving, their experience was far broader. A comprehensive program offered career services support through workshops on public speaking, interviewing, and resume building. At the end of the week, the teams presented their work to an industry judging panel. They were judged based on organization and completeness, comprehension, quality, originality and innovation, presentation and documentation, and engineering teamwork. The program was an enormous success, with some students being offered internships, eventually leading to job offers. It was an eye-opening and rewarding experience for the students, their academic advisors, and the industry members that participated. The Hydropower Foundation has produced two more Hydro Think Tank™ Competitions since its initial launch in 2017, there are two competitions planned in 2023 in the southeast and the pacific northwest, and we are just getting started!