2021 Mason Cup winners develop a green mining alternative

Posted on July 20, 2021


The 2021 Mason Cup has been awarded to Team 726E, whose members include Hank Kohn, Justin Sandrasagra, Alanna Starcevic, Chunxiao Wang and Joel Zandvliet, for their work in modelling a segregation process to recover metals from polymetallic nodules.

“The amount of background research and modelling that went into their final solution was extensive,” said the team’s project manager, Katie Pilmoor, who nominated them for the award. “The decisions they made regarding modelling went well beyond the typical knowledge of first year students and showed incredible resourcefulness.”

The Mason Cup is awarded to a team of first-year students in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science that has gone above and beyond in addressing a real-world problem assigned to them for their APSC 100 course, Engineering Design and Practice. The Cup recognizes James L. Mason, an associate dean in the faculty from 1996 to 2008, and is awarded to the team showing the best teamwork, technical competence, and presentation of their work.

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The 2021 Mason Cup winning team (clockwise from top left): Hank Kohn, Justin Sandrasagra, Joel Zandvliet, Chunxiao Wang, and Alanna Starcevic.

 

This year’s winners chose to work with a professor, Dr. Christopher Pickles, who challenged them with finding a process to extract constituent metals from polymetallic nodules, a novel resource found on the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean. The nodules contain nickel and cobalt, two precious metals required in the production of batteries. Extraction of these metals from the polymetallic nodules could represent a green alternative to mining on land.

“I think one of the reasons our project was successful is because our team had diverse interests and skills and each member was able to contribute something unique to the project,” said Hank Kohn. “For example, Justin, Alanna, and Aurora were all interested in the chemistry of nodules and metal segregation while Joel and I gravitated toward the environmental and social factors that need to be considered with nodule extraction and processing.”

The group was grateful for the opportunity to work closely with Professor Pickles, who trained the team in the modelling software they needed to complete the project. In spite of the difficult circumstances—which included work on the project during the COVID-19 pandemic—the group was able to organize video calls with Dr. Pickles throughout the term to receive the guidance they needed.