Engineers, entrepreneurs make waves with self-sustaining power

Thursday, May 30, 2024
Two UNH student researchers hold their winning ocean renewable energy device in front of a wave tank. They are wearing red life jackets.

Kara Wittman ’25 and Will Weete ’24 test their winning Drift-RMT in the wave tank in Chase Ocean Engineering.

A team of UNH engineering and business students has won the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2024 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition with a device that harnesses wave power as a reliable power source for ocean data collection buoys. It was the second consecutive year that a Wildcat team won first place in this national university competition.

The 12-member team won for Drift-RMT, a renewable ocean data collection device that harnesses wave motion for self-sustaining power. Their innovation could extend the battery life of at-sea drifter buoys that collect valuable ocean and climate data by several years.

A selfie of six UNH students in suits holding wave-shaped trophies
Drift-RMT team members celebrate their victory. L-R:? Kara Wittmann,? Nate Hixon (behind Kara), Cameron Vose, Riley Desmarais, William Moore, Will Weete.

“Marine?energy resources are abundant, predictable and have immense potential to provide clean energy to our grid and the offshore economy,” said Jeff Marootian, principal deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “The students participating in this competition are paving the way for this burgeoning new industry, and we look forward to their future achievements.”

Competing against 16 other teams at the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust’s Ocean Renewable Energy Conference in Portland, Oregon, the UNH team also won the competition’s business plan and technical design challenges. And they might need a bigger trophy shelf: This spring, Drift-RMT won the $15,000 Paul J. Holloway Prize Competition and the top ocean engineering honor at the Undergraduate Research Conference.

“Participating in the MECC was truly transformative,” said team member Kara Wittman ’25, noting that it shaped her professional aspirations and showcased the power of teamwork. ?

“It was great to see the team come together around this idea and to watch iterations of the device being built and tested in the UNH wave tank,” said team mentor Martin Wosnik, professor of mechanical and ocean engineering and director of the Center for Ocean Engineering. “Chase Ocean Engineering Laboratory provides the students with an ecosystem of support related to all things ocean, and the students really started to camp out here in the spring semester.”

Wosnik is director of the Atlantic Marine Energy Center (AMEC), a partnership of several East Coast universities funded by the Department of Energy. Erin Bell, professor and chair of civil and environmental engineering, also mentored the students.

Drift-RMT team members are mechanical engineering majors William Moore ’24, Matthew Carlson ’24, Riley Desmarais ’24, Nate Hixon ’24, William Lindsay ’24 and Will Weete ’24; environmental engineering majors?Jack Kearing ’24, Kara Wittmann ’25 and James Wood ’24; ocean engineering majors ?Allison Kelley ’24 and Kevin Moriarty ’24 and entrepreneurial studies major Cameron Vose ’24.