About four months from now, engineering and business students from three area universities will be in Denmark in the thick of a global challenge that dangles potential jobs as the grand prize.
The road to the big challenge, where Kansas City area students will compete against teams from around the world, including China and Denmark, began this past week when engineering and business students from the University of Kansas, the University of Missouri and Rockhurst University beat out teams from Fresno State and Purdue University.
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The challenge was presented by Grundfos, a major international producer of commercial-use water pumping systems and developer of energy-efficient solutions to global water challenges. Grundfos posed a real-life problem to the teams: how to expand the company’s product into the municipal water utility market.
Given how tight the overall job market has been over the last four years for new college graduates hoping to land employment in their field of study, the Grundfos challenge is a “great opportunity,” said Cole Bittel of Bazaar, Kan., a member of the KU engineering team.
The challenge is designed “to give students a chance to interact in the business environment, and we get a chance to show them our company,” said Dennis Wierzblicki, president of Grundfos U.S.
Wierzblicki said that in the past his company has found top-notch engineers through the challenge and brought them to work for the company after they had completed their degree.
In this region, six three-student business teams and five three-student engineer teams took on the challenge. Student teams in China and Denmark worked on the challenge at the same time.
Each were given 22 hours to come up with a solution and prepare a presentation for competition judges.
Teams from KU and MU won the engineering portion of the challenge, and teams from Rockhurst and Purdue won on the business side.
“We put in 22 hours of hard work to design a solution, and I think we got about 30 minutes of collective sleep between the three of us the entire time,” said John DiBaggio of Overland Park, a member of the winning KU engineering team.
This is the first year that Grundfos, which has its U.S. headquarters in Olathe, has opened the two-day challenge to American university competitors.
In March the area winners will compete in Denmark.