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WVU mining engineering students win national senior design competition

Mining engineering students

Left to right: John Dickson, William Burow and Samantha Fowkes 

A team of three West Virginia University mining engineering students were faced with a lofty feat — create a plan for a full-scale operating mine from the ground up using knowledge acquired from their varied course work as part of the 24th Annual Carlson Software National Senior Design Competition. 

Story by Adrianne Uphold, Graduate Assistant 


The Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources students were given 30 core holes from Mettiki Coal, which allowed the students to map the geology, design a mine and all facilities associated with it. From there, the students had to determine if constructing the coal mine would be a good investment or not, as if it were a real-life project in the students’ careers.  

This joined effort earned William Burow, Samantha Fowkes and John Dickson first place in the prominent mine design competition. 

“This was an important project for us to bring all of the courses we have covered over the years, using them together to make a pre-feasibility study,” Burow, a Friendsville, Maryland, native said. “The College provided us with all of the software we needed, as well as making sure to bring in plenty of people from the industry to help us and answer any questions we had.” 

Fowkes, a New Eagle, Pennsylvania, native, said achieving this accomplishment was a representation of every class the students took within the Department.  

“This project was important because we finally combined all of our knowledge gained over the last four years to create a product, we are proud of,” Fowkes said. “We were able to represent every class that we took in the Department of Mining Engineering in our project which helped showcase how much we've learned and the importance of each class.” 

Dickson, originally from Salisbury, Maryland, said help from Statler College mining faculty was crucial to their success.  

“This project establishes conformation that you have retained the knowledge learned and can utilize that knowledge in a real-world application. Assistance from the professors in the Department was crucial to completing the project. Their assistance provided us the information to get past some of the complications that arose from this project,” Dickson said. 

The student’s project was submitted for the competition by Statler College faculty Dan Alexander and John Craynon, based on the quality of their work.  

“We encourage students to complete their capstone mine design projects as if they are evaluating a potential mining property for a client who needs a pre-feasibility study to decide if additional investment is justified,” Alexander said. “This national award is a recognition of their significant accomplishments and I believe it will enhance their professional opportunities.” 

The Department of Mining Engineering has won the Carlson Software National Senior Design Competition six times since 2000, while also taking home second place three times and third place twice. In the same period, WVU took home 11 first places and three second places in the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration and Pittsburgh Coal Mining Institute of America’s Senior Student Design Awards. 

The Annual Senior Mine Design Competition has been held each spring semester since 1998. WVU students received $2,000 for placing first ahead of Virginia Tech and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. WVU also took home software, training and a competition plaque. 

While Burow is finishing his degree at the Statler College this fall, he has accepted a job with Mettiki Coal as the manager of environmental affairs in Oakland, Maryland, and Davis, West Virginia. Fowkes graduated with her bachelor’s degree in mining engineering in May 2021 and hopes to start her career in a position that allows her to grow. Dickson will graduate this coming fall and plans to obtain his professional engineer license and a Master of Business Administration.   



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135