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WVU mining engineering students win second place in national student design competition

Mining Engineering Students

Jacob Horner, Richard Ferenchak, Drew Reese, advisor Amy McBrayer, Samuel De Grandpre, Samantha Roark, and Christopher Afriyie.

A team of West Virginia University mining engineering students earned second place in the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration/National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association Student Design Competition for their mine design and reinvestment plan. 

Story by Olivia Howard, GA Multimedia Specialist
Photos supplied


Richard Ferenchak, Drew Reese, Samantha Roark, Jacob Horner, Samuel De Grandpre and Christopher Afriyie, a team of mining engineering students from the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, competed at the SME conference in Phoenix, Arizona and were awarded second place out of six teams. 

Advised by teaching assistant professor Amy McBrayer, the team was required to focus on an aggregate mining industry design problem. Given a list of constraints and reference resources and allowed to determine the quarry’s path forward, they developed a reinvestment plan for an active quarry by integrating geology, operational and economic data into their design.  

The goal of the SME/NSSGA national design competition is to focus on integrating what students are learning at their respective universities with real world design challenges and combines both a technical design stage and oral presentation. 

“Competing in the SME/NSSGA Student Design Competition forced me to use knowledge from my classes, internships, and things learned outside of mining engineering to successfully prepare our solution,” said Horner. “It is a great way to test how much you really know about mining, geology, economics and much more. I can definitely say I am more prepared for my future career after the competition.” 

Students complete the first phase of the competition at their home university and based on their phase one scores, if selected, compete in the second phase at the SME Annual Conference in person. 

During the second phase, additional opportunities and challenges are brought to the team and they are provided the opportunity to revise their phase one design.  

Throughout the competition, students are required to work as a team without outside input from their advisor or any other source except for reference materials. 

“This design competition forced me to think about the design without any help from an instructor and without feedback on whether a specific component of my design was right or wrong,” said Farenchak, a senior mining engineering student. “This differs from much of my college experience and provided an opportunity for my growth.”  

WVU has competed in the NSSGA design competition eight times since 2014.  This year's team, placing second, is the highest placing team since WVU began entering the competition.  The team, comprising of mainly sophomores and juniors, looks forward to refining their skills in next year’s competition.  

“I am extremely proud of this group of students for taking the initiative to compete in the SME/NSSGA Student Design Competition,” said McBrayer. “This competition allows for very little advisor input and showcases our students’ ability to utilize course knowledge and technical resources to solve complex problems.”  



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