September 16, 2009

SIUC student among Interzinc contest winners

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Industrial design student Ted Peterson, a Rockford native, conquered the Zinc Challenge.

Peterson, a senior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is one of three winners in the Interzinc Competition for 2009. The competition is one part a test of knowledge -- yes, about zinc -- and one part design. Peterson, who worked with Aaron Scott, an assistant professor on the design faculty in the School of Art and Design, won with his entry, the generateDoor, described as a “human-powered generator working as a door closer.”

His energy-saving design concept would replace hydraulic door closers often seen in office buildings. The design would also store energy, which could be used to power doorway or bathroom lighting, for example.

“Humans exert quite a bit of work on buildings every day by opening drawers and windows, stomping up stairs, turning knobs, opening doors,” he said.

“The energy captured from our movements could be just as valuable as the energy we are currently harnessing from the sun and the wind. I envision this apparatus as just one component in a network of devices throughout a building used to capture the kinetic energy of its inhabitants.”

Peterson receives a $2,000 as one of the competition’s first-place winners. As his faculty mentor, Scott also receives a $1,000 prize, which he plans to donate to the design program.

Scott said he required his students to enter the Interzinc competition. He regularly looks for relevant design competitions, he said, sometimes, as in this case, to use as class projects.

“I presented the information required to pass the quiz during class lectures and assigned readings, then aided the class in studying for some of the more difficult topics,” he said.

The class worked on some ideas together, brainstorming and critiquing each other’s ideas. As they moved into individual work, Scott said he was able to offer guidance and encouragement.

“We discussed methods of design and manufacturing,” he said. “Ted really wanted to make sure the door generator could be developed into more than just a concept.”

“I think most people who know me realize that when I decide to do something, I take it all the way,” Peterson said. “This as the first design competition I’ve entered, and I made sure all my bases were covered.”

Scott said competitions are a fun way to challenge students.

“They keep your mind sharp and encourage you to look at the world from a different angle,” he said. “Competitions allow students an opportunity to flex their creative muscle. They provide incentives for students to implement the skills, theories and knowledge they gain in class into a real situation.”

As for Peterson, the award was a boost of encouragement at a time when he really needed it, he said.

“It was extremely energizing to get recognized for my hard work at a time when I was questioning why I was working so hard,” he said.

Though his fiancée provided encouragement and support along the way, Peterson’s mother got the first phone call when he heard he’d won the award, Peterson said. “She says now there’s no chance she’ll get me to relax. This is probably true,” he said.

Check out Peterson’s winning design at