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Students Regroup Online to Participate in a Water Research Competition

As events across Utah are cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak, students go online for a water research competition in 15 locations across Utah.

As conferences across Utah and the U.S. are cancelled due to Coronavirus, 13 students from two Utah universities went online to present their water research and compete for cash prizes in the 15th annual J. Paul Riley paper contest sponsored by the Utah Chapter of the American Water Resources Association this Monday. Back in February, students submitted 15-page papers describing the novel contributions of their water research. A panel of judges, who are also professionals in the water field, read and selected the best papers for oral presentation.

“This year we had extra motivation to sustain the tradition for the students in a time of great turmoil,” said Dr. Steven Burian, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Utah. “The students used the Zoom video conference technology so smoothly.”

$2500 in prize money was at stake. Andrew Frazier from Brigham Young University won the top prize of $500 in the undergraduate division for his work titled “Public Safety at Low‐Head Dams: Raising Awareness by Developing a National Inventory.” Nathaniel E. Broadhurst from the University of Utah placed first in the masters/professional division and earned $500 for his work titled “The Essence of ExtraTerritorial Jurisdiction: Evolution & Analysis.” In the Phd division, Ryan Johnson from the University of Utah received first place and $500 for his work titled “A Long‐Term Water Demand Forecasting Composite Predictor‐Modeling Approach for Minimizing Uncertainty in Urban Growth Bound High Seasonality Regions.”

Johnson described his positive experience: “I really learned how to condense my writing and focus on the main points.

Broadhurst added: “This was opportunity to talk across [engineering and legal] disciplines.”

Dr. J. Paul Riley, the competition originator, connected from his residence in Logan, Utah and added: “I am happy to participate this year. Students need to learn how to tell the story of their research.”

In prior years, competition organizers Burian, Gustavious Williams, and David Rosenberg rotated hosting responsibility among their respective universities -- the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, and Utah State University. But this year each University cancelled university-related travel to help flatten the curve of Coronavirus spread.

Four other student presenter groups each earned $250 awards:

● Elodie Ence and Jenessa Pace, Brigham Young University (Undergraduate)

● Allison Kunz, Amber Kunz, Becky Stevens, and Jullianna Stock, Brigham Young University (Undergraduate)

● Izaak Cooper, Alyssa Asplund, Alicia Nelson, Brigham Young University (Undergraduate), and

● Jiada Li, University of Utah (Ph.D.)

Five of the BYU undergraduate students that earned paper awards were freshman students, Allison Kunz, Amber Kunz, Becky Stevens, Jullianna Stock, and Alicia Nelson. They became involved in their respective research projects through the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering Freshman mentorship program.

BYU undergraduate student winners, from left to right, Jenessa Pace, Elode Ence, Amber Kunz, Allison Kunz, Becky Stevens, Alicia Nelson, Alyssa Asplund, and Izaak Cooper doing field work at Gunlock Reservoir. Missing are Jullianna Stock and Andrew Frazier.