May 16, 2017

Wauconda, Illinois – The ET Foundation, the educational and technology research organization founded by the Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC), has announced the winners in the Student 2017 Aluminum Extrusion Design Competition. More than 55 entries from 15 schools and universities from across the world were received. Scholarships totaling $8,500 were awarded to recognize the winning students’ designs featuring extruded aluminum components. From sporting goods and medical equipment to industrial and infrastructure applications, the students’ ideas highlight a variety of uses for and benefits of designing with aluminum extrusions. The competition was sponsored by Bonnell Aluminum, headquartered in Newnan, Georgia.

The designs were judged by aluminum extrusion industry professionals, including David Asher, Process Optimization Manager at Bonnell Aluminum; Todd Boyer, Director of New Business Development at Mid-States Aluminum Corp. in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin; William (Bill) Rogers, Corporate Director, Metallurgy and Process Technology at Arconic, headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Craig Werner, VP Extrusion Technology at Kaiser Aluminum headquartered in Foothills Ranch, California.

First Place, with a $3,000 scholarship, was awarded to Garen Gibbs, a sophomore studying industrial design at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, for his “Axial Bike Cargo Rack” with adaptable storage and integrated LED signal lights. The judges liked the expandable configuration, incorporated joining mechanism and hinged design. “My design uses the aluminum extrusion process to create a bike rack with a low process cost … [the] lightweight and reflective qualities [of aluminum] … enhance cyclists’ visibility and make commuting with excess cargo much more simple,” noted Gibbs. The sides of the rack fold inward to grasp cargo of varying sizes and nest neatly into the main body when closed. The remote-controlled LED lights with turn signal indicators provide optimum visibility of the rider.

“This aluminum extrusion design replaces racks currently made of steel. Aluminum’s corrosion resistance, lightweight and strength make perfect sense for this application,” said competition judge Bill Rogers.

Judge David Asher provided another reason that Gibbs’ design won. “The student’s entry demonstrates that he learned about extrusion design and referenced the educational materials provided on the AEC website to help him refine his product by utilizing the material attributes of aluminum and the extrusion process.”

Second Place, with a $2,000 scholarship, was awarded to Lauren Hughes, a senior studying product design at Aston University in Birmingham, UK, for her design, “Equi-Light” electric fence guiding poles. The lighted electrical fence provides assistance on horse farms when horses are guided to grazing paddocks in dark conditions. “The Equi-Light electric fence guiding poles uses technology available to take basic electric fencing to the next level,” said Hughes. She notes that “56% of horse owners have had a ‘close call’ when their horse spooks in the dark. These lights allow for horse owners to guide themselves and horses safely in dark conditions, lighting the floor in front of them and providing a safe ‘runway’ without the risk of accidentally walking [into] electric fence wire.”

The judges saw a simple yet effective product and a unique application of aluminum extrusions and LED lights in the design. “This high-end design for high-end horse farms opens a new market for extrusions and, for the owners, aluminum remains attractive and does not corrode,” said competition judge Craig Werner.

Third place, with a $1,000 scholarship, was presented to Jesse Palma, a sophomore studying industrial design at Purdue University for the “Medpole” medical equipment stand. “Medpole is an interchangeable medical stand aimed to give nurses customization to transport medical equipment from patient to patient,” noted Palma. The student explained that current stands are only designed to carry one certain piece of equipment—when multiple pieces of equipment are often needed—making the transportation of medical equipment inefficient and time consuming. And, often the room is filled with various equipment stands filling up the available space surrounding the patient. The Medpole is designed to accept any small machine or accessory by screwing it on to an attachment that slides into the slot. The design also accommodates an IV pole.

“I can see this being used in hospitals and urgent care facilities,” said competition judge Todd Boyer. “It combines multiple pieces of equipment in multiple configurations and the extrusions allow for cord management, as well. This does a good job of combining equipment and devices on one stand in a modular fashion.”

The 2017 Aluminum Extrusion Design Competition included a separate design category that challenged students to think about aluminum extrusions as a holistic design solution that incorporates LED lights and that uses aluminum extrusions for structural, thermal management and/or some other material advantages for the application.

The Bonnell Aluminum LED Lighting Design Challenge award, with a $2,500 scholarship, was presented to Shijin Wang, a junior studying computer engineering at Purdue University, for his “SolarLink” design. The design serves three main functions: as a bench, street light with solar powered tracking system and a WiFi station. “SolarLink provides efficient use of space, conserves more energy … and also solves the [rapidly] growing demand for public WiFi hotspots,” explained Wang. The demand for WiFi access is expected to grow exponentially by 2021, according to Wang, but it would be an inefficient use of space to install WiFi stations everywhere on the street. His design equips street lights with the functionality of WiFi , and incorporates aluminum extrusions in the tower frame, seat bench, seat frame, and solar panel with integrated heatsink, among other parts.

“The sleek aesthetics, total integration of features, solar tracking and heatsink really show off the advantages of aluminum extrusions,” said Asher.

Finally, the judges felt that one additional design deserved recognition as an Honorable Mention. Alexander Hoppe, a home-schooled high school student from Burien, Washington, won an honorable mention for his “Smart Signal Light”. The light “is an Internet of Things (IOT) connected, fully programmable LED light with a simple but versatile form,” wrote the student in his entry materials. The design consists of an extruded aluminum custom-designed profile with LED strips running down the sides and arranged in such a way as to be visible and identifiable from all directions, even at long distances. A wireless control module can be used to send commands to the device remotely changing the color/pattern of the LED strips to convey simple messages quickly and effectively. “The extruded aluminum casing holds and protects the LEDs and control module in harsh environments and allows for easy mounting. To increase functionality, an extruded aluminum coupler could be used to combine two Smart Signal Lights allowing them to be scaled up or down depending on the situation,” explained Hoppe. “The custom all-in-one profile, which might have required multiple parts and/or complicated machinery, was vastly streamlined by the extrusion process and will require minimal post-extrusion fabrication,” he continued.

Although this design did not win a monetary prize, the judges wanted to recognize this student’s work. “He had a good presentation and design that showed off the manufacturability and features of aluminum extrusion,” said Asher. “This was an impressive entry for such a young student and he clearly reviewed the educational materials available on the AEC website to inform his design process.”

To view the winning entries from the 2017 International Aluminum Extrusion Student Design Competition, as well as the winning entries from past student and professional Design Competitions, visit