CNL has a long history supporting post-secondary students with real-world experience via our fall, winter and summer employment programs. It’s an opportunity to make a strong impression on the next generation of nuclear workers – our future innovators, safety experts and business builders. However, many may not know that CNL also collaborates with universities across the country to support educational requirements of students with project experiences that put the knowledge they learn in the classroom to the test. These are called capstone projects, and our S&T Advanced Reactors Directorate (ARD) has been recently collaborating with the University of British Columbia (UBC) over the last two years to give groups of engineering students the opportunity to participate in industry-relevant research projects.
In fall of 2020, Hygreeva (Hygi) Namburi, a Research Scientist with ARD, proposed a project to design and develop fuel cladding testing capability by applying design and engineering concepts. The proposal was selected by a group of five students from the materials engineering stream.
“Students’ work included designing selected fuel cladding finite element models that could predict the fuel cladding failure behaviour, and the students successfully defended their work the following spring in May 2021,” says Namburi. “What’s more, the students were awarded their school’s departmental prize as the highest-rated for their work from a total of 11 project teams.”
In advance of the 2021 fall term, CNL provided the UBC Engineering School with a second capstone project proposal – “Design and development of test rig for characterization of TRISO fuel particle mechanical properties”. Students once again participated remotely, given the format of their corresponding classes at UBC, and their work culminated in achieving the project’s key objectives – to design a mechanical stage for application in the X-ray tomography facility at CNL and to understand the deformation behavior of TRISO particles under compressive loading. This work focused on failure prediction of fuel & cladding materials.
“For CNL, offering capstone projects means we have a great opportunity to not only become part of students’ consideration set for employment seeking, but hopefully their top pick,” adds Namburi.
And recruitment is not just a hope of capstone project implementation. Following his participation in CNL’s first capstone project at UBC, Alex Gonzalez applied to CNL and is now employed as an Operations Specialist.
“My capstone project experience challenged my skill set and allowed me to build on it,” says Gonzalez. “I applied to CNL for the breadth of research opportunities but also because of my positive capstone project experience and Hygi’s teaching and mentorship.”
In fact, when unable to complete his co-op term with CNL in summer 2020 due to pandemic response, Alex approached CNL and UBC to initiate the first capstone project.
“This capstone design experience gave Alex an opportunity to gain some valuable technical experiences in an industry where he wanted to start his professional career,” says Jon Nakane, Program Director (UBC Integrated Engineering) and Assistant Professor of Teaching (UBC Materials Engineering). “Being able to have students work with the guidance from highly experienced researchers in this field was an experience that could only happen with the time put in by Hygreeva and others at the CNL. I am very pleased with the support, experiences and outcomes of the students who have participated in these capstone projects with the CNL.”
Another successful capstone project experience is well underway this present semester with the continued support of the Advanced Reactors Directorate, and CNL is hopeful that its mutually beneficial collaborative relationship with UBC will continue into the future.