Oregon BEST has awarded a combined $250,000 to nine college engineering students who are working on innovative ways to boost electric utility power system reliability, efficiency and safety.

This is the third year of the NW Energy Experience Prize, a competition sponsored by the Bonneville Power Administration and Portland General Electric.

Two of the three-student teams will work on the use of drones and one team will focus on energy efficiency. The students get roughly $25,000 apiece.

"This experience is a fantastic opportunity for students to get a taste of the real challenges facing the industry, and play a role in finding solutions." said Johanna Brickman, Oregon BEST's director of collaborative innovation.

BPA and PGE also value the competition as a way to attract the region’s top engineering talent.

Winners this year are:

• Francesca Wignes of Washington State University-Vancouver

• Ian Lofquist of Washington State University-Vancouver

• Ozgenur Kavas of Washington State University-Vancouver

• Deric Ntirandekura of Oregon State University

• Andrew Smith of Oregon State University

• Momtaj Khanam of Portland State University

• Si Lu of Portland State University

• Nick Carew of Oregon Tech

• Dylan Seay of Oregon Tech

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