Reclamation launches prize competition to protect steel structures

Rust Busters prize competition seeks new ideas to control corrosion

Media Contact: Peter Soeth, 303-445-3615,

For Release: August 22, 2019

Steel radial gates like the ones on Minidoka Dam in Idaho need continuous corrosion protection.
Steel radial gates like the ones on Minidoka Dam in Idaho need continuous corrosion protection.
WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Reclamation is launching a new prize competition today, dubbed Rust Busters. This competition is stage 2 of a long-term corrosion protection competition that seeks new, improved or lower-cost solution that can be prototyped to better protect steel structures from corrosion. Many hydraulic steel structures need continuous corrosion protection, but some past methods have been abandoned due to safety and environmental concerns. Many newer protection methods do not last as long, are less effective or come with much higher costs.

This competition builds upon stage 1, completed in 2017, which sought written theoretical ideas for long-term corrosion protection for hydraulic steel structures. Stage 2 hopes to advance those ideas from the Stage 1 effort and seeks additional concepts that solvers can prototype and submit for further testing and evaluation as part of the competition.

"Reclamation has many miles of hydraulic steel pipelines, gates and penstocks in and around our dams and powerplants," said Reclamation Science Advisor David Raff. "Finding a way to reduce the maintenance costs of these structures while increasing the life of a protection system will be a great benefit to Reclamation and its customers."

Stage 2 of the competition is divided into two phases. Phase I seeks innovative ideas to protect hydraulic steel structures for more than 50 years with minimal maintenance and at relatively low cost, the scientific backing for their idea, and any supporting data to support their proposed solution. The first phase winners will be invited to participate in phase II, where they will prototype their approach on steel samples supplied by Reclamation. Once evaluated, three final winners will be selected to share $100,000.

Reclamation is conducting this challenge through an ongoing partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a new partnership with the NASA Tournament Labs. The competition is being managed by HeroX. Learn more at

Reclamation conducts prize competitions to spur innovation by engaging a non-traditional, problem solver community. Through prize competitions, Reclamation complements traditional design research to target the most persistent science and technology challenges. It has awarded more than $1,000,000 in prizes through 20 competitions in the past 5 years. Please visit Reclamation's Water Prize Competition Center to learn more.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.