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Industry-Partnered Senior Design Projects on Alternative Energy
Principal Investigator: Dr. Michael Rosen (College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences)
Funding Agency: US DOT
For the first time, seniors in the Electrical Engineering (EE) and Mechanical Engineering (ME) programs enrolled in a combined "capstone" course which maintained traditional core features--students working in teams and project-based learning--with the new Student Experience in Engineering Design (SEED), which challenges our students with more complex and multidisciplinary problems.
Of the 15 SEED projects, eleven originated as statements of need from Burlington, Vermont area companies and were conducted with the direct, continuous involvement of engineers and other professionals from those companies. Three more were driven by the needs of faculty research grants, while another addressed critical design needs of the student group AERO, a Formula Hybrid club.
The organizer of SEED and its chief instructor is Professor Mike Rosen, who developed the course material and industry contacts together with Professor Jeff Marshall. This initiative began with a directive from Domenico Grasso, Dean of the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS), that a course be created to add emphasis to design education and strengthen the links between industry and UVM undergraduate engineering education.
The UTC co-funded two of these projects:
- DR Power "Z-turn Lawn Mower"
Working with the engineering staff at DR Power, this student team developed a prototype or test bed for a new "zero-turn" push/ride mower to run on electric power. The mower represents a convergence of the industrial design look and feel of the Neuton light-duty electric product line and the beefier DR Z-turn lawn mowers, which are based on internal combustion, engine-driven hydraulic pump/control valve/motor systems. Although these systems have proven to be durable and safe, they are not optimal when one considers energy conservation, low noise and minimized air pollution. The target user of the new product will be a 45-year-old rural resident with a 2-acre lawn who is looking for an alternative to gasoline, spark plugs, filters, oil changes, noise and fumes.
- Local Motion "Bikes Across the Water"
Local Motion is a non-profit Burlington business promoting bicycling, providing services to bicycle users, and encouraging alternative transportation facilities in Northwestern Vermont. For a brief period each summer, Local Motion runs a ferry to carry bikers across the Colchester/South Hero cut for access to the Champlain Islands. The ferry service (supported by local municipalities) seeks to offer daily seasonal service. Their vessel, a 30-foot pontoon boat with a 115 hp gasoline-fueled outboard, currently logs about 3,500 boardings. In keeping with Local Motion's emphasis on green lifestyles, the goal of this SEED project is to reduce or eliminate dependence on fossil fuel for transportation of bicyclists across the cut.
The conceptual phase of the project identifies, analyzes and rates alternative power sources and their combinations. These included biodiesel, stored and real-time human power, accumulated and instantaneous wind and water power, solar power, and their practical combinations. More generally, the SEED team considered alternatives to the current pontoon boat: such as cable ferries, moveable bridges, submersible bridges, and an aerial tram.