A new senior level interdisciplinary lab experience has been developed at Western New England College which focuses on the use of biodiesel in an interdisciplinary engineering design and sustainability team project. A biodiesel generation system has been developed as part of two senior capstone design projects, and the system is capable of converting all of the waste vegetable oil (WVO) generated by the college food services department into biodiesel for use in diesel powered utility equipment on campus, and to heat the mechanical engineering laboratories. This fuel is also used to power vehicles designed as part of the senior level interdisciplinary lab experience which previously involved the development of a solar powered vehicle. Teams comprised of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering students are required to design and fabricate biodiesel powered vehicles designed to transport a payload across a race track in the shortest time possible using the biodiesel generated by each student team from waste cooking oil found on campus. Students gain hands on experience in the conversion of waste cooking oil into fuel and learn that the quality of the fuel generated plays an important role on vehicle performance. Students are given tight budgetary constrains to encourage the use of recycled materials and used parts found in the engineering labs. A mathematical energy model is developed to predict vehicle performance and an onboard data acquisition system is developed to measure performance parameters such as vehicle speed, engine rpm, and wind speed for comparison to the predictive energy model. Students are graded on vehicle performance on race day, the total cost of the vehicle and the vehicle weight. The experience gives students valuable insights into the interdisciplinary team dynamic and the importance of engineering for sustainability.
An Interdisciplinary Laboratory Experience for Sustainability
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Vallee, GE, Casey, P, & Pinsonneault, J. "An Interdisciplinary Laboratory Experience for Sustainability." Proceedings of the ASME 2009 International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition. Volume 7: Engineering Education and Professional Development. Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA. November 13–19, 2009. pp. 325-334. ASME. https://doi.org/10.1115/IMECE2009-10389
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