Reflections of college experiences produce a variety of memories in alumni of West Virginia University. Many revolve around football games, Greek life and study abroad programs. But for many undergraduate engineering students, the highpoint of their college experience revolves around their senior capstone design project.
Along with producing lasting memories, the Projects with Industry and Building Energy Use program has earned a place in the National Academy of Engineering’s Real World Engineering Education publication of 2012. The publication highlights model programs that demonstrate methods of infusing real world experience into engineering education.
“This program is designed as a senior capstone design experience,” explained Ken Means, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. “The projects are supported by the West Virginia Division of Energy with the purpose of helping West Virginia industries, schools and institutions to become energy efficient and competitive.”
The projects deal with a wide variety of topics including energy efficiency, heat recovery, building energy efficiency, manufacturing efficiency and robotics. For example, in the industry section, student teams go into plants and factories to meet with company officials, become acquainted with common problems in the plant and take measurements associated with that problem. The students then spend the remainder of the semester developing designs to resolve the problem. Toward the end of the course, the students write a final report and provide a presentation to the plant managers and engineers.
“One of the unique features of this program is that it combines real-world design projects with an educational program,” said Means. “The results provide useful information to real industries and institutions that can be implemented to save energy and improve efficiency.”
Previous projects have included designing water filtration systems for Nicaragua schools and developing solar electrical systems for disadvantaged groups in poor communities.
“I think that having this unique program recognized in this publication will enhance our status with the West Virginia DoE who funds our projects,” said Means. “This will also be a great recruiting tool. The MAE Department goes to great lengths to provide a variety of challenging senior capstone design courses for our students and this is one outstanding example of that.”
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