Monday, September 9, 2013

Senior Engineering Design Project

I am taking a class called "Engineering Design Project (EN485)." It has been said that 90% of all engineering focuses on only 10% of the population, solving such "first world problems" as how to extend wireless range all the way to the bathroom so you can use your iPad whilst seated on the throne. The aim of this class is to focus on the other 90% of the world, designing technologies that could benefit people in developing nations.
untitled, Dominican Republic, 2009

Our class has 15 people in it and has been split up into three groups, each working on a separate project. One group is going to design a cook stove that does not lower indoor air quality. This is important because currently, solid-fuel cook stoves cause 2 to 4 million deaths each year.

The second group is designing a small, wind-powered electric generator that can produce 100 to 1,000 watts of power.

My group is designing a device that can harvest either thermal or mechanical energy from everyday recreational activities, converting it to electricity which can be used to power a reading lamp. Like the cook stove, this project will also mitigate the health hazards of indoor combustion, as most of the world uses candles or kerosene lanterns for reading light. An efficient reading lamp could help prevent similar health risks and would also promote literacy by making it possible for people in predominantly agricultural societies to read and study after the day's work is done and the sun has set. I am excited to see what sorts of ideas our group comes up with and how we finally end up tackling this challenge.

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