It’s blistering cold and the wind is howling outside, but Professor Christopher Gray’s students hardly notice. They are in the Randolph Center Manufacturing Lab, hunched over notes, schematics, large coffees, and research books that will help them complete their senior projects.
It’s late March and the spring semester is only half completed but these students are already working hard to complete their final projects. These projects range from increasing a local firm’s manufacturing capacity to accommodate growth, to improving broadcasting opportunities for the college radio station; WVTC, and even enabling access to vital resources for a village in Tanzania.
Vermont Tech professors teach to industry standards, and something that all of our student engineers know by heart by their first week is the Engineering Design Process (left). Right now, all the student groups have defined their problem and conducted background research. Most have analyzed and chosen their solution. Their next steps will be to develop prototypes.
Increasing Manufacturing Capacity
For Emma Saucier and her team; Harrison, Josh, and Taylor, the problem starts with bats. These critters have an awful habit of flying into wind turbines so HECO manufacturing in Essex Junction began producing a device that emits a high-frequency sound to deter bats. HECO expect sales to rise, and they need to step up production. They partnered with Emma’s team to evaluate and improve their manufacturing process to accommodate growth. An expansion of production requires analysis of the facilities and the current materials used. Emma’s team will have a prototype ready for April break.
Improving Broadcasting Abilities
Another group is working on a mobile radio transmission station for WVTC. Mathew Borst is working with Parker Robinson to create a fully functional, and portable way to transmit the radio signal when they aren’t in the studio. Parker, who is a technician for the station says “the ability to bring the broadcast anywhere will be a huge benefit.” He imagines live coverage of baseball games and trips to other Vermont Tech campuses.
Bringing Water to Those in Need
Across the hall, four students are working odd hours with their client across the ocean. Chris Sabatino and his team are developing a hot water heater for a charity organization in Tanzania. The goal is to create something that is cheap and easy to maintain. It also does not require energy. Instead, the water heater will use passive solar heating.
“Passive solar hot water heaters are like when you leave a garden hose out in the sun and the water in it gets hot. However, these are insulated and use pipes that get hotter than a hose. There are no external pumps to move the water. Instead, the water is gravity fed from a tank into the bottom of the heater and then rises as it heats.”
These groups, and many more, have already put over 30 hours into their projects. This time spent will quadruple by the end of the semester. In the next installment of this series, we will get to take a look at prototypes and schematics. Stay tuned!
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