Student design projects educate both college and elementary students

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How do a local university and well-known farm teach college students about energy conversion while offering elementary-aged children from the Flint Community Schools a fun, hands-on educational resource?

For Kettering University, the answer is simple: Energy Systems Laboratory (MECH-422), a course in the University's Mechanical Engineering curriculum that provides college students an opportunity to apply fundamental concepts learned in core energy systems and modern measurement techniques for the benefit of the Flint educational community. Today, students enrolled in this laboratory make a significant impact on the elementary education of local youngsters through the development of design projects that enhance the educational resources of the Flint Public School's Mott-Hashbarger Children's Farm.

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For the past 30 years, Mott-Hashbarger Children's Farm has offered students from Flint Community Schools, Genesee and surrounding counties educational experience with and exposure to farm life. As part of its ongoing service to the community, the Farm operates an alternative school program for third through fifth grade students and has formed a partnership with Kettering to offer additional educational resources through a variety of design projects. ME Professors Ahmad Pourmovahed, Brenda Henderson and Brenda Lemke will present a paper on this topic titled "Student Design Projects that Benefit Community Schools" at the 32nd American Society of Engineering Education/Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering (ASEE/IEEE) Conference Frontiers in Education November 2002. They developed this opportunity as another way Kettering engineering students can apply previously learned topics in energy systems to real-world applications that benefit people.

The idea behind the project is to provide Kettering students with an integrated, hands-on experience that strengthens elementary students' understanding of energy conversion and the practical use of natural energy sources in creating power. As a course project, senior level Kettering engineering students analyze and develop educational demonstrations for third through fifth grade students who visit the farm. This initiative results from work conducted between Pourmovahed, Henderson, Lemke and Ron Schnell, director of Mott-Hashbarger Farm, to develop and implement additional education opportunities for young students.

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Student design projects that focus on the conversion of one form of energy into other forms may be considered for implementation at the farm. Over the past year, Pourmovahed, Henderson and Lemke report in their paper that a specific area of interest among students is the conversion of solar, wind or hydraulic energy into mechanical or electrical power. To complete this project, students will utilize existing resources at Mott Farm to demonstrate concepts of energy conversion.

Some of the projects undertaken by Kettering students include hydroelectric power generation, which adds a waterwheel and coupled generator to an existing waterfall. The electrical power produced would run to a demonstration booth with voltmeters, switchable lights and conveyors, displaying to children the viability of hydroelectric use in every-day applications.

Professors Pourmovahed, Henderson and Lemke are currently seeking funding to offset costs associated with student design projects. In addition, proceeds from the sale of the Energy Systems Laboratory manual will also support the development of student projects.

All projects selected for implementation must serve as an educational tool that captivates young students and cost $1,200 or less to produce. Ron Schnell of the Mott-Hashbarger Farm will make final selections of designs. Full implementation of project will begin in the summer 2002.

For more information about "Student Design Projects that Benefit Community Schools," contact Kettering Professor Ahmad Pourmovahed via e-mail at