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WSU North Puget Sound mechanical engineering students earn national award

EVERETT, Wash. – July 13, 2015 – A team of five mechanical engineering students from Washington State University North Puget Sound at Everett recently earned second place in the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE) Student Design and Manufacturing Competition. Their work focused on harvesting electricity from rainwater.

“The students created two designs for a generator that could potentially create energy from unused water from rain gutters, washing machines, or showers,” said Xiaopeng Bi, interim program coordinator and clinical associate professor for WSU North Puget Sound at Everett. “The idea is very simple. It’s something that everyone would be able to think of, but nobody has.”

The Everett mechanical engineering program emphasizes strong hands-on training, says Bi. The students were enrolled in a manufacturing processes course earlier this year in which they created a variety of windmills. Bi initially suggested that they could enter their windmill prototypes in the competition because it called for a design of an energy-related project. The students instead challenged themselves with the new idea of a rainwater energy harvester, developed two designs, and built prototypes for a gutter system.

With limited budget, they used the low-cost materials available, including a $1 DC motor, LED lights, and simple microcontroller for their demonstration system. The team worked long hours on the project, including on weekends, to make it happen, Bi said.

Team members include John Boone, Andrew Crain, Mark Meister, Oleksander Pankovets, and Bikramjit Singh. The national competition, held in Seattle this year, was part of a three-day conference that brought student teams from various universities together to compete and learn.