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MCHE 101 class tests solar heaters

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Students in Dr. William Emblom's Mechanical Engineering 101 class completed their solar energy projects and tested them on campus this week.

With the project, the students were required to achieve two things: boil 8 ounces of water in 40 minutes and heat a steel plate to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The highest temperature a group achieved for the steel plate was 650 degrees Fahrenheit, but that was so hot that the wood behind the plate caught fire. The fastest for a group to get boiling water was about 15 minutes.

Students had to work in teams to design and construct their project. With that, they had to be conscious of their $80 budget for materials, think about alternative energy sources, and incorporate recycled and repurposed materials.

The systems the students built are practical for post-hurricane cooking and water sterilization, as well as for camp use. The systems could also be used in under-developed areas where there are limited resources — if someone can replace the steel plate with a sheet metal box, they could bake food.

In MCHE 101 Introduction to Mechanical Engineering, students are exposed to a broad range of topics in mechanical engineering, and learn drawing a graphic, mechanics and design, fluid dynamics, and thermodynamics. They also learn about sustainability, systems, and manufacturing engineering.

The next project for MCHE 101 students is a balloon-powered car that has to travel between 30 and 50 feet. The students final project is to construct a trebuchet, or gravity-powered catapult, that must launch a ping pong ball that hits a target 3 feet in diameter and 30 feet away.