What do Angry Birds, charcoal biomass briquettes and zip lines have in common? Redesigns of each were just part of what were on display at mini-conference that closed the fall semester for students in West Virginia University’s Engineering 101 introductory course.

The course, which is taken by all students in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, teaches students project management, teamwork, technical report writing and other skills to help the students become successful engineers.

“The goal for the final project is to bring all of these skills to bear on an interesting and challenging realistic engineering problem,” said Todd Hamrick, teaching assistant professor and academic adviser in Freshman Engineering.

A total of seven different project topics were decided on by the Freshman Engineering staff: real life Angry Birds game, biomass charcoal briquette maker, sea water desalinator, hardware nut sorter, solar oven, wind powered turbine and handicap-accessible park

This was the third group project the students have completed in ENGR 101 this semester, but this one was the first where they had a choice in what they wanted to do.
“We believe that offering a choice in the final project gives the students some investment in the project,” Hamrick said.

Nick Buser, Steve Bruno, Eric Bowles and Grant Stokes used the opportunity to design a zip line for people in wheelchairs.

“We wanted to provide an environment for disabled children to be able to enjoy something the rest of their family can too,” said Buser, from Culpepper, Va.
Bolwes, who is from Huntington, W.Va., and plans to study petroleum and natural gas engineering, said he learned a lot about how to design the structure, including the finer details in project planning, “like supplies and regulations.”

A popular project was to build a real-life Angry Birds game. Ivy Kwan and Alexis Blevins had worked on previous projects in the semester and were paired again for the final project.

“We had tons of fun making it and tons of fun testing it,” said Blevins, from Hermitage, Pa.

Kwan, from Morgantown, W.Va., said that it took a lot of brainstorming and math to determine which method the team would use to launch the birds—which were plastic ice cubs—and the apparatus and Styrofoam pigs. “We chose a catapult over a sling shot or crossbow because it was easier to build and use,” she explained.

The duo said the biggest challenge they faced while building the game was that it had to be done in the dorms.

“The people on our hall weren’t too happy about it,” Kwan said.

Another popular project was designing a device to create charcoal biomass briquettes. Students had to research and test which biomass mixture would work best.

“Our biomass was made mostly out of sawdust, with a little bit of shredded newspaper and flour,” said Molly Banfield, from Charles Town, W.Va. Her team created an Ethiopian press to create the briquette. “We found that the flour made it stick together. We found that coal and wood-based charcoal are pretty similar in heating value, but biomass-based charcoal is more environmentally friendly.”

All projects were evaluated by the professors and fellow students. The teams had to answer questions about the cost, efficiency, design processes and materials used for their designs.

“These projects help them not only as students, but in their engineering careers,” said Hamrick. “They learn how to plan multi-step projects, how to work with other engineers who sometimes have different work habits and priorities and how to apply what they learn in different courses to new problems.”



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4086, Mary.Dillon@mail.wvu.edu

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