Typical brushless DC electric motor controllers are intricate and complicated devices employing many features such as closed loop speed control, digital readouts, and position sensing. However, not all customers need such high-tech features. An Iowa company that builds small electric motors was seeking a low-cost alternative to DC motor control. They asked students to design a simple and robust controller that would cost at least 50% less than the comparable controller on the market, while maintaining adequate performance for their desired applications. The final design achieved a cost savings of over 60% and performed very well.
Following the construction of the Campus Center at Dordt College, the entrance to the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory was modified with the addition of a retaining wall. This proved to be a significant obstacle when transporting large items to and from the laboratory. Engineering students were asked to develop a portable loading dock that could be used when large loads and bulky equipment needed to be moved into the engineering facilities. The loading dock was designed to handle a 1-ton load safely and allow for set-up and storage by a single user. It was also designed not to negatively impact the aesthetic or functional integrity of the retaining wall or adjacent landscaping.
Students were asked to design an automated flat and lug stacker for a Washington based fruit processing company. The purpose of the design was to eliminate the tedious and repetitive manual labor associated with the stacking of empty flats and lugs (i.e. large plastic trays) used to store and transport harvested fruit. The objective was to help the company reduce processing costs, while improving processing time and maintaining system reliability.
See the Flat and Lug Stacker in action (1.4 MB Windows Media File)
The availability and transportability of water is essential for communities in developing areas of the world. In such regions, utilities such as electricity or natural gas are often not available and are sometimes unreliable. In such remote regions, the use of a hydraulic ram pump could enable the pumping of water without the use of an electric motor or other engine. A hydraulic ram pump allows the user to transport water to a higher elevation, using only the energy stored in the water reservoir. This relatively simple mechanical device utilizes the physical phenomena of "water hammer", initiated by the rapid closure of a valve, to gradually lift the water to a higher elevation. The student team designed and built a working hydraulic ram pump prototype that was appropriate for a developing region of the world.
See the Hydraulic ram Pump in action (7.7 MB Windows Media File)
Jonathan Schmidt, Brian Smies, and Jason Wyenberg
Students designed a livestock drinking water distribution system for a mink farm operating in Wisconsin. The objective of the distribution system was to eliminate problems relating to freeze-up occurring during the cold winter months, while minimizing water and energy usage. The overall system of heaters, pumps, reservoirs, and piping needed to be designed for reliability and ease of maintenance.
Missionaries working with CRWM (Christian Reformed World Missions) asked engineering students to design a solar oven that would be appropriate for use in Guinea, Africa. Much of the cooking in the region in which CRWM serves is done over open fires and the biomass resources used to build these fires are being depleted. The area is well suited for solar energy applications, so the engineering students were challenged to design a solar oven that could be constructed locally by the end users in Guinea using materials that were both affordable and available in that community.