As the world of engineering becomes more global in character and practice, our instructional endeavors must follow suit and provide our graduates with the necessary skills to thrive in their career. Our task is to prepare students to be more effective in a global context as well as to be able to respond to today’s challenges, giving them the competencies deemed important or even essential for global engineering work. Training students to be able to identify, formulate and solve engineering problems that are of concern in todays economic, social and environmental framework is a tremendous task and involves much more than a traditional engineering curricula. Engineering programs across the nation, including our program in Engineering Technology, did incorporate courses in renewable energy, sustainability, and green manufacturing areas: this remarkably enhanced the competencies of our students. However, the overarching integration of the knowledge acquired throughout the program’s curricula is achieved through incorporating the capstone design component in undergraduate engineering education. The design experience develops the students’ lifelong learning skills, self-evaluations, self-discovery, and peer instruction in the design’s creation, critique, and justification, contributing to the creation of the global engineer of today’s world.
Combined with these pressing needs are the current global considerations to conserve natural energy resources and convert to more sustainable methods of power generation. This fortunate unique combination led to the development of a series of capstone projects in energy harvesting and renewable energy areas. One project though stands out, as it serves as a model of such interdisciplinary and integrated work. Under the authors supervision and advising, the students team developed a hybrid wind and solar powered outdoor (street) lighting kit, aimed to be mostly off-grid, eco-friendly, and eco-designed. This system is able to provide significant reductions in natural resource consumption and energy costs, it provides a flexible installation, and it represents a leap forward to becoming energy independent. The project was developed also under the guidance of the relevant departments of our local government. The system is aimed at retrofitting the existing street lighting poles and working in conjunction with current LED technology that is to be implemented to reduce the electricity demand. Students used an integrated approach of two vertical axis turbines (Darrieus and Savonius) and a photovoltaic (PV) panel, building a fully functional prototype, amenable to wireless monitoring and further improvements for increased efficiency. This unique combination proved to be able to provide 85% of the required operation power of a street-light. Combining the sustainable and relatively reliable nature of the power sources, the higher quality of light source, and the reduction in fossil fuel consumption achieved, the retrofit kit may provide a great leap forward towards a more sustainable society.
The paper aims at presenting not only the students achievements in terms of the project technical aspects but mostly will focus on the lessons learned and on the instructional and educational aspects of developing this project, embedded into the engineering design experience. The paper concludes with an assessment of our current work including how our findings are inspiring creation of activities for further instructional uses.
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