Most of the team members decided to take on this challenge recognizing the long-term benefits of working with a full-scale multidisciplinary project. The Collegiate Wind Competition 2016 provides the School of Engineering students with the opportunity to work together with colleagues from different engineering majors as well as other disciplines, such as graphic design and business administration. This multidisciplinary approach provides the team members with an invaluable experience similar to that obtained within an industry setting. Some of the Juracán Energy Team participants shared the following comments:
The aim of this project is to explore the potential for wind energy sources as a feasible alternative to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels in energy production in Puerto Rico. The project focuses in implementing a vertical axis wind turbine for public lighting applications that can be installed on top of light poles to harness wind energy and disconnect the lighting system from the grid.
The strategy has been to implement a systems engineering approach to tackle this complex and multidisciplinary project. From the beginning, it was established that the team will pursue a wind energy application relevant to Puerto Rico. The initial approach was to assemble a multidisciplinary team within the School of Engineering to search for potential wind energy applications on the island. Once the application was decided, the team was divided into subsystem teams that in turn tended to the design of the individual components of the system. At this stage, students from the International School of Design and Architecture at Universidad del Turabo also joined the team. The subsystems will be integrated at a later stage in the project, along with the fabrication of the prototype for the Collegiate Wind Competition 2016 to deliver the final product.
The team's main strengths are their eagerness to learn and ability to work as a team on a multidisciplinary project. The team is composed of students from mechanical, electrical, and industrial engineering as well as students from the School of Design with limited wind energy background. Throughout the competition, the team has been able to not only learn and work together, but also to spread the word about wind energy through the multiple outreach activities in school visits and university forums.
The Collegiate Wind Competition 2016 has led Juracán Energy Team members to discover a whole new standpoint regarding multidisciplinary design and engineering. So far, the students have been heavily involved in two of the five contests: the business plan and the technical design. The business plan has posed the challenge to learn new areas that are not traditional to the engineering field, such as identifying and analyzing a market, and to explore the economic feasibility of the project. In terms of the technical design aspect, the major challenge has been primarily related to the local availability of wind.
Preliminary wind studies on campus have shown that, on average, the local wind speeds range from 2 to 3 meters per second. Other studies conducted in Puerto Rico have also shown that suitable areas for wind energy are scarce. This challenge has led the team to explore unconventional airfoil designs that use wind energy as efficiently as possible. It has also brought the realization that the integration of the most efficient components is required. Consequently, the Juracán Energy Team has integrated many ideas and concepts from previous designs, as well as innovations that have helped better assess these constraints.
Looking forward, the Juracán Energy Team will be engaging the deployment strategy, the turbine testing, and the bonus competition. The turbine testing is expected to provide the greatest challenge, because this will be the team’s first experience in building a working prototype. It is also expected to produce the greatest learning opportunity of the entire project. In preparation for the turbine testing phase, team members are currently working on the fabrication of a low-cost wind tunnel to be able to perform preliminary tests before the competition. The deployment strategy will emerge from the completed business plan and will be addressed at a later stage. The bonus competition will be investigated in more detail during the second semester.
The Juracán Energy Team believes the greatest benefit that can be obtained from the Collegiate Wind Competition 2016 is the experience of working as an actual business, from inception of the idea to the process of developing and marketing a product. In the few months the team has been working with the project, the members have had the opportunity to interview private-sector professionals and government officials to obtain the necessary information for building the business plan and models. This has been an enriching opportunity for the students because of the exposure to professionals who are directly associated with the topic at hand. Moreover, not many projects in engineering schools allow students to develop and interact with students from other disciplines and majors, whereas the Collegiate Wind Competition 2016 is based upon the challenges involved in consolidating various subjects to be able to create a functional product.