Electrical Systems / Energy Management

College students to compete in wind turbine competition

Source: University of California, Riverside

Jun 28, 2010

The UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering will be hosting six teams of Riverside and Mt. San Jacinto community college district students who have designed and built model wind turbines with help from UCR students.

Nearly 50 students — two teams from Riverside City College and the Mt. San Jacinto campus in Menifee and one team from Moreno Valley College and the Mt. San Jacinto campus in San Jacinto — will compete from 2 p.m to 5 p.m. in Room A265 in Bourns Hall. They will give oral presentations and, using a fan, demonstrate the effectiveness of their wind turbines.

The project was created by the Bourns College to promote a greater appreciation of engineering among students, and to enhance their understanding of engineering concepts and design principles. The goal is to increase interest in areas such as engineering, science, and mathematics among high school and community college students, as well promote success among engineering undergraduates.

The project is funded by the Department of Education's College Cost Reduction and Accessibility Act, which funds other activities at UCR under the UCR STEM Pathway Project. UCR has received $4.2 million of federal grants since 2008 to bring more Hispanic and low-income community college students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Nationally, Hispanic and low-income students are traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics labs, classrooms and the national work force. For example, Science and Engineering Indicators 2010, a National Science Board report, found that Hispanics account for only 4 percent of the nation’s engineering and science work force.

Yet, at UCR, which U.S. News and World Report named the fifth most diverse major research university in the nation, Hispanic and low-income students represent about half the university’s undergraduate population.

Bourns College focused on wind turbine design because it combines many fields of science and engineering, including mechanical, electrical, aerodynamics, material engineering and physics and math, said Jun Wang, the professional development officer in the Bourns College of Engineering who helped coordinate the projects and competition.

The design was developed by Shadi Mahjoob and Ravi Ravishankar, associate dean of student academic affairs at the Bourns College. A student team under the direction of Wang developed prototypes of the design at UCR. During the past eight weeks, Wang and five UC Riverside undergraduate engineering students — Eugene O'Neill, Marcus Tang, Rianne Garrido, Adriana Figueroa and Garrett Marsala — have visited the community college campuses to help students build their own turbines.

"When this opportunity came up, the students just jumped in," said Alex Cuatok, the student success coordinator at Mt. San Jacinto and the UCR/Mt. San Jacinto STEM liaison.

The partnership with UCR provides an experience Mt. San Jacinto students would not normally receive because the community college doesn't have an engineering program. The program seems to be working, Cuatok said. This year, 12 Mt. San Jacinto students applied to UCR and were accepted.