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Students Build Alternative Engine for Future Energy

This is the first article in a twelve part series highlighting Berea's summer research projects.

Lindsay Longstreth (right) collaborates with students to build a sterling engine.

Mornings for Lindsay Longstreth, a senior technology major, begin like those of any other BC student - breakfast and a short walk to work; however, the typical routine stops once she begins making parts for a sterling engine on a two ton machine. Like several other students on campus, Lindsay is involved in one of twelve major summer research projects.

Lindsay’s group project focuses on the construction of a sterling engine, which may be used to explore potential alternative energy sources. By connecting a potential energy source (such as a solar panel) to a processor, the converted energy can be used as electricity to run the engine. The hope for this model engine is to eventually advance energy use. In this engine, the amount of energy can only support a light bulb; but by analyzing the components of a smaller engine, Lindsay’s group (and future students), hopes to learn a better method of reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and expand the use of natural energy so that every future home will have the ability to utilize solar power.

“Through this process, we are applying knowledge that we have learned… we are actually using the knowledge that we have been taught in previous classes… we're learning about tools, processing, raw materials, design, you know we’re tying all of our classes together into actually building a usable product,” exclaims Lindsay. The benefit of this type of learning experience is evident in the product as well as in the way Lindsay responds to the experience. “I think it is extremely educational," says Lindsay. "I learned more in 5 days at this job then I did in an entire semester of a class relating to this topic, because I have actually gotten my hands into the project and was almost forced to look at a design and then actually make the part.”

With grease stains on her clothes and dirt in her hair, Lindsay says the stains are a small price to pay for the confidence she has found in her own skills as a technology major. “I have actually sat down and made the part myself, and in that process I have been able to overcome doubts I had about my own ability,” says Lindsay. Feeling that this project has offered her an opportunity to experience the world outside of college, Lindsay says this practical experience offers the opportunity to experience the industry before being submerged in it. “Collaborating with a team has helped me a lot, this teaches college students how to work within industry with other people,” says Lindsay.

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