Students gear up wind turbine for senior design expo
Chicago’s “Windy City” nickname has more to do with the city’s boastfulness and self-promoting reputation than the strength of Lake Michigan’s breezes. But that doesn’t mean the city lacks powerful gusty winds, and a group of UIC engineering students are aware of this fact.
The team of Matt Steinwart, Aaron Lonn, Rahul Saluja, Stephanie Flores, and Tien Cao are using their senior design project to establish a baseline process for evaluating a vertical-axis wind turbine—with an eye toward the feasibility of installing one at UIC someday. The students are designing several turbines in Solidworks, simulating testing parameters in a computer program called ANSYS, and building a prototype for wind-tunnel testing.
“We are evaluating a variety of vertical axis designs, as opposed to horizontal axis, to determine which type will perform best in an urban environment, considering these preliminary designs may serve as a baseline for an on-campus application,” Steinwart said. “At the end of our project, the team will be able to determine which turbine has the best overall performance based on given wind conditions.”
Horizontal-axis turbines are the kind that most people are familiar with: the tall, often white, propeller-bladed behemoths that dot fields across the Midwest. Vertical-axis turbines come in many different shapes and can have a much smaller footprint, making them mountable in parking lots or on the tops of buildings.
The design project is geared toward preparing the student organization known as Engineers for a Sustainable World for the Collegiate Wind Competitions. It uses the competition rules and guidelines for the design constraints and testing parameters of the project.
The seniors also are setting the stage for potentially having a wind turbine constructed and operating on the UIC campus.
“As far as implementation, this is a pilot project to establish a process for designing and prototyping a turbine,” Steinwart said, while acknowledging that “there would be a lot of hurdles to clear for that to happen.”
“My inspiration was to learn about renewable energy technology and design to prepare for a career in that industry,” he said.
Engineers for a Sustainable World is focused on creating new technology while being environmentally conscious. Steinwart is the sole senior design team member who also is a member of the organization.
Learn more about the project at Wind Turbine.