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Course Supports Sustainable Energy

Posted on June 7th, 2011
IIHR Research Engineer Pablo Carrica (right) works with students Nathan Chase and Michael Carbone in the Experimental Engineering class.

IIHR Research Engineer Pablo Carrica (right) works with students Nathan Chase and Michael Carbone in the Experimental Engineering class.

Students in the College of Engineering’s Experimental Engineering course are developing hands-on experience with a source of sustainable energy—The University of Iowa’s 37-foot wind turbine, which rises over the southeast corner of campus.

IIHR Research Engineer Pablo Carrica teaches the senior-level course. Carrica, who is also an associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, attracted the funding for the wind turbine—a $39,778 grant from the Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND).

The Skystream 3.7 wind turbine is a teaching tool that can be raised and lowered for students to set up experiments. Data from the turbine feeds continuously to a computer lab and is accessible online in real time. Carrica says it’s an excellent way for students to learn about experimental methods and procedures, including physical measurements, standards of calibration, estimation of error, and experimental planning.

Other UI courses can make use of the turbine as well, including Wind Energy, Fundamentals of Wind Turbines, and Wind Power Management. Students in these courses gain valuable experience, Carrica says. “The turbine may help stimulate student interest in pursuing careers in wind energy, in addition to better preparing students for potential employment in this growing area,” Carrica explains. Iowa has established itself as a national leader in wind-generated energy, and ranks second among U.S. states in current wind energy output.

Although the 2.4 kW wind turbine is relatively small, the energy it produces is fed into the area power grid for campus use. It’s an important part of the University’s overarching sustainability goals, which UI President Sally Mason has called a central aspect of the University’s mission.

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