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Ac Powered Backpack Project

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Design for the Environment

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.159.1 - 12.159.9

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Paper Authors


David McStravick Rice University

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DAVID MCSTRAVICK received his B. S. and Ph. D. degrees in mechanical engineering from Rice University. He worked in industry for many years in various engineering research positions. He joined Rice University in 1996 and is currently a Professor in the Practice of Mechanical Engineering in the MEMS Department. He teaches in the area of engineering design and his current research interests are in medical product design and in engineering education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

AC Powered Backpack Project Abstract The human powered backpack1 was developed by four senior mechanical engineering majors at Rice University. The backpack was targeted for students in rural third world countries where electrical power is rare or non-existent at home. The concept was to have local power for educational devices available at the student’s home to augment classroom instruction.

This project required collecting data from schools in different third world locations to establish the need. The project was done in the students’ capstone design course and in conjunction with the Schlumberger Excellence in Educational Development5 (SEED) Foundation. The SEED program provides support to schools in many of the countries where Schlumberger Ltd. operates (currently 137 schools in 32 countries).

The original backpack had a small hand-cranked generator. This original project was described in a paper for the 5th annual ASEE Global Colloquium on Engineering Education6. Later three human powered backpacks were field tested at a rural SEED supported school in Mexico. The power capability of this unit was found to be limited so a redesign was undertaken to upgrade the unit with more power. The electronics in this backpack have been enhanced with the capability to charge the batteries with AC power at a community location such as a school and then be used for educational purposes in a rural home environment which does not have electrical power available.

The backpack has a rechargeable battery pack and can serve as a general purpose educational power source. This unit can provide power for a small reading lamp, a SEED provided programmable logic board for experimentation by students (i.e. “Go-Go” Board3), hand-held educational electronic devices (e.g. a PLS 10009), and a small transistor radio. The lamp is an LED light that can clip onto a textbook for studying after dark. This capability of reading after dark without candles or firelight greatly enhances the student’s opportunity to learn in a remote home environment.

The new unit will have capability of powering items with up to 5 volts DC and 200 mill amps power requirements. The enhancement of having AC power charging capability greatly increases the power capability of the unit and extends its usefulness to many educational devices that are currently available.

Since the original project was completed, we have made a major change in the administration of the capstone projects for the current year. This year we have incorporated cooperative learning techniques of the capstone course which address many of the issues relating to teams involving multiple departments. These changes have strengthened the course and addressed the goals of our capstone design experience8. Cooperative learning has been shown to improve student- faculty and student-student interaction, information retention, higher-level thinking skills, motivation to learn new material, teamwork, interpersonal skills, and communication skills, all of which encompass the goals of our capstone design course7.

McStravick, D. (2007, June), Ac Powered Backpack Project Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii.

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