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Energy Harvesting Investigations By Undergraduate Engineering Technology Students

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Experiences in Teaching Energy Courses

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.462.1 - 15.462.13



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Paper Authors


Dale Litwhiler Pennsylvania State University, Berks

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Dale H. Litwhiler is an Associate Professor at Penn State, Berks Campus in Reading, PA. He received his B.S. from Penn State University (1984), his M.S. from Syracuse University (1989) and his Ph.D. from Lehigh University (2000) all in electrical engineering. Prior to beginning his academic career in 2002, he worked with IBM Federal Systems and Lockheed Martin Commercial Space Systems as a hardware and software design engineer.

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Thomas Gavigan Penn State Berks

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Thomas H. Gavigan is an Assistant Professor at Penn State, Berks Campus in Reading, PA. He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University in 1970 and his M.S. in Engineering Mechanics from Penn State in 1977. Mr. Gavigan teaches in the areas of Engineering Mechanics and Engineering Design.

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Brittany Farrell Penn State Berks

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Brittany Farrell received her Associate’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Penn State Hazleton in 2008. In May 2010 she will receive her Bachelor’s Degree in Electro-Mechanical Engineering Technology from Penn State Berks. Following graduation, Brittany will be pursuing a career in alternative energy.

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

Energy Harvesting Investigations by Undergraduate Engineering Technology Students


Energy harvesting is a very popular topic in current literature. However the concept of capturing small quantities of waste energy to power useful electrical devices is not new. The “self- winding” wristwatch, which is powered by the motion of the wearer, was originally available decades ago, but public awareness of energy conservation and sustainability has brought new attention to this type of energy capture and use. Many energy harvesting systems are designed to capture mechanical energy, such as vibration, and convert it to electrical energy. The problem of converting small amounts of mechanical energy into electrical energy is well suited to investigation by undergraduate engineering technology students. The concepts learned in introductory courses are sufficient to allow the students to think of novel sources of mechanical energy and clever methods of capturing it. The apparatus required to make reasonably accurate measurements is quite simple and is easily constructed by the students in an engineering technology laboratory. Students are often familiar with some of the consumer devices available that convert human-generated energy into electrical energy such as hand-cranked and hand- shaken flashlights. Therefore, as a foray into the area of energy harvesting, commercially available devices are purchased and reverse-engineered by the students. The students disassemble and identify the key mechanical, electrical, and energy conversion components of the flashlights. The mechanical energy storage components are carefully measured and weighed. For rotating systems, the mass moment of inertia is calculated from the physical measurements. The students then reassemble the devices and conduct performance tests to determine the energy conversion efficiency of each system. Armed with the information gained from these investigations, students with more academic experience can perform more detailed analysis, performance measurements, and comparisons with systems employing different energy conversion devices. By using human power, the students get a real feel for the magnitude of a Watt and the importance of energy efficiency in energy harvesting applications. The results obtained from the testing and analysis performed by all the students is very useful in further development of custom energy harvesting device research. This paper presents the devices, apparatus, and methods used in the investigations as well as the results and conclusions as determined by the students involved.

Motivation / Introduction

In an effort to engage undergraduate engineering technology students in meaningful investigations, teams of first-year students were paired with engineering research faculty of various disciplines. The students were to be exposed to topics that challenged their neophytic

Litwhiler, D., & Gavigan, T., & Farrell, B. (2010, June), Energy Harvesting Investigations By Undergraduate Engineering Technology Students Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16443

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