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Freshman Lab Experiment: Citrus Powered Car

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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

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.765.1 - 12.765.12



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Paper Authors


David Ye Polytechnic University

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David Ye is a senior head teaching assistant in General Engineering. He expects to receive his BSEE from Polytechnic University in June 2007. His interests include robotics. He interned at Symbol Technologies researching wireless protocols and Power LEDs.

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Roshan Abraham Polytechnic University

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Roshan Abraham is a teaching assistant in General Engineering. He expects to receive his BSME from Polytechnic University in June 2007.

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Gunter Georgi Polytechnic University

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Gunter W. Georgi is an Industry Professor at Polytechnic University. He received his B.S. from Cooper Union and his M.S. and professional M. E. Degrees from Columbia University. He is a registered Professional Engineer. He worked many years in the aerospace industry in design, analysis and management functions, including the Thermal Mission Analysis of the Lunar Module from Project Apollo.

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

Freshman Lab Experiment: Citrus Powered Car

David Ye, Roshan Abraham, and Gunter W. Georgi

Polytechnic University

Abstract Recently, a number of institutions have taught the fundamentals of electro-chemical cells using lemons and citrus juice as the electrolyte in the cells. Experiments were developed involving oxidation reduction reactions which allowed students to also learn about electric current and voltage. The experiments typically concluded by using the cells to power small lights or a small digital clock. Our idea was that these activities could be made more engaging for engineering students if the experiment was adapted to a competition format and the electrochemical aspects were enhanced by providing a variety of electrode materials for the students to investigate. The basic experiment was redesigned so that student teams would design a citrus powered car and compete against other student teams’ designs for extra credit. The experiment was broken down into three main parts, each as an incremental step towards designing the citrus powered car. First, the students were given an introduction to electro-chemistry by performing oxidation reduction reactions with two different metals and making electrode potential difference measurements with a digital multimeter (DMM). Second, the students then used this data to determine how many citrus cells would be needed to power a light emitting diode. From these first two parts the students would compare what they learned with results from other groups using different metal pairs. After tabulating the data from all teams, each team would then design a citrus powered car. The citrus cell car could be powered by three different methods: directly from the citrus cell, indirectly using a capacitor charged from the cell or a hybrid involving both the cell and a capacitor. The design specifications listed the competition ratio, the price list for chemicals/metals/capacitors, and the competition rules. The students had to design the car with the highest competition ratio by maximizing speed and distance as well as minimizing cost by using mechanical, electrical and chemical knowledge. This experiment was well received by students and was a big success in the course. 1 Introduction Polytechnic University’s Introduction to Engineering course was created with the mandate to motivate students and promote engineering as a profession by offering students a view into different engineering disciplines through experimentation and projects. It was developed to allow students to survey the various engineering disciplines without great depth in any specific discipline. Goals of the course included learning design strategies and concepts while encouraging teamwork. The course consists of lectures (1hr/wk ), laboratory work (3hrs/wk ) and recitations (2hrs/wk ) for an academic semester.

Ye, D., & Abraham, R., & Georgi, G. (2007, June), Freshman Lab Experiment: Citrus Powered Car Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1845

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