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The Use Of Undergraduate Students In A Long Term Air Pollution Reduction Research Project

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Undergraduate Research

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1278.1 - 13.1278.15



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Paper Authors


John Reisel University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

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John R. Reisel is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM.) He serves as Director of the Combustion Diagnostics Lab, Associate Director of the Center for Alternative Fuels, and co-Director of the Energy Conversion Efficiency Lab. His research efforts focus on combustion and energy utilization. Dr. Reisel was a 2005 recipient of the UWM Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award, the 2000 UWM-College of Engineering and Applied Science Outstanding Teaching Award, and a 1998 recipient of the SAE Ralph R. Teetor Educational Award. Dr. Reisel is a member of ASEE, ASME, the Combustion Institute, and SAE. Dr. Reisel received his B.M.E. degree from Villanova University in 1989, his M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1991, and his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University in 1994.

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



Over the last ten years, a research project involving the study of the air pollutant emissions from small utility engines has been conducted. The project studied (1) the extent of the deterioration of the emissions as the engines age, (2) the causes of the deterioration, and (3) strategies for improving the emissions. Thirteen undergraduate students have worked on this project over the years. In comparison, only two M.S.-level graduate students (one of whom originally worked as an undergraduate student on the project) worked on the project over the same time. As a result, much of the research work was completed by these undergraduate students and their efforts played a large role in sustaining the project over its duration.

Students who worked on this project benefited by performing engineering work in a modern research laboratory facility, thereby gaining experience that could be helpful for them in their future careers. In addition, the students had the opportunity to work with engineers from the industrial sponsors of the project. In these interactions, the students needed to learn how to work with other engineers, and communicate their questions, ideas, and results clearly. The reliance on undergraduate students, rather than graduate students, on the project did have some drawbacks. These include an increased need for guidance, and often an increased time for the completion of project tasks due to the students having less time to devote to the project.

This paper describes the research activities of the students on the project, and contains a summary of the results. The educational benefits experienced by these students are described. In addition, project management issues such as maintaining project continuity, interaction with the project sponsors, and student recruitment are discussed. Some consideration on the impact of the project on future graduate school enrollment by the students is also presented.


Small, spark-ignition, air-cooled, internal-combustion engines with power outputs of less than 19 kW have applications ranging from lawnmowers, to garden tractors, to snow blowers. Despite operating intermittently, often for a relatively short duration of time, the large number of these engines, coupled with their generally high pollutant emissions output, causes these engines to contribute to a substantial amount to the total air pollution in the environment. It has been estimated that 9% of the volatile organic compound inventory produced by mobile sources in the United States is from these nonroad engines.1 In order to keep costs down, devices that could lower emissions from these engines have typically not been used; as a result, emissions from new engines tend to be rather high. Further complicating matters, many of these engines do not have exceptional durability. As a result, the levels of pollutant emissions, particularly for unburned hydrocarbons (HC), tend to increase significantly as the engines age.

Reisel, J. (2008, June), The Use Of Undergraduate Students In A Long Term Air Pollution Reduction Research Project Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3175

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