College Kids Make Strides in Green Engineering

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

When Raritan Valley Community College engineering student Tyler George creates, it’s not just the final product on his mind.

“What I’m building shouldn’t be harming the environment,” said George. “It’s something big that you have to think about when you’re designing something.”

Professor Peter Stupak oversees the college’s Authentic Engineering Experience pilot program. His students were tasked with designing a real product for a real customer, and making sure it left a minimal ecological footprint.

“Well, environmental engineering — being environmentally responsible — will become increasingly important as time goes on,” Stupak said. “So, the opportunity to work on these kinds of projects now, sets the pace, sets the framework for their futures.”

At RVCC’s green engineering fair, George and his teammates show off an induction-powered flashlight they developed. No batteries required. And the plastic? It’s biodegradable.

“So when the user shakes our product, they’re moving the magnet through the coil wire, generating the electricity and then we store that in what’s called a capacitor,” explained George.

At Rutgers, students are competing in the university’s Energy Innovation Contest. The idea is to develop ways to reduce student energy consumption and work toward the Energy Institute’s goal of making Rutgers carbon-neutral by 2030. Ariel Schwalb tied for first place last year.

“I had thought about sharing the idea of a skyTran system with the Rutgers community before entering the contest, but I didn’t know who I would talk to because Rutgers is such a big school, and I can’t just go up to a professor and be like, ‘Hey, that’s a great idea,'” said Schwalb. “So when I heard about the contest, I thought, ‘Well, if this is something that Rutgers would be interested in in the future, this is the best place I could go to.'”

Meanwhile at Stevens Institute of Technology, the “RainWorks Team” has just qualified as finalists for the Annual Innovation Expo‘s Elevator Pitch Competition. The group developed a green infrastructure master plan to combat storm water runoff.

“In Hoboken, when the sewage system — the Hudson sewage gets crushed with rainwater, and that water combined with sewage just flows right into the Hudson river,” said senior Adriana Herrera.

Herrera, Taylor Race and Zach McKeehan experienced this first-hand during Superstorm Sandy.

“It’s especially rewarding,” Herrera explained, “When we presented to our facilities and they had given us such positive feedback almost demanding project proposals and budget proposals for each green infrastructure solution that we were like, ‘Wow, we really did this. This is cool.'”

Stevens’ Annual Innovation Expo is next Wednesday. It’ll showcase the RainWorks Team’s creation and many others. The Expo is free and open to the public.