Looking back on this semester, I have definitely gained new skills, both technical and analytical. The main difference I have noticed is my ability to see things differently. Prior to this semester, I viewed most engineering projects with the mindset of function, rather than form. Throughout my engineering curriculum, I have been taught to design systems that meet technical and financial requirements, but rarely have I been given an aesthetic requirement. This class really forced me to approach problems and designs from an entirely new perspective. Taking aesthetics into account when designing anything leads to a much better end result, as we have witnessed with the examples given in class. This class also really taught me to appreciate some of the subtle design choices in many everyday items. The comedic video about the man who collects plastic chairs was a bit overdone, but it exposed an appreciation for something that most people never even stop to think about. That is the essence of what I took away from this semester; to really observe all of the designs around you and understand that there is a ton of work and thought that goes into every single object. When this is applied to complex mechanical systems, it can really have a magnificent effect on the quality of the product, and I will definitely bring that aesthetic appreciation with me when I start working in the industry. I also was very impressed with the caliber of projects that the students in this class produced. All of our different backgrounds led to a very diverse range of Upcycle and final project ideas. Reading through my teammates’ and other students blogs, I was very impressed with the efforts that were put towards each project. Looking back on my own final project, I am happy with how the function worked out, but wish I had more time and money to perfect the form of my wind turbine.
My original project intent was to create a very sleek, low profile wind turbine, similar to something you would see in a wind farm. Once I started planning out the assembly of my turbine, I realized that a low profile design would be difficult to attain, given my budget and the timeline. Even after using basic materials to build my turbine, my budget still came out to over my original $150 limit. Although this was disappointing, I definitely learned the value of creating detailed designs BEFORE fabricating anything. Even though I drew out the general sketch of my turbine and had many online resources to help me, I still ran into a number of problems that set back my timeline and budget. I definitely wouldn’t say that I failed in any way, but rather than I transformed my turbine design throughout the process. Overall, I still ended up with a functioning wind turbine that I can use and refine in the future, and I am very pleased with that result. Aesthetically, my final design has taken an entirely new form. Instead of the sleek, low profile turbine that I had envisioned during the design review, I ended up with an entirely new aesthetic at the expo. This new aesthetic can be described as using very basic materials to create a somewhat complex and very beneficial clean energy system. Professor Hertzberg had the recommendation to place little construction workers on my turbine to create sort of a “work in progress” turbine. Since you can still see the fasteners and hardware behind the design, this aesthetic would work pretty well with my current turbine. Once again, I am very happy with the overall experience I had designing this turbine and I learned alot throughout the process.
When the public viewed my turbine, both at the expo and my pod presentation, I got mixed feedback. Everyone liked the functional design of my turbine, but had questions about its aesthetic interpretation. Everyone seemed to be curious about my use of a saw blade to mount the wing blades to, some even going as far as saying it looks like a weapon. This was expected, as I never originally planned to use a yellow saw blade to mount my wing blades to. Even though the turbine is a bit rough-looking, I think the aesthetic worked well because everyone that I walked by asked me what it was, and was very interested in my use of the PVC and saw blade. The turbine definitely catches your eye when you first see it, and I think that is worth as much as a low profile design, especially in an expo setting.
Next, I want to test my turbine in strong winds and get a voltage reading. Although I tested the turbine simply by spinning it with my hand, I want to get a realistic reading on an actual windy day. If I ever decide to create one of these in the future, I will have plenty of upgrades that I will make to the design. First, I would order more custom parts online, such as the blades and connections to the motor shaft. Blades are very easy to find online, and they give you a perfect center of gravity, whereas my PVC technique will always produce blades that are slightly off centered. For the motor shaft connections, I would have preferred to use a spindle adapter (below) found on amazon, but the lead time was too long for this project’s timeline.
Having this adapter would have allowed me to create a much more flush, aesthetically appealing turbine as shown below. It also makes the center of gravity of the blades nearly perfect, and the assembly process much easier and cleaner (no epoxy overnight).
Spindle Adapter on Turbine
On top of these iterations, I would also like to create some sort of housing for the turbine. This could be some sort of thick PVC that could wrap around the entire structure, or a custom machined part that would fit better. Overall, the main changes I would make to this in the future are aesthetic related, and simply build on top of the functional design I have already created.