Campers Explore Engineering Options

by Diane VanDyke

Several area teenagers explored various aspects of engineering during Montgomery County Community College’s Engineering Camp held in June.

Led by Engineering Associate Professor William Brownlowe and Physics Instructor Robin Zuhlke, the camp featured nanotechnology, robotics, material science, rotary flight, alternative energy, and engineering education and careers.

The participating students were Lily Farinas, Blue Bell; Kyle Pearson, Schwenksville; Anna Nguyen, Blue Bell, Kannan Ramanathan, Blue Bell; Ravi Ramanthan, Blue Bell; Desland Brown, Hatfield; Leland Brown, Hatfield; Maya Jog, Lower Gwynedd; and Neha Jog, Lower Gwynedd.

At the start of the week, the instructors assigned research projects on alternative energy fuels. After researching and exploring their topics, the students then shared their results with the group on the last day using Power Point presentations.

Lily Farinas, Kyle Pearson and Anna Nguyen, for example, worked together to discover how the use of thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cells could improve the efficiency of solar-powered vehicles.

“We want to use the heat generated from the sun and the car’s engine to power the entire car,” said Lily, showing a proposed model designed on the computer.

Another group with Kannan Ramanathan, Desland Brown and Neha Jog devised a positively charged mubox, or muon collector cube, to attract and collect negatively charged ions from the atmosphere to use for fusion energy.

“I really enjoy this camp because we have a lot of in-depth discussions and are involved in hands-on activities, like flying helicopters,” Neha said.

“Camp is really cool,” echoed Lily, who wants to pursue a science career. “We learned about why helicopters fly the way they do and built and tested airfoils in a wind tunnel. We also built and programmed robots.”

In addition to the various hands-on and research projects, an international industry engineer Jean-Jacques Reymond visited the camp and shared information about his education and career. Reymond is also an adjunct Engineering instructor at the College.

“We are trying to impress on the students the great need for engineers,” Brownlowe said. “It is important for students to pursue education and careers in engineering.  If we don’t have more engineers, it will affect our country’s ability to compete technologically in the world and will directly impact our economy and standard of living.”

To further expose the students to the College’s Engineering classes, Reymond invited the students to his class’s test flight of an unmanned aerial vehicle.

The Engineering Camp is funded by a grant from the Collegiate Consortium for Workforce & Economic Development. The Collegiate Consortium is a non-profit organization that is a partnership of Drexel University and five area community colleges, including Montgomery County Community College.

The College offers programs of study to prepare students for transfer to four-year schools of engineering as juniors, as well as for careers in a variety of industries including medical products, architectural and mechanical design, aerospace, automotive manufacturing, public utility systems, civil engineering, environmental services, biopharma and food processing.

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photos by Diane VanDyke

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