In early April, West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech) student W. Blake Engels traveled to Bridgeport, Connecticut to showcase his research at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference at the University of Bridgeport. He didn’t come home empty-handed.
A mechanical engineering student at WVU Tech, Engels won third place in the undergraduate student paper competition for his paper, “Principal and Preliminary Calculation of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion,” a study on an energy production method known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC).
“OTEC is a renewable energy source that does not involve the use of fossil fuels,” said Engels. “Essentially, it works by employing an ocean’s natural thermal reservoir to produce work.”
The paper was written as part of an Applied Thermodynamics course taught by WVU Tech professor Dr. Farshid Zabihian last fall. Dr. Zabihian’s courses require students to complete a research project, and the professor encourages students to showcase those projects whenever possible.
“Dr. Zabihian is good about pushing his students to conduct research and attend engineering conferences. He encouraged me to go to this conference and it was a great experience,” Engels said. “Through his influence, students feel empowered to share their work.”
Of the 230 research papers submitted to the conference, WVU Tech students provided 13 papers on topics ranging from small-scale water turbines and natural gas compressor efficiency to electric motorcycles and spaceflight design. WVU Tech papers received two nominations, including Engels’ third-place finish.
For Engels, the trip north was worth the chance to represent WVU Tech and meet with other engineering students.
“For me, this was a great accomplishment. Engineering school is consistently difficult and challenging. If you keep your eye on the ball and work hard, success will be a side effect,” he said.
Engels plans to continue his research on OTEC and is considering summer research projects to take on as he prepares to enter his senior year at WVU Tech.