How can we contribute to saving our oceans and coastal areas to ensure environmental sustainability? “Science, innovation, and the exploration of the unknown” are at the heart of the U.S. Department of Energy’s mission of “Powering the Blue Economy” – the theme of their Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC).
This summer, a team of students from UMass Dartmouth’s College of Engineering and Charlton College of Business helped set the standard for renewable energy in an ocean application during the virtual competition, winning 2nd place. The inaugural event challenged 15 teams of undergraduate and graduate students representing colleges from around the globe to come up with innovative marine energy solutions to power the Blue Economy. Students put their creativity and skillsets to the test to develop marine energy solutions for next-generation technologies such as autonomous vehicles to advance ocean exploration, battery and fuel cell technology for marine transportation, desalination to serve coastal and island communities, offshore renewable energy, and alternative fuels.
“For students majoring in mechanical engineering, this has overlapped with their senior design capstone project. A similar classroom experience is true for the business school involved,” said Daniel MacDonald, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who served as team advisor along with Mehdi Raessi, associate professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Peter Karlson, adjunct professor at the Charlton College of Business.
The UMass Dartmouth project builds on earlier work at the University focused around the creation of a small-scale wave energy conversion (WEC) device, known as MADWEC 2.0, which stands for Maximal Asymmetric Drag Wave Energy Converter. Earlier efforts involved the design and modeling of a tethered ballast system to keep the WEC stable in the water column. The 2019-20 MECC team engineering students designed a new power take-off for the ballast system, which are the mechanical components that actually capture energy and transform it into electricity.
A team of business students performed marketing research and developed a business plan and licensing strategy to bring the technology to the marketplace. MADWEC 2.0 fills an important niche in the marine technology sector, with the capability of providing low-cost, low-maintenance power for local applications in the ocean, such as powering robotic underwater vehicles, oceanographic sensors, or underwater communication nodes. A source of readily available, low-cost power could transform the ocean landscape and revolutionize the way we manage, do commerce in, and learn about the ocean. “This has been a great opportunity for students to put into practice many examples of “textbook” learning, and apply them to a new and emerging field,” said MacDonald. The UMassD team also won in the Best Poster category. Learn more about the team in the College of Engineering newsletter.