Energy Projects class builds raptor surveillance system

May 21, 2013

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PLATTEVILLE, Wis.­­­ —Four University of Wisconsin-Platteville students, led by Dr. Dino Ress, professor of sustainable and renewable energy systems, are developing a solar-powered surveillance system for the Dane County Humane Society’s Four Lakes Wildlife Center’s raptor rehabilitation program. The program takes in injured birds of prey and cares for them until they are ready to be released into the wild. Ress’ students are developing sun-powered cameras that will monitor the birds’ flying abilities in a closed pen before they are set free.

Clinton Dums, a senior mechanical engineering major from Rib Lake, Wis., was one of the students working to assemble the surveillance system.

“Our class was presented with four or five project options,” said Dums. “We chose the Four Lakes Wildlife Center because it was close to Platteville. We wanted to help a partner that was part of our community, and we wanted to see the results.”

“The system the students assembled transmits the power from the solar panels to a battery charger,” said Ress. “The battery then powers the cameras. That way, even on days that are less sunny, or if the panels are covered by snow, the cameras will be able to function for up to 90 hours.”

“The first thing we did was bid out the site,” said Dums. “We visited the site to look at where to put the panels. Then we calculated the power demands and the composition of the system. We cleared trees and bushes away from the construction sites, and now all that’s left is to bring the system together.”

In order to follow Dane County building codes, the solar panels had to withstand 115 mph winds, and the pen itself had to be able to support the solar panels on its roof.

“A lot of unity was achieved across many sectors to make this project a success,” said Ress. “People from Dane County, UW-Platteville, and the Four Lakes Wildlife Center all helped a lot to make the project a success. But it was the students who did all the work.”

“The FLWC has been very excited about the project,” said Dums. “They’ve been willing to stick out their heads to help us.”

The project began to materialize last fall when Ress was talking with Jacqueline Edmunds, the FLWC wildlife rehabilitation coordinator.

“It just came out of the blue,” said Edmunds. “It’s a really cool, hands-off way to observe our raptors as the fly and catch prey. The students are very motivated and reliable. They’ve been in constant communication with us. I would definitely bring back UW-Platteville students to work on other projects.”

Due to some legal difficulties, such as satisfying building permit requirements, Ress at one point suggested that the project be left for another group of students to complete in the fall. But, despite approaching project deadlines and final exams, Ress’ students refused to give up on the project.

“They told me ‘we didn’t come this far to watch somebody else fumble the ball on the one-yard line,’” said Ress. “It stiffened my spine.” The system was installed the weekend of May 10-12.

“Dr. Ress also put in a lot of work, and the whole team really appreciates him,” said Dums.

“It’s a real experience,” said Dums. “It helps us learn to deal with budgets, how to work in a group with a community partner, and how to work around time conflicts.”

“The Energy Projects class provides a rigorous curriculum which teaches the basics of project management,” said Ress. “It’s a union of renewable energy and sustainability that also increases students’ verbal and written communication skills. They started at the ground level, worked with the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement and the FLWC to provide a valuable service for Dane County. This project opened lots of doors to new educational opportunities, new ways for students to learn.”

Contact: Dino Ress, sustainable and renewable energy systems, ressd@uwplatt.edu, (608) 342-1536; Clinton Dums, mechanical engineering, dumsc@uwplatt.edu

Written by: Jacob Reecher, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, reecherj@uwplatt.edu

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