Renewable energy class develops wave energy device

May 16, 2013

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Students test their model in the Wisconsin Dells

PLATTEVILLE, Wis.­­­ — Three University of Wisconsin-Platteville students, led by David Kraemer, associate professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, are testing a device designed for the Wave Energy Conversion Corporation of America to convert ocean waves into usable energy. Made up of two wing-like barges connected by a middle barge, the device is a model that was built to observe if partially submerging it below the surface during a mock storm will protect the model from destruction by large waves.

Evan Young, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major with renewable energy and business administration minors from Menasha, Wis., worked on the WECCA project.

“Prior to a potentially damaging storm, water will fill the side barges, causing it to sink,” said Young. “We had to find the right amount of water to allow in, so that the model remained neutrally buoyant. We also ballasted the device with steel weights so that it sits lower in the water when operating on the surface.”

Young has enjoyed working with WECCA’s CEO, Brian Cunningham, an entrepreneur and former NASA physicist. “He has a lot of big ideas and motivation,” said Young. “He gets us excited about what we’re doing, and his passion and drive are contagious.”

The device was initially tested in UW-Platteville’s swimming pool. But on May 3, Young and the rest of the design team – Adam Groshek, a senior environmental engineering major and renewable energy minor from Custer, Wis., and Joe Miller, a senior environmental engineering major and renewable energy and environmental science minor from Friendship, Wis. – tested the device in the Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort’s wave pool in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.  It is the largest indoor wave pool in the United States, holding roughly 270,000 gallons of water.

Brandon Schindler, the aquatics director at the resort, was contacted several weeks ago about the project. “I thought it was a great idea,” he said. “Renewable energy is a goal of the future, and this project incorporates themes for saving the wilderness. I’m hopeful these students will get some great information they can use to move their project forward.”

“We’re very appreciative of the resort’s willingness and helpfulness,” said Young. “All the lifeguards and maintenance workers were paid to stay at the resort from 9 p.m. until midnight while we tested the model. They’ve been very gracious.”

The Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement provided funding for the WECCA project, granting each of the three students involved $400 for equipment and travel.

“I like working on a project much more than in a traditional classroom,” said Young. “I’m grateful that UW-Platteville has programs like PACCE that allow me to do these exciting projects.”

Energy Projects is a “capstone course,” said Young. “We have to bring concepts and knowledge from all our classes together to test this device. We learn about the project, but we also learn about project management.”

Contact: Evan Young, mechanical engineering, younge@uwplatt.edu; Brandon Schindler, aquatics director, Wilderness Hotel and Golf Resort, brandon@wildernessresort.com

Wave Energy Conversion Corporation of America - www.weccamerica.com

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

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