Not far from Thomas Edison’s famed Menlo Park lab, the students of Brooklyn Technical High School’s “ASCE Club” enjoyed an Edison moment of their own this spring.
After more than 150 hours of designing, refining, adjusting, and building a model hydroelectric dam, the Society-sponsored club saw the results of its work: a glowing LED lightbulb.
Brooklyn Tech seniors Brendan Sullivan and Steven Lin, the club’s president and vice-president respectively, led the four-month project.
“We used what we learned in the water-supply portion of the Project Lead the Way Civil Engineering and Architecture course, and we decided to build a hydroelectric dam [that] would harvest electricity from flowing water,” Sullivan said.
“This kinetic energy would be harvested by the turbine and converted into electricity through electrical induction.”
The ASCE Club, as it’s known at the high school, launched in 2013 under the auspices of ASCE’s Civil Engineering Club program.
The students led the entire effort, according to club advisors Michael Boulis, P.E., M.ASCE, and Wandy Chang, both engineering teachers at the school.
“They presented ideas, held discussions on the proposed designs, and ultimately came up with a final design for a model hydroelectric dam which would feature a working, 3D-printed turbine attached to an AC electric motor [that] would generate electricity,” Boulis said.
Much like a project team would organize its work on a real project, the students distributed the labor so that each person had a specific role. Peter Lennihan, a Brooklyn Tech junior, was in charge of getting the junior workforce together and improving the dam’s design.
“The hardest part was making the project a reality,” Lennihan said. “It went from an idea to a manifestation. The in-between part was the hardest.”
Lucas Grafals, a junior, was the official photographer for the project. David Mastalerz, also a junior, was responsible for using computer-aided design to create a turbine that would fit with the dam. Sullivan, with the help of Jacob Remz, a fellow student from the electro-mechanical major, created the remaining essential parts of the turbine and 3D-printed the files.
“After seeing my fellow classmates work together in brainstorming ideas, preparing the materials, assembling the dam…it shows how the people in the civil engineering major in my school are very determined to finish a project that will give the school, and especially my major, something to be proud of,” added club representative, Phil Vincent Castanares.
Supervised by seniors Castanares, Mohammed Hossain (club officer), and Kevin Beltran, juniors Sofia Lau, John Lin, Shreya Gupta, Christopher Boefer, Mahmoud Shabana, Sayeem Khan, Matthew Chan, Zarin Noor, Matthew Scarangello, Karol Kowalczyk, and Maksymilian Pikul were responsible for the actual construction of the dam.
“This project benefits our school because it shows the importance of civil engineering in the real world,” Hossain said. “I have a better understanding of how civil engineers approach real-world problems and design structures.”
Students from New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering helped the club finalize the design, and Derek Wilson, a professor at New York City Technical College, introduced club members to the basic principles of fluid dynamics and the ways people harvest energy from the gravitational potential energy of water.
The Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, led by Foundation Chief Educational Officer Mathew Mandery, provided financial support and guidance for the project.
Brooklyn Tech alumnus Tony Bartolomeo, P.E., F.ASCE, serves as chairman of the school’s Civil Engineering Advisory Committee.
“ASCE’s Civil Engineering Clubs are terrific ways to use project-based learning to spark the students’ interest in our profession and for established professionals to connect with them in a meaningful way,” said Bartolomeo, president of Pennoni Associates and former chair of ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council. “If you want to have a multiplier effect, get into your local schools and show them what it means to be a civil engineer. We have the ability to share who we are and what we do with kids all over the country and to get them excited about being a civil engineer.”
Brooklyn Technical High School is a New York City public school that specializes in the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math. It is one of the country’s most selective high schools, and students from throughout the city compete for the chance to study there. The school uses a system of college-style majors, which includes civil engineering. The Civil Engineering Club is open to students at all grade levels and in all majors who want more exposure to civil engineering.
“We, the students, become better prepared to understand and take part in engineering projects that will provide better lives for the future,” said Beltran, one of the supervising seniors on the project.