If you are interested in exploring how renewable energy can improve the environment, this project could be for you. You'll take on a real-life engineering challenge: deciding whether the benefits of a renewable energy technology are worth the cost to implement it. Some sample questions are suggested, but you can also come up with your own question that matches your specific renewable energy interest. Is there such thing as a free lunch?
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Long (2-4 weeks)
A mentor who has experience with solar energy systemes (design, hands-on, or both) in the building trades is highly recommended for this project.
How much water do you use? Conserving water can do more than save your parents' money, it can also save freshwater ecosystems, wetlands, and watersheds. Some companies are trying to help fix the problem by making low flow faucets and showerheads. How well do they work? How much water can you save? Go to the hardware store to buy a few of the water saving products. Compare the amount of water that you run over a period of time to determine how much water you can save. Which water saving…
In the United States, lighting for homes accounts for about 14% of all residential electricity usage (EIA, 2014). That's billions of dollars worth of electricity per year. The U.S. has passed legislation to phase out older, more inefficient incandescent light bulbs, and they are being replaced with newer, more-efficient bulb types like compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). How much energy (measured in kilowatt-hours [kWh]) and how much money could be saved by…
Some plants use a lot of water, and some are very drought-tolerant. Drought-tolerant grasses are good for water conservation because they require less water to grow and stay green. How much less water do they need? Which types of grass are drought-tolerant? You can buy different types or brands of grass seed at your nursery that claim to be drought-tolerant. Grow them in a container and then starve for water after they are established. Which brands die out first? You can conduct a similar…
You've probably noticed that the price of gasoline has been going up and up lately. Heating oil will probably cost more this winter than last winter, too. Using good insulation material is one way to conserve energy and save money. What insulation materials work better than others?
Try different wind turbine/propeller (chord length, pitch) designs by making models from balsa wood. Connect the spinning axle to a DC motor and measure the voltage produced across a resistor to measure power output. Use fan as wind source. (Judge, 2004)
There are many types of construction materials used for wood-frame houses. Compare the different uses for and strengths of different building materials, e.g.: particle board,
plywood, pine, oriented strand board (OSB), and drywall (gypsum board, SheetRock). The Science Buddies Materials Science Resource will be helpful for learning about different ways to measure material strength. You should be sure to use the same cross-sectional area of each material in order to make fair comparisons.…
Make your own fertile soil using kitchen scraps, manure, leaves, grass clippings, and other compostable materials. Which materials make the best compost? How does the amount of nitrogen change the rate at which the compost forms? How does traditional composting compare to worm composting, or vermiculture? How does the temperature of the compost pile change?
You can find this page online at: http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/search.shtml?v=solt&pi=EnvEng_p017
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