Isenberg Students on Interdisciplinary Campus Team in National Collegiate Wind Competition
June 23, 2016
Ten Isenberg students joined forces with 18 UMass engineering students to make their mark in the U.S. Department of Energy’s annual Collegiate Wind Competition. The contest challenges teams of college undergraduates to design, build, and market a scale model wind turbine. Apart from engineering considerations, the competition calls for marketing research and development of a business plan.
At the competition’s awards ceremony at the annual American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans in May, the UMass Amherst team, competing against 11 other universities, earned top honors for technical design. It was two points away from winning kudos for the best business report.
The UMass Amherst team—MinuteWind—developed a wind turbine equipped with a water purification unit. A crucial aim of the UMass project was to rapidly provide clean, plentiful drinking water to challenged sites, including refugee camps and areas beset by natural disasters. To that end, the students designed their portable turbine with its built-in water purification and desalination unit for rapid deployment via a standard shipping container.
MinuteWind was the central project in a year-long interdisciplinary course taught by Birton Cowden, a management professor at Isenberg and Associate Director of Isenberg’s Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship, and Matthew Lackner, a professor of Industrial Engineering. During the year, the students worked in teams to identify their customers and developed a product design. They devised a market deployment strategy and a business plan, including financial projections. And they built and tested their scale-model prototype.
The students also learned to improvise on the fly: Arriving at the competition in New Orleans, they discovered that parts of their working model had been damaged in shipping. That required them to scamper around the city for replacements. For the members of MinuteWind, that became one more learning experience in a year of diverse challenges.