Presentations measure progress of engineering student projects

The west African state of Ghana has a booming lumber industry that produces a troublesome waste product – sawdust.

“They have to burn it just to get rid of it all,” says Muhammad Ahsan Pasha. “But what if it could be turned into fuel?”

Pasha leads a group of fourth-year mechanical engineering students working to make that dream come true. His team – Emma Ayieko, Vipandeep Benipal and Sukhjit Sandhu – presented the progress on their capstone project, designing a generator powered by biogas from sawdust, as part of a daylong series Friday.

“Biomass is stored solar energy,” Pasha says. The group intends to free that energy, converting sawdust into a gas that could be cleaned and used to run an electrical generator.

“It was just an idea, but we could help make it a reality,” says Ayieko.

The group estimates that constructing a prototype will cost about $3,000 in materials; they are about $1,000 short. They will hold a fundraising bake sale in the CAW Student Centre Commons on Tuesday, March 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Other projects students presented Friday include designs for the SAE Formula, Baja and Aero vehicle competitions, a lightweight wheelchair, and a compact hovercraft.