Engineering students present senior design projects

HAZLETON, Pa. — Senior engineering students at Penn State Hazleton recently presented proposals for their research projects as part of Assistant Professor of Engineering Joseph Ranalli’s class.

The students are majoring in engineering with an alternative energy and power generation track. During their senior year, students in the major complete a yearlong research project, spending the fall semester working on research and planning and the spring semester doing practical design work.

Two teams of students presented their proposals, with the first group detailing their plan to remove tires and litter from an illegal dumping site in Jim Thorpe and the second describing their idea to design a small-scale gasifier to produce fuels in the developing world.

The first group, with students David Bonczek, Derek Geake, Mari Magabo and Raiana Nichols, presented their research on how to design and implement a trash removal system in Jim Thorpe.

They examined an area along Flagstaff Road that attracts a great deal of illegal dumping, particularly in areas that are steep and difficult to access, to remove large items such as tires and furniture. They discussed the health, environmental and economic impacts, particularly as they could apply to the borough, and considered Jim Thorpe’s needs in researching their solution for the problem.

During their presentation, they shared the pros and cons of each device that could be used to remove the litter, considering factors such as safety, durability and cost, and explained why they chose the solution they did. 

The project is being sponsored by the borough of Jim Thorpe, whose representatives had approached faculty at Penn State Hazleton about working together on the problem. Councilman John McGuire attended the presentation at Penn State Hazleton and said the borough is excited to be working with the students and hearing their suggestions to remove the litter.

“The way they went about it was truly through engineering steps. I think they came up with the most efficient and safest way to do it and it’s something we could use in the future. I look forward to working with the students,” he said.

The second group, with students Steven Baksa, Aleksander Everett, Albert Kauker, Dan Lanphear and Megan Pandolfelli, researched generating power independent of fossil fuels in a developing country such as Nigeria. Their project stemmed from Lanphear’s independent study with Wieslaw Grebski, now professor emeritus of engineering, that laid the groundwork for studying biomass gasification.

They discussed the background of Nigeria, including the political and socioeconomic problems that make public utilities unreliable, and noted how a lack of reliable energy has an effect on the country’s economy and the citizens’ quality of life.

Since most Nigerians rely on portable electric generators, the group examined gasification processes that would break down solid biomass, such as agricultural waste, into a mixture of simple gases, some of which could be used as biofuels in the generators. The group considered and analyzed three overall processes and designs to determine the best gasification process and design.

Ranalli said he was pleased with the presentations by both groups. “I thought they really showed their speaking skills and I was impressed with their research and quality of their presentations,” he said.

The groups will present their ideas for how to implement the concepts at the conclusion of the spring semester.

Last Updated December 15, 2017