Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Portland State University Engineering Department

So I've been doing the career change thing for the past few years now, and I've finally made it to Portland State University. The past two years of full time plus at Portland Community College have been good, but I'm happy to finally have the foundation of my lower-division credits, and move on.

Now that I'm actually in the engineering department I get to take the meatier classes. There are three big categories of mechanical engineering: solids, heat transfer, and fluids. The first two are what they sound like, and fluids have to do with gasses and liquids. For the first two years of prerequisites, we really only dealt with solids, as they are a bit more straight forward. It turns out that fluids are a topic that enjoy since my big interest is in the renewable sector; learning how fluids work is very applicable for wind and hydroelectric power.

My first 3D-printed VAWT
Since I'm eager to apply what I've been learning to actual projects, I applied to and got hired on by the university as an undergraduate researcher in the Wind Energy and Turbulence Lab under Raul Cal. My personal research project is to develop a working model of a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT). Having this research project is great, as it gives me learning goals outside of just finishing homework or taking a test. I've been using rapid prototyping to develop my models, so I've been doing all sorts of tutorials for SolidWorks (3D modeling) and using the engineering department's 3D printer. Most people in the lab are PhD candidates, so I'm getting exposed to concepts above and beyond the undergraduate level, reading scholarly articles, helping out in the wind tunnel, etc.

The wind tunnel and turbines (the turbines are about six inches tall)

I have seven terms down and another five to go. I can't to get out in the world and start working, but at least school is interesting!