By FHSU University Communications
Hays, KS – When Eric Deneault, associate professor of applied technology, and former informatics assistant professor Dmitry Gimon began brainstorming five years ago about a collaborative project for FHSU, they were looking for a way to create cross-discipline synergies as well as a fun gathering place on campus.
“We wanted the project to be something that would motivate and encourage students to get involved with undergraduate research,” Deneault said. “Also, to showcase FHSU students’ content knowledge and skills through application and illustration of a physical model on campus for the community to enjoy and aid in student recruitment.”
Through many discussions with FHSU applied technology and informatics students, the pair settled on creating a unique charging station design. Informatics students developed schematics for the project and applied technology students did the design and construction work.
Deneault described the project as a recreational charging station utilized for outdoor entertainment while charging portable electronic devices. It boasts a dual-sided porch swing made of steel. The one-of-a-kind swing accommodates four people who can sit back-to-back. The energy created by swinging motion is transferred through a shaft to a sprocket which is then fed through a ¾ HP DC motor, creating energy that is distributed to the battery bank. So, as individuals swing, they are creating energy.
Solar panel technology is mounted to the roof of the station, with batteries charging to full capacity within an 8-hour timeframe. The goal, Deneault said, is to carry that energy through the night. Dusk-to-dawn lights will come on in the evening to illuminate the entire area for after-dark activities that might take place. The solar power technology will likely create 18-24 hours of stored usable power once the inverter converts the DC power to AC power.
Every semester for the past five years, Deneault has worked with an undergraduate research class finetuning the charging station, researching, writing proposals, presenting with students, and seeking publication through manuscript writing. In addition, he and the students have worked with a structural engineer to test the station’s live loads, dead loads, and wind loads, as well as a certified welding manufacturer to warrant safe operation so that the structure can be placed on the FHSU campus.
“It’s been a nice balance of research and application,” Deneault said. “Actually physically building this. We now have a one-off design that has been stamped and approved by a licensed engineer, which is pretty cool for our students to get the opportunity to go through the design/build process to see how that works in the real world.”
As far as a timeline for the project, it is anticipated that concrete will be poured this fall at a location south of the applied technology building. In the spring, Deneault hopes to mount and set the charging station so that campus visitors can enjoy the product.