Competing for eco-friendly power sources

Mai Samih , Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

Egyptian student engineers were challenged to generate electricity from slow water streams, reports Mai Samih

Competing for eco-friendly power sources


Forty-three teams of Ain Shams University’s mechanical engineering students last week competed to design and manufacture a turbine capable of generating electricity from water flowing in an irrigation canal. The competition was held by the university in partnership with the USAID-funded Centre of Excellence for Energy (COEE) led by Arizona State University.

Mechatronics engineering student Ali Awni and his team won first prize after their turbine demonstrated 60 per cent efficiency and was found to be an innovative design with rapid maintenance capabilities.

The competition is part of the machine element design course which teaches theoretical mechanical design, according to Awni. By the end of the term, students are required to finish a project to implement what they learnt practically. “As part of the mechanical engineering curriculum, the competition served as the final stage of the Machine Elements Design and Fluid Mechanics courses, offering students practical experience in hydropower,” said a COEE press release.

Awni explained that in the course they discovered how to design a machine to make use of the water flow of the River Nile.

“This was a tough challenge. In the High Dam, for instance, they used turbines to generate electricity by using the force resulting from the water falling from high to low level,” he said, adding “the challenge was to generate electricity from a low level, the slowly moving stream of the Nile.”

Any given type of turbine in such a low level of water usually works with 20 to 30 per cent efficiency, Awni noted, boasting that their turbine reached 60 per cent proficiency.

According to the press release, the competition is part of the COEE’s efforts to foster innovative teaching methods, enhance the quality of Egypt’s higher education in energy, and advance Egypt’s goal of generating 42 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2035.

Student team members were required to collaborate to design, build, and test prototypes, to document their findings in a report, and create a marketing brochure highlighting their turbine’s specifications. Judges evaluated each team’s water turbine based on its electric power output and efficiency, to name a few criteria.

“Renewable energy industries, like water, wind and solar, require a new generation of highly skilled workers, including engineers, to advance Egypt’s energy transition. Competitions like these offer students practical experience that lays the foundation for their careers and trains them to overcome industry challenges,” said director of the COEE and professor at Arizona State University Sayfe Kiaei.

The competition offered a variety of prizes to the winning teams sponsored by the COEE: $500 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third, as well as additional prize money recognising best innovation, best manufacturing, and best marketing brochure.

According to Awni, their turbine could be used for generating electricity from any water flow like a small stream in a farm that could be used by farmers to operate a motor to pump water to their land, if it is on a higher level than the stream. This saves the farmer electricity and will save the state power and generate clean energy.

Car mechanics engineering student Mohamed Magdi, whose team won second prize, said they were able to design a turbine with a 1.5-watt capacity that can be used to generate electricity for lamps or charge mobile phones.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 28 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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