4.230J/ 11.468J - Graduate Subject
4.231 - Undergraduate Subject
The evil sisters Katrina, Rita, Irene and their brother Ike have brought havoc to the southern US coasts in recent years. Massive flooding and high winds left extensive destruction with housing particularly hard hit. We have been overwhelmed with the havoc in New Orleans, but the bayous suffered equally, albeit with less media attention.
The very high costs of rebuilding have resulted in new construction guidelines and building codes to mitigate future devastation. Elevating houses is now required, and 10-12 feet elevation is the norm. This reasonable measure requires a change in the way people live: it is now a ‘world of stairs,’ and more recently of makeshift but serviceable simple hoist-driven elevators. Stair access is particularly problematic for the elderly and handicapped, as well as an added burden for daily routines.
A safer elevated future is assured, but relatively frequent power outages remain. Periodic flooding of the area with loss of electricity often traps the family members until the waters recede.
Our challenge: can you develop a simple off-grid energy system that is available during outages, and perhaps able to provide energy during other times as well?
The workshop will design a practical ‘off-grid’ energy source in partnership with TRAC, (http://www.trac4la.com/TRAC1.1/page_lifthouse.php) an NGO in the bayous outside of New Orleans in Houma. We will explore ways to make elevators of elevated houses independent of the power grid. Solar panels, small wind turbines and regenerative power - driven by the kinetic energy of the elevator downward movement - will be explored as ways to provide power during the frequent electrical outages from hurricanes and storms. Perhaps this power source may also be sufficient for additional energy uses as well?
In a previous SIGUS workshop we designed a ‘Lift House’ for rebuilding destroyed homes. Seven energy efficient houses have been constructed. We will build on this experience to continue to develop an all-encompassing energy efficient design appropriate to the conditions in the bayous. (See: http://sigus.scripts.mit.edu/x/archived/workshops/Louisiana_lifthouse_20...)
The course will explore the following areas in the development of a concept: - Getting up to speed: Background: context of Katrina, hurricanes and destruction, the Lift House project, our partner TRAC; power outages - Development of criteria and design brief: what are the key requirements and metrics - Elevatorsandhoistsinthebayous–the‘stateoftheart,’practiceandexperience - Existing backup systems: explore off-the-shelf power outage backups, for example, for sump pumps, electric garage doors, etc. - Energy alternatives: solar, wind turbines, regenerative option: generators and counterweights; batteries as storage; availability and costs - System design: overall concept, detailed design of components, fabrication of key regenerative elements if appropriate - Feedback:Presentation toTRAC and potential fabrication companies
Participants will have the opportunity to be directly involved and contribute to a ‘real-world’ problem Participants should leave with: - Experience and rudimentary skills in assessing technical feasibility of various alternative energy sources, a skill required in the today’s world
- Understanding of the basic mechanical issues in energy production - Testing of creative abilities to develop concepts into feasible practical prototypes - Practical experience in working together as a cohesive productive team - Awareness in communication skills for presentation to a non-technical audience
Structure of class:
Dependent on final class enrollment, teams of students will develop parallel approaches to off-grid energy approaches. The goal is to have participants from architecture and engineering comprise a team. Each week one topic would be explored, with teams undertaking brief research for presentation and discussion during the class period.
Technical resource people would be brought in as needed. Frequent Skype discussions are anticipated with TRAC partners, local fabricators in Louisiana, and families in elevated houses. A research trip to Houma is anticipated during the term, dependent on available funding.
The teams are required to prepare and present the following: - Brief overview of available energy alternatives and their assessment of feasibility - Concept proposal for an alternative power source for simple elevator hoist
- Detailed, comprehensive presentation of prototype concept - Optional: full scale working prototype of key components - Final reflective paper on impacts of off-grid energy in bayou lifestyles.
Participants are expected to be actively engaged and committed. Formal grading is based on participation in discussions and preparation of weekly research presentations (40%), development of a system for off- grid power (40%), preparation of a final reflective paper on the potential impact of the off-grid energy concept (20%).
Permission of Instructor. The workshop welcomes undergraduates, but open to all in the MIT community. To apply, please send your resume and a 1-page ‘make the case’ why you want to participate and how you can contribute. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Undergraduates are encouraged to sign up for UROP financial support for additional in-depth research outside of the formal class period.