The Nanotechnology Engineering (NE) Program held its first Design Days event on December 1st. Held in collaboration with the Engineering IDEAs Clinic, NE Design Days challenged teams of first-year students to work together, applying information learned in their first-year course NE 100, which is an introduction to nanotechnology engineering and its various applications from electronics to biology.

The winning prototype

Red cups attached to a windmill standing on a wooden base with wires coming out

The challenge given to the students for this event was to design and construct a working model of a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG) that uses the power of the wind to create electrical energy. The students were also expected to demonstrate and explain how the triboelectric scale contributes to the triboelectric nanogenerator.

Triboelectric nanogenerators are utilized to convert different kinds of energy into electricity. The teams were given five hours to complete the task.

First-year students are introduced to engineering iterative design, computer-aided design (CAD) and modelling in NE 100. In the course, students learned to use CAD software to design parts. They utilized that knowledge during the challenge in the IDEAs Clinic to make the parts they would use for this project and then 3D printed their materials.

The students engaged in hands-on experiential learning.  It was the first time the students had created a device. They researched how to build the nanogenerators and formulated a team strategy. Each team created their own unique design.

The winning team was comprised of Grace Jin, Owen Gibbs, Akshat Regani, Martin Bissonnette, and Sean Yuen who harnessed wind energy to win the competition. Their team won because they had the best engineering design.

According to Gibbs, seeing how their device functioned and making various iterations to improve its performance was an incredible learning opportunity.

Initial steps to create the prototype

Hands using a glue gun with red cups stacked in the background

Initial steps to create another prototype

Hands and a glue gun, toy cars and wooden popsicle sticks

“We went into the design studio with a lot of different options. We had a couple of different designs for the turbine that we planned to use. The team’s strategy was to figure out which one would work the best and we just kept iterating our designs until we found the best one,” says Gibbs.

 Although it was the first time the team had worked together, Gibbs says the secret to his team’s success was cooperation among team members.

The students applied what they learned in their courses to a real-world project, they not only linked the information together but also improved communication and critical thinking skills to find the best solutions for the project. This experience also helped them to establish their identity as engineers.