Engineering a Better World – Emma Foster, Fo’sheimer and Filles Fabrications

What an exciting time it is for Project Ventura: the airstream has almost reached completion and the class is getting ready to present it on May 23rd! I hope that our clients (ARS Teachers) and all you blog readers are as excited for this as I am.

The ebook, which we will use as a tool for our presentation, is being revised and finalized as I write this. The solar panel and inverter are in place in the airstream, and it already powers a whole bunch of devices including a fan, lamps, and a tea kettle. The cushions are being upholstered, and this week we just need to install the carpet and finish up a few furniture pieces and the airstream will be ready for teachers to lounge to their hearts content.

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Ms Jo wiring the inverter to a lamp, a fan, and a tea kettle

As Project Ventura comes to a close for the year, we’ve been doing some reflecting on what this project has taught us. I know that I’ve benefited a lot from getting hands-on experience using tools to aid the design process, from Google Sketchup and X-Acto knives, to screwdrivers and staple guns. I learned how to work in groups to get things done more efficiently, as well as how to revise designs as the building process moves along. One of the most important things I’ve gained from this project, however, is the passion for making things. From rebuilding this airstream, I realized how much satisfaction I get from finishing something I’ve made with my own two hands, as well as how much I like showing off projects I’m proud of.

The great thing about Project Ventura is its simple message: sometimes the most most impact you could make to help the earth is to build a sustainable structure for yourself. 21 girls in an engineering class could either learn how solar panels are great for the environment, or they could design a photovoltaic system for a trailer and see how much energy is saved. The latter option makes the engineering class so much more confident to use renewable energy in their own lives and teach it to others.

Project Ventura also taught me how engineering can help make the world a better place. If I were to go into an engineering field, I would want to design things that make the world a more sustainable, healthy, and friendlier place.

There are also several engineers around the world making a difference through engineering. Evan Thomas and DelAgua have developed water testing systems for developing countries, placing  hundreds of sensors on stoves, pumps, water filters and in latrines in 12 countries and planning to place 450 more in Rwanda. Ned Tozun and Sam Goldman started an organization called d.light that designs, manufactures, and distributes solar light and power products in the developing world, aiming to empower lives of 100 million people by 2020. Tom Szaky, at the ripe old age of 29 founded TerraCycle, a company that takes waste from food products such as wrappers and packaging to create all sorts of packages from bags to clothes to office supplies.

Even if not all 21 of us go on to become engineers, I know that this engineering class will have a much different view of sustainability and our interaction with the world because of Project Ventura.

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Yay for engineering!

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