N.C. A&T Engineering Senior Named a Winner of Poster Competition at National Conference

By Alexander Saunders / 12/28/2020 College of Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Dec. 28, 2020) – Mechanical engineering senior, Chelsea Wilson, had an extraordinary finals week at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. In addition to her many rigorous exams, she virtually attended and was named a winner of the Clean Energy Education and Empowerment (C3E) initiative conference poster competition.

The C3E recognizes outstanding women leaders and accomplishments in clean energy for the goal of closing the gender gap and increasing the participation, leadership and success of women in clean energy fields.

Seven out of 31 presenters were announced poster winners. For Wilson, this accomplishment confirms that whatever industry or educational path she pursues, she will excel.

Wilson’s winning poster, “Development of a Novel Oscillating Water Column Using Computational and Experimental Methods” features research from her ocean wave energy senior team project.

“Waves harvest an immense amount of power and, unlike solar and wind energy, waves are available 24/7. That’s why we want to develop an oscillating water column off of the coast of North Carolina,” said Wilson in her one-minute pitch during the competition.

“Chelsea is working on how to build the generator for the turbine. It must be low torque to take low forces to operate,” said Michael Atkinson, Ph.D., Wilson’s advisor in the College of Engineering (COE) and an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

The technology works by using wave energy to push air into the turbine chambers, which moves blades internally to create energy. Wilson and her team are working on converting the wave’s kinetic energy into mechanical energy to power devices.

The senior design team hopes to develop scaling laws for their devices at 1:100 scale, 1:25 scale and ultimately full size. Once they address the challenge of energy production capabilities between different prototype sizes, the team can truly begin imagining how and where a full-size model can work.

Wilson was happy to compete, not just for herself, but also to represent N.C. A&T.

“It was inspiring to see a platform showcasing the achievements of women in the clean and renewable energy fields, to see a space that brings women together and demonstrates the depth of their achievements in the field,” said Wilson.

The Department of Energy hosted the event and bank investors and entrepreneurs were present to learn how to best support women in this green energy research arena.

“There are so many opportunities in green energy. The sky is truly the limit,” said Wilson. She reflected on a past internship during her sophomore year that provided the opportunity to have hands-on experience with hydropower, offshore power and combination energies.

“I fell in love with renewable energy then and saw my opportunity to contribute towards the reduction of carbon emissions,” said Wilson. “For my senior project, I jumped at the chance to work on ocean renewable energy, which I feel is not as commercially developed.”

Ever since she was a child, Wilson said she tinkered with robots in the garage while her father worked on cars. By high school, the question was not if she wanted to become an engineer, but rather which discipline to pursue.

“Mechanical engineering felt like the right discipline because it touched all the other disciplines in some capacity,” said Wilson. “I could really learn a lot and use my experiences for various projects.”

In addition to ocean wave energy, COE’s Department of Mechanical Engineering offers exciting senior projects for students in collaboration with Sandia Laboratories, Baja and Aero.

“These types of opportunities to present research as an undergraduate student at conferences can be rare,” said Atkinson. “The fact Chelsea won the competition over graduate students really demonstrates the scale of her talents and her proficiency in this research subject area.”

Wilson joined fellow 2020 poster competition winners from the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan-Ann Abor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Five winners were doctoral and postdoctoral students, and two, including Wilson, won the undergraduate and master’s division. In total, there were five undergraduate presenters at the conference, three of which came from MIT, one of the sponsor universities.

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