Jenny Wells

By

College: Engineering

UK Students Bring Renewable Energy Technology to Africa

Published: Jul 19, 2012

PADUCAH, Ky. (July 19, 2012) — While Americans may complain about fuel prices, the availability and access to transportation fuel is something that most can take for granted. Several University of Kentucky College of Engineering students from the Paducah campus recently learned that is not necessarily so in other areas of the world.

 

Jeffery Seay, assistant professor of chemical and materials engineering at the UK Paducah campus, led seven UK Paducah chemical and mechanical engineering students in a design project to develop low-cost, environmentally friendly technologies to produce biodiesel for rural villagers in Cameroon, Africa. Seay and the students worked with the African Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (ACREST) to design the process using resources and materials readily available in Cameroon. A 10-day trip to Bangang, Cameroon to work with the local villagers in implementing and refining the design was the culmination of the year-long project.

 

"To say the trip was eventful is an understatement," Seay said. "After over 18 hours of flying, our bus ride to the village of Bangang was the students' introduction to transportation difficulties in the developing world. The bus could not go up the muddy hillside road, so at about 10 p.m. we had to carry everything we brought — our supplies for the project, our personal belongings and supplies we brought for local school children — about three miles up the hillside in the pouring down rain. It took us over two hours to walk to the village."

 

According to Seay and the students, the trip got better. Working with ACREST technicians, the group implemented their reactor design. The principle behind the design, Seay said, was to construct the biodiesel processor for less than $100 in U.S. currency and to use construction and processing methods easily explained to people with little or no formal education. In addition, the students were charged with ensuring the materials used were readily available to locals. With old oil drums, car parts and scrap metal, the students constructed a processor that used wood or charcoal as heat.

 

Chris Sterrie, a senior mechanical engineering student from Paducah, worked on the processor. "The first thing we discovered is that the truth about engineering is being able to think outside the box. It isn’t that our basic design changed, it's more that we learned how to change the design to adapt to what we had," he said.

 

Sterrie and Bradley Butler, another senior mechanical engineering student from Paducah, were able to change their design to fit what was available and make the processor work.

 

"That first batch of biodiesel — and it was less than a gallon — was like looking at gold," Butler said. "A few days after we got home, I was at a gas station and a big truck pulled in and filled up with diesel. I don’t think I'll ever look at things like that the same."

 

Seay said that was an important lesson for the students. "Normally engineers would look to new technologies for a design project. What our students had to learn was how to use older technologies due to the lack of modern infrastructure."

 

Seay noted that while Bangang has approximately 200 homes, ACREST is able to provide low-cost electricity to only 15 of those. He explained that in pre-industrial times, ethanol, a key ingredient to produce biodiesel, was recovered from wood during the process of making charcoal. This method is still widely practiced in the developing world. In addition to methanol and vegetable oil, the other chemicals required can be extracted from wood ash, which is still used in developing countries to produce soap. Utilizing these methods the students were able to create an innovative, low-cost biodiesel processor for the village. 

 

Christina Willett, a chemical engineering junior from Gilbertsville, Ky., said she did not realize the impact her career choice could make. "Seeing first-hand what engineering has done — and can do — for our world, made a huge impression on me," she said.

 

Mitchell Peeler, a chemical engineering junior from Eddyville, Ky.; Max Croft and William Croft, chemical engineering sophomores from Paducah, and Zac Watson, a mechanical engineering junior from Symsonia, Ky., found getting to know the villagers and their culture an important lesson as well. The students brought school supplies for the village school. But Peeler brought something he thought the local children would enjoy even more — a couple of futbols, or soccer balls.

 

"The local kids were so cool," Peeler said. "They would hang out with us and they loved to play futbol. So, we would go out there and play with them and they taught us some games as well. I think one of the things that really stood out to me was how they are just not time-oriented like we are here. They say 'no worries' and really mean it."

 

The Crofts said they were impressed with the villagers' hospitality. "Every evening they put food on the table for us. It was like whatever they had they offered to us," Max Croft said. His brother, William, agreed. "It was a lesson, that's for sure. I think I learned that we have so much and that we all have a choice to make a difference. It's shown us a whole world of engineering opportunities that we hadn’t thought of before."

 

Watson said he hopes to make the trip again. "I think it would be cool to be able to go again and see the results of what we started. To be able to keep making improvements to what we've done would be great."

 

Seay said in light of the project's success and his recently awarded funding from the EPA's People, Prosperity and the Planet Program, he plans to continue developing the processor.

 

The UK College of Engineering in Paducah offers area students the opportunity to achieve a UK four-year Bachelor of Science degree in chemical or mechanical engineering. Working in partnership with WKCTC and Murray State, UK-Paducah students take all classes on the UK Paducah Campus. The program has graduated more than 140 engineers since its beginning in 1997.

 

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Jenny Wells, (859) 257-5343; Jenny.Wells@uky.edu

cameroon1.jpgcameroon2.jpgcameroon3.jpg
August
 
 
 
 
 
1
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Fri
2
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Sat
3
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Artful Sunday: Wrapped Art
Sun
4
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Mon
5
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Tue
6
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Get Moving - A Walking Group for Caregivers
Wed
7
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Thu
8
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Fri
9
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Sat
10
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Sun
11
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Mon
12
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
UK Working Moms Connection
Tue
13
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Wed
14
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Thu
15
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Fri
16
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Sat
17
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection
Sun
18
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Mon
19
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Tue
20
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Chronic Disease Self-Management Program
Wed
21
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Thu
22
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Midnight Dodgeball Tournament
CARES First Year Focus Parent Meetings
CARES First Year Focus Parent Meetings
Parent and Families Reception
Residence Hall Floor Meeting
Off-campus Freshmen Check-in
K Team Meeting: K Week Kick-off
Death By Chocolate
Fri
23
Employee Educational Assistance Award
A Parent's Guide to Life after August 23
Campus Safety Information Session
Donut Avoid The Study
Common Cents: Money Management for College Students Session 1
See Blue...See Community
Succeeding in A Large Lecture Classroom
Horses, Bluegrass, Basketball, and More: Welcome to Kentucky
Success at Any Age: College Tips for Adult Learners
Write Right: Tips for Writing Well in College
Common Cents: Money Management for College Students Session 2
How to Graduate in Four Years
Parental Involvement in Fraternity and Sorority Life
Parents Watch for Warning Signs: Suicide Prevention for College Students
Preparing to be a Pre-Professional
Presentation U!: Where YOU are the Ultimate Presentation
Religious Life at UK
Successful Off-Campus Living
The Transfer Student Cruise: Navigating your way through UK
UK Parking & Transportation 101
You Heard It Here First: Tips From A Faculty Member
New Student Induction Ceremony
Minority Student Welcome
Transfer Student Cookout
K Team Meeting: K Week Overview
Men's Soccer vs. Georgia State
Big Blue U
Campus Ruckus
Campus Ruckus
Sat
24
Employee Educational Assistance Award
LNFS Presents: Jackass 3
LNFS Presents: Godzilla
Pedalpalooza
K Team Meeting: Lunch and Campus Tour
Center for Community Outreach: Do Good, Start Here.
UK Lex-Mart
Alternative Service Breaks: See the World, Change the World
From the Real World to the Amazing Race, Don't Wipeout: Your Advisor, Advising, and You
Blackboard Basics
Student Government Association Information Session
EMPOWER: Women’s Leadership Retreat Interest Session
Student Center Spectacular
Student Center Spectacular
Sun
25
Employee Educational Assistance Award
UK FUSION
UK Parking & Transportation 101
University of Kentucky Association for Transfer Students Interest Session
Candy, Condoms, Coffee
Cleaner, Healthier, Cheaper, Faster: Why Bicycling is the Best Way to Get Around Campus (and how to do it safely)
Working on Campus
K Team Meeting: Dinner with your K Team
Meijer Mania
Mon
26
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Last Day to Drop a Course with 100% Refund
Chem at UK Cafe-N-OJ with the Student American Chemical Society
Coffee (or Coke), Cookies, & Communication!: Come see blue. at Presentation U!
Don't Blow Yourself Up: Surviving Chemistry
Fraternity Recruitment Info Session
OMG! Did I Just E-Mail That to My Professor???
Surviving Your First Year and Beyond: Strategies To Do Well in Your Classes
Sustainable UK: Exploring Environmental Programs in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment (CAFE)
A User Guide for Your Mathematics Class
Discover the UK Art Museum
K Team Meeting: Common Reading Experience Discussion
Common Reading Introduction for International Students
Transfer Student Meet and Greet
We Are UK
Rec 'N Roll 2014
Big Blue Bingo Night
Mic Check
Tue
27
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Fraternity Recruitment Info Session
LNFS Presents: Jurassic Park
First Day of Classes
Open House - Special Collections Research Center
King Cookout
Campus Outreach
Opening Act: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Wed
28
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Internship Info Session
LNFS Presents: Her
LNFS Presents: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Student Involvement Fair
OrgSync Info session
LGBTQ* Welcome Back
Dive Into Diversity!
CATalyst's Dive Into Diversity Session
Residence Hall Floor Meetings
Thu
29
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Sea of Blue
One Last Beach Bash: RSA Block Party
LNFS Presents: Team America: World Police
Pills and Pizza
K Week Event: Pills and Pizza
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Wichita State
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Francis Marion
Fri
30
Employee Educational Assistance Award
LNFS Presents: Neighbors
The Tailgate "Kick-Off"
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Butler
Kentucky Football vs. UT-Martin
Kentucky Volleyball vs. Virginia Tech
Sat
31
Employee Educational Assistance Award
Kentucky Women's Soccer vs. Ohio
Men's Soccer vs. Belmont
Sun
 
 
 
 
 
 
Aug 28
Internship Info Session 08/28/2014

Thu, 08/28/2014

Reset Page