We began our April by meeting with John Simon, an experienced engineer. He advised us to rethink our idea and introduced us to an antifreeze system. Due to a lack of equipment to make the necessary pressure and heat for a steam accumulator, we were unable to continue the idea given our time constraints. Thus, our new idea centers around the cycling of antifreeze through a system. The invention would work as following:
1. A line of antifreeze runs from the engine to the radiator which cools the antifreeze and sends it back to the engine.
2. There is a cutaway fuel line from the engine that is connected to a fuel pump, which collects fuel from the fuel tank and measures how strong the fuel is flowing through.
3. Another line connects the fuel pump to an Arduino that reads its output.
4. If the Arduino reads a high amperage, it signals the solenoid valve to open.
5. The solenoid valve opens and allows the heated antifreeze to divert from the radiator, run around the fuel tank, and warm the biodiesel up.
6. Gelling up of the biodiesel is therefore prevented.
7. Cutting out the fuel tank, so that people can visually see the prototype working on the inside.
On April 21, the InvenTeam attended Bay Day, a fun-filled public event that teaches about the Galveston Bay ecosystem and the environmental effects of pollution in the air. As EurekaFest draws closer, our team must continue to raise money for our trip to MIT. Currently, our team has overcome the financial burden of raising enough funds to pay for individual flights to EurekaFest!
The month of March was a reflecting period for us, as we organized our next steps and collected feedback from the Mid-Grant Technical Review. We learned a lot from our audience regarding what improvements can be made on both the technical and financial side of our project, such as presentation tips and organizations who might be willing to donate to us. Overall, we received over $1,000 in donations that night, which helped us to have about 30% of our goal covered.
In addition to the follow-up emails sent out, we created "thank you" letters for our donors.
As we inch closer and closer to Eurekafest, we are planning the logistics of getting to MIT. Our first step was to reserve plane tickets for one week before the price sharply increases. We decided on Southwest Airlines for our travel. Over the next week, we will finalize who is going to Eurekafest so we can have an exact count of what our budget will be for transporting the team and our invention.
Moving forward, we expect to see more earnings from fundraising. We have been able to see profit from our weekly breakfast taco sales that have contributed to our goal. We are planning to attend two events in April that can potentially find donors and serve as a media platform for InvenTeam. The first event will be the Energy Institute Signing Night on April 4th, where we will pitch our project and club to incoming freshmen and their parents. The second event will be Bay Day at Kemah Boardwalk.
In terms of technical goals, the team will put together the final invention design, which now includes a steam accumulator, solenoid valve, and fuel pump. We have deemed the viscometer useless in relaying viscosity to the Arduino, so we are replacing it with the fuel pump and valve. The steam accumulator will heat up the fuel as necessary. The Tech Team will also send the final EurekaFest display for June. We are determined to meet our financial and technical goals.
Our Mid-Grant Technical Review was a success! Many attended, and we were able to raise more than $1,000 in donations. Each team lead gave a part of the formal presentation and answered questions from the Houston community (including families, local business owners, and HISD representatives). We had tables set up for the Finance, Technical, and Sustainability Teams. The Finance Team accepted donations and showed projected costs. The Sustainability Team showcased different blends of biodiesel, and the Tech Team demonstrated the fuel heating system model. We earned much feedback in return and are currently reviewing it to improve upon our design.
This week, the team focused on our final preparations for the Mid-Grant Technical Review this upcoming Wednesday (2/28). We have created a sponsor banner for donations, business cards, flyers, and presentations to showcase at the event. We will continue to practice our presentation and get ready to set up each team's table for display.
Currently, the Tech Team is working on their mechanical display of the invention. Specifically, we put together the heating system for the fuel tank and exhaust by wrapping plastic tubing around a container (to represent the fuel tank) and a thick plastic tube (to represent the exhaust). The plastic tubing would contain antifreeze to prevent the biodiesel from gelling up. The antifreeze's current would be powered by a drill that rotates a drill pump and gets the fluid flowing.
Dr. Gibson also mixed different combinations of biodiesel, including coconut B100, soybean B5, and, biodiesel from waste oil, and even a sample of diesel from our donated school bus. This will be used to show the different types of biodiesel that could be used in our system.
Today, we met with Tony Perry at Lemelson-MIT who gave us feedback on our future MGTR/EurekaFest presentation, He pointed out to us our three main audiences:
Last week, February 8th, the team went to the Sierra Club to present our biodiesel school bus project. There were other young adults presenting their projects concerning wildlife restoration post-Harvey and aquaponic systems. We were able to mingle with the interested constituents and we answered questions they had after presentation in order to obtain feedback in improving our project. We also got contact information of many people there and invited them to our Mid-Grant Technical Review, which is happening this month.
Today,the Tech Team met up at school to continue working on the electrical and mechanical components of the project. First, Trisha tested the heating by attaching it to the 12V battery and placing the adhesive on a beaker of 500 ml of water. At room temperature the water was 74" Fahrenheit thus proving that the heating pad works an should heat up the fuel.
Next, we constructed a new setup for the viscometer and remounted it onto a pole. We corrected the orientation from right side up to right side down. After placing it piston side up we covered it with a graduated cylinder, and connected the tubing into the hole on the cylinder. Finally, at the end of the tubing was a funnel in which we poured the vegetable oil. However, because there was not enough pressure to force the liquid into the piston, we had to caulk the opening between the piston and the graduated cylinder.
While we were waiting,we tested the thermoelectric tiles. First, We connected it to a 9v battery and felt the tile get colder on one side. Then, we placed it on top of a ceramic tile on top of a heating plate, and saw how much mA was produced by the tile (approx. 0.170 mA).
On Tuesday, we met with Leigh Estabrooks, an InvenTeam representative from MIT. We told her about our project idea and showed her our progress. We also got to ask questions (ex. What's the most interesting project you've seen at EurekaFest?) and she provided us answers, feedback, and ways to improve our project. She told us that it was important to build an easy-to-understand model for the Mid-Grant Technical Review. Some ideas we have for the project display include:
This Saturday morning, the Tech Team met at school to work on the mechanical and electrical components of our invention. We had initial trouble as we tried to measure viscosity of different fluids, including vegetable oil, water, and water with corn starch. We hooked up the viscometer (VISCOpro 1600 from Cambridge Viscosity) to a multimeter. The multimeter outputs in amps, which we will convert to a unit of viscosity, centipoise. To do this, we will calibrate the viscometer/multimeter to different fluids, starting with distilled water, to get a standard/starting measure. From there, we will calculate the relative viscosity of other fluids (testing vegetable oil, corn starch, and ultimately biodiesel) based on the water's measurement.
The issue we're having is that when the viscometer is put into a fluid, the multimeter does not display useful data--it displays "0.00". We reached out to our contact at Cambridge Viscomety for their suggestions on how to fix the problem. Once we get the parts to work, we hope to get a reading between 4 and 20 miliamps on the multimeter: the appropriate range for viscosity of our fluids (vegetable oil, corn starch + water, distilled water). The viscometer would also attach to a switch that would turn on the heating pads to warm up the biodiesel if it reaches an undesirable viscosity/temperature.
Happy 2018 everyone! The EIHS InvenTeam rested well over the much-needed winter break, and is back to warm up biodiesel in such cold weather. Our main focus this month is to prepare for the Sierra Club event and Mid-Grant Technical Review. Both events will take place in February (the 8th and 28th, respectively), and the team hopes to get feedback from both presentations in order to improve before EurekaFest in June.
InvenTeam Team Updates
Currently, HISD uses B5 (Diesel with 5% Biodiesel) in most of its bust fleet. Research shows that B100 (100% Biodiesel) would reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, but as a fuel it tends to “gel” in colder temperatures and this can lead to engine malfunction. The EIHS InvenTeam is currently developing “The Slush Buster”, which would be an automated system for regulating fuel viscosity in any diesel vehicle. Our invention would facilitate the use of B100 in any climate, as the current, widespread solution is simply to reduce the blend of biodiesel if the weather gets cold. We hope that our invention can be used by buses in HISD, and eventually vehicles in all parts of the country!