Dominion Foundation Grants Enhanced New Engineering Course at TNCC


Published: May 23, 2011

Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) students enrolled in “Topics in Energy Technology: Wind Turbine Blade Development and Testing,” completed several groundbreaking studies during the spring semester. Funded by a $10,000 grant from the Dominion Foundation, the new elective course explores wind turbine technology and design. TNCC was one of four Virginia colleges to receive funding from the philanthropic arm of Dominion Resources to support programs in skilled craft, engineering, environmental and technical studies, business, and student-led conservation programs.

TNCC received an additional $2,500 from the organization in February to purchase a Skystream 3.7 Marine Cutaway wind turbine demonstrator. “The new equipment provided students with a life-sized replica of a real-world turbine blade system including all of the inner workings of the motor housing and its electrical connections,” said Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology Michael Uenking. The replica gave students a basis for developing their own design of a wind turbine and helped reinforce what was taught during the course.

The new course incorporated Mechanical Engineering Technology, Computer-Aided Drafting and Design, and Electrical Engineering Technology, all of which directly relate to current Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives. Uenking developed the course with TNCC faculty Deborah Lichniak, Assistant Professor and Program Head of Electronics Technology; Tom Pringle, Instructor and Program Head of Computer-Aided Drafting and Design; and Julie Young, Assistant Professor and Program Head of Mechanical Engineering Technology.

During the course, students built a scaled-down wind tunnel, created prototypes of various wind turbine blades using assorted computer-aided drafting tools and plastics manufacturing machines, created carbon-fiber epoxy resin duplicates of their plastic wind turbine blades and collected and analyzed wind turbine data such as power output and generation using a wind turbine demonstrator.

The experience students gained in the course pertains to a myriad of careers, including blade repair technician, wind technician, and turbine commissioner. Salaries for these positions range from $35,000 to $85,000. “Topics in Energy Technology: Wind Turbine Blade Development and Testing” is TNCC’s first step in allowing students to explore alternative energy sources within three engineering technology programs. The results will be incorporated into new alternative and green technologies courses being developed for TNCC’s upcoming academic year.

Thomas Nelson offers degrees in Computer-Aided Drafting and Design Technology, Electronics Technology, Mechanical Engineering Technology and more.



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