Students design clean-burning stove to combat carbon monoxide poisoning

symposium logoCelebrate student research and discovery More than 500 students will converge in locations across campusApril 28-30 to share their creative discoveries and present in-depth research and scholarly work during the 2011 Undergraduate Symposium.

All events are open to the general public, who will discover how students are applying their passion to a purpose. Events include lectures, presentations, creative performances and award ceremonies. A keynote reception at 6 p.m. April 29 will feature guest author Judy Pasternak, who will offer a compelling look at the history of uranium mining in America’s southwest.

A complete schedule of events is available on the Undergraduate Symposium website.

Nearly 2 million people worldwide die each year from using “cook-stoves” that incompletely burn fuels, resulting in soot and carbon monoxide poisoning for those living in the home. But a group of NAU students has developed a viable solution to this unfortunate reality.

Mechanical engineering majors Jonathan NealGreg ScottJennifer Baca, and Chris Thompson, a dual mechanical/civil engineering major, set the goal of building an inexpensive clean-burning stove as a part of their Mechanical Engineering 486C capstone class project. They will showcase their three prototypes at this year’s Undergraduate Symposium, a campus-wide celebration of student academic achievements, held April 28-30 at locations across campus.

“We are all collectively interested in renewable energies and humanitarian endeavors,” Neal said. “As engineers, we have developed the skills necessary to approach most any problem. As such, we feel a natural obligation to contribute toward world issues.”

The team has been working hard to build a stove that will eliminate pollution issues specifically within the country of India.

“Theoretically, this stove will be more efficient than the current three-stove fires used in India,” Neal said, noting that if all the approximate 770 million people using primitive cook-stoves would switch to their stove, there would be immediate benefits. “Benefits include a decrease in indoor and outdoor air pollution, which directly correlates to 550,000 deaths a year in India alone,” he said.

The idea for the project arose from the X Prize Foundation, an educational non-profit foundation looking to promote better living in Third World countries through competition.

Student Engineers
A team of student engineers at NAU has developed three prototypes of a clean-burning cook-stove to combat carbon monoxide poisoning. Pictured from left are: Chris Thompson, Jenny Baca, Jonathan Neal and Greg Scott.

The team of student engineers is among more than 500 students across disciplines who will be participating in the Undergraduate Symposium. The event gives students like biology major Mary Zuniga the opportunity to demonstrate the important work they are doing outside of the classroom. Zuniga is conducting research on the effects of depleting uranium through skin contact at a molecular level.“The most important goal of this project is to really help advance technology and share information with as many companies out there as possible,” Neal explained. “Being able to successfully implement our technology is really the most important thing.”

“Few studies have been done to evaluate the damages that depleting uranium can cause using skin as a route of entry, and no studies have been done to assess its damage at the molecular level,” Zuniga said.

Karen Pugliesi, vice provost for Undergraduate Studies, said the Undergraduate Symposium offers students the opportunity to demonstrate how they are contributing to both basic and applied research and participating in meaningful internships that have practical applications in the real world.

“They also are developing important investigative and problem-solving skills and professional skills that can only be learned in authentic environments,” Pugliesi said.

The three-day Undergraduate Symposium features lectures, presentations, creative performances and award ceremonies. Events are open to the public, and a complete schedule is available on the Undergraduate Symposium website.