Posted by: seedfoundation | January 21, 2010

Expanding the Scope

In light of the recent Haitian earthquake that mangled the country and left millions (still) in desperate circumstances and the sluggish crisis response that ensued, OIT’s Dr. Petrovic has proposed an OIT emergency rapid response organization. The proposal is in its infancy and has yet to be formally presented to the education governing bodies of Oregon. If launched, it would trail any immediate need in Haiti, but the organization would provide REE students with valuable training, offer senior project options, and help post-disaster communities around the world.

To initiate the first phase of development, Dr. Petrovic assigned his Batteries class the task of designing a suitable battery pack for a specific appliance(s) essential in a disaster scenario. The class was divided into groups of three to four with each deciding on a different application. One group chose to size a battery pack for a water purification system, another for a water pump and another group focused on providing enough off-grid power for a seven outlet power strip. The power strip would be used for charging cell phones, one device that has proven its importance through disaster recovery.

What kind of issues must be considered when sizing a battery pack?

Size, weight, cost, toxicity, durability, accessibility, voltage, amp-hours and other factors are all important aspects to consider. Hence, different types of batteries should be used, depending on the application. If the device under consideration is portable and must remain mobile, like a telemedicine pack, for example, lead acid batteries are a bad choice because of their size and weight. Also, many batteries are quite expensive, so using a more costly type like lithium ion may not be the best choice if the telemedicine packs are pushing the budget. Nickel Cadmium might be considered because of the smaller size compared to lead acid and lower price than lithium ion. On the other hand, powering a stationary water pump in a rural environment wouldn’t need a small or energy dense battery pack. In this case, larger and cheaper batteries like lead acid would suffice.

These types of problems are the first of hopefully many more be to be solved in route to developing rapid response emergency packs at OIT. With the proper funding, REE students will be able to continue their diverse engineering education while helping others around the world when disaster strikes. In addition to developing emergency packs, students could also gain the opportunity for emergency response training and rapid deployment to disaster sites. OIT Portland is fortunate for acquiring a creative and contemporary instructor like Dr. Petrovic who is dedicated to bringing important, practical applications to traditional engineering theory.

-E.B.

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