Tech students share their work at the Capitol for Undergraduate Research Day
On Friday, February 24, two dozen WVU Tech students spent the day sharing their work with lawmakers at the 14th Annual Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol Complex in Charleston.
The event drew in more than 100 projects and 160 students from colleges and universities throughout the state.
Sam Jarrell, a senior mechanical engineering major from St. Albans, West Virginia, said his team wanted to tackle something that could make a difference in the state. In the wake of last year’s flooding, they decided to work on a project that could help mitigate damage from such events in the future.
“I think it's really important for us to address issues that are in our state. We want people to see that students are working on those issues and we're able to do it because we have support,” he said.
So the team designed a portable, modular, interlocking flood barrier that’s quick and easy to set up, easy to clean and can withstand flood waters of up to three feet. Designed to be installed in ten-foot sections, the barrier is scalable, too.
“We looked at problems people had with existing products. Their biggest issues were cost, portability and time in advance of knowing when to use the product. We took all of those issues into account and came up with our model,” said Jarrell. “Hopefully, it can save equipment, property and maybe even lives.”
Jaymee Hannan is a mechanical engineering major from Lewisville, Tennessee. She was on hand to share her work on an automotive hydrogen generator. It’s essentially a small device users would install in their vehicles that uses electrolysis to produce hydrogen. That hydrogen is then diverted into the fuel mixture in the hope of boosting fuel efficiency in older engines.
“My hypothesis is that the hydrogen is actually working to clean the engine and that increases efficiency because there's less buildup. It's designed for an older car. We wanted to help people who have older cars and want to increase their fuel efficiency, but who can’t afford to buy a new car,” she said.
Hannan and her team are in the process of putting together their first prototype. She said she’s happy to test the build on her own car, which has racked up 250,000 miles.
Casey Hogg, a double biology and psychology major from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, shared his team’s work on the Halo Effect. The term refers to the how people can attribute traits or other properties to someone based on their overall impression of that person.
“You can think of it like a first impression,” said Hogg. “If you fit the typical image of a presenter – or what people think a presenter should be – people will rate you higher on unrelated attributes, such as agreeableness and friendliness.”
Hogg’s team conducted their research by hosting two presentations. In the first, Hogg presented himself in a professional manner. Nice shirt. Nice pants. Clean cut. In the second, he hadn’t shaved for a few days, wore a stained shirt and adopted a generally disheveled appearance.
After delivering identical presentations, the team surveyed the class on Hogg’s other attributes, finding that his “disheveled” version received much lower marks on attributes like friendliness and sociability.
“These are attributes they could not have gauged based on the presentation alone, and it helps to prove the power of putting your best foot forward,” he said.
All told, Tech students showcased 13 projects ranging from automotive technology to psychology. Students shared their work with legislators from their home districts and with one another. In the House Chamber, students also heard a proclamation recognizing the presenters and February 24 as Undergraduate Research Day in West Virginia.
For Hannan, the experience was a memorable and valuable way to help lawmakers connect
with students who are working to prove the value of educational programming.
“I think the main thing is that the people who are helping to fund us get to see us,” she said. “You get to see these students and how much work they're putting into this research. It puts a face on the numbers so you can see who’s behind all of this work that’s going on.”