Research on generator project brings student national award

October 31, 2017

Devon Manuele, left, receives a scholarship in Washington, D.C.

Research by a University of Wisconsin-Stout student on improving electrical output in a hydroelectric generator could make a difference in the lives of impoverished residents of Malawi, and for that work he has won a national award.

Devon Manuele received a $1,200 scholarship recently at the National Role Models Conference in Washington, D.C. He took first place in the Minority Access 12th annual Undergraduate Student Research Competition in the engineering and technology category.

A junior in the applied science program and a McNair scholar, Manuele presented his research on increasing the efficiency of a small hydroelectric generator by studying the interaction of magnets and conductive material, which in this scenario was copper.

Manuele is from North Prairie, west of Milwaukee in Waukesha County.

By helping and supporting the locals get access to electricity through their own hard work and our support, it increases their living standards and opportunities,” Manuele said.

Residents of Mzuzu, Malawi, work on a hydroelectric generator project in collaboration with UW-Stout.

Manuele’s research is part of a larger project begun in 2016 by operations and management Professor Tom Lacksonsen, who went to Mzuzu, Malawi, to gauge whether a prototype for a minihydroelectric generator could be economically mass produced there with available resources. The project is in collaboration with Hastings Mkwandwire, of Mzuzu, who visited UW-Stout in 2014 as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative.

Malawi, in southeastern Africa, has about 18 million people. Less than 2 million residents have access to electricity, and it’s almost nonexistent in rural areas. Streams in the mountains and jungles provide an ideal power source for hydroelectric generators, which use concentrated pressure and water flow to turn turbines or water wheels to drive an electric generator.

The prototype hydroelectric generator.Manuele’s research could build a more efficient template for the hydroelectric generator. The plans then would be sent to Mkwandwire so the generator could be cast and produced in Malawi.

UW-Stout Professor Brian Finder has worked with Mzuzu residents on the casting process.

“I explored the laws, physics, concepts and past research done to get a sense of what and how to improve the generator's efficiency. The generator has many limitations and specifics. I had to have a strong understanding of all concepts in order to know how and where to improve it,” he said.

Funding for Manuele’s trip to Washington came from the McNair Scholars Program at UW-Stout, of which he is a member. His McNair research mentor is Associate Professor Matthew Ray from the department of chemistry and physics.

The research project also has received funding from Stout University Foundation and a Student Research Grant through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at UW-Stout.

Other students who have helped with the project are Caleb Docter, an engineering technology student from Markesan; Eric Hulen, a manufacturing engineering student from Delafield; and 2016 graduate Josh Miller.



Top: Devon Manuele, left, receives a scholarship in Washington, D.C., for taking first place in a student research competition at the National Role Models Conference.

Middle: Residents of Mzuzu, Malawi, work on a hydroelectric generator project in collaboration with UW-Stout.

Bottom: UW-Stout students and professors have developed a prototype hydroelectric generator that they hope can be reproduced in Malawi to bring electricity to residents there.