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NMSU engineering technology majors help design wind-powered sculpture

Albuquerque artist Evelyn Rosenberg had a problem and seven engineering students at New Mexico State University helped her solve it, using a little ingenuity, resourcefulness and much hard work.



Student engineers in New Mexico State University's Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center designed and built the wind-powered mechanism that turns Evelyn Rosenberg's "Carrusel de San Isidro," dedicated in Albuquerque Dec. 17.

As part of Bernalillo County's "Percent for Art" public art program, Rosenberg designed a carrousel-like sculpture called the "Carrusel de San Isidro," which was to be erected in Albuquerque's South Valley in November 2000.

Rosenberg knew she wanted the revolving metal sculpture to be wind powered, but had no specific ideas for designing the mechanism for translating wind power into movement. Fortunately, having worked with NMSU's engineering technology department in 1997, when she designed the Clock of Dreams, another wind-powered sculpture which sits in front of NMSU's Engineering Complex III, she knew where to go for help.

In August 1999 she contacted Anthony Hyde, director of the Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center (M-TEC). Hyde, in turn, tapped mechanical engineering senior Jesus Flores, and mechanical engineering technology seniors Chance Valentine, Julio Mendoza, Felipe Reyes, Adrian Rive, Jessie Nichols and Mike Greenough to design and build the mechanism for Rosenberg's wind- powered carrousel.

Designing, modeling and building the wind-powered structure took the students six months, Hyde said.

Flores said he and his team mates knew their task had certain parameters.

"It had to be wind powered and it couldn't be too high, because the structure is under some power lines. We knew we could use Savonius rotors, because they operate at low wind speeds and provide a lot of torque. What we didn't know was how to position the rotor to transfer the power from the rotors to the carrousel and still have the mechanism be aesthetically pleasing," he said.

"It wasn't just about making the thing move," said Valentine. "It was about making it move and still contribute to the artwork." After they had tried and rejected three design concepts, the breakthrough of the project came when the team decided to position the wind rotor inside the carrousel. The idea pleased Rosenberg and allowed the student engineers to proceed with building a gear reduction system needed to make the carrousel spin efficiently in low wind speeds. The team eventually used a flex plate, an automatic transmission flywheel and two, smaller, pinion gears as the basis for the structure's mechanism, Hyde said.

The team next decided to use four hubs from an 18-foot utility trailer to mount the structure's shafts and gears, because they knew the hubs were designed to handle both "axial" and "radial" loads, Flores and Valentine said.

"The wind blowing would create radial, or sideways load, and the weight of the carrousel coming down would create axial load," Flores said.

Designing the sculpture's mechanism is the kind of hands-on challenge that both gives engineering students real-life experience and looks good on resumes, Hyde said.

"I like knowing what the problem is and finding how to solve it," Flores said. "It's like an automobile company making an SUV and saying 'What if it's going 50 miles and hour and hits a pothole? What will break, what will go out of alignment?' I like finding the solution to that kind of problem and still having it stay aesthetic."

"It wasn't like looking at a table, for example, where you can just copy it," Valentine said. "This problem required something totally original. I'm someone who enjoys designing, then manufacturing the results."

Rosenberg said the team's design works perfectly, even functioning well in some recent high winds in Albuquerque.

"Their help was invaluable. I couldn't have built the carrousel without Anthony and his students to design and build the insides," she said.

Photo is available at http://kiernan.nmsu.edu/newsphoto/sculpt3.jpg.
For a print, call (505) 646-3221. CUTLINE: Student engineers in New Mexico State University's Manufacturing Technology and Engineering Center designed and built the wind-powered mechanism that turns Evelyn Rosenberg's "Carrusel de San Isidro," dedicated in Albuquerque Dec. 17. (Photo courtesy of the Bernalillo County Arts Board)

Jack King
Dec. 21, 2000