Students to travel for senior design project

Three Wartburg students will be travelling to Sierra Leone this coming summer to turn their Senior Design project idea into a reality.

Joseph Tarawali, Mike Brown and Arif Ahmadi are designing, building and testing an incubator for chicken eggs for use off the grid in Sierra Leone to enhance the output of remote farmers.

Tarawali and Brown received a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace award to kick start their project.

Tarawali said the project idea came to him when he was in Sierra Leone over the summer.

“A lot of people, including my dad, have small chicken farms, but there are a lot of constraints that they are facing. Their output is very low compared to the demand, and the cost of eggs is very high,” Tarawali said.

Tarawali said when he came back he talked to Dr. LeAnn Faidley, associate professor of engineering science about what could be done to help this issue.

“She sent out an email to students who might be interested and then two students signed up and we all started working on it,” Tarawali said.

Although Tarawali and Brown are the two that applied for the Projects for Peace award, Ahmadi will still be accompanying them.

“I was shocked when I found out I was being awarded the Davis Projects for Peace fund. My first thought was ‘I’ve barely been out of the Midwest, let alone taken a trip to Africa,'” Brown said.

Brown said the project has been challenging because of the limitations in Sierra Leone.

“Due to the lack of resources and money in the community, we have been working to design and build the incubator at a low cost while using materials that can only be found in Sierra Leone. It has definitely been a struggle, but we enjoy the challenge,” Brown said.

Tarawali said the two overall goals of the project are to increase the poultry output in Sierra Leone and save the lives of children.

“There is a huge amount of death among children that is related to malnutrition and protein deficiencies. We believe that if we can get this project done we might be able to save a lot of lives,” Tarawali said.

Faidley said she is working with the team to finalize the design, fabrication plans and testing plans for their work this coming summer.

“Incubators are necessary to increase the poultry and egg output for rural communities because chickens stop laying new eggs while they sit and wait for one to hatch. These means that in order to produce two or three more chickens a farmer needs to give up on egg production for almost a month,” Faidley said.

Faidley said egg incubation is easy to achieve using a temperature sensor and powered thermostat in the developed world, but in the parts of the world with no reliable power source it is much more difficult.

The project that the three students has developed will use a car battery charged by a solar cell and a highly-insulated incubation box.

The team is currently building a prototype on campus so they can run a complete set of tests to optimize the design.

“This project and other Senior Design projects allow students to experience this as the culmination of their engineering curriculum,” Faidley said. “It is my hope that it is the start of students ‘leading lives of leadership and service as a spirited expression of their faith and learning.'”

Tarawali encouraged those who have any ideas to help others it is always good to try to pursue that thing.

“This idea started out as something very vague. If you have something in mind, however vague it is, talk to other people. They might help you find solutions,” Tarawali said.

Brown said although the travel will be out of his comfort zone, he believes it will be worth it.

“I have been overwhelmed with the support from professors, staff and friends,” Brown said. “This project is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

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