(UG1) Massachusetts Climate Resilience Policy, Planning, and the Needs of People with Disabilities: Paths to Improvement

People With Disabilities (PWDs) face a four-fold higher risk of death from climate emergencies, yet largely lack any meaningful inclusion in municipal climate vulnerability planning. This project maps out a strategy to increase PWD inclusion in a Massachusetts government agency, the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program providing municipalities with climate resilience technical assistance, funding, and guidelines, currently undergoing a 5-year update. Over 95% of Massachusetts’s municipalities participate in this program, so changes to this one entity are disseminated throughout the state. While this project was in its intermediate stage, sharing this project’s early findings and resources led to strong interest being expressed in increasing PWD inclusion by an MVP program official.

(UG2) A Cantilevered Piezoelectric Energy Harvester Driven by Vortex-Induced Vibrations on a Cylinder in Water

This Major Qualifying Project (MQP) team of seniors in Mechanical Engineering designed, built, and tested a renewable energy harvester from the flow of water through a river. This system converted the vortex-induced vibrations (VIV) of a cylinder into the bending of two cantilevers with two piezoelectric transducers attached to their fixed ends. The cantilever was designed so its natural frequency matches the vortex shedding frequency of the cylinder in a given water flow. The alternating current (AC) from the transducers was then converted into a direct current (DC) using a rectifying circuit with a diode bridge and a filter capacitor as well as a voltage regulator. This functional system, which achieved a maximum electrical power of 3.14 μW, has the capability of powering low-power electronics including temperature sensors. This can be scaled to produce more power by increasing the size of the device, particularly the piezoelectric strips, by having multiple devices of this sort beside one another to compound the output power, or by increasing the natural frequency of the resonating system.

(UG3) Creating Replacements for Single-Use Plastics in the Cuenca Soup Kitchen

The Cuenca Soup Kitchen aims to be an environmentally conscious operation by reducing plastic waste. Through interviewing volunteers and observing their operations, we found that plastic bags used to package rice, produce, salt, and sugar lead to high plastic waste. We developed processes for creating reusable bags from single-use bags for the rice and produce and identified how to reuse plastic water bottles for salt and sugar. These recommendations will save the Cuenca Soup Kitchen over $900 per year as well as prevent them from using over 18,200 single-use bags per year.

(UG4) Exploring the Feasibility of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors for Research and Energy at WPI

The increased risks of climate change are forcing communities to rethink how they meet their energy needs. In this project, we investigated the feasibility of integrating a small modular nuclear reactor (SMNR) at WPI for both research and power generation. During this investigation, we conducted interviews, directed a survey, and viewed carbon emissions data. By analyzing this information, we found that implementing an SMNR would benefit the institution by providing additional research opportunities and reducing overall emissions through the cogeneration of heat and electricity in a safe manner by utilizing SMNR technology as soon as 2026, when it is predicted to be commercially available.