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2014 Applied Engineering Challenge


The 2014 Applied Engineering Challenge will address the urgent need to improve indoor air quality (IAQ), particularly in residential applications in developing countries. The project is suitable for students with a strong interest in sustainable equipment design incorporated with other strategies to reduce indoor air contaminates and raise IAQ.

Many studies document the health effects of poor IAQ due to many potential factors including indoor biomass combustion for heating and cooking, contaminated ventilation air, tobacco smoke, or no provided space ventilation.

The estimated impact of no or improper venting of combustion products and poor IAQ is estimated to be 2 million deaths per year. A video which help quantify the IAQ issues involved, particularly with indoor biomass combustion can be seen here:

These issues are further exacerbated by economic and rural conditions particularly in developing economies.



The scope of the project is to create a design which will assist to maintain and improve the IAQ in a residential application.

  • The first goal in the competition includes designing and specifying a small, portable air conditioner (cooling, heating, and ventilation) which will be affordable, maintainable, and effective in the local cultural environment. Teams should assume that the residence only has 240V, 75 amps available for all uses. As well, since many locations may not have access to reliable electricity, alternative, renewable energy sources should be explored and developed.
  • The second goal in the competition should couple these small conditioning devices with available clean combustion technologies and apply these concepts to biomass and other “dirty” combustion fuels. It should be assumed that clean burning fuels such as natural gas or propane are not available for this project.


Teams should use the latest versions of ASHRAE Standards 55, 62.2 and 90.2 as the performance metrics for the design. Teams should justify how their designs meet these codes via calculations or other substantial proof.

The design of the conditioning unit should not focus on the component by component design of the unit itself. If products currently exist on the market which satisfies most of the items below, they can be included in the solution. If modifications are required, teams should detail the specifics of the required modifications and justify why these improve the design.



The following items should be addressed in the report:

  • The teams should survey available technology and provide technical analysis of the current solutions and provide recommendations based on climate, cost, and ease of operation and maintenance. Teams should discuss any improvements or ideas they may generate to provide addition information or new avenues of study. Discuss and quantify the IAQ issues in residences including by not limited to: 
    • Contaminated ventilation air, tobacco smoke, or lack of space ventilation.
    • Using biomass for indoor heating and cooking.
    • Issues in developing countries which may have low or no access to basic HVAC technology or different building standards.
  • Capacity 
    • Teams should discuss and develop all sizing assumptions and document with the related sizing calculations. Assume a family of 4 and a modest sized domicile of approximately 1200 sq ft.
    • What capacity cooling & heating device is required? How much ventilation air is required?
    • How much thermal output is required for cooking?
    • Ability to withstand defined levels of shock and vibration
    • Must be able to operate while on an angle (up to 30 degrees from horizontal)
    • Hooks for securing the unit to the vehicle or trailer are required
    • Hooks inside the box to secure the cargo are also required
  • Controllability – The devices should be controllable and be able to be safely left unattended at times during the day.
  • Adaptability
    • Combustion devices should be able to use several different fuel types, and also have easy operational capabilities such as good ash handling and cleaning.
    • The air conditioner should have cleanable filters which can be reused. 
  • Safety – The combustion devices should provide adequate product safety, for example limiting the maximum allowable temperature on surface of the device, or perhaps requiring some kind of protection/insulation for fire safety.
  • Cost – Cost will be a major consideration for design teams. Submissions should include a detailed cost estimate for first, operational, and maintenance costs. What will be affordable for the target user in different cultures?  Make assumptions and justify the submission
  • Construction - In some cases the devices may need to be built of local sources. Justify how devices will be constructed in the submission. Will modifications be required on an existing dwelling for the solution to work? What should be required for new construction?
  • Maintainability on both short and long term time frames. Provide details on maintenance issues and costs in the submission.
  • Portability (assemble/disassemble, weight) will be important and should be discussed and justified.
  • Sustainable – Project teams should consider that the devices may need to be installed in places of unreliable electrical power. A strategy for renewables should be considered and included in the submission.
  • Additional issues discovered by the design team should also be discussed as needed.

Judging criteria:

The project is an open ended question to challenge your design and engineering skills. A portion of the judging will center on the presentation and justification of ideas, designs, and other relevant factors in the report with graphics, tables of information, and/or other typical presentation methods for a technical report.

The submission should limited to a 25 page maximum technical report. Font size should be 11 pts, utilizing either Arial or Times New Roman. All documents must be presented in PDF format and should be clearly readable in black and white print.

The submission should include and discuss at a minimum the following:

  • Description of the conditioning unit and indoor combustion unit design including a review of all major design assumptions and supporting calculations including sizing and cost estimates.
  • Design: Teams should discuss and demonstrate their designs. For example, the description could include, but shouldn’t be limited to some of the following features: 
    • Integration with local culture and customs.
    • Ease of setup, operation, and maintenance. 
    • Durability.
    • Design elegance.
    • Ergonomics.
    • Ease of manufacturing and distribution, Mminimized weight and volume.
    • Ease of transport and portability.
    • Effectiveness over different climate zones.
  • Performance: Teams should discuss and quantify the performance of their design in relation to applicable Standards. 
    • Energy Efficiency. A design using completely renewable energy sources and/or exceeding the mandated minimum energy reduction required by code will be awarded extra consideration by the judging panel.
    • Reduction in emissions: The team should substantially discuss and quantify how their solutions directly reduce emissions and improve IAQ in residences.
  • Cost: Teams should create and justify their designs based on cost for their location.
  • Manufacturing: Teams should detail practical methods of getting the products into the hands of users. Justify the ease of manufacturing, assembly methods, and local procurement possibly anywhere in the world.