Introducing engineering design concepts with a micro steam car project

Alan Christopher Hansen, Prasanta Kumar Kalita, Peter W L Lyne, Loren E. Bode

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


A micro steam car construction project was introduced for the first time in Fall 2000 as part of an introduction to agricultural engineering course for freshmen. Its purpose was to provide students with a hands-on engineering design experience constructing and testing a micro steam car. Most of the materials for building the car were supplied as a kit and comprised raw materials in the form of sheet metal, soda can, rubber tubes, wire, string and tin lids. Students built a car approximately 30 cm long powered by an ethanol heated tin can boiler, a pin sized nozzle and a turbine, which drives the front wheel. The project culminates with a competition in which the objective is to achieve maximum distance traveled on 20 mL of ethanol fuel. Apart from learning some metal working and soldering skills, the nature of the project allowed students to wrestle with a number of basic engineering and science concepts such as energy conservation, heat transfer and efficiency. While engineers in their first year of study may not yet have covered these topics in any detail in their classes, the need to try and identify factors contributing to the performance of the car provided a long-lasting learning experience. They are also able to practice problem-solving skills and learn to work in teams. Feedback from students on the project was positive with most students concluding that it had been a worthwhile activity in terms of learning problem-solving skills, working in a team and getting to know other students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12273-12283
Number of pages11
JournalASEE Annual Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2002
Event2002 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Vive L'ingenieur - Montreal, Que., Canada
Duration: Jun 16 2002Jun 19 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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