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KU Students, Lawrence Library Create Solar-Powered Drop Box for A/V Materials

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Three teams of mechanical engineering students at the University of Kansas have created a solar-powered library drop box that will protect audiovisual materials from harmful weather conditions and potentially help the Lawrence Public Library save thousands of dollars a year.

The students will present their designs at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 15, at the Lawrence Public Library auditorium, 707 Vermont St. After the presentations, the drop box resulting from their efforts will be unveiled in a ceremony in the north parking lot at Checkers grocery store, 2300 Louisiana St., Lawrence.

The drop box would help ensure that the $500,000 spent each year on materials can be used to purchase new items rather than to replace destroyed CDs and DVDs.

“This project, an outstanding example of university-community partnerships, will result in a real-world solution for a thorny problem,” said Bruce Flanders, director of the Lawrence Public Library. Weather extremes can damage sensitive audiovisual materials and cost the library throughout the year. “We are very grateful for the opportunity to work with KU mechanical engineering faculty and students, and we are particularly excited to partner with them on a sustainable energy project of this importance.”

The project, which was funded by the library, had the students work together to design and create a drop box that, through the use of solar power, cools itself during the warmest months and heats itself during the winter. The box will have separate spaces for books and audiovisual materials. The latter will be kept safe through any weather in a sustainable way.

Heat and cold have adverse effects on materials such as CDs and DVDs, which expand, contract and even melt, costing the library money and the community resources. Through this project, the KU students provided not only a solution for the people of Lawrence, but their work may also serve people across the country.

“KU faculty and students are incredibly creative and resourceful. We anticipate that this innovative design will be of interest to many other libraries nationwide,” said Flanders.

The students embraced the opportunity to work on a project that has an immediate application.

“The seniors who are working on this project have enthusiastically participated in this unique opportunity to make use of state-of-the-art renewable energy technology and to provide a worthwhile expansion of the library’s remote services,” said Professor Ron Dougherty, chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “This project has given the students valuable experience in applying their engineering backgrounds in a way that directly benefits the community.”

Team members are: Andrew Pepperdine, Kaitlin Carr and Robert Lutz of the Structures Team; Abdullah Alsarraf, Kyle Owens and Corey Bryant of the Heating/Cooling Team; and Brett Courtney, Karl Smith and Preston White of the Electrical/Solar Team.

For more information, contact Ian Cahir, 785-864-2936 or iancahir@ku.edu.

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