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Nelson's Tyler Podgorenko earns ASET Capstone Project of the Year Award

Tyler Podgorenko, pictured with his father Ron at the FortisBC Dam in South Slocan, developed a connection to the use of turbines generating electricity. — Submitted photo

Tyler Podgorenko of Nelson teamed up with former Red Deer College engineering technology colleagues to capture the 2021 Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta’s (ASET) Capstone Project of the Year Award.

The team earned the honour for modernising a centuries-old device and transforming it into a source of renewable energy.

The ASET team of Podgorenko and Red Deer College engineering technology colleagues Michael Nosterud, Spencer Otto and James Greenough, won the honour for modernising a centuries-old device and transforming it into a source of renewable energy.

For their end-of-term Capstone Project, the former students decided to take the ram pump to the next level.

In existence since the Roman Empire, the ram pump uses the potential energy of flowing water to pump the water to a higher elevation. The team added a game-changing component: a turbine in the form of a Pelton wheel, which can be used to extract energy from the impulse of flowing water and generate clean electricity.

“For me personally, this was a passion project,” the 24-year-old Podgorenko said.

I grew up in Nelson, BC in the Kootenays where there are multiple dams in the region that use turbines to generate electricity,” Podgorenko added.

“My dad (Ron Podgorenko) works on some of those (FortisBC) dams and I developed a connection to them. It was a natural choice to pursue this kind of engineering technology work.”

The image shows the Ram Pump – Pelton Wheel skid. — Submitted

Renewable energy is energy that is sustainable and can't be exhausted: it is endless like the heat from the sun.

Clean electricity, also known as green electricity or green energy, is electrical power produced by methods that use renewable energy resources and do not cause pollution.

How the Pelton wheel works is it converts the kinetic energy of the turbine (moving energy) first into mechanical energy.

Then, the generator part of the system creates electricity from that through a conductor or wire wrapped around a metal core. As the core spins between two poles of a magnet, a current is induced on the wire because it is cutting through the magnetic field. The ram pump/Pelton wheel system is connected to a battery so that the energy can be stored and utilised when needed.

Electronic sensors and solenoid valves (control units which, when electrically energised or de-energised, either shut off or allow fluid flow) were included in the pump design to make it possible to view flow rates coming into and out of the pump as well as the pressure in the delivery pipe. Water stored in a reservoir is used to run the Pelton wheel and generate a measurable amount of power.

To automate as much of the design as possible, a microcontroller was installed that can open and close the valves and show the sensor readings online. If the pump and reservoir were scaled up, they could help power larger devices.

The ram pump modified and elevated by the former Red Deer College team to be a source of clean electricity can be used for off-grid housing or farms in rural areas. It’s also well-suited for livestock operations, allowing water to be brought in safely with no negative impacts on the environment.

And, it has the potential to provide an effective solution for Third World countries where water access is a challenge.

 “The former Red Deer College team that won this year’s ASET Capstone Project of the Year Award embraced an idea long rooted in the history of engineering technology and updated it to fulfil a global commitment to identifying sources of renewable energy,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh.

“It’s practical, flexible, cost-effective, and highly scalable, not to mention good for the planet.”

Podgorenko, the son of Jeanne Hunter and Ron Podgorenko of Nelson, grew up in Nelson and graduated from L.V. Rogers High School in 2014.

After graduating, Podgorenko played Junior Hockey before accepting a scholarship Red Deer College( now Red Deer Polytechnic).

Podgorenko said receiving a scholarship that combined playing hockey while attending school had always been a goal and he was extremely excited about the opportunity.

“Although (I) had never been to Red Deer, Red Deer Polytechnic offered both the instrumentation engineering technology and electrical engineering technology programs that he wished to pursue,” Podgorenko said. 

The Capstone Project of the Year Award was established by ASET in 2017 in response to overwhelming member interest in stories about Capstone projects undertaken by teams of engineering technology students from NAIT, SAIT, Red Deer College, and Lethbridge College as part of their end-of-program requirements.

Each of the four polytechnics and colleges submit the top two projects annually for consideration. From those eight maximum submissions, the ASET awards committee names one of those projects the winner of the Capstone Project of the Year Award. The remaining seven submissions are honoured as finalists.

A total of seven teams of engineering technology students competed to win this year’s award.

A 3D Design of the system (SolidWorks).