MCTC Electrical Instructor Teaches Practical Side of Future Technology

image of an electric bikeMorehead, KY (April 13, 2012). Instructors at Maysville Community and Technical College know how to make the most of an ever decreasing budget. In the case of Brandin Perkins, Electrical Technology program coordinator on the Rowan Campus, his students learn how to apply electrical principles using whatever materials are available.

The students in Perkinss Advanced Motor Controls course recently reconditioned a 1978 GS550E Suzuki motorcycle to run entirely on an electrical motor. The students removed the engine, transmission, and many other components no longer needed by an electric motorcycle. Then they installed a gel-electrolyte battery bank powering a series DC motor and controller making the bike capable of reaching 45 mph running on 36 volts of electricity.

We can connect the DC motor controller to a computer to reprogram or modify speed versus torque characteristics, said Perkins. In other words, we can set the bike up to take off very slowly and reach very high speeds, or we can make it take off very quickly and top out at a slower speed. We can also add, remove, or replace batteries that would affect our range and speed.

The project idea had stemmed from a motor scooter previously needing a battery replacement. MCTC Welding and Machine Tool students also helped out with this project by building various hardware components for the bike.

Perkins chose an even more practical approach to show the students in his Rotating Machinery class an alternative way to power a 120 volt light bulb using a homemade alternator. The alternator consists of six plywood sheets laminated together and carved into double circles. One is lined with stationary copper coils near a wheel of moving artificial magnets.

I wanted to show my students what an AC electrical generator really is, said Perkins. Its basically magnetic fields passing near coils of insulated magnet wire.

Solely by hand, students can power the alternator to the potential of a 120-volt alternating current output, which also energizes a homemade AC to Variable-DC rectifier circuit that can be used to charge cell phones, computers, or anything else with a battery.

Perkinss students are not only learning basic applications, they are also getting firsthand experience with skills he describes as relevant to the industry and green energy today.

His students have built a solar panel capable of producing enough electricity to run a small LCD monitor. Currently, the students are assembling experimental mini robotics trainers controlled by programmable logic controllers.

Students with even a clue about robotics and the associated devices and electronics already have a huge step-up in the field, said Perkins. Robots have been and will continue to replace personnel performing simple and skilled tasks. However, I have yet to see a robot that could install and repair itself.

An Arduino microprocessor and motor shield will enable these mini robots to connect with a control computer. When all is said and done, these trainers will be able to lift a very light two ounce weight. Just in case that is not impressive enough, these trainers are all part of Perkinss future plan to build a much bigger robotic trainer controlled with a glove.

Students will be able to put their arm in an accelerometer-laced glove and control grippers that can lift 100 to 200 pounds, said Perkins.

The future should be even more interesting for Perkinss students. He has plans to create a flying object using DC motors and control systems, namely a hexa-copter or electric multi-copter. Students will also learn how to wire green homes using solar and wind turbine trainers.

For more information about MCTC s Electrical Technology Program contact Brandin Perkins at 606-783-1538 extension 66343, or email him.