WEC: The project Young Engineers was a great success

Young engineers will provide the solutions for the big social questions of tomorrow. They will lead the future development in the field of sustainable use of energy. Therefore, WEC 2011 launched the Young Engineers Project. The aim of this project is to enable young engineers to experience that they, too, are experts capable of finding solutions to important social problems.

Enthusiastic young engineers from all over the world have been working on questions concerning the sustainable use of energy and are presenting their results at WEC 2011. Working in international teams with the support of an experienced coach from one of the universities of applied sciences of Switzerland, they have developed concepts, processes and products or installed solutions for burning questions in the field of energy. They are getting the chance to share their ideas and results at WEC 2011 in front of an international audience. As a foretaste of the projects they have been working on, a few of them are described in the following.

Thermal energy storage systems

Performance simulation of rock bed based thermal energy storage systems: Concentrated Solar Power is one of the most promising technologies for producing electric power in the near future. Projects such as Desertech foresee that the energy to meet European, Middle Eastern and African (EUMENA) needs will be generated by solar power plants located in the northern part of Africa. High voltage DC transmission lines will transport this energy to different hubs in Europe from where it will be distributed to all EUMENA countries. Several solar-based technologies will be applied: the most suitable and promising ones are Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Concentrated Photo Voltaics (CPV). These technologies are technically viable today; their performances are steadily increasing and their costs continuously decreasing. The major technical problem of these systems remains the production of electrical power when the sun is not shining (nights and bad weather conditions). Therefore, scientists and engineers are working to define energy storage systems, i.e. systems able to accumulate thermal energy during daylight hours and to deliver this energy when there is no sun or during the night. One possibility is to build rock bed based thermal energy storage (TES) systems. As these will be very big, with diameters larger than 20 meters, very accurate models are needed. The goal of this project is to design, validate and apply the model in order to design TES systems for CSP facilities of 50 MW or larger. 


Conversion of a very low consumption engine to operate on the Miller thermodynamic cycle principle: Biomobile.ch is a vehicle that has been used for the Shell Eco-Marathon since 2005. While the overall performance of this vehicle has now reached high levels, its engine is still at the level of what is normally available on the market (Honda 25 cc). However, the air intake has been reworked, and an electronic fuel injection/ignition system has been installed. The complex construction of these engines allows driving more than 3,000 km/liter at a speed of 30 km/h. It is known that consumption levels close to this can be achieved with the use of conventional mechanics, with a modified distribution system operating on the Miller thermodynamic cycle principle. The goal of this project is to study and implement a modified distribution system that can be installed on the existing engine. The engine layout will also need to be adjusted. To adapt the engine layout, several mechanical solutions will be studied and evaluated in order to improve the performance of the engine.

School in Kenya

Application of renewable energy technologies for a school in Kenya: The objective of this project is to investigate the needs in energy supply, hygienic standards and other fields of improvements for a school in Kenya. In a next step, the team evaluates whether the energy needs can be covered by renewable energy. Therefore, meteorological, logistical and other constraints for this school have to be identified in order to allow an analysis of possible regenerative systems. The design of the system has to be planned for the situation of the selected Kenyan school. When the optimal techniques and systems are identified and designed, the funding of the system has to be calculated, after which purchasing and transport have to be planned. Following this phase of planning, the identified tasks have to be performed, and finally the system will be installed in the school. The results of the project will be documented in a code of practice that can be used to spread the results of the project. If possible, these findings shall be multiplied in Kenya, e.g. via workshops with representatives of other schools and hospitals. These representatives might be invited to be trained during the installation of the system, hopefully leading to improvements in energy supply for other schools and hospitals in Kenya.

Promising project ideas

The Young Engineers project started in September 2010 with interesting project ideas outlined by professors of the universities of applied sciences in Switzerland. They identified a young Swiss engineer to lead the teams and drive the working process in these projects. The projects were announced internationally, and young engineers could apply to participate in one of them. A large number of very engaged young engineers from all over the world applied to collaborate in one of the projects. The coaches selected the most promising candidates for their projects, leading to 15 projects staffed with approximately 100 enthusiastic young engineers. Since March 2011, the teams have been working on their specific questions with the coaching of the professors who provided the project ideas. The team members have interacted via e-mail, telephone conferences, virtual working spaces, etc. WEC 2011 invites all the team members who have contributed significantly to the projects to participate in the conference. In September, the teams are meeting in Switzerland for two days in order to finalize their projects. On September 4, immediately before the start of WEC 2011, they are presenting their ideas, results and solutions to the jury. The jury will select the three most convincing projects for a prize. All the teams are getting the opportunity to orally present their findings at the conference on the afternoon of September 6. The winning projects will receive their prize during the closing ceremony of WEC 2011. The idea behind this procedure is to make the results arrived at by these young engineers known to a wide international and influential audience. The project founders hope that, in this way, some of the solutions developed in the projects might get the chance to find the support of one or several of the participants of the conference with the result that these solutions will be applied. The goal of the Young Engineers Project has been reached if this happens, if the team members as well as the coaches are able to gain new insights into their specific topics, if some of the personal networks built during the project and the conference will stay alive after the conference, if the young engineers have learned something about teamwork (virtual and real), about international and intercultural collaboration and can use these experiences in their future lives.

Regula Altmann-Joehl
Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil, Switzerland

For more information, contact Young Engineers Project at

Dr. Regula Altmann-Jöhl
Hochschule für Technik Rapperswil
Phone: +41 55 222 4412

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