Rensselaer Research Review Fall 2010
* Olympic Seleton Sliding * Olympic Seleton Sliding

RPI undergraduates Lauren Spinelli and Jeff Quackenbush use a modified hair pin to fix a flow meter

Project director in Ghana, Dr. Lawrence Darkwah (left), Lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and Alex Updegrove, an RPI undergraduate student, looking for parts for in the local market.

Biofuels and Corn Cobs

Also part of the expedition were Rensselaer undergraduate engineering students who were members of the Spring 2010 Biomass Capstone Group. These students were working on a biofuels project in connection with a Rensselaer exchange program with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Since agricultural wastes generally create pollutants, the goal is to burn these wastes without oxygen to create biochar that can be used as a soil additive.

The project director in Ghana, Dr. Lawrence Darkwah, lecturer at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, proposed the use of corn cobs.

“We will kill off two birds with one stone if we use corn cobs,” he said excitedly. “Presently corn cobs are just burned off, and they can create dangerous brush fires. We can turn that danger into useful energy.” Eglash blog, New York Times

The group of Rensselaer undergraduates was to create, on site in Ghana, an apparatus to measure the energy potential of agricultural waste as biofuels. The design, which was conceived in Troy, was more challenging than originally thought. Materials for the apparatus that were thought to be universally available (such as copper pipe) were not found, and alternative parts needed to be scavenged at a local market (above right). At one point work on a flow meter was halted by the lack of a needle-nosed pliers or tweezers. But the students fashioned a tool from a spare hair pin (photo above left).

In June the KNUST students will return to Rensselaer for more precise testing of the chemical composition of the results.

* Into Africa: Adinkra Patterns, Biofuels, and Red Cards *

Audrey Bennett's group at KNUST created an HIV prevention poster based on the red card* from soccer.

Giving HIV the Red Card

Audrey Bennett's research in Ghana focused on HIV prevention. Working with a group of students from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, she explored the local college students understanding of AIDS prevention as well as successful local campaigns.

Brainstorming by a group of KNUST students resulted in a prototype poster that was inspired by the enthusiasm surrounding Ghana's success in the World Cup soccer competition, “Show AIDS the red card.”

The end product of this exercise was a small palm card to go with the poster — a red card with HIV prevention tips.

*"Red cards are one of the most feared objects in soccer and the cause of much angst between both players and fans. A red card is a tool used by the referees of a soccer match to maintain order on the field. Players shown a red card must leave the field without a replacement." (

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