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Global TIES

Early in 2012, a small village in the Philippines will be safer from typhoons, thanks to the work of students at the Jacobs School of Engineering - and to a simple device common in the United States. Thirty houses will be equipped with hurricane straps, which tie roof and walls together.

The students are part of Global TIES - Teams in Engineering Service - a program that connects undergraduates with nonprofit organizations needing help on a wide range of projects around the world. The team is working with Gawad Kalinga, an organization which aims to end poverty in the Philippines by 2024. Team members recommended installing the straps after researching U.S. building codes.

Global TIES believes in teaching students situational leadership, said Mandy Bratton, the program's director. "It's a little bit like a basketball team," she said. "Everyone is a leader when he or she has the ball." That approach has been successful in attracting underrepresented students, especially women, as well as students from other majors. One of the program's goals is to teach students a different way of thinking. "We are trying to instill the humanitarian spirit," Bratton explained. Several team members said they indeed have a strong sense of mission. "It's not just an engineering program, it's a humanitarian program," said Kristine Carbullido, a sophomore who leads the Global TIES Philippines team.

The program welcomes alumni who would like to offer their time and expertise to guide students. Monetary donations and in-kind gifts, such as frequent flyer miles, are also welcome. The gifts would help send students to the countries where their projects take place. "We call it sneakers on the ground," Bratton said.

Global Ties Image
Victoria Fu, Crystal Agoncillo and Greg Hattemer work on the humdinger.


A Humdinger of a Cover Image

The cover image of this issue of Pulse illustrates a Global TIES project aimed at harnessing the power of the wind in order to provide electricity for developing communities in Manila and other areas of the Philippines.

These communities currently depend on the local grid, which is expensive and tends to be unreliable. To help save money and provide alternative sources of power, students are currently exploring two solutions. The first is the "humdinger," pictured on the cover and at left here. It's essentially a 1-meter long wind belt that draws energy from oscillations produced by a phenomenon known as aeroelastic flutter. (This phenomenon is similar to the vibrations that caused the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to collapse in 1940.)

But this time, the vibrations are harnessed to produce, not destroy. When the belt flutters in the wind, oscillations of the belt generate electricity by driving a system of magnets and a stator. The humdinger could produce enough energy in one month to charge a cell phone for a year, said Crystal Agoncillo, an aerospace engineering major and the head of the wind power team for the Global TIES Philippines project. Humdingers can be built in array, much like solar panels. Students also are working on small windmills powered by motors salvaged from printers and other devices. Agnocillo, whose mother is from the Philippines, visited the country last summer. Observing living conditions there had a huge impact on her, she said. It also made her work for Global TIES more meaningful.

"It's something to be proud of," she said. "And it's something that will improve people's lives."

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