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Undergraduate Researchers

Christopher Iglehart, Mechanical Engineering

Residential Appliance Energy Research

Location: NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Gaithersburg, MD

Program: SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship)

Laboratory: Building and Fire Research

Consumer appliances account for a significant portion of home energy use. NIST develops testing and rating procedures for residential appliances. Manufacturers use these procedures to determine values such as estimated yearly electricity use and operating cost for appliances. These values are printed on the yellow EnergyGuide labels and enable consumers to compare the efficiency of appliances. The development of new appliance technologies in recent years has created the need to revise test procedures for dishwashers, clothes washers and clothes dryers.

             

My work this summer (2010) was divided into two phases. The first involved an assessment of publically available survey data on the usage of consumer appliances. I contacted companies and organizations to obtained relevant data. The data was then analyzed to acquire information that will assist in the revision of the procedures to accurately reflect current consumer appliance usage habits.

The second phase of my summer research involved the design of a new residential appliance test facility at NIST. The test facility will include a number of representative appliance models, as well as data monitoring equipment. A future goal is to implement automation of the test facility, and the requirements for this task were investigated. The test facility will enable NIST engineers to analyze and verify proposed test procedure modifications before they are published.

How did you find out about SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship)?

I received an email from the Mechanical Engineering department. I was interested in working at NIST over the summer, and this seemed like a good opportunity to pursue that goal.

How did you know this was the laboratory you wanted to work in?

I was looking for a research opportunity that would be relevant to my degree. Building and Fire Research seemed like the best fit for my skill set.

Is this your first independent research project?

No. I worked on a four-year science project in high school regarding aerodynamics and hydrodynamics.

How much time do you put into it?

The summer SURF fellowship is full time for 11 weeks.

What academic background did you have before you started?

I had completed my third year of school when I began this research.

Was the application difficult to do?

No. The application process was very easy and straightforward.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research? 

Take the time to find out about the opportunities available to you. There is a lot out there. I would suggest blocking out time during the fall to gather information on different summer programs and to read any information available on the kind of work that is performed at a given location.

What has been the hardest part about your research?

Locating and chasing down sources of information was a frustrating process. Many times, the information was private or simply unavailable.

What was the most unexpected thing?

I was surprised at how much progress I was able to make. Early on in the process, I was getting very discouraged at some of the difficulties that I was running into. With enough effort, those problems worked themselves out.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?

I utilized knowledge from a number of my classes to perform my work. In particular, I was able to apply knowledge from statistics, thermodynamics, and engineering design. I also anticipate that knowledge from future classes would be useful if I were to continue this work.