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Drake State students attend ERN Conference



When you turn off your computer, TV or coffee pot, is it really off?
Drake State Technical College students Amber Davis and Tina Hoots were curious about this and set out to find an answer. They developed a renewable energy project under the supervision of Karl Henry, industrial electronics instructor and chair of Engineering Technologies at Drake State.
“When it’s plugged into the socket, it’s still burning juice,” Henry said. “Your television is not off. Your computer is not off. Nothing electric, if it’s still plugged in, is off.”
Davis and Hoots wanted to find ways to stop electrical items from releasing phantom power, thus saving energy and money. Phantom power is electricity consumed by appliances and gadgets that are turned off but still plugged into a wall socket.
Davis and Hoots presented their renewable energy project at the 2012 Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). The conference was held Feb. 23-25 at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta, Ga. The American Association for the Advancement of Science Education and Human Resources Program and National Science Foundation Division of Human Research Development Directorate of Education and Human Resources Program co-hosted the conference.
About 850 students - twice as many as last year - participated in the conference, which aims to highlight the research of undergraduate and graduate students, and help the students improve their science communication skills and prepare for careers in the global workforce.
Davis and Hoots wanted to monitor energy use wirelessly from the control panel, which supplies electricity throughout a home, and certain wall sockets. They focused on certain wall sockets because people tend to plug their devices, such as cell phones, in the same place.
They designed a wireless disconnect that could completely shut off electricity at the control panel and the specific sockets, thus eliminating phantom power.
At the ERN Conference, Davis and Hoots gave a PowerPoint presentation, complete with drawings, of their proposed wireless disconnect device. Presenting in front of the judges was anxiety-inducing for them but, Davis said, they felt confident about their research and their knowledge of the project. “I think it was very successful,” she said.
 Davis and Hoots had no trouble explaining and defending their abstract, Henry said. “There were no questions that were asked that they couldn’t answer,” he said. “It was obvious that they were the real researchers.”
Davis and Hoots are still working on a prototype for their wireless disconnect. When the device is finished, they plan to present it to Drake State faculty or at another conference.
This is Drake State’s third year to compete in the ERN Conference. The college placed third the first year and was the only two-year historically black college or university to compete. Drake State finished first at last year’s conference, but didn’t place this year due to increased competition, Henry said. But Drake State students will soon start preparing for next year’s conference.
Davis, of Huntsville, is in her final semester at Drake State and is majoring in Industrial Electronics Technology. She is also enrolled at Alabama A&M University, where she is a junior majoring in math.
Hoots, of Huntland, Tenn., is in her final semester at Drake State and is majoring in Industrial Electronics Technology.

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