The Virginia Tech Student Engineers' Council is providing $4,300 to the 2004-2005 engineering freshmen for a new hands-on laboratory that introduces them to the operation and applications of fuel cells as an alternative power source. The money will purchase equipment for hydrogen generation and storage.

During the past six years, the Student Engineers' Council has provided more than $220,000 in funding to College of Engineering projects through sponsorship revenues from its annual career fair, the Engineering Expo.

"Fuel cells are an emerging and environmentally sound technology that will see much more use in the next five to 10 years," said Steve York, assistant professor of engineering fundamentals in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. "My goal is to expose our engineering students to current and future trends in engineering, and fuel cells are the first step in this endeavor."

York plans to purchase solar powered electrolysis equipment that will demonstrate the electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen fuel. The students will use the hydrogen produced to run the fuel cell experiment in Virginia Tech's Frith Laboratory, dedicated to freshmen design projects. Students will learn how fuel cells work, generate and analyze data, calculate efficiencies, fit models, and learn about cutting-edge, green-engineering principles.

The new fuel cell laboratory project also emphasizes the cross-disciplinary nature of most real-world engineering problems.

"This will be the most exciting and interesting laboratory experience that most of these students will have ever seen," York said.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,600 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 2,000 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.

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