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Calvin and the Airplane of the Future
April 4, 2005

A small group of engineering students at Calvin College is getting a sneak peak at the possible airplane of the future thanks to one of their professors.

Paulo Ribeiro is a professor of electrical engineering at Calvin and is working on a several power projects with the Center for Advanced Power Systems at Florida State University. Through his connections with FSU he was able to get his students into an internet-based course being taught by Boeing.

The Boeing Seminar uses WebEx, which Ribeiro describes as a new way to do web conferencing. WebEx provides specialized web conferencing applications, such as web meetings, which allows the Calvin students to interactively participate in a project with fellow students and engineers around the country.

The 10-week seminar series is called "Design and Development of the More Electric Aircraft (MEA)." Design engineers, graduate and undergraduate students from Florida A&M, Georgia Tech, the NASA-Glenn Research Center, Ohio State, Iowa State NAVAIR, and Calvin are taking the class.

Calvin students who have taken part in the seminar are enjoying the experience.

David Qu, a Calvin junior from China, says "the seminar is a whole new way of learning. It brings different perspectives from different people right away."

The series began on January 26 with "An Overview of the More Electric Aircraft," continued through February with talks on such topics as "A Discussion on the Engine of the More Electric Aircraft" and "A Discussion on the Power Management and Distribution System" and will conclude in April with looks at power utilization systems, dynamic modeling and thermal management. The series will conclude April 20.

Says Ribeiro: "The more electric aircraft uses electrical power to drive things on airplanes that now are driven by hydraulic, pneumatic or mechanical means. The more electric aircraft would simply design, reduce weight, increase efficiency and possibly make them more reliable. With the seminar series Boeing engineers are bringing students at several prestigious universities and colleges up-to-speed on where this initiative is headed. Our students are learning about power generation, power distribution, power conversion, avionics, thermal management and more."

A recent article in Aviation Today noted that "For years engineers have dreamed of an all-electric aircraft. They have envisioned a concept called 'power-by-wire,' in which electrical power moves aircraft flight surfaces. Gone would be the complex, heavy, maintenance-intensive, and (in combat) vulnerable hydraulic systems with their flammable liquids operating at high temperature and pressure. Gone, too, would be the miles of tubing, the pumps and valves. Weight could be shifted from plumbing to passengers, fuel or mission payloads."

Ribeiro came to Calvin in 2000 after having studied in his native Brazil, then England (where he earned a Ph.D.) and finally in the United States, where he added an MBA. In 2002 he was named a Fellow in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a non-profit, technical professional association of more than 377,000 individual members in 150 countries.

Upcoming Seminars
4/06 - A Discussion on Dynamic Modeling and Simulation
4/13 - A Discussion on Thermal Management Approaches
4/20 - Final and Closing Reviews