Design of Active Displays for Exhibiting an Antique Engine Collection

Photo of Elizabeth Bowlin, Tommy Shaw, Mara Sweeney, and Jackie Williamson Students: Elizabeth Bowlin, Tommy Shaw, Mara Sweeney, and Jackie Williamson

Sponsor: The University of Texas at Austin

Date: Spring 2012

Requirements:
The steam engines must operate by a compressed air system with push button operation. The system must have adjustable run-time and operating pressure capabilities in order to allow the engines to be interchanged within the display. A kick start system must be implemented to start the engines automatically behind the glass. The display must comply with size and weight regulations to fit inside the ETC elevators. Engine noise must not disturb students studying, but must be audible to the viewing audience.

Problem:
Our goal was to engineer an electromechanical compressed air system for a museum quality display of the Don Foster Steam Engine Collection to provide distinction to the UT ME building while taking into consideration acoustical requirements and portability issues.

Solution:
The team developed a working prototype with a silent compressor and control system to provide airflow to the engines. The compressor was sized using airflow rotameter measurements for each engine. The control system uses timer relays and solenoids to control the airflow from the compressor. A kick start system composed of two lines, "surge" and "run," provides air at a higher pressure to turn the engine over and a lower pressure to actually operate the engine. A top/bottom dead center stop prevention system consisting of attracting/repelling magnets ensures the engine will not shut off in a stall position. A pedestal was designed to support the weight of the tractor without interfering with any motion. The pedestal also holds the magnet for the TDC/BDC stop prevention.

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