When recent graduate Kelly Dunn started in on his senior design project as part of his ocean engineering degree at Florida Tech, he knew he wanted to help harness wave energy into something people could use.
What he didn’t know is that the project he would create with his teammate, Deric Hausmann, would eventually become a patented invention.
Dunn and Hausmann, along with ocean engineering professor Stephen Wood, created the GECCO, a wave energy harnessing device that floats on the ocean’s surface and converts energy from ocean waves into easily used power. An added perk – the design of the device allows it to be used to reverse osmosis salt water into fresh water, making it a great resource for impoverished countries or disaster-stricken areas.
“This can be deployed in third world countries in places that need power and water at the same time,” says Dunn. “And since it operates near the shore, the overall energy it produces is higher and the transmission losses are minimized.”
One of the most notable things about the amount of thought that went into the device’s design is its safety. All of the moving parts are shielded by a plastic frame, which protects humans and wildlife from harm.
“What needed to be done is utilizing all the energy within a wave without damaging anything,” says Dunn. “We don’t want to injure life while it is doing its job.”
While having a patent is exciting in and of itself, Dunn noted that the process of designing and building this project gave him skills that would benefit him in his current job as an engineer.
“I definitely learned a lot about CAD, machine shop work, and transitioning my thoughts to an actual, functional design,” says Dunn.