Students coolly engineer contest victory

Eastern Tech team wins competition to design air-conditioning system


It might not be as well known as the National Merit Scholarship or the All-State athletic awards.

But for Eastern Technical High School, the recent American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers competition was just as important.

The Essex magnet school can boast of a formidable track record in the annual contest, which pits teams of students against each other in a race to design a particular heating or cooling system. Coming into this year's competition, it had won the contest for the society's Baltimore chapter three years in a row.

This year, Eastern Tech extended that streak.

Under the guidance of 44-year-old Peter Glaudemans, who teaches the computer-aided drafting and design magnet program at Eastern Tech, a group of three students - senior Yan Zhu and juniors Jeff Wiser and Matt Powers - took first place in this year's competition, the county school system announced last week.

"I was pretty excited," Powers said.

They each took home $150 gift certificates to Best Buy as a prize.

Glaudemans acknowledged that there aren't a lot of competitors for the award. Although ASHRAE groups have contests across the country, this one is for the Baltimore area alone. At most, three or four schools enter teams - this year, only two did.

But that doesn't take away from the work students do to earn the honor, Glaudemans said. For three weeks, the students meet after school to study the science and engineering related to air conditioning.

"I start them at the very beginning, with the principles of heat transfer," Glaudemans said. "We move on to various types of heating and cooling equipment."

And then on to even narrower detail. Each year the contest gives students a new problem to solve.

The exact question is kept secret until the day of the contest, but ASHRAE gives a hint about what type of system the students will have to design. This year it was a geothermal system.

"They've done boiler systems, hydronic systems, they've also done standard condenser air conditioning," Glaudemans said.

The day of the contest - Feb. 21 - the students found out they had to design and estimate the cost of an air-conditioning system for an addition to a school.

Three Eastern Tech teams participated. The students found out at an ASHRAE banquet that Zhu, Wiser and Powers had taken first place.

The school's principal, Patrick McCusker, said he was delighted with the outcome.

"It's the result of solid instruction in engineering, and it gives testament to the competitive spirit of Eastern Tech students," he said.

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