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Iowa Chapter’s STEM Demonstration Rig

Floating HVAC as a Career: Iowa Chapter’s Rig Connects with Students

By Mary Kate McGowan, Associate Editor, News
From eSociety, June 2018

A floating ping pong ball is one way to catch someone’s attention.

The ASHRAE Iowa Chapter’s STEM Demonstration Rig, the “Rig,” was created to showcase HVAC engineering principles in a dynamic fashion at science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) events with students.

During Region VI’s Chapters Regional Conference (CRC) meeting last month, the Iowa Chapter showcased the Rig, which includes fans, dampers, duct worth and controls.

The Rig originally included a fan, two pieces of clear duct, a damper, a manometer to show differential pressure across the damper, and a piece of PVC pipe to float ping pong balls.


An original plan for ASHRAE Iowa Chapter's STEM Demonstration Rig

With the original Rig, people could manually move the damper back and forth, and the Rig showcased increased wind speed, said Matt Gumm, P.E., BEMP, Member ASHRAE.

“Honestly, (the ping pong ball is) the biggest draw to getting kids to look at it,” he said.


The rig has since been updated to have DDC controllers including a WiFi controller, damper actuator and lights and sensors to demonstrate heat gain.

“They sit there and mess with the controls forever, and we’ll talk a little more about it,” Gumm said.

With the goal of raising students’ awareness and increasing interest in studying engineering, a group of about six chapter members take the Rig to at least two STEM events each year, he said.

Members of the ASHRAE Iowa Chapter explain how the Rig works to a young student.

Gumm said the Iowa Chapter wants to be active in its communities, and the chapter wants students to think about pursuing a career related to HVAC. The chapter also support HVAC-related courses at Iowa State University, he said.

The Rig has been a dynamic way to promote HVAC engineering and to “get it on their radar that this is a viable career path,” he said.

The chapter has received $2,500 from ASHRAE Chapter Opportunity Fund to update the Rig. The chapter has some big plans—softball size plans.

The planned upgrades include replacing the current fan with an inline ECM fan with filter housing to better control of higher airflow, tie 0-10V input to DDC and demonstrate impact of dirty filter on airflow.

The chapter wants to float a softball.

To learn more about the Rig, contact Matt Gumm.