MET major helps University save money on energy

Johnny Frisco’s work and recommendations are saving Purdue University money from reduced energy usage.

Frisco, a mechanical engineering technology major from Indianapolis, has worked for the Energy and Engineering Services division of the Office of Physical Facilities since May 2012.

As a student intern, he is charged with diagnosing problems and finding solutions to issues related to indoor air quality, HVAC systems or indoor plumbing.

His most recent project involved evaluating the HVAC system at the Lawson Computer Science Building. He helped figure out a way to optimize the building’s two air handling units by decreasing the amount of outside air used during normal operation. If the air handlers use less outside air, they save energy.

Using the original building plans and accepted industry ventilation standards, Frisco was able to achieve his goal without compromising the units’ performance.

He will apply this same type of analysis to the Purdue University Student Health Center (PUSH), which will present new challenges.

“Lawson is a fairly new building without any renovations,” Frisco said. “At PUSH, there have been a few renovations to the air handling systems since 1994.”

The Office of Physical Facilities hires students from mechanical engineering technology and mechanical engineering for their facilities engineering internships. Frisco said his responsibilities draw heavily from his classes in applied thermodynamics and fluid systems. The work also provides necessary experience as he prepares for a December 2013 graduation date.

“I get to work with engineers, vendors and technicians in the field,” he said. “The hands-on experience is definitely beneficial. I’ve been able to get a lot of knowledge from them, and I’ve been able to develop my teamwork skills with these projects.”

The experience also helped him understand where different team members, from zone technicians to engineers, fit into the successful operation of a building.

Frisco’s supervisor, Michael Carson, senior mechanical engineer, said the student intern program is beneficial for his office as well as the student.

“The skill we really need is a basic understanding of mechanical systems. We can use them right away for research problems, and we can help them learn how to apply that information to a complex mechanical system,” Carson said. “What we get is a symbiotic relationship. By the time they are seniors, they are very valued employees.”

Carson said Frisco's imminent graduation will open the door for another intern to learn from on-the-job experiences.

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