2006-2007: In collaboration with Aavid Thermalloy, this student team designed a desktop computer specifically for tropical environments, so as to operate within a wide range of temperatures, humidities, altitudes, and vibrations. Personal computers (PCs) have traditionally been designed for use in clean, air conditioned spaces in industrialized countries with clean steady electrical power. Less developed countries in tropical environments present hazards such as high levels of airborne dust, uneven electrical power, and hot humid operating environments. Additional factors such as bumpy roads expose the products to high shock and vibration loads during transportation.
To meet the requirements, the student team design, prototyped, and tested a desktop computer for tropical environments. Major areas of the Tropical PC design included case design, component selection, cooling system design, humidity protection, and dust isolation. The thrust of the Tropical PC is its liquid cooling system, designed to remove heat from critical components and prevent failure in high ambient temperatures. The Tropical PC was prototyped via SLA and tested in high temperature and humidity environments, proving it could operate at 50 C and more than 85% relative humidity for extended periods. Future improvements include enhancements of the cooling unit and addition of extra user input devices.