Stirly, the Little Engine that Can!
I designed and built this little learning model in 1999 for educational workshops on climate change, energy efficiency, and renewable energy for the Environmental Youth Alliance.
Stirly employs a simple Stirling engine, a super efficient engine that was a fascination of mine at the time. A Stirling engine is a beautifully simple external combustion engine that efficiently translates heat into mechanical energy through using the expanding and contracting forces of a heated and cooled gas inside a piston chamber. The great thing about it is that it can use virtually any heat source including renewable fuels and the sun. Some Stirling engines are so sensitive to heat that they can run off the heat from your hand! The design for Stirly was inspired by Mr. Saburo Tsucchida’s tin can Stirling engine design plans. It’s been modified from a stationary engine to a moving vehicle, made from simple parts such as a tin can, balsa wood, a balloon, plasticine, etc. It demonstrates the use of biomass energy (ethanol) for locomotion.