Engineering

Paul Polak address a full house for his humanitarian engineering seminar on solving poverty via design.Sharing his broad world experience as an entrepreneur and activist, Paul Polak presented, “Prescriptions for Helping Poor People Help Themselves: What Engineers Need to Know,” to a large crowd of Colorado School of Mines students and faculty on September 20.

“Instead of trying to bring the newest technology to the poorest regions,” Polak said, “we need to listen and design based on the specific needs and environment of that community.”

Polak’s talk kicked off the Shultz Family Leadership in Humanitarian Engineering Speaker Series, a series aimed at changing the conversation about what engineering is for by showcasing leaders in humanitarian engineering and corporate social responsibility. Author of “Out of Poverty” and “The Business Solution to Poverty,” Polak offers an unconventional approach to solving poverty not through government programs or philanthropic efforts, but by designing for the market of the poorest people on the planet.

“Most design efforts are aimed at the world’s richest 10 percent, while nearly half of the population doesn’t have regular access to food, shelter or clean water,” Polak said, challenging Mines engineers to design affordable technologies that will increase the revenues of the poor.

Even prior to his talk, Polak has influenced design teaching at Mines. Several past humanitarian engineering projects have collaborated with International Development Enterprises (IDE), an innovative nonprofit design organization that Polak founded, located in Denver. Leslie Light, director of EPICS at Mines and a former project manager for IDE, has brought similar human-centered design principals to EPICS, Mines' first-year design course, such as the landmine detection project in fall 2015, and wheelchair redesigns in spring 2015.

SHULTZ HUMANITARIAN SCHOLARS

The five humanitarian engineering student scholars link arms for a photo.

2016-17 Humanitarian Engineering  Shultz Student Scholars: Michelle Pedrazas, Rosalie O'Brien, Melissa Breathwaite, Micaela Pedrazas, and Stephanie Martella

In addition to the lecture series, the Shultz Family fund also sponsors undergraduate students each year as Shultz scholars. The current five scholars are Melissa Breathwaite, Stephanie Martella, Michelle Pedrazas, Micaela Pedrazas and Rosalie O’Brien. Juan Lucena, director of humanitarian engineering, introduced them as “outstanding students who have demonstrated their commitment to connecting their engineering majors to humanitarian engineering in creative ways, all while maintaining excellent academic standing."

For example, inspired by Polak, Stephanie Martella, a chemical and biochemical engineering senior, is collaborating with John Persichetti, teaching associate professor, on designing chemical processes to produce a nutritious beverage for the poorest markets in the world.

“I got involved with Humanitarian Engineering, because I’m passionate about building relationships through engineering and communication,” Martella said. “I want to apply the engineering skills I’ve learned at Mines to solve problems for humankind.”

According to Lucena, as part of their scholarship, the scholars are also committed to mentoring and learning from low-income, first-generation students at Red Rocks Community College who are considering transferring into engineering at Mines.

 

SHULTZ FACULTY FELLOWS

Two professors sit outside as they begin their time as Humanitarian Engineering Faculty Fellows.

The new Humanitarian Engineering Shultz Faculty Fellows: Linda Battalora and Kathleen Smits

A third program funded by the Shultz Family Fund is the Humanitarian Engineering Faculty Fellows. Lucena announced this year’s new faculty fellows as Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant Professor Kathleen Smits, and Petroleum Engineering Teaching Professor Linda Battalora.

In spring 2017, Smits and Battalora will offer two courses of interest to students with minors in humanitarian engineering as well as students in their own departments. Smits is adding a humanitarian engineering focus to CEEN 475: Site Remediation Engineering, which will culminate with a feasibility study on an actual environmental site in a low-income country as the students’ final project.

Battalora is developing a pilot course, PEGN 498A: Environmental Law and Sustainability, which will focus on societal impacts and ethics in the discussion of fundamental environmental regulations, policies and case studies.

Humanitarian engineering at Mines continues to grow, with increased emphasis on corporate social responsibility as well as designing for the world’s greatest problems.

 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

 

 

College of Earth Resource Sciences Dean Ramona Graves recently participated in a panel at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association's 28th Annual Rocky Mountain Energy Summit.

The Academic Technical Roundtable: Partnerships, innovative technologies, and studies, focused on how collaborative partnerships between academia and industry can facilitate research goals. By sharing datasets and software applications with university researchers, companies can achieve the results they are looking for more efficiently and universities can better prepare students by providing them practical experience.

In addition to Graves, the panel consisted of Doug Arent, NREL; Bryan Willson, CSU and Mike Ming, GE Global Research Oil & Gas Technology Center. 
 
Contact: 
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
 

PhD student Alyssa Allende Motz in an engineering physics lab at Mines.For PhD student Alyssa Allende Motz, physics is not just about learning how matter moves through space and time or the complicated laws that govern our understanding of energy and force. She says that physics is more about “teaching you how to learn and how to think of things so that you can make more conclusions that lead you to more questions.”

Allende Motz is not new to the world of physics. She earned her bachelor’s degree in engineering physics in 2011 and her master’s degree in applied physics in 2012, both from Mines. But she decided to return to Mines to pursue a PhD, because she wanted to continue searching for answers. “The more you find out,” she says, “the more you find out that you don’t know.” And she speaks from experience.

She regularly works with nonlinear optics and nonlinear microscopy, or, in other words, focusing a laser beam to a very small point to the diffraction limit of light to get high-resolution imaging. “In my research, we wanted to push the resolution limits, and we thought this really wouldn’t change the scope of something called a lifetime measurement,” she says. “What we found out was that at first what appeared to be lifetimes that looked incorrect was actually a feature of the measurement being different from the macroscale measurement. It actually led to more questions. But then more was found out with the same kind of measurement, just on a different kind of scale.”

Allende Motz’s research in particular focuses on photovoltaics, which generate electricity directly from sunlight. Specifically, she deals with a technology called thin-film photovoltaics, which she explains is a promising technology because of its potential to be an inexpensive energy resource while also being effective. But researchers are still working out a few questions in the lab. “There’s a theoretical efficiency of these solar cells, and we’re not quite hitting that theoretical efficiency,” Allende Motz explains. “And we’re not quite sure why yet.”

She says the reason for this inefficiency is most likely due to grain boundaries—defects in a crystal structure that tend to decrease the electrical and thermal conductivity of the material. “These grain boundaries are only 50 nanometers or so wide, so you have to have a very high-resolution system to study the nature of these grain boundaries and how they interact with the material and how they affect solar cell efficiency; specifically, what is leading the degradation,” Allende Motz says. She aims to develop a microscope that will have a high enough resolution to determine the physics of grain boundaries and learn more about improving the efficiency of thin-film photovoltaics.

PhD student Alyssa Allende Motz inspects a machine in the engineering physics lab at Mines.The end goal of this technology? To make solar cells that are inexpensive enough and produce enough electricity to make them market competitive with fossil fuels. And although she isn’t directly involved with making these solar cells, her work is just as important. “We don’t make the materials,” she says. “But we make the tools that characterize the materials.”

But Allende Motz’s research isn’t limited to energy-related applications. “I have this idea of studying neurons with something similar to excitons, which is basically the movement of charge. So you could study the movement of charge through neurons, and maybe that could help study things like Alzheimer’s,” Allende Motz says.

There are clearly many benefits to her research and the technology she is developing. “We try to find problems that need solutions,” she says. “What I hope to do with this microscope once I complete my research, is apply for some sort of postdoc grant and continue study with it. I want to show the versatility of the instrument by studying different samples besides just PV, like biological samples.”

While her research answers many questions, Allende Motz isn’t intimidated by the questions that it also uncovers. “I like it, because I get to do something that I feel is creative and artistic, and it’s also applicable to something concrete and realistic,” she says. “We’re discovering new things about materials that are going to help researchers find better materials in the future.”

 

Contact:
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 | 
ramirez@mines.edu

The Combustion Institute awarded its highest honor, the Bernard Lewis Gold Medal, to Colorado School of Mines George R. Brown Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robert J. Kee at the 36th International Symposium on Combustion August 5 in Seoul, South Korea. Kee received the award in honor of his research in the field of combustion, particularly on pioneering development of chemically reacting flow simulations and the CHEMKIN family of models. The institute also honored Kee by requesting he give a plenary lecture on the future of “Combustion Interfacing with Emerging Technologies.”

Charles Wesbrook, former CI president (2008-2012), Professor Robert Kee, and Katharina Höinghaus, CI President (2008-2016) at the Combustion Symposium in Seoul, South Korea. Photo Courtesy of the Combustion Institute.

Kee is the principal architect and developer of the CHEMKIN family of software, which has been the dominant modeling software in the field of combustion for more than 25 years. The software’s wide adoption stems from its strong code architecture that facilitates ease of use, as well as Kee’s extensive documentation that has been adopted and cited by thousands of researchers and developers worldwide as the seminal work in reactive flow modeling.

Kee continues to push the frontiers of reactive system modeling into new areas and is now acknowledged as an international leader in multiphysics modeling of electrochemical systems such as fuel cells and batteries and of multifunctional reactors for process intensification. This has led Kee to continue to develop software, as highlighted by a recently awarded contract from the Air Force to build the next generation of software for modeling reactive systems.

“Bob continues to set an example to all of us in research,” reflected Greg Jackson, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Mines, “by continually expanding and adapting his modeling skills to address high-impact technical challenges such as better, safer batteries and membrane reactors for upgrading natural gas. We are honored to have a senior colleague as creative, thorough and generous as Bob.”

In addition to the Combustion Institute’s Gold Medal, Kee has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Combustion Institute’s Silver Combustion Medal, the Bastress Award for Outstanding Contributions to Technology Transfer from Sandia National Laboratories, and the DOE Basic Energy Sciences Award for Sustained Outstanding Research in Materials Chemistry. In addition to more than 200 archival papers, Kee is also the principal author of the leading textbook, “Chemically Reacting Flow.”

 

Contact:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu

 
Emerita Associate Professor Cathy Skokan has been named a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) at the society’s annual conference this week in New Orleans. 

Founded in 1893, ASEE is a nonprofit organization of individuals and institutions committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. The organization promotes excellence in instruction, research and public service, and fosters technological education. The honor of fellow is bestowed by the ASEE Board of Directors upon members in recognition of outstanding contributions to engineering or engineering technology education.

The first female to earn a graduate degree at Mines

Skokan’s early interest in rocks led to a love of science, and a wise high school counselor suggested she combine her skills in math and science with her passion for the outdoors and study geophysics.

“I remember I applied to LeHigh University as C. King, my maiden name,” said Skokan, “because they weren’t accepting women at the time. But they eventually figured out I was a woman.”

Mines, on the other hand, offered Skokan a full scholarship. She received her bachelor’s degree in geophysical engineering in 1970, and went on to become the first woman to receive a graduate degree from Mines in any field, receiving her master’s degree in 1971, and PhD in 1974. Her goal remained conducting research for a government organization.

 

From government researcher to university professor

Skokan’s many contributions to engineering education and to Mines, in particular, almost never came to be. She originally saw herself solely as a researcher rather than a teacher. Thanks to a delay in her government paperwork, she returned to Mines to do postdoctoral research in electromagnetics while waiting to start her new job. Skokan shared how her plans changed: "Just before the beginning of the fall semester, George Keller, who was the head of the department and my thesis advisor, came in and said, ‘We need someone to teach linear systems analysis.’

“I said, ‘I don’t teach.’

"He said, ‘Classes meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday.’ He handed me the class notes, told me what time it started and walked out the door.

“Linear systems was not one of my favorite subjects, though it is now.”

Skokan credits Keller as a mentor throughout her early career. She went on to accept a tenured faculty position in Geophysics. In 1996, she moved to what was then the Engineering Division at Mines (now the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences), where she spent the next 20 years teaching linear systems, senior design and geophysical courses to electrical engineering students.

“Several of my research grants centered around electromagnetic methods of mapping earth structures,” Skokan explained, “so I got to combine electrical engineering and geology, which was the best of all worlds.”

Humanitarian Engineering Program

Skokan was also one of the initiators of the Humanitarian Engineering program at Mines, the first in the nation. Initial funding from the Hewlett foundation aimed to take student engineers to communities that needed their skills most. As a result, Skokan took student groups to Senegal, Honduras and Ghana to work on solving real problems with engineering solutions.

Skokan recalls a particular Humanitarian Engineering trip to Alaska:

"An Alaskan tribal community had invited us to help with projects to prepare them for a community center. Over multiple years, we designed a road and septic system, among other things. One year, we were driving out there from the airport, and a student asked, “Do they live in igloos?” I told him, no, and that he would see what they lived in soon. The Bureau of Indian Affairs had built a series of prefab houses intended for Hawaii, and when they weren’t needed in Hawaii, they were sent there. Some members of the community lived in old school buses, and it reached -40 Fahrenheit during the winters. We left with a real sense of doing work that was needed. It was an eye-opening experience for all of us.”

 

Humanitarian Engineering students traveled to the University of Ghana with Associate Professor Skokan in 2007 as part of their senior design project.

Music at Mines

Skokan still believes that international experiences are essential for every engineer’s education, and often travels with Mines music students. She currently plays violin with the Mines Orchestra, bassoon with the Mines Band and erhu with the Mines Chinese Band.

"I’ve played in the band since I was a student here in the 60s,” said Skokan. “Believe it or not, I was the first director of the orchestra here, until they finally hired a real musician rather than an engineer to conduct the orchestra.”

 

                                                   Catherine Skokan and the Mines Marching Band in Dublin's 2015 St. Patrick's Day Parade.

In 2016, Skokan led 150 Mines music students and alumni on a spring trip to march in Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “We always combine an engineering and musical component on these trips,” explained Skokan. “In Ireland, we visited Dublin Institute of Technology, with whom we are now working on a collaborative effort. I also took a group of students into the Tara Mines, a lead and zinc mine near County Meath. Because we are engineers, not just tourists, they took us underground and the students had a blast exploring the machinery. It included electrical, mechanical, civil, mining, geology— talk about interdisciplinary!”

 

                                                   Students prepare for an underground tour of the lead and zinc Tara Mine in Co. Meath, Ireland.

In 2015, Skokan accompanied Mines music students and alumni to Jamaica. In addition to meeting with engineering students at the University of the West Indies, the Mines group participated in a recording session with Winston “Sparrow” Martin, Bob Marley's percussionist, at the studio that Bob Marley founded.

In 2017, Skokan will be taking Mines music students to Florence. “We’ll be visiting Santa Croce,” said Skokan, “where Galileo, Michelangelo and Rossini are buried. It’s also right on the Arno River, which flooded in 1966, killing more than 100 people and destroying millions of masterpieces. So we’re going to talk to a professor from the University of Florence about flood mitigation and art restoration."

Innovation in engineering education

Skokan became involved in ASEE around the time that she joined the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. She spent a sabbatical writing a pre-engineering curriculum for Adams School District, which is still in use.

“Every project had a computer, math, writing and engineering component,” said Skokan.

“I joined the multidisciplinary division of ASEE,” continued Skokan, “because electrical, mechanical and civil were all under the Engineering Division in those days. I went from Secretary, to Treasurer, then Program Chair and finally Chair.” Skokan is currently the ASEE Vice President for External Relations, which includes chairing ASEE’s international advisory committee and external projects.

"The best thing ASEE offers,” according to Skokan, “is workshops and venues to look at innovative teaching methodsthose that worked and those that didn’t. I believe looking at the failure papers can be even more educational than the success papers." 

Despite retiring in 2015, Skokan remains as busy as ever. She will be giving a talk in Japan at the annual Japanese Society for Engineering Education meeting, and another in Korea in November at an engineering education conference. 

Skokan is the third Mines faculty member to be named an ASEE Fellow in addition to Theodore A. Bickart in 2000 and Joan Gosink in 2010.

 

All photos from the personal archives of Emerita Associate Professor Catherine Skokan.

Contact:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

GOLDEN, CO, June 20, 2016 — Colorado School of Mines and the Alliance for the Development of Additive Processing Technologies (ADAPT), a consortium of academic, industry and government institutions focused on developing technologies to accelerate the certification and qualification of 3D-printed metal parts, will be hosting an open house 5 p.m. June 23 in the ADAPT Advanced Characterization Center (Brown W230).

On April 2, Mines won the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Rocky Mountain section Imperial Barrel Award (IBA) competition. IBA is a prospective basin evaluation competition for geoscience graduate students from universities around the world. The program is rigorous and contributes to AAPG's mission of promoting petroleum geoscience training and advancing the careers of geoscience students. Over 250 teams from over 50 countries around the world partipate in IBA competition each year, and one winner from each AAPG section is chosen.

This win makes Mines one of 12 teams to move forward to the international competition June 17-18 in Calgary, which will take place as part of AAPG's Annual Technical Conference and Exhibtion (ATCE). These teams will be analyzing a dataset (geology, geophysics, land, production infrastructure and other relevant materials) prior to the competition. During the event, teams will be delivering their results in a 25-minute presentation to a panel of industry experts. Students will have the chance to use state of the art technology on a real dataset, receive feedback from an industry panel, impress potential employers in the audience and receive scholarship funds and international recognition. The judges will select the winning team on the basis of the technical quality, clarity and originality of presentation.

The Mines team includes Abdulah Eljalafi, Sarah King, faculty advisor and geology professor Steve Sonnenberg, Michael Harty, Matt Bauer and Evan Allred.

"This is the most successful industry supported student project in AAPG that impacts hundreds of students internationally," said Sonnenberg. "Students love the competition. They meet industry mentors, land jobs on the spot if they do well and learn new computer software by analyzing a data set. Industry loves the competition because they get to see students giving technical presentations on very complex data sets."

This is Mines' fifth time competing in the international competition. In 2012 and 2014, Mines placed third.

 

Contact:

Agata Bogucka, Information Specialist, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

In the spring of 2015 undergraduate Dominic Pena approached Sam Drescher, president of the Mines student chapter of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), with a crazy idea: What if they were to gather students with a shared passion for aerospace at Mines and enter the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) competition?

Each August AIAA releases the new challenge for that year’s Design/Build/Fly competition. It also involves students designing, fabricating and demonstrating the flight capabilities of a radio-controlled aircraft, but each year the specific mission profile changes. Mines had never previously competed.

The challenges were steep. While Mines boasts top-rated mechanical engineering and physics programs, there isn’t an aerospace program. The group would be competing against schools with years of experience, funding, and space for their work.

Nonetheless, Pena and Drescher met throughout the summer and in the fall of 2015 held a meeting with more than 80 students in attendance.

“We knew the interest was there,” said Drescher. “When we polled students in ASME for what topics they would like to see more options for, 70 percent of our members said aerospace.”

Students were asked to submit applications. Eighteen students, mostly mechanical and physics majors, sophomores and juniors, were chosen to form Team Burroworks.

EPICS and Senior Design faculty will be proud to learn of the systematic approach the team took to their design.

Drescher describes the design process as “a total group effort. We broke the 18 of us into two teams. Each team presented three concepts for the planes and then as a group we voted on the best one based on a matrix. We did initial sketches and then Spencer Connor created preliminary designs in SolidWorks.”

“We found an airfield about five miles from Mines,” Pena explained, “and made friends with a lot of mentors out there. The president of the Arvada Associated Modelers acted as a great resource to us, and Dr. Angel Abbud-Madrid (Director of Mines Center for Space Resources) went through safety checklists with us as well as flight checks. He became our faculty advisor. We never had any close calls.”

Initially AIAA’s Design/Build/Fly competition is open to all schools. More than 140 teams submitted proposals and the top 80 made it to the final competition. Burrowork’s final report was ranked 17th best.

“In order to continue in the competition, you have to meet a series of deadlines. If you miss one, you are out. And you have to realize, none of us were doing this work for class credit. We were juggling our course loads, work, activities, athletics or senior design projects for some, all at the same time. So it was truly a passion project. We were all choosing to spend our time and energy on this. That’s what made it so great and the group so close,” explained Drescher.

Despite their disadvantages, the Mines team progressed and on April 13 prepared to leave for the competition in Wichita, Kansas. Some of those very disadvantages became benefits too.

“Compared to the other teams, we had minimal advising, minimal funding, minimal equipment and no space. Our project was stored either at someone’s family garage or in the senior design lab. We just made it work, but it also required that our design be strong and not fragile.”

That strength turned out to be a double-edged sword for the team.

“Many of us had exams the evening before we left for Kansas,” said Pena. “So we just drove all night and got there without much sleep. It was rainy and windy. Only about 30 teams even managed to get one mission done. Several teams built their planes out of balsa with monocot, which is great for weight and very streamlined, but not great for poor weather conditions.”

“Our large plane was carbon fiber and fiberglass mixed composite. The smaller one that was required to fit inside the larger plane was foam with laminate and re-enforced with more carbon fiber on the inside. And that thing was durable. It survived 25 crashes prior to the competition. The only thing that ever broke on it was the landing gear. Luckily we put the prop in the back and so every time we crashed the prop was okay. It was probably about 50 feet in the air with a 2-pound payload hanging below it, and nothing broke. You could definitely tell that mechanical engineers build this as opposed to aerospace students because it weighed a lot, went fast and was durable.”

Ultimately the team finished in 19th place out of 82 teams.

“We were one of the only teams out of the first 17 to actually complete the first mission successfully,” said Drescher. “We were the only team that never had a breakdown or needed repairs. We walked off the field singing the Mines school song. After we did that, other schools starting doing the same thing, but we were the first, even if we weren’t as loud since most had three times as many students there.”

“We were ecstatic to finish as well as we did our first year,” shared Pena. “We beat all the other Colorado schools, and even schools with strong aerospace programs like MIT, Purdue and Berkeley. Just imagine what we could accomplish with more funding and more space!”

Sam Drescher attributes their success to three things: “First, we had a great pilot, Ryan Friedman. And we had Spencer Connor, who had great build knowledge. And finally, we had a team where each person was personally invested – no one was assigned to the team or doing it for a grade.”

Next year AIAA’s Design/Build/Fly will be held in Tucson, Arizona. The team plans to meet throughout this summer and build on their initial success. You can follow along with the team as it designs, tests and reiterates for the 2017 competition via their YouTube channel at CSM DBG Burroworks.

 

Contact:

Deirdre Keating, Information Specialist, College of Engineering and Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu

 

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