Engineering

Eleven members of the Mines Band, along with Teaching Professor & Music Program Director Bob Klimek, Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association Board President Ray Priestley ’79 and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science professor Cathy Skokan '70, '72, '75, spent Spring Break (March 9-13) in Jamaica.

While in Mona, the group visited with the environmental science and engineering departments at the University of the West Indies to hear about their senior design projects and see their preparation for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers robot competition. In Kingston, they teamed up with the Alpha Boys’ School to perform in a five-hour recording session in the Tuff Gong Studio that was founded by Bob Marley in 1965.

Engineering physics student Nick Smith said his favorite part of the trip was recording at the studio, where Mines students had to learn, arrange and record a song in real time.

“We met the students the day before recording, and did not even start rehearsing a song until the morning of the recording session,” Smith said. “Once I figured out the chords, I ended up arranging many of the instrumental parts of the music, and guiding the players through the song as we recorded it.”

Smith plays many instruments with the Mines music department—bassoon in concert band, tenor saxophone in marching band, cello in the orchestra and bass in the jazz band. He wanted to make sure that even though he was not majoring in music, he still had a connection to the arts.

“The greatest way that music makes me a better engineer is that it gives me some sort of connection to humanity, rather than just being a number-crunching, science-doing machine,” Smith said. “I am currently taking an ethnomusicology course, where we study the music of different cultures and how the music is intertwined with their cultural history. Everything in music can teach you about the culture it came from, and this allows me to have a sense of humanity in my engineering.”

As one of the organizers of the trip, Skokan also juggles multiple instruments, playing bassoon in the band, violin in the orchestra and erhu in the Chinese Band. She is not only active in band, but also in the music program, where she organizes small ensembles. Skokan picked Jamaica given that it has a musical as well as technical component.

“Our music students at Mines are very well rounded and are able to use both their creative and analytic parts of their brains,” Skokan said. “We try to expose students to a culture different than in the U.S., but one that they might encounter in their professional careers. Because they have traveled and worked with people from other cultures, they will be more able to adjust when needed.”

In mid-March, the Music program received approval for a new Music Technology minor and will see its first graduates this fall. Next Spring Break, the marching band plans to travel to Dublin to perform in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines has once again won the Materials Bowl, held by The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society at its annual meeting and exhibition March 15 to 19 in Orlando.

The Mines chapter of the Material Advantage Student Program defeated Georgia Institute of Technology in the final.

Four chapter members represented Mines in the "Jeopardy"-style knowledge and trivia competition: Blake Whitley, Emily Mitchell, Connor Campbell and Andrea Bollinger.

TMS has held the Materials Bowl at its annual meeting since 2007; the Mines chapter has now won five of those nine competitions, also coming out on top in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013. No other school has won twice.

Mines students also took home third place out of 25 entries in the TMS Bladesmithing Competition, with their submission of a kukri blade -- a Nepalese knife similar to a machete.

The team members for the bladesmithing competition were team captain Allison Loecke, Connor Campbell, Ryan Peck, Grant Bishop, Hunter Sceats and Kyle Heser.

TMS is a professional organization composed of scientists, engineers, and students in the materials field.

 

Contact:

Mark Ramirez, Communication Specialist, College of Applied Science and Engineering | 303-383-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu

In the sixth annual and largest NASA Robotic Mining Competition, a team of 14 Mines students will be competing against 53 teams from all over the nation to design and build a mining rover.

The senior design team, Blasterbotica, is taking apart last year’s rover and building new components to build a smaller rover for the competition May 18-22 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The rover will have to traverse a simulated Martian terrain, excavate regolith and gravel and deposit them into a collector bin within 10 minutes. The winning team will receive the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence trophy, KSC launch invitations, team certificates for each member and a $5,000 team scholarship.

It’s unusual for teams to build a new rover instead of improving the previous team's rover, but Blasterbotica thinks this will give them an advantage.

“Ours will have a regolith delivery system made up of a bucket ladder and dumping system,” said David Long, mechanical engineering student. “We have created a unique method to lower the excavator, allowing it to go from perpendicular to vertical to almost horizontal. We can lower it in as deep as we want. This will give us a lot more mobility in terms of how we want to excavate.”

One of the challenges the team faces is staying within the weight and size limitations of the contest. The students received a donation from Lockheed Martin to fund their lightweight materials, such as aluminum and steel for the frame and polycarbonate for dust shielding and electronic boxes.

“It has to be durable because we want future teams to be able to use it,” said mechanical engineering student Nichole Cusack. “We will be using chains similar to ones you might see on a bucket ladder. This allows us to get better traction and turn easier so the treads don’t sink in.” 


Last year, the team lost functionality in the rover during the competition because they used a faulty interface. To prevent that from happening again, the team will be using LINUX to allow for flexibility in driving the rover.

“We can’t sense the walls in the arena this year so we have to use inertial measurement units and camera vision to determine location,” said Long. “Power monitoring the rover is a big deal.”

The team is working quickly to have a build done by early April in order to have a month of testing. Since October, the team has delivered STEM presentations using previous rovers to area schools, such as Bell Middle School, Powderhorn Elementary School, Foothills Elementary School, Coal Creek Canyon Elementary School and Mitchell Elementary School.

Blasterbotica is comprised of students in the fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. The team’s faculty advisors include mechanical engineering professors Christopher Dreyer and Ozkan Celik. Their client is Angel Abbud Madrid, director of the Center for Space Resources at Mines.

Visit blasterbotica.mines.edu to read more about the team. Keep up with the team’s progress on Facebook and Twitter.

The Senior Design Program is part of the College of Engineering & Computational Sciences, and is a creative multidisciplinary design experience emerging from combined efforts in civil, electrical, mechanical, and environmental specialties in engineering.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Mark Husted, a Ph.D. candidate in operations research, is training for the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team trials in track and field. Known as the “fastest person in the history of Mines,” Husted broke the track record for 800m earlier this year at 1:51.54. Husted has been racing for the Mines track and field team since 2005 and has earned honors along the way.

“When I won a national title, I couldn’t stop smiling for three months,” Husted said. “If I won a gold medal in the Olympics, I would probably be smiling for about three years.”

Between 2006 and 2010, Husted received several Second Team All-RMAC honors and an ESPN The Magazine Athlete of the Year (College Division) and ESPN First-Team Academic All-American. His 2010 team finished 12th at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track & Field National Championships and Husted won a national title in the 800m.

In 2013, Husted was ranked 49th in the world for the 800m indoors. He has competed multiple times at the USA Indoor and Outdoor Championships placing in the top five with a career best of 1:47.

This past spring, Husted traveled to New Zealand, where he placed third in both the NZ National Championships and the Queen Street Mile.

Husted has come a long way since high school, where he considered himself a “mediocre” runner, running 2:04 in the 800m. He was disheartened after his high school team didn’t make it to the state championships and wasn’t sure if he wanted to run in college.

“I wanted to be an engineer and ski. I didn’t know I signed up for track until it was on my schedule,” Husted said, who started on the Mines track and field team as a walk on.

Mines track and field coach Scott VanSickle, has watched Husted improve and become more confident and consistent in his racing.

“If he continues to train and stay healthy, he can run in the 1:45 range and be competitive at the USA Championships this season once again and at the Olympic trials in 2016,” VanSickle said.

Husted received his undergraduate (’09) and masters (’10) degrees in electrical engineering at Mines. Husted started working for Ulteig in 2011 and currently works as a substation design engineer while balancing his research studies at Mines.

“At Mines, we have intense classes and I have to manage my time well – I have to be aware of lots of things happening at the same time. Being a student at Mines helps make me a successful runner,” Husted said.

Follow Husted on Twitter and Instagram @markahusted. Through a sponsorship with Brooks, Husted receives gear and earns money through bonuses for certain achievements.

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Eleven students are part of a humanitarian engineering course that is designing plans to relocate a village displaced by mining operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa. The course “Projects for People,” taught by corporate social responsibility and Human Centered Design professor Benjamin Teschner, is geared toward students interested in the social challenges associated with the extractive industries and how engineering helps address these problems.

During the first class, Teschner gave each student $20 to design a prototype that would act as a tool to explain to someone living in the village how their lives would change after relocating.

“Commonly, students think of prototypes only as something they build to test their idea or to help themselves as engineers refine a design. What this assignment does is force them to think about how to design a prototype that will show someone else how their idea works so they can engage non-engineers in their design process,” Teschner said. “Students will immediately lay their assumptions about the problem out on the table for everyone to see—assumptions that they didn’t even know they were making.”

Aina Abiina is one of two graduate students in the class. The course is not required for Abiina’s Liberal Arts and International Studies degree, however she chose to enroll because she wanted to learn about the interaction between multi-national companies and people that are affected by these companies’ activities.

“In order to minimize a negative impact on the environment of those people and to optimize the production of the mine, a proper assessment is needed,” said Abiina. “Designing solutions to this complex engineering and social challenge will help students gain valuable skills in human-centered design methods, research techniques, brainstorming tools and approaches.”

Over the next few months, teams in two groups will have three phase gate reviews that will explore problem definition, design exploration and design analysis. The unique thing about this course is that the grades and passage of the phase gates are not linked. Grades are determined instead by how the team works within these phase gates.

“I hope students are able to develop empathy for people who use the things they design and that they recognize by bringing these people into the design process, they can create better, more sustainable engineering outcomes,” Teschner said.

Chemical and Biochemical Engineering student Karyn Burry hopes to end the course with better design flow skills.

“I am a super organized person and that usually is really helpful in a group, but this class is pushing me out of the organizer position into a position where I am forced to think outside the box in attempt to find a solution to this relocation project,” Burry said.

To better understand the village and relocation process, students are working with Thabani Mlilo, manager of sustainability for the America region at AngloGold Ashanti, who is acting as the ‘client’ on the project. Mlilo’s goal is to catalyze a paradigm shift early enough in an engineer’s education so that it is “part of their DNA” and a natural part of how they approach problems or solutions wherever there is a sustainability aspect to their work.

“In the sustainability field, one of the biggest challenges we have is shifting the paradigm of professionals in technical and scientific disciplines to the changing landscape of the business-society interface,” Mlilo said. “My impression of Mines students is that they don’t shy away from a challenge and are not afraid of treading unknown waters.”

For questions about the course, please contact Benjamin Teschner at bteschne@mines.edu.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

We spend 90 percent of our time indoors (according to the EPA) without realizing that the air we breathe could be potentially dangerous to our long-term health. Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Tissa Illangasekare has spent the last five years researching how volatile organic compounds, which are commonly entrapped as non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs) or dissolved into groundwater to produce plumes, affect our indoor air concentration.

“We drink so many liters of water a day, but we inhale so many thousands of liters of air,” Illangasekare said. (According to the EPA, the average American inhales close to 3,000 gallons a day.) “Sometimes we go to a contaminated site, test the water and we find it’s clean but later we go inside the building and find the vapor is contaminated.”

In 2009, Illangasekare and his research group, including a collaborator from the U.S. Air Force Academy, received funding from the Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program Office. The funding allowed the researchers to improve their understanding of the processes and mechanisms controlling vapor generation from entrapped NAPL sources and groundwater plumes, their subsequent migration through the subsurface, and their attenuation in naturally heterogeneous vadose zones under various natural physical, climatic, and geochemical conditions.

As the director of the Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Environmental Processes, Illangasekare has an advantage. In his lab, he works with students to control experiments in multiscale test systems, studying vapor and airflow through unsaturated soils. The tanks are instrumented with soil moisture, relative humidity and temperature sensors. Using computation models, Illangasekare can predict how various climates affect soil concentrations expected to be found in a building. 

Their hypothesis was that some of this variability could originate from weather and hydrologic cycle dynamics, such as surface heating, rainfall and water table fluctuation.

“We learned how contaminant vapors move preferentially through the ground and make their way into people’s basements or crawl spaces,” said Kathleen Smits, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who has worked with Illangasekare for the past five years. “We also discovered how this is influenced by changes in climate (e.g. temperature, wind conditions and precipitation).”

In April 2014, Illangasekare received the 2012 European Geosciences Union's Henry Darcy Medal for his scientific contributions in water resources research and water resources engineering and management. Two months later, he was one of the coauthors on a report to the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program on “Vapor Intrusion From Entrapped NAPL Sources and Groundwater Plumes: Process Understanding and Improved Modeling Tools for Pathway Assessment.”

“Our research has contributed to fundamentally understanding what’s happening to this system, which will help decision makers and regulatory agencies give better guidelines on how to manage these sites,” he said.

Illangasekare’s research will impact closure decisions on waste sites based on vapor intrusion risks.

“There’s a need for this science to exist. We are training a new generation of scientists and engineers to look at these kinds of problems.”

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Sabré Cook, a sophomore mechanical engineering student at Colorado School of Mines, is the only female with a professional kart racer license and is one of four finalists (out of 15,000) who have been named to the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy and MAXSpeed Group Driver Advancement Program.

“As a driver, my engineering studies give me an advantage because I can relate things better to my team about how my car is functioning,” she said.

Cook took a year off school last year to focus on kart racing. She traveled to several countries, and was never in one place for more than two weeks at a time. Despite experiencing some of the most amazing things in her life, she said she missed Mines.

“At one point, during the summer, I went to the library and checked out an AP Calculus book. On the plane I would work through calculus problems just because I missed math."

Balancing her schoolwork with racing is difficult, but she is happy to be back at Mines. Most days of the week, she can be found at the gym where she works on strengthening her core and balance to increase her reaction time. After class or on the weekends, she trains in a racing simulator that allows her to drive life-like tracks.

She will be test-driving cars at the USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda Jan. 28 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“This will be my first time on an oval track. I’m excited for that. This is one step closer to racing the Indy 500,” she said.

Cook has been trying to move from kart to car racing since she was 16 years old. But to race cars, she needs more sponsors or more money.

“If you don’t have enough money, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you can’t really move up.”

Cook grew up in Grand Junction in a racing family. Her father, Stacey Cook, professionally raced motocross and supercross, but didn’t want his daughter exposed to the physical risks that came with that type of racing. Karting and cars were the compromise.

At age 8, she was go-kart racing against her cousins and spun out. After that incident, she drove slow for a while, receiving the family nickname, “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“One day, I was tired of getting beat by all the boys and some little boys teasing me. I went to my dad and asked for a faster kart so that I could win. After my dad gave in and I raced in a new kart, I won by 10 seconds.”

She started competitively racing at 10 years old, two years later than most of her fellow racers. Since then, she has become a six-time Colorado State Champion, a 2012 Superkarts USA S2 Semi-Pro Stock Moto champion, won two TAG USA World Championships and received a SKUSA Mountain Region title.

Last year, Cook learned about the less-glamorous aspects of racing as luck was not on her side. During a race over the summer, a driver ran over the side of her car and she was left with a concussion and destroyed kart, unable to race for a few days. In the fall, she participated as the first female in history in the FIA KZ World Cup kart championship in Sarno, Italy. She made it around the first lap before her motor blew up, and wasn’t able to finish.

On the horizon, Cook is looking forward to racing in the 2015 FIA European Championship Series in the spring. She is hoping to qualify for the World Cup in September.

After Mines, Cook would like to pursue graduate school as a F1 engineer at Oxford Brookes University in England. She is also interested in applying for an internship on a Formula 1 Team.

 

 

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines Mechanical Engineering professor Xiaoli Zhang and graduate student Songpo Li have developed a gaze-contingent-controlled robotic laparoscope system that can help surgeons better perform laparoscopic surgery.

Laparoscopy is an operation performed in the abdomen or pelvis through small incisions with a camera. Laparoscopic instruments (typically 0.5-1 centimeters in diameter) are inserted through small incisions and then operated inside a patient’s body together with a laparoscope that allows the surgeon to see the surgical field on a monitor. Unlike open surgery, laparoscopic surgeries have reduced scarring, lessened blood loss, shorter recovery times and decreased post-operative pain. But due to limitations of holding and positioning the laparoscope, surgeons struggle with physiologic tremors, fatigue and the fulcrum effect.

Zhang and Li’s attention-aware robotic laparoscope aims to eliminate some of these physical and mental burdens.

“The robot arm holds the camera so the surgeon doesn’t have to,” Zhang said, noting that the camera is controlled effortlessly. “Wherever you look, the camera will autonomously follow your viewing attention. It frees the surgeon from laparoscope intervention so the surgeon can focus on instrument manipulation only.”

Their system tracks the surgeon’s viewing attention by analyzing gaze data. When the surgeon’s eyes stop on a new fixation area, the robot adjusts the laparoscope to show a different field of view that focuses on the new area of interest.

To validate the effectiveness of this procedure, the team tested six participants on visualization tasks. Participants reported “they could naturally interact with the field of view without feeling the existence of the robotic laparoscope.”

Zhang and Li anticipate that their technologies could have more than just healthcare applications, such as being used for the disabled and the elderly, who may have difficulty with upper-limb movements.

“Using this system, the surgeon can perform the operation solo, which has great practicability in situations like the battlefield and others with limited human resources,” Li said.

In mid September, Li received the Colorado Innovation S.T.A.R.S. challenge award for “Best Technical Achievement” at the college level during the JeffCo Innovation Faire. Zhang and Li are working with clinical researchers and industry partners to commercialize their attention-aware robotic laparoscope.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines geophysical engineering student Bradley Wilson does more than study earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. As an avid photographer, he enjoys finding ways to apply scientific concepts to his images.

Last fall, Wilson received the Blackwell Award for Excellence in Creative Expression. He used four of his photos for a “choose your own adventure” project, where he was given the freedom to produce an artistic piece connected to water.

“The photos I've selected for the piece all represent an aspect of water, although many of them in non-traditional ways,” Wilson said. “For example, the flow of the dancer mirroring the flow of water and the carving of a canyon really represent the power of water more than anything else. “

Inspiration for Wilson’s project stemmed from the McBride Honors Program’s elective, “Water in the West,” where he examined water issues in the western U.S. from several angles.  

“One of the things that stuck out to me during the class was how pervasive the water metaphor was in many peoples’ lives. As a universal symbol, the concept of water extended far beyond its physical definition.”

Water also carries a personal context, which inspired the second portion of Wilson’s piece—poems. A series of four haikus carry the reader through a father-son relationship, as the water metaphor links the photos together.

Wilson plans to pursue his Ph.D. in geosciences at the University of Arkansas, working on earthquake risk analysis in the Middle East, focused specifically on understanding hazard mitigation in differing cultural and religious contexts.

Recipients of the Blackwell Award for Excellence in Creative Expression are chosen semi-annually by faculty in the Liberal Arts and International Studies department.  Valued themes for this award include the human condition; humanity’s relationship with nature, technology, and/or science; the essence or spirit of a given culture; globalization.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Metallurgical and Materials Engineering doctoral student Joseph Grogan has developed an environmental friendly dezincing process that recycles the galvanized steel in its entirety. While the steel component of galvanized steel is mostly recycled nowadays, the zinc component is often not. This technology produces a zinc sulfate that could be marketed as fertilizer and the remaining steel used as an alternative feed material to a foundry.

Due to issues including health and safety concerns at facilities that would recycle this type of steel, Grogan has created a simple hydrometallurgical (water based process) method with lower costs for removing the zinc coating on galvanized steel scrap.

“For reasons including environmental stewardship and sustainability, the reuse of metals in society is a good thing,” Grogan said. “This de-zincing process has zero waste discharge – minimizing environmental impact while completely recycling the zinc and steel.”

Galvanized steel has a lower market price compared to regular scrap metal, but is problematic to recycle as zinc vaporizes at lower temperatures than iron. Facilities that recycle this type of steel require gas and dust collection systems to capture the zinc. The dust can be recycled at a significant cost, but it is often landfilled, dependent on the jurisdiction.

“As commodity prices rise with increased demand and mine supply constraints, resources from recycling are frequently a more viable and significant supply for many metals,” Grogan said. “These increasingly complex recycling streams will require a host of new processes to recycle them economically. Extractive metallurgy is a field which specializes in developing the techniques and technologies needed to recycle these complex materials.”

Grogan’s research was supported through the Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling, of which Colorado School of Mines is an academic partner.

In the fall, Grogan was the recipient of the 2014 National Scholarship from the Recycling Research Foundation for his research supporting scrap processing and the recycling industry.

Grogan began this research in 2011, along with Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering professors Corby Anderson and Gerard Martins. He is studying at the Kroll Institute for Extractive Metallurgy at Mines and will earn his doctorate degree in May.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

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