Engineering

Geology graduate student Rania Eldam started brainstorming the idea for a children’s book two years ago at an Association for Women Geoscientists meeting.

“We don’t see many children’s book series where little girls are the main characters and aren’t pretty princesses or fairies,” Eldam said. “It’s always been so important to me to merge those two ideas. I was the girl that wore princess dresses, but my mom would get furious with me because I’d also be in the dirt scrounging around for plants or rocks.”

Eldam created two main characters: MD (a little girl) and her best friend Finn the fox. Together, they go on adventures and learn how to solve daily problems. Through their experiences, they discover how machines work, how to read maps and what creates solar energy. In each of her books, there will be a different STEM focus and the characters will represent diverse races, ages, and disabilities.

“Rania’s aiming to do something different than other children's books in that she focuses on real-world scenarios and gives children ideas about how to approach something like baking a cake or building a treehouse, while sneaking in technical skills like measuring and matching shapes,” said Geological and Geology Associate Professor Kamini Singha. “She's really pushing something innovative by providing a wide-range of role models looking at applicable problems; I hope it will encourage a more diverse group of kids to think about STEM careers in their futures."

When Eldam is looking for an outlet to deal with the stresses of graduate school, she starts writing.

“I put my head into a 7-year-old girl’s head,” Eldam said. “I want to show girls that no matter what they’re interested in—whether it’s playing outside in the dirt or reading books—they don’t necessarily have to get English degrees.”

Eldam can relate to that. She grew up as the youngest of three children and the only girl. She knew she loved reading and writing, but didn’t know what to do with it. She decided to attend New York University and later, University of Texas at Austin (UT) for screenwriting.

“I had all of these people telling me to find a career and that I could always write on the side. I was trying to find something that morphed it together,” Eldam said.

After taking several classes at UT to figure out what she wanted to major in, she took a geology class and fell in love with the story of how the Earth was formed. In fall 2014, Eldam started graduate school at Mines.

Eldam soon became interested in the fields of fluid-rock interactions, metasomatism and deformation in subduction zones as related to geochemical cycling, stable isotope geochemistry and high-T petrology. In March, she will defend her thesis involving elemental cycling and depth-dependent geochemical variations within the Gordon Gulch watershed in the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory.

After graduate school, Eldam aims to set an example for young girls outside of her books by pursuing a career in science.

Eldam finished writing the first book in her series: MD and Finn Go Camping in December and plans to publish a hardcover and paperback version of the book in the spring. Her Kickstarter ends Jan. 8. Ten percent of the proceeds of book sales will benefit Rocky Mountain National Park’s Rocky Mountain Conservancy. To order a book and receive updates on her project, visit Eldam’s personal website.

 

Contact:
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3088 | kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines | 303-273-3541 | kgilbert@mines.edu

Microbes, pasta, oil and water were the recipe for first place in this fall’s CECS Senior Design Trade Fair by Team OG Effluent Solutions, who built an active filtration system using microbes to treat hydraulic fracking wastewater.

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

The winning team consists of four environmental engineering seniors: Eric Hake, Mengyuan Yu, Katie Schumacher and Stephen Bryers; and two civil engineering seniors: Joseph Verissimo and Jacob Draper. The team cited their client, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering PhD candidate Stephanie Riley, as one of the key motivators in their year-long research project.

“As an undergraduate, often you build something for a research project, and then it ends up just sitting on a shelf – or worse,” explained Jake Draper. “In our case, we were incorporating our work into an existing project that grad students would be using for years to come. So we were motivated to build a high quality system that would continue to function long after we’ve graduated.”

The team’s mission, to develop and test a pilot scale biologically active filtration (BAF) system, stemmed from nanofiltration research taking place at Mines’ Advanced Water Technology Center (AQWATEC).

“More than two billion gallons of fracking wastewater are produced every day in America,” said Katie Schumacher. “Right now the primary disposal method is deep well injection, which isn’t sustainable in the long term. Our project is a pretreatment system for ultra-filtration membranes, which could lead to that wastewater being useful rather than wasted.”

The team built three pilot scale BAF systems and tested different conditions to find which allowed the microbes to grow fastest, leading to an increase in the removal of organics.

“We ran frack water through the columns, and essentially what happens is that these little bugs attach to the medium – tiny plastic pieces that we call pasta because – well, they look like tiny pasta shapes,” said Erick Hake, who worked on the project throughout the summer at Mines. “They allow the microbes, the biomass, to grow. The biomass then metabolizes and removes organics from the water.”

Even before the team won first place, several of the members expressed their gratitude for working on a project with real applications for advancing research.

“Building the hydraulic system was fun,” said Draper, “but it wasn’t our primary focus.”

“Figuring out the optimal operating conditions was our real goal,” continued Schumacher.

Their faculty advisor, Assistant Professor Kate Smits, agreed. “Part of their success was the amazing participation from their client, Stephanie Riley, and their technical adviser, Tzahi Cath, who really took the team under their wings and integrated them into their research team. The system, procedure and results will continue to be carried on by Stephanie Riley as part of her graduate thesis work.”

Associate Professor Tzahi Cath is hopeful that the team’s success will influence future Senior Design projects. “It makes a lot of sense to connect teams to ongoing, funded projects on campus,” said Cath. “The seniors feel that they are part of a real project, that their design matters, and that the product of their project will continue to be used after they are done.”

Both Smits and Cath noted that the quality of the team ultimately determined its success. “OG Solutions is a unique combination of very smart and very dedicated students, with a lot of hands on experience,” said Cath. “Most importantly, they were open to listen, to learn, and to implement what they learned, most often coming up with better solutions. Their success was also highly attributed to the dedicated mentoring by Stephanie Riley, and the AQWATEC technician, Mike Veres. Above all, I am proud of the data that the students have generated – at or above the level of data that graduate students are generating.”

 

Congratulations to all this semester’s Senior Design Trade Fair winners: 

Overall Trade Fair Winners

  • 1st Place – OG Effluent Solutions (S15-09): Students: Eric Hake, Joseph Verissimo, Mengyuan Yu, Jacob Draper, Katie Schumacher, Stephen Byers; Client: Stephanie Riley; Faculty Advisor: Dr. Kate Smits; Consultant: Dr. Tzahi Cath; Project: Biologically Active Filtration
     
  • 2nd Place – Pub Bike Racer (S15-08): Students: Matthew Alemann, Jens Cole, Phu Nguyen, Martin Vincentelli, Julianne Wilson, Gabriel Yaakob; Client: Dr. Robert Amaro; Faculty Advisor: Ryan Miller; Consultant: Dr. Cameron Turner; Project: 1976 Honda CB550 Retro-mod
  • 3rd Place – Colorado Precision Solutions (S15-07): Students: Jesse Arnold, Spencer Connor, Matt Edwards, Tyler Kordziel, Rachel Newman, Ebrahim Nobakht; Client: Dr. Aaron Stebner; Faculty Advisor: Buddy Haun; Consultant: Dr. Xiaoli Zhang; Project: Precision Axis Alignment Fixture for Microtesting

Essay Contest Winners

  • 1st Place – “Material Makes the Impact” by Katarina Bujnoch
  • 2nd Place – “Thunder Valley: How Renewable Energy Can Benefit a Community” by Aleithia Toews
  • 3rd Place – “The Power of a Simple Element” by Katie Schumacher

The winning teams, as well as an outstanding graduating senior from each CECS degree program, will receive plaques at the CECS Graduation Reception on Dec. 17 in the Student Ballrooms A and B.

 

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

A space payload designed and tested with the help of Colorado School of Mines faculty and students will be launched to the International Space Station on Dec. 3 on the Orbital ATK OA-4 mission aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. Once at the ISS, these water-mist portable fire extinguishers will protect the equipment and lives of astronauts in case of any fire event for years to come.

The payload consists of the first two (out of a total of nine) water-mist portable fire extinguishers (PFEs), which will replace carbon-dioxide extinguishers currently on the International Space Station. Three additional missions in the spring will launch the remaining PFEs, including two missions with SpaceX and one more with Orbital ATK.

After several years of research, testing, and conducting experiments on a variety of NASA flight facilities (including drop towers, low-gravity aircraft, and a Space Shuttle experiment in 2003), the Mines researchers and their students found water-mist fire suppression technology to be more efficient and suitable for putting out spacecraft fires than any other suppression agent.  

"Water mist systems create a fog of micron-size droplets that quickly remove heat and replace oxygen as the water evaporates, suppressing the fire and preventing it from spreading to other surfaces," said Director of the Center for Space Resources Angel Abbud-Madrid.  “From the Space Shuttle experiments, we also learned that water mists take about one-tenth the water of traditional sprinklers to extinguish a flame.”  

Chemical and Biological Engineering Emeritus Professor Thomas McKinnon and former Assistant Research Professor Edward Riedel, along with Abbud-Madrid started working on this project in 1997 in an effort to find an environmentally friendly replacement of harmful chemical fire-suppression agents for terrestrial and space applications. Mechanical Engineering Professor Robert Kee later helped with the development of a numerical model to predict the optimum droplet size and water concentration to effectively suppress fires.

After these encouraging results, Mines partnered with Littleton-based ADA Technologies to develop several prototype water-mist PFEs for spacecraft applications.

By 2011, following concerns on the compatibility of carbon dioxide extinguishers with the emergency breathing equipment on the ISS, NASA recommended the use of non-toxic water-mist fire extinguishers to mitigate this operational risk. Mines and ADA collaborated with three NASA centers (Johnson, Glenn, and White Sands) to design and test the spaceflight units. Wyle Engineering and Flexial Corp then took care of fabricating and certifying all portable fire extinguishers for flight. As it becomes the preferred fire suppression agent for the ISS, water-mist PFEs will most probably become the technology of choice for other human-rated spacecraft.

"It has been quite a ride throughout all these 18 years to come to this point," said Abbud-Madrid. "Let's now hope that the final ride for these PFEs to the space station is a smooth and successful one."

ULA will provide updates on the launch on their website, through the launch hotline at 1-877-852-4321 and on ULA social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Follow along using hashtags #Cygnus, #OA4 and #AtlasV.

 

UPDATE: The launch was delayed due to weather, but was successful on Dec. 6.

 

Contact:

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Digital Media and Communications Manager, Colorado School of Mines / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu

Colorado School of Mines’ faculty and students attended the 2016 American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) of Colorado Engineering Excellence Awards on Nov. 2, at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver. It was a tremendous opportunity for Mines faculty and students to learn more about local engineering projects and how their coursework relates, connect with industry colleagues and network with potential employers.

According to Stephanie Panza, an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in environmental engineering and 2015 ACEC Scholarship recipient, “I enjoyed learning about the amazing projects that companies have completed this year and seeing how they overcame challenges as they planned and worked on the projects. It was also really interesting to see how the engineering companies fulfilled the clients' needs and desires, while still creating incredible projects that positively impacted the surrounding communities.”

Joseph Verissimo, a current civil engineering undergraduate and recipient of the 2015 ACEC William Russell Stoneman Scholarship, felt similarly, “Attending the Engineering Excellence Lunch gave me a chance to hear from consulting engineers as they described their award winning work. The diverse projects ranged from unique water treatment systems to ecosystem mapping and complex structural engineering design. My professors had discussed some of these innovations in the classroom, and it was exciting to see how Mines is positioned on the cutting edge of research in civil and environmental engineering.”

This luncheon celebrated and recognized outstanding projects by Colorado engineering firms. A panel of industry leaders rated each project based on uniqueness and innovative applications; future value to the engineering profession; perception by the public; social, economic, and sustainable development considerations; complexity; and successful fulfillment of client/owner’s needs, including schedule and budget. Colorado’s Grand Conceptor and Engineering Excellence Award project winners advance to the national ACEC competition, which will be held in April in Washington, D.C.

Learn more on the ACEC Colorado web site.

 

 

Santiago Gonzalez, a graduate student in computer science, started his undergraduate degree at Mines in 2010 at the age of 12. He is currently teaching the Mines course, Operating Systems, and getting ready to defend his thesis in November. Gonzalez is set to finish his master’s degree in December 2015.

We asked Gonzalez about his experience at Mines, what it's like to teach a 400-level course and what he plans to do after he graduates.

Why did you choose Mines?

It’s more that Mines chose me. I got in contact with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Professor Tracy Camp who is my advisor. She invited me to apply and come to Mines. Everything ended up working out really well.

Did anything surprise you about Mines after coming here?

I was super happy to be with a group of people that thought like me, very scientifically-minded and nerdy.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

I’m not sure it’s as much a favorite spot as it is where I have to get my work done on campus, but the SINE (Sensing Imaging and Networking) lab in the Brown Building. It’s where I’m doing work for my thesis and getting it ready for my defense Nov. 16.

I spend about 30 hours a week there.

What else are you doing aside from defending your thesis and getting ready to graduate this December?

I’m taking a class this semester called Distributed Computing Systems with Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Associate Professor Qi Han.

I’m teaching CSCI-442 Operating Systems (OS), which is one of the computer science undergrad classes. That should keep me pretty busy.

Also, my advisor and I are thinking of publishing a paper from the results from my thesis.

What has been the best thing you’ve experienced at Mines?

I’ve really gotten an understanding of exactly how computers work and why they work the way they do. It’s not really just some magic box that does stuff when you type things in the keyboard. I think that’s one of the really cool things that has happened here.

What was your favorite project at Mines?

For my thesis, I had to develop some new geophysical sensing mote (hardware) for the SmartGeo research group.

Right now for Distributed Computing Systems, my partner and I are building a simulator to validate different computer systems in high radiation environments in space. We’re simulating a spacecraft around some body and all the different subsystems you would have like reaction wheels. We had an idea for how to make the spacecraft computer systems much more resistant to radiation without having to use any super fancy expensive hardware, just using redundancy with commercial systems. Probably a larger project than we should have chosen for that class, but it’s fun.

How did you choose that project?

The class is studying how to get a network of computers to accomplish some goal. So that goal could be storing data across a large number of computers so that it’s more reliable. Or in our case: spreading computation across several systems to make it more resistant to radiation. We were discussing a bunch of ideas and this evolved out of the discussion.

What has been one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Mines?

Physics I was so difficult. It’s a very demanding class. Conceptually, the material is pretty understandable. Physics I is basically mechanics—how things move given a system of things. If I have this book and I tilt it, how long will it take for something to slide down it? But then you start getting into the math and all of the work—it’s just a lot of work.

There’s definitely been tons of challenges, but nothing so insane that you couldn’t overcome it with tons of work.

How did you get involved in teaching?

Dr. Camp has been the professor who taught OS for the past decade here at Mines. She was busy with other work this semester, so she’s teaching another class this time. She invited me to teach the course, and thought it would be a fun experience for me.

What’s it like standing in front of the class instead of sitting as a student?

It’s really different. It’s interesting how different things are. You notice a bunch of things you wouldn’t notice otherwise.

I remember on the first few days, everything seemed super quiet so you try to talk faster to make it less quiet. It’s really interesting.

It’s really cool seeing how when you explain something, suddenly some students understand the material and they’re like, “Oh, OK!” Just being able to see them understand the material is really cool.

Do you think it makes you a better student having that other perspective?

It definitely makes me appreciate it more.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching here at Mines?

Since I’ve been teaching OS, I’ve changed the curriculum and projects a little bit. It’s fun thinking of new projects that students can do that will both be challenging and fun while still relevant to the class.

How do you balance teaching and schoolwork?

It’s one of the things I thought would be easier. It’s actually kind of challenging. You could devote so much time to the class, but ultimately you have to set a stopping point. Because you could either completely change everything (the entire curriculum) and that would take a really long time and you wouldn’t have time to dedicate to other things. But in general, I think I found a good balance.

If you could offer advice to a new student, what would you say?

Make sure you understand calculus because it will come up everywhere, even when you least expect it.

Persevere through everything. Mines is definitely demanding. Make sure you’re on top of everything instead of putting things off until the end. Just keep a good pace throughout the semester.

What are you up to this summer? Tell us about it.

I’ll be interning in a development position with Apple from January through August. I got the internship through someone that I met at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference this past summer. I was planning on applying anyway, but I got offered the internship. So that was cool, not having to worry about that.

What are your plans after Mines?

I will be pursuing a PhD, and am working on applications right now. My top two choices are MIT or Stanford. They are some of the best engineering universities in the world for computer science.

I know I don’t want to become a professor, but I’d like to work in industry. I’m not sure what I’d be doing; I haven’t thought that far ahead. It would be cool to work at SpaceX or something like that.

 

Contact:

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

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