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Engineering Fundamentals

National Engineers Week 2018

2018 Eweek Poster FrontPlease join us in celebrating National Engineers Week at Michigan Tech. All are welcome!

National Engineers Week is celebrated at Michigan Tech this week with a variety of events on campus. It began yesterday and runs through Saturday (Feb. 24).

Events at Michigan Tech during Engineers Week, also known as Eweek, are sponsored by Tau Beta Pi, the local chapter of the Engineering Honor Society, and the College of Engineering. .

Founded by the National Society of Professional Engineers in 1951, EWeek is dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers.

The week’s first event will be held this afternoon. How to Make a DIY Composter will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. today (Feb. 19) at Dillman 320. The Green Campus Enterprise will help you learn about composting and show you how you can start doing it yourself.

Additional Eweek events at Tech include:

  • Engineers Week Cake: Enjoy a free piece of cake with the Department of Engineering Fundamentals. Cake will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. tomorrow (Feb. 20), at Dillman 112.
  • Engineering Though the Ages Presentation. Learn about the marvels of the past with Chelsey Rock. 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 22) in Fisher 138.
  • Build a Heart Rate Circuit Board. Build your own circuit board with Blue Marble Security Enterprise. 4 – 6 p.m. Friday (Feb. 23) in EERC 622.
  • Free showing of “The Martian.” Enjoy a free showing of “The Martian” on behalf of the College of Engineering and Film Board. The film will be shown at noon Saturday (Feb. 24) in Fisher 135.

National Engineers Week celebrates the positive contributions engineers make to society and is a catalyst for outreach across the country to kids and adults alike. For the past 60 years, National Engineers Week has been celebrated each February around the time of George Washington’s birthday, February 22, because Washington is considered by many to be the first US engineer.


Free Webinar for Engineering Department Chairs, Faculty, and Change Leaders

Diverse group of people

The Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), and Purdue University College of Engineering are offering an evidence-based approach for fostering a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) engineering culture via a series of webinars. The first webinar is 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22.

In this interactive webinar you will learn:

  • Why to engage in DEI-focused change
  • How to lead DEI-focused culture change using the new, evidenced-based TECAID (Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance Inclusion & Diversity) Model
  • Who are other engineering department teams that have applied the TECAID Model
  • What additional resources are available to help engineers lead department culture change

Want to get MORE out of this webinar? Invite colleagues to participate with you by setting up a conference room and setting aside time after the webinar to continue the conversation about ways you can adapt the ideas presented in your own department. Watch this 3-minute 2017 NSF Showcase award winning TECAID Project Overview video.

The Department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics was one of five universities that participated in developing the TECAID model. (See this Tech Today article for more details.)

Department Chair William Predebon is one of the presenters in this webinar. Register at this link.

TECAID Transforming Engineering Culture To Advance Inclusion And Diversity

ME Department Teams are OSU, Purdue University, Texas Tech, Michigan Tech, and the University of Oklahoma


Judges Needed for Design Expo 2018

Judges and students mingle in front of posters.We invite you to register to be a judge at the 2018 Design Expo on Thursday, April 19. The Expo highlights hands-on projects from more than 600 students on Enterprise and Senior Design teams.

Although special expertise is appreciated, judges are not required to be technological specialists or engineers. If you like engaging with students and learning more about the exciting projects they are working on, please consider judging.

Who should judge?

  • Community members
  • Michigan Tech faculty and staff
  • Alumni interested in seeing what today’s students are accomplishing as undergrads
  • Those looking to network with Michigan Tech faculty and students
  • Industry representatives interested in sponsoring a future project

Design Expo is co-hosted by the College of Engineering and the Pavlis Honors College.

If you would like to serve as a judge at this year’s Design Expo, registeras soon as possible to let us know you’re coming. Thank you for your continued support.

By Pavlis Honors College.


Demand dispatch—Balancing power in the grid in a nontraditional way

According to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), distributed energy resources like these photovoltaic (PV) systems in a Boulder neighborhood—especially when they are paired with on-site storage—may eventually make large centralized power plants obsolete. Photo Credit: Topher Donahue
According to the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), distributed energy resources like these photovoltaic (PV) systems in a Boulder neighborhood—especially when they are paired with on-site storage—may eventually make large centralized power plants obsolete. Photo Credit: Topher Donahue

Traditionally, in the electric power grid, generation follows electric power consumption, or demand. Instantaneous fluctuation in demand is primarily matched by controlling the power output of large generators.

Sumit Paudyal, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Sumit Paudyal, Electrical & Computer Engineering

As renewable energy sources including solar and wind power become more predominant, generation patterns have become more random. Finding the instantaneous power balance in the grid is imperative. Demand dispatch—the precise, direct control of customer loads—makes it possible.

Michigan Tech researcher Sumit Paudyal and his team are developing efficient real-time control algorithms to aggregate distributed energy resources, and coordinate them with the control of the underlying power grid infrastructure.

“Sensors, smart meters, smart appliances, home energy management systems, and other smart grid technologies facilitate the realization of the demand dispatch concept,” Paudyal explains.

“The use of demand dispatch has promising potential in the US, where it is estimated that one-fourth of the total demand for electricity could be dispatchable using smart grid technologies.”

Sumit Paudyal

Coordination and control in real time is crucial for the successful implementation of demand dispatch on a large scale. “Our goal is to enable control dispatch distributed resources for the very same grid-level applications—frequency control, regulation, and load following—traditionally provided by expensive generators,” adds Paudyal.
“We have solved the demand dispatch problem of thermostatically-controlled loads in buildings and electric vehicle loads connected to moderate-size power distribution grids. The inherent challenge of the demand dispatch process is the computational complexity arising from the real-time control and coordination of hundreds to millions of customer loads in the system,” he adds. “We are now taking a distributed control approach to achieve computational efficiency in practical-sized, large-scale power grids.”

Michigan Tech Society of Women Engineers Students Attend WE17 Conference

WE17

Fourteen members and an adviser of the Michigan Tech Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Section attended the annual National SWE WE17 Conference from October 25-29, 2017, in Austin, Texas.

Participants attended sessions on a variety of topics, networked with company representatives at the Career Fair with over 300 STEM based companies and celebrated women in Engineering. Michigan Tech members volunteered at Invent It! Build It! (an outreach activity for middle and high school girls).

Gretchen Hein, SWE Section adviser and faculty in Engineering Fundamentals, presented on two topics: the results of a survey of SWE Women in Academia members and whether or not there are gender differences in student performance first-year engineering courses.

Whether it was learning about making SWE more inclusive to women of color or learning to be a grateful leader in the workforce, the conference provided members with a variety of opportunities. They eagerly anticipate another opportunity to grow, network and celebrate women in STEM at SWE WE18 Conference next fall in Minneapolis.


Vital signs—Powering heart monitors with motion artifacts

Electrocardiogram research Ye Sarah Sun

More than 90 percent of US medical expenditures are spent on caring for patients who cope with chronic diseases. Some patients with congestive heart failure, for example, wear heart monitors 24/7 amid their daily activities.

Ye Sarah Sun
Ye Sarah Sun, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics

Michigan Tech researcher Ye Sarah Sun develops new human interfaces for heart monitoring. “There’s been a real trade-off between comfort and signal accuracy, which can interfere with patient care and outcomes,” she says. Sun’s goal is to provide a reliable, personalized heart monitoring system that won’t disturb a patient’s life. “Patients need seamless monitoring while at home, and also while driving or at work,” she says.

Sun has designed a wearable, self-powered electrocardiogram (ECG) heart monitor. “ECG, a physiological signal, is the gold standard for diagnosis and treatment of heart disease, but it is a weak signal,” Sun explains. “When monitoring a weak signal, motion artifacts arise. Mitigating those artifacts is the greatest challenge.”

Sun and her research team have discovered and tapped into the mechanism underlying the phenomenon of motion artifacts. “We not only reduce the in uence of motion artifacts but also use it as a power resource,” she says.

Their new energy harvesting mechanism provides relatively high power density compared with traditional thermal and piezoelectric mechanisms. Sun and her team have greatly reduced the size and weight of an ECG monitoring device compared to a traditional battery-based solution. “The entire system is very small,” she says, about the size of a pack of gum.

“We not only reduce the influence of motion artifacts but also use it as a power resource.”

Ye Sarah Sun

Unlike conventional clinical heart monitoring systems, Sun’s monitoring platform is able to acquire electrophysiological signals despite a gap of hair, cloth, or air between the skin and the electrodes. With no direct contact to the skin, users can avoid potential skin irritation and allergic contact dermatitis, too—something that could make long-term monitoring a lot more comfortable.

Ye Sarah Sun self-powered ECG heart monitor
Sun’s self-powered ECG heart monitor works despite a gap of hair, cloth or air between the user’s skin and the electrodes.

Where rubber becomes the road—Testing sustainable asphalt technologies

Zhanping You research team
A Michigan Tech research team led by Zhanping You tests a new, cooler way to make rubberized asphalt.

Over 94% of the roads in the United States are paved with asphalt mix. Each year, renovating old highways with new pavement consumes about 360 million tons of raw materials. It also generates about 60 million tons of old pavement waste and rubble.

Zhanping You, Civil & Environmental Engineering
Zhanping You, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Recycling these waste materials greatly reduces the consumption of neat, unmodified asphalt mix and lowers related environmental pollution. But blending recycled asphalt pavement (RAP) with fresh asphalt mix presents several challenges, potentially limiting its usefulness.

Not to Michigan Tech researcher Zhanping You. “One noticeable issue of using RAP in asphalt pavement is the relatively weaker bond between the RAP and neat asphalt, which may cause moisture susceptibility,” he explains. “Modifying the asphalt mix procedure and selecting the proper neat asphalt can effectively address this concern.”

You tests a variety of recycled materials to improve asphalt pavement performance. Crumb rubber, made from scrap tires, is one such material. “Crumb rubber used in asphalt reduces rutting and cracks, extends life, and lowers noise levels. Another plus—building one mile of road with crumb rubber uses up to 2,000 scrap tires. Hundreds of millions of waste tires are generated in the US every year,” he adds.

Adding crumb rubber to asphalt mix has its own share of problems. “When crumb rubber is blended into asphalt binder, the stiffness of the asphalt binder is increased. A higher mixing temperature is needed to preserve the flowability. Conventional hot-mix asphalt uses a lot of energy and releases a lot of fumes. We use a foaming process at lower temperatures that requires less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Building one mile of road with crumb rubber uses up to 2,000 scrap tires. Hundreds of millions of waste tires are generated in the US every year.”

—Zhanping You

You and his team integrate state-of-the-art rheological and accelerated-aging tests, thermodynamics, poromechanics, chemical changes, and multiscale modeling to identify the physical and mechanical properties of foamed asphalt materials. With funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, they have constructed test sections of road in two Michigan counties to monitor field performance.

Another possible solution is asphalt derived from biomass. You’s team used bio oil in asphalt and found it improved pavement performance. They’re also investigating nanomaterial-modified asphalt. “Soon we’ll have mix recipes to adapt to all environmental and waste supply streams,” he says.


The holy grail of energy storage—Solving the problems of lithium anodes

Samsung exploded phone
A damaged Samsung Galaxy Note 7 after its lithium battery caught fire. Photo Credit: Shawn L. Minter, Associated Press

State-of-the-art mechanical characterization of pure lithium metal, performed at submicron-length scales, provides signifcant physical insight into critical factors that limit the performance of next generation energy storage devices.

Erik Herbert, Michigan Tech
Erik Herbert, Materials Science & Engineering

Compared to competing technology platforms, a pure lithium anode potentially offers the highest possible level of volumetric and gravimetric energy density. Gradual loss of lithium over the cycle life of a battery prevents the full fruition of this energy technology.

Michigan Tech researchers Erik Herbert, Stephen Hackney, and their collaborators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Michigan are investigating the behavior of a lithium anode accessed through, and protected by, polycrystalline superionic solid electrolytes. Their goals: Mitigate the loss of lithium; prevent dangerous side reactions; and enable safe, long-term, and high-rate cycling performance.

“We want to maintain efficient cycling of lithium in a battery over many cycles, something that’s never been done before,” says Herbert. “The fundamental challenge is figuring out how to maintain a coherent interface between the lithium anode and the solid electrolyte. Defects formed in the lithium during cycling determine the stability and resistivity of the interface. Once we see how that happens, it will reveal design rules necessary to successfully fabricate the solid electrolyte, and the battery packaging.”

The team is launching parallel efforts to address these issues. Herbert, for his part, wants to learn exactly how lithium is consumed on a nanoscale level, in real time. “We want to know why the interface becomes increasingly resistive with cycling, how the electrolyte eventually fails, how defects in the lithium migrate, agglomerate, or anneal with further cycling or time, and whether softer electrolytes can be used without incursion of metallic lithium into the electrolyte,” he says. “We also want to learn how processing and fabrication affect interface performance.”

“We want to maintain efficient cycling of lithium in a battery over many cycles, something that’s never been done before.”

Erik Herbert

polycrystalline lithium film
Surface of the polycrystalline lithium film, with over 100 residual impressions from targeted test sites

To answer these questions, Herbert conducts nano-indentation studies on vapor-deposited lithium films, various sintered solid electrolytes, and lithium films in fully functional solid-state batteries.

“The data from these experiments directly enable exam-ination of the complex coupling between lithium’s micro-structure, its defects, and its mechanical behavior,” says Herbert. “So far we’ve gained a better understanding of the mechanisms lithium utilizes to manage pressure (stress) as a function of strain, strain rate, temperature, defect structure, microstructural length scale, and in-operando cycling of the battery.”

Atomic resolution image of a spinel intergrowth lithium ion battery electrode particle and associated convergent beam electron diffraction pattern. The ordered dots all over the black triangle (the particle) are atomic columns, with a convergent beam electron diffraction pattern in white at the top. These results were obtained with the FEI 200kV Titan Themis Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (S-TEM) recently commissioned by Michigan Tech.
These results were obtained with the FEI 200kV Titan Themis Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (S-TEM) recently commissioned by Michigan Tech.

Atomic resolution image of a spinel intergrowth lithium ion battery electrode particle and associated convergent beam electron diffraction pattern. The ordered dots all over the black triangle (the particle) are atomic columns, with a convergent beam electron diffraction pattern in white at the top.

 

Michigan Tech's FEI 200kV Titan Themis Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (S-TEM) positions Michigan Tech faculty on the leading edge of new imaging capability for structural and chemical analysis at the nano-scale.
Michigan Tech’s FEI 200kV Titan Themis Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (S-TEM)

Michigan Tech’s FEI 200kV Titan Themis Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (S-TEM) positions Michigan Tech faculty on the leading edge of new imaging capability for structural and chemical analysis at the nano-scale.


Three Student Teams Chosen for Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition

3D PrintingThree Michigan Tech student teams have been chosen to compete in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit on Nov. 16, 2017. The student teams will compete for a total of $21,000 in funding.

Statewide, 27 teams were selected through submission of a one-minute video and a brief write-up about the company product or service, revenue model and team capabilities.

The Tech student teams are Looma, Makerhub and FitStop. Looma is a food and nutrition app that helps users eat healthier by providing preference-based recipe suggestions with integrated calendaring for preparation time and grocery lists for shopping. Makerhub is a web application that connects individuals who own 3-D printers with others who need 3-D printed parts. FitStop is a web application that connects people who are traveling for business or leisure with gyms or fitness centers in the city they are traveling to.

Three Michigan Tech-affiliated start-ups will also participate in the competition. They are StabiLux Biosciences, Goldstrike Data and Orbion.

By Jenn Donovan.


The Secrets of Talking Nerdy, Part 2

Libby Titus Presentation
Libby Titus Presents Her Communication Secrets

More than 1,200 first-year engineering and computer science students learned the “Secrets of Talking Nerdy” from Michigan Tech Alumna Elizabeth (Libby) Titus ’96 at Michigan Tech’s annual First-Year Engineering Lecture on September 6.

According to Titus, engineering and computer science are group activities: it won’t matter how smart you are if you can’t communicate your ideas. She offers these writing tips for engineers and scientists:

Be clear. “First thoroughly understand the subject yourself, then be a filter and interpreter for your audience. Strip away all complexity so others can understand with minimal effort.”

Make it attractive. “Organize your writing for the reader’s benefit. Use lots of white space. Make it easy to skim. Be consistent with your style choices for format and punctuation, and stick to one or two fonts at the most.”

Proofread. “Your boss or client should never have to correct your writing. Grammar police are everywhere, and we will scrutinize what you write! You will be earnestly judged. No matter how tight your deadline is, you have to proofread!”

Focus on your reader. “If your reader feels smart, you win. Use simple language, so your audience can understand the first time. Any reader might not read past the first two sentences.

Get to the point. Keep it brief. Words don’t bleed. Cut them!”

Don’t write the way you talk. “If you do that, you’ll add too many words. No one likes that. Ask yourself. How can I make it easier for my audience? The answer is simple: Get to the point.”

Creature comforts are crucially important. “To write well, you have to put yourself in a state of deep work. The cost of distraction is high, and it’s about the switch itself. For instance, switching from your project to check texts then back again, no matter how quickly, taxes your productivity much more than the duration of the time spent distracted. I used to think writing was persecution, then I realized I needed to have a grateful attitude. Make sure you have everything you need. Clear space. Natural light. Solitude, or with others working diligently. Ice water in a cup. Everyone’s different. Regular exercise helps me.”

Motivate yourself. “When I feel unmotivated, I remind myself why my work is important. I once had a job watching potatoes on a conveyor belt. All day long.”

Be grateful it’s not fiction! “As technical writers, we should all be grateful of the gift of content.”

Break up the writing into small chunks. Give yourself a deadline for each chunk. Just get started. After a break, it’s much easier to get back to something, rather than a blank page.

Remember, every first draft sucks. In your first draft, you’re just telling yourself the story.

Follow the Growth Mindset (Carol Dweck)
Embrace challenges.
Persist in the face of setbacks.
See effort as the path to mastery.
Learn from criticism.
Find lessons and inspiration in the success of others.

Keep yourself in the chair. You need willpower until the clock runs out, or your document is perfection! Staying in the game is a huge part of winning the game.

Get feedback. Tell lots of people. Crowdsource for ideas. See criticism as a gift. Try rejection therapy to desensitize. (She recommends googling “rejection therapy” to find a game invented by a Canadian Entrepreneur).

DO read user manuals! And more—read everything and skim everything you come across.

Tips for conciseness:
Try not to verbalize the scientific method.
Lead with the conclusion.
Keep sentences and paragraphs short.
Drop unnecessary words.
Write nothing longer than a page.
Read it one last time to slash as many words as possible.


Titus’s lecture was part of the Visiting Women and Minority Lecturer/Scholar Series (VWMLSS), funded by a grant to the Office of Institutional Equity from the State of Michigan’s King-Chavez-Parks Initiative. The event was sponsored by Novo Nordisk, and Michigan Tech’s College of Engineering, Department of Engineering Fundamentals, Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, and Department of Computer Science.