Archive for the ‘Engineering’ Category

Pulse Morning Show Interviews Davids about HIAD

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Bill Davids, chair of the University of Maine Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the John C. Bridge Professor, was a Tuesday morning guest of host Don Cookson on The Pulse Morning Show on AM 620. Davids talked about how UMaine engineers and students are helping NASA test Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) technology. HIAD — a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy — slows a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere. The technology may make it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars — 34,092,627 miles from Earth — and beyond. Davids said the minimum three-year project is a wonderful opportunity for the university, as well as the two full-time doctoral candidates and six undergraduate students taking part in the testing.

BDN Reports on UMaine Testing of Materials for Possible Mars Mission

Monday, August 18th, 2014

The Bangor Daily News reported engineers with University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center are working with NASA to perfect the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD). The HIAD is a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy that slows a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere. The HIAD could make it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars and beyond. “There aren’t that many people in the U.S., or around the world, working on these sorts of things,” said Bill Davids, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department and the John C. Bridge Professor at UMaine who is working on the project. “It really helps support education as well,” he added. The Sun Journal also carried the BDN report.

UMaine Piloting Interdisciplinary Renewable Energy Course

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

The University of Maine is piloting an interdisciplinary course based on Maine tidal power development research that aims to better understand the process of applying a comprehensive approach to renewable energy projects.

The course, Marine Renewable Energy: Engineering, Oceanography, Biology and Human Dimensions, is coordinated by Gayle Zydlewski, an associate professor of marine biology, and is offered as an upper-level undergraduate or graduate course.

The course examines the basic science and field methods of understanding power generation, potential changes to the marine environment and effects on other users of marine resources, and how these disciplines intersect to provide a comprehensive understanding of coastal ecosystems.

Teaching is shared between Zydlewski; Michael Peterson and Raul Urbina from the Mechanical Engineering Department; Huijie Xue, an expert on physical oceanography; and Jessica Jansujwicz and Teresa Johnson, experts on human dimensions and sustainability science.

The last two weeks of the course are devoted to field work and final projects, where students are given the framework to apply concepts and “put it all together,” Zydlewski says.

Fieldwork is conducted on the Penobscot River, where students use acoustics, or sounds in water, to research and collect data about fish and water currents for their final project, which ties together what they learned in the field and in the classroom.

As part of the human dimensions aspect of the course, students visit Cianbro’s manufacturing facility in Brewer to learn about the company’s use of the river and the protocols it follows for development projects.

Since 2009, a group of UMaine researchers have been studying tidal power development independently while coming together to discuss their research, according to Zydlewski. The collaborative effort has resulted in integrated research approaches to better understand the marine environment and contribute to sustainable development through data-driven science with stakeholder input, Zydlewski says.

The focus of the class, she says, is to pass on the collective knowledge and information to the students, whose generation will be faced with all aspects of renewable energy development in coastal systems.

The majority of the 10 students in the course’s pilot year are engineers at the undergraduate and graduate level. Two students are marine science majors. Hometowns vary from York, Maine, to towns in Canada, Connecticut and Massachusetts, with half of the students coming from Brazil.

Even though the course is framed around what is happening with renewable energy in Maine, Zydlewski says, various forms of renewable energy development are also being considered in Brazil, and the students would like to be able to transfer and apply what they learn back home.

Maine Reaps Benefits of 50-Year-Old Water Resources Research Act

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

The Maine Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI), a program of the Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, joins the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), stakeholders and academic partners in recognizing the importance of the pivotal Water Resources Research Act (WRRA) on it’s 50th anniversary.

Signed into law in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, WRRA established a research institute or WRRI in each state and Puerto Rico. In his official statement, President Johnson said the WRRA “will enlist the intellectual power of universities and research institutes in a nationwide effort to conserve and utilize our water resources for the common benefit. The new centers will be concerned with municipal and regional, as well as with national water problems. Their ready accessibility to state and local officials will permit each problem to be attacked on an individual basis, the only way in which the complex characteristics of each water deficiency can be resolved… The Congress has found that we have entered a period in which acute water shortages are hampering our industries, our agriculture, our recreation, and our individual health and happiness.”

Maine’s WRRI “provides leadership and support to help solve Maine’s water problems by supporting researchers and educating tomorrow’s water scientists. Our goal is to generate new knowledge that can help us maintain important water resources,” said John Peckenham, Director of the institute and Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Mitchell Center.

The Maine WRRI has supported the study of problems such as harmful algae blooms in Maine’s rivers and lakes, arsenic in drinking water, stormwater management, lake acidification and water pollution control techniques. The institute also sponsors the annual Maine Water Conference, bringing together people from across Maine who are connected with water resources to share experiences and make new alliances.

Mitchell Center scientists say WRRI grants have facilitated valuable research over the years.

“The grants help faculty and students conduct meaningful research that aids in the management of streams, rivers, and lakes in Maine,” said Sean Smith, Assistant Professor in the School of Earth and Climate Sciences. “It is difficult or impossible to manage and rehabilitate Maine’s freshwater resources effectively without knowledge of how the freshwater systems work and an understanding of how humans affect them. The WRRI grants provide a mechanism for advancing this knowledge and understanding in Maine.”

In 2014, the Maine WRRI is supporting research at Sebago Lake, the drinking water supply for the greater Portland metropolitan area. Led by Smith, the project seeks to quantify connections between geography, land cover, climate and hydraulic conditions within tributaries draining to the lake. The connections between these factors are at the heart of major pollution concerns throughout the Northeast. The research seeks to help guide land use planning, pollution management, aquatic habitat conservation, and public water supply protection.

Another WRRI project in Lake Auburn, a source of drinking water for the Lewiston/Auburn area, is focused on increased levels of phosphorus in the lake. This could compromise public health and eventually result in a water treatment filtration requirement that could result in a greater cost to the community. The work supplements the existing knowledge of the lake and its results will enhance lake and water supply management strategies. The research team is led by Aria Amirbahman, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Stephen Norton, Distinguished Maine Professor, professor emeritus, Climate Change Institute and School of Earth and Climate Sciences; Linda Bacon, Lakes Program, Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Contact: Tamara Field, 207.420.7755

Media Report on UMaine Inflatable Technology Used by NASA

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

CompositesWorld and The Maine Edge reported engineers with University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center are working with NASA to perfect the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) using UMaine’s inflatable technology expertise. The HIAD is described as a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy and is intended to slow a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere, making it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars and beyond. UMaine Composites Center engineers used the same inflatable technology for their groundbreaking Bridge-in-a-Backpack.

Erb, Ward Named to Maine Technology Institute’s Executive Committee, BDN Reports

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

David Erb, senior R&D program manager at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, and Jake Ward, UMaine’s vice president for innovation and economic development, were selected as members of the Maine Technology Institute’s executive committee by the institute’s board, according to a Bangor Daily News article about MTI’s interim leader. The executive committee will advise Brian Whitney, director of business development and innovation for the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, as he takes over as the acting director of MTI, the article states. The executive committee also will review applicants for the permanent post as president of MTI.

Biddeford Company Proud of UMaine Grads it Hires as Engineers, Mainebiz Reports

Monday, August 11th, 2014

David Loper, director of operations at Fiber Materials Inc. in Biddeford, told Mainebiz the company has a strong engineering department with a fairly large population of Maine-based professionals, including University of Maine graduates. “We’re trying to create an environment to grow engineering resources, and over the last 10 years we’ve done a good job to hold talent,” he said. The company also gives young engineers the opportunity to step into a leadership role earlier in their careers, according to the article.

UMaine’s inflatable technology expertise utilized by NASA, U.S. Army

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

The Curiosity Rover took a selfie June 24 to celebrate its one Martian-year anniversary — 687 Earth days — on the Red Planet.

If NASA perfects its Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD), a spacecraft nose-mounted “giant cone of inner tubes” stacked like a ring toy, one day people also may be taking selfies on the fourth planet from the Sun.

The HIAD slows a spacecraft as it enters a planet’s atmosphere. The technology, says NASA, is intended to make it possible for a spaceship large enough to carry astronauts and heavy loads of scientific equipment to explore Mars — 34,092,627 miles from Earth — and beyond.

Bill Davids, Joshua Clapp, Andrew Goupee and Andrew Young — engineers with University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center — are working with NASA to accomplish that mission.

The out-of-this world opportunity isn’t the first impressive inflatable technology to be worked on by UMaine Composites Center engineers.

First there was the groundbreaking Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM, so named because each deflated bridge arch fits into a Black Bear hockey equipment bag.

The award-winning, patented Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM has earned the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ certification. Bridges similar to those in Belfast, North Anson and Pittsfield, Maine, as well as those in Massachusetts and Michigan, can be built around the country and world. One was built in the Caribbean, says Habib Dagher, Bath Iron Works Professor and founding director of the world-renowned research and development center.

The bridges — stronger than steel and able to be built in a couple of weeks — are made of light, portable carbon-fiber tubes that are inflated, formed into arches and infused with resin. Concrete is poured inside the carbon fiber tubes, which protect the concrete from water and other natural elements, thus extending the bridge’s lifespan to double or triple that of a traditional bridge.

Following Bridge-in-a-BackpackTM, Davids, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department and the John C. Bridge Professor, led a UMaine group that worked on portable, lightweight, rapidly deployable inflatable fabric arch-supported structures for the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center.

Designed for military forces, the tents supported by inflatable arches also can be used for disaster relief shelters, temporary medical facilities and storage.

The research involving inflatable fabric arch-supported structures caught the attention of NASA scientists several years ago. NASA officials working on HIAD inflatable technology contacted Davids about possible research collaborations.

Ultimately, Davids’ research proposal on the structural investigation of the HIAD technology to NASA-EPSCoR through the Maine Space Grant Consortium was accepted. UMaine is now about 17 months into the three-year, $750,000project funded by NASA and EPSCoR. The Maine Space Grant Consortium administers the funds.

Dagher says it’s fascinating how one research discovery gives rise to another idea in a completely different field. “The beauty is you don’t know where you’re going to end up in the discovery process. One research discovery leads to another. It’s a big roller coaster,” he says.

UMaine engineers have weekly telecoms with NASA project officials as they strive to make this promising technology a reality.

“Our role is to fill in holes in NASA’s technical knowledge,” says Davids. “They have developed the technology; we help them advance it through testing the structures in the lab and analyzing stresses and deformations in the HIADs.”

Davids and Clapp say the HIAD technology is viewed as one of the most, if not the most, feasible options for a successful human spaceflight to Mars and has the potential to allow landing at higher elevations on the planet, carrying more payload, or both.

Payloads that have landed on Mars to date have had a mass less than 1 metric ton; 40-80 metric tons likely will be required for a mission that includes people, says Clapp, a doctoral student and research engineer.

Also, all Mars landings thus far have been below -1.4 kilometer Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) elevation due to the vertical distance required for deceleration. A number of scientifically interesting sites are at higher elevations, Clapp says.

UMaine researchers are working on a 6-meter diameter HIAD tested at NASA’s National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex — the largest wind tunnel in the world — in Moffett Field, California.

“The 6-meter HIAD created the most air blockage of anything ever tested in the wind tunnel and pushed the limits of the equipment to the maximum,” Clapp says. “The HIAD diameter needed for a manned mission to Mars is estimated to be on the order of 20 meters, therefore we will not be able to conduct aerodynamic testing in a wind tunnel, which makes a reliable predictive tool (i.e. the finite element models that we’re all working on) that much more important.”

Dr. Neil Cheatwood, principal investigator with the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE-3) — a precursor to HIAD — says in a NASA video that if funding was not a concern, he estimated people could be on Mars, where temperatures range from minus 195 F to 70 F, by 2020.

Keeping with the space theme, Dagher says with a smile that the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, much like Star Trek’s starship Enterprise, allows people to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777

BOV Member Richard Higgins Has Passed Away

Friday, August 1st, 2014

University of Maine Board of Visitors member Richard Higgins of Santa Fe, New Mexico, passed away July 30. He was 64. Mr. Higgins was a member of the UMaine Class of 1979 and a member of the College of Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council. Mr. Higgins and his wife Jean established an endowment for the Boardman Hall materials testing laboratory that now bears their names. A reception is scheduled for Aug. 3 in Santa Fe. An In Memoriam notice is online.

Engineers Without Borders Traveling to Developing Country in Attempt to Improve Water Security in Region

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Members of the University of Maine student group Engineers Without Borders will travel to Ecuador for two weeks in August on an assessment trip they hope will open the door to a long-term project to improve water security in the region.

From Aug. 16–28, six UMaine students and two mentors will stay in La “Y” de La Laguna in the coastal rain forest of Ecuador. La “Y,” which means the “Y” or a fork in the road, is a 300-person community that is struggling with an insufficient supply of drinking water.

A long dry season and inadequate storage is responsible for the low water supply. Residents are now dependent on buying untreated river water from an improvised tanker truck, according to EWB-UMaine members. The group aims to improve water security by helping the community find an adequate source, appropriate treatment, and reliable distribution.

“This trip will help us assess the needs of the community and build relationships that are vital to project success,” says EWB-UMaine member Logan Good. “Thinking ahead, this trip is just the beginning of a great companionship with the people of La ‘Y’ and a fantastic chance to experience global engineering.”

EWB-UMaine is a student chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA. It was founded in 2007 and is made up of students and professional mentors who introduce communities in developing countries to sustainable engineering projects that aim to improve residents’ quality of life. Students from any major can join the group.

Good, a mechanical engineering student from Presque Isle, Maine, is the team’s project leader, co-design leader and assistant health and safety officer. During the trip, he will be responsible for ensuring all scheduled tasks are accomplished and for providing a safe, educational and exciting experience for team members.

This is the second EWB-UMaine trip for Good, who traveled with the group to Honduras in March 2013.

“Engineers Without Borders provides many opportunities to enrich students’ global perspectives and create responsible leaders,” Good says.

During the summer assessment trip, EWB-UMaine members will meet with the community, collect water quality and health data, and discuss possible storage solutions.

Edwin Nagy, a civil and environmental engineering lecturer at UMaine, is the group’s interim adviser and will attend the trip as an engineering mentor. His focus will be on the students’ relation-building efforts as they try to understand the community’s needs and organizational structure. Robert Sypitkowski, an environmental engineer and UMaine alumnus, will provide the main technical guidance on the trip, Nagy says.

Sypitkowski traveled to La “Y” in December to meet community members. While there, he learned that five years ago, a water pump system was constructed, but the system immediately failed and there is no funding to fix it. After conducting water quality tests, he determined a new source and a storage system are needed, and the community agreed, according to Sypitkowski.

Involving the community is an important aspect of the project, according to Nagy. Community members also will be given cameras and encouraged to take photos to spark discussions with EWB-UMaine about future potential projects.

“Having the community involved from the beginning means that the people who benefit from the project are involved in keeping it alive, and it means that needs identified are needs that the people themselves believe they have,” Nagy says, adding the group’s short-term goal is to get to know the community well enough to assess and understand their needs while making friends.

“I am very interested to know their story, make new stories with them, and of course, play some futbol,” Good says of the local residents.

After the assessment trip, the students will work with the mentors to design a suitable water system. Over the next several years, the group will take a series of implementation and monitoring trips to assist La “Y” with at least water storage, if not water quality. Nagy expects the project will take three to five years to complete.

In between trips, the group will work on perfecting their design; raising funds; and analyzing data on water quality, health, satisfaction and political status collected from the community. The data will help the group determine what effect their work is having on the perceived quality of life in the region.

Educational programs will be provided to community members throughout the project term to keep residents informed and encourage sustainability. Programs will include discussion about coliforms and related health risks, as well as information about operation and maintenance of the water system the group implements.

“If all goes well, this will overlap with other projects within this community or neighboring communities and we can have a long-term relationship with the people in and around La ‘Y,’ slowly helping them get to a point where they have the infrastructure for long-term, self-directed growth,” Nagy says.

In 2013, EWB-UMaine completed a five-year effort to implement a community septic system for 28 homes in Dulce Vivir, Honduras. In 2012, the project earned a $25,000 grant from Newman’s Own Foundation and the EWB-USA “Premiere Project Award” — the only award of its kind given to a student chapter that year. The project taught students how to work with a community to develop and implement a sustainable project, such as the one they are now pursuing in Ecuador.

“I hope the students will gain an appreciation for the many alternative ways of living in the world, a more practical approach to engineering and an increased sense of the options available to them as engineers,” Nagy says.

In February, the group was awarded a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant for work to be completed in Ecuador during the summer. Projects for Peace grants are funded by the Davis Foundation and are awarded to efforts that address conflict resolution and reconciliation, foster understanding, provide opportunity and build community, according to the foundation.

UMaine chemistry student Bryer Sousa also won a Projects for Peace grant in 2013 to install biosand water filters in 50 households in an impoverished rural region of Honduras.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747