Archive for the ‘Engineering’ Category

Doctoral Student Wins Scholarship to Promote Advanced Polymer Composite Materials

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Alper Kiziltas, a doctoral student in the University of Maine’s School of Forest Resources, was named by the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) as the recipient of the 2013–2014 PerkinElmer Graduate Scholarship.

The PerkinElmer Instruments Co., in conjunction with the Composites Division of SPE, sponsors the annual $2,000 scholarship dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of information on the science, engineering fundamentals and applications of advanced polymer composite materials. This year, more than 40 applications were reviewed and judged by six members of the SPE Composites Division.

Kiziltas will accept the award in April during SPE’s annual technical conference — ANTEC 2014 — in Las Vegas. His research, as described in the winning abstract, will be presented at the conference.

Kiziltas conducts research at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center under the supervision of Douglas Gardner, professor of forest operations, bioproducts and bioenergy, and in collaboration with Hemant Pendse, department chair of chemical and biological engineering.

Kiziltas is currently working in composite material development and processing, including nanocomposites and reinforced engineering plastics for automotive applications. His particular interest lies in the development of sustainable composite materials sourced from recyclable materials such as bio-based resins, cellulose, discarded carpet fibers and natural fibers that serve as reinforcements for bio-based micro- and nanocomposites. His work is supported by UMaine’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute (FBRI) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Alper’s research skills span over diverse fields such as nanomaterials, polymer processing, bio-based composites and sustainability. He is extremely innovative, unpretentious, collegial and cooperative,” says Gardner.

Kiziltas spent the 2013 summer and fall semesters working in plastics research at Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Mich. While at Ford, he studied ways to extend the use of soy in polyurethane flexible foams for seat cushions and seat backs as well as sustainable nylon composites for under-the-hood applications.

Kiziltas is the author of more than 10 publications in journals such as Applied Nanoscience and the Journal of Nanoparticle Research. He has presented results of his research in several national and international conferences and has won more than 15 awards including Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE) Graduate Scholarship Award from the Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE), the Dean’s Undergraduate Mentoring Award at UMaine’s 2013 Grad Expo, first place in the 2012–2013 SPE ACCE poster competition, and 2013 outstanding Ph.D. student in UMaine’s College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture.

UMaine Project Cited in Press Herald Article on Offshore Wind Power Tax Credits

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

A proposed offshore wind pilot project by Maine Aqua Ventus, which includes the University of Maine and partner companies, was mentioned in a Portland Press Herald article about businesses working to launch offshore wind energy facilities urging Congress to renew tax credits that would help kick-start an industry that could bring jobs to Maine and other coastal states. Doug Pfeister, president of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, called the prototype floating wind turbine launched off the coast of Castine by UMaine and Cianbro last June “a great first step” for the offshore wind industry.

Neivandt Talks to WVII About Implant Created by Doctors, UMaine Researche

Monday, February 24th, 2014

WVII (Channel 7) spoke with David Neivandt, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Maine, about a new implant created through a collaboration between Eastern Maine Health Care Systems doctors and UMaine engineering students and researchers. The researchers said the implant has the potential to revolutionize the way doctors mount prosthetics and mend broken bones. Neivandt said the implant, which can be created using 3-D polymer printing, has a porous structure that cuts down on infection and decreases the need for antibiotics.

Kepware, UMaine Partnership Mentioned in Mainebiz Article

Monday, February 24th, 2014

The University of Maine and its working relationship with Kepware was mentioned in the Mainebiz article “Little-known Portland software company Kepware surges in growth.” The company is tapping UMaine and other local universities to offer internships and scholarships that could lead to new employees, the article states. Kepware also recently donated $36,000 worth of its software licenses to UMaine so students can familiarize themselves with the software, as well as benefit from its application, according to the article.

Mainebiz Interviews New UMaine Pulp & Paper Foundation President

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Mainebiz published a Q&A with Carrie Enos, the University of Maine Pulp & Paper Foundation’s new president. In January, Enos formally took over leadership from Jack Healy, who is retiring in the spring. Enos graduated from UMaine in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and has worked in the paper industry since 1997. She said she sees the appointment as her opportunity to give back to the foundation and industry.

UMaine Concert Band to Perform at Wagner Middle School in Winterport

Monday, February 24th, 2014

It will be a homecoming for two University of Maine students when UMaine’s Concert Band performs a run-out concert Thursday, March 20, at Wagner Middle School in Winterport.

Aaron Beaulieu, a first-year mechanical engineering student, began playing the trumpet in the fifth grade. Jay Baines, a civil engineering major also in his first year at UMaine, began playing percussion at the same time. Both students have returned to the direction of their first teacher, Dana Ross, who conducts the UMaine Concert Band and is band and chorus director at Wagner Middle School.

“It’s safe to say that without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my music,” Baines said.

The Concert Band will perform at an afternoon assembly at the school and at a free public concert at 7 p.m. The performances will feature arrangements by Clare Grundman, Henry Fillmore and Frank Ticheli. Wagner’s band will join UMaine’s Concert Band for the finale.

The music program at Wagner includes more than 100 instrumentalists and almost 100 vocalists, out of a total student body of 220.

Ross is in his fourth year as conductor for the Concert Band, a nonauditioned group that performs both on and off campus in a variety of communities, especially public schools.

WVII Talks with UMaine Students About Log Hauler Restoration Project

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

WVII (Channel 7) interviewed University of Maine mechanical engineering technology students who are working on a log hauler restoration as part of their capstone experience. The steam log hauler, located at Leonard’s Mills in Bradley, has been put together entirely by students. The Lombard Log Hauler Restoration Project is in its 30th year, and the current students hope to have the log hauler running on steam this spring.

Dunning Nominated to Serve on Efficiency Maine Trust Board

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Scott Dunning has been nominated to serve on the Efficiency Maine Trust Board. Efficiency Maine offers business and residential programs to help Mainers make energy improvements and save money.

Scott Dunning of Hampden is a professor of electrical engineering technology and director of the University of Maine School of Engineering Technology. Throughout his 21-year career at UMaine, he has taught a variety of courses in the areas of electrical engineering and power systems. His primary research interests are in the areas of energy efficiency.

Dunning became involved with the Association of Energy Engineers in the late 1990s, when he became an instructor for the Certified Energy Manager program. He is a registered professional engineer in the state of Maine. He is a senior member and past chair of the Maine Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

All nominations are contingent upon Maine Senate confirmation after review by the Joint Standing Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology.

Learning Across STEM Disciplines

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

UMaine researchers seek to improve the teaching of thermodynamics and electronics in physics and engineering.

Researchers at the University of Maine hope to improve the teaching and learning of two central topics in physics and engineering that are critical to undergraduate programs through a three-year project.

John Thompson, an associate professor of physics and cooperating associate professor of STEM education, and MacKenzie Stetzer, assistant professor of physics and cooperating assistant professor of STEM education, have received $599,999 from the National Science Foundation to investigate student learning of thermodynamics and electronics — including electric circuits — in both disciplines.

“Only in the last 10 years or so have researchers really targeted student learning beyond the introductory level, including in laboratory settings.  Interdisciplinary research that focuses on specific physics and engineering content is also relatively novel,” says Thompson of the project.

Both of the targeted areas are aligned with a recent National Research Council report on the status and future directions of discipline-based education research, Stetzer adds.

Undergraduate programs in physics and engineering often include parallel courses that teach the same topics, so the researchers want to determine the important differences between what students do and don’t learn in courses that cover the same material.

Thompson and Stetzer have previously conducted research on learning in STEM fields. Their research — along with studies conducted by many other researchers — confirm that if a student can correctly solve textbook problems, it doesn’t always mean they understand the underlying concepts.

The researchers plan to look at content in parallel courses across disciplines for similarities and differences; study student conceptual understanding across disciplines before and after instruction through written questions, interviews and classroom observations; and use research results to guide the modification and testing of existing instructional materials as well as the development of new materials for use across disciplines to help students learn difficult material in physics and engineering courses.

“Figuring out what works across disciplines and leveraging the strengths of effective instructional strategies employed in both disciplines are ways to increase the efficiency of these typically rather time-consuming research-based curriculum development efforts,” Stetzer says.

Physics Ph.D. students Jessica Clark and Kevin Van De Bogart are leading the work in thermodynamics and electronics, respectively; the research will be the focus of their dissertations. Donald Mountcastle, associate professor of physics and cooperating associate professor of biochemistry, and Wilhelm Alexander Friess, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of UMaine’s Brunswick Engineering Program are the project’s senior personnel. The research is taking place in courses in mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering, as well as in physics.

The majority of the project’s research staff are members of UMaine’s Physics Education Research Laboratory (PERL) and the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center). The PERL consists of about 15 faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students in physics and science education. The RiSE Center includes faculty from several STEM departments and houses programs for a master of science in teaching and a Ph.D. in STEM education.

The researchers say due to the project’s interdisciplinary nature, it has the potential to improve the teaching and learning of physics and engineering at not only UMaine, but beyond, including internationally.

“The development of effective instructional materials based on research is particularly challenging. While many individual faculty develop their own materials and strategies, they usually don’t have time to thoroughly research how well that all works and iteratively refine the materials,” says Thompson, who is also co-director of the PERL.

The modified materials created from the project will be designed to be easily integrated into existing courses and won’t require instructors to implement an entirely new curriculum.

“Coming from a physics perspective, we’ve already begun to see reasoning approaches in engineering classes that we hadn’t observed when working with physics students,” Stetzer says. “We expect to see a similar phenomenon as we collaborate more fully with our engineering colleagues in the project and begin to ask engineering-based questions in physics courses.”

The findings are expected to positively affect all disciplines engaged in teaching thermodynamics and electronics, and could lead to the development of a more coherent educational experience, especially for undergraduates in physics and engineering, the project proposal states. The documentation of differences in instructional approaches and learning outcomes could become a valuable resource for instructors, textbook authors, curriculum developers, education researchers and governing bodies in both disciplines.

“Our findings on student difficulties and the effectiveness of different instructional approaches should inform more nuanced studies within each discipline. This will in turn produce new results that can improve the learning and teaching of these topics more broadly,” Thompson says.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Portable Device Detects Disease-causing Pathogens in Real-time

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

University of Maine researchers have designed a handheld device that can quickly detect disease-causing and toxin-producing pathogens, including algal species that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.

The device — a colorimeter — could be instrumental in monitoring coastal water in real-time, thereby preventing human deaths and beach closures, says lead researcher Janice Duy, a recent graduate of UMaine’s Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering. Duy is now conducting postdoctoral research at Fort Detrick in Maryland.

The research team, which includes UMaine professors Rosemary Smith, Scott Collins and Laurie Connell, built a prototype two-wavelength colorimeter using primarily off-the-shelf commercial parts. The water-resistant apparatus produces results comparable to those obtained with an expensive bench-top spectrophotometer that requires technical expertise to operate, says the research team.

The instrument’s ease of use, low cost and portability are significant, say the researchers. The prototype cost researchers about $200 to build; a top-shelf spectrophotometer can cost about $10,000.

A touch screen prompts users at each step of the protocol. Researchers say an Android app is being developed to enable future smartphone integration of the measurement system.

Duy says the device almost instantaneously identifies pathogenic organisms by capturing target RNA with synthetic probe molecules called peptide nucleic acids (PNAs). A cyanine dye is added to visualize the presence of probe-target complexes, which show up as a purple solution; solutions without the target RNA are blue.

The versatile instrument can also be adapted to detect other organisms. The researchers say, in theory, any organism that contains nucleic acids could be detected with the simple colorimetric test. They have verified the system works with RNA from a soil-borne fungus that infects potatoes.

The research team’s teaching and expertise spans several UMaine schools and departments, including Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, the Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology, the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Engineering, the Department of Chemistry, the School of Marine Sciences and the Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences. The Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provided funding for the project.

The instrument is being incorporated into fresh and marine water testing in the Republic of Korea and the researchers say they’ll give several devices to state officials to test and use in the field in Maine.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777