Category: Recent News
Thin Rod Study has potential for smart needles, robotic arms
Thin rods and other active materials that can bend and fold on command are essential to the engineering of smart needles, soft robotic arms, and other flexible devices that can improve care in fields such as medicine, for instance.
Douglas Holmes, a College of Engineering assistant professor of mechanical engineering, has received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award to study the mechanics of how thin rods move through soft and fragile media, such as tissue and granular materials. Knowledge gained from the study could enable the construction of advanced autonomous structures capable of navigating around obstacles in such media. Holmes will receive $500,000 from the NSF over the next five years.
CAREER awards are given in recognition of outstanding research and teaching capabilities, and they support high-impact projects that combine research and educational goals.
“The results of this award will help predict the deformation and buckling of slender structures within complex media, while providing a general framework for designing structures that can actively and controllably bend within soft and fragile matter,” says Holmes.
Holmes will use part of the funding to develop open online course content designed to improve the public’s understanding of mechanical engineering.
To date, 38 ENG faculty members have received an NSF CAREER award, as have numerous other BU faculty members.
Mark Dwortzan can be reached at email@example.com.
A version of this story originally appeared on Bostonia.
By Mark Dwortzan
Honoring senior and junior faculty each year for major contributions to their fields and to society at large, the College of Engineering has bestowed its inaugural Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture on Professor Mark Grinstaff (BME, Chemistry, MSE), and its Early Career Excellence Award on Assistant Professor Mac Schwager (ME, SE).
The Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture recognizes faculty members with extraordinary records of well-cited scholarship, senior leaders in industry and extraordinary entrepreneurs who have invented and mentored transformative technologies that impact our quality of life, and provides the recipient with a public forum to discuss his or her work before the Boston University academic community and the general public. Grinstaff will present the 2015 Charles DeLisi Distinguished Lecture on Thursday, April 2 at 4 p.m. in the Photonics Colloquium Room (PHO 906).
The Early Career Research Excellence Award celebrates the significant, recent, high-impact research achievements of exemplary tenure-track faculty who are within 10 years of receiving their PhD.
Charles DeLisi Award and Lecture
For two decades, Grinstaff has pursued highly interdisciplinary research aimed at elucidating underlying fundamental chemistry and engineering principles, and applying them to develop new materials and devices for clinical applications. Supported by the Grinstaff Group, a lab with more than 20 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, The Wallace H. Coulter Foundation, Advanced Energy Consortium, the Center for Integration of Medicine & Innovative Technology, and other agencies, he has advanced several major biomaterials that range from a joint lubricant that could bring longer- lasting relief to millions of osteoarthritis sufferers, to a highly absorbent hydrogel that not only seals wounds, but can later be dissolved and gently removed.
He has co-founded four companies to translate some of his ideas into clinical products. The first, Hyperbranch Medical Technology, produces biodegradable surgical sealants that are already widely used by surgeons. The others, advancing products that have not yet completed clinical trials, are Flex Biomedical (a synthetic polymer to treat osteoarthritis), Acuity Bio (flexible films to prevent tumor recurrence after surgical resection) and Affinergy (leading edge assays and research tools aimed at improving scientific and diagnostic outcomes).
Grinstaff has published more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, garnered more than 10,000 citations, filed more than 200 patents, and delivered more than 275 oral presentations. His students and fellows have given more than 100 oral presentations and 300 posters at national and international meetings. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nanomedicine, American Institute for Medical and Biomedical Engineering, and National Academy of Inventors. His numerous awards include the ACS Nobel Laureate Signature Award, NSF Career Award, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences, Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, and Edward M. Kennedy Award for Health Care Innovation. He received his PhD from the University of Illinois and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology.
At BU Grinstaff directs the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology (CNN) and NIH-funded Translational Research in Biomaterials program, and is the inaugural College of Engineering Distinguished Professor of Translational Research and inaugural recipient of the Innovator of the Year Award from BU’s Office of Technology Development. He was also named a College of Engineering Distinguished Faculty Fellow and a Kern Faculty Fellow.
“Mark has shown tremendous dedication to being an intellectual leader in his field and has successfully harnessed his substantial creative power to translate his ideas to products that impact society,” said Professor Sol Eisenberg, who heads the Biomedical Engineering Department. “He is an iconic exemplar of translational research in the College of Engineering and at Boston University, and a tremendous example of what we value in our faculty.”
Early Career Research Excellence Award
A member of the BU faculty since January, 2012, Schwager is working to optimize how groups of robots work together to accomplish specified tasks. These range from deploying a swarm of autonomous helicopters to provide surveillance of a city, to sending a fleet of robots to search for and rescue survivors at a disaster site. To enable efficient coordination among multiple robots, he designs distributed control, perception and learning algorithms for each robot, and tests their performance and safety in his Multi-robot Systems Laboratory.
The technology Schwager is developing is designed to empower multi-robot systems such as UAVs not only to monitor their environment but to control it as well. Such systems could be used to collect data over large areas for scientific, security and defense purposes; fight forest fires; clean up oil spills; plant, water and harvest crops; air-drop medicines; and perform other vital functions.
A principle investigator (PI) or co-PI on National Science Foundation and Office of Naval Research grants totaling $3 million, Schwager received an NSF CAREER award in 2014 for his project, “Controlling Ecologically Destructive Processes with a Network of Intelligent Robotic Agents.” His published work, which includes a journal article that won the Best Paper Award at the Conference on the Simulation of Adaptive Behavior in 2008, has already garnered 1,308 citations. He received his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from MIT in 2009.
“The sky is the limit for this technology, and Mac Schwager has the vision to identify the important problems, the skill to overcome the key technology barriers, the ambition and energy to compete and prevail in both academia and business, and the personal charisma and communication skills to sell his vision at all levels,” said Professor Alice White, who heads the Mechanical Engineering Department
By Mark Dwortzan
Assistant Professor Douglas Holmes (ME) has received the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award in recognition of his outstanding research and teaching capabilities. NSF CAREER awards support high-impact projects that combine research and educational goals.
Holmes will receive $500,000 over the next five years to study the mechanics of how thin rods move through soft and fragile media such as tissue and granular materials. Knowledge gained from the study could enable the construction of advanced, autonomous structures capable of navigating around obstacles in such media. Thin rods and other active materials that can bend and fold on command are essential to the engineering of smart needles, soft robotic arms and other flexible devices.
“The results of this award will help predict the deformation and buckling of slender structures within complex media, while providing a general framework for designing structures that can actively and controllably bend within soft and fragile matter,” said Holmes.
Part of the funding will be used to develop open, online course content designed to improve the general public’s understanding of mechanical engineering.
To date, 38 College of Engineering faculty members have received NSF CAREER awards during their service to the College.
By Mark Dwortzan
The American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) has elected two BME faculty members—Associate Professors Muhammad Zaman (BME, MSE) and Elise Morgan (ME, BME, MSE)—to the AIMBE College of Fellows. They join more than 1,500 outstanding biomedical engineers in academia, industry and government around the world who have distinguished themselves through significant contributions in research, industrial practice and/or education.
According to the AIMBE, election to the College of Fellows is reserved for the top two percent of the
international medical and biological engineering community. The induction of Zaman and Morgan on March 16 at the AIMBE’s 2015 Annual Event at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., will bring the number of BME faculty elected to this prestigious body to 30, placing the
department among the top two or three biomedical engineering departments nationally.
AIMBE Fellows have helped to revolutionize medicine, engineering and related fields that enhance and extend the lives of people all over the world. Boston University’s two newest members exemplify this tradition, having impacted society in myriad ways.
Associate Professor Muhammad Zaman
A College of Engineering faculty member since 2009 and the College’s only Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor, Zaman heads the Cellular and Molecular Dynamics Lab, which engineers new experimental and computational technologies for major healthcare problems in both the developing and developed world, including probing the mechanisms of cancer metastasis. The lab focuses on how physical and mechanical properties of cancer cells impact their growth and movement, modeling this behavior in computer programs.
Meanwhile, Zaman is developing robust, cheap, portable and user-friendly diagnostics and analysis toolkits to address global health challenges. As director of the Laboratory for Engineering Education and Development (LEED), he works with BU students to advance technologies to detect counterfeit drugs, preserve biological reagents used in diagnostic tests and provide other in-demand healthcare solutions targeting the specific needs of resource-limited countries. He is also co-director of the Africa Biomedical Engineering Initiative, which was funded by UN Economic Commission for Africa to improve biomedical engineering education, innovation and practice in Africa. In 2014 he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Consortium of Universities of Global Health (CUGH), the most prestigious professional organization in the field
Zaman’s achievements in cancer and global health research have earned him funding from USAID, the Saving Lives at Birth Consortium, US Pharmacopeial Convention, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and many private foundations, as well as several invitations to participate in US National Academy of Engineering research and education symposia. The 2013 recipient of the Early Career Achievement Award from the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS)—the world’s largest international society of biomedical engineers—Zaman has served as keynote or plenary speaker at major national and international conferences and published dozens of highly-cited papers in leading biomedical journals.
Associate Professor Elise Morgan
Since joining the College of Engineering faculty in 2003, Associate Professor Elise Morgan (ME, BME) has worked to advance understanding of the role of the mechanical function of tissues and organs in skeletal health, repair and development, with the ultimate goal of pinpointing causes and treatments for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and poor bone healing.
As director of the Orthopaedic and Developmental Biomechanics Laboratory, Morgan studies the interplay among the mechanical behavior, structure and biological function of tissues. Drawing on methods from engineering mechanics, materials science, and cell and molecular biology, and combining experimentation and computational modeling, Morgan’s lab investigates how mechanical factors contribute to the development, adaptation, failure and regeneration of bone and cartilage. Current projects include the use of mechanical stimulation to promote bone regeneration, the biomechanics of spine fractures and bone healing, non-invasive diagnostics of bone healing, and inflammatory bone loss. This work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, private foundations and industry sponsors.
Morgan has received a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award for Senior Fellows from the National Institutes of Health, a Young Investigator Research Award from the International Osteoporosis Foundation and Servier Research Group, the 2013 Kappa Delta Young Investigator Award from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and an Early Career Research Excellence Award and Distinguished Faculty Fellow Award from the College of Engineering. She has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles in major engineering journals and has delivered more than 40 seminars and invited talks. She is also the co-founder of a successful outreach program, Summer Pathways, which engages high school girls in a week-long sequence of activities in science, engineering and math.
The mission of the AIMBE is to advance public understanding of medical and biological engineering, and honor significant achievements in the field. Representing university programs in medical and biological engineering, corporations and professional societies engaged in advancing medical and biological engineering, the organization advocates for public policies that facilitate progress in medical and biological research, and for the development of products and services that benefit the public.
Grants to Fund Research on Blood Clotting
By Mark Dwortzan
Assistant Professor Matthias Schneider (ME) has received two awards in recognition of his research on blood clotting: a Baxter Bioscience Award, which supports novel therapeutic discoveries, and a Pfizer Hemophilia Award, which funds basic and clinical research on hemophilia, a rare disorder in which blood does not clot normally. Schneider is the first physicist to receive the latter award, which is typically bestowed on three researchers per year.
The Baxter Bioscience grant, totaling $80,000, will enable Schneider to pursue a more precise understanding of the physiological conditions of blood flow after injury, information that could shed light on how bleeding is stopped and clots begin to form. He will conduct biophysical experiments and computer simulations to investigate the role of “elongational flow”—stresses that occur in the direction of flow within a blood vessel—in catalyzing the process by which blood platelets become sticky and adhere to the injury site.
The Pfizer award, a $230,000 Advancing Science Through Pfizer-Investigator Research Exchange (ASPIRE) Hemophilia Research grant, will fund Schneider’s efforts to exploit biophysical concepts and tools to advance new strategies to increase the lifetime of FVIII, an essential blood-clotting protein also known as anti-hemophilic factor (AHF). The research aims to generate new clinical solutions for patients with Hemophilia A, a deficiency in AHF that’s the most common form of the disease. Schneider plans to develop a microfluidic device that models the physiological conditions of blood flow, and engineer and test a synthetic version of AHF that’s more durable under such conditions.
“One approach to correcting deficiency in this blood-clotting protein is to inject supplements into the bloodstream, but this can cause the body to develop an adverse immune system response over time,” said Schneider. “Our research aims to improve the body’s natural mechanisms and can therefore serve as a role model for other therapies whose effectiveness is compromised by such immune responses.”
Mechanical Engineering is proud to announce that the Boston University Rocket Propulsion Group (BURPG), has been featured in the Boston Globe. The group was interviewed for its “Project Starscraper: The Next Generation of Suborbital Rockets” efforts, which they raised over 17k for on Kickstarter recently.
Additionally, our very own Professor James Bird was featured in the Boston Globe as well, for his research on bubbles in a very timely article on 12.31.14 about champaign. Cheers to both!
By Janet A Smith
The College of Engineering has introduced a new Engineering Practice option for Master of Science (MS) and Master of Engineering (MEng) students in all concentrations. Students may now add the designation “with Engineering Practice” to their degree by completing an approved internship in their field of study. The designation is widely recognized by employers and research institutions.
The Engineering Practice option recognizes the power of combining rigorous academic coursework with supervised real-world research or industrial applications. Participating students enhance classroom learning with practical experiences that enable them to both develop and apply technical, project management and leadership skills.
Opening Doors to Future Careers
The new designation formalizes and gives recognition to graduate-level internships, which several engineering students have pursued in recent years. Some, like Abhinav Nair (MEng’14), who last summer helped develop a major new online educational curriculum for the educational publisher Pearson, have parlayed their internships into a full-time jobs. He was paired up with a senior developer at Pearson who was available round the clock to answer questions, and reported to a development manager who held one-on-one sessions with him to provide feedback and guidance. The position ultimately led to a full-time post for Nair when the developer left the company.
“Over the course of my experience at Pearson, I learned the importance of truly being accountable for work that I produced,” said Nair. “The product that I worked on caters to millions of students and thousands of educators all over the world and everything we did as a part of the team touched their lives in a positive way every day. I learned the importance of maintaining that standard. Handling work that was this important also instilled a great deal of confidence in me as an engineer.”
Nair believes that practical work experience is a vital adjunct to classroom learning. “There is no doubt about how inspiring classroom education at Boston University is,” he noted. “But for a truly eye-opening experience it is extremely important for a graduate student to step out of their comfort zone into the real world. It is a fantastic platform to apply one’s expertise and knowledge.
“The program has been a great stepping stone for me into industry. My internship helped me transition from being a student in a nest to spreading my wings as a professional engineer. I wouldn’t think twice before endorsing it to my peers.”
Real-World Mastery, Exciting Projects
College of Engineering graduate students have completed internships with many leading companies, including industry leaders such as Intel, GE, and iRobot.
MEng student Anish Shah (CE) discovered this during a 12-week internship with Intel in which he and his team captured the attention of world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. The interns worked on creating a practical gateway device to improve the wheelchair experience and benefit health care monitoring for disabled individuals.
“My internship at Intel allowed me to apply everything I have learned in the classroom and involved working and interacting with multiple groups in the company,” said Shah. “Practical experience is very important if you are looking for a job after graduation. It gives you exposure to a professional work environment. It adds value to your resume/CV and serves as a platform to launch your career.”
All Master of Science or of Master of Engineering students can apply for the new Engineering Practice designation. They must first identify an internship opportunity and seek faculty approval for their project. Specific requirements are available online. For more information, contact the ENG Graduate Programs Office.
BME Postdoc Demos Promising Portable Diagnostic
By Mark Dwortzan
Diagnostic tests for tuberculosis usually involve chest x-rays, which require heavy, expensive equipment, or phlegm samples, which can take weeks to culture. In resource-limited countries where TB is endemic, such tests are hard to come by outside of major cities, leaving healthcare workers with few good options. The simplest is a TB test that works like a home pregnancy test, diagnosing the disease based on the detection of lipoarabinomannan (LAM), a biomarker for TB present in the urine of TB-infected individuals. Although the test is cheap, easy-to-use and can be administered at the point of care, it produces accurate results only for patients who are also infected with HIV, since LAM is more abundant in their urine.
Now Sharon Wong, a postdoctoral fellow in Associate Professor Catherine M. Klapperich’s (BME, ME, MSE) lab, is working toward a similar inexpensive, user-friendly test that can overcome this limitation and serve the general TB population at the point of care. By applying heat to a strip of chromatography paper dipped in a urine sample, the device would concentrate LAM while evaporating most of the liquid sample. As a result, the low levels of LAM in non-HIV patients’ urine, which don’t register in the commercially available test, are increased and can be more easily detected.
Described in the November 24 online edition of the American Chemical Society journal Analytical Chemistry, the new test is the first to demonstrate the use of heat on a paper-based device for the purpose of quickly concentrating biological material for clinical analysis. Wong developed the test in collaboration with Klapperich, Research Assistant Professor Mario Cabodi (BME) and Jason Rolland, the former director of research at Diagnostics for All, a Cambridge-based nonprofit focused on low-cost, user-friendly, point-of-care solutions for the developing world.
“This protocol that Dr. Wong has developed has the potential to increase the utility of one of the most simple and inexpensive methods to detect TB,” said Klapperich. “Strip tests are easy to use and understand and could positively impact patient care in many low- resource settings.”
In lab tests, Wong diluted a small quantity of LAM in a sample of synthetic urine in a beaker and inserted one end of a piece of chromatography paper into the sample. The urine wicked up the paper until it reached the other end, which was warmed to 220 degrees Celsius by an electric heater. Most of the urine evaporated off within 20 minutes, leaving a concentrated amount of LAM at the tip of the paper strip. Using an antibody that binds to LAM, Wong then determined that the biomarker was 20 times more concentrated at the tip than at the end submerged in the sample.
“After spending months trying different ways to heat the paper, this was my last ditch effort,” said Wong. “So it was very exciting when it finally worked. I can now envision, in the foreseeable future, a TB diagnostic that can be used on anyone, by anyone, anywhere in the world.”
Wong’s next steps include optimizing the system by fine-tuning the heating temperature and duration, paper strip dimensions and other variables; validating it on clinical samples; and identifying other unplugged power sources, such as batteries, to make it portable. Beyond the lab, she envisions a test that not only indicates the presence of TB with a single line, but also shows higher concentrations of LAM with additional lines. This additional information could enable clinicians to easily track the effectiveness of drug treatment for the disease over time.
Written by Dennis Carlberg
With the broad set of operational issues being addressed, Boston University is well suited as a learning laboratory for sustainability. Over the course of the past year sustainability@BU and Facilities Management & Planning partnered with mechanical engineering associate professor, Michael Gevelber and two of his students to explore what it would take to get Earth House, a specialty residence on South Campus, to produce more energy than it consumes. The energy concept is called Net Zero or Energy Positive (E+); increasing a building’s energy efficiency to the point where on-site renewable energy can provide all the energy the building needs.
In the case of Earth House, the intent was also to create a living learning community supporting residents’ sustainable lifestyle and the opportunity to learn about one’s environmental impact first hand. Earth and Environment professor Nathan Phillips collaborated on the concept development, exploring ways to integrate learning outcomes into the living community. Through the Housing and Residence Life structure, Earth House residents have been able to express shared concern for the environment through creative programming.
The mission of the Earth House is to provide a living environment that conserves energy and water and minimizes waste, in order to reduce the carbon footprint of the residents. Residents will look to promote sustainable living and awareness throughout BU’s campus.
-Earth House Mission Statement
Supporting this mission and creating a more sustainable living learning community needs to be informed by in-depth, solutions driven energy analysis to achieve the core objective of carbon reductions.
Gevelber has been using the BU campus – and the City of Boston as a learning laboratory since 2008 through his courses in mechanical engineering and through collaborations with the City and the Sustainable Neighborhood Lab. The integration of Professor Gevelber’s research and teaching with the built environment on campus adds real value to both the education of our students and the sustainability of our campus.
Working with Professor Gevelber and his students has been a real force multiplier in campus-wide sustainability.
-Thomas Daley, Associate Vice President, Facilities & Planning
Getting to E+ would require a complete renovation of the brownstone building where the Earth House currently is located, so a similar row house in the same block, also built in 1896 was chosen for the study. FM&P’s Terry Hatfield (ENG’11), Financial Analyst for Energy and key contributor in the collaboration provided the utility data needed for the study. Syed Shirazi (ENG ’14) conducted occupant surveys and collected temperature data. The team then analyzed the energy and use profile of the building and its occupants. Jarvis Lee (M.ENG’14) conducted the energy analysis using three energy modeling platforms and then validated the results against the utility bills. The team then projected the energy performance for three progressively more efficient scenarios:
1) A building meeting the current energy code
2) A deep energy retrofit to PassiveHouse standards and using an air-source heat pump + solar photovoltaic array on the roof
3) The same PassiveHouse standards, but using geothermal heating and cooling + solar on and extended beyond the roof in the back
Getting to E+
The team was able to show E+ could be achieved, but with significant financial investment. Through the analysis, several lessons were learned about the energy use in the brownstones leading to a list of relatively low cost Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) to be explored.
These measures include installing occupancy sensors in public areas, installing efficient LED lighting in the public areas and in the rooms, installing smart power strips in the rooms, strategically locating thermostats, and installing weather sealing. These ECMs will be part of a pilot program being implemented in two brownstones during the winter and spring of 2015. With the help of Rebecca Kahn (M.ENG ’16), data will be collected and analysis completed by the end of the spring semester. If the pilot proves out the engineering, the ECMs could be applied to 74 of the brownstones on campus with the potential to reduce overall brownstone energy consumption ten to fifteen times more than the E+ project, at a fraction of the cost.
The graphs below show the University’s portfolio of brownstone buildings, each representing a colored rectangle. On the left, the small white space shows the impact of converting Earth House to E+. In contrast, the graph on the right shows a much large slice can be carved out of the overall brownstone energy use just by implementing the recommended Energy Conservation Measures.
Mark Holaday (SAR ‘16) the Earth House Resident Assistant, South Campus Residence Life staff, FM&P area managers as well as South Campus residents have all provided critical support for the project. With their help, Professor Gevelber has been able to utilize the Charles River Campus as a learning laboratory, educating and informing University operations and providing valuable real-world skills for his students.
See the original article at Boston University Sustainability
A look inside ENG’s new design and manufacturing facility
By Leslie Friday, BU Today
The Engineering Product Innovation Center (EPIC) has been open for less than a year, and it’s already become the tinkerer’s paradise. On any given day, the machine shop hums and clinks with life as students, faculty, and staff from across campus transform ideas into actual things. Engineers rub shoulders with sculptors, sculptors with biologists, and biologists with rocket scientists as they share the shop’s machines with the help of experienced EPIC staff members and student workers.
“We believe that engineering education in this country is in need of an upgrade, and we want to be leaders of it,” says EPIC director Gerry Fine, a College of Engineering professor of the practice.
The 15,000-square-foot facility at 750 Commonwealth Ave. houses computer-aided design (CAD) software and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) technology, 3-D printers, laser processers, a
robotic assembly line, and a variety of machining tools—including lathes, millers, and good old-fashioned drills and saws. A lecture room, materials characterization lab, metals foundry, circuitry studio, and carpentry shop complete the first floor space. General classrooms fill the second floor.
EPIC was made possible through a partnership with principle industry sponsors GE Aviation, Procter & Gamble, PTC, and Schlumberger. Laboratory Supervisor Joseph Estano keeps the facility open seven days a week and has a staff of four full-time employees and 16 student workers scheduled throughout the day to help visitors.
On a recent afternoon in the glass-walled space, EPIC student worker Vincent Celeste (ENG’16) huddled with Scott Nickelsberg (ENG’17) and Walid El Kara (ENG’17) at a bank of computers as he helped them convert their 3-D model of a gyroscope
to GibbsCAM CAD/CAM software. The project was an assignment for their manufacturing design class (EK 156) with Theo de Winter, an ENG associate professor of mechanical engineering.
“The only requirements were build something,” Nickelsberg said.
“And do it in EPIC,” Elkara added.
The two had considered building a gumball machine or a guitar stand, but after consulting EPIC Senior CIMLAB Specialist Bob Sjostrom, they decided the simpler route would be a gyroscope. On the computer screen before them, Celeste had mapped out each piece of their project so that it fit on a single square of their raw material, low-carbon steel.
After adjusting a few measurements, Celeste asked his coworker Solange Coughlin (ENG’15) to review his work before sending it to an automated mill. “I don’t know if it’s going to fly around, but it would probably knock someone out,” Coughlin said, pointing to the pieces she felt needed adjustment. She advised tweaking the dimensions even more; Sjostrom looked over their shoulders and nodded his approval.
Another pair of de Winter’s students, Regina Czech (ENG’17) and Mariam Omar (ENG’17), stood at a workbench alongside a box-like computer numeric controls (CNC) milling machine, nicknamed “Porthos.” (EPIC staff named each CNC milling machine after characters in Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers.) The two students were building a palm-sized sliding puzzle from high-density polyethylene and were inspecting milled pieces for flaws.
“This is the first time they’ve left us alone with the machine,” Omar said. “We haven’t broken anything yet. They told us where the big emergency button is.” Smiling widely, she pointed to a large red knob on the front of the machine.
Czech and Omar had run into a temporary roadblock when they weren’t able to mill perfectly square-edged, interlocking pieces. Coughlin showed them how to change the orientation of their raw material within the machine to achieve their desired cut.
“They’re making a really big effort to make us feel we can do it ourselves,” said Czech, who hopes to become an EPIC student worker someday.
Across the room, David Sindel (ENG’15) guided a long steel rail onto the platform of a manual mill and methodically drilled four pairs of half-inch diameter holes down its spine. The piece would be bolted to an old U-Haul trailer that he and other members of the Boston University Rocket Propulsion Group were converting into a main test stand for their 32-foot-long rocket. They plan to test the rocket this month, make a few more tweaks to the design, and aim for a summer launch. If successful, their club will have produced the second amateur-built rocket to shoot 140 kilometers into space, and the first built by a university group.
A stone’s throw away, Josh Zins (ENG’17) used a lathe to shave a quarter-inch from the diameter of six steel shafts for a project in Fine’s introduction to engineering design class (EK 210). Their client, Schlumberger, was having problems with vibration in a horizontal well drill and the company suggested students brainstorm solutions using EPIC software and machines.
Zins’ group had come up with a potential design solution, so he spent a good portion of the afternoon preparing steel shafts that would become part of a clamp in the drill casing. He carefully fastened each shaft into the lathe, checked its settings, and set the machine in motion. Curlicues of steel peeled off each shaft and fell like silver confetti into a catch basin below.
Yingxian “Estella” Yu (ENG’15) and Jon Hoxha (ENG’15) hunched over a miniature lathe that served as one of several stops along the robotic assembly line. They had been given a remote control car and told to keep the motor and electronics, but redesign the chassis and body as part of their automation and manufacturing methods class (ME 345) with Peter Zink, an ENG research assistant professor in mechanical engineering.
Yu and Hoxha had been polishing up their design and converting it with GibbsCAM CAD/CAM software, when they took a break to figure out how to attach their raw material onto the small lathe. At the end of the semester, when their chassis and body are complete, they’ll assemble the car and race it against their classmates’ models.
Lab supervisor and machinist Ryan Lacy (ENG’12,’14) chatted with Zink alongside the robotic arm assembly, which has a prominent spot facing EPIC’s glass-paned façade. Asked if their work ever generated a crowd on the sidewalk outside, Lacy nodded with an impish grin. He’s often thought of asking his audience: “Are you guys going to get to class on time?”
EPIC is open Mondays through Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Fridays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
See the original article on BU Today