Friday, November 5, 2010

Computer Science Programming Team Places First in Regional Competition

By Karen Kelly
CoE External Relations Coordinator

Pictured are senior computer science students (from the left)
Caleb Eggensperger from Cabot, Ark.; computer science professor and team coach, Rex Page; Peter Reid from Sherwood, Ore. and Allen Smith from Austin, Texas.

It's a first place win for the first time for these senior computer science majors.

Team "OU A" competed in the 2010 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) South Central USA regional programming contest. The competition consisted of 71 teams from Okla., Texas and La.

Director of OU's School of Computer Science, Sridhar Radhakrishnan, said, "Our team was the only one to solve all eight problems. We still would have won without the final problem as we had the least completion time."

Team "OU A" has been invited to compete in the ACM International Contest in Cairo, February 27 to March 4.

Click here to view the competition scoreboard.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Path to creativity: Former aerospace engineer teaches how to explore imagination

By April Wilkerson
The Journal Record
Posted: Monday, November 1, 2010

Donna Shirley at her Tulsa home. Shirley was a pioneer in the United States’ space exploration, managing the Mars Exploration Program in the 1990s and helping put Pathfinder, Sojourner and other probes into space. (Rip Stell)

TULSA – As the manager of the Mars Exploration Program in the 1990s, Donna Shirley learned a thing or two about leading highly intelligent people charged with sending groundbreaking technology into outer space.

Today, Shirley has turned that experience into a book, Managing Creativity, and she operates a consulting firm to guide others on managing creative teams.

Shirley, who lives in Tulsa, has been part of America’s and Oklahoma’s seminal moments in aerospace engineering and aerospace education, and she continues to leverage her experience and wit to make a difference.

“A lot of people think creativity is about coming up with this great idea; that’s only part of it,” Shirley said. “You have to actually do something with it. That’s why you see a lot of startup businesses fail. They have great ideas, but they don’t know how to follow through with all the dull and dirty processes you have to do to actually make something work. There’s a lot of paying attention to dull things like budgets and schedules and managing issues between people – all those sort of things that aren’t fun, especially to engineers and scientists.”

But doing those things was how Shirley made her mark on America’s exploration of outer space with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories. Her work began in the 1960s as an aerodynamicist, when she developed concepts that paved the way for subsequent successful designs for the Viking, Pioneer Venus, Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration Rover missions. Her work continued over the decades, and from 1992-1994 she led the team that developed Sojourner Truth, the $25 million Microrover landed by Mars Pathfinder on July 4, 1997. From 1994-1998, she managed the $150-million-a-year Mars Exploration Program, which included the Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions, plus two additional missions to Mars every 26 months for several years thereafter. She also did much of her work during a time when female engineers, especially at that level, were few.

“When we were successful in our landing, it was second only to the birth of my daughter in terms of events that were great in my life,” she said. “It was pretty cool.”

Today, Shirley keeps up with space exploration, particularly involving Mars. The rovers Spirit and Opportunity are the only two functioning robotics now on Mars, and Shirley said she’s not sure that Spirit will survive the winter. The investment of time and skill with the technology still gives her a personal connection.

“I was the mother to Sojourner, the little rover, so I consider myself the grandmother of Spirit and Opportunity,” she said. “If we had never done Sojourner, people would never have been convinced you could make a rover work on Mars and we would never have flown a rover.”

Shirley also remains committed to the concept of space exploration. Humans are wired to seek out new frontiers, she said, but doing so can help us avoid some problems on Earth.

“For example, a very early mission, Mariner 2, discovered that Venus had this very thick, horrible atmosphere, and it was the result of the greenhouse effect,” she said. “That was where the greenhouse effect was discovered, and we wouldn’t have known about it otherwise. Not that we’re doing anything very intelligent about it, but at least we now understand more or less what’s going on. So you find out things about other planets that are useful in understanding Earth.

“People also say, ‘Is space worth all the money we’re spending on it?’ If you look at it just in terms of dollars and cents, no it’s not,” she said. “We’re never going to make enough money off space exploration to have a payback in any sort of early time frame. People nowadays think of rate of return and early payback. Well, you’re not going to get that. There are now companies trying desperately to make money off space. It’s just like the railroad industry was not viable until the government funded railroads across the country. The government has to do things that are not economically viable in order to get the infrastructure in place. The government is going to have to spend money to develop these new technologies before anybody is going to be able to privately invest enough money to where you get a rate of return that’s worth it.”

Shirley also left her mark on the aerospace program at the University of Oklahoma. After retiring from Jet Propulsion Laboratories, she spent 1999 to 2003 at OU as an instructor of aerospace mechanical engineering and as assistant dean of the College of Engineering. She also was brought on board to guide a strategic plan.

But the aerospace engineering program at OU first had to survive. Student interest had dropped, and the university planned to cancel the program. There was an outcry, especially from OU aerospace alumni, she said, so they struck a deal to keep the program alive. Shirley was given the task of updating the curriculum to make it more relevant for today’s students. She earned her own bachelor’s degree in aerospace mechanical engineering from OU in 1965, so Shirley was glad to infuse the program with new knowledge and energy.

Tom Landers, dean of OU’s College of Engineering, said students were drawn to Shirley’s aerospace accomplishments and her motivating and energetic personality. Shirley remains an active alumna, both as a financial benefactor and a supporter, including helping to coordinate the College of Engineering’s centennial celebration last year.

“She’s a real idea person and brings a lot of vitality to the college through her ideas and participation,” Landers said. “I also team taught a course with her, Systems Engineering, and she brings not just technical experience but also fascinating experience to the classroom that the students enjoy.”

Shirley wrote a book about her work on the Mars Exploration Program, titled Managing Martians. She’s now revising and indexing her follow-up book about management, Managing Creativity. For information about her activities, visit .

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Center researchers to focus on biofuel and fossil fuel applications using revolutionary concept

October 26, 2010

Contact: Jana Smith, Director
Strategic Communications for R&D
University of Oklahoma

Norman, Okla.—A University of Oklahoma research team recently received a $2.9 million grant from the Department of Energy Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research to establish a new Center for Interfacial Reaction Engineering, which will focus on applications of biofuel and fossil fuel upgrading using a revolutionary concept developed at OU.

Daniel Resasco, OU professor in the School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, will direct activities of the multi-institutional project, which includes team members Jeffrey Harwell and Friederike Jentoft, OU professors with expertise in colloidal chemistry and catalysis; Sanwu Wang, University of Tulsa professor with expertise in theoretical modeling of interfaces; and Khaled Gasem, Oklahoma State University professor with expertise in thermodynamic properties.

According to Resasco, tiny nanoparticles are used in the process to accelerate reactions at the interface of water and oil. Solid nanoparticles converted into catalysts that work in both water and oil have been called ‘Janus’ particles like the mythological, two-faced Roman god. Nanoparticles that are attracted to water and oil seek out water-oil interfaces. The product of the reaction is an emulsion used to convert biomass in the refinery process or in enhanced oil recovery processes.

More important, these catalysts can be recovered even from complex mixtures, such as those that result when biomass products are upgraded into fuels. Clearly, there are many other applications for this group of solid catalysts that can stabilize water-oil emulsions and catalyze reactions at the liquid-liquid interface. The chemical and pharmaceutical industries should find these catalysts useful in new drug development.

An article on this subject was published in the Jan. 1, 2010, issue of the scientific journal Science at

Oklahoma astronaut William Pogue to visit National Weather Center in Norman

Published: October 26, 2010

NORMAN — Oklahoma native William Pogue, an astronaut who spent 84 days orbiting Earth aboard Skylab, will give a free public chat at 2 p.m. Wednesday at the National Weather Center, 120 David L. Boren Blvd., on University of Oklahoma's south research campus.

Pogue will share his experiences as an astronaut and answer questions. Pogue was command module pilot for Skylab 4, the third and final manned flight to the Skylab space station. He spent 84 days orbiting Earth and made two spacewalks that totaled 13 hours, 31 minutes.

He also will present a $10,000 Astronaut Scholarship to OU senior Heather Hollen during his visit. The Astronaut Scholarship is the nation's largest scholarship awarded to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Panel highlights water, sanitation shortages

OU Daily
By Elizabeth Oberg/Contributing Writer
Monday, October 18, 2010

A panel of five jurors participated in OU’s WaTER Symposium to discuss key issues about solving the world’s major water problems on Friday.

Estimating more than 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation, the World Health Organization also estimates more than 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.

The WaTER Center’s mission is “to help solve drinking water and sanitation challenges for impoverished regions in developing countries through innovative teaching and research initiatives,” according to its brochure.

“The only way to tackle a tough problem is to jump in and take it on one thing at a time. It can be done but it’s going to take all of us to contribute to the cause,” said Randy Kolar, associative director of the WaTER Center.

Most of the symposium focused on the five panelists addressing the issues of the global water and sanitation crisis and the work they do, along with discussing the lack of access to safe drinking water for developing countries, poor sanitation and poor hygiene.

“Our job is to advocate and spread the word to the people about this problem,” said panelist Robert Adamski, vice president of Municipal Infrastructure Programs at Gannett Fleming.

Diana Maritza Betancourt, who works for Water for the People in Honduras, said her work focuses on changing hygiene behavior in schools and at home.

“I strongly believe what we are doing now is trying to make a generational change, they [the kids] will replicate these habits,” Betancourt said. “Changing hygiene behavior requires long term intervention and larger regional alliance.”

Another panelist, Jean McCluskey, former UNICEF manager, said it is important to “listen, consult and understand. Give men, women and children their space to voice their opinions.”

Each juror agreed that advocacy and sustainability were important factors in making a change.

“Water holds the key to life on this planet,” OU Provost Nancy Megler said.

According to the World Health Organization, 2 million people die every year due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene.

Also during the symposium, the jurors choose a recipient for the 2011 Water Prize.

“We developed the prize to recognize someone whose work in this area is excellent and longstanding in developing countries,” Kolar said.

This year the panel chose Ben Fawcett, an environmental health engineer, lecturer and researcher who has worked on emergency humanitarian projects across Latin America, Asia and Africa and co-authored the book “The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis,” which addresses the hygienic states of developing countries.

Nominating Fawcett was panelist James Mihelcic, civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of South Florida, who said he hopes to create a revolution by distributing Fawcett’s book to campuses across the country and outside the U.S.

“This book is the battle flag for global sanitation,” Mihelcic said.

Awarded every odd-numbered year, the prize was first awarded in 2009 to Dr. Stephen P. Luby, who works for the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh. He is the head of the Programme on Infectious Diseases and Vaccine Sciences and the head of the Bangladesh Center for Disease Control.

The winner of the prize is chosen by the jurors from one of the individuals each juror nominates.

“The ripple effect of the water center and its prize will be palpable and it will get bigger and do more,” said Robert Con Davis, former dean of the Honors College and Executive Director of World Literature Today and Professor of literature.

The prize will be awarded at the Water Conference Oct. 24 25, 2011.

What this means

» A child dies approximately every 15 seconds because of lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

» The poorest people in underdeveloped countries often pay the highest cost for safe drinking water.

» In the poorest countries in the world, one out of five children dies from a preventable water disease.

» Only a limited amount of fresh water is available (about 3 percent relative to total amount).

Friday, September 3, 2010

You are Invited to an Open House - ExxonMobil Lawrence G. Rawl Engineering Practice Facility

You are invited to the College of Engineering’s Open House of the ExxonMobil Lawrence G. Rawl Engineering Practice Facility. Come see for yourself what all the excitement is about!

WHEN: Saturday, September 18
10:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Student team members will be on hand to show off their projects and answer questions including Sooner Racing, Baja Off-Road, Sooner Powered Vehicle and the Naval Electric Drag Boat, to name a few.

By Tara Malone

The ExxonMobil Lawrence G . Rawl Engineering Practice Facility may only have opened earlier this year, but this state-of-the-art structure is already playing a key role in the lives of University of Oklahoma engineering students.

Named for former Exxon chairman Lawrence G. Rawl, the building features five first-floor practice bays that allow students to gain hands-on experience in engineering. Four of the bays are open to the second floor. One of the one-story bays is designed to provide students with an enclosed space for projects that may generate dirt. The bays are adjacent to a machine shop that provides new and well-maintained tools and equipment needed for student projects.

In addition, two bench labs in the building cater to students with smaller projects, such as electronic circuit boards and small robots, along with student locker space for project storage. Collaborative spaces on both floors are available 24/7. These spaces overlook the open practice bays, giving students a bird’s-eye view of engineering projects in progress.

“The ExxonMobil Lawrence G. Rawl Engineering Practice Facility is a window for the community to see the vitality and value of engineering; to inspire, recruit and develop talent so vital to the future prosperity and security of our nation,” says OU College of Engineering Dean Tom Landers.

The building’s practice bays serve as a workshop for nationally competitive groups, such as the Sooner Racing Team, composed primarily of mechanical engineering students who use the outstanding resources of the building to design, construct and test their entries for annual racing competitions. This past summer, the team sped to glory, taking second place at the Formula SAE West competition in California and eighth place overall at the Formula Student competition in Hockenheim, Germany. At this writing, they are ranked first in the U.S. and fifth in the world, out of 450 teams.

Other teams housed in the EPF include the Concrete Canoe, Human Powered Vehicle, Mini-Baja and Design Build Fly, to name a few. Students work side-by-side in work bays that foster collaboration amongst the diverse engineering disciplines. An information technology area provides the finest in computer aid analysis, design and visual simulation tools.

The facility also played host to incoming OU freshmen at last summer’s AT&T HEADS UP Summer Bridge Program, where students were introduced to the collegiate lifestyle and engineering projects, and provided with tips on how to become proficient in such core engineering areas as calculus and chemistry. The camp lasted three weeks, with students staying on the OU Norman campus for the duration.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Leadership Seminar Series - So Now You're an Engineer!

Engineering Women in Leadership Seminar Series

Freda Webb

Friday, September 10, 2010
Presentation: 11:00 am – Noon
followed by
Lunch & Discussion: Noon – 1:00 pm
ExxonMobil Lawrence G. Rawl Engineering Practice Facility, Room 200

Limited seating available, so RSVP early to
Deadline for RSVPs is by Monday, September 6th, before midnight!

Freda Webb, P.E., B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, University of Oklahoma, 1979, M.S. in Petroleum Engineering, University of Southern California, 1997. Freda began her oil and gas career in 1977 working for Cities Service in the Oklahoma City Field as a roustabout. Cities Service was acquired by OXY and Freda stayed with OXY until 1998, working in Oklahoma City, Okla., Tulsa, Okla., Bakersfield, Calif., and Houston, Texas. She then joined Southwestern Energy in Houston and moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2001. In 2002, she joined a long-time friend at Greenstar Energy as Vice President of Acquisitions until 2004. Since then, she has owned her own companies acquiring oil and gas minerals and working as a contract reservoir engineer.

So Now You’re An Engineer: You have studied for as long as you can remember. You know your math, you know your science and you know your equations. ARE YOU READY FOR WHAT’S NEXT??? What is your niche??? What are you going to “BE” when you grow up??? Manager, Technical Guru, Married, Single, Mother?? Are you going to live in one place the rest of your life or travel the world? Your life has just begun. You have chosen a degree that can provide you income, challenges and rewards, make the most of it; it is time to have FUN!!!

Sponsored by College of Engineering, Williams Companies, Inc., and the OU Society of Women Engineers!

Tiffany D. Smith, M.Ed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sooners race toward new competition

Spencer Popp/The Daily

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fresh off a summer of competition in California and Germany, the Sooner Racing team is gearing up for another year atop the national rankings of the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers.

The team builds a new car to race in the summer competitions throughout each school year, team captain Thomas Ingram said.

Ingram, mechanical engineering junior, said the car is like a miniature race car.

“We are limited to motorcycle engines, so we have to design everything around the engine and size it all proportionally,” he said.

Ingram said the team is in the design phase, with plans to finish research and other necessary tests by November.

The car will be completed to make test runs in the Lloyd Noble Center parking lot by April, he said.

“We design all the vehicle dynamics, engine packaging, a full [computer aided design] model and get all of our components of what we want done designed,” Ingram said. “We do all the research at the beginning of fall semester.”

New ideas
Plans for this year’s car are still being discussed, but Ingram said changes are coming.

“We have lots of crazy ideas that we are going to be implementing this year that are somewhat radical,” he said. “It’s never been done by any other team.

“We’re just going show up to competition and roll out this car that nobody’s ever seen.”

When asked about plans for this year’s car, former team captain and design engineer David Collins said some exciting things are on the horizon.

“Four hundred-fifty schools worldwide have never done what we are going to do this year with the car,” Collins said. “It’s a completely new concept.”

Multiple skills involved
The competition isn’t limited to racing, Ingram said.

“The second aspect to it is the static events, design, cost and business presentation,” he said. “We have industry leaders come out and judge our car.”

Team adviser Zahed Sidiqque, aeronautics and mechanical engineering associate professor, said there is a lot of effort that goes in to producing a successful racing team.

“I think it’s a great program,” Siddique said. “Students learn from it, and since they run it, it’s almost like running a company. It’s good practice for the future.”

For more information about Sooner Racing, e-mail Siddique at

Monday, August 30, 2010

Student researches a treatment

By Doris Wedge
The Norman Transcript
August 30, 2010

NORMAN — An e-mail to an instructor at Michigan Technological University opened a door to an opportunity for Brent Van Rite on the OU campus, an opportunity which will lead to a doctorate and might play a big role in the treatment of solid tumor cancers.

Van Rite was nearing graduation from MTU with a degree in bio-medical engineering when his path took an unexpected turn.

“I was on the wait list at two pharmacy schools,” Van Rite recalls, and he had nothing to lose in responding to the e-mail from Dr. Roger Harrison at the University of Oklahoma.

The professor of chemical, biological and materials engineering was looking for a student who would be interested in entering a doctoral program. Harrison had a “carrot” to offer the right applicant: the chance to work with the professor as a graduate assistant in his research project looking for a breakthrough in the treatment of solid tumor cancers.

Van Rite had taken a course that had touched on drug delivery in the body, “and it was very interesting to me,” said the young man, who describes himself as “always interested in science and math.”

His response to Harrison resulted in an invitation to visit the OU campus. By the end of the visit, in spring 2008, Harrison had offered Van Rite the chance to study and work with him in his research funded through a contract with the Department of Defense.

Ensconced in a lab in a lower level of Sarkeys Energy Center, his desk is his “office.” His world as a graduate assistant is centered in three labs, including one in Oklahoma City. “I am here seven days a week,” Van Rite said.

It is there that his work focuses on utilizing enzymes to react with a non-toxic pro-drug, which can be localized in a tumor. Once in the tumor, they hypothesize, the pro-drug will be converted to a toxic drug.

“The difference with this approach is that the drug would treat only the tumor,” he explained. “Whereas, chemotherapy kills healthy cells, as well as the malignant cells.”

This has enormous implications for any solid tumor form of cancer, but their research is focused on breast cancer.

His work thus far has been “in vitro” testing, meaning testing outside a living organism. The next phase is to work with lab mice, testing that is called “in vivo.” In a lab at the OU Health Sciences Center, he will induce breast cancer in the mice and then see if the treatment of the tumors works.

“I will work with mice that do not have an immune system, so they have to be kept in a sterile environment,” Van Rite said.

The labs on the Norman campus don’t provide that kind of environment for the mice, he said. All of the testing using mice has the approval of the IACUC, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

Assuming that the treatment will work, further tests will determine the level of toxicity needed to produce positive results.

While other graduate assistants have worked on the project before him, flaws were found which required him to start from scratch, work that he has documented in a paper he and Dr. Harrison hope will soon be published.

“All of the in vitro data set to be published, I have done myself,” he said.

Van Rite grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and found Oklahoma to be “polar opposite” in many respects, “but it was a welcome change.” Raised in the family-owned construction business, he said his parents have worked hard to see their three children get college educations. His twin sister, Brittany, soon will finish her juris doctorate and another sister, Tiffany, has a bachelor’s degree and works in the health insurance industry.

Remarking about working in the lab seven days a week, Van Rite said, “I got my work ethic from my Dad,” who started the construction business when he was just out of high school. But the younger Van Rite finds time occasionally to golf at the Westwood or Jimmie Austin courses, playing with a single digit handicap.

Van Rite is halfway through his doctoral studies and has the research project to complete, so he anticipates being on the OU campus for at least another two years. After that, he might pursue post-doctorate work.

“I would like more experience, more hands-on research,” Van Rite said.

He is likely to eventually find a position related to the pharmacy education that he is planning on when he got his bachelor’s degree, this time in research for a pharmaceutical company.

“I would like to stay in cancer research. Cancer is taking lives left and right. With our research, we are going for a treatment. Looking for a cure would be a whole other ballgame,” Van Rite said.

As for now, he can only wonder where the results of the research he is involved in may lead him.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Quake testing planned at Miami, OK

University of Oklahoma researchers Muralee Muraleetharan, left, and Charbel Khoury discuss an earthquake study in Miami, Okla. Gary Crow, for The Oklahoman

Published: August 19, 2010
MIAMI, OK — Pipes that represent bridge pilings will be "shaken" next month in northeast Oklahoma during an earthquake simulation project designed to improve bridge building in quake-prone areas.

University of Oklahoma researchers Muralee Muraleetharan, left, and Charbel Khoury discuss an earthquake study in Miami, Okla. Gary Crow, for The Oklahoman

Ottawa County is not prone to earthquakes, but the soft clay soil found there is similar to the soil in San Francisco — and in areas of Missouri and Arkansas affected by the New Madrid fault line — said K.K. "Muralee" Muraleetharan, a University of Oklahoma researcher who is leading the five-university study.

A "hydraulic actuator" will be used to shake giant pipes buried near the Neosho River Bridge on the south side of Miami, Muraleetharan said. Sometimes referred to as a portable shaker, the 500-pound, 6-foot-long piece of equipment will simulate earthquake motion, he said.

Miami residents will not feel any vibrations during the hourlong test scheduled for mid-September, he said.

"Whatever we learn in Miami can be used in San Francisco and New Madrid," Muraleetharan said of the four-year, $1.2 million study funded by a National Science Foundation grant.

The project got under way Monday with preparations for a crane to push two steel pipes, about a foot in diameter each, into the soil near the base of the bridge. The pipes, called pile foundations, are used to support bridges and buildings that cannot be supported by soft soils, he said.

Miami City Manager Huey Long said there will be no danger to the bridge.

"There is no danger of hurting the bridge or hurting the roads," he said.

Both pipes with be submerged 21 feet into the earth, Muraleetharan said, one into a clay-cement mixture soil and the other in regular clay soil, to be compared.

Researchers are developing a technique called "cement deep-soil mixing" which strengthens clay soil to improve the performance of the bridge pilings, he said. The study will help determine how much cement should be added to the soil.

Iowa State University, San Jose State University, Clemson University, UCLA, Grand River Dam Authority, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the city of Miami, Earth Mechanics Inc. and Advanced GEOSolutions Inc. are identified by a sign at the site as being partners in the study.

Major earthquakes on the New Madrid fault were felt across thousands of square miles in 1811 and 1812.

There is a 7 to 10 percent chance in the next 50 years that a major earthquake could occur like those in 1811-1812, which likely had magnitudes of between 7.5 and 8.0, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

There is a 25 to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6.0 or greater earthquake, it said.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Future female engineers bond before classes

Meredith Moriak/The Daily
Thursday, August 19, 2010

More than two dozen freshmen and transfer students participate in event to promote female engineering careers. Growing up around airplanes and getting her pilots license early in life convinced freshman Katie Gayon aerospace engineering is the major for her.

On Wednesday, the Keller, Texas, native wore a bracelet and a necklace adorning airplane charms as she played icebreakers, heard speakers and talked with upperclassmen engineers at the inaugural College of Engineering Women’s Welcome.

Gayon and 28 other women entering OU’s engineering program participated in a two-day event open to all female freshmen and transfer students. Attendees heard from multiple women engineers, participated in team building activities, mingled with college faculty and staff and talked with upperclassmen about everything from study abroad opportunities to career fairs, as well as buying books.

Event co-chair Tiffany Smith said there is a large need for women’s support programs in the engineering field. Currently, women represent 20 percent of the college’s undergraduate population. In the future, the college hopes women will represent 50 percent of the undergraduate population, said Smith, College of Engineering staff member.

OU alumna Lou Pritchett spoke about the impact female engineers have made. The 1982, the electrical engineering graduate was active in the Society of Women Engineers at OU and now does information technology for a winery in California.

“Women have a lot to offer engineering,” Pritchett said. “They have different dynamics and skills, and I think the industry is just starting to recognize those skills.”

Event volunteer and aerospace engineering junior Carly Young believes women have the potential to be better engineers than men.

As the only female in her aerospace classes, the Society of Women Engineers president was thrilled to learn about the welcome event and helped coordinate volunteers.

“I don’t want someone to give up because they’re the only girl,” Young said. “They can do just as well as everyone else and I want them to avoid what I ran into.”

The event was sponsored by Williams Companies, a Tulsa-based energy company and attendees paid a $25 registration fee.

Winds of renewable change with insight from Michael Bergey

Daily Sparks Tribune
By Cortney Maddock
August 11, 2010

RENO — A slight breeze blew through northern Nevada on Tuesday morning, but by mid-afternoon the breeze had grown into gusts. Those invisible forces of nature are what NV Energy is hoping to harness with the help of area homeowners, business owners and land owners.

During the Nevada Wind Conference held Tuesday sponsored by NV Energy, renewable energy resources and projects — such as wind turbine installations — were discussed in terms of affordability and sustainability.

Karl Walquist, a spokesperson for NV Energy, said more than 90 people attended the event seeking information about wind power. He added that the power company has seen an increase in the number of people wanting to install solar panels or wind turbines.

“There has been an increase in applications from year to year, especially in solar, since the program started in 2004,” Walquist said about the RenewableGenerations program, which helps offset the cost of installa tion for homeowners, small business, schools and other public buildings.

In 2004, the program had four SolarGenerations projects completed. In 2009, 194 projects were completed by people who applied to the program.

There has also been an increase in small wind projects, Walquist said, as well as hydroelectric renewable energy applications.

In six years, RenewableGenerations has helped Nevada residents install 595 solar projects, 36 wind projects and three hydro projects with the help of more than $15 million in rebates.

“For hydro, there aren’t as many sources, but there are areas in Nevada, this is for ranchers and farmers, if they have water on their property they can harness it for power,” Walquist said, adding that there is a new hydroelectric project outside of Austin in southern Nevada.

Although Wednesday’s conference focused on wind power, Larry Burton, program director for RenewableGenerations, said sola r and wind are both viable resources in northern Nevada.

“If (people) have a good resource, wind might be cheaper to install,” Burton said. “But in a state that has 300 days of sun a year, it is easier to predict solar.”

For smaller projects, Walquist suggested looking into rebate programs to make installation more affordable.

“Smaller projects are homeowners, business or public buildings or schools — they are all eligible for rebates,” Walquist said.

Unlike large wind projects, such as a more than 150-megawatt project in Ely and a 200-megawatt project in Jackpot, Walquist said small projects usually generate enough energy to sustain an individual building but not the community.

Speaking at the conference was Michael Bergey, president of Bergey Windpower Co., who has worked in the renewable energy field for about 35 years.

“The last real job I had was pizza-making in college,” Bergey joked. When I got started, we were in the middle of an energy crisis in the 1970s. Jimmy Carter was president and offered tax credits for wind projects.”

Bergey started building wind systems at the University of Oklahoma.

“I built wind systems and fell in love with it,” Bergey said. “It’s hard work but very rewarding work.”

Although the technology has come a long way, Bergey said the typical design of a wind turbine has stayed relatively the same throughout the years.

“The turbines built today are not your grandfather’s turbine,” Bergey said. “The technology has changed, there is less noise. We have done a lot of work to take the noise out of the system.”

For people installing wind systems in residential areas or on businesses or public buildings, Bergey also said the size of the system is significantly smaller than what people are used to seeing for larger projects. He said the blade would probably only span about 20 to 25 feet.

“There are the national strategic interests of getting off foreign oil and there are the foreign interests of limiting CO2 output,” Bergey said. “But to the individual, they can subsidize their power bill for almost nothing.”

Anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of a project’s cost can be covered by rebates, Bergey said, adding that looking into the local power company’s rebate program is always a good place to start.

“I’d have people start with our website,” Walquist agreed. “We have a listing for these programs and we also have a list of contractors.”

Before starting their own renewable energy project, Bergey said people should take smaller strides toward conservation.

“Our recommendation is to do all you can to conserve energy,” Bergey said, suggesting things such as checking your home’s insulation as well as appliances and windows to save energy. “Then look at small wind and solar to take care of the rest.”

For more information about NV Energy’s renewable programs, visit

Interactive testing: Center studies effect of wireless technology on medical devices

By April Wilkerson
April is a reporter in Oklahoma City. Contact her at 278-2849.
Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Hank Grant, Ph.D., director of The Wireless EMC Center at the University of Oklahoma, demonstrates a testing process for medical devices and wireless technology. (Maike Sabolich)

NORMAN – The number of cell phones, wireless systems and emitters operating at any given moment is staggering.
But it’s the interaction of those devices – such as a cell phone frequency with a piece of medical equipment or a defibrillator – that will keep a University of Oklahoma center busy for years to come.

The Center for the Study of Wireless Electromagnetic Compatibility at OU was formed in 1994 at the request of the cell phone industry, said Hank Grant, Ph.D., director of the center and OU industrial engineering professor. Cell phone technology was just taking off and there were early problems between cell phones and pacemakers. In the years since, the center’s work has spanned automotives, gas stations and aviation, and it is again largely focused on the effect of wireless technology on medical devices.

The technological world is changing fast, and companies want to know the effect of their devices before they ever hit the market, Grant said. Fortunately, any problems are usually easily remedied with a bit of redesign, he said.

“We’re in a wireless world – when you think about the number of devices operating simultaneously, it’s incredible,” Grant said. “And we haven’t even seen the beginning yet. Devices will only get more intelligent and more linked together.”

Early work

The Wireless EMC Center’s first study was the effect of all known cell phones on all pacemakers on the market. At that time, it was possible for a pacemaker to mistake a cell phone signal for a heartbeat, Grant said.

“When you turn your phone on, it sends a pulse a second for a few seconds to connect with the base stations, and pacemakers sometimes mistook that for a heartbeat and tried to pace it,” he said. “Fortunately, through some electronics, we were able to filter all that radiation from a cell phone, and pacemakers today are perfectly safe.”

After the pacemaker study, the center looked at defibrillators and hearing aids. Hearing aids are a particular challenge because they are much less regulated than other medical devices, and their quality varies according to cost, Grant said. The center developed a standard of testing and rating system that helps people find a hearing aid that works for them and matches the cell phone they use.

Because of the way electronics are arranged in hearing aids, they can pick up extraneous radio-frequency transmissions, Grant said. A custom-made hearing aid is geared toward the shape of a person’s ear, so its electronics fit in the space available.

“That orientation affects their susceptibility, so it makes it a much harder problem,” Grant said. “But generally speaking, you can find a match between most hearing aids and some type of cell phone.”

The center also studied what has become urban legend – that cell phone use while pumping gas can cause a spark and start a fire or explosion. OU researchers found no documented cases of that happening, Grant said, and he describes its likelihood as less than all members of the Beatles reuniting for a tour. That doesn’t stop gas company legal counsels from putting warning signs on gas pumps, but Grant doesn’t have any worries.

The perfect storm would have to exist – a pool of gas with the right mix of oxygen, a phone in transmission being dropped, and the battery coming out and discharging to create a spark.

“You’re more likely to get a spark from sliding across the seat and getting static electricity,” he said. “It’s one of those scientific things where it’s extremely difficult to prove that it would never happen. But we can say that it’s really remote.”

Ongoing studies

The Wireless EMC Center performs two kinds of studies – one focused on individual testing of a device’s possible interactions with wireless technology, and the other focused on industry-wide studies of all models of the same product.

The center also looks at all types of wireless technologies, such as the security panels shoppers often walk through at the doorway of a store, metal detectors in airports, and radio-frequency identification tags that can be used to find inventory in a large warehouse.

Grant said their next major area of focus is “wireless coexistence,” which looks at the simultaneous effect of several emission technologies. In addition, the medical community is increasing its use of telemetry devices that transmit information about a patient at home back to the doctor. In the future, medical devices will increasingly use technology for the repair of prosthetic devices and parts of the nervous system.

The work of the Wireless EMC Center is usually done early in the design phase of a product, and 99.9 percent of the time, any problems are resolvable, Grant said.

Center funding and researchers

The center performs about $400,000 worth of research every year, Grant said, and he hopes to grow it to $1.5 million in the next couple of years. Even though most of the money comes directly from companies, the center’s staff is careful to keep those industries at arm’s length to remain unbiased, he said.

“They don’t dictate the details of the study,” he said. “As long as we’re working on problems of significance to industry, they’re satisfied, but they don’t tell us what to do. Otherwise, it would question our credibility.”

Other OU faculty members join Grant on the work of the center, along with engineering students.

That allows students an opportunity to work on today’s technologies and possible problems, said Tom Landers, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering.

“It’s a very relevant applied research field where they can put their learning to work to deal with real-world problems,” he said.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Prehistoric reverse engineering brings dinosaur bones to life

When paleontologists from the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History decided to display the bones of a juvenile apatosaurus, they ran into a problem. They only had 15 percent of the bones required to form a display skeleton of the dinosaur. It is not unusual to find so few bones, but it does pose a challenge. In order to create molds of the complete dinosaur, each individual bone needed to be sculpted from clay by referencing similar bones, images of bones, and domain knowledge. This can be a very time consuming project that requires many volunteers and scientists.

Fortunately the University of Oklahoma paleontologists met with the engineers at the Center for Shape Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (SEAM) at the university. SEAM was founded by OU School of Industrial Engineering faculty members Shivakumar Raman, an IIE fellow, and Binil Starly to provide research and development solutions to the aerospace maintenance, repair, and overhaul and biomedical industries, among others. By utilizing the tools and skills of SEAM, more efficient and precise methods of modeling the juvenile apatosaurus were developed.

Three different methods for creating virtual three-dimensional models of the bones were employed. When the virtual solid models were created, they were then printed in plastic, using a rapid prototyper, or a 3-D printer. Once printed, the paleontologists will take the plastic bones and will create the molds that will go on display in the museum.

The first step in creating a virtual dinosaur was to make the computer models of the existing juvenile bones. SEAM used a FARO Arm: Platinum Laser Scanner to collect millions of points in the shape of the bones. These points were connected through triangulation into a solid model and edited using GeoMagic Studio software. From there the model was imported into ProEngineer where it was further edited and sent to the 3-D printer. With this new method, if only the right tibia was found, the left tibia can easily be created by simply mirroring the model of the right. This greatly deceases the time spent reconstructing the dinosaur.

The second technique used to reverse engineer the juvenile apatosaurus was creating a model of the adult apatosaurus on display at the museum. SEAM engineers did this using the FARO Photon Laser Scanner. Unlike the FARO arm, the photon scanner collects the points of large-scale objects.

In less than a week, the engineers had scanned the entire dinosaur, which is about 25 feet tall and 45 feet long. Hundreds of the missing bones were captured in a single set of scans. Because the photon scanner is so unobtrusive, the museum exhibit remained open during the scanning. In GeoMagic, individual bones were isolated, transformed into solid models and scaled to the correct anatomical dimensions. Instead of sculpting bones from scratch, many of the missing juvenile bones were derived easily from the adult bones.

SEAM used a third method for the bones of the juvenile apatosaurus that were slightly different from the adult bones. Once models from these bones were created, they were brought into software called FreeForm Modeling. In FreeForm Modeling, the virtual model takes on the characteristics of being made out of clay. The model is then sculpted into the correct shape using a Phantom Desktop haptics tool. This pen-like tool applies pressure to your hand as you “sculpt” the clay computer model. Although this method requires the same skill and time to sculpt as a physical model, it easily can be edited, scaled or multiplied in the computer. Another application for the haptics tool helped with the bones that could not be easily accessed and scanned on the adult dinosaur. These bones could be sculpted from a lump of virtual clay.

Each method allows for all the 292 juvenile apatosaurus bones to be reconstructed more efficiently, in less time and with fewer volunteers. The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and SEAM collaboration allowed for a unique application of the reverse engineering tool and processes.

“While SEAM is ultimately interested in collaborative relationships with government and industry organizations, this project has provided our faculty and students with a new perspective on the capabilities of our equipment in a field where this technology is not common,” Starly said.

About SEAM

SEAM emphasizes research and development efforts toward the sustainment of large-scale systems with particular interest in the needs of the aerospace MRO industry, as it is geographically located where much of the nation’s aerospace MRO operations reside. SEAM works with commercial, government and academic organizations to provide robust shape engineering and advanced manufacturing services, including end-to-end reverse engineering and re-engineering capabilities, metrology and geometric conformance, computer-aided design, rapid prototyping and manufacturing, reconfigurable manufacturing, nondestructive inspection and material characterization capabilities and prognostics research.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

OU Grads ring NYSE opening bell

Two University of Oklahoma graduates took center stage at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) today to ring the Opening Bell that signifies the start of trading. J. Mike Stice and Robert S. Purgason, both Chemical Engineering graduates at OU, rang the opening bell in celebration of the successful completion of Chesapeake Midstream Partners’ (NYSE: CHKM) recent initial public offering. Mike serves as CEO and Bob is COO of the newly formed company. Chesapeake Midstream Partners is a 50/50 joint venture with Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE: CHK) and Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP). Headquartered in Oklahoma City, Chesapeake Midstream Partners owns, operates, develops and acquires natural gas gathering systems and other midstream energy assets.

J. Mike Stice is pictured in the center in the red tie; Robert S. Purgason is standing to the left.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Summer Engineering Academy organized by OU College of Engineering

Published: July 15, 2010

NORMAN — Forty-eight high school students and 11 teachers explored space this week from the University of Oklahoma campus, and it was free of charge.

OU: Katrina Hammonds puts data from an experiment into a computer as high school students participate in an engineering workshop at the University of Oklahoma's Devon Energy Hall in Norman. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

The Summer Engineering Academy, a National Science Foundation education program organized locally by the OU College of Engineering, was Monday through Wednesday, primarily in the various laboratories of the new Devon Energy Hall.

Students participated in workshops relating to aerospace engineering, solar energy and the greenhouse effect. The first part for teachers only was last week at OU. Teachers then applied their new methods for teaching science, math and engineering this week with the students.

Students gained hands-on learning experiences with the teachers' help in aerodynamics and flight controls, links between solar power and electrical engineering, and with atmospheric gases and the greenhouse effect in relation to environmental engineering.

They use what they learn in science and math classes to discover creative ways toward solving engineering and environmental problems.

The annual program's cost is free for both students and teachers, who had to apply to participate.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

University of Oklahoma Researcher Developing Novel Therapy for Alzheimer's Disease

Contact: Jana Smith, Director of
Strategic Communications for R&D
University of Oklahoma
405-325-1322 or

Norman, Okla.—A University of Oklahoma researcher is developing a novel therapy for Alzheimer’s disease using “biopharmaceutical proteases” to attack the toxic plaque that builds up in the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient—an approach that he predicts will be lower in cost and higher in effectiveness than current therapies.

Peter J. Heinzelman, an associate professor in the Department of Chemical, Biological and Mechanical Engineering, recently received a $75,000 grant from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to pursue this research, which includes the development of a library of biopharmaceutical proteases for public use.

Heinzelman’s previous research led to the idea that proteases, or proteins that degrade other proteins, would be more effective as a therapy for Alzheimer’s disease than existing approaches. The brain is surrounded by a barrier of cells that allows glucose to pass through but is resistant to drug molecules and therapeutic proteins.

By virtue of a single protease molecule able to degrade thousands of the plaque molecules, these proteases should be capable of delivering a catalytic benefit even if only small amounts pass through the cell barrier surrounding the brain.

“Digestive enzymes are promiscuous,” says Heinzelman. “We can create catalytic proteases that attack the beta-amyloid plaque that cause neurons in the brain to die. Current therapies use amyloid-binding antibodies that are created by the body or injected to get rid of the plaque, but these antibodies used to attack the problematic Abeta molecules can only bind one time and clear one Abeta molecule, then they are done.”

The delivery system is problematic, too. Heinzelman suggests an approach that addresses both therapeutic efficacy and delivery. He wants to re-engineer an existing technology to link proteases with “ferrying” antibodies that can encourage passage of the proteases from the circulation side across the brain cell barrier and into the brain tissue. This approach has been demonstrated in the laboratory.

Another aspect of the OCAST grant is the development of a library of proteases that will be made freely available and could become a powerful tool for the scientific community. Heinzelman is working with researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation on this grant.

For more information about Peter J. Heinzelman, his research interests and projects, visit his website at

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Backel Adds Third Academic All-America Honor

Big 12 javelin champion is Oklahoma's first ever three-time Academic All-American.

June 24, 2010

NORMAN, Okla. — Amy Backel placed her name on a distinctive list in Oklahoma athletics history Thursday. So distinctive, Backel is the only name on the list as she became Oklahoma’s first ever, male or female, three-time ESPN The Magazine’s Academic All-American as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). The announcement comes just under two weeks after Backel, a civil engineering major, earned her second All-America honor in the javelin, an event she captured the 2010 Big 12 Championship in.

The Academic All-America honor is the latest in a long line of accomplishments for Backel, both on and off the competitive field. The senior from Dillsburg, Pa., was named the 2010 OU College of Engineering Outstanding Senior in Civil Engineering and has been named to the Academic All-Big 12 first team all four years of her athletic career, carrying a 4.0 grade point average for three of the four years. In her collegiate career, Backel, who is beginning work on her master’s degree in engineering, recorded a B just once.

Backel owns six All-Big 12 honors and was also recently named a recipient of the Big 12’s Dr. Prentice Gautt Postgraduate Scholarship. Backel is also the first ever female athlete at OU to earn three ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District honors.

A three-time NCAA Championship qualifier, Backel officially closes out her collegiate career Friday morning as she competes in the javelin at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

OU engineering project bridges classroom to real world

OU civil engineering students weather delays to build a 270-foot pedestrian bridge and pier at Norman's Morgan Park, OU's largest student-led project of its kind.

By James S. Tyree | | Published: June 1, 2010

NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma's school year ended two weeks ago, but several civil engineering students continued working on a project this week that will enhance a Norman neighborhood.

University of Oklahoma civil engineering students build a 270-foot pedestrian bridge and fishing pier at Morgan Park on Thursday.

The students completed a 270-foot pedestrian bridge and fishing pier over a large pond at William Morgan Park on Thursday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. The park is in a neighborhood just east of 36th Avenue NW and north of Robinson Street.

Chris Ramseyer, an OU assistant professor of civil engineering, said the project's planning and construction was unprecedented for the students involved.

"This is the largest project the student organizations have ever attempted,” he said of the American Society of Civil Engineering and Architectural Engineering Institute chapters.

Ramseyer said the wheelchair-accessible bridge will extend a walking trail from about 200 yards to a full mile. One area, shaped like an open square, will serve as an outdoor classroom where OU associate professor Bob Nairn can teach about wetlands and aquatic life.

The process started in October when city officials asked engineering students and faculty to replace the deck and make a few repairs to the 10-year-old bridge. But upon further examination, they found the entire structure needed to be replaced.

The city of Norman agreed to provide about $8,000 in supplies while students supplied the labor and expertise with help from faculty adviser Ramseyer.

"And of course, I have bought an awful lot of pizza,” Ramseyer said.

Rain and winter weather delayed the project for months, but the group has worked each weekday since May 17, the Monday after commencement, to complete the structure.

A student team led by Michael Van Zandt and Chris Davis designed a structure that should last much longer and be more stable than the previous one. The deck is supported by about three dozen wood frames driven into the mud until a bearing bar reached the bottom of the pond.

Ramseyer said the new base is stronger and more environmentally friendly than if built on concrete.

"I'm a guy who gets to jump in the water,” said David Frank, a master's student in tall waders. "This is the most hands-on project, for sure. Course work can't teach you communication, and that's what you get out here because you work on a team — plus it's fun.”

Cassie Gonzales, a junior from Flower Mound, Texas, pointed to another innovation — metal tension rods installed across the 6-foot width every few feet.

They are accompanied by three small boards, and together the rods and boards distribute weight evenly by stiffening the deck and making its individual parts work as one.

"That's something I've learned here,” she said, "along with working with power tools for cutting and drilling.”

Other team members are Patrick Crowder, Carlos Rincon, Jesse Roswurm and Seth Roswurm.

Monday, May 24, 2010

View video of Dr. David Sabatini, University of Oklahoma 2010 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in College/University Teaching.

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence announced today the winners of its Oklahoma Medal for Excellence awards honoring five outstanding educators in Oklahoma’s public schools.

The prestigious awards were presented at the foundation’s 24th annual Academic Awards Banquet on May 22 at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center.

Each of the five winners received a $5,000 cash prize and a glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture, designed by the late Oklahoma artist Ron Roberts and produced by Jim Triffo of Oklahoma City. Medals are awarded annually to outstanding Oklahoma teachers, one each at the elementary, secondary, community college/regional university and research university levels. In addition, the foundation will present a Medal for Excellence to an exceptional administrator from the elementary or secondary level.

This year’s recipients of the Medals for Excellence in Teaching are: Diane Reece, Bokoshe Elementary School, BOKOSHE; elementary level; Dr. Randy M. Baker, Putnam City North High School, OKLAHOMA CITY, secondary level; Audrey Schmitz, instructor of visual art, Northern Oklahoma College, TONKAWA, regional university/community college level; and Dr. David A. Sabatini, professor of civil engineering and environmental science at the University of Oklahoma, NORMAN, research university level. The recipient of the Medal for Excellence in elementary/secondary administration is Terry E. Davidson, superintendent of Comanche Public Schools, COMANCHE.

“We know that education is the best investment Oklahoma can make in its future,” said David L. Boren, founder and chairman of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a non-profit organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in the state’s public schools. “By honoring these exceptional educators, we are sending a message that Oklahomans deeply value excellence in public schools and the professionals who have given so much of themselves to enrich the lives of our children.”

Dr. David A. Sabatini, who holds the David Ross Boyd Professorship and Sun Oil Company Chair at the OU School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, has been named winner of the 2010 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching at a Research University. An internationally recognized researcher and environmental scientist, Sabatini has also received numerous teaching honors for his ability to help students understand complex engineering concepts and to apply them to real-world problems. “My goal as a teacher is to help mold the lives of my students, motivating them to set their sights high and inspiring them to make the world a better place,” Sabitini said. Not only does Sabatini teach upper-level and graduate courses, but he also teaches introductory engineering courses and involves freshmen in actual design projects to help them gain excitement for engineering. In the classroom, Sabatini uses analogies and common every-day examples to explain difficult concepts. He uses hands-on demonstrations, peer mentoring and role playing to accommodate the variety of learning styles. Sabatini strives to develop relationships with each of his students. He regularly invites students to participate in extracurricular discussion groups on books such as “Lincoln on Leadership” to help students gain important career and life skills. Sabatini also seeks to shape global citizens through service learning opportunities. As the director of OU’s WaTER (Water Technologies for Emerging Regions) Center, Sabatini has engaged OU students in engineering projects that have brought safe drinking water and improved sanitation to villages in Asia, Africa and Central America. “Professor Sabatini has been, without a doubt, the best teacher I have ever had, and he continues to serve as my role model as a teacher, as a researcher and as a person,” wrote former student Edgar Acosta.

OFE News Release
February 28, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pure Intentions

Published March 11, 2010
Dionne Buxton/The Daily

Give a Bolivian family a pack of water — $5. Clean their entire irrigation system from 800 years of silver contamination — priceless.

The OU Engineers Without Borders chapter is planning a trip to Potosi, Bolivia, to help improve the region’s water system, said Robert Knox, adviser to the organization.

“Engineers Without Borders is a nationwide organization,” Knox said. “Our purpose is to take knowledge to these under-developed counties, and help with problems of water and sanitation.”

Engineers Without Borders is an organization that partners with disadvantaged communities to improve quality of life, while at the same time developing internationally responsible engineering students.

“We apply engineering skills first hand to innovative projects,” said Diana Lucero, architectural engineering junior and organization president.

The group will travel to Bolivia to install open limestone channels, which will remove iron and aluminum from the system. Engineers create a natural filtration system by adding particles of limestone to an existing flow of water. Limestone channels have been successfully applied in the United States, and the engineers hope to bring this low-cost and low-impact solution to Potosi.

“Previous attempts by the Bolivian citizens to clean the water have failed because they are one of the poorest places in the world,” said Christopher Breazile, civil engineering junior. “We have studied their water, and we believe this will work.”

Potosi’s water is particularly difficult because of the presence of silver mining in the area going back to the Incas in the 1400s. The city was a major center for Spanish silver mining during the Colonial Era. The seepage from the mines into the water supply has been blamed as the cause of malnutrition, anemia and high rates of infant mortality in the area.

“Our goal is to help the community improve water quality in Rio Juckucha (the area’s water source), restoring it as a useful water resource safe for agricultural applications,” Lucero said.

This project started because an OU doctoral student went to Bolivia to do research. While he was there he realized the magnitude of the water contamination problem that was caused by the mine discharge. When he got back to the U.S he got in touch with Engineers Without Borders.

Lucero said the proposed plan involves three major areas. The OU engineering students are taking the lead on installing the limestone channels, while others focus on mine discharge treatment for working and abandoned mines.

The OU chapter of Engineers Without Borders participates in many activities throughout the year. Its most recent project was in Guatemala, where members spent winter break building a school for an impoverished community. The organization also will spend its spring break in New Orleans working on the ongoing process of recovering after Hurricane Katrina.

“EWB’s mission statement is to partner with disadvantaged communities and that is not limited to developing countries,” Lucero said.

The group is currently taking donations for the travel cost to Bolivia. The Oklahoma Rotary has funded $74,000, the cost of the materials needed to complete this project. The organization has also hosted fundraisers like a stuffed-potato bar earlier this month. (Potatoes were originally domesticated by the native people of Peru.)

“The Students of OU can really help by raising awareness of the water problems in other countries,” Breazile said.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

OU, ExxonMobil dedicate engineering building

Published February 16, 2010
Casey Wilson/The Daily

Representatives from OU and ExxonMobil dedicated the ExxonMobil Lawrence G. Rawl Engineering Practice Facility on Monday.

OU President David Boren said the new facility will only reach its full potential with students’ innovation and inventions.

“As great as the physical faculties may be, it will not greatly add to the benefit of our society; it’s what goes on inside it,” Boren said. “It’s the vitality of what goes on inside it.”

Donald Humphreys, senior vice president and treasurer of ExxonMobil Corporation, said the company has a long history of a great partnership with OU, and it relies on engineers for almost every part of its business.

“Today, I think it’s clear that our highly technological society depends enormously on good engineering and good engineers for prosperity and progress,” Humphreys said.

With a facility that is the first of its kind, OU is serious about preparing its graduates for the worldwide stage, he said.

Getting a head start in preparing all students for the global community, the facility also will host school-age children to teach them about engineering, Humphreys said.

“We must do a better job of preparing our children for the 21st century,” he said.

Tom Landers, dean of the OU College of Engineering, said the practice facility is a place where students can experience a learning community.

“Here, students will learn to invent, to create jobs and enhance our quality of life,” Landers said.

The university will provide the students at the practice facility with mentors and tools, and it also will challenge student teams to compete at the championship level, he said.

Nicholas Goree, petroleum engineering senior, said he is excited for the possibilities the building will provide for all engineering students.

Goree said everything in the building is geared toward hands-on engineering, including the large project bay that will allow students to work on project designs and implementations.

“All of these factors combine to make the Lawrence G. Rawl Practice Facility a one of a kind building,” Goree said.

Carrie Quirk, University College freshman, said she is studying industrial engineering, and the practice facility will help every engineering student at OU achieve his or her goals.

As an industrial engineer, Quirk said, she will not have any trouble finding a job after college.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll even work for ExxonMobil in honor of the donation that makes this practice facility possible,” she said.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bethany Gerber - Miss Kansas USA 2010

On April 18th, the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering will be watching as one of their own attempts to capture the crown in this year’s Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bethany Gerber, an undergraduate industrial engineering student at OU, will represent her hometown of Winfield, Kansas in the Miss USA pageant. After being named Miss Kansas USA 2010, she decided to take a semester off in preparation for the April pageant and to spend some time in giving back to her community and state.

“I was Sooner born and Sooner bred,” said Bethany Gerber when asked why she chose the University of Oklahoma. Another reason for attending OU is her strong connection to family, which just so happens to consist of many OU alums. She is very close to her brother, Beau, who is also a student at OU. In fact, she cites him as one of the main reasons she came to Norman. Although her brother lives in Norman and attends OU, most of her classmates from high school went to colleges in Kansas.

Bethany has enjoyed her time at the University of Oklahoma so far. “Dr. Shehab and her staff have always gone above and beyond to make me feel comfortable enough to come to them with any situation,” Bethany relayed. She is very pleased by the level of understanding they have demonstrated while she juggles to balance school, extracurricular activities and visiting home out-of-state.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Local computer company to generate new jobs

Written by Audrey Harris
The Oklahoma Daily
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Norman computer company’s expansion will create about 75 new jobs, possibly opening doors for OU students in the future.

Hitachi Computer Products will expand its facility by more than 200,000 square feet, according to a Hitachi press release.

Gary Riggs, Hitachi spokesman, said the expansion will cost around $15 million.

According to the release, Hitachi cited the Norman Economic Development Coalition and the State of Oklahoma as major factors in the expansion. Hitachi stated its support through the Oklahoma Economic Development Pooled Finance Program made the project possible.

“[Hitachi] told us the potential the program had and we were able to help them figure out how to do it using the programs that were available in the state,” said Don Wood, Norman Economic Development Coalition executive director.

Wood said the majority of jobs created by the expansion will be in warehouse distribution.

“There are college graduates working out of Hitachi in different areas and there may be jobs in the future targeted at college graduates,” Wood said. “I think the initial jobs probably wouldn’t be college graduate jobs but there is a potential that there will be some jobs in the future.”

Bette Scott, Career Services director, said Hitachi regularly hires OU students — primarily computer science or engineering majors.

Hitachi’s president, George Wilson, was hired as a graduating student from OU. The company also tries to hire at least three interns in the technical field, Riggs said.

Danielle Sherwood, mechanical engineering senior, said she has considered working for Hitachi. As a teacher’s assistant for an engineering orientation class, Sherwood took a group of freshmen to tour the company.

“The students absolutely loved it,” Sherwood stated in an e-mail. “It gave them a greater insight to the real engineering world and what possible majors would best suit them for this field.”

Sherwood said she thinks Hitachi is on the list of potential employers for every OU engineering student.

“I’ve definitely considered it but, unfortunately, my career path is headed towards the oil and gas industry,” Sherwood said.

'Three Cups of Tea' author coming to OU

Published January 27, 2010
Norman Transcript

'Three Cups of Tea' author coming to OU

Greg Mortenson, best-selling author of "Three Cups of Tea," will give a free public lecture 4 p.m. April 21 at the Lloyd Noble Center, hosted by the OU College of Engineering to mark the school's 100th anniversary.

For more than 16 years, Mortenson and the nonprofit organization he heads, Central Asia Institute, have worked to promote peace by establishing more than 130 schools --which all include girls-- in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In the book, Mortenson, along with journalist David Oliver Relin, recount Mortenson's failed attempt to climb K2, the world's second highest mountain located in Pakistan, to establish schools in some of the most remote areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Here, Mortenson combined his knowledge of third-world, developing countries, to replace bombs with pencils and bring peace through education to these remote communities.

Mortenson was born in Minnesota in 1957 and grew up on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany during the Cold War, where he received the Army Commendation Medal.

Mortenson later graduated from the University of South Dakota and pursued graduate studies in neurophysiology.

Attendance to the event is free but space is limited. To reserve tickets, visit

For updates on the event, go to

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Devon Energy Hall to be dedicated Jan. 26

Originally Published By:
The Oklahoma Daily on Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Devon Energy Hall, the new engineering facility on the OU campus, will be dedicated in a public ceremony scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Speakers will include OU President David Boren; Larry Nichols, chairman, co-founder and CEO of Devon Energy Corp.; OU College of Engineering Dean Tom Landers; Devon intern and petroleum engineering senior Adela Porter; and Outstanding Senior Man and industrial engineering student David Stubsten.

“By partnering with the University of Oklahoma to build Devon Energy Hall, we are investing in the future engineers of our state,” Nichols said in a statement released by OU Public Affairs. “This facility will provide the tools necessary to develop a pipeline of engineers to help our industry produce the natural gas and oil needed to fuel our nation.”

Construction costs of the 103,000-square-foot facility are estimated at $30 million.

“Devon Energy is one of the most constructive corporate citizens in the state and the Nichols family ranks among the most generous donors to the university in its history,” Boren said in the statement. “The university is deeply grateful for the role played by Devon and the Nichols family in providing enhanced educational opportunities for OU students. The building symbolizes their important role in the life of our state.”

For more information about the ceremony or for accommodations on the basis of disability, call the Office of Special Events at (405) 325-3784.