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 zsiddique@ou.edu.

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 www.nvenergy.com.

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.