College of Engineering Category
Shack-A-Thon is in its 23rd year at NC State, and the Caldwell Fellows are as eager as ever to continue their efforts to raise money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity’s week-long event.
Starting today, the shacks in the Brickyard will temporarily house participating Caldwell Fellows and members of other organizations. The Caldwell Fellows, an intensive leadership-development program, surpassed their goal of $4,000 in donations last year, raising more than $5,500 by the week’s end.
Rajan Singh, a sophomore in biomedical engineering, says the group hopes to raise at least $5,000 again this year. “Last year’s goal was pretty conservative, and we crushed it,” he says. “We want to do the same thing this year.”
The Caldwell Fellows are one of the smaller organizations participating in Shack-A-Thon, but they still managed a second-place finish last year behind the Poole College of Management, which raised more than $6,600 in donations.
Singh credits alumni support for the group’s success in the event, and he expects alumni donations to increase this year.
“I think it’s a real testament to our alumni network for a 75-person organization to do so well,” he says. “I was in the shack last year and a couple graduates stopped by because they knew we would be out there. That was cool to see.”
In addition to raising money through in-person and online donations, the group has raffled off donated gift cards and coupons from local restaurants and bars. In recent years, the group has done one complete raffle that encompasses both students and alumni.
But this year, Singh says they’ll have several different raffles. “This year we wanted to separate the raffles and prizes between students and alumni. I think that will increase involvement with both groups,” he says.
Shack-A-Thon rules dictate that each organization’s shack must be manned by at least one person at all times, and the shack cannot exceed 12-by-12 feet.
Singh, who is heading the raffle, says he’s looking forward to spending as much time as he can in the shack. “It’s just a great way to hang out and catch up with friends,” he says. “In the end, it’s a good cause supported by a bunch of like-minded organizations.”
Click here to contribute to Habitat for Humanity through the Caldwell Fellows.
The Caldwell Fellows program is an intensive leadership-development scholarship program that was created by the Alumni Association to honor the legacy of Chancellor John T. Caldwell.
Noise from airplanes can be a nuisance. If you’ve ever lived near an airport, you can relate to the frustration of hearing the endless noise produced by one aircraft after another.
Thomas Brooks has dedicated his career to researching ways to reduce such noise, as well as ways to reduce fuel consumption and emissions produced by planes and other aircraft. A possible breakthrough came last year when he and a team of fellow NASA engineers built a model aircraft that he says could be the blueprint for future aircraft designs.
For Brooks, who has worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center for 40 years since graduating from NC State in 1968, the goal is to analyze equations and create experiments in the hopes of reducing ground noise and fuel emissions produced by aircraft.
Brooks and his team built what Brooks refers to as a “hybrid wing body” design. “The hybrid body design is much more compact than your traditional aircraft,” he says.
Brooks hopes the compact design will reduce fuel emissions and noise produced at ground level. The experiment was conducted in a wind tunnel and, according to Brooks, more than 90 microphones were used to detect noise generated by the model.
On August 14, he spent the day in Washington, D.C., where he received a Distinguished Service Medal from NASA. The medal is awarded to employees who display outstanding service in their respective fields of study.
Brooks’ work has been in the field of aeroacoustics, which is the study of noise generated by airflow. Brooks, a Charlotte native, says the most enjoyable part of his work is matching the equations with the models he builds.
“Our work can, at times, be very hard and abstract,” he says. “But all of a sudden, you come up with an equation that matches your experiments. That’s what keeps you going.”
The tricky part, for Brooks and his team, is detecting the source of noise using a cluster of microphones. Brooks says challenges like these are difficult, but rewarding at the same time.
“The hardest part is that you run into technical challenges and your experiment doesn’t go like you want it to,” he says. “They can be fun and give you a headache at the same time.”
While earning his Ph.D. at NC State, Brooks got his start in aeroacoustics through NASA’s Fellowship Program, which is designed to facilitate research in the fields of science and mathematics.
After he completed the fellowship program, Brooks says he was eager to make his own impact. “When I came here, there were some early giants in the world of aeroacoustics,” he says. “There were so many advancements in those days, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Brooks is a member and technical fellow of the American Helicopter Society, and is an editor of the International Journal of Aeroacoustics.
– Will Watkins
Head into any CVS or Walgreens and you should be able to locate the blue hue of a pill organizer that helps you remind yourself of what day and time you need to take any medicine.
But Michael Ramirez and his Greenville, S.C.,-based company, ApotheSource Inc., have introduced Pill Fill, new app that doesn’t just tell you what to take. It tells you why to take it and more, arming a patient with as much medical information as possible.
“A patient can do a lot if they have their information,” says Ramirez, who graduated from NC State in 2005 with a computer science degree.”‘Patient engagement’ is the new buzz word.”
Pill Fill, which went live early in 2014, allows a person to house all of their medication information under one umbrella. After a user downloads the app, he or she enters their pharmacy and insurance information. About 30 seconds later, Ramirez says, the app is able to provide them with a list of all their medications and information about those medications provided by National Institute of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services. A user might get an alert where the prescription might be available at a lower cost and directions to a specific pharmacy.
The point is medication management and empowering a patient with the knowledge about what those medications can do in the context of all the others he or she is taking. Ramirez, whose wife is a pharmacist, adds the information goes beyond that provided by other pharmacy apps that provide general information.
“You’re going to get the doctor who prescribed it and the pharmacy that dispensed it,” he says of Pill Fill’s functions. “But you’re also going to get where they went to medical school and what they’re prescribing to other patients.”
Ramirez, 31, says the app may soon have the capability to reveal a doctor’s procedure cost relative to other providers in your area. Because of all the sensitive information, Ramirez says he spends most of his time focusing on the app’s security model so that a patient’s privacy is protected during every use.
So far, Pill Fill has gained a couple thousand users and has pulled in more than 10,000 prescriptions, despite some push back from chain pharmacies — because the app sometimes recommends community pharmacies. And while Ramirez says other organizations have attempted to compile such information in the past, they’ve done it for hospitals, not individuals.
“There’s nothing like this that has been done before,” he says.
Too often, talk around the water cooler on Mondays involves this wronged football fan griping about that blown call by the refs. (Luckily, that’s not the case for NC State fans today, as the Wolfpack rolled South Florida on Saturday, 49-17).
But technology that NC State researchers have introduced may help to mute some of the grumbling and Monday-morning officiating.
David Ricketts, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Dan Stancil, department head for NC State’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, are part of a team that developed the Magneto-Track System. It’s technology that helps television viewers track the football with their eyes when they’re watching a game.
“It’s not meant to replace the chain, but to enhance the viewing experience,” Ricketts says. “When the quarterback hikes the ball, you don’t see it. The next time you see it, someone’s running it or the quarterback is throwing it.”
The research began at the Disney Research Lab at Carnegie Mellon University, where Ricketts and Stancil taught before coming to NC State. Ricketts says they were trying to do some research with sports visualization, and since Disney owned ESPN, it made sense that the team turned to football.
How Magneto-Track works is pretty easy to understand. There is an antenna inside of the football, wrapped around the belly of the ball. Also enclosed under the pigskin is a transmitter, which can be picked up by various antennae set up around the field.
The exchange is predicated on a magnetic field, not radio waves. “Why that is important is that radio waves, like with cell phones, get blocked by people,” Ricketts says. “But with magnetic fields, it goes right through. We can figure out where the ball is.”
An antenna and a transmitter are placed inside the football under the pigskin, making the tracking possible.
Ricketts believes the technology is ideal for situations where the ball goes missing at the bottom of a pile on a goal-line stand or at the bottom of a rugby scrum. In fact, he adds, one of the leading rugby manufacturers in Europe has expressed interest in adding the technology to their balls.
But as of now, there’s not any discussions between the researchers and the NCAA or the NFL to introduce Magneto-Track to their respective games.
Lane Burt grew up in a family of engineers. Burt’s father and grandfather are both engineers, and both graduated from NC State. So it’s only natural that Burt, who graduated from NC State in 2005 with a degree in mechanical engineering, is pursuing a career in engineering.
And in February, part of that career will be spent in Australia collaborating with researchers overseas about the evolution of policies in energy efficiency and climate change.
Burt is the 2014 recipient of the Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Climate Change and Clean Energy. The Fulbright program, sponsored by Australian and U.S. governments, provides short-term research grants to professionals in a variety of academic fields to pursue collaborative projects with eligible institutions overseas. Burt will study at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
Burt’s passion for energy efficiency research originated from his family’s construction business in Huntersville, N.C., where he worked during summer months in college.
“It’s hard to understand how much energy is actually wasted,” he says. “I’ve always had a conservationist streak, but I really noticed it when I worked in construction. It didn’t seem like a big enough issue for building managers to keep their buildings running properly.”
As a result, Burt later created Ember Strategies, a startup firm that works with clients to help them adapt to energy saving standards and products. Before he founded Ember Strategies in 2013, Burt worked in Washington, D.C., as the policy director for the U.S. Green Building Council and on the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Burt says working in Washington was one of the most valuable experiences he’s had as an engineer. “Policy makers really valued my technical knowledge and experience,” he says. “They don’t hear from engineers a lot.”
One of the biggest challenges Burt says he faces is getting people to recognize the concrete, daily changes they need to make in order to save energy, and, in turn, save money.
“Whether it’s at Ember or not, everyone is for saving money,” he says. “But when you dig deeper, it takes real effort and time.”
– Will Watkins
At the beginning, Eddie and Elizabeth Yountz were simply making plans to attend a family wedding in Los Angeles.
But as long as they were traveling so far west — the Yountz’ live in Lake Lure, N.C., — Eddie wondered if they could include a stop to see the Grand Canyon, a destination he had long wanted to visit.
And then Elizabeth figured, if we’re stopping to see the Grand Canyon, why not squeeze in a few more stops along the way? Maybe, she thought, she could fulfill one of her longtime goals — to visit each of the 50 states.
“The next thing I knew, we had a round-the-country trip planned,” says Eddie, a retired engineer who graduated from NC State in 1975. “She a Type A, so it’s hard to keep her down.”
Indeed, the Yountzes decided to use the family wedding as an occasion to see much of the country, including a stop in each of the seven states that Elizabeth had yet to visit. They planned out a three-week road trip that took them from Lake Lure to Los Angeles and back — with stops at attractions ranging from Mount Rushmore in South Dakota to Graceland in Memphis, Tenn.
They saw the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park, the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and the the Hoover Dam on their way to Las Vegas. They rafted the Snake River, visited the mill in Utah where Kevin Bacon filmed a dance scene for Footloose, and took in the acclaimed fountain show at the Bellagio on the Las Vegas strip. They drove down California’s Highway 1 along the coast of the Pacific Ocean and along parts of legendary Route 66 through Arizona. They saw the Hearst Castle in California, Mark Twain’s house in Missouri and visited the Wall Drug Store in South Dakota.
And, yes, they spent a couple of days visiting the Grand Canyon.
“I really enjoyed the Grand Canyon,” Eddie says. “Pictures don’t do it justice. You just don’t realize how beautiful it is until you get there.”
But then Eddie — and Elizabeth — say they enjoyed just about everything about the trip. Sure, they liked some stops more than others (Eddie wasn’t a fan of the traffic in California, and Elizabeth says the Four Corners Monument at the point where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet was underwhelming), but the trip was full of highlights for both of them (Eddie enjoyed Monument Valley in Arizona and got a kick out of Cadillac Ranch in Texas, while Elizabeth found South Dakota to be stunningly beautiful, was amazed by Devils Tower in Wyoming and found an “absolutely stunning” wood and glass chapel in Garvan Memorial Gardens in Arkansas).
They had fun watching folks try (and fail) to earn a free meal at The Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo by eating a 72 ounce steak, a shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, salad and roll in one hour. They were not tempted, though, to try it themselves. “No, we’re old folks, we can’t eat like that,” says Elizabeth.
They both gained a greater appreciation for the diversity and scale of the United States.
“I think everybody needs to do this trip,” Eddie says. “You can’t appreciate this country until you do that. It’s just an absolutely beautiful, beautiful country.”
Or, as Elizabeth says, “It floors you, just the expanse of some of these places. In Iowa, you see all the cornfields and windmills. Then you get in the desert — lower Utah is stunning. Just gorgeous.”
The Big Texan Steak Ranch
Eddie and Elizabeth found a unique way to share their trip with others — one that fellow Wolfpack fans should particularly enjoy. You see, Eddie and Elizabeth are season-ticket holders for NC State football games, often traveling to away games as well (even though Elizabeth is a graduate of the University of South Carolina). So being lovers of all things NC State, they decided to bring a bit of the Wolfpack with them on their travels.
They made the trip in red Jeep, with a large block-S on the spare tire cover on the back of the car. And at each significant stop, they found a way to feature their car and its Wolfpack logo in a photo showing their location.
“I said, ‘We ought to take pictures of this thing traveling across the country,’” recalls Eddie. “She said, ‘We ought to take the logo on a vacation.’”
They had a few challenges along the way — it was tough to find a place to park near the Arch in St. Louis and the steady stream of traffic around Graceland made it difficult to hop out and get a photo — but Elizabeth says it usually wasn’t difficult to find a good spot to park the car for most of their photos. They had to drive through several Los Angeles neighborhoods, though, before they found a suitable angle to get a good shot of the car and the Hollywood sign, and an executive with the San Diego Chargers tried to shoo them away as the team (and NC State alum Philip Rivers) was coming in for practice at the team’s facility.
“We had a lot of fun taking the photos of the car,” Elizabeth says. “He would jump out and take the picture. We had to grab our moment.”
(To see all of the photos — and they are worth taking the time to do so — visit our Facebook page to see the gallery from the Yountz’ epic summer road trip.)
By now, you probably suspect that the Yountz’ are seasoned travelers, with Elizabeth having visited all 50 states now. (Eddie still has seven to go to finish his list.) But they say that’s not the case, that they had never taken a trip remotely like this before.
They say that a couple of simple ground rules (and a GPS that told them when and where to turn) were critical to the success of the trip. As they were pulling out of their driveway on July 20 to begin their trip — one that wouldn’t bring them back home until Aug. 13 — they stopped briefly to stress that back-seat driving would not be allowed. They both took turns driving — Elizabeth typically took the morning shift and Eddie drove in the afternoons — and agreed that they would only speak up if the driver was tailgating or the passenger saw a potential disaster unfolding.
“We’ve been married for 34 years,” Elizabeth says. “We weren’t sure how we were going to be able to handle being enclosed together that long. But we came back feeling closer. We had a ball.”
Eddie agrees: “We got along great, the best we’ve gotten along in years. I think everybody needs to do this trip.”
Bryan Hum got an unexpected treat not long after he sat down to dinner last night at a restaurant in Albany, New York. And it appears he has a fellow NC State alumnus to thank for the pleasant surprise.
Hum, a 2013 NC State graduate who majored in international studies and political science, is in his second year of law school at Albany Law School. After attending a Student Bar Association meeting last night, Hum and a friend walked to a favorite restaurant for dinner. They had just ordered drinks, when a waitress walked up and handed Hum a hand-written note and a $20 bill. She said another diner had noticed Hum’s red NC State t-shirt, and asked her to give him the note and the money.
“Apply this to your bill! God bless!” read the the note. It was signed “Brian,” with no last name, and indicated that “Brian” was a 1996 NC State graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Hum’s initial reaction was confusion. He wondered if it came from someone he knew, particularly since it was signed “Brian,” a different spelling of Hum’s first name. He asked the waitress to point the customer out, but she said that he had given her the note and the money as he was leaving. “He saw your shirt and wanted you to apply this to your bill,” the waitress told Hum.
Hum thought briefly about going outside to try to track down his benefactor, but quickly realized that he appreciated the anonymous nature of the gift from a fellow Wolfpacker.
“I was just astounded by it,” Hum said this morning. “It really touched me. It made me want to pay it forward myself.”
It also reinforced the strong feelings that Hum already had for NC State and its alumni — something that he quickly shared with friends via social media. “We talk about the great alumni we have, and this just proves it,” he said. “We look out for each other. It’s just a great connection we all have.”
Hum says he only spent $15 of the gift on his dinner, and plans to use the remaining $5 to pay it forward – hopefully sometime later today or this weekend.
Mital Patel always knew he wanted to pursue a career in technology. But the 2005 computer science graduate didn’t know that idea would lead him to a different field of study.
Patel helps local businesses from the ground up at his boutique business law firm in Raleigh. He says he first gained an interest in law while he was on an Alternative Service Break trip to Ecuador during his time at NC State.
“We were doing a reflection on the trip, and I realized I wanted to do something to help other people,” Patel says.
Patel, 30, decided that that “something” was to help small businesses with legal advice, so he attended Elon University School of Law, where he graduated in 2009. Shortly after graduating, he started his law firm, Triangle Business Law, in Raleigh.
Patel jokes that he didn’t want to be too far away from NC State football and basketball. But his main reason for not straying was the technology and startup business he saw growing in Raleigh.
That caused him to want to get involved with the entrepreneurship side of business law. “We always want to be entrepreneurial with the law firm itself,” Patel says. “Providing legal services to growing companies is very different than dealing with companies that aren’t entrepreneurial.”
Some of the areas which Triangle Business Law focuses on are contract review and negotiation, incorporation, and intellectual property law. Having a background in technology has been extremely helpful for Patel when it comes to his clients who are technology or software companies because it allows him to fully understand what they are trying to do with their business.
“We really try to provide the full spectrum for the small companies that just got started yesterday to clients we have that are multinational corporations and have offices all across the world,” Patel says.
Business law is not the only way that Patel is involved in entrepreurship. He is also a leader in Startup North Carolina and many Startup Weekends, seminars that can help new businesses grow, throughout the state. He has traveled all over the world to present at entrepreneurship workshops and even presented on entrepreneurship at the White House in 2013.
“We learned a lot about the way the rest of the world is approaching entrepreneurship,” Patel says, “and we learned a lot of unique points that we took back with us to North Carolina to apply those principles at home and make the best community we can.”
Even if you don’t find math the most engaging topic, it’s hard not to appreciate how NC State alumnus Robert Allison uses math to make interactive maps.
With the recent mystery of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, many people have taken an interest in airplane disappearances. Allison has been interested in airplanes since he was a child because his father was a pilot in the Navy.
Allison, who earned his undergraduate (1987), masters (1990) and doctoral (1996) degrees at NC State, has worked with visual analytics at SAS for over 20 years. He recently developed an interactive map that shows the major unexplained airplane disappearances since 1948.
“NC State is where I learned how to do the graphics and use the SAS software and mapping techniques,” says Allison, who lives in Cary, N.C.
The interactive map he made was based off of one he found while researching the missing airplane on Bloomberg’s website. By downloading a spreadsheet of data from the Aviation Safety Network and using the SAS programming language, he created a new map that contained much more information than the original.
“My goal was just to find a map that I like and make a better version of it,” Allison says. “It’s easy to understand and easy to use.”
Allison focuses on making simple graphics that maximize efficiency. With the map he has created of missing airplanes, researchers could see if there are any trends of which airports these airplanes took off from or make more detailed data sets related to pilot experience or other factors that could have led to these lost airplanes.
“We could potentially utilize some of SAS’ analytic capabilities to help find the missing plane,” he says. “For example, they found 122 pieces of debris in satellite photos that might be from the missing plane – we could use SAS/OR (Operations Research) to optimize the order in which they investigate these 122 pieces, so that they do that in the shortest distance & time.”
Making maps is not new for Allison, but he still enjoys making them for their interactivity and potential for data analysis. Allison has created hundreds of maps and graphics, including maps that track the flu epidemic in California, show the debris from a space shuttle explosion and track iPhone versus Android phone usage by state.
“I’m currently working on a map to try to show all the known information about the missing Flight 370 on one single map,” Allison says.
These maps have the potential to help solve the mystery behind missing airplanes. Allison hopes that future efforts will be made with SAS technology to further this research and find out why some of these disappearances happen.
Sometimes, it turns out, a baseball field can be too perfect. Or so Kevin Clark found out when he tried to help a group of African-American and Latino students at at an inner-city school in Washington, D.C., learn math and science by playing educational video games.
Clark, director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University, had provided the kids with a template for a video game that used baseball to teach math and science. But something was wrong with Clark’s virtual baseball field.
“They asked me who plays baseball in a place like this?” Clark recalls. “The template I provided them was perfect. It was nicely groomed. It was a suburban field. But for them, it wasn’t their reality. They were empowered to change it, to make it their own.”
Clark, who earned an undergraduate degree (1989) and master’s degree (1991) in computer science at NC State, had no problem accepting that his baseball field didn’t make sense to the students. What mattered to Clark was that the students could use the game’s template to change the field to fit their own reality — and hopefully gain some ownership of the technology in the process.
“The primary issue is changing their mind from one of thinking, ‘You have to use what you’re handed,’ to ‘You can create what you need and make it so it solves your problems,’” he says.
That approach, part of Clark’s larger effort to attract a more diverse group of students to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines, was recognized by the White House earlier this month when Clark was named a Champion of Change.
“I was surprised,” Clark says. “I was humbled and appreciative. I like to go quietly about my business. But it has definitely shined the light on the type of work I do, which is good.”
As a professor in George Mason’s College of Education and Human Development, Clark oversees the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity. Clark describes the center as a virtual organization that connects a half dozen professors at George Mason with faculty around the country involved in efforts to use technology to get more minority children and girls interested in STEM disciplines, areas that have traditionally been dominated by white males.
The center is involved in research and outreach, looking for opportunities to increase access to STEM education. One of the center’s initiatives has been to create a national database of summer camps and after-school programs that focus on science and technology, making it easier for parents to find opportunities to expose their children to such programs.
At the center of much of what the center does is Clark’s belief that students need to become creators of technology, not just consumers of technology.
“I want to have students learn how to make stuff,” he says. “When you teach students how to build technology, they become in control of that technology. It’s a much more powerful approach.”