Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular these days. For the first three months of 2019, seven of the top-10 best-selling vehicles in the U.S. were either a pickup truck, an SUV, or a jeep. Carmakers predict that in the coming years, Americans will purchase more electric cars, especially electric pickup trucks and SUVs. Now that battery costs have plunged, pickups “should hit primetime over the next couple of years,” said MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan.
MechE alumna receives Flatiron School DC Data Science Fellowship
MechE alumna Nateé Johnson has been selected to receive a Flatiron School DC Data Science Fellowship. Flatiron School is an online and in-person program created in 2012 to “provide the skills, community, and immersive, outcomes-driven curriculum needed to launch careers in software engineering, data science, or UX/UI design.” After an extensive interview process involving a cultural interview, technical interview, and coding challenge, Johnson won her spot among the six percent of applicants accepted to the program.
Carnegie Mellon Racing wins the 2019 Formula SAE North championship
Carnegie Mellon Racing
Congratulations to the Carnegie Mellon Racing (CMR) team, who won the Formula SAE North championship this year! After their victory in 2018 Formula SAE Electric, our students once again stood out in this exhilarating international race. 19E, the proud challenger they designed and manufactured, is a fully electric Formula 1 style race car. CMR aims to stand at the forefront of electric vehicle race technology.
CMU-Africa has sent off 51 graduates to a journey of tackling social and economic issues on the continent. Receiving degrees in information technology or electrical and computer engineering, these students form the largest and most diverse group to date of CMU-Africa. Interim Dean Jonathan Cagan was quoted in the KT Press about the student projects in healthcare access, cybersecurity, big data, robotics, renewable energy, and agriculture, which will be critical in addressing the current global challenges. “These outstanding projects reflect the promise that entrepreneurship and technological development offer to both strengthen the economy and serve the needs of the continent,” said Cagan.
Wabtech purchases rights to students’ coupler design
Four students in a course taught by MechE’s Rahul Panat have had their design for an improved railroad coupler purchased by Wabtech, a major rail transport company headquartered in the Pittsburgh suburb of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. The Janney coupler is a commonly used coupler that was first patented in 1873, and the design has changed little since. The company provided $15,000 to students Wade Lacy, Michelle Kyin, Rahul Martinez, and Ryan Dubois to redesign the mechanism. After completing the project, the students sold exclusive rights for their design to Wabtech, which may now go on to patent the product.
The American Lung Association listed Pittsburgh among the 10 most polluted in the country. To get a better sense of the story, 90.5 WESA’s Liz Reid spoke with MechE Head Allen Robinson about Pittsburgh’s changing air quality.
College of Engineering names 2019 faculty award winners
- Philip L. Dowd Fellowship: Alan McGaughey, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
- Steven J. Fenves Award for Systems Research: Paulina Jaramillo, Professor, Engineering and Public Policy
- George Tallman Ladd Research Award: Jana Kainerstorfer, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering and Reeja Jayan, Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering
- David P. Casasent Outstanding Research Award: Carmel Majidi, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
- Benjamin Richard Teare Teaching Award: Jonathan Malen, Professor, Mechanical Engineering
- Service Award: Vijayakumar Bhagavatula, Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director, CMU Africa
A formal celebration will be held this fall at the Annual Faculty Meeting and Awards Ceremony.
Malen to develop thermoelectric semiconductor
MechE’s Jonathan Malen, along with Feng Xiong of the University of Pittsburgh, has received a $500,000 award from the National Science Foundation to develop a thermoelectric semiconductor capable of converting waste heat into energy.
MechE’s Allen Robinson was recently quoted by WESA about Pittsburgh’s ranking among the top 10 most polluted cities. Agreeing that Pittsburgh’s ranking does not tell the whole story, Robinson says that there are “hot spots” of poor air quality around highways and industrial facilities, but “it’s really hard if you’re measuring in a hot spot then assigning it to this broader area, it could be not representative.” Robinson and other Carnegie Mellon researchers have put sensors on vehicles to try and get a clearer picture of air quality in Pittsburgh.
Halilaj led workshop for high school girls
MechE’s Eni Halilaj partnered with the Perry Initiative, which runs outreach programs across the country to inspire women to become leaders in orthopaedic surgery and engineering, to host a hands-on workshop for 40 high school girls in March. Halilaj led the workshop with UPMC and Allegheny Health surgeons to help the girls learn about the intersection of engineering and orthopaedics.
MechE Ph.D. student Julian Whitman was recently featured in TechCrunch for his robotic arm that functions as a wearable extra limb. The arm hooks up to a backpack-style structure that the robot operator wears, and it helps users do jobs that require more than just two hands. According to Whitman, his project could support as many limbs “as a person could carry,” but usability decreases with the more limbs that get added. In the future, Whitman hopes to make the arms more autonomous.
Ritchie awarded CMLH Fellowship in Digital Health
MechE Ph.D. candidate Sandra Ritchie was awarded a Center for Machine Learning and Health Fellowship in Digital Health for her neural probe research. The fellowship will provide Ritchie with a year of stipend support, academic year tuition, and funding for research expenses. According to Ritchie, her research will “involve using a breakthrough additive manufacturing method consisting of 3D nanoparticle printing to construct the next generation brain-machine interfaces.”
Taylor featured on a Future Tech podcast
MechE’s Rebecca Taylor was featured in a recent Future Tech podcast about her research concerning DNA origami. In the podcast, Taylor describes how DNA origami works, explaining how she can program DNA-based electromechanical systems to follow certain pathways so that the systems essentially build themselves. DNA origami has a number of potential applications, including acting as molecular chaperones to facilitate a variety of functions within the body.
CMU students were finalists in Yale University’s 8th Annual Case Competition
Three Carnegie Mellon students, Justin Bobo (MechE), Reshmi Ghosh (CEE), and Shefali Rai (EST&P), competed as a team and were finalists in Yale University’s 8th Annual Case Competition in March. The students placed first in their group category over 18 other graduate-student teams and were named the most innovative team. According to Rai, the students’ solution “effectively overlapped engineering design with market segmentation and regulation,” combining their technical expertise with their professional work experience.
Congratulations to the College of Engineering’s 2019 recipients of the Celebration of Education Awards, which recognize individuals who exemplify excellence in teaching, advising, and mentoring.
- Rosalyn Abbott, BME (Wimmer Faculty Fellow)
- Peter Adams, CEE/EPP (Teaching Innovation Award)
- Phil Campbell, BME (Benjamin Richard Teare Teaching Award)
- Andrea Francioni Rooney, CEE (Academic Advising Award)
- Rebecca Taylor, MechE (Wimmer Faculty Fellow)
- Zachary Ulissi, ChemE (Wimmer Faculty Fellow)
Jeremy Michalek and his collaborators report that state zero-emission vehicle mandates trigger higher greenhouse gas emissions under federal fleet standards in a paper published in Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. Read the findings: "Alternative-fuel-vehicle policy interactions increase U.S. greenhouse gas emissions."
Baranowski and Suzuki accept summer internships with Covestro thanks to Rethink The Rink 2019
ChemE junior Joanna Baranowski and MechE junior Ian Suzuki will be interning with Covestro as an outcome of their participation in Rethink the Rink 2019. The summer internships are extremely competitive and will allow the students to fully realize the best elements of each solution proposed during the make-a-thon in a finished product intended to improve safety of ice hockey athletes.
A battery-powered plane would be quieter, cheaper, and cleaner than the current options. But for it to be feasible, batteries would need to be safer, pack in more energy, and discharge energy more quickly. MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan says that the kind of technological leap needed for an all-electric commercial plane will likely take decades. He adds that the safety challenge may be solved quicker, since researchers are “close to seeing something real [using ceramics] in two or three years.”
Presto on steel factory’s fire and pollution
In December 2018, a fire broke out at a steel factory in Clairton, resulting in pollution alerts going out to nearby communities. Pollution is already a significant problem in the area, with air quality regularly falling below EPA safety standards and asthma rates rising to nearly three times the national average. “That area is one of the areas with the highest air pollution in the entire country,” says MechE’s Albert Presto, an atmospheric pollution expert. “This fire has contributed to it being even worse.”
In a Quartz article, MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan discussed the discrepancy between the large battery size but low range of Audi’s first all-electric car, the new e-tron. The e-tron SUV has a 95 kWh battery but only 204 miles of range, while Tesla’s SUV (Model X) has a 75 kWh battery with 238 miles of range. According to Viswanathan’s calculations, “Something doesn’t add up.” He has made similar calculations for other products, like Tesla’s Semi and Jaguar’s I-Pace. He notes that because the e-tron is Audi’s first electric car, the company may be playing it safe while playing catch up to Tesla, who have had a head start in improving battery efficiency.
Zhang selected as USACM fellow
MechE’s Jessica Zhang has been selected as a Fellow of the U.S. Association for Computational Mechanics. Zhang, who has co-authored more than 160 publications, is being recognized for her outstanding contributions to the field. Her selection will be announced at the 15th U.S. National Congress on Computational Mechanics, held on July 28 - August 1 in Austin, Texas.
The Scott Institute recently selected awardees from the College of Engineering for its seventh round of seed grants for energy research. The eight recipients include CEE’s Matteo Pozzi; ChemE’s Ignacio Grossman; ECE’s James Bain and Gauri Joshi; MechE’s Alan McGaughey and Venkat Viswanthan; and EPP’s Katie Whitefoot and Granger Morgan. They will receive a combined total of half a million dollars to conduct research in key energy topics including emerging information technology, advances in high-performance materials, and natural gas solutions.
Zhang holds leadership roles in three prestigious research associations
MechE’s Jessica Zhang is playing an important leadership role in three prestigious research associations. She serves on the Executive Council of US Association for Computational Mechanics (USACM) as a Member-at-Large, and chairs USACM Technical Thrust Area of Isogeometric Analysis. She also serves on the General Council of International Association for Computational Mechanics (IACM). Besides these two prestigious associations of computational mechanics, Zhang is chairing the Executive Committee of Solid Modeling Association (SMA) where she oversees all SMA businesses, including SMA awards, selecting conference chairs and program chairs for the annual Symposium on Solid and Physical Modeling, and SMA website and mailing list. Recently she launched two new awards: SMA Fellows and SMA Young Investigator Award.
Rubin on NBC News
EPP/MechE’s Ed Rubin was interviewed by NBC News about fossil fuels, which are constantly in the news, but rarely discussed in their totality. The article explains what fossil fuels are and describes the characteristics of the three types (coal, petroleum, and natural gas), and how they differ from one another. “Fossil fuels currently supply roughly 80 to 85 percent of the world’s energy,” said Rubin. “They are critically important for everything we do and value as individuals and as a society—all of which need a source of energy.” Though they are cheap and have high energy density, fossil fuels are the leading factor contributing to global warming, which has led to calls to end the world’s dependence on them.
Tomko is an advocate for accessibility
An alumna of Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, Heather Tomko spoke with 90.5 WESA about advocating for accessibility and civil rights for disabled people. A public health researcher, Tomko is the founder of Accessible YOUniverse.
Singh wins fifth preliminary round of 3MT
MechE Ph.D. candidate Prince Singh, advised by Maarten de Boer, was the winner of the CMU Libraries’ Three Minute Thesis (3MT) fifth preliminary round. The internationally recognized competition challenges Ph.D. students to consolidate their research projects, goals, and ideas in a three-minute oral presentation. The final competition will be help on Tuesday, March 26 in Kresge Theater in CFA at 4:30 p.m.
MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan was quoted in an Axios article about a newly unveiled battery and tech company, GBatteries, and their development of a faster way to charge lithium-ion batteries, which are used in electronic vehicles. Instead of using the traditional constant current, constant voltage (CCCV), their revolutionary method uses high-frequency “pulses” that would allow people to charge their electric cars as quickly as filling a gas tank. GBatteries’ adapter is likely several years away from commercial release and Viswanathan says, “The main question is whether you can do that without degrading the battery pack.”
MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan and Shashank Sripad recently co-authored a story on vehicle electrification in India for The Hindu. The authors note major gains made in Asia toward electrification and especially the benefits offered by two-wheeled electric vehicles. “The electrification success story in India hinges on electrifying two-wheelers, which will require lowering costs of Li-ion batteries, increasing charging speed and improving the charging infrastructure,” they conclude.
According to MechE’s Venkat Viswanathan in Quartz, ultracapacitors probably had little to do with motivating Tesla’s recent move to acquire ultracapacitor manufacturer Maxwell Technologies. The exact motivation behind the decision is still unclear; however, speculation is that Maxwell’s dry electrode technology could increase storage capacity for Tesla batteries or may help cut costs in the manufacturing process.
Saha wins first preliminary round of 3MT
MechE Ph.D. candidate Dipanjan Saha won the first preliminary round of CMU Libraries’ Three Minute Thesis (3MT). The internationally recognized competition challenges Ph.D. students to consolidate their research projects, goals, and ideas in a three-minute oral presentation. The aim of the presentation is to be accessible to a wide general audience without sacrificing technical and scientific understanding of the presentation topics.
Congratulations to the winners of the 2018 College of Engineering Staff Recognition Awards! At the 24th annual staff award ceremony winners were announced and length of service awards were distributed. The winners in each category were:
- Continuous Excellence Award: Beth Hockenberry (CEE)
- Innovation Award: Megan Kearns (CyLab)
- Inspirational Leadership Award: Sandra DeVincent Wolf (Dean's Office)
- Spirit Award: Deborah Kuntz (EPP)
- Rookie Award: Mi Kim (MechE)
- Burritt Education Award: Kate Sencindiver (MechE)
Faculty and students remember John Wiss
John William Wiss, a MechE professor for 30 years, passed away on January 13, 2019. He is remembered as a beloved teacher, mentor, and colleague, as well as a leader of Carnegie Mellon Racing (CMR), serving as faculty advisor and helping to fund the team himself.“John’s heart was really in the work. He enjoyed teaching the internal combustion engines course and working with the CMR team. Indeed, he was partly responsible for starting CMR,” said Satbir Singh, an associate teaching professor who now teaches the course and advises the team. “I learned a lot from John.”
Presto comments on lost productivity during shutdown
The 2018-2019 government shutdown halted a wide range of science-related agencies, including NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Environmental Protection Agency. MechE’s Albert Presto commented that losing a month in productivity can really hurt scientists, especially those working on time-sensitive projects or just getting started. “It’s hard to quantify in terms of dollars how much the shutdown cost scientists in lost time,” he says. Presto was also quoted in Science News.
Rubin speaks at children’s school in Valencia
EPP/MechE’s Ed Rubin recently spoke with children at a school in Valencia about climate change. You can listen to a short, non-English clip on Radio Valencia.
MechE students Taylor Tabb, Mitchell Riek, and Evan Hill were featured on Hackaday for their automated grilled cheese-making robot. The robot, named “The Cheeeseborg,” is IoT-enabled via Google Assistant and was created for the students’ electromechanical design capstone project.
Whitefoot joins group of experts in refuting EPA proposal
MechE/EPP’s Katie Whitefoot recently joined experts from 10 other leading universities and institutions in co-authoring a study challenging the EPA’s 2018 proposal to freeze fuel economy and emissions standards between 2020 and 2025. The authors contend that the decision, which contradicts a report made in 2016 and affirmed by the EPA in 2017, “has fundamental flaws and inconsistences, is at odds with basic economic theory and empirical studies, is misleading, and does not improve estimates of costs and benefits of fuel economy standards beyond those in the 2016 analysis.”