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Mini Baja team places in top ten at national competition

Seven and 11 turned out to be lucky numbers for the NU Mini Baja team at this year’s national competition. The 11 students who traveled to Kansas State University for the event came in seventh place out of 101 teams.
The 2001 Mini Baja West competition, sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers, was held April 26-28. The annual event tests the performance of off-road recreational vehicles designed and built by student teams. The competition includes a grueling four-hour race around a course with steep hills, straightaways and plenty of rock, log and water obstacles.
The NU team spent three months designing the vehicle and assembled it in two weeks. The day before the students left for the competition, a chain-drive sprocket broke into pieces during an off-road test, rendering the vehicle useless. Working into the early morning, the students replaced the sprocket and made suspension modifications.
Traveling to Manhattan were Dustin Boesch, Travis Dendinger, Matt Dick, Matt Duncan, Ben Henk, Mike Kollath, Royce Leaders, Joel Masters, Marcus Meyer, Clark Otte and Chris Popken.
The team was in 16th place after the end of the first day of competition, moving up to ninth place after two days. Only 30 percent of the vehicles, including the NU entry, finished the endurance race.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison captured first place overall, followed by teams from Brigham Young University, Utah State University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Michigan Tech and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
The NU students are fired up after placing in the top ten. “After such a strong finish,” says Clark Otte, “we’re anxious to begin work on next year’s design.” Students interested in participating in next year’s team should contact faculty adviser William Weins at (402) 472-3088, e-mail <wweins1@unl.edu>.

Shane Farritor, mechanical engineering, is pictured in the Robotics Laboratory with one of this year’s MESA Summer on Campus students. The program is designed to promote an interest in mathematics, engineering and the sciences among Nebraska’s minority youth. More than 120 junior- and senior-high students spent a week on the UNL campus building AM/FM portable radios, learning computer programming and participating in other activities. Photo by Tom Sires.

Hendrix adds new members to advisory council

Dean Hendrix has appointed new members to the Engineering Dean’s Advisory Council.
The five new members are Marsha Babcock, Mechanical Contractors Association of Omaha; Richard Bell, HDR; Brian Halla, National Semiconductor Corp.; James A. Hansen, Sprint; and John Lorenz, Kettering University.
Continuing on the council are Robert Brightfelt, Dade Behring Co.; D. Gary Kathol, Lamp, Rynearson & Associates; Ravi Maniktala, M.E. Group, Inc.; Bill Mayben, Nebraska Public Power District; Lee McIntire, Bechtel; Rick McNeel, BP Amoco; and Steven Zuckweiler, Coastal Field Services Co.

Team members show off their vehicle. Next year’s vehicle will be lucky number seven, signifying the team’s seventh-place finish this year. Pictured members of the team (left to right): Dustin Boesch, (in the vehicle) Marc Meyer, Clark Otte, Matt Dick. Photo by Tom Slocum.

Students earn national fellowships

Angela Wild and Mark Rentschler, recent graduates of the College of Engineering and Technology, have won competitive national fellowships to support their graduate studies in engineering.
Wild, a biological systems engineering major, is one of only 77 students in the nation to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellowship. She will work with BSE faculty member Rhonda Brand on transdermal drug delivery, studying compounds and systems designed to promote the delivery of drugs from the skin’s surface into the bloodstream.
The award provides $18,000 annually plus $10,500 per year for her department.
Rentschler will study mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was selected from a pool of nearly 1,500 for a three-year National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship of approximately $20,000 per year. He also was awarded a $10,000 Tau Beta Pi Fellowship.

Faculty, staff, student awards presented at spring banquet

Kudos to the following college faculty, staff and students whose work was recognized at the spring banquet.
• Staff Service Awards: Paul Marxhausen, Belinda Gillam, Pat Masek
• Faculty Service Awards: Derrel Martin, Linda Swoboda, Lance Perez
• Faculty Research Awards: Ram Narayanan, Robert Palmer, Byrav Ramamurthy
• Holling Distinguished Teaching Awards: Dennis Schulte, Gary L. Krause
• Henry Y. Kleinkauf Teaching Awards: Stephanie G. Adams, Shane Farritor
• Holling Family Distinguished Teaching Award: William Weins
• Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Teaching Award: David Jones
• O.J. Ferguson Outstanding Sophomore: Jeremy Bevord
• O.J. Ferguson Outstanding Senior: Jennifer Wagner
• Al and Dorothy Schewe Engineering Leadership Award: Jennifer Wagner
• 2001 Multidisciplinary Research Award: Supriyo Bandyopadhyay, Yi Lui and David Sellmeyer for their project: Self-Assembled Nanostructures: Physics and Application.

The Motorsports crew is racing their new car, Bugeater II, at Nebraska Raceway Park near Greenwood. Pictured from left: Dave Astuto, Dennis Smith, Jesse Weifenbach, Elliot Phillips, Chad Harrill and Brad Doerr. Not pictured: Ryan Alexander. Motorsports and Kosiski Racing Products are sponsoring a workshop November 17. For more information, contact Tom Spilker at (402) 472-5600 or e-mail <tspilker1@unl.edu>.
Photo by Tom Sires.

If you build it, will they use it?
Community, university embrace rapid transit system

It all started with a letter.
It was 1970 and Samy Elias was an associate professor of industrial engineering at West Virginia University in Morgantown.
James Harlow, president of the university, had announced plans to double enrollment from 11,000 to 22,000 students. It was an ambitious plan but with one significant obstacle — transporting the students.
“You can never do that unless you address the transportation issue first,” Elias wrote in the letter to Harlow. “You cannot move the students.”
His concerns were not unfounded. West Virginia University sits on three campuses in Morgantown: The original campus is downtown; the Evansdale campus, which houses the creative arts, engineering and agriculture, is two miles away; and the medical and law campus is several miles from Evansdale.
Elias’ letter led to a meeting with then-transportation secretary John Volpe, who requested a feasibility study. With grants from the federal government and the university, Elias and a team of researchers did the study and came up with a proposal. Elias had been researching an idea for an automated transportation system before Harlow announced his plans for enrollment. His research included the development of a software package that could schedule trains and drivers, as well as software and hardware packages that would track vehicles and people getting on and off as they moved through the system.
“The next logical step was to have computers run the vehicles,” Elias said. But that raised several questions.
“Can it be done technically? Will it operate economically? Will people accept it ? Will they get into a vehicle that is traveling at 30 miles per hour and doesn’t have a driver?”
Those questions were answered in a feasibility study. Within a year Elias had secured what eventually became a $120 million grant and ground was broken for his design of a personal rapid transit system. It is the world’s first fully automated computer-con-trolled transit system and remains the mosttechnologically advanced in the world.
The community embraced the project, Elias said, largely because it was a community and university project from the start. It serves students, faculty and residents as it wends its way from campus to campus and through the downtown area. Millions of people have used the system over the years.
“Our campus could not function without this,” said Jack Byrd, professor of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering at WVU. “Buses were not feasible because they could not keep up with the students.” Byrd was a graduate student at WVU in 1970 and a member of the team that developed Elias’ design.
The system has five stations and 70 electrically powered vehicles. “The unique thing about this system is that it has four rubber tires that are free floating,” Elias said. “The tires are not locked to any surface, which allows the vehicles to merge, de-merge and bypass the station.”
When designing the system, Elias looked at a number of issues: cost, flexibility and safety. He came up with a capital-intensive system that is entirely run by a computer.
“The beauty of it is that it doesn’t rely on fossil fuels,” he said. And because it is equipped with an automatic fault-detection and reporting system, repairs can be made quickly at a much lower cost.
The system has a demand-activated and pre-scheduled service, which allows for a great deal of flexibility. Demand-activated service lets passengers call for a car, much as they would call for an elevator. A vehicle responds and provides nonstop transportation to the chosen destination. Pre-scheduled service keeps vehicles moving between stations at scheduled intervals.
To keep the system running in all weather conditions, Elias introduced guideway and power-rail heating. The guideway’s impeded heating circulation system and the power rail’s heating
elements turn on and off automatically as weather dictates.
“All of the initial concerns and questions were worked out,” said Byrd. And since it began running, there never has been an accident.
The project was among the National Society of Professional Engineers’ Top 10 Outstanding Engineering Achievements of 1972. In May, Elias once again was honored for his innovative work on PRT when he received the first Henry Gantt Medallion Award from the Institute of Industrial Engineers. Elias was nominated for the award by Byrd and WVU professors Ralph Plummer and Wafik Iskander.
“Samy was a real visionary,”Byrd said. “I remember him describing how it would work. It seemed too grand a project for any one person to be thinking of at that time. It seemed hard to imagine it becoming reality, but Samy kept at it and made it happen.”
Elias left WVU for private industry and in 1988 came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Byrd was sorry to see him go.
“He was a real credit to the university and to his profession.”
— Constance Walter

Just the facts...

• Five stations
• 70 electrically powered vehicles
• Eight miles of guideway
• Each vehicle:
     * carries up to 20 passengers
     * travels at speeds of up to 30 mph
     * is separated by 15 seconds
     * runs on four pneumatic tires
     * merges, de-merges and by-passes one another
     * can climb a 15 percent grade
     * is controlled and guided by electronic signals

Elias receives inaugural Medallion Award

Samy Elias, associate dean for research in the College of Engineering & Technology, has received the first Henry Gantt Medallion Award from the Institute of Industrial Engineers. The award recognizes individuals who have made a notable impact on the industrial engineering profession. He was honored for his innovative design of the world’s first fully automated, computer-controlled transit system at West Virginia University.
“Out of about 80,000 industrial engineers in the country, the institute selected me to receive it,” Elias said. “This is a tremendous honor.”
The system was among the National Society of Professional Engineers’ Top 10 Outstanding Engineering Achievements of 1972 and remains the most technologically advanced system of its kind in the world.
Elias holds a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Management from Oklahoma State University and an M.S. and B.Sc. in Aeronautical Engineering. He has more than 35 years in academia, government and private industry.
As director of Transit Engineering and Safety for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Elias established the first industrial engineering unit. There, he headed an investigation into the only derailment that resulted in fatalities, identifying the causes and recommending over 200 changes, most of which were adopted. Many of those changes had their roots in industrial engineering principles.
Elias currently is working on several projects with other professors. One, a joint effort with the Federal Railroad Administration, is investigating using ground-penetrating radar to detect flaws in railroad beds as a way to prevent derailments. Another, with the Appalachian Transportation Institute, focuses on the use of fly ash to build stronger and more environmentally friendly railway ties.
A professional engineer, Elias is a Fellow of the Institute of Industrial Engineers and The Chartered Institute of Transport in the United Kingdom. His awards include the First Annual Tibbetts Award from the Small Business Administration’s innovative research program; the first AIIE Transportation and Distribution Award; and the DAR Americanism Medal.

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