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A Sense of Place Engineering, Education, Evolution

Research Creates Safer Train Tracks
PKI Supercomputer
Revs Up Teaching and Research

Reaching Them While They're Young
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A Sense of Place

For most people, a roof over their heads and the comforts of four walls are taken for granted. But there are those desperately in need of a simple place to call home. Akong Deng Ring and her six children, ages 2 through 17, are a long way from the place they called home. With the help of Habitat for Humanity and students, staff and faculty from the University of Nebraska, she and her family, immigrants from the Sudan, will soon have a new home.

The journey to create a sense of place for a family in need began in perhaps the strangest and most appropriate of places: the halls of The Peter Kiewit Institute. The efforts were spearheaded by Amy Musser, architectural engineering, and Avery Schwer, industrial systems technology, from the College of Engineering & Technology, and Bahador Ghahramani, College of Information Science & Technology. “We believed in this project,” said Ghahramani. “And we need projects like this to keep students involved in the community, as well as provide them opportunities to see the entire life cycle of projects like this.”

During the spring 2002 semester, students in Musser’s course “Construction Graphing and Design” design four-bedroom homes according to the criteria of Habitat for Humanity. The criteria include designs with at least one handicapped-accessible entrance, a porch and covered primary entrance. Families also are encouraged to affect thedesign of their homes as much as possible, within a predetermined budget.

The project provided opportunities for students to collaborate on projects that are useful in the real world. Yet, the students also experienced the difficulties of the real world when, with only two weeks left, they had to add a fifth bedroom to the design. “It was very time-consuming and frustrating,” said Milena Palahanska, project manager of the winning design team, which also included Kaidas Gelumbauskas, Kris Arnold and Olga Moreno.

But Habitat for Humanity representatives were excited about the design and decided to build it. “It has been so wonderful to have a new floor plan,” said Habitat volunteer coordinator Jean Fischetti. “We love it.”

Foremost in the students’ minds was a desire to create a unique home. With a limited amount of space in which to work, the chosen design team infused its design with inspiration. “My favorite aspect of this project was the challenge of determining how to organize the rooms for a functional structure that optimized living spaces,” Palahanska said.

There is at least one window in each room for natural light. The bathroom and kitchen are aligned for more efficient piping. Both the living room and dining room, where the Ring family will spend most of their time, are shaped like octagons. But most importantly, the walls are constructed with Insulated Concrete Foam (ICF)—hollow foam blocks used to shape the exterior walls of the house, then filled with reinforced concrete to create a structure that is strong, energy efficient, quiet and durable.

The house has a heat pump, one of the most efficient methods of providing heating and cooling. Heat pumps transfer heat from natural heat sources in the surroundings, such as the air, ground or water, to a structure. These energy-efficient technologies will enable the family to spend a fraction of what others spend on their energy bills.

In fall 2002 students in Avery Schwer’s “The World at Work” course participated in the construction of the Ring’s house as part of a service-learning project that integrates theory with practice and community service with academic study. “This has been an opportunity for students to work on a project that directly impacts the community,” Schwer said. “And it’s another example of how the Peter Kiewit Institute and the University of Nebraska are transforming the local community and making it a better place to live.”

Gahramani also involved his graduate and undergraduate students in the project by inviting them to work on the house and write papers on the project for class credit.

The Omaha community readily embraced the project with generous financial support from Wells Fargo and donated or discounted building materials from local contractors and suppliers. In addition, other students and faculty from the University volunteered at the construction site. “There were times when we almost had too many volunteers,” Musser said. As part of the Habitat program, the Ring family has worked alongside volunteers throughout the construction process.

Early this summer, Ring and her young family crossed the threshold into a house built by many hands. In time, that house will become a home and many students at the University of Nebraska will know their hearts, minds and hands contributed to creating a sense of place for a family displaced.

—Roxane Gay

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Engineering, Education, Evolution

The time for change is here.

The workplace is evolving, as are the demands on education and educators. This evolution is readily apparent in engineering education as educators try to incorporate the use of teams into the engineering classroom. Stephanie G. Adams is at the forefront of research on teams and how teams enhance learning within engineering education.

Adams is a flurry of activity, balancing her duties as an assistant professor with the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering and special assistant to the Dean of Graduate Studies. And then there’s her research. Recently, Adams received a National Science Foundation CAREER Grant, the most prestigious award for new faculty members. “This grant enables the continuation of work I’ve been doing for years,” she said. “More than the money, I appreciate the validation this grant has given me. I know I’m on the right path.”

Over the next five years, Adams will use the $587,568 award to implement her proposal, “Designing Effective Teams in the Engineering Classroom for the Enhancement of Learning.” The research is innovative in its approach and focus on both the individual’s and the team’s mastery of effective teaming constructs. It is Adam’s hope that her research will strengthen the ability of engineering educators to fully prepare students to work in teams.

“I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of people,” Adams mused. “Amazing things can happen when people work together—the power of many minds collaborating.” In a true testament to her passion for collaboration, Adams shares a great deal of credit for the grant with her research team, which includes current and former University of Nebraska–Lincoln graduate students Bianey Ruiz, Laura Simon, Carolina Milano and colleague Gül Kremer of Penn State University. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my research team,” she said. “And with this grant, we have the resources we need to do our work and do it right.”

In the first phase of research, Adams will test and validate a Team Effectiveness Questionnaire and pre-assessment methodology that have already been developed. The second phase of research will involve refining and testing a protocol for behavioral observation. In the third phase, Adams will develop a methodology for determining if students working in teams learn more than those who do not. To that end, she will develop and implement two engineering management courses—one team-based and one individual-based. In the final phase of research, Adams will track students from the classroom to the workplace to ascertain their satisfaction with the university teaming experience and their preparation to function on teams in the workplace, testing her hypothesis that teams do enhance learning and learning experiences, while better preparing students for the workplace.

In light of the current economic climate, it is important to question the relevance of this kind of research. “Even when the economy is slow, education must move forward,” she said. “Ultimately, society will benefit from an engineering workforce better prepared for the expressed and changing needs of society.”

Adams’ plans for the future? “For now, I’m going to focus on my research. But I hope to drive a change in how we, as educators and students, look at engineering. I’m also looking at other ways to contribute both to the college and the University. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

—Roxane Gay

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Research Creates Safer Train Tracks

The images are all too familiar—train cars on their sides, steel track rails bent at awkward angles, investigators sifting through the debris and rescue workers helping survivors to safety. Statistics show that one-third of all railroad accidents are caused by track defects, creating losses that exceed $100 million each year. University of Nebraska–Lincoln researchers currently are developing a track stiffness measuring system that soon may make railroad derailments a thing of the past, in a project sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The research team of Shane Farritor, Chris Norman, Richard Arnold and Samy E.G. Elias is busy implementing a sensor system that will measure track stiffness from a moving railcar. This comprehensive measurement system evaluates the total rail stiffness using real-time laser measurements and evaluates the quality of the rail bed using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), a system that uses electromagnetic waves to provide an image of the conditions below the rail surface. “Improving safety is what we’re after,” Farritor said.

Current track stiffness measurement methods have proven inadequate, expensive and time-consuming.

A static test was performed by loading 50,000 lbs (25 tons) of concrete barriers on top of a railcar truck.

Work crews are dispatched to a specific section of railroad track with special equipment. There, they apply known loads and measure the resulting track deflection. The results are only applicable to that section of track. These researchers hope their measurement system will be placed on every train, enabling the continuous measurements of track stiffness over large distances of track and the evaluation of track quality over time. The theory is that if the sensor system detects poor track conditions, workers can repair the affected sections of track, and train derailments can be prevented.

The UNL research team has partnered with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, which is providing a truck for the initial testing, as well as Omaha Public Power District, which is allowing the researchers access to the track on the Lincoln-Nebraska City coal line, for field measurements.

In field tests, researchers will mount the sensor system on the truck then load it with weight to create various loading conditions and allow for the evaluation of the sensor design for various track deflections. They hope to install their sensor system on trains in the next 18 months and create a safer rail transit system throughout the country.

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PKI Supercomputer Revs Up Teaching and Research

A partnership between the University of Nebraska, the Peter Kiewit Foundation and IBM, is allowing great things to happen for UNL and UNO faculty and students in the Peter Kiewit Institute.

The IBM 670 Supercomputer will help with teaching and research, said Bing Chen, chair of computer and electronics engineering.

“This will greatly enhance our capabilities to provide a hands-on experience for our students at the undergraduate level, and give our researchers an opportunity to explore parallel computing with a state-of-the-art machine.” Some projects include computer modeling and simulations of performance evaluations for real-time applications of large-scale, high-speed networks.

The system is a tightly coupled parallel computer utilizing IBM 64-bit POWER4 processors. The POWER4 processor is the first advanced Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) on-a-chip design and the first copper/silicon-on-insulator (SOI) chip.

The Supercomputer supports 16 POWER4 processors up to 64 Gigaflops with capabilities that include dynamic processor allocation and deallocation, dynamic logical partitioning and on-demand capabilities.

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Reaching Them While They’re Young

On the morning of March 4th, Cook Pavilion was silent and nearly empty. As championship banners flapped softly, several student volunteers from the College of Engineering & Technology busied themselves preparing for Discover Engineering.

Then, quite suddenly, the near silence was broken by the boisterous banter of more than 150 fifth through eighth graders spilling onto the turf of the Husker practice field. “This is an excellent opportunity to expose kids to engineering and show them that fun can be applied to theory and vice-versa,” said student volunteer, Angel Dunn.

Discover Engineering has been hosted by the College since 2001. Amy Lehman, a senior in mechanical engineering, coordinated the event, which was planned, organized and hosted entirely by student volunteers and funded by private support. “This was part of my senior project,” Lehman said. “But it’s also fun to work with little kids.”

The Discover Engineering activities were hands-on, allowing participants to see first-hand what engineering is about, while giving them the opportunity to consider it as a career. Activities included balloon racers, catapult, toothpick tower and electric series dexterity, all aimed at demonstrating basic engineering principles in a simple format.

—Roxane Gay

Career Fair

The Big Fall Career Fair will take place Wed., Oct. 1, 2003, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Registration materials and additional details are available online at www.unl.edu/careers/fallfair/. Contact Christina Fielder at cfielder2@unl.edu, or (402) 472-8029.

Grant Awards of More Than $200,000

 Jones, E., “ITS Resource, Research, and Education Activities at PKI,” Nebraska Department of Roads, $921,414
 Adams, S., “Career: Designing Effective Teams in the Engineering Classroom for the Enhancement of Learning,” NSF, $587,568
 Meagher, M., “CGMP Clinical Research Production of IFN-t at the 500 L-scale,” Pepgen, $283,239
 Li, J., Ducharme, S., “Design, Manufacturing, and Optimization of Ferroelectric Polymer Based Nanocomposite Films by Langmuir-Blodgett Deposition,” NSF, $267,335
 Meagher, M., “Fermentation Development of LAX-699,” Novartis, $249,690
 Azizinamini, A., “IBRC 2002 Project,” Nebraska Department of Roads, $240,000
 Meagher, M., “Curis Fermentation and Purification,” CURIS, $223,653


John L. Ballard, Associate Dean for the College of Engineering & Technology and Professor of Industrial Systems & Management Systems Engineering, received the Student Foundation/Builders Award for Outstanding Advising
Kevin W. Houser, ArchE, and Barry T. Rosson, CivE, received UNL College Distinguished Teaching Awards
Stephanie Adams, IE, received the Sue Tidball Award for Creative Humanity
Terry Stentz, CM, received the Associated Schools of Construction National Teaching Award. The award is made annually to a faculty member of a four-year ASC member school and recognizes the faculty member’s contribution to construction education, excellence in teaching and dedication to the construction profession
Patrick McCoy, the late Lovell Professor of Civil Engineering, received the S.S. Steinberg Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Research and Education Division of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). McCoy, who was also the director of the Mid-America Transportation Center, received the award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to transportation research and education. This is only the third time the award has been presented posthumously.

College Faculty/Staff Awards

Holling Family Department Teaching Award: Engineering Mechanics
Holling Family Distinguished Engineering Educator Award: Associate Professor: Gary Krause (CivE); Professor: Dennis Schulte (BSE)
Holling Family Master Teacher Award: 2003 Honorees: Barry Rosson (CivE), Kevin Hauser (ArchE);
2004 Honorees: Gary Krause (CivE), David J. Jones (BSE)
Holling Family Distinguished Senior Faculty Teaching Award: Associate Professor: Mehrdad Negahban (EM), Wieslaw M.Szdlowski (ME)
Henry Y. Kleinkauf Family Distinguished New Faculty Teaching Award: Ruqiang Feng (EM), David Admiraal (CivE)
The Lagerstrom Award: Construction Management
Holling Teaching/Advising/Mentoring Award: Bruce Dvorak (CivE)
College Faculty Research and Creative Activity Award: Assistant Professor: Ruqiang Feng (EM); Associate Professor: Michael W. Hoffman (EE); Professor: R.J. Soukup (EE)
College Faculty Service Award: Assistant Professor: Terry Stentz (CM); Associate Professor: Yuris Dzenis (EM); Professor: E. Terence Foster (CS)
College Staff Award for Outstanding Service: Office/Clerical: Lurena (Renee) Horner (Dean’s Office); Managerial/Professional: Paul Pokorny (Dean’s Office)

Comings & Goings

New Staff: Alisa Gilmore (CEEN); Stacey Hawkey (BSE); Jennifer Hermenitt (ArchE); Margaret Warner (BSE); Christine Warren (CS); Robert Weber (BSE); Bernard Wolff (Dean’s Office)
Departures: Ram Narayanan (EE)

Ph.D. Coordinator

Barry Rosson was named director of graduate studies and coordinator of the Unified Ph.D. program in the College of Engineering & Technology.
Rosson, a professor in civil engineering, will oversee and coordinate graduate education activities, work with staff to develop recruitment materials, coordinate the College Scholarship and Fellowship program for awarding graduate student financial assistance, and develop and implement a plan to market the College’s graduate degree programs and increase graduate student enrollment.

New Faculty

Greg Bashford, a biomedical engineer, recently joined the Department of Biological Systems Engineering. A registered professional engineer with more than 10 years experience in the fields of medical imaging and DNA sequencing instrumentation, he most recently was senior scientist in the advanced research & development group at LI-COR, Inc. in Lincoln. He also has worked at GE Medical Systems in Milwaukee, and Acuson Corporation in Mountain View, Calif. His research and teaching interests are in medical imaging, biosignal and system analysis, and modeling and simulation of biomedical systems.

He is a senior member of IEEE, EMBS (Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society), and a member of SPIE. Dr. Bashford holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from UNL and a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University.

Recipe for success
In Mike Brenneman’s CET 2300 class, students compete for high grades—and high breaks. Working in groups, students design high-strength concrete (any concrete that breaks in excess of 6,000 pounds per square inch) using Nebraska aggregates, which is required by the Nebraska Department of Roads. Everyone starts with the same basic recipe, said Brenneman, senior lecturer in construction systems. “They need to learn how to improve that recipe.” In December 2002, one group seemed to find the perfect recipe. David Kanne, Robert Cook and Jed Harding broke a record no one thought possible when they reached 13,100 psi. The previous record was 12,060 psi. In addition to earning the highest grade for the project, Brenneman treated the winning team to a prime rib dinner The rest of the class got chicken. “That was as close to ‘crow’ as I could get,” Brenneman said.

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Student Good News

David Bradley, a graduate student in the Department of Architectural Engineering, recently was awarded a Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship For Minorities.The award offers an annual stipend of $16,000, a tuition award of $7,500 and expenses to attend three conferences of Ford Fellows. It also will provide Bradley with support for three of the next five years as he pursues his master’s and doctoral degrees. Approximately 60 fellowships are awarded each year in a national competition administered by the National Research Council of the National Academies on behalf of the Ford Foundation. The fellowships reward those students who demonstrate superior scholarship and promise for future achievements.
Johnathan Morse, ME, received one of 36 Tau Beta Pi fellowships. Each award given by the engineering honorary society includes $10,000 for a year of study in graduate school. Those receiving the award are chosen based on merit and need and must submit reports summarizing their work at the end of the year. The fellowship encourages recipients to work on original ideas.
Angela Waters, CE and EE, received the Society of American Military Engineers Award recognizing her as the outstanding senior engineering student of Air Force ROTC at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Waters, one of 20 students in the nation to receive the award, will get a ribbon and gold key replica to wear on her uniform. The award impresses upon undergraduate engineering students the importance of engineering to national security.
The University Scholars Convocation recognized 31 Chancellor’s Scholars, two from the College of Engineering & Technology: Mark D. Dietz, CompE; and Ryan J. Ebmeier, BSE. Students receiving these awards must be graduating seniors who have attained 4.0 averages on all graded collegiate work either at the University of Nebraska or any post secondary educational institution.
Jaymes Drieling, computer engineering was one of 48 students in the nation to be selected for the new Air Force ROTC Summer Internship program. Drieling will be working at the Air Force Research Lab at Hanscom AFB near Boston.

Promotion and Tenure

Promoted to associate professor and granted tenure: Berthe Y. Choueiry, Byravamurthy Ramamurthy, Stephen D. Scott; CSE; Ruqiang Feng, Jiashi Yang; EM
Promoted to associate professor: Yongfeng Lu, EE.
Promoted to full professor: John P. Barton, ME; Yuris A. Dzenis, EM; Michael Meagher, ChemE; Barry T. Rosson, CivE.
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