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RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities signed a memorandum of understanding today to partner with Vanwest College from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Mahasarakham University from Talat, Thailand, for a language and cultural exchange program that will benefit students from each of the three campuses and countries.

Christ Meiers, WSU Tri-Cities vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services, and Nitiphong Songsrirote, dean of the Mahasarakham University Business School, sign an MOU for a language and cultural exchange partnership.

The purpose of the partnership is to deliver programs that promote academics and cultural understanding between the three institutions and countries associated. VanWest will be responsible for delivering an English as a second language program, academic workshops and sightseeing at its campus. WSU Tri-Cities will be responsible for cultural exchange activities at its campus, which may include select lectures and presentations, tours and friendship exchange meetings with local organizations. The Mahasarakham University will be responsible for facilitating study abroad opportunities for WSU Tri-Cities students.

“This is a valuable experience both for our students and from those students from Thailand and British Columbia,” said Chris Meiers, WSU Tri-Cities vice chancellor of enrollment management and student services. “The students will benefit from the language exploration and competency experiences at VanWest and at Mahasarakham, in addition to learning about the cultural components, networking and more through WSU Tri-Cities and the regional community.”

Administrators from Mahasarakham University said they were excited to be partnering with both WSU Tri-Cities and Vanwest College.

(Left to right) Yujin Song, VanWest admission and marketing manager; Yawittha Daroth, Mahasarakham student; Mullika Yothikha, Mahasarakham student; and Kornuma Laphanuphat, Mahasarakham international affairs officer.

“Coming to Canada and the United States is a great experience for us,” said Pornlapas Suwannarat, associate dean for research and international affairs at Mahasarakham University. “We are hopeful for a fruitful collaboration to take place between VanWest and Washington State University Tri-Cities.”

A group of students and administrators from VanWest College and Mahasarakham University spent the last couple of days learning about the educational and business opportunities at WSU Tri-Cities, touring the Tri-Cities region, as well as networking with local businesses.

“It’s been a fun and enlightening past few days for all institutions,” Meiers said. “We have a lot to share and learn from one another. We’re excited about this partnership and the educational and cultural opportunities that will enrich the student experience for all three institutions and countries.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University recently took home top honors in the research poster competition at the Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, for research on a technique typically used to evaluate the characteristics of wine.

To determine the characteristics and compounds in wine, researchers combine a wine sample with a mixture of water and octanol, which is a fatty alcohol. As a result, different compounds from the wine separate and enter into two phases: octanol and water. The relative separation of the compounds into the two phases is known as the beverage’s hydrophobicity.

These two phases are then analyzed using mass spectrometry, a sophisticated technique that identifies the individual compounds within those phases. The identified compounds can help determine the astringency, or mouth feel, of the wine as well as the color and other sensory factors.

Wine scientists expand applications

WSU distilled spirits evaluation research team
Jim Harbertson, Caroline Merrell and Tom Collins (l-r) display some of their major findings in distilled spirit analysis application.

The WSU Tri-Cities team, which consisted of wine science postdoctoral researcher Caroline Merrell, associate professor of enology Jim Harbertson, and assistant professor of wine science Tom Collins, decided to analyze distilled spirits using the same process.

“It started off as ‘let’s see what happens when we apply this technique to a product other than wine,’” Collins said. “Spirits make sense for this analysis not only because of their similarities to wine, but also their differences. We expected to extract different things from the barrels for spirits than for wine, and I think we clearly see that with our findings.”

A measurement in wine is used primarily to evaluate phenolic composition, Harbertson said. The phenolic composition, derived from the grapes and barrels, affects the taste, color and mouthfeel of wine.

“But in spirits, the phenolics are only derived from the barrel, so the process provides an interesting piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Whiskey, tequila, rum, cognac

In their research, team members examined a range of distilled spirits including American whiskey (bourbon), Scotch whiskey, Irish whiskey, tequila, rum, cognac and Armagnac. The barrel type used in the aging process for these spirits significantly impacted the identified compounds, Merrell said.

“For instance, all the bourbons separated out together as part of the statistical analysis,” she said. “Bourbon is made in new, heavily charred barrels. Because bourbons use newly charred barrels, there is more extraction of different phenolic and flavor compounds during aging. All the other spirit types age in previously used barrels, which have already had substantial amounts of phenolic and flavor compounds extracted.”

Barrel selection insights

Their initial research shows the importance of barrel selection in making distilled spirits. The hope is that it will give the industry more tools for making alcohol, Merrell said.

“Our research gives the industry more insight into the effects of barrel selection for different types of spirits,” Collins said. “We had a fair amount of interest from distilleries after the presentation, and we look forward to opportunities to collaborate and explore these effects in more detail.”

The team hopes to expand their research beyond commercially available products. The plan is to acquire distillation equipment at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center to prepare, develop and analyze their own spirits.

To his knowledge, this is the first time anyone has used the hydrophobicity technique to examine the components of distilled spirits, Collins said.

 

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RICHLAND, Wash. – David Isley, a recent Washington State University Tri-Cities alumnus (education, ‘17), received a rare opportunity in his beginnings as a teacher this year — the opportunity to student teach with his own first-grade teacher.

Janelle Rehberg (right) and David Isley

Janelle Rehberg (right) and David Isley

At WSU Tri-Cities, students are required to complete a number of volunteer hours in a classroom setting before being admitted into the undergraduate education degree program. Isley decided to seek out his own first-grade teacher, Janelle Rehberg, to complete his volunteer work at Cottonwood Elementary School. After the experience, Rehberg invited Isley to complete his student teaching in her classroom during his senior year at WSU Tri-Cities.

“We hit it off right away, although it did take him a long time to get him to call me Janelle, instead of Mrs. Rehberg,” she said with a laugh. “David is a natural in the classroom. He’s great with the kids and it’s obvious that he loves teaching.”

Rehberg said she has never heard of another teacher and former student working together years later as a mentor and mentee in student teaching.

“It really is rare, but that made it all the more special,” she said.

From student to teacher

As a first-grade student, Rehberg said she never imagined Isley would become a teacher. Isley was an outgoing, passionate young student who had a passion for science and dinosaurs, she said.

“I would have thought he’d go on to be a scientist,” she said.

Isley said even to this day, he still thinks dinosaurs are the greatest, but instead of studying their history as a career, he plans on using them to educate a new generation of students.

“I’m excited to introduce them to my own students,” he said. “I do plan to feature dinosaurs in some of my lessons.”

Since his own days as first-grade student, Isley said the grade level has seen a lot of changes. For one, technology has advanced rapidly, and students use iPads, advanced computers and more to complete their work, innovate and create, he said. Rehberg said students are also expected to know a lot more.

“When I was in the first-grade, we learned the alphabet,” Rehberg said. “Now, that is usually learned in Preschool before they get to kindergarten. From the public’s point of view, I’m not sure people realize the amazing achievements of young little kids these days. Every generation seems to move along more rapidly than the previous one. The reading performance of today’s first graders is impressive.”

Isley said he’s up to the challenge for educating the talented youngsters.

“I’m excited to jump in and work with these amazing kids,” he said. “One of the best things I’ve learned from Janelle is that you have to know your kids and meet them where they are. That’s something I plan to use in my own career as a teacher. That, and you have to make learning fun.”

Foundational learning for use in the real-world

Isley said he appreciates that WSU Tri-Cities requires so much real-world work in the classroom, as that’s the business that teachers are in – working with children and inspiring in them a passion for knowledge.

“Being able to apply what I’ve learned through my professors and textbooks at WSU to the real-world setting in the elementary school classrooms is invaluable,” he said. Rehberg agreed.

“You don’t learn nearly as much as when you are right here in the trenches,” she said. “That first-hand experience is the best.”

Looking toward the future, Isley said he plans to take what he learned through both his coursework and professors at WSU Tri-Cities, and what he learned from Rehberg, to educate a whole new generation of students.

Isley recently accepted a kindergarten teaching position at Washington Elementary School in the Kennewick School District. He’ll also have a piece of Rehberg in his future classroom to remember his student teaching experience with his first-grade teacher, mentor and now colleague. Rehberg said she made a giant sculpted dinosaur for a class project and plans to give it to David to hang in his future classroom.

“It really has all come full-circle,” Isley said.

Rehberg said she’ll miss Isley teaching alongside in her classroom, but that she’s excited for his future.

“Since I had David in my classroom, I’ve missed him terribly,” she said. “I loved having David student teach in my class. But I know he’ll be successful wherever he goes.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

It may be two years before Washington State University Tri-Cities has Elson S. Floyd Medical School students based on its campus, but Farion Williams, the new associate dean of medicine for the Tri-Cities campus, is already ramping up for the students who will study in the mid-Columbia region for their final two years of the WSU medical program.

“The Tri-Cities is in a very unique position in Washington state, with its variety of health care providers and professionals, its opportunities with organizations like the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and its potential for providing rural healthcare in eastern Washington and underrepresented communities,” Williams said. “I’m excited to be a part of getting the new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine up and running, and I’m excited to join the team at WSU Tri-Cities.”

Farion Williams - WSU Tri-Cities associate medical dean

Farion Williams – WSU Tri-Cities associate medical dean

Williams, who begins his new role on June 26, plans to spend his first weeks on the job identifying and training faculty and helping to establish the curriculum, as well as meeting with local physicians and representatives from different medical providers to gain an understanding of the health care climate in the region.

“The Tri-Cities is a new community for me, so I look forward to meeting with the physicians and medical providers and understanding the different hospitals in the community,” he said.

A graduate of the University of Texas Medical School at San Antonio, Williams completed his residency training at the University of Kansas Medical Center where he served as the program’s chief resident in his final year. He began his first practice through the University of Texas Medical Branch in Dickinson, Texas. Following his time at UTMB, he became the associate residency director for family medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, and most recently served at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, where he held many roles – including residency program director and assistant dean for graduate medical education.

Williams’ medical resume includes extensive experience serving and developing programs for rural and underserved populations – a focus he looks forward to continuing at WSU.

“The mission of Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine is really important because there are many communities that lack resources for health care, and when their access is limited, their care is limited,” he said. “Once students have opportunities to train in rural communities, they are more likely to want to practice in rural communities, which is why it’s crucial that we establish those opportunities here in Washington state. I think it is very forward-thinking that WSU is focusing their program to help address this issue.”

In addition to his work stateside, Williams hopes to offer a study abroad opportunity that he has been a part of for several years at the University of Illinois. Through the program, medical students travel to Christian Medical College in India where they provide medical care, work with the local physicians and learn about how the health care system works within the country.

“The study abroad program gives students an opportunity to experience the healthcare systems in another country, how health care is delivered, how different national policies affect the way healthcare is delivered, and how the populations are different,” he said. “Students see that a lot of good can be done with limited resources and develop a perspective of compassion and empathy for people.”

Williams worked with the department of family medicine faculty at the medical college in India to help them gain accreditation for their residency program through the Medical Council of India in March 2017.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

The United States power grid is connected by more than 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines to provide electricity to more than 300 million people. But as the saying goes, with great power, comes great responsibility.

Yousu Chen – PNNL

With the increase of renewable energy sources, the growth of the increasingly complex system and increases in terrorist threats, engineers have to come up with new methods to protect the power grid.

Yousu Chen (WSU Tri-Cities MS, environmental engineering), staff research engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is using high-performance computing techniques to safeguard the electrical grid against potential threats and outages.

“The power grid is the largest man-made machine in the world,” he said. “It is the most important infrastructure, and we need it daily for almost all of our daily activities. I’m always eager to know what I can do in this fast-growing area to solve new problems.”

During his time as a student at WSU Tri-Cities, Chen got his first internship at PNNL. He also learned skills in simulation and modeling that have proven invaluable to his career.

He has been involved in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, increasing opportunities for current students.

Solving problems before they happen

Chen‘s work focuses primarily on modern computing techniques that both simulate potential hazards and provide ways for monitoring information within the grid. Through the advancement of high-performing computing techniques, he and his team at PNNL are developing simulations to predict and combat problems before they occur.

Chen’s computing systems utilize complex algorithms to measure power flow, identify potential problem areas, simulate possible outcomes if there were to be an outage or a catastrophic event, as well as provide solutions in how to deal with those potential problem areas.Power pole

“For example, if we want to evaluate the impact of newer smart grid technologies on the power grid, we use our simulation techniques to prepare for the event before we apply those new technologies to the grid,” he said. “Using our simulation, we could determine how that issue would impact the grid, and as a result, how we can prevent that from occurring.”

Chen said he and his team are always developing newer computing techniques to run simulations at a faster rate, which will be crucial in the event of a major outage or disruption.

“Some systems will take minutes, depending on the system, to run a limited number of contingencies,” he said. “My code is able to run 1 million contingencies in less than 30 seconds. That is a major achievement.”

With all of the data generated through advanced computing methods, Chen and his team are also always looking take the massive data caches and efficiently turn them into something usable and visual.

“Because high-performance computing systems can create a lot of data, it is challenging to digest that data in the short-term,” he said. “We develop advanced visualization tools, which allow us to view that data in real time and provide a quick response for potential events.”

Giving back to the future of engineering

Even though Chen has achieved much in his career as an engineer, he has used his position to increase opportunities for disseminating knowledge of his field into the community, as well as create pathways for other students to follow in his footsteps.

Chen realized early in his higher education career just how valuable mentorship and extracurricular learning experiences could be to his own growth as an engineer. In addition to utilizing university resources to connect him with an internship at PNNL, he also sought advice for how to improve his resume, his interview skills and more through the university’s career development center. After landing a full-time position of his own at PNNL, he wanted to keep paying forward what he learned, using his connections in engineering and computer science to provide resources and mentoring to aspiring engineering students.

Chen has since volunteered his time through a variety of capacities for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He serves as chair for the IEEE’s distinguished lecture program and formerly served as the regional representative of the IEEE Power & Energy Society and the regional chair for the IEEE Power Energy Society’s scholarship plus program. He also serves as the editor for two professional journals where he helps edit and review articles for publication pertaining to the smart grid.

As a result of his efforts, Chen was recently awarded the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Leadership Award for the contributions he has made to IEEE activities and the leadership he’s displayed through IEEE at the local, regional and national levels. In a congratulatory letter, Wai-Choong Wong, vice president of the member and geographic activities at IEEE, stated that Chen has set a great example in carrying forward the goals and objectives of the IEEE MGA board.

Chen said he is grateful for all he learned in his education at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as what he has been able to accomplish since then by means of his work at PNNL, as well as through his involvement with the IEEE.

“These opportunities changed my life,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to accomplish a lot in my career as an engineer and I believe it is my responsibility to not only increase the capabilities of the power grid, but to also increase the potential for the world’s future engineers who will solve many of these energy-related problems.”

By Maegan Murray

RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities took home the Wells Fargo “CleanTech” Big Picture prize during the University of Washington’s Business Plan Competition this week.

With the award, the team, which includes Libing Zhang, a recent doctoral alumna, and Manuel Seubert and Taylor Pate, who are master’s in business administration students, was presented with a $5,000 check.

UW Business Plan Competition – May 2017

“We believe that we performed very well,” Zhang said. “We received extremely positive feedback regarding our business plan and presentation. Each team had a great product and were very convincing. We felt fortunate to be a part of it all.”

The UW Business Plan Competition has awarded more than $1.3 million dollars in seed funding to more than 165 student teams in its 20-year history. The competition started with 82 teams, which was then reduced to 36 teams for the investment round. The teams were then narrowed to the “sweet 16,” which competed this week in Seattle.

The WSU Tri-Cities team presented the process of taking lignin — a waste product in the cellulosic ethanol biorefineries and the pulping process — one of the most abundant renewable carbon sources on earth, and turning it into an environmentally friendly, cheap jet fuel. The process could potentially reduce the carbon emissions for commercial airlines. The technology was developed by professor Bin Yang’s lab in the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory.

The competition featured a 15-minute presentation by each team to judges including University of Washington faculty, investors and local business owners and leaders. The teams then participated in a question and answer session with the panel of professionals.

“It is a great accomplishment and is really a tribute to the research that made it all possible,” Seubert said about the team’s success in the competition. “Our goal as a company is to implement this technology within the aviation industry and reduce global carbon emissions.”

The team has been accepted into the Cascadia CleanTech accelerator program, which is a 14-week program that delivers mentorship, curriculum, connections and funding opportunities designed specifically for early-stage cleantech startups. The goal of the program is to accelerate startup businesses.

“We are optimistic that we can finalize a partnership with Washington State University for this technology,” Pate said. “There is a significant amount of momentum behind Lignin Biojet and we hope to carry that forward as we move into the next phase of the company’s growth.”

By Maegan Murray

RICHLAND, Wash. – Sam Barnes may have another semester before graduating from Washington State University Tri-Cities, but he already achieved his dream of starting his own business.

While he completed his college education, Barnes worked first as a marketer beginning in Nov. 2013 and then as an office manager for American Family Insurance.

Sam Barnes - business administration student

Sam Barnes, WSU Tri-Cities business administration student, stands outside his branch office for American Family Insurance.

Barnes uses what he learned in many of his business, finance and other related courses at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as the networking connections he made through the university, to excel with his own branch office for American Family Insurance in Kennewick, Wash.

“I think I always wanted to be a business owner,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be in management in some form. As I went through college, I realized that this was what I was meant to be doing. WSU Tri-Cities really helped me get there.”

“When I started, I had no intentions to have an agency, but as things worked out, it has turned into the perfect opportunity,” he said. “I love it and I’m really happy with how everything worked out.”

Barnes worked at an internship at another organization he secured through connections at WSU Tri-Cities this spring when he received the call asking if he would be interested in owning and operating his own branch office. He decided to make the leap and opened his office in one of the company’s fastest turnaround times on record– all while he completed his course final exams this month.

Barnes said if it wasn’t for some of the skills and theories he learned at WSU Tri-Cities, he doesn’t think he could have been as successful as he has been in the past month since opening the office.

“I used the concepts we learned about in a finance class to build out cash flows for my business, I’m using what I learned from my accounting class in meeting with my accountant and I’ve readily used what I’ve learned about business law and business ethics for the management of my business and the hiring process,” he said. “It’s been great to take what I learned from WSU and apply it to the real world.”

Barnes said his favorite part about his business education at WSU Tri-Cities was that it was intertwined with world-class organizations and industry standards.

“WSU Tri-Cities is really good at helping students get a job and getting them connected to real-world opportunities,” he said. “Everything about this campus is about plugging you in somewhere. They helped me get an internship before I came here to American Family. It’s a crucial part of the college experience, in my opinion, and something that they do better than most universities.”

Now, Barnes said he is excited to see where his business takes him in his next stages in life. He graduates this fall with his bachelor’s from WSU Tri-Cities.

“I think anyone can successfully open their own business if they are willing to put their mind to it and are willing to take the leap,” he said. “I think I’ve found what I want to do forever, which is be a business owner. The freedom you have and the pride in what you do is incredible. It’s the most rewarding experience.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – The U.S. Transuranium and Uranium Registries, operated by Washington State University, signed a memorandum of understanding with Kyushu Environmental Evaluation Association of Japan May 16 at WSU Tri-Cities in Richland to partner for research opportunities, student experiences and the general sharing of knowledge.

WSU's USTUR partnering with Japanese company for radiochemistry opportunities

USTUR Director Sergei Tolmachev poses for a photo with KEEA President Noriyuki Momoshima after signing a memorandum of understanding to partner for research opportunities, student experiences and the general sharing of knowledge.

KEEA’s radioanalytical section has been involved with Japan’s environmental monitoring following the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants. The purpose of KEEA is to contribute to the conservation and maintenance of the environment in Japan, and  protect the health and life of the local community.

In addition to signing of the memorandum of understanding, representatives from KEEA will tour the U.S. Transuranium and Uranium Registries (USTUR) facilities in Richland and discuss collaboration projects, in addition to current and future research efforts.
“From an academic environment, it is a tremendous opportunity,” Tolmachev said. “Through partnerships like these, there are great research possibilities, especially on a global scale. We will have the capability to share materials available at the registries and further our research reach.”Sergei Tolmachev, director of the USTUR, said partnering with KEEA presents a great opportunity for the global sharing of knowledge and research. WSU’s USTUR is a research program that studies actinide elements, such as plutonium, americium and uranium, that have been deposited within the human body – more specifically in persons with measurable, documented exposures to those radioactive elements.

WSU's USTUR partnering with Japanese company for radiochemistry research

The U.S. Transuranium and Uranium Registries, operated by Washington State University, signed a memorandum of understanding with Kyushu Environmental Evaluation Association of Japan on May 16 at WSU Tri-Cities in Richland to partner for research opportunities, student experiences and the general sharing of knowledge.

Noriyuki Momoshima, president of KEEA, said his organization is excited about learning the techniques on radiochemical analysis of transuranium elements in humans from the USTUR.

“The technique is attractive because the KEEA has limited experience on biological sample analysis,” he said. “The technique will improve our analytical skill and will expand our business.”

Tolmachev said the USTUR will benefit from sharing testing materials that will allow them to broaden their scope of research, as well as provide them with additional testing capabilities for projects that have been put on hold due to larger-scope projects.

“It’s a unique partnership for KEEA because there aren’t a lot of academic environments that have a fully running radiochemistry lab,” he said. “We both have a lot to learn and gain from one another.”

 

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Technologies to be implemented in Uganda this June

RICHLAND, Wash. – Three teams of engineering students at Washington State University Tri-Cities designed technological advancements that will address challenges pertaining to farming, education and agricultural business in rural communities in Uganda.

The projects were part of the students’ capstone engineering courses at WSU Tri-Cities where students are tasked with completing a year-long project that integrates many of the components of the students’ foundational engineering and related courses to solve either a real-world or simulated problem.

WSU Tri-Cities engineering projects for Uganda - solar lighting

Scott Hudson, WSU Tri-Cities professor of electrical engineering (left), helps his students solder a wire to a strip of solar-powered lights that the students designed for a remote community in Uganda. The lights will be implemented in the Kagoma Gate Village in Uganda this June.

The projects for the Ugandan communities include:

  • An aquaponic system that incorporates minimal water, fish and a growing medium to produce a recyclable and sustainable agriculture system
  • A solar-powered lighting system that will allow for additional educational instruction time in the evening and during other minimal daylight hours
  • A solar-powered mushroom dryer that preserves a local mushroom crop that will increase economic opportunity for the local community

Scott Hudson, WSU Tri-Cities professor of electrical engineering, and Messiha Saad, clinical assistant professor of mechanical engineering, serve as faculty mentors and advisors for the three projects, which were funded by Hudson on behalf of The Giving Circle. The Giving Circle is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., which provides services and builds schools, sanitary facilities and more, to help disadvantaged communities around the world.

Hudson will also accompany a Giving Circle team to Uganda this June to help implement the new technologies to ensure their longevity and success.

The students spent their first semester predominantly coming up with a design for their projects and their second semester physically building the structures.

“What is great about these projects is that they will be directly implemented into communities that have a dire need for these technologies,” Hudson said. “Students are using their skill in engineering to design products that will serve an immediate need for a deserving community across the world. They’re solving real-world problems that will have a lasting impact.”

Aquaponic system for food sustainability

The Kagoma Gate Village in Uganda is located far from urban areas and utilities and is considered largely “off the grid,” Hudson said. Many people in the community don’t have access to their own farmland or can’t afford it, and water is in limited supply. An aquaponic system, which recycles water and fish waste to fertilize growing plants in the system, while allowing the fish to breed and then act as an additional food source, is a crucial technology that will do a lot of good, Hudson said.

WSU Tri-Cities engineering projects for Uganda - aquaponics

The WSU Tri-Cities student electrical engineering team poses with their aquaponics project that will be implemented this June in the Kagoma Gate Village in Uganda.

The WSU Tri-Cities student electrical engineering team, composed of students Amjad Al-Shakarji, Gabriel Fuentes, Trevin Schafer and Daniel Cain, had a lot of obstacles to overcome with their design, as many of the materials had to be inexpensive and either available in Uganda or easily shippable to the site. The team also had to conduct a tremendous amount of research, considering their backgrounds were limited in botany, hydrology, etc.

“It was an incredible learning process,” Schafer said. “We’re obviously not hydrologists or mechanical engineers, but we made it all work. A ton of our decisions in the design and construction were based off of research and collaborative ideas. It also helped that we worked really well together.”

The team’s design required the use of solar panels and battery storage, which is where the students’ skills in electrical engineering came to play. The students also developed an electronic system that allows them to monitor the effectiveness of the system remotely and track their data.

WSU Tri-Cities engineering projects for Uganda - aquaponics

The WSU Tri-Cities students’ aquaponics system utilizes a solar-powered pump to pump tilapia fish waste and recycled to plants that are planted in an above bin. The student’s design will be implemented in the Kagoma Gate Village in Uganda this June.

The way the team’s design works is as follows:

  1. Plants are planted in clay pellets atop the apparatus, where water is circulated to the plants via a solar-powered pump
  2. Tilapia fish live in a water tank and their waste is distributed to fertilize the plants growing at the top of the apparatus
  3. The fish then double as a food supply source, as they are native to Uganda and are easy to breed

Schafer said overall, the system uses far less water than that of traditional farming methods.

“The main reason we chose this project as our final engineering capstone project is that it truly provides one of the best resources for the people of Uganda,” he said. “It may not be as heavy in electrical engineering as some of the other student projects, but this project will certainly do a lot of good.”

Al-Shakarji said the project has presented the team with significant challenges, but great rewards.

“It’s been challenging to add the component of having to keep something alive, but it’s something that the people in Uganda will find of real value,” he said. “It’s also something that can be easily expanded. Using a manual that is provided by our team and components that may be easily shipped to the country or purchased locally, anyone can recreate this system. The sky is the limit for expansion.”

Solar lighting for additional educational hours

The Kagoma Gate Village has no access to electricity, which limits the number of hours that are available to provide educational instruction, activities and more. That is why a WSU Tri-Cities student electrical engineering team has partnered to create a solar lighting system that will provide more educational hours to the villagers’ days.

WSU Tri-Cities engineering projects for Uganda - solar lighting

The WSU Tri-Cities student electrical engineering team poses with their solar lighting system (above) that will be implemented in the Kagoma Gate Village in Uganda this June.

The team, composed of students Pierce Jones, Daniel Deaton, Steven Goulet and Richard Dempsey, are creating a lighting system that will provide the same level of light as a standard U.S. office building and has the capability to store enough energy for at least two hours of light per night.

“Right now, the villagers are using kerosene lanterns, which are not only very dangerous, but also very expensive,” Hudson said. “When you think about the fact that these people are making an average of $1 a day, that can eat significantly into the family’s budget.”

Deaton said one of their main challenges was finding components that met their design requirements, allowing the lights to shine bright enough, while not making the system too expensive for the village. The batteries and

WSU Tri-Cities engineering projects for Uganda - solar lighting

The student’s solar lighting system uses a strip of LED lights powered by a solar energy system. The system will provide the same level of light as a standard U.S. office building and has the capability to store enough energy for at least two hours of light per night.

the solar panels, specifically, can be very expensive, he said. The system also had to be simple enough so that it could be recreated by other people in the region.

“Ideally, when this is all done, we want to have it where other villages can reproduce it at a low cost,” Dempsey said. “These are very hard working people that deserve to have a few hours of additional light that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.”

Dempsey said their design, including the solar power components, can be reproduced for about $500.

“Our system is all very scalable and very linear,” Deaton said. “When it does get reproduced, we hope that the village won’t have to learn anything beyond that initial installation. We are creating a manual that provides all of the instructions for the installation.”

Mushroom dyer for economic growth

While Uganda has made great strides toward reducing the level of extreme poverty within the country, economic development remains a significant challenge due to lack of infrastructure and access to larger markets.

WSU Tri-Cities engineering projects for Uganda - mushroom dryer

The WSU Tri-Cities mechanical engineering team builds the frame for their mushroom dryer, which will be implemented this June in the Wakiso District of Uganda.

The Panache Cooperative in the Wakiso District of Uganda has been successfully growing oyster mushrooms, which are considered a delicacy in Africa. Preserving the mushroom’s shelf life, however, has posed a problem. Without extended preservation, exporting the crop to larger markets is impossible. That is why a WSU Tri-Cities student mechanical engineering team is constructing a mushroom drying device that uses minimal power.

The team, composed of students Sam Sparks, Rachel Estes, Keenan Moll, Ian Pierce, Lorraine Seymour and Joel Larson, was tasked with reinventing traditional commercially available dehydrators. Even the modest-sized versions, Pierce said, require significant electrical power, which is not available in the Wakiso District.

“The biggest challenge we’ve had to deal with is getting a mushroom, which consists of 90 percent water, down to 20 percent while dealing with the Ugandan climate that consists of about 70 percent humidity year-round,” Pierce said.

To combat that issue, the team created a device that utilizes a Lexan polycarbonate top that allows for the air to absorb solar energy and be superheated within the system. The system then uses solar components to promote air flow to help regulate the temperature, which ensures that the mushrooms don’t cook, and in turn, lose nutrients.

WSU Tri-Cities engineering projects for Uganda - mushroom dryer

The WSU Tri-Cities mechanical engineering team constructs piping for their mushroom dryer that will be implemented this June in Uganda. The team’s goal was to be able to dry approximately 25 kilograms of mushrooms per day with their design.

“The design has to be simple so that they can build it there,” Seymour said. “It all has to be simple parts with simple assembly, which we were able to accomplish.”

Moll said their design should increase the standard shelf life of the mushrooms from 24 hours, which is standard for unrefrigerated fresh mushrooms, to several weeks or more for the dried product. The team’s goal was to be able to dry approximately 25 kilograms of mushrooms per day. The team’s modular design is scalable to accomplish that feat.

“The people in the Wakiso District will be able to use the dryers to dry their mushrooms and sell them as a local product to restaurants and other businesses, which will help them earn a greater living,” Seymour said. “I feel very rewarded to have participated on this project, because we’re creating something that will have a lasting value.”

Saad said the projects provided his students a tremendous opportunity to utilize their skills in engineering to provide solutions to issues across the world.

“These humanitarian projects provided unique opportunities for my students and gave them greater confidence and the skills to work in unfamiliar environments and across cultural differences,” he said.

Beyond implementation

In addition to installing the different devices within their respective communities this June, Hudson said his goal will be to meet with representatives of the Ugandan government, representatives from the universities, as well as other influential figures to see how they can spread their work to other regions and villages.

“These villages are at a zero level for technology,” he said. “Anything we can do to help is a big improvement, and by empowering Ugandans with technology that they can fix, adapt and implement themselves, it will have a lasting impact that will benefit individuals for generations to come.”

Hudson said The Giving Circle has been a tremendous partner. He said he plans to continue the partnership for future student engineering projects.

“The Giving Circle is in it for the long-term and it makes a lot of sense for us to make this an ongoing development project from WSU Tri-Cities,” he said. “This is hopefully just the beginning of a larger effort and partnership.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Kylie Chiesa, this year’s Washington State University Tri-Cities valedictorian, has always felt she had a special connection to children with developmental and physical disabilities.

She began working as a life-skills helper in high school and with her school’s Buddy Club.

“They learn in unique ways that fit their individual personalities and needs,” she said. “It is incredibly rewarding to see these individuals grow at their own pace in order to make their distinctive mark on the world around them.”

Finding her passion

In college, Chiesa started on the nursing track, but soon realized that career path wasn’t for her. From there, she spent three summers working at a camp for children with disabilities at The Arc of Tri-Cities, and realized that working with disabled children was her true passion.

Chiesa spent three years as a paraeducator at Canyon View Elementary School in Kennewick before deciding to pursue a degree in education with an endorsement in special education from WSU Tri-Cities.

“I loved what I was doing and decided to take the next step to become a teacher,” she said.

Kylie ChiesaClassroom exposure

During her coursework at WSU Tri-Cities, Chiesa had the opportunity to complete several practicum experiences in the classroom. She served in a variety of elementary school classrooms around the Tri-Cities focused that focused on general education, autism, and life-skills. Currently, she serves as a long-term substitute teacher in a resource classroom at Lincoln Elementary School and Canyon View Elementary School.

“My education at WSU Tri-Cities prepared me for a career as a teacher in many ways,” she said. “Going to different placements allowed for me to see many different teaching methods, strategies and approaches. The courses I took prepared me for teaching various subjects.”

In each class, she and her fellow students were given tools that they could use to stock a figurative tool bag.

“When we step into our first classroom, we will have a tool bag full of various tools to use with our students,” she said. But the learning won’t stop there, Chiesa added, as WSU Tri-Cities also taught her to be a lifelong learner.

First position in Kennewick

Chiesa has accepted her first teaching position as a primary autism teacher at Washington Elementary School in the Kennewick School District.

“Far too often, children with special needs are told what they can’t do,” she said. “Instead of focusing on everything these children can do. I repeatedly hear them described by their limitations. It is my goal to discover what those children with special needs can do well and assist them in reaching their full potential. There is no greater joy than seeing a student meet a milestone that they have been working so hard to achieve.”

Chiesa will graduate with the 2017 WSU Tri-Cities class at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Toyota Center, 7000 W. Grandridge Blvd., in Kennewick, Wash. Doors open at noon. The event is free to the public and tickets are not required.

 

Media Contacts:

Kylie Chiesa, WSU Tri-Cities valedictorian, kylie.chiesa@wsu.edu

Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, Maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu