engineering Tag

RICHLAND, Wash – WSU Tri-Cities is launching a series of workshops to prepare engineers for the professional engineering exam.

Participants choose their engineering discipline – chemical, civil, electrical or mechanical. They then receive 42 hours of classroom-based exam review focused on solving theory and high-probability practice problems. Participants also learn exam day techniques, strategies and complete a simulated practice exam.

The first two workshops are:

  • Civil, electrical and mechanical engineering, June 22-Oct. 19
  • Chemical engineering, Oct. 12 – Feb. 16

The workshop costs $975. To register and for more information, visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/pdce/peprepworkshop. Individuals can also contact the Professional Development and Community Education office at 509-372-7174 or pdce@tricity.wsu.edu.

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.”

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

A team from Washington State University Tri-Cities placed 17th recently during the SAE Aero Design Competition in Fort Worth, Texas.

WSU Tri-Cities - SAE Aero Design Competition

The WSU Tri-Cities mechanical engineering team poses with the airplane they designed and competed with at the SAE Aero Design Competition.

The team, composed of senior mechanical engineering students Erik Zepeda, Austin Shaw, Ryan Hagins, Matt Kosmos, Arich Fuher and Jose Espinoza, spent five months designing and constructing their airplane. The plane spanned seven feet long and had a wing span of eight feet.

The team said they chose a different design from WSU Tri-Cities teams who competed in years prior, and that their design was also different from many teams competing.

“Most of the other designs were pretty square, but we wanted to go with a more aerodynamic shape,” Shaw said. “We got numerous compliments on the design of our plane.”

During the competition, the team had a very successful first flight, placing fourth in the first round. During their second flight, however, the team had some electrical problems, which they weren’t able to remedy mid-air and the aircraft crashed.

“Even with that crash, we ended up placing 10th in the flight category,” Shaw said. “If we hadn’t crashed, we probably could have placed in the top five teams. That was disappointing, but everything else went really well.”

In addition to their 17th overall placing, the team placed 23rd in regular class design, 22nd in regular class presentation and 18th in regular class most payload transported.SAE Aero Design Competition - Spring 2017

All of the team members said despite their disappointing second flight, they all thoroughly enjoyed the design process, as well as the competition.

“It was a pretty cool experience, especially since it was our senior project,” said Zepeda. “I had never thought about aerospace engineering before, but now I’m thinking about it as a possible career direction.”

All the team members said the project presented them with excellent preparation for their future careers as engineers, regardless of the field of engineering they each go into.

“It definitely gives you good experience for taking on a large engineering project, as well as working with different people, scheduling, meeting deadlines and making presentations in front of judges,” Fuher said.

SAE Aero Design Competition - Spring 2017The design project was part of a senior capstone course taught by Messiha Saad, WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of mechanical engineering and faculty adviser for the campus’ SAE Aero Design team. Saad said the competition provides the opportunity for his students to learn the mechanics and importance of teamwork, project organization, scheduling, system and product design, product testing, cost analysis and project reporting.

“Through this design project and competition, my students are able to demonstrate and develop their engineering skills set in a real-world environment with real deadlines and stiff competition,” he said. “I am very proud that my students demonstrated the ability to successfully compete with students from some of the top-rated engineering programs in the country.”

PULLMAN, Wash. – As the new associate dean for international programs, Joseph Iannelli will be responsible for developing and expanding global opportunities and collaborations in Washington State University’s Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.

“Joseph has been providing outstanding leadership in connecting Voiland College faculty and students internationally,” said Don Bender, interim dean of the college. “In keeping with the university’s Drive to 25, we look forward to growing these efforts and broadening our global interactions and experiences.”

Iannelli, who has been at WSU since 2014, will maintain his position as founding director and professor in the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences at WSU Tri-Cities.

In his new role, he said he intends to develop partnerships with overseas universities and organizations in research and student exchange that will enhance economic development and goodwill toward his college, WSU and the state of Washington.

He has led several efforts to increase the university’s global connections. Earlier this year, WSU became the first university in the state to receive European Union funding to support student and faculty research exchanges. He has established partnerships with Technology University of Dresden, Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and Zurich University of Applied Sciences to begin student and faculty exchanges, joint graduate programs and research initiatives.

“These types of collaborations are important because we live in a globalized society,” he said. “When we provide this enhanced education, we graduate students who are ready to excel in their professions on the global scale.”

A fellow of the British Higher Education Academy, Iannelli holds a Ph.D. in engineering science with a focus on aerospace engineering and computational fluid dynamics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He holds a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Palermo, Italy, and a diploma in fluid dynamics from the Von Karman Institute in Belgium.

By Maegan Murray

Before the age of 20, Gordan Gavric was already working on technology that continues to change the world of security.

Gavric started as an electrical engineering intern at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in the High School Student Research Internship program the summer of his high school junior year working for the Atom Probe group in (define EMSL). Now a junior at Washington State University Tri-Cities, Gavric has transitioned into working in 30784625972_0822818cec_zthe Engineering Development Lab at PNNL, where he works with the creators of the millimeter wave imaging technologies used in body scanners that are deployed in airports across the world.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Gavric said. “How many other interns get to work on this stuff? I started with PNNL my freshman year and I’ve been with them ever since. I’ve done everything from Python language programming, to circuit development, to building up and testing antennas using some very expensive, very cool pieces of hardware.”

The opportunities he was presented with through PNNL were the primary reason why he chose to attend Washington State University Tri-Cities.

“I think it was probably the best thing I could have done in terms of school and work,” he said. “I was interested in another university because their electrical engineering program was more based in radio and signal processing. But since then, I’ve taken classes here that are more oriented toward digital signal processing. I’ve received one of the best educations because I’m learning from the people that are actually doing it and they do it well.”

30599606060_48bf9994ca_zThrough his current position at PNNL, Gavric is using Python to develop a software application for nuclear security. He developed what is called a graphical user interface, or a GUI, that allows engineers to tweak parameters in real-time to better set instruments to protect a nuclear source. He is also working with millimeter wave antennas that are used in airport and security body scanners.

“Seeing some of crazy concepts behind it and the engineering required to develop that technology and the creativity that was facilitated has been incredible,” he said. “It was not like we were just designing circuits. You got the sense that you could be really creative in the way you solve the big problems in the world with engineering. It has been amazing to see that type of things being done right here in Richland.”

Gavric said his position uniquely allows him to be exposed to engineering concepts and materials first at PNNL, which he then learns about in detail at WSU Tri-Cities.

“Last summer, I was tasked with building a resonant filter and I spent close to two days figuring out everything I could about it at PNNL,” he said. “Then today, in electronics class, we talked about a similar design and learned how to apply it a little differently. I get to first see it applied and then learn more about it. It definitely enriches me because I’m exposed in a real-world experience and then I dive into the details of it in class.”

Gavric said the combination of his WSU Tri-Cities education and his real-world experience at PNNL has poised him with unique experiences that he will continue to use throughout his career in engineering.

“I like that everything correlates really well,” he said. “Everything I learn in class, I see at my job. My teammates at PNNL are like, ‘Have you learned about x? Oh, you learned it last week, OK cool.’ It helps me bond with them.”30268543804_0d4bd8094a_z

Gavric said he has also applied his experience at PNNL and what he is learning in the classroom at WSU Tri-Cities for external projects and leadership opportunities at the university. He and a couple of classmates started the robotics club on campus. He also is the chief justice for the Associated Students of Washington State University where he oversees the student government’s bylaws and judicial procedure.

“One of my favorite things about WSU and PNNL are the opportunities you are presented with,” he said. “WSU Tri-Cities is one of those places where if you have a will to do something, like starting an engineering club, you can. You can make the most out of anything. At PNNL, I’ve been provided with opportunities to advance in my career, like learning new engineering concepts and furthering my skillset.”

Plus, three of the five people on his team at PNNL either taught at or attended WSU Tri-Cities.

“I’m surrounded by fellow alumni,” he said. “It’s been pretty great.”

Interested in a career in electrical engineering? Visit https://tricities.wsu.edu/engineering/.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – H. Keith Moo-Young, chancellor of Washington State University Tri-Cities, has been named a 2016 fellow of the National Academy of Inventors.

He led an industry consortium research project on manufactured gas plant remediation strategies for the Electric Power Research Institute that included 15 public utilities. As a result, he shares a patent with colleagues Derick Brown and Andrew J. Coleman for a process to quantify coal tar in the environment.

He has published more than 200 research papers on solid and hazardous waste management and on fate and transport in the environment. He has secured research funding from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. departments of energy, education and defense, and other sources. He has contributed to environmental public policy through membership on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency science advisory board.

Election as an NAI fellow is the highest professional distinction accorded to academics whose inventions have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development and welfare of society. Moo-Young’s leadership and innovation span commercialization activity in Pennsylvania, California and Washington state.

With him as chancellor, WSU Tri-Cities has grown its partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for biofuels advancement and other innovative research efforts. Under his leadership, WSU Tri-Cities became home to the $23 million St. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.

“I am honored to be selected as part of the National Academy of Inventors,” Moo-Young said. “This opportunity also opens doors to our students, faculty and staff at WSU Tri-Cities to expand upon their own research and innovation through the academy.”

NAI Fellows have generated more than 8,500 licensed technologies and companies and created more than 1.1 million jobs, with more than $100 billion in revenue generated based on their discoveries. There are 757 NAI fellows representing 229 research universities and governmental and nonprofit research institutes.

“With each year I continue to be amazed by the caliber of individuals named as NAI fellows, and the 2016 class is no exception,” said Andrew H. Hirshfeld, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office commissioner for patents. The fellows will be inducted as part of the NAI annual conference April 6 in Boston. For a complete list of NAI fellows, visit http://Academyofinventors.org/search-fellows.asp.

 

News media contact:
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333, maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

elmar-villota
Elmar Villota

RICHLAND, Wash. – In Elmar Villota’s home country of the Philippines, as much as 15 percent of households do not have electricity. Villota, a doctoral student in biological systems engineering at Washington State University Tri-Cities, is motivated to close that gap with renewable energy.

“A simple light bulb could make a world of difference,” he said. “Without a sustainable source of electricity, students can’t have light or read comfortably at night. Imagine how much knowledge they would miss.”

elmar-villota-left-educates-filipino-residents-web
Elmar Villota, left, educates
Filipino residents on basic
maintenance and
troubleshooting for an
energy device.

With a population of more than 100 million scattered across more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines faces the challenge of extending power to everyone, he said.

“In the Philippines, we are end users in terms of technology,” Villota said. “Historically, we have purchased technology rather than making or innovating it ourselves for our own use.”

Renewable energy, he added, could help address the nation’s sustainable energy concerns and stimulate technological growth.

Turning biomass into fuel, other products

As part of the Engineering and Research Development for Technology scholarship program, which is offered to all Filipino engineers by the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology, Villota is working toward his doctorate at WSU Tri-Cities.

elmar-villota-with-residents-web
Elmar Villota with Filipino residents.

He is studying how to convert second-generation biomass, such as agricultural waste or woody crops, to biofuels and other useful products, such as bio-based polymers and chemicals. Working under WSU associate professor Bin Yang, Villota mainly is focused on enzymatic hydrolysis, a process that uses bacteria and fungi to break down plant cell walls to sugar, which is turned into fuel.

Villota has written a book chapter on the subject in cooperation with Yang and Ziyu Dai, a senior scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He is also working with Rongchun Shen, a visiting scholar from China, on techno-economic assessment regarding methods for converting lignin—structural polymers in plants—into useful, high-value products like bioplastics.

Bioproducts lab, PNNL draw scholar

Villota was attracted to WSU Tri-Cities because of its national reputation for excellence in renewable energy research and its partnership with PNNL, a leading national innovator in the renewable energy sector.

elmar-villota-in-wsu-tri-cities-lab-web
Elmar Villota in a BSEL lab at WSU Tri-Cities.

“WSU is one of the best schools for renewable energy because of the WSU Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory and the university’s relationship with PNNL,” he said. “That is what really encouraged me to go here.”

He also contributes to advancing Filipino renewable energy through his home university, serving as a lecturer at Central Luzon State University. He also is a technical expert in renewable energy for the university’s Affiliated Renewable Energy Center and Phil-Sino Center for Agricultural Technology.

Villota said he is hopeful that thousands of fellow Filipinos will benefit from his work, which could lead to basic electrification and light and even broader impacts.

“Through this experience, I hope to extend students’ learning capabilities, and in turn, extend the potential for them to make a difference in the world,” he said.

 

 

Contacts:

Elmar Villota, WSU Tri-Cities doctoral student, elmar.villota@wsu.edu
Bin Yang, WSU Tri-Cities biological systems engineering, 509-372-7640,binyang@tricity.wsu.edu
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations, 509-372-7333,maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu

Six Washington State University Tri-Cities students sat in a conference room, anxiously waiting for their meeting with a group of AREVA’s engineering and project management officials to begin.

Many of the students didn’t know what to expect, as they had never worked on a project of this magnitude before. This was also their first time at AREVA’s Richland nuclear fuel manufacturing facility.

WSU Tri-Cities newsAs part of their senior mechanical engineering capstone course, the team, which consisted of seniors Jared Beauchene, Jose Chavez, Juan Mejia, Travis Lewis, Alex Schwarz and Manuel Bustos Ramirez, learned they would re-design the AREVA’s current cart used to transport uranium pellets from one building, where they are pressed into shape, to a different building, where they are sintered at a high temperature into their final form.

AREVA Plant Operations Manager Barry Tilden said the problems with the facility’s current pellet transfer cart is that it poses several safety concerns. There are several potential finger pinch points and ergonomic challenges posed when loading the small but heavy trays of uranium pellets, also known as “boats,” he said.

In addition to overcoming those safety elements, the new cart design would have to ensure a safe transport of the delicate pellets before sintering and contain the pellets if it were to tip over during transport. The cart would also have to provide protection from weather during the short trip from building to building and interface well with the existing equipment in two separate pellet production shops.WSU Tri-Cities news

The team spent the next seven months on the new design, balancing their time on the project with a full course load at WSU Tri-Cities.

“It’s was difficult,” Chavez said. “We knew this project would come with expectations and responsibilities. But as we worked through the design challenges, the project has been very rewarding and has given us great experience as we start looking for jobs after graduation.”

Tilden said the team truly embraced the challenges of the design while working through many obstacles and business requirements.

“The team did a great job and can be proud of their work developing and producing a new pellet cart design,” he said.

The team documented their progress through a series of posts on AREVA’s blog site. The entries provide insights into the different stages of the project and the struggles the team overcame along the way.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Ma Thu Sha La was an infant in 1982 when his family left his home country of Burma, fleeing what quickly became a war zone.

“Soldiers came into the village and we couldn’t live there anymore,” he said through a translator. “They started killing people. We were scared we might be next. Everyone left.”

As refugees in Papu, Thailand, his family shared a one-bedroom bamboo hut alongside thousands of others. They struggled for low-paying jobs in road construction and WSU Tri-Cities newsweren’t allowed to seek employment outside the camp. Ma Thu said sometimes, despite hours of grueling road work, they would not see a paycheck for their efforts.

“It was hard,” he said. “But the worst part was the waiting. We lived in the dark, not knowing what was going on.”

In 2011, after years in the refugee camp, Ma Thu and his wife, Lu Dee, whom he married in 2003, received word they would be coming to the United States after applying and being approved for their green cards.

Once in the U.S., they aspired to own their own home, but they didn’t know if the feat was possible. In their first few years in the U.S., the family shared a two-bedroom apartment in Pasco, Wash., on Ma Thu’s salary of $25,000.

WSU Tri-Cities newsLast year, the family was approved for a three-bedroom, 1,200 square feet house after applying through the Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity. Sponsored and built in partnership with Washington State University Tri-Cities, the home is one of 24 themed houses sponsored by various local organizations as part of Habitat’s Whitehouse Addition Project in Pasco.

To make their home a reality, WSU Tri-Cities must raise approximately $80,000 to supplement the building and enable Habitat to sell it to the family at an affordable price with no-interest loans. The family is required to dedicate 500 sweat equity hours to construction.

Donations may be made to the program by contacting Ken Fincher, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor of advancement and community engagement, at ken.fincher@tricity.wsu.eduor 509-372-7398.WSU Tri-Cities news

“This is an opportunity to provide for a family that has lived a life unimaginable to many,” Fincher said. “For years, this family dreamed of a home. This is our chance to give them one. Any donation will go directly into this project.”

Volunteering requires no previous construction experience and all equipment is provided on site. To sign up to volunteer, visit https://orgsync.com/125400/events?view=upcoming. For more information on the Coug House, visithttp://tricities.wsu.edu/cougsinthecommunity/coughouse.

 

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