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April 2015

From the Dean

As you'll see in the stories that follow, there's a LOT happening here at the college this spring — and much to be grateful for. Our faculty and students are developing the world's fastest bipedal robot, creating better diabetes management using printing technology, predicting potential flooding in the Pacific Northwest, helping aging adults feel safer and more secure, installing reliable weather stations across Africa. The list of stories goes on…

In addition, two industry partners have just given $1 million to establish a new lab on campus focused on construction safety, and our student chapter of Engineers Without Borders celebrates 10 years of bringing clean water to communities worldwide.

It's an impressive list of incredible stories by faculty, students, alumni, and friends. For all of this — and for all of you who make up our Oregon State engineering community — I'm grateful. Without your philanthropy, industry partnerships, and ongoing support in many forms, we would not be telling these stories. Thanks to your engagement, we are now the 16th largest engineering programs in the nation. Thanks to you, we're doing extraordinary, important work to make the world a better place.

Read more about the impact of your giving in the 2015 Momentum! publication.


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Go Beavs!

Scott A. Ashford, Ph.D.
Kearney Professor and Dean
College of Engineering
Oregon State University

Research

Managing diabetes with a better glucose sensor
Greg Herman, associate professor of chemical engineering, and John Conley, professor of electrical and computer engineering, have used "additive manufacturing" and electrohydrodynamic jet ("e-jet") printing to develop an improved type of glucose sensor for patients with Type 1 diabetes. The new approach is more precise, less intrusive, uses fewer processing steps, avoids waste, and costs less. More…

Distracted driving — including changing clothes(!) — at all-time high
A new study of 3,000 teen drivers conducted by David Hurwitz, an assistant professor in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering, shows that although more and more teens are aware that texting while driving is a dangerous distraction, many still engage in activities that can cause accidents, including eating, putting in contacts, applying makeup, using hand-held navigation systems, doing homework, and even changing clothes. NPR story, Oregonian…

Training the world's fastest bipedal robot
Researchers led by Jonathan Hurst, an associate professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering, have designed ATRIAS, a two-legged robot based on running birds that is being subjected to dodge balls, kicks, and more in a campus lab in hopes robots like this one might one day be used to enter disaster areas too dangerous for humans, or help with development of prosthetic limbs that better mimic natural movement. Watch the Reuters video, read the CSM story, and see more videos at the Dynamic Research Lab's YouTube page…

Runoff from glacial melt could impact marine life, sea levels
In one of the first studies to document the volume of fresh water contributed to marine ecosystems by melting glaciers, David Hill, lead author and an associate professor in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering, said runoff from a small section of Alaska's southern coast pours so much fresh water into the Gulf of Alaska that marine life, water temperature, salinity, ocean currents, and global sea levels could be impacted. More…

The sticking power of bulbous, very hairy gecko toes
Geckos can scurry up vertical surfaces, hang from ceilings, and dart away from danger in a heartbeat because they have bulbous toes covered with hundreds of microscopic hairs known as setae. P. Alex Greaney, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and colleagues developed a mathematical model that explains how the setae work and published the results in the Journal of Applied Physics. More…

Optics and nanotech create low-cost sensor for gases
Using a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation, a team of Oregon State researchers that includes Geoff Hollinger, a robotics expert and assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is outfitting a pair of unmanned underwater gliders, or drones, with special sensors and software so they can be deployed for weeks at a time and "think like a fish" to study the behavior of a wide range of marine life. More…

Forecasting future flooding in the Pacific Northwest
A research team led by David Hill, an associate professor of coastal and ocean engineering, is helping quantify how flooding will change in the Pacific Northwest as the climate changes. The novel approach uses climate data from the IPCC and directly models all the components that cause flooding at the coast, including waves, tides, surface winds, precipitation, and stream flow. More…

How vital are teamwork and communication skills on the job?
Although engineering programs view professional skills like teamwork and communication as critical aspects of an engineer’s job, most studies of these skills are limited to general decontextualized reflections from practitioners and educators. New research conducted by Milo Koretsky, a professor of chemical engineering, gathered observational data from students engaged in an authentic, industrially situated engineering project, with interesting results. More…

Gerontechnology: Engineering technologies to improve aging
Research by three engineering professors is contributing to a new field called gerontechnology. Patrick Chiang, an associate professor of electrical engineering, is developing wearable sensors that monitor the indoor movements and location of elders in their homes. Ron Metoyer, an associate professor of computer science, is ensuring information from sensors is displayed in ways that are meaningful and useful for elders. And Carlos Jensen, an associate professor of computer science, is examining the contributions that computer savvy elders make to what he calls the “community quilt” model of programming. More…

Bringing reliable weather stations to Africa
What started six years ago as a research problem for John Selker, a professor in the Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, has evolved into a nonprofit with a bold plan to cover Africa with weather stations that will contribute to crop productivity and food security, help eliminate diseases, provide warning systems for floods and droughts, and offer insights into climate change. Selker is co-director of the Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO), and Zach Dunn, who graduated from Oregon State with a degree in ecological engineering in 2012, is the nonprofit's East Africa field director. More…

Faculty & Staff

The risks of AI not as dramatic as some think
Thomas Dietterich, president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and a distinguished professor of computer science, said the recent contribution of $10 million by Elon Musk to the Future of Life Institute will help support some important and needed efforts to ensure AI safety, but the real risks may not be as dramatic as some people visualize. More…

Would you trust a humanoid robot in your home?
Bill Smart, an associate professor of robotics whose research explores human-robot interaction, says it will be a significant challenge for people to trust a robot enough to allow one into their homes to perform household tasks, especially given the polarized way robots are portrayed in the media and because humanoid robots trigger something in the back of most people’s brains. More…

Food safety in Fukushima and cesium uptake in plants
After the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, government teams stripped the outer bark from trees in the area and removed the top several inches of soil in a decontamination effort aimed at atomic cesium, which falls out of the air like dust. Kathryn Higley, head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics who studies decontamination, says plants in that part of the world don't actually absorb much cesium because of the high potassium levels in soils. More…

Oregon State-industry funding helps NuScale Power grow to 600
Fifteen years ago, José Reyes, a professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics, used a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to launch development of a small-scale nuclear reactor. Four years later, when the DOE funding ran out, Oregon State stepped in to fill the funding void and help Reyes form NuScale Power, which today employs 600 people and is working to bring modular nuclear reactors to market within a few years. More… (subscription only)

Students

Help Celebrate "A 10-Year Quest for Water"
On Sunday May 3rd, the Oregon State chapter of Engineers Without Borders will celebrate its ten-year history partnering with communities worldwide to provide clean water. The event, "A 10-Year Quest for Water," is the chapter's annual fundraising banquet and will include company representatives from CH2M HILL, Boeing, HP, Daimler, Nike and others. Oregon State students of all majors will have the chance to connect with industry and enjoy music, food, and a silent auction. Tickets are available online here.

Piorkowski receives IBM Fellowship Award
Graduate student David Piorkowski received an IBM Ph.D. Fellowship Award in March 2015. The fellowship is an intensely competitive worldwide program, which honors exceptional Ph.D. students who have an interest in solving problems that are important to IBM and fundamental to innovation in many academic disciplines and areas of study. More…

Programs

Oregon State named "Core Institution" of earthquake research center
Oregon State University is now one of 10 Core Institutions of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center (PEER), a multi-institutional research and education center headquartered at the University of California, Berkeley with investigators from universities, consulting companies, and government agencies contributing to research focused on performance-based earthquake engineering in disciplines including structural and geotechnical engineering, geology/seismology, lifelines, transportation, risk management, and public policy. More…

Making a Difference

$1M gift from construction firms funds new safety lab
Knife River Corporation and MDU Construction Services Group, sister construction companies with deep Oregon roots, are giving $1 million to promote worksite safety and help fund a new state-of-the-art safety research lab at the college. The MDU Resources Group Construction Safety Laboratory will enable researchers and industry professionals to study methods and techniques to improve safety for construction workers and the general public. More…

Alumni

Quintessential hardware maker Intel stakes a future in software
Doug Fisher(’85 Electrical and Electronics Engineering), a senior vice president who runs Intel's growing software group in Hillsboro, talks about the company's foray into software, as software has grown significantly in importance for the chipmaker since the emergence of the iPhone, iPad, and other new technologies that have overturned the PC's dominance. More…

Questions or comments about Momentum? E-mail Editor@engr.oregonstate.edu

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