September 2011

From the Editor

Dear Readers,

Fall marks another new beginning here on campus, ushered in with this year's late-arriving sunshine. Preparations are in full swing to welcome all the eager engineering students, whether they're fresh out of high school or returning after the summer break. Among this energetic cohort are the world changers—the ones who will seek and find innovative solutions to global challenges.

Before classes start, the campus community always takes time to celebrate our students and faculty, recognize achievements, and collectively energize ourselves for the coming academic year. In Portland, we will Rally in the Square on Sept. 16 and in Corvallis, we will gather on Sept. 22 at University Day. I also look forward to joining faculty and staff on Sept. 19 at the College of Engineering Awards Breakfast. All of these events allow us to refresh friendships and forge new ones, explore opportunities, and reflect on all that we have accomplished together so far.

As we begin the 2011-12 academic year, this issue of Momentum! outlines some of our most recent successes. I'm sure we will continue to find plenty more accomplishments as our students and faculty get down to business. Stay tuned as future installments of Momentum! bring you the most exciting developments from the College of Engineering.

Thuy T. Tran
Director of Marketing Communications
Oregon State University, College of Engineering

inkjet solar panels

World's fastest bipedal robot with knees
She's fast, she's agile, and her offspring may have the potential to go where no human has gone before. Clocking in at 6.8 miles per hour and capable of navigating rough terrain, MABEL the running robot was invented in collaboration with Jonathan Hurst, assistant professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering. (See stories in R&D, EngineerLive, Daily Mail, News Track India, and Gizmag)

changing tides

Seismic fault on Mt. Hood concerns construction engineers
Scientists have long known about the earthquake potential in the Pacific Northwest due to the unstable Cascadia subduction zone. But a newly discovered crustal fault on Mt. Hood increases pressure on engineers to design structures that can withstand intense shaking, says Michael Olsen, assistant professor of geomatics engineering. More…

Solar collectors

Beavers football helps artificial intelligence research
Football is apparently more complicated than many people realize. Alan Fern, associate professor of computer science, is using videos of OSU Beaver football games to help computers learn to think strategically. His research is advancing the field of artificial intelligence and could have far-reaching implications in diverse fields such as health, business, and the military. (See stories in Gazette Times, Science 2.0, and TruthDive)

Solar collectors

Seeking more environmentally friendly electronics
Integrating less-toxic materials compared to lead may allow researchers to soon find more environmentally friendly solutions to feed the world's hunger for electronic gadgetry. Materials scientists in Oregon State laboratories, including Professor David Cann, are collaborating on research to develop lead-free piezoelectrics, which are used in devices such as inkjet printers and digital cameras. More…

Solar collectors

Guest researcher tests "megatsunamis"
Landslide-caused “megatsunamis” are virtually impossible to observe in nature, which makes it extremely difficult to predict potential damage to communities. The O.H. Hinsdale Wave Research Laboratory provides a rare opportunity for wave researcher Hermann Fritz from Georgia Tech Savannah to simulate these potentially devastating events. (See stories in OPB and Gazette Times)

Solar collectors

NSF grant expands sustainable materials chemistry R&D
Researchers have a green light to work toward translating environmentally-benign chemistry discoveries into marketable technologies, thanks to a $20 million National Science Foundation grant to the Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry. The center is attempting to create the foundation for a new green materials industry. More…

Solar collectors

Students invent indoor tracking device
Three seniors in electrical engineering and computer science are already changing the world. Samuel House, Sean Connell, and Ian Milligan invented a tracking device that can be used indoors, where GPS units cannot reach. Their invention could help seniors stay in their homes and elder-care facilities keep track of their residents. (See stories in Democrat Herald and KVAL)

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Nuclear engineering major earns CAES scholarship
Sabrina Ireland, a nuclear engineering major, was one of seven students who received a scholarship from the Center for Advanced Energy Studies in Idaho. Ireland earned the scholarship based on an essay she wrote and the work she completed during an internship. More…

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Joplin tornado provides construction engineering insights
Examining what went wrong can sometimes help engineers figure out how to improve a situation; that's why graduate student Kathryn Pfretzschner traveled to Joplin, Mo., after a massive tornado struck on May 22. As part of her research, she wanted to see what happened to wood-frame buildings after they were devastated by strong winds. More…

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Global Formula Racing team continues winning streak
Zooming away with the national championship at home, the Global Formula Racing team continued its winning streak overseas this season. They took first place in Austria and Germany, where they were pitted against the best Europe had to offer. More…

Faculty & Staff

New leader to head up Civil & Construction Engineering Research Laboratories
Computer modeling is powerful, but nothing beats the ability to physically test waves, structures, and soil foundations in a controlled laboratory setting. And nobody understands that better than Professor William McDougal, civil/environmental engineer and oceanographer. McDougal brings more than three decades of wave-testing experience to his new position as director of the CCE (Civil & Construction Engineering) Research Laboratories at the Hinsdale complex. More…


Michael Thorburn leads world's largest astronomical project
Michael Thorburn, who earned a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Oregon State University in 1992, was recently tapped as head of engineering at ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array)—the largest astronomical project in the world.

Solar collectors

Ralph Nielsen receives distinguished ASTM award
Ralph H. Nielsen, Oregon State alumnus and retired chemical engineer, was awarded ASTM International's H.R. "Russ" Ogden Award for contributions to the reactive and refractory metals industry. Nielsen is considered an expert in the chemistry of zirconium extraction and purification. More…


Exploring sustainable energy solutions
Wind, waves, biomass, solar, nuclear—all have been considered as alternative energy solutions. Many industry leaders want to do what is best for the environment, but sometimes the best solutions are not so clear. Research at Oregon State offers insights that can help drive decision-making. More…

In Memory

Former Dean Fred Burgess dies at age 86
Oregon State alumnus and outstanding College of Engineering leader Fred Burgess will be remembered as a passionate environmental engineering researcher, a dedicated instructor, a proponent of collaborative research, and an energetic visionary who boasted a long list of academic and administrative accomplishments. More…

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