Working toward bachelor’s degrees in energy systems engineering and sustainability at Oregon State University-Cascades in Bend, Dallas Bennett is dedicated to designing greener systems on a local level.
“I’m from Silverton, Oregon,” Bennett said. “Growing up in a small town, I have a tight-knit sense of community. It would be really nice to work directly with any community that I’m a part of.”
In Silverton, Bennett’s parents own a restaurant. Originally envisioning a similar career, she entered OSU-Cascades as a business major in 2019. However, when the pandemic struck, she reevaluated her goals and explored other degree options. In 2020, she took an introductory course in mechanical, industrial, and manufacturing engineering; for Bennett, this was enough to confirm her love of engineering and put her on a path toward a bachelor’s in energy systems engineering.
“I’ve always wanted to build things. The energy systems engineering program seemed like a good opportunity to push myself,” Bennett reflected. “It’s not the easiest degree, but I’ve definitely learned a lot.”
Besides engineering, Bennett has valued the concept of sustainability since childhood. Memories of her electricity-conscious grandmother and family camping trips at Detroit Lake firmly instilled in her the importance of environmental preservation.
“At campgrounds, I’d see places being affected by the more intense fires and natural disasters,” Bennett said. “That played a big role in my interest. Sustainability is a much bigger picture than just yourself; it has to be a societal change.”
In 2021, Bennett joined the OSU-Cascades Energy Systems Laboratory managed by Chris Hagen, associate professor of energy systems engineering and interim director of research. There, she started out writing grant proposals for research funding, but her work became more hands-on that December, when she received a Layman Fellowship to conduct undergraduate research with a faculty mentor.
“We were interested in seeing the effect of air from a fan and how it controlled our heat source, a fake log,” Bennett said. “I ended up controlling the fan speed to stay at a set temperature, although the heater produced different amounts of heat at different times.”
Now, Bennett’s research project has become her ongoing work with Hagen. Most recently, she has been disassembling and rewiring space heaters to determine a framework for an upgraded heat-control system for the stoves. She will continue to add components to her design until it eventually functions as she intended.
“Because wood stove emissions are partially burned, we’re releasing things in the air that shouldn’t be,” Bennett explained. “But if we find the perfect temperature at which wood burns fully, and its emissions are at the right levels, it’ll be a cleaner burn. So, we’ll retrofit fans onto older wood stoves and make them smart controlled based on the stove temperature.”
Hagen noted that Bennett has “a passion for clean energy research and leadership with laboratory skills beyond some graduate students.” He also appreciates Bennett’s positive attitude and collegiality, which enhances the team dynamic in his lab. “I can speak for my entire research group by saying we all thoroughly enjoy working with Dallas,” he said.
Hagen encouraged Bennett and her lab mates, graduate student Bridger Cook and computer science Layman Fellow Seth Weiss, to enter the Hydrogen Business Case Competition, part of the Department of Energy’s American-Made Challenge series.
“The challenge was to create a business case for people to see if hydrogen is suitable for their community and how it fits into other energy systems,” Bennett said. “The first phase was outlining what we wanted to do and what we wanted to focus on, which ended up being biomass gasification.”
For phase 1 of the competition, teams across the nation conceptualized user-friendly analysis tools to pinpoint business opportunities with clean hydrogen energy for local economies. For phase 2, a select few teams with the most promising tools were tasked with designing them. One of those teams was Bend Hydrogen — Cook, Bennett, and Weiss — who offered up the Biomass gasification Optimal Business Case Analysis Tool, or BOBCAT.
“Bridger, a grad student, is actually doing a lot of work in biomass gasification and has a different grant working on some of that, so he definitely took the lead,” Bennett explained. “He coded and did foundational work on BOBCAT. Then, I made it more user-friendly and double- checked his work, which involved many formulas, and revamped our model in the end to make sure it looked clean and professional.”
Bend Hydrogen won second place overall in the competition, receiving $30,000 and DOE- sponsored internships with organizations of their choice.
As Bennett contemplates her internship options, she will continue to enjoy her research and courses, weekly bouldering as a member of the OSU-Cascades Rock Climbing Club, and the endless outdoor recreation that her adopted community offers.
Dr. Hagen's current research focuses on energy conversion (primarily combustion), novel transportation fuels, and development of sensors for harsh environments. He is a member of the Combustion Institute, ASME, SAE, and IEEE.
Dr. Bahman Abbasi joined Oregon State University in 2017 as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Before joining OSU he worked as an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton and a Technical Advisor to US Department of Energy with wide-ranging experience in power generation systems, solar-thermal energy, high-temperature materials, light metals production and recycling, water-energy nexus, among other energy technologies. Prior to that he worked in various industries; including, natural gas pipes manufacturing, automotive, as well as a Lead Engineer at General Electric. He received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Maryland in 2010 with focus on phase-change phenomena and heat transfer, and has authored 20 technical publications including 5 issued patents.
Dr. Bahman Abbasi's current esearch activities include water-energy nexus, control systems in thermal-fluid applications, and advanced metals and materials.
Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 1998
M.S., Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 1995
B.S., Mechanical Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin, 1991
Irem Tumer is a professor at Oregon State University, where she leads the Complex Engineered System Design group within the Design Engineering Labs.
She is an expert in system-level design and analysis for software-intensive engineered systems, focusing on the development of model-based design and risk-based design methodologies for use in the early stages of the complex system design process.
Her extensive experience at NASA and in the Engineering Design community has led to over 100 publications. She has been extensively funded through various NASA programs while leading the Complex Systems Design group during her time at NASA Ames Research Center between 1998 and 2006.
Since moving to Oregon State University in 2006, her funding has largely been through NSF, AFOSR, DARPA, and NASA. Prior to accepting a faculty position at OSU, Prof. Tumer led the Complex Systems Design and Engineering group in the Intelligent Systems Division at NASA Ames Research Center, where she worked from 1998 through 2006 as Research Scientist, Group Lead, and Program Manager.
Professor Tumer has been conference chair for ASME’s Design for Manufacturing and the Lifecycle conference in 2000, program chair for IEEE Reliability Society’s Prognostics and Health Management Conference in 2008, and program chair (2011) and conference chair (2012) for ASME’s International Design Theory and Methodology Conference; and is current associate editor for ASME Journal of Mechanical Design and the International Journal of Prognostics and Health Management, and guest editor for AIEDAM Journal.
She is an ASME Fellow, and a member of SWE and ASEE.
Irem Tumer's research focuses on providing systematic and mathematical methods to design, model, and analyze highly complex and integrated systems. Current areas of interest include risk-based and model-based design, system analysis and optimization, computational design, collaborative design, systems engineering, and reliability engineering as applied to the design of large scale complex engineered systems such as aircraft, spacecraft, automobiles, nuclear power plants, power grid, etc.
Photos by Karl Maasdam, Lucas Radostitz, Gale Sumida.
Every engineer spends countless hours learning their field inside and out, but only a relative few ever launch a company to bring their inventions to the world. Luckily, the Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator helps faculty, staff, students, and alumni take that critical step by shepherding new companies through all phases of the startup process.
“Part of Oregon State’s mission as a land-grant university is boosting the local as well as the global economy,” said Karl Mundorff, executive director of innovation and entrepreneurship at Oregon State and the Accelerator’s director. “You can do that by supporting existing businesses, but to really be competitive and grow stronger and more diverse living-wage jobs in Oregon, we need to layer entrepreneurship on top of that.”
The Accelerator offers a trio of programs to help would-be entrepreneurs take their idea from sketch pad to launch pad.
ITERATE consists of four workshops that help clients evaluate ideas from an entrepreneurial mindset. Clients in this stage work to identify a potential product, market, and industry for their idea.
The 10-week ACCELERATE program focuses on product-market fit. Clients develop a viable product, test their startup’s feasibility, and validate their business models. Faculty, students, staff, alumni, and the broader Oregon State community all participate in Iterate and Accelerate together.
LAUNCH is a five-month, immersive program designed to make each startup fully operational — from completing the team to developing a repeatable sales model. At this stage, clients seek to ramp up from an R&D company to a product manufacturing and marketing company.
The Accelerator also offers funding support, including access to the University Innovation Research Fund, the University Venture Development Fund, and small business development grants. When clients are ready, Accelerator staff make introductions to angel and venture capital investors.
Since its creation in 2013, the Accelerator has helped companies created by College of Engineering faculty, staff, students, and alumni — including inaugural Accelerate program member Onboard Dynamics, which received a $30 million investment from BP Energy in 2021. The stories that follow highlight three companies launched, both with and without Accelerator support, by College of Engineering students and alumni.
Josh Bamberger knew for certain that his invention would work after he used a single finger to effortlessly lift a duffel bag holding a 50-pound sack of concrete. He followed that with a one-finger pull-up.
“He’s pretty strong, but not strong enough to do one-arm pinkie pull-ups on his own,” said Nathan Jewell, Bamberger’s business partner and co-inventor of the MoonClimb adaptive climbing device, designed to help rock climbers ascend using less force, making the sport more accessible to climbers of varying ability and strength.
Nathan Jewell (left) and Josh Bamberger get ready to test the lifting capabilities of MoonClimb, a product they invented to provide assistance for rock climbers. With the help of the device, Bamberger easily hoisted a duffel bag containing 50 pounds of cement with his little finger.
Bamberger, B.S. mechanical engineering ’21, and Jewell, B.S. computer science ’21, were friends in preschool, but they didn’t cross paths again until Oregon State. By pure chance, they became dorm neighbors in West Hall and reestablished their friendship around backpacking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, and mountaineering. Their adventures included summiting some of the Pacific Northwest’s foremost glaciated peaks, like Rainier, Hood, and Baker.
The idea for MoonClimb emerged in the winter of 2020, when Bamberger was talking with some other members of the Adaptive Technology Engineering Network, or ATEN, a student group that aspires to provide solutions to problems encountered by people with disabilities. Its membership includes individuals with and without disabilities.
“We were thinking up ways to make rock climbing more accessible, and my friend at ATEN said he could probably make it to the top of a climbing wall if he didn’t have to support his entire weight,” Bamberger said.
After graduation, Bamberger and Jewell became roommates in Corvallis and founded Adaptive Ascent. They worked out of their garage, and Bamberger recalls many cold, late nights. “I have clear memories of Nathan with a blanket over his shoulders, hunched over a workstation, soldering circuits or writing code,” he said. Later, they moved into the Rogue Makers workspace just outside of town. Their first working prototype was ready in early 2022, even though both partners hold full-time jobs and run the company on the side.
MoonClimb, which is the size of a beefy briefcase and weighs about 25 pounds, is simple to use. Once the device is secured at the top of a climbing route with traditional gear, a rope is looped through it. One end attaches to the climber’s harness, while a climbing partner nearby serves as the belayer to take up slack and arrest falls. Power comes from a standard wall outlet.
With the rope pulled taut, the climber sits back until they’re suspended a foot or two above the ground so the machine can gauge their weight. MoonClimb’s assistance level is set through a smartphone app. With a 50% assist, for example, the climber needs to exert only half the total force required to ascend. Assistance can go up to 95% for climbers up to 310 pounds, and the level can be changed midclimb.
MoonClimb was initially developed for people with disabilities, but Jewell and Bamberger see the potential for a much larger market, such as novices who need a shot of confidence. They compare the device to e-bikes, which have become popular among people who know how to ride regular bicycles but just want a little more oomph.
There are about 500 climbing gyms in the U.S., and the number is growing. However, that market may not be big enough to attract major investors, Jewell says. The partners are exploring other channels, such as selling directly to adaptive sports groups. And market opportunities are bound to expand once a battery pack is integrated into the unit, allowing outdoor use. So far, the most effective marketing tactic has been letting people try MoonClimb.
“It’s been really cool to watch people who have never scaled a climbing wall reach the top,” Jewell said. “We’re excited that this technology can open up rock climbing to many more people.”
When fourth-year computer science student Harry Herzberg was in high school, his sister worked as a paraeducator who assisted students with learning disabilities by sitting with them in class, giving them one-on-one support. Her experiences, as well as his being diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, inspired Herzberg to develop Alerty, a mobile app to help students — especially those with ADHD — perform better in class.
Dubbed “a paraeducator in your pocket,” the Alerty app transcribes class lectures in real time to help students see what they might have just missed. Herzberg explains that students with ADHD may unintentionally lose focus in class and — because college courses are often fast-paced, with information that builds upon itself — quickly get left behind.
Dmytro Shabanov (left) and Harry Herzberg discuss Alerty, the mobile app they helped create to enable students to perform better in class.
“I’ve had many classes where I’ve missed the teacher talking about the homework assignment, or a key point,” Herzberg said. “Then I’m spending the entire day or even weeks trying to catch up, just because I missed that one important point.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when classes were being taught asynchronously online, Herzberg liked that he was able to go back, replay the lectures, and absorb concepts he may have missed.
“I was able to get better grades and even made the dean’s list because I was able to go back and replay, slow down, and speed up the videos,” he said.
Alerty is designed to be used by instructors and students together. When the instructor makes an important point, they press a button on the app, which alerts students with a vibration on their phones or tablets. The app also highlights the corresponding part of the transcript in blue.
After class, students can review the lecture and, if necessary, select a portion of the transcript to ask for clarification. This feature also helps instructors to see where students are struggling over certain concepts. The app could prove helpful to students without ADHD, including those who have different learning styles, English language learners, and those who have difficulty hearing.
Herzberg and Dmytro Shabanov, a fourth-year student in finance and marketing, are joined on the Alerty team by their business partners Jade Zavsklavsky, Artemis Kearny, Nicholas Craycraft, Alexander Victoria Trujillo, and Freya Crowe.
The team, more than half of whom have ADHD or autism, recently won the TiE Oregon regional competition and the Social Entrepreneurship Award at The Indus Entrepreneurs’ University Global Pitch Competition and was one of 30 teams to advance to the semifinal round, out of some 1,400 accepted into the competition. Alerty also earned second place in the College of Business’s Launch Academy competition, and a grant from the 1517 Fund.
Mike Bailey, professor of computer science, beta-tested Alerty in one of his classes during spring term. “For those who have difficulty focusing and taking notes in class, I think this could be a game changer,” he said.
Confronting an embarrassing problem was the first step for two bioengineering alumni who invented an oral health care solution. The idea sparked in their senior design class, when they were asked to come up with 10 health care issues they wanted to improve. At the top of both of their lists was tonsil stones.
Even though Sydney Forbes, ’17, and Jessy Imdieke, ’17, were friends, they were shocked to find out they had tonsil stones in common. The condition occurs when substances like mucus and tiny bits of food collect in pits on the tonsils and harden into stones that harbor odor-causing bacteria.
“It’s a huge source of embarrassment and frustration, because it causes extreme bad breath,” Forbes said. For their project, Forbes and Imdieke designed a tool to allow people to remove their own tonsil stones at home.
After graduation, both got full-time jobs with biomedical startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Then the pandemic hit, and they saw an opportunity to return to their passion to create a new solution for tonsil stones.
In early 2020, they launched Tonsil Tech in Bend, with a third co-founder, Daniel Forbes. Sydney Forbes contacted Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator, which was conducting programs online. After completing the Iterate and Launch programs, the team further refined their plan with the help of programs at University of Washington, the Washington Innovation Network, and the Oregon Bioscience Incubator. Their mentors at the Accelerator continue to support them, and they also get advice from Adam Krynicki, executive director in the Innovation Co-Lab at OSU-Cascades.
“Oregon State University was critical for the development of our company. The Accelerator programs gave us the mentorship, structure, and resources we needed to move forward,” Imdieke said.
Sydney Forbes (left) and Jessy Imdieke discuss their products — individual stone removal tools and TonsiFIX basic and premium kits.
In July 2021, Tonsil Tech brought to market the first tool specifically designed to remove tonsil stones. The tool, TonsiFIX (patent pending), features a teardrop-shaped loop at the end of a handle with an attached wrist strap, with details of its construction optimized for removing tonsil stones. The company sells the tool alone or in a kit that includes a travel pouch and a bright LED mirror light. Customers can purchase directly from tonsiltech.com, and the company plans to expand into retail and health care settings.
Tonsil Tech has raised $160,000 from various sources and competitions, including $60,000 through the Accelerator’s University Venture Development Fund. The Accelerator funding will allow the company to scale up production and lower costs by moving from 3D printing to injection molding, Imdieke said.
Success for the Tonsil Tech team is more than their business achievements. They can see that they are changing people’s lives.
“Customers continuously tell us that they have never told anyone about the problem, and yet it affects about 10% of the population,” Imdieke said. “Something that you could think of as a nuisance has a big impact on people’s self-esteem.”
Photos by NASA, ESA, CSA, STSCL, and Kerry Dahlen.
Last Christmas, Amrit Nam Khalsa, B.S. mechanical engineering ’18, woke up to a wonderful gift: the perfect launch of the $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, the largest, most complex space telescope ever built.
“I thought, ‘Finally, this is actually happening.’ Then I thought, ‘Now comes the hard part,’” Khalsa said. “The launch was not necessarily the hardest thing the telescope had to endure. There were still weeks of nail-biting deployments and positioning.”
“The first time I set foot in the high bay and looked up at the telescope, I was just 22. It’s hard to appreciate the scale until you’re right there,” Khalsa said. “You feel the energy change and you think, ‘Whoa, this is big; this is something monumental that could change our fundamental understanding of science.’”
Khalsa’s four-person team was responsible for testing and troubleshooting the telescope’s 178 nonexplosive actuators. The devices are a type of hold-down release mechanism used to secure elements of a spacecraft or its payload during launch. On command, HDRMs release to allow equipment to move into operating positions.
To fit inside the Ariane 5 rocket that carried it into space, the telescope was folded up. Critical elements, like the solar power array, communications antennae, sunshield, and mirrors were all secured by HDRMs. During Webb’s monthlong journey to its permanent station, each component had to be released and deployed in a tightly choreographed sequence. A single HDRM failure could compromise the mission.
Khalsa had moved on to his current position with Blue Origin in Seattle when the telescope launched. But, of course, he still felt a tremendous personal and professional connection to Webb. He checked for updates several times a day throughout the flight.
“Every one of those actuators was a potential point of mechanical failure that carried an insane amount of risk. So, yeah, I was a little anxious,” Khalsa said.
They all worked perfectly.
When the last segment of the telescope’s enormous mirror swung into place two weeks after launch, he felt relief and a sense of accomplishment — and then again, once the telescope reached its destination 1 million miles from Earth.
Fully deployed, the telescope looks like a giant golden honeycomb riding atop a diamond-shaped silver surfboard. Its sunshield covers the area of a tennis court, and its hexagonally segmented mirror is more than six times the size of the one on the Hubble Space Telescope. According to NASA, Webb will allow scientists to peer back 13.6 billion years, when the first galaxies formed after the Big Bang.
At Blue Origin, Khalsa is responsible for integrating payloads for the New Glenn program. According to the company, New Glenn’s massive launch vehicle will be capable of carrying people and payloads into Earth orbit, and possibly beyond.
Khalsa was a senior before he even considered a career in aerospace. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just get some manufacturing job in Portland and follow that general path,’” he said.
Everything changed when the time came to choose a senior capstone project. He wanted something different and challenging, so he convinced some friends to join a team that would design and build a high-altitude rocket. And it would be yet another chance for the type of valuable hands-on learning that he’d enjoyed throughout his college career.
“I didn’t think it would lead anywhere new. It was more like something that just seemed cool,” he said. “As soon as I got started on the project, I knew instantly that I wanted a career in aerospace. I never looked back.”
He gives Nancy Squires a lot of the credit. Squires, who died in June 2021, was a senior instructor of mechanical engineering and served as the capstone project’s senior advisor. Her numerous accomplishments included spearheading Oregon State’s aerospace engineering program.
“I took some courses with Nancy. I liked the topics, and I liked her as a teacher,” Khalsa said. “Her passion for space and space exploration was inspiring, and she cared about her students in a way that I had not experienced.” Even years after Khalsa graduated, Squires would reach out periodically just to check in. “She was a mentor and a friend. She was phenomenal, and she’s the reason I found where I wanted to be.”
After Webb arrived at its final destination in late January, a series of algorithms fine-tuned the position of its 18 mirror segments, allowing them to function as a single mirror. Engineers then calibrated its instruments in preparation for initial operations. NASA released the telescope’s first images to the public over the summer.
“My entire career has taken a very different trajectory than anything I expected,” Khalsa said. “I’m just proud to have contributed to something so big.”
Prior to her role on the college's leadership team, Belinda was director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center (now the Pacific Marine Energy Center). She served as the head of Mechanical Engineering at Oregon State beginning in 2003 before also becoming the Head of Industrial Engineering in 2006. In 2007, she formed and served as head of the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering until 2011.
As a professor of mechanical engineering, Belinda is internationally renowned for research in modeling and control of distributed parameter systems, and development of computational algorithms for reduced order controllers. Her research includes dynamics and control of wave energy converters, and has been funded by DARPA, U.S. Department of Defense, National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Belinda received her Ph.D. from Clemson University, her M.S. from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and her B.S. from the University of Maryland.
At Oregon State 1993–98 and since 2003.
Current research interests of Dr. Batten include computational methods for controlling and optimizing distributed parameter systems, mathematical modeling, numerical analysis, and dynamics and control of autonomous vehicles and wave energy devices. Dr. Batten's research has been supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Defense (DoD), and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
NNMREC Director, 2011–2017
MIME School Head, 2007–11
Department Head, Mechanical Engineering, Oregon State University, 2003–07
Program Manager, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, 2001–03
Associate Professor & Professor, Virginia Tech, 1998–2003
Assistant and Associate Professor, Oregon State University, 1993–98
Postdoctoral Research Associate, North Carolina State University, 1992–93
US Air Force Science Advisory Board Former member
Outstanding Young Alumni, College of Engineering and Science, Clemson University
Associate Editor, SIAM Book Series Advances in Design and Control
Alexander von Humboldt Fellow
2014 OSU College of Engineering Research Collaboration Award