Honors Convocation Recognizes Top Academic Achievers

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

When Kenney Chiu, ’15 Business Finance, joined 4,127 Dean’s and President’s Scholars as part of the Honors Convocation in the Event Center on April 15, someone special shared a seat with him — his baby boy Abraham Charles.

“I snuck him in to sit on my lap,” Chiu said with a laugh. “All the honorees that sat around me were playing with him and they just loved it, too.”

Chiu joined a record number of 3,714 students honored with recognition for earning a 3.65 or higher GPA in at least two contiguous of the past three semesters at San Jose State.

Although Chiu credited his honor with the exceptional teaching found in his home Lucas College of Business, he stressed the impact that his baby boy has had on his academic accomplishments.

“That’s where my motivation comes from,” Chiu said. “I just want to show my kid that he can be proud of his dad.”

Supporters

Interim President Sue Martin took a moment during the ceremony to praise the “unsung heroes,” including family members, friends and spouses who helped support and guide the student scholars.

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

For Emily Vann, ’16 Public Relations, her President’s Scholar recognition was a testament to her mother Olivia and her coaches both on and off the basketball court.

Vann joined a record setting 59 student-athletes recognized for academic excellence, including eight student-athletes who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA for at least two contiguous of the past three semesters.

“You have to kind of go into another gear to kind of get this distinction,” Vann said. “I know firsthand how much it takes and how much time, dedication and effort it takes to go through the everyday process of waking up and having to wear two hats as a student and an athlete.”

Vann, a forward on the SJSU women’s basketball team, said she could not have reached the academic milestone without the support of her mother.

“My mom is a teacher and I just feel really blessed to have had her in my life. She helped me and coached me from the time I was little,” Vann said. “[She’s] always letting me know that my academics come first even though I’m an athlete.”

Provost Andy Feinstein said such support by loved ones and faculty members alike married with personal sacrifice helped usher in the record number of honored scholars this year.

“These students have shown a commitment to their studies, through personal, economic, social and educational circumstances, to be among the top one percent at this university,” Feinstein said.

Sacrifice

Kenneth Peter, 2016 Outstanding Professor, said in his keynote speech that students should be fueled by the various sacrifices they make in their quest for higher education.

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

“Your talents are not only exhibited in your academic success, but are profound when viewed in light of the struggles you have overcome,” Peter said. “When many of you are first generation college students, when most of you worked more than half time, when many of you have family obligations, when most of you come from public schools with inadequate resources, you are remarkably talented and you have proven this by being in this room tonight.”

Peter’s assertion rang particularly close to home for Jamil Elbanna, ’16 Mechanical Engineering, who spent most of his academic career working two jobs in addition to his schoolwork.

In order to finance his way through college, Elbanna took a job as a courtesy clerk at Safeway and a security officer at a hospital, all while pursuing a degree.

“It’s definitely not the easiest thing but having passion for my major and what I want to study is important,” Elbanna said. “There were times where it almost felt impossible, but I just keep at it and pushed at it day and night.”

Peter concluded his keynote speech by reminding the student honorees that by receiving recognition for their academic accomplishments, they are also receiving an important responsibility.

“Your talent must not be wasted. Each of you should leave SJSU with the kind of education you will need to fight for greater fairness and equality than this world has yet seen fit to offer,” Peters said. “You have likely experienced some hardships. Let those light the fire within.”

 

Spartan Superway May be the Ride of the Future

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Inside an old, plain building in downtown San Jose, dozens of students are busy working on a futuristic transportation system.

“We are inventing, developing, and demonstrating a new paradigm in urban transportation, sustainable urban transportation since our system is going to be 100 percent solar powered and grid tied,” said Burford “Buff” Furman, a mechanical engineering professor in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, and head of the Sustainable Mobility System for Silicon Valley project. The goal is to design a personal rapid transit system using renewable energy. Students call it Spartan Superway.

Four teams of students are designing and building a full-scale working model, a large tabletop model, and a mock-up of the interior cabin of one of the vehicles that will travel on the system. They’ll be displayed May 16-17 at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. The full-scale model includes a gondola-type pod that moves under the bottom of a 33-foot- long steel track suspended ten feet in the air. The pod rolls into a life-size transit station. Solar panels on top power the system, and excess energy is fed back to the electric grid.

 

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Burford “Buff” Furman, mechanical engineering professor, and former engineering professor and team sponsor Ron Swenson with the 2014-2015 Spartan Superway team. (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications)

The student team

There are mechanical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, industrial design and business students working on the Spartan Superway. Most are seniors. Natalie Granados, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, is on the propulsion team.  She’s interested in the transportation field so she decided to join the project. “I’ve learned how to design a propulsion system,” Granados said.  “I feel like that’s pretty valuable.”

Jack Irwin, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, lead on the full-scale team, has gained valuable skills too. “It’s given me a lot of project management experience, and learning what it takes to get a project done of this scale,” Irwin said.  “It’s a pretty big project that we’re trying to accomplish. We have deadlines and timeframes, funding, and we have to make sure we have money and a budget. It’s similar to working in a startup company.”

The project is made possible in part by SJSU former engineering professor Ron Swenson.  He mentors the students, and supports the project through his 501(c)(3) non-profit organization: the International Institute of Sustainable Transportation. His brother, local builder Barry Swenson, donated use of the 9,000-square-foot building for three years, and  friend Francis DeWinter provided most of the tools and a substantial part of the materials.

 

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Jack Irwin, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, and Danny Ornellas, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, stretch a recently welded piece of metal to bring it up to specification. (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications)

Building support

“The goal is to get vehicles separated from people.  To give the streets back to the people,” Ron Swenson said. “It’s amazing to see the work the students are able to accomplish.”

The project started three years ago, but doesn’t yet have all the funding necessary to take it to the next level of development. “Getting funding is difficult because agencies are interested in funding paper studies instead of steel and concrete, which demonstrates concepts,” Professor Furman said.

Jordan Carter, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, and lead of the cabin team, thinks the project is a great way to end her senior year. “This is something bigger, something ongoing, that’s not going to be done at the end of the year when I graduate, and I think it’s been really rewarding just to contribute,” Carter said.

Spartan Superway may one day have an impact on transportation systems of the future.  For now, its giving students skills that will put them in the driver’s seat as they begin their careers.

Disney finalists

SJSU Team Named a Finalist in Disney Competition

Disney finalists

Zaid Karajeh, Dondel Briones, Amanda Sharpe and Simone Getty (courtesy of Zaid Karajeh).

Contacts:
Pat Harris, SJSU, 408-924-1748
Frank Reifsnyder, Walt Disney Imagineering, 818-544-2142
Tim Choy, Peter Goldman, Davidson & Choy Publicity, 323-954-7510

San Jose, CA–A San Jose State student team has been named one of six finalists in Walt Disney Imagineering’s 24th Imaginations competition.

From the art to the engineering, it was all amazing work,” said Zaid Karajeh, ’16 Aerospace Engineering.

Contestants were asked to imagine a Disney transportation experience, including station/stops and vehicle designs that reflect the diversity of the city, and are accessible, energy-friendly, and fun.

Interdisciplinary

In the beginning, Karajeh had one teammate: Dondel Briones, ’16 Aerospace Engineering. But they soon realized “we would need someone to bring our concepts to life,” Karajeh said.

Amanda Sharpe, ’15 Animation and Illustration, added an artist’s touch, and brought along Simone Getty, ’16 Mechanical Engineering, who applied her expertise.

The SJSU team proposed Aether, a breathtaking journey lifting passengers above Toronto to transport them to commuter and tourist destinations.

While onboard, guests are entertained by 3-D projected artificial intelligence tour-guides, smart glass projections, interactive seat-backs, and automated photo stops, all of which provide for a unique experience immersed in the imaginative realm known as steampunk.

“The project could not have been possible without those three,” Karajeh said. “Their hard work and dedication is what made Aether standout to Disney.”

Dream internship

Walt Disney Imagineering is the design and development arm of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. With Imaginations, the company seeks out and nurtures the next generation of diverse Imagineers.

The other finalists are from Art Center College of Design, Drexel University, Ringling College of Art + Design, Texas Tech University, and University of Nevada, Reno.

All will receive a five-day, all-expense-paid trip to Glendale, Calif., where they will present their project to Imagineering executives and take part in an awards ceremony on Jan. 31.

The top three teams will be awarded cash prizes, with the first place team receiving $3,000. An additional $1,000 grant will be awarded to the first place team, to be equally divided among its sponsoring universities and/or organizations.

Finalists will also have an opportunity to meet and network with Imagineers, go behind the scenes where Disney magic is created, and interview for paid internships during their visit.

“Regardless of the outcome, I hope my teammates and I get the internships!” Karajeh said.

About San Jose State

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

About Imaginations 

The projects and concepts presented are not necessarily intended to be built by Disney – they are a way for the entrants to demonstrate their skills and creative abilities. In consideration for the opportunities provided by Imagineering, submissions become the sole property of Walt Disney Imagineering and Imagineering retains all rights to use and/or display the submissions and the materials contained in them.

The Hyperloop: Realistic?

How Realistic is the Hyperloop?

Two SJSU experts — a mechanical engineering professor and a transportation expert — comment on Elon Musk’s latest transportation venture (image courtesy of Tesla Motors).

Posted July 19 by the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

By Preeti Upadhyaya

All week, the buzz around the proposed Hyperloop transport system has been growing steadily as the world tries to figure out just how commuters are supposed to get between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 30 minutes.

In typical Elon Musk build-the-suspense fashion, the Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO will make us wait until Aug. 12 to reveal plans for his ultra-fast transport system. That leaves us plenty of time to speculate about the feasibility of this potentially transformational idea.

So far, most experts theorize that Musk will employ a pneumatic tube system to make the Hyperloop a reality, though he has denied this on Twitter. Think of the plastic cylindrical container you use to transport documents at a drive up bank teller and you’ve got the basic idea.

This isn’t exactly a new concept, said Phil Kesten, a physics professor at Santa Clara University.

“You’d have trains, kind of like bullets, shooting up and down a tube,” said Kesten, who explained that friction would be minimized through a magnetic levitation system keeping the sides of the train from hitting the tube.

After some quick number crunching, Kesten calculated that a Hyperloop train would have to accelerate at a rate of 0.3 Gs for at least 15 minutes to live up to Musk’s promise of a SF to LA commute of 30 minutes. To put that into perspective, when a regular commercial airplane takes off, passengers experience 0.2 G, but for a very short period of time.

“After 15 minutes at 0.3 G, I suspect most of us wouldn’t be very happy,” Kesten said.

Kesten estimated that to make the Hyperloop work, the train would have to move at a peak speed of 5,000 miles an hour. That’s about 10 times the speed of a commercial jet.

While it may be physically uncomfortable, the Hyperloop is not theoretically impossible, said Burford Furman, a professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at San Jose State University.

“There’s nothing here that violates fundamental physics,” said Furman, who is an expert in the area of automated transit networks.

Furman explained that if you use automated transit technology as a model for how the Hyperloop would unfold, the issue of cost will inevitably pose a big roadblock.

“The big costs are in the guideway, the thing that supports and guides the trains. And the larger the structure, the more it costs,” he said.

Until we learn more from Musk himself, it will be difficult to reconcile this issue with his statement that the Hyperloop could be built at one-tenth the cost of California’s proposed high-speed rail system.

The cost would be “at least on the order of what it would take for high-speed rail,” said Furman. “It would probably go beyond that because this technology hasn’t been proven yet. High-speed rail and that technology exists already all over the world.”

High-speed rail in California itself is an embattled project, facing severe scrutiny and criticism for its cost, environmental impact and a host of other factors.

But at least the ball is rolling for that effort, said Rod Dirdon, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, a San Jose-based research institute focusing on intermodal surface transportation issues.

Diridon said that Musk and his Hyperloop face an uphill battle in terms of securing project clearance.

That would have to come after extensive engineering studies and tests. Diridon said Musk must create a complete concept, build a test track, build a demonstration track to work out the kinks and acquire federal safety certifications as well as environmental clearance.

Only after that is complete can the project move forward with public hearings and obtaining land use rights from cities.

Diridon paints a dizzying picture of the red tape and bureaucracy that has mired the high-speed rail project in California.

The initial efforts to get environmental clearance started in 1996 and took until 2008 to approve only the route, station locations and mode of transport. Even then, the bullet train only has project clearance for the portion of the Central Valley, Diridon said.

Elon Musk would be building his Hyperloop from scratch with no prior models to draw on at the scale he is envisioning. Diridon suggested the time frame for the Hyperloop would be at least that of the high-speed rail project, and that’s being extremely generous.

While the challenges facing Hyperloop may be discouraging, Diridon stressed that he is supporting Musk’s efforts and anyone else who is looking at solutions beyond our current transport system.

“I’d do anything in the world to help this get beyond the institutional barriers in the way,” Diridon said. “But it will take a whole lot of effort to make it to primetime.”

San Jose Mercury News: Local College Students Design Alternative Vehicles

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News May 12, 2013.

By Elizabeth Devitt

SAN JOSE — When local students took the challenge to design human-powered vehicles, they did more than build a bicycle — they made their futures brighter, too.

Since school started in September, two teams of seniors, majoring in mechanical engineering at San Jose State and Santa Clara universities, worked to create sustainable and practical models of alternative transportation.

“It’s easy to dream up designs that you can’t actually ride,” said Brian Lai, student treasurer of the San Jose State University American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “So this gives us a lot of practical knowledge that can’t be learned from a book.”

ASME created an annual Human Powered Vehicle Contest, now celebrating its 30th anniversary, to give students a practical design experience that’s also socially meaningful, said Dr. Mark Archibald, HPVC committee chair. The students are graded on design innovation, speed and maneuverability through an obstacle course.

The student designs were put to the test at the Human Powered Vehicle Contest held at San Jose State University and Hellyer Park Velodrome last month. Each team sent a male and female driver racing around the banked cycling track to test sprint speed. Then, there was a 21/2 hour endurance race — won by cranking out the most laps around a parking-lot course — with obstacles such as stop signs, tasks to deliver packages to simulate usefulness of vehicle, and six mandatory driver changes. Finally, judges evaluated innovative features of each entry.

Although both teams placed in the middle of the competitive pack — San Jose State came in 10th and Santa Clara placed 11th, out of 29 entries from the western states division — the experience will put all the students ahead of the game when they apply for jobs.

A core crew of three San Jose State University students, Henry Chea, Alex Houlemard and Daniel Kruusmagi, worked straight through spring break to get their steel-framed recumbent bicycle ready for competition. Chea came to the team with experience from the 2011 competition. But the stakes were higher this time, he said. The bike was everyone’s senior project and students get graded on their efforts.

Their finished entry was named Apollo, paying homage to NASA and the Moffett Field site originally slated for the event. The 62-pound bike featured a wraparound fairing made of carbon fiber and a retractable stabilizer to balance the bike during stops and starts. Unlike other recumbent bikes, this one sported a split chain ring for better mechanical advantage and an adaptive headlight system that shines along the driver’s line of vision.

“We knew we wanted a two-wheeled bike for speed,” said Houlemard, “but we studied winning bike models from previous years for successful design tips.”

The Santa Clara University team recruited its own adviser to get its project rolling. Under the guidance of engineering professor and former ASME president Terry Shoup, the nine rookie competitors focused on building an affordable bike that was stable enough to traverse any kind of territory.

Their cherry-red tricycle, dubbed Cerberus after the mythological three-headed dog, earned second place overall among the seven novice teams in the contest. The group spent less than $5,000 to make the 66-pound steel vehicle out of square, easy-to-weld parts.

The team placed eighth, overall, for best innovations. Contest rules gave them five minutes to explain unique design features that included a nonstop lighting system and the ability to store energy generated by a dynamo, a friction based device set against the rear wheel and wired to four AA batteries.

The Santa Clara team also earned an award for a well-used roll bar that protected the driver from injury during speed trials on the banked track at the velodrome. And the SJSU team was recognized for hosting the event when budget cuts forced a last-minute venue change; instead of designing a bike, 12 members of the team scrambled to manage the entire event, said Jonathan Ross, SJSU student president of ASME. The overall winner of the HPVC western division was Rose Hulman Polytechnic Institute from Indiana.

Spartans@Work: With General Motors, "I Get to Work with New Tech No One Has Ever Seen"

Spartans at Work: At GM, "I Get to Work with New Tech No One Has Ever Seen"

Randy Floresca, Mechanical Engineering '10, sets up a battery cell in a thermal chamber (Chris Clor photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our series begins with the Class of 2010’s Randy Floresca.)

Ever want to grow up and play with cars for a living? One Mechanical Engineering grad has turned a childhood interest into a reality.

For the last two years, Randy Floresca, Mechanical Engineering ’10, has worked as a technical engineer for GM’s Global Battery Systems Laboratory, in Detroit. The decision to leave California was an easy one.

“I was ready to try something new,” Floresca recalled. “I think it was a great career move, especially since I was graduating.”

Floresca tests and validates the performance of new battery technology for hybrid, plug-in, and electric vehicles.

“In my job I learn about the different battery chemistries and their capabilities,” he said.

Getting the job

For Floresca, participation in Spartan Racing, the SJSU student chapter of SAE International, played a huge role in landing the job at General Motors’ headquarters.

“The year I graduated, our SAE student chapter started formula hybrid car,” Floresca said. “We went to compete in New Hampshire and I gave my resume to GM recruiters at their booth. GM is one of the biggest sponsors for the event.”

What’s Floresca’s favorite part about his job?

“I get to work with new technology that no one knows about or has ever seen.”

GM benefits, too. Floresca says the performance testing he does for General Motors helps the company plan for the future.

4 young men hold up metal parts of motorcycle frame.

Students Re-Invent the Wheel for Electric Motorcycle

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant
4 young men hold up metal parts of motorcycle frame.

Spherical Drive System team members Eamonn Clerkin, Henry Li, Max Ratner and Andrew Parmar (left to right) hold up parts of the frame for their motorcycle (Sarah Kyo photo).

Will Smith’s character drives a sleek car with spherical wheels in the sci-fi movie “I, Robot.” While this futuristic film is a fantasy, a team of Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering students is making a very similar vehicle a reality.

From conception to fruition, this group has spent more than a year on this ambitious senior project called Spherical Drive System: a self-balancing, electric motorcycle that uses spheres as wheels.

The team includes team manager Max Ratner, financial officer/mechanical designer Henry Li, and lead mechanical designer Andrew Parmar.

While brainstorming project ideas, the team came across a YouTube video of a robot that balances on a ball. Parmar said they combined other inspirations, such as the Segway Personal Transporter and the “I, Robot” car, for their final concept.

Sphere’s benefits

Riding a motorcycle involves balance and some level of instability. They said a sphere has benefits over a typical wheel.

“It has an inherent safety factor,” Li said. “It’s able to help you balance on the bike.”

Computer rendering of silver, black and green futuristic motorcycle with spherical wheels. (Courtesy of Spherical Drive System)

This computer rendering showcases the final design for Spherical Drive System (Image courtesy of Spherical Drive System).

Ball transfer units, which are small ball bearings, keep the spheres moving. Spheres allow omnidirectional movement, meaning that this motorcycle could move in any direction, including backwards and sideways.

Li said they decided to build a motorcycle because “it captures people’s imagination.”  The team can imagine similar, spherical technology used in other areas, including wheelchairs, forklifts and amusement park rides.

Professor Winncy Du, who is Spherical Drive System’s faculty adviser, said she has never seen a senior project like this one.

“It’s very different,” Du said. “They’re going to change the world of the bicycle.”

The team has assertively gained sponsorships, including monetary donations and parts for their vehicle. They have even attended job fairs, not for finding a job but to gain support for their project. Li said at the moment, they could use help in manufacturing molds for the spheres, which are a composite of carbon fibers, fiberglass and synthetic rubber.

Team building

Ratner said their senior project has been a lesson in communication and team building, in addition to gaining technical experience. He encourages students to take initiative with their project ideas.

Parmar added, “We hope students do more unique projects.”

Last March, Ratner and Parmar represented Spherical Drive System in the American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s regional district student competition. Parmar earned first place in the oral competition, and Ratner earned second place in the poster presentation. Parmar will advance to the national competition in Houston this November.

The team devotes hours to this project. Ratner, Li and Parmar estimate they each put in 20 to 30 hours per week on top of school, work and other commitments. Their project deadline is May 16, but they plan to continue working on the motorcycle this summer to get it ready for test riding.

Follow along with Spherical Drive System’s updates at its Facebook page. For more information, visit the project’s website.

Students Re-Invent the Wheel

By Sarah Kyo, Public Affairs Assistant
4 young men hold up metal parts of motorcycle frame.

Spherical Drive System team members Eamonn Clerkin, Henry Li, Max Ratner and Andrew Parmar (left to right) hold up parts of the frame for their motorcycle (Sarah Kyo photo).

Will Smith’s character drives a sleek car with spherical wheels in the sci-fi movie “I, Robot.” While this futuristic film is a fantasy, a team of Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering students is making a very similar vehicle a reality.

From conception to fruition, this group has spent more than a year on this ambitious senior project called Spherical Drive System: a self-balancing, electric motorcycle that uses spheres as wheels.

The team includes team manager Max Ratner, financial officer/mechanical designer Henry Li, and lead mechanical designer Andrew Parmar.

While brainstorming project ideas, the team came across a YouTube video of a robot that balances on a ball. Parmar said they combined other inspirations, such as the Segway Personal Transporter and the “I, Robot” car, for their final concept.

Sphere’s benefits

Riding a motorcycle involves balance and some level of instability. They said a sphere has benefits over a typical wheel.

“It has an inherent safety factor,” Li said. “It’s able to help you balance on the bike.”

Computer rendering of silver, black and green futuristic motorcycle with spherical wheels. (Courtesy of Spherical Drive System)

This computer rendering showcases the final design for Spherical Drive System (Image courtesy of Spherical Drive System).

Ball transfer units, which are small ball bearings, keep the spheres moving. Spheres allow omnidirectional movement, meaning that this motorcycle could move in any direction, including backwards and sideways.

Li said they decided to build a motorcycle because “it captures people’s imagination.”  The team can imagine similar, spherical technology used in other areas, including wheelchairs, forklifts and amusement park rides.

Professor Winncy Du, who is Spherical Drive System’s faculty adviser, said she has never seen a senior project like this one.

“It’s very different,” Du said. “They’re going to change the world of the bicycle.”

The team has assertively gained sponsorships, including monetary donations and parts for their vehicle. They have even attended job fairs, not for finding a job but to gain support for their project. Li said at the moment, they could use help in manufacturing molds for the spheres, which are a composite of carbon fibers, fiberglass and synthetic rubber.

Team building

Ratner said their senior project has been a lesson in communication and team building, in addition to gaining technical experience. He encourages students to take initiative with their project ideas.

Parmar added, “We hope students do more unique projects.”

Last March, Ratner and Parmar represented Spherical Drive System in the American Society of Mechanical Engineering’s regional district student competition. Parmar earned first place in the oral competition, and Ratner earned second place in the poster presentation. Parmar will advance to the national competition in Houston this November.

The team devotes hours to this project. Ratner, Li and Parmar estimate they each put in 20 to 30 hours per week on top of school, work and other commitments. Their project deadline is May 16, but they plan to continue working on the motorcycle this summer to get it ready for test riding.

Follow along with Spherical Drive System’s updates at its Facebook page. For more information, visit the project’s website.

Professor Presents ZEM House at International Exhibition

Professor Presents ZEM House at International Exhibition

Professor and five students inside ZEM House.

Professor Jinny Rhee with students inside their ZEM house.

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Jinny Rhee will present “The Multidisciplinary, Zero-Emissions House Student Project at San Jose State University” at dasHAUS, an internationally acclaimed exhibition that connects industry professionals in the United States and Canada with the latest market-ready renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions from Germany. The event will be held Feb. 17-26 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. Rhee will speak on University Day Feb. 24, followed by Cal, Stanford and San Francisco State professors. She will present the zero-emissions house designed and built last year by a team of 25 students from five departments. One of San Jose State’s most ambitious interdisciplinary senior projects ever, the house was built more for learning than living, though all the techniques are very much applicable to real homes including insulation made from recycled denim jeans. The project was funded by a $150,000 National Science Foundation grant. Rhee was the principal investigator. Co-principal investigators were David Parent (electrical engineering), Anuradha Basu (business), Leslie Speer (industrial design), and Larry Gerston (political science). Read more on the ZEM house.

Winncy with the multifinger robot, which is almost as big as she is

Video: Giving Earthquakes the Multi-Finger

Professor Winncy Du’s lab is riddled with robots. One mows lawns without an operator. Others assemble tiny biomedical devices, play catch with you, or help disabled people feed themselves using voice commands. And her pipe-climbing “multi-finger” robot may one day save lives.

Thousands of miles of utility pipes around the country transport water, fuel, waste, and communication and power cables underground. Developing a reliable way to inspect these pipes for damage is critical. Just consider the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion that razed 38 homes and killed eight people. And up to 75 percent of earthquake-related property losses are due to buildings’ non-structural elements, including utility pipes.

With funding from a National Science Foundation grant, Du and her student team within the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering have already won awards for their robotic system. The “multi-finger” robot can perform utility pipe inspections automatically after earthquakes—and even before disaster strikes.

Read this story and more in the winter 2012 issue of Washington Square Magazine.