The Passing of the College’s Namesake

Charles W. DavidsonWe were deeply saddened to learn of Charles W. (Chuck) Davidson’s passing on March 25, 2021, and the college community is mourning his loss. An avid reader and lifelong learner, Chuck was a student of life and an ardent supporter of San José State University. 

San Jose Spotlight journalist Janice Bitters wrote of him in 2019, “Charles Davidson arrived in San José [from Eastern Oklahoma] a broke 21-year-old in 1952 seeking a way out of poverty and he’s spent the last 67 years forging his own lucrative path in the world. But he’s also quietly become one of Silicon Valley’s most unsung philanthropists.”

Chuck graduated from Civil Engineering (1957) after working nights in local railroad yards and attending classes during the day. An entrepreneur who founded and managed five thriving companies, he built thousands of homes, was a pioneer in creating and enabling affordable housing, and provided San José State with the largest private grant in its history: $15 million to the College of Engineering. 

“I’m not a saint by any stretch of the imagination, so don’t get the wrong idea about me,” Davidson told Bitters. “I’m a normal human being. I’ve had lots of good luck along the way and lots of good people around me.”

He also holds an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from SJSU. In 2007, the California State University Board of Trustees approved naming our engineering college after him in perpetuity. Chuck was quoted as saying: “I don’t believe the money I have earned is wholly mine. Providence has allowed me to be the manager and trustee of this money, and philanthropy comes with that responsibility — taking care of your employees, your business partners, your family, and your community.” 

Chuck was a founding member and chair of the Tower Foundation, the philanthropic arm of San José State. Throughout the years, he faithfully attended Spartan football games and served on the Tower Board.

Chuck has deeply enriched our lives, and the lives of our students: past, present and future. He will be greatly missed.

Read the campus announcement

Read more from the San Jose Mercury News

CIM Lab in 194 is “Abuzz” with Robotic Activity

Omron Machine

( R.) Mark Heinen, Omron account manager – NoCal; Lou Freund, ISE professor emeritus, adjunct professor – CIM lab director; Tom Pham, ISE adjunct professor – CIM lab specialist; Yasser Dessouky, ISE department chair.

The Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) Lab in room 194 is now sporting an Omron Banner as well as a Hornet robot that is fully installed and working, looking a bit like an upside down spider. 

The College of Engineering is grateful to Omron for the company’s support of our engineering students. Omron’s VP of Marketing at the time, Matt Trowbridge, gave an SVLS talk a couple of years back (you can watch it here), visited the lab with faculty, and facilitated a key equipment grant to the college. Omron has continued to show significant support since then.

Lou Freund, CIM lab director and ISE professor emeritus, described the robot donated by Omron. “The Hornet, with its vision system, is a gantry mounted device that can “see” items, reach for them, grab them (with suction or grippers) and move them to another location (orienting as it goes).  It’s fun to watch, and we plan to have it very active during future open house events.” Find out more about the robot’s features here and here.  

He added, “Ours is mounted on a much larger gantry, and can slide along the gantry if it needs to be placed overhead in a different location.” Students will be able to work in the lab just as soon as SJSU gives the green light for post-pandemic safety and health.

A global solutions provider and an 80-year old company, Omron provides sensing, control, safety, vision, motion and robotics technologies for the automotive, food and beverage packaging, semiconductor, electronics, life sciences and infrastructure industries.

Improving the Hyperloop with Studies and Fins

Diagram of choked flow

Pressure build-up (piston effect) in front of high-speed vehicles in tunnel.

Ever since Elon Musk proposed the concept of high-speed transportation using Hyperloop in 2013*, the efficient form for short-haul travel has been studied and modeled in the Mechanical Engineering department at San Jose State. The Hyperloop is a concept for the high-speed ground transportation of passengers traveling in pods at transonic speeds in a partially evacuated tube. It consists of a low-pressure tube with capsules traveling at both low and high speeds throughout the length of the tube.

The benefits of Hyperloop are immediately apparent: as an example, to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a typical aircraft’s gate-to-gate travel time is one hour and 28 minutes, but the actual flight time is only 58 minutes while the remaining 30 minutes are taken up with taxiing, take off, landing, and arrival at the gate. Hyperloop pods could alleviate some of these inefficiencies by traveling in near-vacuum conditions, allowing them to maintain much higher speeds.

However, when a high-speed system travels through a low-pressure tube with a constrained diameter, such as in the case of the Hyperloop, it becomes an aerodynamically challenging problem. Airflow tends to get choked at the constrained areas around the pod, creating a high-pressure region at the front of the pod, a phenomenon referred to as the “piston effect.” 

Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Vimal Viswanathan and graduate student Aditya Bose just published their paper, “Mitigating the Piston Effect in High-Speed Hyperloop

Transportation: A Study on the Use of Aerofoils,” in the journal Energies 2021, 14, 464.

Diagram of fins

Comparison of the stream lines around the two pods. The phase 2 pod (with fins) led to fewer eddy currents compared to the phase 1 pod.

Papers exploring potential solutions for the piston effect are scarce. The SJSU team studied the aerodynamic performance of a Hyperloop pod inside a vacuum tube, using the Reynolds-Average Navier–Stokes technique for three-dimensional computational analysis. Then they added aerofoil-shaped fins to the aeroshell as a potential way to mitigate the piston effect. The results of their study showed that the addition of fins helps in reducing the drag and eddy currents while providing a positive lift to the pod. Further, these fins were found to be effective in reducing the pressure build-up at the front of the pod.

Viswanathan and Bose had been invited last summer to contribute to this first-ever special issue journal on Hyperloop transportation. “This is only the fourth paper published in English on the aerodynamics of Hyperloop, as well as the first three-dimensional CFD study on the Hyperloop,” said Viswanathan. “We used the Spartan Hyperloop team’s design for the study.”

*Musk, E. Hyperloop Alpha; Spacex: Hawthorne, CA, USA, 2013.

How San Jose State College and its Department of Engineering Launched State School Accreditation

Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering 75 yearsWhile California would address many issues in the development of 20th century state higher education, it can safely be said that San Jose State University and its College of Engineering’s challenge against certain restrictions in 1953 created a watershed in the development of the state university system’s role in California education, and made a significant and positive impact on what state schools could offer to meet the growing needs of the public.

As you read this timeline of developments between 1946 and 1960, it is helpful to know that the American Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD), established in June 1932, was an engineering professional body dedicated to the education, accreditation, regulation and professional development of the engineering professionals and students in the United States. ECPD grew and has changed its name to ABET, Inc. and its focus solely to accreditation.

1946: An Engineering program was founded at San Jose State College (SJSC), with Ralph Smith as its first full-time professor
1947: The state Board of Education first authorized engineering as a major with an AB degree.

1948: First graduating class of Engineering students– 3 degrees granted, 2 in comms, 1 in construction. That year, the Strayer Committee produced a survey of the Higher-Education needs of California. Results were against state schools offering professional engineering programs or programs that could be accredited by the ECPD. The state political lobby was against it, in part because many of the politicians came from University of California (UC) schools.

1949: Construction, Production and Communications majors were converted into BS programs, while Aeronautics and IT remained AB majors.

During the 1950’s, the California Board of Education prevented California state/normal schools from offering masters degrees. SJSC offered something more like a professional vocational degree. In 1950 and ‘51, meetings were held among representatives from the state department of Education, state colleges and UCs to resolve Engineering issues in state schools.

1952: Accreditation, graduate study and research were considered the business of the University of California schools only. State colleges were told to concentrate on training “practical engineers,” that is, technicians. Many industries in the valley, however, were not hiring grads without full engineering degrees, or would hire engineers who started at SJSC, but completed a full degree elsewhere in the valley (Santa Clara or Stanford).

1953: State Department of Education and the UC Regents unanimously approved restricting state schools from seeking ECPD accreditation, grad study, and engineering research, in an agreement called “Engineering Education in the State Colleges and the University of California.”

1956: There were now 946 students in the SJSC Engineering college. All curricula except Aeronautics were revised to meet ECPD standards, and functional names were changed. Construction became Civil Engineering, Production became Industrial Engineering, Electronics changed to Electrical. At this time the General Engineering program was created, so that there would still be a general engineer’s professional training track. Also during this year, Aeronautical Maintenance and Aeronautical Management were changed to BS degrees. Although accreditation was not possible at this time, the San Jose State professors tried to make them as close as possible to the accredited programs offered elsewhere.

Dean Norm Gunderson

Dean Norm Gunderson

Dean Norman O. Gunderson later said, “I became totally involved in the problem almost immediately upon my assumption of the Headship of the Division of Engineering and Mathematics in the summer of 1956 — the title Dean wasn’t granted until some years later. An industry representative walked into my office to inquire about the future availability of graduate work and accredited undergraduate programs — these were important lures when recruiting new engineering employees for the rapidly expanding industrial complex of the Valley. I explained the dilemma posed by the ’53 Agreement — and we were off and away into the exciting two years.”

1957: Application and Sales Engineering were phased out, and the Engineering Metallurgy (later to be called Materials Engineering) program was created. IBM’s request for a graduate program in Electrical Engineering at SJSC kicked off another battle to get the restrictions lifted for state schools. With the participation of local industry and government leaders and the assistance of Assemblyman Bruce Allen, Gunderson became the main state college voice for granting accreditation to state engineering degrees.

“As part of the strategy of dramatizing the harm done to us because of not being able to be accredited, I even wrote a detailed proposal for a $100,000 grant from the Atomic Energy Commission for a training reactor which was available only to accredited institutions.” — Dean Gunderson

1958: A Joint Staff study (headed by UC, DOE and Santa Clara U leaders) offered a compromise — they recommended that restrictions against seeking accreditation be lifted for state schools, but that they still not be allowed to create graduate programs. This concession was unacceptable to the San Jose leaders, and Bruce Allen counterproposed with AB 1, a bill proposing two changes to the state education code, broadening the state college charter to include training in engineering, science, and math, and to establish, with state BOE approval, courses of instruction leading to masters degrees in engineering.

As support for AB 1 grew, and the biases of UC-alumni politicians were no longer sufficient to defend the 1953 decision, the UC and state legislators came together to turn AB 1 into State Concurrent Resolution No. 9, which called for immediate granting of permission to state schools to seek accreditation and create graduate programs in colleges where there was local demand for advanced engineering education. SCR 9 passed quickly in April 1958. Now, State schools were granted permission to seek ECPD accreditation and offer masters programs. Having already made some programs as close as possible to accreditable status, San Jose quickly prepped for and hosted an ECPD site visit in Nov. 1958.

1959: As a result of AB 1 and SCR 9, San Jose was able to establish its first masters program, in Electrical Engineering. As a result of the ECPD site visit, ECPD granted accreditation to San Jose’s Civil and Electrical Engineering programs.

Still, conflict between state colleges and the UC had intensified over a host of issues, and resolution had been kicked back to the state legislature. The host of bills, amendments and resolutions on public higher education got streamlined into Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 88, introduced by Dorothy Donahoe. It called for an immediate Master Plan for Higher Ed in California, and a survey team was formed to review and resolve all the issues in public higher education. In late 1959, the Regents and the State Board of Education approved the team’s findings.

Spring 1960: Legislation containing all the key features of the Master Plan was ratified in the State Assembly,
and named the Donahoe Higher Education Act of 1960. Signed into law by Governor Edmund Brown Sr., the Donahoe Act removed state colleges from the governance of the State Board of Education, and created the California State College system, with its own chancellor and board of trustees appointed to govern it. It also created the Coordinating Council for Higher Education, consisting of members from the UCs, state schools, junior colleges, private colleges, and members of the public.

SJSU Materials Engineering Designs Shine at Technical Meeting

Materials Engineering undergraduates from San Jose State University participated in a virtual technical presentation at the November joint technical meeting hosted by the Santa Clara Valley chapter of ASM International and the Northern California chapter of SAMPE, the world’s largest associations of metals and composites-centric materials engineers and scientists. SCV-ASM Chair Jacques Matteau said, “These 16 young minds represent the possibilities of the type of innovations we may all get to see in the years to come as these ideas potentially grow and take root.” Covalent Metrology was the corporate sponsor for this meeting.

The senior projects were initiated by students.They presented proposed designs (rather than final designs) of impactful projects ranging from recycling cat litter to a no-electricity-required ventilator design.

One thread running through all the student projects was, how can we solve real-world issues? Julian Degery, already working in industry, is addressing how to keep polyurethane material  tension steady on production lines with a wide range of speeds and operating modes. Christopher Patrick Lee was inspired to start his 3D-printed traction device project after suffering from “Text-neck syndrome” while studying for finals.

Another common theme was working with accessible and affordable materials. Olga Blinova uses her SJSU access to High Performance Computers to design a simulation of material atomic interaction among various materials; her computational research helps us better understand and predict real-world limits. And the team of Patricia Allana Dela Cruz and Edward Pamell Penico keep their materials budget under $300 so the prosthetic hand they are designing can remain affordable for many of the 1.2 million amputees in the United States.

“One of the nice things about SJSU Engineering students is that they are often already working part-time,” remarked chapter member Chris Moore. “They understand enough about how companies operate so they can hit the ground running.”

Richard Chung, Chair of the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department, said, “I’m so proud of our students and the solutions they are coming up with. A couple of projects have received industry support such as the Retro-19 ventilator project (Livermore Instruments), the Rigid Absorbing Desiccant (Steel Camel), the Rechargeable pacemaker and Lower limb prosthetic (both Jabil), and TarpPad (Pfeiffer Consulting/Higher Ground).”

The Projects for Fall 2020 include:

  • Timelapse Motion Control Robot, by Syed Ahmad Ali
  • Atomic Model of Electro-optical Properties of Zinc Tungstate, ZnWO4, by Olga Blinova
  • Dancer Arm Tension Control Optimization, by Julian Xavier Degery
  • Prosthetic Hand using 3D Printing via Gradient-Dependent Infill, by Patricia Allana Dela Cruz and Edward Pamell Penico
  • Surface Modification Of 3D Printed PLA Part Using a Solution of Virgin PLA Material Dissolved in Solvent Allowing for Surface Bonding, by Kyle Matthew Hendrickson
  • Design of a Cervical Traction Device, by Christopher Patrick Lee
  • Retro 19 Volume Indicator (Modernising the Mark 7 ventilator for COVID applications), by Scott Minol Lienhart and An Thien Trong
  • Cost-Effective Process for Safely Recycling Sodium Bentonite Cat Litter, by Raleigh Joseph Lynaugh and his feline assistant Hildegard
  • Application of a Rigid Absorbing Desiccant, by Vinny Vo Nguyen
  • TarpPad, by Timothy Richard Riley Jr.
  • An Additively Manufactured Variable Isotropy Thermoplastic Structure for a Lower Limb Prosthetic, by Ruth Sosa
  • Development of Software for Modeling Geometric Frustration in Glassy Structures, by Mina Tavakolzdeh
  • Solar Cell Helmet, by Ray Anthony Turrietta
  • Rechargeable Pacemaker Optimization: Polymeric Material Design, by Dikaios C. Wong