Engineering Summer Experience
Over the summer, Vandal engineers have access to paid internship and fellowship programs, and many accept positions with our world-class research centers and industry partners.
Check out what some of our students are doing to fund their education and gain hands-on experience.
Civil Engineering Graduate Student
Proper wastewater treatment is essential to protecting our ecosystems and making sure we can reuse water when possible.
Civil engineering graduate student Lindsey Smoot is spending her summer improving methods that could cut wastewater treatment costs by up to 70%.
Smoot is working in Civil Engineering Professor Erik Coats Environmental Engineering Laboratory to improve biological nitrogen removal processes used in wastewater treatment.
Wastewater undergoes a two-step process called nitrification, in which high amounts of ammonia, a nitrogen compound, is converted to nitrite and nitrate.
Nitrification uses oxygen to aid the ammonia to nitrate conversion. Using bioreactors housing microorganisms in very specific environments, Smoot is looking at how a shortcut in the nitrification process could use 25% less oxygen and cut treatment cost.
Smoot started working in the lab before she finished her undergraduate degree in civil engineering in 2019.
“Water is such a resource, working in the lab has shown me how water reuse processes are going to be incredibly vital to our future.”
Mechanical Engineering Sophomore
For 21 years, Vandal engineers have competed in the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Clean Snowmobile Challenge. Our Clean Snowmobile Challenge (CSC) Team has collected more than 50 competition awards in that time.
Two decades of Vandal innovation has generated a lot of spare parts and retired machines!
Mechanical engineering sophomore McKenzie Reid is an intern with the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT), breaking down machine equipment and sorting it into recyclable parts.
Reid said the experience has sharpened her project management skills and piqued her continued interest in how mechanical devices work.
Reid is also researching solutions this summer for the CSC team’s continuously variable transmission (CVT) test bench, designing a device to collect efficiency data on the automatic transmission system that can continuously change gear ratio.
From House to 3D-Printed Home
Vandal engineers are pushing the boundaries of construction and manufacturing, using one of Idaho's most natural and renewable products - wood.
Mechanical engineering graduate students Robert Carne and Conal Thie are part of a cross-college, interdisciplinary team working to develop a 3D printing process for the sustainable manufacturing of modular wall, floor and roof panels made from locally sourced wood.
Working with faculty advisor Michael Maughan, the two are continuing development and testing of a 3D printer capable creating 2-by-3-foot wood panels that can be prototyped for industrial use. The printing process uses a binding agent and wood fibers not used by the lumber market, like waste wood and sawdust from mills and wood processing plants. The team is continuing to work to refine their custom extruder design and continuous layering method.
“This could revolutionize construction,” Thie said. “If we can make houses and other structures more efficient with a lot less waste, we can also construct buildings faster, while using fewer resources and a lot less energy.”
Funded under a $1 million grant from the Higher Education Research Council and Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, the project is expected to positively impact Idaho's fast-growing construction industry.
University of Idaho College of Art and Architecture’s Integrated Design Lab (IDL) research scientist Ken Baker leads the grant, and our college and the College of Natural Resources will continue to interface on the project this summer and beyond.
Under the guidance of U of I Professor of Renewable Materials Chemistry Armando McDonald, chemical engineering graduate student Berlinda Orji analyzed how different chemical compounds reacted to applied conditions to identify the best binding agents for the 3D printing material.
Focus continues to be placed not only on durability of printed materials. Our Boise team, including graduate student Tais Mitchell, professor Ralph Budwig and IDL Interim Director Damon Woods, is also continuing testing on the material’s ability to insulate and stand the test of time.
Mechanical Engineering Doctoral Student
Salmon eggs rely on water flow to supply dissolved oxygen needed to grow and hatch. That flow can be disrupted in drought-prone areas, affecting fish populations.
Mechanical engineering doctoral student Brandon Hilliard is spending his summer studying the chemical and biologic processes that occur in water flow through the sediment of a simulated salmon redd, or egg nest.
Using a clear sediment simulant developed by the Boise Center for Ecohydraulics Research (CER), Hilliard is working with a team at the University of California Santa Cruz to help water management teams learn more about the water and sediment flows that salmon eggs rely on to grow properly and hatch.
Hilliard uses different methods to “see through” the clear sediment, including matching the refractive index – or how light travels through different materials – of the sediment simulant and the working fluid. He plans to also use Planar Laser-Induced Fluorescence (PLIF) to obtain flow velocities. Shining a laser through a fluorescent dye within the porous media causes the dye to emit orange light. That light is then captured using a special camera and tracked to obtain the velocities within the egg nest.
Civil Engineering Class of 2021
Concrete is one of the most widely used construction materials in the world, and a properly designed mixture ensures long-term strength and durability.
“As engineers, we’re always looking for ways to simplify different processes. With concrete, it’s hard to simplify, because every part of its creation is important, from the aggregates used to create it, the way it’s mixed, the way it cures, and how it’s used.”
University of Idaho civil engineering graduate Jade Williams ’21 is spending her summer working with geotechnical engineering firm Geotek, Inc., to conduct compressive strength tests on the concrete used in the construction of the Idaho Central Credit Union Arena.
So far, Williams has conducted tests on more than 500 field-cured cylinder samples taken from concrete pours around the arena. Using a compression testing machine, Williams is recording the strength of prepared samples at regular intervals throughout construction to help ensure quality and safety specifications are being met.
Williams is also interning remotely for consulting firm HMH Engineering this summer as well as conducting research for the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology.
Civil Engineering Senior
Eighty gallons of wastewater filter through the Environmental Engineering Laboratory each week.
Civil engineering senior Nick Buonarati is spending his summer making sure the innovative wastewater treatment research flowing through that water continues smoothly.
“Water is a renewable resource, but it is finite resource,” Buonarati said, “That’s why wastewater treatment is such an important process. It lets us minimize, or even negate in some instances, our impact upon the world’s water supply.”
The lab houses several bioreactors housing microorganisms in precise environments. Buonarati conducts regular tests to ensure reactor probes and calibrations are correct to make sure no research is compromised.
He also makes regular trips to Moscow’s Water Reclamation and Reuse Facility to check on other experiments going on at the scale model plant designed to mimic processes going on in the larger facility.
“Working in Dr. Coats’ Environmental Engineering Lab has been helpful in understanding how research is conducted in this field,” he said, “I am learning how treatment plants operate in class, and designing my own treatment system. I wouldn’t have the understanding that I have in this field without my lab experience.”
Refer back to this website for more summer highlights!