Dean's November 2019 Newsletter
Letter from the Dean
The College of Engineering has much to be thankful for. In the last year, we’ve made significant improvements to our labs and research facilities thanks to generous support, donations and gifts of equipment from industry partners.
The Department of Biological Engineering recently created a new student lab and classroom with new furniture and technology on the fourth floor of the Engineering and Physics Building with the support of Bob Parkinson ’64. Bob hopes his investment will inspire other gifts to this area, which is the fastest growing department in the college.
Future projects include upgrades to the student lounge and adding modern equipment to the biological engineering wet lab teaching space. The department is accepting equipment donations, including biosafety cabinets, a CO2 incubator, a centrifuge, bioreactors, microscope and water purification system.
Chemical and Materials Engineering
The Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering is working toward a number of lab upgrades, including the new student design suite in honor of David Drown. Updating lighting, electrical and cabinetry in Dr. Drown’s former lab will create a flexible space for coursework, teaching, senior design projects and team research, and free up other laboratories for exclusive use by teaching and research assistants. Through their company, LifeLast, Jeff Buratto ’93 and Mark Buratto ’95 gave the initial gift to get the project off the ground.
Additional projects include creating a student lounge and computer lab as a centerpiece for the department and adding modular experimentation stations, lab bench and sink replacements in Buchanan Engineering Laboratory (BEL) Room 347. The space was shared wet lab and design space and is being converted to separate work spaces for research areas.
Civil and Environmental Engineering
This department has been through some amazing changes in the last few years with its new student lounge, computer lab and club meeting room thanks to support from TO Engineers, Bryant Lemon ’58 and supporters of the department. Students have ample opportunity to collaborate and engage with highly-skilled faculty right next door.
Additional projects include converting the current Geotech Teaching Lab into a new testing and analytical lab for use in four undergraduate, lab-based courses. Drawings are currently in process, and renovation is expected to begin fall 2020.
Renovation in the Structures Lab is also anticipated to augment the gift made by Lochsa Engineering and the next phase of upgrades will replace hydraulic power supply. The Construction Materials Lab is set to be relocated to the BEL basement with new drains installed, lighting, paint, expanded sink area and new benching.
The Computer Science Assistance Center (CSAC) is a student lab that offers drop-in tutoring and study space to aid student retention. The redesign offers more space for tutoring and group work, shared workstations and screens, and a new graphics processing unit for rendering images, animations and video.
Our next goal is to upgrade our Computer Science Teaching Lab in Janssen Engineering Building Room 321. The space is used for student labs, outreach camps and other activities. With a few room upgrades, including adding video conferencing to the space, we will be able to offer and receive live lab courses between Moscow, Idaho Falls and the Coeur d’Alene campuses. This will also strengthen our offerings and support in the proposed cybersecurity bachelor’s degree.
Electrical and Computer Engineering
Thanks to support from John ’69 and Nancy Nation, the new computer lab in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering showcases a state-of-the-art computer server, new computers for 16 individual workstations and new flooring, paint and furniture.
Our Microelectronics Lab was also upgraded with new oscilloscopes, waveform generators, new power supplies and multi-meters. The Electromagnetics Lab was also upgraded with new software licenses, oscilloscopes and waveform generators.
The next upgrade is in our Undergraduate Energy Systems Lab, where new instrument tables are needed to replace the current 70-year-old versions. Data acquisition systems in the lab need to be upgraded to reflect current industry practice, along with new instrumentation and access to high voltage and current power supplies.
The Department of Mechanical Engineering has made several recent upgrades including aesthetic and functional upgrades to the department lobby provided through support from department alumni at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories. Vandal colors, varied-height seating and electrical outlets have made the space more inviting for students and faculty to work together.
We installed new Acra precision engine lathes to replace 50-year-old manual lathes. This equipment was funded through a partnership between the College of Engineering, engineering alumni Jeff Smutny, ’94, ’98, and Mike Thompson ’06, and contributions from the Wagstaff company and company president Barbara Wagstaff Parkes.
Future updates include an upgraded larger and more capable laser cutter in the Metrology Lab in Gauss-Johnson Laboratory (GJ) Room 125 with improved provisions and card-swipe access for students. We expect this will make for a faster turnaround for capstone projects, improved safety and security and an overall improved student experience.
We also have plans to modernize our Senior Design Suite in GJ 108, including adding improved lighting, sound absorbing panels, paint and multimedia. We believe this will boost our ability to recruit students as well as improve our retention rates.
There are many changes on the horizon for our college, and each change is a welcomed improvement that gives our students a better experience on campus and a more hands-on engineering education.
If you would like to learn more about these projects or help support these efforts, please visit our teaching and learning space upgrades website where you can also view our equipment wish list.
Dean, College of Engineering
University of Idaho, Idaho Falls computer science graduate students took first place locally in the 2019 U.S. Department of Energy CyberForce Competition and ranked 25 out of 105 collegiate teams competing nationally. Team members Jason Allen, Joe Leister, Ray Hardy, Michael Madsen, Michael McCarty and Michael McGregor were one of nine teams to participate in the regional competition giving students hands-on cybersecurity education within a real-world scenario.
University of Idaho, Idaho Falls assistant professor Dakota Roberson has earned a 2019-2020 White House Fellowship, and will spend a year working for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Roberson is an assistant professor in the University of Idaho Electrical and Computer Engineering department.
His experience in power systems and renewable energy integration led him to the national leadership and public service program. Roberson’s fellowship began in August, and for the next year, he will gain first-hand experience working at the highest levels of government, alongside Cabinet secretaries, senior White House staff and other top-ranking government officials.
Friendship and Finding Solutions
Masters student Jacob Miller pulls together team of engineering graduates to build prosthetic arm for a childhood friend
Mechanical engineering master’s student Jacob Miller was on a summer fishing trip in Coeur d’Alene when he ran into a friend from elementary school he hadn’t seen in years.
“I hadn’t seen Cesar Montes since I was like 12,” he said. “He told me his brother had recently lost his arm in a car accident, and they were starting a fundraising site to pay for medical bills.”
Montes’ brother, Alex, had to have his arm amputated just below the elbow, and getting a prosthesis was going to be expensive, some $5,000 for the down payment alone. Miller said the story stuck with him.
Spokane Air Force Base Considers Utilizing U of I Biofuel
Biological engineering master's graduate Brian Hanson and industry partner TriboTEX look to continue Air Force partnership on freeze-resistant biofuel
Biological engineering master's graduate Brian Fino Hanson and Colfax, Washington, lubricant company, TriboTEX, founder Pasha Rudenko recently visited Fairchild Air Force Base to present on their specialized biofuel that doesn't freeze at high altitudes and has the potential to be carbon negative.
"Many had stories of friends with asthma due to engine exhaust," Hanson said. "We left them with a large sample of fuel, and they want to try it in their ground service vehicles."
Their work is a continued partnership with the U.S. Air Force to commercialize a coconut oil-based fuel additive.
Biofuels are susceptible to freezing, but U of I researchers have found fuel blends using this additive can withstand temperatures below minus 65 degrees Celsius.
This alternative is also more natural than methane-based biofuels and could lead to a fuel that is 100 percent bio-based and has the potential to be carbon-negative.
Mechanical engineering graduate students Rodrigo Padilla and Paulo Yu are conducting research with our newly acquired 2D Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) system in our Experimental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.
The system utilizes a high-intensity pulse laser to visualize particles around a moving membrane to better study how fluids, liquid and air, flow around it. The equipment allows students to conduct research that lends toward applications like improving how airplane wings move through the air, how parachutes work and even harvesting ambient energy off an electrical current.
Save the Date
Dec. 14 – Fall Commencement
March 2020 – Women in Engineering Exploration – Ninth and 10th-grade students are invited to learn more about STEM and college life by participating in hands-on activities, meeting female engineering professionals and exploring campus. Registration opens in January 2020.
May 1, 2020 – Engineering Design EXPO 2020 – The University of Idaho Engineering Design EXPO welcomes young learners, industry leaders and community members to experience the many ways U of I students are making a difference and solving real-world problems.