News about
The University of Iowa College of Engineering
Week of December 14, 2014

E/WEEK College Staff:
Editor:  Wendy Brentner, director, alumni relations and communications
Contributing Writer:  Gary Galluzzo, University of Iowa News Services
Technical Consultant:  Susan Beckett, senior systems administrator
College Web Site:  www.engineering.uiowa.edu
E/WEEK Archives:  http://list.uiowa.edu/archives/eweek.html


1. College of Engineering Makes Plans for Commencement
2. Iowa Nutrient Research Center Studies Excess Nutrients in Iowa Water
3. Myres Receives IEEE PES Scholarship
4. One-of-a-Kind Cork Seating: Meshing Engineering with Art
5. Iowa Alumni Magazine Showcases 2014 ASCE Corn Monument
6. College Events for the Coming Week
7. About E/WEEK

1. College of Engineering Makes Plans for Commencement

The College of Engineering is planning for both undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremonies next week.

The Graduate College commencement ceremony will be held at 7:00 p.m. December 19 at Carver Hawkeye Arena. Doors to Carver Hawkeye Arena open at 6:00 p.m. Graduates should plan to arrive no later than 6:15 p.m. For questions regarding the ceremony or apparel for students or faculty, contact Kathy Klein Gerling (kathy-klein@uiowa.edu) or at 335-3492.

The Engineering undergraduate commencement ceremony will take place at 12:00 Noon December 20 at Mcbride Hall Auditorium.  College of Engineering dean Alec Scranton will lead the event; UI Provost Barry Butler will confer the degrees. George D. Ashton, Ph.D., a 1961 graduate, will give the charge to the graduates and be inducted into the college’s Distinguished Engineering Alumni Academy, becoming the third of three Ashton brothers to receive the honor.

A reception brunch will be held for graduates and family members from 9:00-11:00 a.m. in the Student Commons in the Seamans Center for the Engineering Arts and Sciences.

College of Engineering ceremonies will be streamed live on the web at now.uiowa.edu. They’ll also be posted on the university’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/universityofiowa) within 24 hours.

2. Iowa Nutrient Research Center Studies Excess Nutrients in Iowa Water

Is water quality in Iowa an invisible problem? The risks to human health are significant and costly. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), high levels of nitrates in drinking water are especially dangerous for babies, pregnant women, and nursing mothers. Cities such as Des Moines are investing in expensive nitrate-removal systems to make drinking water safe, and passing the costs along to residents. Des Moines’ nitrate-removal facility, the largest in the world, cost $4 million to install, and another $7,000 for each day it operates.

Excess nitrates and phosphorus in our rivers and streams also cause serious environmental problems. High nutrient concentrations in the Mississippi River contribute to rampant algae growth in the Gulf of Mexico, which depletes oxygen in the water to the point where marine life cannot survive. This “Dead Zone” in the Gulf is now the size of the state of Massachusetts. Excessive nitrates in municipal water supplies also lead to higher water bills here at home, as cities are forced to make expensive upgrades to their water treatment systems.

The issue of excess nutrients in the water is a difficult one for Iowans. How do we balance the needs of an agricultural economy with the desire for clean water and a healthy environment? According to IIHR Research Engineer Doug Schnoebelen, the best place to start is with good information. “We can make better decisions if we have access to better information,” Schnoebelen says. “It’s just logical.”

The Iowa Nutrient Research Center (INRC) is designed to provide that information, using a science-based approach to improving water quality. Larry Weber, director of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, a research institute at the University of Iowa College of Engineering, was one of the founders of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center, which is based at Iowa State University. The Iowa Legislature established the center in 2013 with $1.5M in first-year funding. The INRC supports research at all three regents’ universities, as well as at several state government agencies.

The INRC has funded 10 research projects for 2014–15 that range from an investigation of farming practices and stream nitrate trends to a pilot study of nutrient trading in a small watershed. Four of the 10 projects involve UI researchers:

* Modeling of Nitrate Loads and Concentrations in the Raccoon River (Gabriele Villarini, PI)
* Nutrient Trading in Iowa: A Pilot Study in the Catfish Creek Watershed (Larry Weber, PI)
* Measuring the Effectiveness of Stacked Nutrient Reduction Practices (Keith Schilling, PI)
* Scientific and Technological Tools to Implement Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy (Doug Schnoebelen, PI)

The backbone of IIHR’s research for the INRC is a network of water-quality sensors deployed throughout Eastern Iowa. These state-of-the-art remote sensors collect water-quality data that are relayed back to the center every few minutes. Researchers are developing an easy-to-use website to disseminate the data to all Iowans.

The new sensors move water-quality monitoring into the 21st century, says Keith Schilling, a research engineer at IIHR/Iowa Geological Survey. “With the sensor technology, now we’re collecting data every 15 minutes rather a grab sample once a month.”

IIHR Assistant Research Scientist Carrie Davis agrees. “I’m just happy we are able to provide the people of Iowa with this critical information,” she says. “It’s a huge step forward.”

Weber says he encourages everyone on the team to work with a sense of urgency, but also to remember that we’re in this for the long-term. Iowa’s nutrient problem has been many years in the making, and it won’t be solved overnight, or even in a decade. It may take 20 years, he says, before Iowa can achieve the 45 percent reduction in nutrient load called for by the EPA.

But Weber says he’s optimistic that with persistence and a willingness to invest, Iowa can improve its water quality. “We’re on the right path,” he says. “And we can quantify that we’re on the right path.”

3. Myres Receives IEEE PES Scholarship

Thomas Myres, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, has been selected to receive a $3,000 scholarship as part of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) PES Scholarship Initiative.  Myres was awarded the scholarship check by Er-Wei Bai, professor and departmental executive officer of electrical and computer engineering.

Myres is one of 184 students selected from 95 U.S. and Canadian universities for the 2014-2015 academic year.

He is a member of Tau Beta Pi, national engineering honor society, and has served as an intern at Next Era Energy Resources.

The initiative recognizes undergraduate students who have declared a major in electrical and computer engineering, are high achievers with strong grade point averages with distinctive extracurricular commitments, and are committed to exploring the power and energy field.

4. One-of-a-Kind Cork Seating: Meshing Engineering with Art

Editor Note: All of the things that we may have seen cut by a waterjet cutter have been made of metal. But recently that device cut several 6” slabs of cork. Why cork? And who would do that? Alex Zeppieri, a civil engineering senior with an art minor, explained how he came to have thick chunks of cork cut in the Engineering

Here is his story.

By Alex Zeppieri
Civil Engineering Senior

I'm a 5th year civil engineering major, Art minor, who will be graduating in May 2015. Because I chose the architectural Elective Focus Area, I have taken several 3D design classes that are held in the Studio Arts Building.

This semester I took Environmental Design 1, but it is widely known as Furniture Design. On the first day of class Monica Correia, the instructor, told us that our only project for this class was to  design and build a chair. However, the chair had to be made out of two sustainable materials, not including hardware (e.g. screws, bolts, plates, dowels, etc.). The chair had to be designed for simple assembling and disassembly, making it portable. I thought about several sustainable materials including water, wool, rubber, and cork. The cork made more and more sense as I looked at examples online and in chair books. I had lots of helpful critiques from classmates for my early design.

It took a lot of looking to find a distributor that sells large pieces of cork, but I finally found a company in New York that carries all types of cork. I used high density tan cork blocks, which are used for decoy carving.  I also decided to use cork fabric to cover the chair cushion. So the first requirement of two sustainable materials was met.

A second requirement was that the pieces of the chair had to be cut by CNC routing. Any type of CNC router would be okay (e.g., waterjet, saw, laser, etc.).  Since the CNC routers at the in woodshop would accommodate material only 2 inches or less thick, I had to use the waterjet at the EMS. With modifications from Mike Hillman, a student employee in EMS, we were able to get the 6 inch cork slab on the waterjet. I cut 4 pieces -- 2 legs, 1 seat, and 1 back -- from 4 slabs of cork.  The legs each used a 2' x 3' x 6" piece, while the seat and back used 2' x 3' x 4" pieces.

My chair design was very basic but still required several modifications. I designed the chair using AutoCAD after just learning 3D in AutoCAD from Professor [Colby] Swan. Even though I am a 5th year engineering major, I found the process from design to actual construction was absolutely amazing. I learned how designing something as simple as a chair can be extremely detailed and require precision.

Photos of various construction stages of the cork chair are available at http://www.engineering.uiowa.edu/ems/cork-chair-photos.

For this project time and money were the constraining factors. With limited time and money, I could not build exactly what I wanted, could not make a perfect product. Scheduling is a very important part in this project, too, as the chair has to be completed by the end of the semester. Those constraints meant that I relied on Engineering Machine Shop staff, especially Mike, to successfully waterjet cut the cork slabs before I headed home for Thanksgiving break. Mike’s cutting of the cork was 100% successful, and he knew the waterjet software like he had written it himself. This project pushed the limits of engineering and architecture, and I believe my cork chair illustrates my success.  

Over the Thanksgiving break I sanded the pieces, and lined the seat and back with a cork fabric cushion. I am using wood and steel dowels to assemble the chair, but those connectors should not be visible in the final product.

As a civil engineering and 3D design student, I am impressed and grateful for the facilities, machines, tools, and staff that have contributed to my education. For this project I got to learn a lot about the waterjet cutter, how it works and the software it uses. It was very pleasing to see the 3D AutoCAD drawings represented perfectly in the real-life pieces.

Credit for help on this project:
Jelinek Cork Group, Nancey Brunton-Law (provided cork slabs & cork fabric from NY)
Wildlife Urn (provided cork slabs from Minnesota)
Mark Williams (provided woodshop tools/machines; family friend in Rockford, IL)
Steve Struckman, Bill Jennings, and Mike Hillman (EMS waterjet cutting techs)

5. Iowa Alumni Magazine Showcases 2014 ASCE Corn Monument

The 2014 version of the famous Engineering Corn Monument is showcased in the December issue of Iowa Alumni Magazine, the official publication of the University of Iowa Alumni Association. Created by the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the monument – made of hundreds of ears of Iowa corn -- graced the west lawn of the Pentacrest, using Old Capitol as a dramatic backdrop to the decades-old tradition on campus.

To read the two-page color feature from the magazine, click here.

To learn more about corn monument history, go to http://now.uiowa.edu/2014/10/old-gold-corn-art.


6. College Events for the Coming Weeks

December 15-19 – Final Examination Week.

December 19 – Graduate College Commencement, 7:00 p.m., Carver Hawkeye Arena. Doors to Carver Hawkeye Arena open at 6:00 p.m. Graduates: plan to arrive no later than 6:15 p.m.). For questions regarding the ceremony or apparel for students or faculty, contact Kathy Klein Gerling (kathy-klein@uiowa.edu) or at 335-3492.

December 20 – College of Engineering Undergraduate Commencement Brunch for Graduates and Family Members, 9:00-11:00 a.m., Seamans Center.

December 20 – College of Engineering Undergraduate Commencement, 12:00 Noon, Mcbride Auditorium, Mcbride Hall.


7. About E/WEEK

E/WEEK is a weekly electronic newsletter to inform faculty, staff, and students about important news and events of The University of Iowa College of Engineering.

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