Hart Earns Two Prestigious Scholarships

Robert Hart, doctoral student in mechanical engineering, has received two prestigious scholarships.  Hart is studying under Olesya Zhupanska, professor of aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Arizona. Zhupanska is a former faculty member in the UI Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

Hart's first is the $5,000 Dr. Jackie Rehkopf Scholarship, presented by the SPE® Automotive Composites Conference & Exhibition (ACCE). The scholarship is from an endowed fund that has been set up to honor Rehkopf, a long-time SPE ACCE committee member, SPE Automotive Division board member, and automotive composites researcher.  He will receive the scholarship at the September 7-9 conference in Novi, MI.

Hart's second scholarship is the 2016 American Society for Composites PhD Research Scholarship for the 2016-2017 academic year, to be presented September 20 at the ASC conference, Williamburg, VA.  The award consists of a $1,000 grant and reimbursement of travel expenses up to $1,250 including conference registration to help him attend the annual ASC Technical Conference and accept the award at the conference banquet.

Hart won his Rehkopf scholarship with the topic:  Multi-Physics Effects in Carbon Fiber Polymer Matrix Composites.  Discussing why his research will be of interest to those working in the transportation composites field, Hart notes, “My project will focus on developing theoretical models for designed optimal composite structures for multifunctional applications. I’ll explore the use of new, advanced reinforcement media (e.g. carbon nanotubes, buckypaper, and graphene) that provide optimum combinations of electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties.  My areas of interest include damage modeling and the influence of damage on the multi-physics response in advanced composites. This research should eventually lead to the development of “smart structures” with capabilities like real-time damage sensing that will be of interest to manufactures of aerospace as well as ground vehicles.”

In addition to being a doctoral candidate at the College of Engineering, Hart also is a U.S. Department of Defense SMART Scholar and works in collaboration with the U.S. Army Tank and Automotive Research and Development Engineering Center (TARDEC). Before starting his Ph.D. study, Hart worked for three years as an R&D and project engineer in the plastics industry for Centro Inc. (North Liberty, Iowa, U.S.A.). In that role he led the design, budget proposal, and construction of an industry-leading laboratory for material testing of cross-linked polymers. He also served as the plastics materials expert on a team that developed a novel fire-retardant, multilayer-composite fuel tank for applications in extreme operating environments. The tank was successfully commercialized and is now the flagship product produced at a new manufacturing facility Centro operates in Brazil. Upon returning to university, Hart served as a graduate teaching assistant for a mixed graduate/undergraduate course on composite materials where he was able to draw on his industry experience to guide students as they developed their own composite design projects.  He also served as a guest lecturer when the primary instructor was traveling. He holds both B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Iowa. After graduating with his doctorate in 2017, Hart will work at TARDEC full time and continue to advance composites research in the ground-vehicle sector.