William Oefelein
William Oefelein

William Oefelein takes his love of exploration to the International Space Station as the pilot of December’s Discovery mission.

Since it went into orbit in 1998, the International Space Station has been running on a temporary electrical system, basically a generator in outer space.

But with the installation of two new electricity-generating solar array panels in September, all of the pieces are in place for the permanent electrical system to take over. That leaves rewiring the entire station to hook it up to the new system.

That will be the task of astronauts on the Space Shuttle Discovery, and included among them is William Oefelein, who received his electrical engineering degree from OSU in 1988 before becoming a pilot in the U.S. Navy and later an astronaut.

Oefelein, called “Billy-O” by his fellow astronauts, will be piloting the spacecraft for the mission during which he and the seven-member crew will reconfigure the electrical system and add a truss segment that will accommodate more solar arrays.

“This will allow us to gain more power in order to do more science,” Oefelein says. “The mission will be full of challenges, but a lot of fun.”

As Discovery’s pilot, Oefelein will undock Discovery from the space station, coordinate the mission’s three spacewalks and use the shuttle’s robotic arm to inspect for any damage. He is making his first flight in space. “I’m really looking forward to wearing a lot of hats,” he says.

Becoming an astronaut wasn’t always a goal. “As a kid, I always liked math and science,” he says. “I never really wanted to become an astronaut; I just wanted to fly airplanes and explore.”

In the Navy, he became a test pilot, and the idea of becoming an astronaut grew on him. He applied and was selected by NASA in June 1998. He had been scheduled to make his first shuttle trip in 2003, but the Columbia disaster during reentry in February of that year put the program on hold. Now shuttles are flying again and Oefelein’s turn has come.

Oefelein is the second OSU alumnus to fly in the shuttle program, following Donald Petit, who was on the space station in 1998 and had to remain there for nearly six months when the program was shut down. Finally he returned safely to Earth aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Ron Adams, dean of engineering at Oregon State, says having two alumni as shuttle astronauts is an honor for the university. “I’m proud to be associated with an engineering program that counts among its ranks such stellar individuals as Bill Oefelein and Don Pettit. Their work inspires young people to pursue careers in engineering, which helps keep America on the cutting edge of innovation.”

NASA site for Discovery mission

NASA interview with William Oefelein

OSU College of Engineering

Don Petit space flight story

Annette von Jouanne and colleagues are working to make Oregon the nation’s wave energy leader.

Note: With deep sadness, we regret to inform readers that Professor Alan Wallace, featured in the story below, passed away June 7 after a long illness. For more information, please read the OSU media release on Professor Wallace’s death. A memorial service is being planned and likely will take place sometime during the week of June 11 – 17. Please call OSU News & Communication Services at 541-737-4611 for more information.

Harnessing the power of the coast is no easy task
Harnessing the power of the coast is no easy task

Anyone who’s seen the pounding surf at the Oregon coast knows the power of the ocean.

Figuring out how to harness the power and make it productive has long been a challenge, though.

Now Annette von Jouanne and Alan Wallace, her colleague in OSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, are trying to overcome the challenge.

Working with a team of student researchers, and in collaboration with several industry partners and collaborators from other OSU departments, von Jouanne and Wallace are developing direct drive buoys that can turn the power of ocean waves into electrical energy.

Von Jouanne has an exciting vision for the future of the project. “It could be a whole new industry,” she says. “We could be the nation’s wave energy headquarters. In five to 10 years time on the Oregon coast, there could be wave parks generating power back onto the grid and providing jobs for the people living in the region.”

The Oregon coast near Reedsport has been identified as the optimal site in the nation for wave energy development and potentially could provide power to meet about 20 percent of the state’s electricity needs, according to von Jouanne and Wallace.

“Ocean energy is an idea whose time has come, ” says Wallace. “If only point-two-percent of the untapped energy of the oceans could be harnessed, it could generate enough power to supply the entire world.”

Although Wallace and von Jouanne are focused on wave energy, they also are involved in the exploration of other power sources, and they direct the Motor Systems Resource Facility at OSU, the highest-power university-based energy systems laboratory in the country.

In addition to being an outstanding researcher, von Jouanne has been recognized for her teaching. Last year she was named the most outstanding young faculty member in the nation in her field by Eta Kappa Nu, a national honor society for electrical and computer engineers.

“I love the teaching aspect and getting students excited about the research and opportunities,” she says. “This is the starting point of their careers, and we want them to see how exciting the research is, and how it’s not just a job.”

Annette von Jouanne research Web page

News release: Oregon may become wave energy leader

Von Jouanne honored as top educator

Motor Systems Research Facility

The Kelley Engineering Center is the new home for the rapidly growing School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Kelley Engineering is LEED Gold Certified
Kelley Engineering is LEED Gold Certified

It features wireless classrooms, “plug-and-learn” alcoves, flexible learning laboratories, and many high-tech innovations, along with office clusters and common areas that foster communication.

But it also offers an array of “green” features, including an atrium, glass-walled conference rooms, and dozens of windows designed to take advantage of sunlight for light and heat.

In fact, the four-story, 153,000-square-foot Kelley Engineering Center, new home of OSU’s School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, is on track to receive a “Gold” certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, which will make it the greenest academic engineering building in the nation.

OSU is the 23rd largest engineering school in the U.S., and, according to engineering dean Ron Adams, “as we continue to build a nationally ranked program, we will continue to grow. The timing for the new building could not be better.”

The $45-million building was funded by a $20-million gift from OSU engineering alumnus Martin Kelley, $20 million in public funds authorized by the Oregon legislature, and $5 million in other donations.

Adams says the new facility will help the College of Engineering in its efforts to be ranked among the top 25 in the country. “Today, innovation is all about collaboration, teamwork, and new ideas,” Adams says. “This new building is designed to help spark those ideas by ensuring that the people inside connect.”

To encourage connection, labs in the new building are not dedicated to individual faculty members. Instead, each lab is the central element of a “research-learning suite” surrounded by faculty and graduate student offices and assigned to a specific research project. In addition, the building contains a centrally located e-café where faculty, staff, students, and industry partners can gather to share ideas.

The building was designed by the Portland architectural firm of Yost Grube Hall and built by Baugh/Skansa of Portland. It features six ceiling-suspended kinetic aluminum sculptures by Tim Prentice, a wall-mounted sculpture of commercial safety reflectors by Dick Elliot, and a 20-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture by Po Shu Wang in the exterior plaza.

A grand opening ceremony will be held during Homecoming, October 29 at 10 a.m. Jen-Hsun Huang, a 1984 engineering graduate and co-founder of nVIDIA, one of the most successful high-tech companies in the world, is the keynote speaker. The day’s activities, called “A Home for Innovation,” feature departmental gatherings throughout the College of Engineering in addition to the building dedication.

Information about Kelley Engineering Center

Photos of the completed building

Kelley Engineering Center animated tour

“Green” characteristics of Kelley Engineering Center

School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science website

College of Engineering website

OSU’s Education Double Degree is allowing Evan Johnson to take advantage of his love for computers and for teaching.

Evan Johnson has a love for computers and teaching
Evan Johnson has a love for computers and teaching

“Growing up in the computer generation, I was always interested in computers,” says Evan Johnson, an OSU senior from Oregon City. “I knew it was the future and I wanted to be in on it.”

But he also had the feeling that he’d like to teach. “Playing basketball in high school, people told me I’d be a good coach. Teaching people was something I liked.”

He got a taste of teaching when he volunteered to tutor students at Corvallis High School last year. “It was supposed to be for a term, but I liked it so much I decided to stay with it for a full year.”

That caused the computer engineering major to enter OSU’s Education Double Degree program, which allows students to get two degrees–one in their primary field and one in education when they graduate.

Evan now plans to teach high school mathematics. “I hope I can put both majors to work,” he says. “As a computer engineer, I can think of about a thousand reasons students need to learn math. And I could also teach technology education.”

He hopes to make an impact on his students. “One of my personal goals is to be a motivator–an encourager–that’s important,” he says. “Students can’t carry all of their books home, and they want to take books from classes they enjoy. I want them to take math books home.”

He recently was awarded a $2,500 College of Education scholarship for his final year of school. “That will really help,” he says.

But engineering is still part of Evan’s life. He was part of a team that took second place in OSU’s Engineering Expo this spring, developing a cell phone-car alarm interface that allows users to arm and disarm their alarm by phone.

Education Double Degree

College of Education

College of Engineering

As OSU scientists make new discoveries and provide improved products for the world, the Radiation Center often plays an important role.

The radiation center was ranked in the top 10 in nation
The radiation center was ranked in the top 10 in nation

The building sits unobtrusively at the west end of campus. It looks like many a university building. But this one’s different. For one thing, the OSU Radiation Center houses a nuclear reactor.

The reactor is a source of neutrons for local and international researchers. But it also has an educational role. Each year 70 to 75 classes are taught at the Radiation Center, and many of them use the reactor.

“It’s very unusual to have a nuclear reactor on campus, but it’s quite valuable” says Steve Reese, director of the Radiation Center. “Students studying nuclear engineering or radiation health physics can learn how the reactor works in the classroom, then apply the knowledge in the laboratory.”

The center also provides training to Oregon First Responders and teaches hazardous material radiological training courses.

With its TRIGA Mark II research nuclear reactor, a gamma irradiator, gamma radiation spectrometers and germanium detectors, instruments for measurement and monitoring, and other equipment, the Radiation Center has greater combined capabilities than any other university facility in the western half of the United States, Reese says.

Research recently performed at the center or through use of the reactor includes certification testing for next generation nuclear reactors, environmental analysis related to the Hanford site, arsenic contamination studies, bandage sterilization for the Army, and prostate and lung cancer cell studies.

While most of the service performed is for university researchers or other agencies, Reese says he’s trying to greatly expand the center’s research aspect by bringing research into the Radiation Center organization itself in the areas of neutron radiography, neutron activation analysis, and radiochemistry.

In addition to its educational and research functions, the center provides outreach services, offering tours to schools and other groups.

Radiation Center website

OSU Nuclear Engineering program ranked in top 10

An OSU-based team hopes to send a self-guiding driverless vehicle over a rugged desert course for the challenge–and a shot at $2 million.

NOTE: The Oregon WAVE team’s participation in the 2005 Grand Challenge ended at the semifinal level—an extraordinary accomplishment for a first-year competitor.

The Oregon WAVE team finished at the semifinal level
The Oregon WAVE team finished at the semifinal level

The challenge is immense.

Send a vehicle over a grueling 150-mile Southwest desert course without a driver or any human intervention, including remote control.

The reward is great.

The Department of Defense is offering $2 million to the team whose autonomous vehicle successfully completes the winding, obstruction-laden course the fastest within a 10-hour time period.

An OSU-based team of 30 engineering students, faculty members, and local engineers is among 40 semifinalists–and the only one from the Northwest–seeking the prize.

The impetus for entering the competition was the autonomous vehicle research of Belinda Batten, head of the OSU Department of Mechanical Engineering and faculty mentor for the team, as well as the interest of students and others.

“To be one of 40 finalists from an original field of 195 teams in our first year attempting this testifies to the creativity, ingenuity, and perseverance of the people involved,” Batten said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment.”

Matt MacClary, team member and engineering graduate student, agrees. “I knew this would be tough because many of the other teams have a lot more resources than ours, and many competed in the Grand Challenge race last year,” he said. “Our vehicle is one of the lightest and most fuel efficient in the running.”

While other teams put hundreds of thousands of dollars into their vehicles, the OSU-based team, called Oregon WAVE (Willamette Autonomous Vehicle Enterprise), spent about $5,000 to modify a mini-Baja car to reach the semifinals. The vehicle was donated by OSU’s 2003 Mini-Baja race team.

The next step in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) test is head-to-head competition September 27 to October 5 in Fontana, California. The top 20 teams will advance to the national finals.

And if the OSU-based team should win the $2 million?

“I would anticipate it would be used to fund research in autonomous vehicles,” Batten said, “not simply ground vehicles, but there is a fair amount of work on campus that relates to autonomous underwater vehicles and autonomous air vehicles.”

Oregon WAVE team website

Belinda Batten website

College of Engineering site

DARPA Grand Challenge website

Corvallis Gazette-Times story on OSU team

Josè Reyes leads an OSU team designing a safer, smaller, more streamlined nuclear reactor.

Jose Reyes is designing better nuclear reactors
Jose Reyes is designing better nuclear reactors

As a powerful and potentially clean source of energy, nuclear power could offer a solution to the Earth’s dwindling supply of oil and fossil fuels.

But in a world that recalls the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, nuclear energy is seen by many as a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Enter a team of OSU nuclear engineers led by Josè Reyes, interim director of the OSU Department of Nuclear Engineering.

By eliminating pipes, pumps, and moving parts, the engineers have created a new reactor design that is simpler, less costly to build, and based on passively safe concepts that take advantage of natural forces such as gravity, natural circulation, convection, and evaporation.

In short, the new reactor has fewer parts that can fail than previous generations of nuclear plants. “Because our design is so simple, the reactor is much safer,” says Reyes.

The team’s innovative approach enables the reactor to fit on a single railcar, run for five years between refueling shutdowns, and be installed for a fraction of the cost of a traditional nuclear plant.

The team is considering the patent potential of the design and has completed testing the first prototype for the U.S. Department of Energy. The promise for the system is so great that many other countries, including Argentina and South Korea, are considering similar designs.

In addition to Reyes, the project team includes OSU professors Brian Woods, Qiao Wu, and Todd Palmer, as well as partners at the Idaho National Engineering Lab and Nexant/Bechtel.

Reyes is a key innovator on the team and at OSU. In the past 10 years, he has leveraged an initial $4,000 grant into more than $13 million in research funding–part of the reason the graduate program in nuclear engineering is currently ranked ninth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

And, as one of the nation’s leading Hispanic engineers, Reyes was named “Role Model of the Week” in early March by HENAAC, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to promoting careers for Hispanics in engineering, science, technology, and mathematics.

Josè Reyes nuclear engineering faculty page

Large-Scale Energy Systems cluster at OSU

Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at OSU

OSU student engineers finished first and third in cars they designed and built for the 2004 Mini-Baja West competition.

Team members pose in front of the award winning design
Team members pose in front of the award winning design

Battling a dirt and rock strewn course near Portland–as well as more than 90 teams from schools as far away as Florida and Mexico–OSU students finished first and third overall in the Society of Automotive Engineers 2004 Mini-Baja West competition.

Belinda King, head of OSU’s department of Mechanical Engineering, said winning first and third is an unprecedented accomplishment for the OSU engineering program. The students competed with students from some of the nation’s best engineering programs on a grueling course that included crawling over huge boulders and logs, as well as a four-hour endurance leg.

And the finish was no fluke. In 2003, an OSU team finished second in the same competition at Logan, Utah.

The interdisciplinary OSU team, coached by mechanical engineering professor Bob Paasch, designed, modeled, tested, and built the racers.

“This definitely shows that OSU’s hands-on approach to engineering education works and works well,” King said.

It worked well for the students pictured above with one of the winning cars. Darren Johnson (right) graduated in June of 2004 went to work at Warn Industries, where he had previously done an internship, and is now a design engineer at the company.

After the team’s victory at the competition, David Elia (left) was contacted by recreational vehicle manufacturer Polaris with an offer of a paid internship. “This is my dream job, and I got it before graduation,” says Elia, now a senior. “And the amazing thing is they called me!”

News release on OSU group’s mini-Baja win

OSU mini-Baja group home page

OSU Department of Mechanical Engineering

Skip Rochefort interests kids in engineering by showing them that it is fun and exciting.

Skip Rochefort working with younger students
Skip Rochefort working with younger students

When Skip Rochefort arrives at work each day, he’s ready to have fun–and maybe play a part in making the world a better place.

“All the best students want to save the world,” says Rochefort, associate professor of chemical engineering and director of OSU’s Precollege Programs. “So we want to recruit these kids to study engineering here at Oregon State.”

He plays his role in this with creative programs that make engineering exciting, interesting, and extremely hands-on. He hooks students when they’re young and believe in dreams. He keeps them engaged.

Rochefort seems perfect for inspiring young minds. He’s a bit of a kid at heart and loves what he does. His desk is cluttered with Silly Putty, a “grow shark” gel toy, Gumby and Pokey bendable toys, the absorbent polymer from baby diapers, a foam “cheese head” hat, and a mix of other “hands-on learning tools” that any kid would find irresistible. To local school students, he is known fondly and simply as “Dr. Skip.”

His main research interest, polymer science, offers a highly effective connection to children. Every kid likes to make goop or gel, he says. “We can talk about Silly Putty and Jell-O, and they get excited about chemical engineering.”

His programs come with cool names and acronyms like SESEY, SKIES, E-Camp, AWSEM, and LEGO Robotics Camp. How can kids resist? The Summer Experience in Science and Engineering for Youth (SESEY) is a one-week summer research program for high school girls and ethnic minorities co-directed by Rochefort, Chemical Engineering professor Michelle Bothwell, and graduate student Jason Hower. SKIES stands for Spirited Kids in Engineering and Science, an 11-week summer camp for K-8th graders in collaboration with KidSpirit, directed by Karen Swanger.

E-Camp is an engineering camp for middle school kids that Rochefort established with Ellen Ford of Saturday Academy. At LEGO Robotics Camp, middle schoolers learn engineering concepts using LEGOs, in a course developed and taught by Chemical Engineering colleague Keith Levien.

Advocates for Women in Science, Engineering, and Math (AWSEM) is an awesome experience that connects middle school girls with women role models.

“Every day I can go home and say I’ve had some influence,” he says. “My motto is, ‘do what you like and like what you do.’ Nothing else matters.”

News release on Skip Rochefort’s programs

Skip Rochefort’s chemical engineering page

SESEY website

OSU Precollege Programs

Article in College of Engineering newsletter

Kent Abel is working on a process that will allow him to look through steel and nonmetallic pipes.

Kent Abel is working on x-ray vision to see through steel
Kent Abel is working on x-ray vision to see through steel

He’s not faster than a speeding bullet.

He can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound.

But Kent Abel is working on seeing through steel.

As part of his research on the flow of bubbly material through pipes, Abel is using powerful neutron beams from OSU’s nuclear reactor to get the 3-dimensional images he needs to investigate high pressure and high temperature processes in thick steel pipes.

And Abel, who is working toward a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, finds himself at the cutting edge of research in the area of finding industrial applications for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology.

Working with faculty members in nuclear engineering, Abel has found a new use for the huge MRI machines normally found in hospitals. He is using them to obtain concentrations and velocity profiles for a variety of gas-liquid flows that are typical of industrial fluid processes that take place in PVC and other nonmetallic pipes.

“Nobody else is using an MRI to do this,” Abel says. “We’re able to obtain an incredible amount of information on complex flows with the single touch of a button.”

Because there is a variety of research that could be done with an MRI, the College of Engineering is working with various other colleges on campus to obtain an MRI at OSU. “It’s very exciting,” Abel says.

Engineering newsletter article on Abel’s research