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Engineering

Summer 2003

Tiny Motors

The Palouse Piezoelectric Power (P3) engine is three millimeters wide, three millimeters long, and 100 microns thick, making it the world’s smallest engine. Just over 6,447 engines placed side by side would cover a page of this magazine, and each engine would be no thicker than the page on which it rested. The Washington State University researchers who created it believe the P3 has the potential to one day replace the batteries that power electric devices.

To operate, the P3 needs only an external heat source, such as   a burning fuel, the sun, a wood stove, waste heat from electronics, or even body heat. The … » More …

Spring 2003

Solid footing

Ah, for the safety and comfort of computer modeling in a cozy office.

Instead, Thanos Papanicolaou, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Washington State University, found himself in a small boat in the churning waters of the Tacoma Narrows during a “peak tidal event” taking water velocity measurements, soundings, and underwater pictures of the bottom of the channel.

“I was a little nervous,” he admits, recalling his guide’s efforts to avoid vortices in the current.

Papanicolaou and graduate student Kyle Strom have been working to determine exactly how much of a scour hole tides make around the pilings that hold … » More …

Fall 2004

Spray-cooling

Military adopts ISR technology in aircraft, ground vehicles

For reliability, advanced electronics need to be maintained at a stable temperature. This isn’t always possible in extreme military conditions. Isothermal Systems Research (ISR) has found one solution that’s winning awards and military contracts: spray-cooling.

Mechanical engineer Don Tilton developed the technology for a self-enclosed spray-cooling chassis about the size of a small microwave oven. A chemical liquid inside is sprayed onto electronics, dissipating heat on circuit boards and processors through evaporation, keeping the electronics at a stable, uniform temperature. In June 2003, the Defense Department gave ISR a Value Engineering Achievement Award in Washington, D.C., for … » More …

Fall 2009

Video: Garfield-Palouse students building PAL

A time-lapse video of Garfield-Palouse High School students, with support from Washington State University, building an award-winning lift to heft farmers with disabilities into combines.

“Sean Neal is good at math, but one bit of geometry he can’t master involves moving ten feet up and two feet over. The wheelchair-bound teen isn’t able to climb into a combine to help harvest his family’s wheat fields.

While Neal’s dad was carrying him up a ladder and helping him into the operator’s seat, his math teacher at Garfield-Palouse High School was pondering ways to nudge students toward careers in which they could use their number-crunching skills. … » More …

Summer 2004

Arlington National Cemetery hallowed ground for Carson

Rarely do people have their work viewed by U.S. presidents, congressmen, and millions of tourists. But that’s the kind of scrutiny Kent Carson encounters. He is construction engineer at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington, D.C.

The cemetery accommodates four million visitors annually. “It’s exciting to know that decisions you make will impact hundreds of people every day,” he says.

His work at ANC has included historic preservation of the white marble structures and monuments, as well as renovation of the granite plazas at the John F. Kennedy gravesite. Current projects include developing 45 acres for burial sites that will last into 2050, and a $6 … » More …

Summer 2004

A Winner: Small-World Photomicrography

This photograph of a thin copper film surface by former Washington State University materials science student Megan Cordill won 16th place in Nikon’s 29th annual Small World Competition. The photograph is part of a touring exhibit.

The previous year, Cordill placed both first and third in the Cornell University Microscopy Image Competition.  Cordill received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WSU in 2002 and 2003, and is now working toward her Ph.D. in materials science and engineering at the University of Minnesota.