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Engineering

Summer 2005

A Building Full of Answers

Maybe it’s their nondescript building, one of a row of identical structures just off of Plum Street on the way into Olympia. Or maybe it’s their curious history, once a government entity, then oddly tossed to the budget dogs by an otherwise environmentalist governor. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s with Washington State University Extension, but doesn’t really cost us anything. Or maybe it’s all those 800 numbers connecting it to the outside world. And then again, maybe it was just me.

I’ve got to admit, I just didn’t understand the WSU Energy Program until I stopped in for a visit late last summer. Not … » More …

Spring 2005

Student engineers learn by doing

In Mechanical Systems Design, a course required for graduation, mechanical engineering students at Washington State University complete real projects for real companies. Last fall, project sponsors included Sterling Technology and Siltronic Corporation. Previous sponsors have included British Petroleum, the Grand Coulee Dam, Bechtel Corporation, and the U.S. Army. In the past 10 years, about 90 projects have been completed in the design clinic.

When Associate Professor Charles Pezeshki created the clinic, he decided the students would complete tasks for companies free of charge. But he soon found that no one took the class seriously in the absence of fees for services. Neither students, professors, nor … » More …

Spring 2005

A Nuclear Icon

If you’ve ever driven State Road 24 from Othello to Yakima, you may have glanced across the Columbia as you neared the Vernita Bridge and noticed the B Reactor. There it sits across the river, stark, intriguing, and mysterious against the shrub-steppe Hanford Reservation. But that’s probably as close as you’re going to get. Public access is limited, possible only through special arrangement with the Department of Energy.

Tim Cowan (’00 Architecture) wants to change that.

Cowan adopted the B Reactor as his architectural thesis project and has never let go of his idea. Now an architect with the Portland firm Yost Grube Hall, Cowan … » More …

Spring 2005

A Once-In-A-Career Project

Any engineering student can recount how wind-induced vibrations and poor aerodynamics caused “Galloping Gertie,” the first Tacoma Narrows suspension bridge, to swing wildly and collapse into the channel during a storm November 7, 1940.

More than 60 years after that failure, a group of Washington State University engineering alumni are helping to build a new bridge next to the one that replaced the original in 1950. The effort began in 2002 and is expected to cost $849 million. It will be the largest single project ever undertaken by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“It’s a dream job for me and a lot of the … » More …

Fall 2009

Elevating engineering in the schools

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. Jim Stewart thought an engineering design contest might do the trick. A former baseball coach, Stewart knows kids like to compete. Sure enough, his Gar-Pal design … » More …

Spring 2009

A long-term biofuels strategy for Washington

In 2007, the Washington State Legislature passed legislation “relating to providing for the means to encourage the use of cleaner energy.” The final of four chapters of the renewable energy act directed Washington State University to explore the development of biofuels in Washington. The final result, Biofuel Economics and Policy for Washington State, released in late 2008, does not quite match what some state policy makers had expected, notes lead author Jon Yoder, a natural resource economist at WSU.

In short, the report recommends that Washington not try to force itself into the current biofuel market. With what are considered “first-generation” biofuels, such as ethanol, … » More …

Spring 2009

A gift toward fuel research

Oil industry executive Gene Voiland ‘69 and his wife Linda have promised $17.5 million to Washington State University’s School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering, contributing to the school’s focus on energy research.

An immediate $2.5 million gift will allow the school to hire faculty who will focus on transforming agricultural and municipal waste into useful fuels and chemicals.

In the pressing challenge to develop clean and sustainable energy sources, researchers are looking for alternative energy solutions that can employ the existing petroleum-based infrastructure. Municipal and agricultural waste can be converted to fuels that look and perform just like gasoline or fuel oil. But, because they … » More …

Spring 2009

The webs we weave

 

Every time you board a plane, turn on a light, or chat with a neighbor, you become part of a network: the air traffic system, the power grid, the pool of possible victims of a virus.

To Sandip Roy, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Washington State University, and his graduate student, Yan Wan (’08 Ph.D.), such networks have a lot in common. They’re all composed of distinct points, with every point connected, directly or indirectly, to every other point. Like a spider web, if you pluck one strand of the network, the whole web jiggles.

By devising mathematical equations … » More …

Fall 2008

Powerful solutions from young minds

Image depicting a light bulb sparking ideas and therefore solutions. At Washington State University’s inaugural high school energy competition on May 10, Bohler Gymnasium on the Pullman campus buzzed with the ideas and enthusiasm of more than 350 high school students.

Teams from across the state were invited to present ideas for sustainable living in one of four areas: technology, design, personal behavior, or society/public policy.

Eighty-six teams gathered to share ideas that ranged from specific … » More …

Spring 2006

Doggy Dream House

Basil was a dog in need of a home. And with just 30 hours to assess the whippet’s personality and create and execute a design, a group of Washington State University design students were determined to give him one.

It was an intense competition with “a tremendously difficult timeline,” says Keith Diaz Moore, assistant professor of architecture and landscape architecture, who coordinated the annual design-challenge charrette for the Interdisciplinary Design Institute. “To complete everything in 30 hours is pretty amazing—and to see the delicacy of some of these solutions is fascinating.”

More than 100 students from a variety of disciplines—architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, and … » More …