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Engineering

Summer 2004

Wave of the Future

Hands-on training doesn’t get better than this. After six months of construction, Washington State University assistant professor of architecture Robert Barnstone and 10 architectural design students recently completed what is essentially the world’s first wood-plastic building.

The project is a demonstration for the U.S Navy to show that wood-plastic products can be used wherever wood comes into contact with the ground, Barnstone says. The result is a structure at WSU’s Wood Materials and Engineering Laboratory (WMEL) that represents the ultimate in “reuse and recycle,” built entirely by undergraduate students from the architecture and engineering programs. The overall project engaged students, professionals, and professors, who guided … » More …

Spring 2004

Bridges, docks, and dams

Some of General Construction’s best work is under water

Ron Morford was only 19 when he built his first house. A quarter century later, he’s still in construction-only on a much larger scale. The president and district manager of General Construction Co. oversees projects in Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska. Annual contracts total between $150 million and $200 million, making it one of the largest construction companies in Washington. The payroll includes 130 salaried staff, plus 400 to 500 laborers and craftsmen.

According to Morford, marine and heavy civil construction accounts for the bulk of the business. He lives on Bainbridge Island, not far from … » More …

Spring 2004

Solving Boeing's Problems

The Boeing Company has a problem.

Lindsey Caton, a Boeing vision sensors and optics specialist, has taken apart yet another $3,500 camera that he has been trying to use to document the company’s manufacturing processes. Out of it oozes Boelube, the fancy lubricant that Boeing uses for drilling airplane parts. It does not belong in the camera. In fact, the camera is ruined.

Later, Caton describes the problem via video conference to a small group of students at Washington State University. As part of the Boeing Scholars Program, the students are developing a new protective enclosure for the camera.

Started in 1999, the … » More …

Summer 2005

This man might save your life–or teach your class

Clint Cole (’87 B.S. Comp. Sci., ’00 M.S. Elec. Engr.) vividly remembers the drama of trying to save lives as a paramedic in the 1980s.

He and his fellow paramedics typically responded to emergency calls by driving as fast as possible to their destination. If they arrived in fewer than seven minutes, they were doing well. Usually, though, they weren’t fast enough.

Only about 10 of the 250 people he tried to save survived.

But as one the developers of the world’s most popular portable defibrillator, Cole has since contributed to saving tens of thousands of lives.

More than six feet tall and a little … » More …

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 …