Researchers Develop Foundation for Use of Intense Ultrafast Lasers

Igor Jovanovic, associate professor of nuclear engineering; Kyle Hartig and Bryan Morgan, nuclear engineering gradate students; and Scott Wandel, nuclear engineering doctoral candidate discuss how the Intense Laser Laboratory helps in their research to enhance the use of intense ultrafast lasers in science, industry, and security.

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Research Group Studies Ways to Treat and Prevent Injuries

Reuben Kraft, Shuman Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, and Rebecca Fielding, Teja Garimella, and Allison Ranslow, mechanical engineering graduate students, discuss the Computational Biomechanics Group at Penn State. The researchers are focused on understanding the mechanics and physics of biological systems using computational methods in three broad areas: 1) multiphysics, multiscale computational mechanics and methods, 2) problems at the interface of biology and multiscale mechanics, and 3) humans in extreme environments.

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Making the World a Better Place

Hosam Fathy, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and grad students Sergio Mendoza, Jariullah Safi and Michelle Kehs discuss their research in the Control Optimization Laboratory and how they hope to use the optimal control theory to study areas that will make a positive impact, such as renewable energy generation, energy storage, and management of energy storage systems.


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Mission Accomplished: Aerospace Engineering’s Conte Gets Inspired at Caltech Space Challenge

by Davide Conte

During the week of March 22-27, I took part in the 2015 Caltech Space Challenge in Pasadena, CA, as a member of Team Explorer. We were challenged to design a mission to land humans on an asteroid brought back to lunar orbit, extract the asteroid’s resources, and demonstrate their use. By the end of the week, we had gone from being 16 strangers to a strong cohesive team with a robust and innovative design: Mission L-DORADO (Lunar – reDirected Orbiting Resource Asteroid Demonstration and Operation).

Being Team Explorer’s mission architect and working in the astrodynamics subsystem allowed me to continuously interact with everyone on the team. In a matter of a few days, we went from defining our mission objectives and mission requirements, to brainstorming activities to detailed subsystem design. We analyzed the trade space and eventually converged to a final design. In order to do so, we iterated and changed our baseline mission a few times making sure to assess the risks that the new design choices lead to, as well as mitigation strategies.

Throughout the week, we attended lectures in various space-related subjects and received mentoring from former Caltech students and engineers from aerospace industries such as NASA JPL, Lockheed Martin and SpaceX. Halfway through the week, Team Explorer worked with NASA JPL’s A-Team, a cross-functional multidisciplinary team of Subject-Matter Experts that helped us refine and improve our preliminary mission design.

It was a very intense, inspiring, and fun week that allowed me to work with some of the smartest students from all over the world and gave me the opportunity to network with the engineers and scientists that make space exploration a reality.

The knowledge in mission design and astrodynamics that I gained during the Caltech Space Challenge will also help me as a Teaching Assistant for aerospace engineering senior courses such as Spaceflight Dynamics (AERSP 450) and Spacecraft Design (AERSP 401A&B).

Meet Team Explorer!


Check out Team Explorer’s Final Presentation:



Davide Conte is a graduate student in aerospace engineering. He is the vice president of the Aerospace Graduate Student Association. A native of Genova, Italy, Davide plans to work on space missions that will push the boundary of human space exploration after he graduates.

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Leading the Way in Additive Manufacturing and 3-D Printing Technology

Tim Simpson, co-director of the Center for Innovative Materials Processing through Direct Digital Deposition (CIMP-3D); Erik Denlinger, Distinguished Graduate Assistant; Jeff Irwin and Joe Bartolai, graduate research assistants; and David St. John, post-doctorate researcher, discuss using CIMP-3D as a world-class resource for advancing and deploying additive manufacturing technology for critical applications.

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Just Plane Fun: Society of Women Engineers Visits Bellefonte Middle School Students for Engineers Week

by Katie Ciccaglione

On Thursday, February 27, four Society of Women Engineers (SWE) members traveled to Bellefonte Middle School to give an outreach presentation to half of the 6th grade class. Although the presentation was given to both male and female students, the event was scheduled to occur on National Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, which is part of the week-long Engineers Week celebration. On Monday, March 2, three more SWE members returned to the school to give the same presentation to the other half of the class.

The presentation began with an overview of what engineering is and the impact it has on the world. We also discussed the different disciplines of engineering, and shared our own personal engineering experiences. Finally, we talked about how they, as middle school students, can “test drive” engineering by going to STEM camps or job shadowing an engineer that they know. The presentation was very interactive, as the students already had a decent grasp on engineering, so they were very eager to answer our questions and even ask their own!

The second part of the presentation included an interactive design activity. The purpose of the activity was to teach the students about aviation science and the engineering that goes into making a plane fly. The students were then given a chance to work in groups to create their own airplanes using different types of paper, paperclips, binder clips, and tape to see which group could design the plane that traveled the farthest. Before diving into the design activity, we gave a brief overview of the four main forces affecting the flight of an aircraft: thrust, lift, drag, and gravity.

Nicki Gallegor, outreach director of SWE, says she was excited when the students understood these different properties and how to apply them to simple paper airplanes to make them fly. For example, they knew that for the case of their paper airplanes, thrust would be generated by the forward throwing motion of their hand, as opposed to a jet engine.

When the groups of students were given their materials, there was slight chaos as they began the design process. However, when the time came to test the planes, the students were very cooperative and had a great time cheering on their classmates!

The top two teams whose plane traveled the farthest, and the team with the most creative design, were given prizes. Nicki says her favorite part was when the students came together to take an epic selfie while holding up their creations.

Outreach events like these are very important to SWE because we recognize that the only way to supply the world with future engineers is by getting students interested in engineering at an early age. Interactive presentations are a great way to do that, because students are able to see first-hand how cool engineering can be!

Katie Ciccaglione is vice president of student relations for SWE. A native of Pittsburgh, PA, she will graduate this May with her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Katie plans to move to New Orleans to work as a well interventions engineer at Shell Oil Company.

Nicki Gallegor is a mechanical engineering sophomore from Pittsburgh, PA. She will complete an internship at Rockwell Automation this summer. 

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