Flights of Imagination
In mid-February 2009, Somali pirates looked skyward and saw an odd, small aircraft circling their ship. It looked harmless. But the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) carried a camera that was sending video footage of the ship and its crew to the USS Mahan, a destroyer, miles away, monitoring the pirates’ movements. Similar UAVs are showing up over remote areas, inspecting pipelines, monitoring forests for fire outbreaks and spotting schools of tuna for fishermen.
UAVs usually run on batteries or gas-powered engines that can power a craft for one or two hours. Michigan Engineering’s SolarBubbles student team has done better – much better – designing, building and testing UAVs that run on fuel cells or solar cells. A SolarBubbles and Adaptive Materials Inc. fuel-cell-powered aircraft recently cruised over a field in Milan, Michigan, for more than 10 hours, eclipsing the world record for fuel-cell-powered flight time of nine hours held by a California engineering firm.
The team hopes to build an autonomous, solar-powered craft with less than a 15-foot wingspan and a flight-time of 36-plus hours.
Nick Rooney, an Aerospace Engineering senior and the SolarBubbles team leader, said that “undergraduate, graduate and even high-school students have participated in SolarBubbles. A lot of us are aerospace engineers, but we have members from throughout the College – electrical, computer science and mechanical, to name a few.”
The team and its advisers, Aerospace Engineering associate professors Ella Atkins and Luis Bernal, and Arthur F. Thurnau Associate Professor Pete Washabaugh welcome anyone who’s motivated, interested and willing to work.
- Read more about SolarBubbles
Michigan Engineering Student Is NSBE Graduate Student of the Year
Nicole Campbell has received the National Society of Black Engineers Graduate Student of the Year Award. She adds it to a long list of honors that includes Michigan Engineering’s 2008 Distinguished Leadership Award, the 2008 U-M Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirit Award, the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees 2007 “Most Promising PhD Fellow in Science Award,” a 2006 National Consortium of Graduate Degrees GEM Fellowship and a 2006 U-M Rackham Merit Fellowship… to name just a few.
Another Michigan Engineering GEM Fellow
Industrial and Operations Engineering (IOE) student Rachel Phillips has received the GEM Fellowship from the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science. The Fellowship provides financial support – often the deciding factor in pursuing graduate education – and practical experience through advanced-level internships. Phillips, who’s pursuing a master’s in IOE, shares her professional and educational experiences at GEM recruiting events and recommends qualified students to receive the fellowship.
ME Student Outstanding
Andrew Kneifel, a Mechanical Engineering undergrad, has been named 2008 Outstanding Student Engineer of the Year by the Engineering Society of Detroit. The award recognizes the undergraduate student who has distinguished oneself in the engineering and scientific
Hicks, Hoops and High Tech
Veronica Hicks, a second-year undergrad in Industrial and Operations Engineering, has more on her mind than equations, labs and high technology. Basketball keeps Hicks on her toes, too. She chose Michigan Engineering because she’d “always been a math and science geek. I want a career that’s both technical and business-oriented – I’d like to be a partner of a major corporation one day, as well as play professional basketball.”
Hicks is one of those talented student-athletes who knows what she wants – in the classroom and on the hardwood – and always manages to be at the top of her game.
Mechanical Engineering Student Makes International Splash
Evan Quasney, an undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering, made quite a splash “across the pond,” taking second place overall in the first-ever Winnovation, an energy/sustainability competition that took place in Denmark and was sponsored by Vestas, the leading global supplier of wind-power solutions.
The contest started with entrants – both engineering and business students – making presentations simultaneously in different rooms. Judges selected the top six business students and top six engineers, then paired each engineer with a business student to develop a way to store wind energy at night for sale during the day. Quasney decided to use integrated, high-discharge mechanical flywheels; his teammate, an MBA student from Columbia University, drew up a marketing strategy. The effort was good enough to take second place.
Quasney said that the competition “really served as an arena to test my energy system engineering skills and put my coursework to practical use in an academically safe environment. My interest in
energy systems and renewable energy storage dovetailed nicely into the focus of the
Winnovation competition. I saw this competition as a chance to try and prove myself against students from around the world who felt the same way – and I believe I did!”
Indeed he did. Quasney’s showing earned him a job with Vestas in production engineering and project management. He added that his biggest takeaway from the competition was that Michigan Engineering’s approach to energy systems engineering is “head-and-shoulders above the rest.” And now the whole world knows.
STUDENT PROFILE: Arnaud Valeille
A rolling stone gathers no moss. Neither does Arnaud Valeille, who, in his three years at the College, earned master’s and PhD degrees in Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, a master’s in Applied Mathematics, and a doctorate from Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, and still managed to party four nights a week, run a Detroit Marathon and a Hawaiian Ironman, motor through 25 states just for kicks, jet to South Africa for Thanksgiving, hit the Mardi Gras in New Orleans and join the Michigan Snowboard Club for its outing to Canada.
Valeille, a Paris native who speaks not only French and English but German and Japanese, taught himself to ride a unicycle. Those who know him well aren’t surprised anymore: he’s always finding something new to get into. Just as he learned Jiu-Jitsu. Just as he took up juggling. Just as he travels whenever he gets the itch.
He’s a self-described butterfly. “I’m not sure where I’ll land next. But I know that, wherever it might be, there’ll be new challenges waiting and more interesting people to meet.”
Some are more interesting than others. On his first day in Ann Arbor, Valeille went house-hunting, knocking on doors, scouring the area. He soon made friends with his housemates-to-be and ended up bartending at a “chocolate-pudding-fight party.”
Valeille doesn't know where life might take him, but it’s sure to be somewhere new, doing something exciting.