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On May 1, two projects that created a more powerful clutch for John Deere harvesters and an improved method for removing toxic lead paint shared first place after judges presided over the end-of-semester poster presentation for the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department’s crowning course, MIE 415: Senior Design Project.

Talented and accomplished students from all four departments at the College of Engineering have won numerous awards, scholarships, fellowships, and other distinctions this semester on the national, regional, and campus level. They range from the prestigious National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship, competing against the best undergraduates in the nation, to a host of awards presented by the chancellor.

On May 1, 14 student teams of seniors from the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst demonstrated the prototypes of their useful, inventive, and brilliant designs for all to see. On display was a more powerful clutch for John Deere harvesters, a new and improved method for removing lead paint, a safer extension ladder, and everything else from space-age training shoes to a device that gives people in wheelchairs a much longer reach.

On Friday, April 13, the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department hosted its first Ice Skating Social from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Mullins Center skating rink. The event was the brainchild of Professors Ian Grosse and Matt Lackner. More than 100 students, staff, and faculty members attended the event and skated their hearts out. One faculty member summed it up nicely: "Matt and Ian – that was so much fun!

Mechanical engineering junior Moijue Kaikai has been busy this year. In addition to his demanding curriculum in mechanical engineering, he took over as president for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) student chapter in September. In the process, he re-energized the chapter, which was down to two active members, raising that number to 35.

Former Mechanical Engineering Professor George Albert (Al) Russell of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who taught in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department for 34 years after earning his doctorate in 1968, died April 11 following a brief illness. Professor Russell was born in Steger, Illinois, on August 29, 1936. During his years at UMass Amherst, he was also a consultant for the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, Digital Equipment Corporation, and other agencies and organizations.

The College of Engineering has chosen Professor Sandip Kundu of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department to receive its 2012 Outstanding Senior Faculty Award and Assistant Professor Jenna Marquard of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department to receive its 2012 Barbara H. and Joseph I. Goldstein Outstanding Junior Faculty Award. Associate Professor James Rinderle of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department was previously selected to receive the 2012 Outstanding Teaching Award.

On April 17, FACTbase, a team of students, alumni, and faculty  entrepreneurs marketing a new technology that will save the oil industry and climate scientists time and money, won the grand prize of $25,000 at the seventh annual University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge. Plate Technologies, which delivers precision instrumentation for rapid success of biological-cell-culture-based experiments, won $14,000 at the event, while Sweet Seat, pitching a premium bicycle seat that delivers comfort through design, took home $8,000.

On Tuesday afternoon, April 17, come watch five teams of student entrepreneurs pitch business plans based on brilliant innovations to a panel of expert judges. With over $50,000 in prize money available, the gala event is the culmination of the seventh annual University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge. The competition will be held in the Amherst Room on the 10th floor of the UMass Amherst Campus Center, starting at 3:30 p.m. The competition is free and open to the public, and the media are cordially invited.

Mechanical engineering alumnus Michael McKinley, now a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley, was on a team of engineers that built a machine enabling a paraplegic senior to rise from his wheelchair and stride across the commencement stage for graduation. The story was told in a long and beautifully written feature carried by Popular Science Magazine. “Austin Whitney didn’t want to graduate from college in a wheelchair,” as the story began.

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