What if we could save lives with a more accurate early detection radar system for tornadoes such as the one that recently hit Springfield? Or what if we could help amputees walk more easily by giving them a better “feel” for their artificial limbs? Or replace our unsustainable oil supply with sustainable biofuel? Or cure a group of child-killing diseases known as lysosomal storage disorders. Are these just pipedreams? Not for 52 undergraduate engineering and science students doing summer research at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
On July 12, the Salem News published a well-written feature story on the Distractology 101 driving simulator, a program to train inexperienced drivers about the perils of distracted driving. Distractology 101, housed in a 36-foot-long trailer, is a collaboration between our recently renamed Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory and the Arbella Insurance Company. Our laboratory developed the Distractology program under the leadership of Don Fisher, its director and the head of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department.
On July 11, Bloomberg Businessweek listed Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department alums Scot Chisholm ’04 and Pat Walsh ’03 on its exclusive list of America's Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs 2011. The two alumni co-founded StayClassy, a social fundraising company, in 2006. “StayClassy is a cloud-based platform for nonprofits to fundraise and manage their business online,” CMO Walsh has said about the company, which was voted one of the top three startup companies last year at the 12th annual MIT Venture Capital Company conference.
A class of graduate engineering students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is collaborating with a local inventor to reinvent the very nuts and bolts that hold together the machinery of modern life. This cooperative project is developing a brand new kind of “wave thread,” which could transform the strength, performance, and sealing ability of nuts, bolts, pipes, containers, valves, and other types of “fastener” products.
Team ZoomMass overcame blustery winds, severe thunderstorms, and overwhelming odds to finish with a gritty, Rocky-like performance, beaten up but upbeat, at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Supermileage Competition in Michigan. “When we got on the track the wind was howling,” says Jonathan Rothstein, the team’s faculty advisor. “It was so bad it blew the windshield off the car, which promptly got stuck in the front wheel, causing the car to spin around and the front wheel to shear off as it slid sideways. It took us half the day to put the car back together and persevere through a number of other problems, like flat tires and thunderstorms.”
Briana Tomboulian, a graduate student whose advisor is Professor Robert Hyers in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, has been awarded a highly prestigious fellowship from NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. The NASA 2011 Space Technology Research Fellowship is valued at as much as $66,000 per year for up to four years. The fellowship supports a stipend for the student and the student’s laboratory work, health insurance, tuition, fees, and an extended visit to a NASA center to work on the project.
Bekah Perlin, a first year student in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, is doing a summer internship to test and improve lanyards. No, not that kind of lanyards! They are not the ones that have become infamous in summer camps all over the world as woven in arts-and-crafts classes by bored campers, who wear them around their neck to hold whistles or keys. These are fall-protection lanyards, which are life-saving devices for personnel working on roofs, skyscrapers, and other high sites.
Dr. Sadiye Guler, who earned her doctorate from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in 1996 and went on to found the intuVision company in 2000, has kept close ties with her alma mater through her company. Guler’s company creates leading-edge intelligent video content analysis technology products for real-world applications, including the specific needs of intelligence, security, and law enforcement personnel. In honor of her accomplishments, Dr. Guler received a Massachusetts High Technology Council’s 2008 Women-to-Watch award for developing and commercializing a new technology that is shaping the future of the video industry.
Therapeutic Systems, a company started by alumnus Brian Mullen when he was a doctoral student in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department in 2008, is producing an inflatable vest that offers a “portable hug” to help calm and soothe children with autism and other disorders. Mullen started the company with his partner Chris Leidel, who earned his MBA in the Isenberg School of Management, when the two put together a successful business plan to win the $50,000 University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge.
For more than a decade the Parametric Technology Corporation, better known as PTC, has been designing a nurturing relationship with the UMass Amherst Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department that starts with a free annual license for the company’s trademark CAD modeling software. But our favored status goes far beyond the licenses PTC has donated.