Page 1

Spring 2014

Volume 24

Issue 1



opening doors to hands-on learning

Samuel Ginn College of Engineering

Auburn Engineering Spring 2014 Volume 24, Issue 1 Office of the Dean Christopher B. Roberts, dean Steve Duke, associate dean for academics Bob Karcher, assistant dean of student services Oliver Kingsley, associate dean for special projects Nels Madsen, associate dean for assessment Ralph Zee, associate dean for research Office of Engineering Communications and Marketing Jim Killian, director Beth Smith, editor Contributors Katie Beck Megan Burmester Valerie Cashin Morgan Stashick Katie Haon, graphic designer Tyler Patterson, web manager Photography Katie Haon, Jim Killian and Shelby Taylor Office of Engineering Development Ed Lewis, lead development adviser Dan Bush, associate director Kori Caldwell, development officer Veronica Chesnut, major gifts officer David Mattox, development officer Margaret Schlereth, development officer Jon Wilson, development officer Experience Auburn Engineering online at e bur n. ed u/ mag a z i n e Auburn Engineering is published twice yearly by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. Please send news items, suggestions and comments to: Engineering Communications and Marketing c/o Editor 1320 Shelby Center Auburn, AL 36849 334.844.2308

Š2014 Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Auburn University

From the Dea n These are particularly exciting times in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering as we continue to experience growth in our academic, research and outreach programs. We are working particularly hard at providing our students with highly meaningful engineering experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. The breadth and depth of this experiential learning contributes significantly to their potential as future engineers. I often describe obtaining an Auburn Engineering degree as a “full contact sport.” It is not a passive endeavor. Our students do not just sit in the classroom and absorb content. Rather, we challenge them to experience engineering first-hand – from the first day they come to us as freshmen until the day they leave us with their degree, and beyond. This issue of Auburn Engineering showcases some of the many ways our students gain a well-rounded engineering education. These examples include co-op and internship opportunities, participation in student competition teams such as our rocket and rover challenge teams, and undergraduate research that has resulted in four of our students being awarded prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. It is important to note that our achievement in these areas is a group effort. Frankly, the outstanding contributions of our students and faculty are made possible by our alumni and friends. You will see in this issue that a number of our alumni have provided critical financial resources to further advance our college. We are extremely grateful for this support, including a new endowed faculty chair that will support a recognized leader at the interface of engineering and business, as well as gifts to continue our vision to maintain a vibrant engineering campus and state-of-the-art research facilities. These gifts are truly vital to sustaining our position as a leader in engineering education that impacts society in highly meaningful ways. All of these factors are contributing to the quality of our students and faculty, as well as the strength of our academic and research programs. For example, our undergraduate program is ranked 30th among public institutions, with our graduate program ranked 38th, according to U.S. News & World Report. In addition, we were recently ranked 25th nationally in enrollment according to the American Society for Engineering Education. These accomplishments are due in large part to the success of our faculty – success that has resulted in our college being ranked in the top 50 nationally in total research expenditures for the past eight years. For those of you who do not have the privilege of being on campus every day as I do, I can assure you that it is a truly inspiring place to be, and the work that our Auburn engineers are performing is making a difference! Our job is no small responsibility – thank you for helping us to engage in a “full contact sport” that prepares our engineers for the world that awaits them.

1 Auburn Engineering




Cover Story


10 Not your average employee

8 Small scale science = big impact

Throughout their college careers, students face a number of challenges and questions: What classes do I take? What activities should I get involved in? Who’s giving away free food so I can eat today? Perhaps, however, the most important and life-changing decision is: what can I do with this degree to find meaningful work that I enjoy? Auburn University’s Cooperative Education (coop) program is helping make that challenge a little easier to figure out.

The 2014 NanoDays kicked off in March with future engineers and scientists descending on the Agricultural Heritage Park Pavilion on Auburn’s campus

12 You go, girl

We want your feedback. Let us know your thoughts about Auburn Engineering magazine in our online survey.

2 Auburn Engineering

Engineering’s 100 Women Strong held its first leadership and development conference, offering female engineering students opportunities for networking, mentoring and professional growth

14 Heavy lifting A mechanical engineering senior design team took first place out of 20 teams in the 2014 Air Force Research Laboratory University Design Challenge

16 Mighty fine fellows Several Auburn Engineering students have been named 2014 graduate research fellows by the National Science Foundation in recognition of their demonstrated potential to be high-achieving scientists and engineers





It's my job

5 minutes with

20 We gotta fly

18 Jacque Cole

34 Bill Goodwin

Auburn engineers took to the skies this spring as they designed, built and competed with their rocket as part of NASA’s University Student Launch Initiative

Jacque Cole, `01 mechanical engineering, serves as an assistant professor and lab director in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, where she is researching ways to improve skeletal health, and she's making no bones about it

Before Bill Goodwin began his current career as director of the College of Engineering’s Nuclear Power Generation Systems program, he held a long and distinguished career as a naval officer who rose to flag rank with high-level commands in Europe and at home

28 Gifts that transform Through the generous support of its alumni, the college is meeting and exceeding its visionary goals

32 Through the looking glass Nick DiChiara is not just a software engineering senior, he is a ‘Glass Explorer’ – one of the 8,000 software developers nationwide who was granted early access to Google Glass

40 Laundry by the ton Thousands of condominium units produce tons of laundry. For Tillis Brett, ’59 industrial management, and his brother Gene, ’64 electrical engineering, it's all in a day’s work

Into the lab 24

Take a look at a few of the excellent research projects being conducted by Auburn Engineering faculty members

Awards 36 We take pride in recognizing the achievements of our alumni – read about this year's inductees into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame, as well as Auburn University's Lifetime Achievement Award winners

Faculty highlights 39

Auburn Engineering faculty members are some of the most outstanding in the country – read about some of their achievements

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Not your aver by Megan Burmester

Throughout their college careers, students face a number of challenges and questions: What classes do I take? What activities should I get involved in? Who’s giving away free food so I can eat today? Perhaps, however, the most important and life-changing decision is: what can I do with this degree to find meaningful work that I enjoy? Auburn University’s Cooperative Education (co-op) program is helping make that challenge a little easier to figure out. A co-op is an opportunity for students to work at a company in their field of study during alternating semesters. Students have the benefit of enrolling in a supervised program working within a company while also earning a salary.

their employer longer and gain more experience, and the associated administrative tasks have decreased 25 percent for both Auburn and the companies that hire co-op students.” Engineering students account for 93 percent of the total number of co-ops at Auburn. During the spring 2014 semester, 252 students within engineering elected to participate in the co-op program. This opportunity is popular for students because of the advantages it offers in learning valuable skills outside of the classroom, earning a paycheck and networking with industry professionals. For many students, the experience is priceless, and for professors, it is an opportunity to see students begin to develop as professionals.

“I decided to get involved with the co-op program to Co-op assignments are earned through a rigorous interview further my education and gain experience in a working process that begins with on-campus interviews with company environment,” said Audrey Branyon, ’14 industrial and recruiters. systems engineering, whose assignment was with Mercedes“Co-op graduates often “I heard about Auburn’s co-op program when Benz. “After you have completed receive higher starting I was a freshman in engineering orientation. the program, you become a salaries at graduation It sounded like a great way to experience student with at least a year’s worth how working in software engineering related of working experience on your than regular graduates, to my classes,” said Heather Neely, ’14 résumé.” and they often become software engineering. “It was the first time I’d interviewed for a job of any kind, so I was The university’s co-op program better prepared nervous, but I ended up learning a lot about dates back to 1937, and has grown technically than their myself,” she said. steadily to become one of the classmates.” most valuable student experiences Neely noted that while recruiters place offered. “During the early years, Kim Durbin, director of cooperative a strong emphasis on initial interviews, we did question whether the education at Auburn University students are grading the company as well. process was going to work, but it has become one of our biggest “I realized while the interviewers use this process as an success stories at Auburn,” said Kim Durbin, director of the opportunity to discover your personality, abilities and other Cooperative Education Program. characteristics that are more than the résumé they have been given, it is also an opportunity for an interviewee to ascertain Its level and reputation rapidly increased when Auburn what a company is like from its employees,” Neely said. converted to the semester system from the quarter system in “Before, I had not realized that both sides in an interview are 2000 because students were on a consistent schedule. This evaluating each other.” allowed companies to recruit co-op students more effectively because most universities operate on a semester system. After students make it through interviews and offers, the learning and job experience truly begin. The change created year-round co-op coverage enabling students to stay with an employer for a longer period of “Program participants learn valuable lessons in human time. “Moving to the semester system was a win-win for the relations through associations in an adult environment,” said college and companies,” Durbin said. “Students can stay with

4 Auburn Engineering

rage employee Durbin. “The maturity and discipline they gain is usually reflected in the students' personal relations with others. After graduation, these associations often help ease the transition from student to professional,” he said.

composite design and fabrication, as well as structural design and analysis testing hardware, including a structronics bending apparatus and a rocket motor closure. Upon graduation, Whitmore decided to take a full-time job with AMRDEC.

Some may think co-op is code for “coffee fetcher,” but that could not be further from the truth. Students tackle the same issues and challenges that full-time employees face, and they are expected to “People contribute to the solution. “The team depends on you and expects you to provide input and help with the project,” said Spencer Norrell, ’13 civil engineering, who is a former co-op student and is now a full-time employee at Brasfield & Gorrie general contractors. “They want you to know every aspect of the industry including how to start and finish a construction project, as well as the business side,” he said.

“My co-op assignment was an opportunity to apply my classroom knowledge to the industry and give purpose to my coursework. see co-op and In addition, I was able to improve they think it’s something my technical ability and design different than a full-time experience, which prepared me for my senior design project,” said Whitmore.

job, but it’s better than a full-time job because they’re looking at you and your personality and how you fit with the company. It’s easier to get a job at that stage.”

Ryan Whitmore, ’14 mechanical engineering, worked with structural aerospace material functions during his co-op with the Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. He specifically studied

Many co-op students find that they are able to apply their work experience back to the classroom and view learning in a new light.

“Learning in the classroom is focused on a particular topic, while working emphasizes how to solve a particular problem. That, in and of itself, can Spencer Norrell be very different, as your objectives ’13 civil engineering are so incongruous,” said Neely. “Through co-oping, I was finally able to understand why such an emphasis is placed on teaching how to learn.”

5 Auburn Engineering

Professors also notice the added benefits of having co-op students in the classroom to better illustrate classroom concepts.“The program motivates all students to do better in the classroom by providing a sense of purpose to abstract concepts,” says Sushil Bhavnani, Henry M. Burt, Jr. professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “It is particularly energizing to students who are in the middle third of the class in terms of overall performance. They become active partners in classroom discussion because instructors can use student work experiences to underline practical aspects of course content.” Co-op opportunities also enable students to explore new areas and establish relationships with professionals in industry, allowing them to “test drive” their career and determine if they truly belong in their field of study. For example, Norrell began his first coop term with Brasfield & Gorrie in the estimating division in Nashville; during his second term in Gainesville, Fla., he worked on a multi-use community project. For his third term, he worked in project management at Auburn’s Center for Advanced Science Innovation and Commerce building. Following graduation, Norrell was offered a position in the commercial estimating division with Brasfield & Gorrie – in many ways, where his career began as a student. Even students who decide not to work as a full-time employee at their co-op company find the benefits invaluable toward pursuing their career aspirations. “Because of the professional network I developed, I have been able to obtain recommendations from many managers who already know my capabilities and work ethic,” Branyon said. “Those connections allowed me to obtain a fulltime job at Zachry Holdings in May.”

“The students we have here are social and there’s always a group who is up for doing something, whether trying out a new restaurant, going to a concert or playing flag football,” said Erin Austin, a university recruiter for ADTRAN. “If there’s something fun you want to do, you can usually count on a co-op student to go with you.”

A reciprocal relationship

The advantages of a co-op assignment are not solely for students – companies stand to benefit as well. Access to wellprepared students, the ability to gauge students’ knowledge and their already highly developed work ethic are just a few reasons the co-op program offers a deeply committed two-way street.

“We are to providing our students with relevant experiences that further their education outside the traditional classroom. These include co-op opportunities, internships, undergraduate research appointments and job shadowing, among others. These applicable experiences are invaluable to our students’ development, and demonstrate their capacity to make an immediate impact on the workforce.”

Companies have high expectations when hiring an engineering student for a semester, but they also want co-op students to enjoy other aspects of joining a work team. Brasfield & Gorrie plans excursions each semester with co-op students including paintball, rock climbing and golfing. ADTRAN, a telecommunications network provider that also hires several engineering students each semester,

6 Auburn Engineering

gives students a break from work to play ultimate frisbee and soccer, or to attend arena football and hockey games.

“The co-op students we hire bring new ideas to the table,” said Austin. “Many are creative and think ‘outside the box,’ and it is great to see that enthusiasm and creativity.” Annslee Hillyer, human resources coordinator at Brasfield & Gorrie, said the company prefers Auburn engineers because of the reputation they have for learning quickly and for fitting into the company. “Auburn engineers are very well educated and they’re exactly what we’re looking for in an employee,” Hillyer said. “Co-op students from Auburn’s College of Engineering excel in our company and are successful. With that kind of history, we’ll continue hiring them.”

With so many benefits, including nearly $9 million in collective wages earned from co-op students in 2013 alone, the program continues to demonstrate its positive effect on both students and companies.

Christopher B. Roberts Dean

An echoing statement among co-op students has been simple: the experience gained in the real world is priceless and prepares students for a successful academic and professional career.

“During my co-op assignment, I was able to establish longlasting relationships with people who know my capabilities and work ethic. Through these relationships, I have been able to obtain recommendations by many of the managers and other employees I have worked with.” Audrey Branyon ’14 industrial and systems engineering

“Through my co-op experience, I have learned a great deal about how to interact with bosses and co-workers, as well as how companies and groups plan out projects and divide tasks.” Heather Neely ’14 software engineering

7 Auburn Engineering


Small-scale science

= big impact

The 2014 NanoDays kicked off in March with future engineers and scientists descending on the Agricultural Heritage Park Pavilion on Auburn’s campus. More than 60 students, grades 2-10, jumped into hands-on experiments and eagerly learned scientific concepts at the nanoscale level. From measuring themselves in nanometers to being trapped in a large nanotube, students explored their scientific side. The event was led by MariAnne Sullivan, doctoral student in materials engineering, and included more than 45 volunteers. The event was funded by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, the National Science Foundation through the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, the Research Infrastructure Improvement for NanoBio Research in Alabama, the Alabama Math and Science Partnership for NanoBio Education, Graduate Women in Science and the Women in Science and Engineering Institute. “This year marked one of our biggest turnouts for NanoDays, and it was a great feeling to see so many students actively engaged and excited about science,” said Sullivan. 8 Auburn Engineering

Woma n of d istinct i on Pam Boyd, ’92 electrical engineering alumna and power delivery distribution manager for Alabama Power Company, was recognized as a Woman of Distinction by Auburn’s Women’s Resource Center in April. Under her direction, the distribution system operates, constructs and maintains the Birmingham division.

Above the rest

Auburn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering has been recognized as the top department

While at Auburn, Boyd worked with Alabama Power Company as

throughout campus for teaching excellence.

a summer student at the company’s Farley Nuclear Plant. Since

The department received the Departmental

graduating, she has held numerous positions in the company from

Award for Excellence in Education, an honor

technical services engineer, distribution operations manager and

awarded on behalf of the Office of the Provost

generating plant engineer.

by the Biggio Center and University Senate to

Outside of the office, Boyd is involved in numerous electric utility industry activities, and has maintained a strong connection to Auburn Engineering. She serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, the Electrical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board, Alabama Power’s Academic Excellence Program Advisory Board, and is an active member of 100 Women Strong.

a department that proves its commitment to a culture of learning excellence, as well as strength in its overall curriculum and teaching program. The department will be awarded $30,000 in three annual installments of $10,000, with at least 50 percent of the funds allocated toward the support of initiatives that enhance teaching and learning within the department.

Class, anyone? The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) is launching a new online non-thesis master degree program beginning fall 2014. This program joins nine other online graduate degree programs in the college. The new ECE option will not only enable students to take traditional courses to earn a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering, but will also allow more flexibility by providing a means to complete coursework online. Online students will take the same in-class graduatelevel electrical courses, accumulating 33 semester hours of credit. “We are excited to offer this online option to students who are not necessarily on campus, but still want to earn their master’s degree through the College of Engineering,” said Mark Nelms, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “It’s evident that people are busy with everyday commitments, and this program will make it easier to fit into their schedule, whether after work or during the weekend. The great advantage to online courses is that students can watch the class and complete the coursework at any time.” Auburn Engineering’s online graduate degree program continues to rank among the highest in the nation. Currently, 87 students are enrolled in the college’s online programs, and enrollment is expected to grow. 9 Auburn Engineering


Auburn Engineering’s reach continues to spread

It’s National Engineers Week.

internationally. Mark Halpin, Alabama Power Company distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, is the first representative from the United States to be appointed convener, or chairman, of a working group of the International Electrotechnical Commission. He was elected after an international vote from 28 participating countries. The group focuses on limiting the effects of voltage changes in power systems. Under Halpin’s direction, the group will work to develop industry standards for all consumer electronic products to limit these voltage changes. Power companies spanning the globe will be positively affected by these new standards, as they aim to manage and eliminate voltage disturbances to customers.

G-man Auburn Engineering alumnus J. Britt Johnson, ’86 aviation management, has been appointed as special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta division. Johnson previously served as deputy assistant director in the Criminal Investigative Division, managing investigations relating to violent, organized and border crimes. Johnson began his career with the FBI in 1995 in San Diego, investigating violent crimes, gangs and drug trafficking. He has held a number of positions in the bureau including special agent bomb technician on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, special agent in the Weapons of Mass Destruction Unit within the Counterterrorism

Hip hip hooray for engineers! Feb. 16-22 marked National Engineers Week, and the College of Engineering celebrated using social media. We asked our alumni, using the college’s Facebook page, why they are proud to be an Auburn engineer. As expected, we received a great response! Participants consistently mentioned Auburn Engineering’s fundamental engineering education and the spirit of the Auburn family. A few of our favorites . . . “I’m not only proud to be an engineer, I’m proud to be an Auburn engineer. ‘I believe this is a practical world . . . ’ (the Auburn Creed). Engineering in general, and Auburn Engineering in particular, trains one to think critically and analytically and find solutions to problems – solutions that work! So, with gratitude for those who came before me, and humility for the grace provided to me, I say I’m proud to be an Auburn Engineer!” – Maury Gaston “My hubby is an ’83 EE grad. Our nephew is also an Auburn EE grad. They are proud Auburn engineers! War Eagle!” – Susan McAnulty

Division at FBI Headquarters, chief of the Weapons of Mass

“Very proud of my grandson Spencer in the

Destruction Countermeasures Unit managing

College of Engineering at Auburn.”– Joann

counterterrorism response policy and program

Vanater Watford

management for the FBI’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear

With 2,420 people viewing this particular post,

counterterrorism programs. He has also

chances are all of our alumni take tremendous

served as assistant special agent in charge

pride in being an Auburn engineer!

of intelligence, surveillance and aviation programs and assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters. 10 Auburn Engineering

By the way, like us on Facebook at Auburn University College of Engineering.

Recognizing a good thing The Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering recently

To become accredited, the department submitted a sample

achieved a milestone – receiving accreditation status from

curriculum for both programs to HFES, along with information

the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) for its

on practical experience within the program. The five-year

Occupational Safety and Ergonomics and Occupational Injury

accreditation is significant because all students who graduate

Prevention programs. This is the first year the program has

from either program will automatically receive the designation

achieved this level of accreditation according to Sean Gallagher,

of associate ergonomics professional from the Board of

associate professor in the department.

Certification in Professional Ergonomics. This distinction elevates the programs on a national scale, and ultimately will encourage

“The HFES accreditation is a great honor for both programs,”

more students to pursue education in these areas.

he said. “Our faculty, staff and students have all worked hard together to earn it, and we are excited this recognition will set us apart from similar programs across the nation.”

The use of recycled materials in asphalt mixtures – and on the roads we drive – is continuing to rise, according to a recent survey by the National Asphalt Pavement Association. Reclaimed asphalt pavement and recycled asphalt shingles (RAS) are resulting in economic savings and are sustainable. However, many transportation agencies are still reluctant to allow high contents of recycled materials in asphalt mixtures because of potential construction and performance issues. Auburn’s National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) is taking a leading role in addressing these issues. Through laboratory and field experiments at NCAT’s Pavement Test Track, researchers are evaluating state-of-the-art methods for using large amounts of recycled materials in asphalt pavement design while also improving long-term performance. It’s just another way Auburn Engineering is conducting research that makes an impact.

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E-Day, Auburn Engineering’s annual student recruitment open house held in February, saw its largest turnout to date with more than 3,000 students, parents and teachers gathering on campus to learn about the College of Engineering. The event offered middle and high school students the opportunity to tour engineering facilities, as well as the Auburn campus. Participants viewed departmental displays and research projects, and chatted one-on-one with engineering students and faculty members. This year’s event attracted visitors from 21 states, making it the largest number of states represented at E-Day, with some traveling from as far as California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York.

You go, girl

Engineering’s 100 Women Strong held its first leadership and development conference in March, offering female engineering students opportunities for networking, mentoring and professional growth. Members of 100 Women Strong came to campus to lead various breakout sessions, with Dorothy S. Davidson, chairman of the board and CEO of Davidson Technologies, giving a keynote address. With a mission to recruit, retain and reward women in engineering, members of 100 Women Strong commit to supporting the college through annual gifts, as well as providing guidance and advice for future female engineers. Despite its name, the program now consists of more than 100 alumnae and friends, as well as two corporate sponsors – Alabama Power Company and Southwire.

12 Auburn Engineering

“I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and hands to work skillfully . . .” Two Auburn Engineering students are fulfilling the Auburn Creed through the successful creation and launch of their inventions for the annual Business Plan Contest for Engineering Inventions, sponsored by Auburn’s Thomas Walter Center for Technology Management. Haitham Eletrabi, doctoral student in civil engineering, and Matthew Phillips, senior in aerospace engineering, placed first and second, respectively, in the competition with their prototype designs and corresponding business plans. Eletrabi, who earned a master’s of business administration from the Harbert College of Business last fall, received $6,000 toward the development of a smart phone application that uses sensors to monitor athletes’ performances and movements. Phillips received $3,000 for his plan to retrofit hydrogen fuel systems for automobiles. To qualify, teams created and designed a concept with a significant engineering emphasis, as well as a business model for the invention. The contest was sponsored by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, Harbert

From left, Matthew Phillips and Haitham Eletrabi

College of Business and the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation.

Goodbye… and thanks After more than 10 years of dedicating herself to recruiting and retaining under-represented engineering students at Auburn University, Shirley Scott-Harris retired as the director of the Alabama Power Academic Excellence Program in May. Harris was responsible for implementing the academic support program that assists engineering students in their transition and adjustment into the Auburn Engineering environment. Since its inception in 1997, the program has been the catalyst for graduating some of the nation’s brightest minority engineering students. Harris’ commitment to this task can be seen in Auburn Engineering's recent ranking of seventh in the nation in engineering degrees awarded to AfricanAmericans, according to the Journal of Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

All in the


A long-standing company in Nashville gives new meaning to the words “Auburn Family.” Lee Company, one of only a few fourth-generation family-owned businesses, is a heating and airconditioning company that started in 1944 in Leon Lee’s basement. With only one man and one truck, Leon grew the company and created an engineering legacy for his family. In 1992, Leon’s grandson Bill Lee, ‘81 mechanical engineering, assumed the role as president of Lee Company. Thirty-two years later, Bill now serves as CEO and oversees the company’s 750 employees. The family connections continue as Bill’s son, Caleb, a ‘13 mechanical engineering grad, has also joined the company. As the company approaches its 70th anniversary, it has been recognized with numerous local and national awards. In 2006 and 2007, Lee Company was named one of Tennessee’s top five best companies to work for, and was awarded the Nashville Business Journal’s 2011 “Best in Business” award.

13 Auburn Engineering



g n ti

A senior design team from the Department of Mechanical Engineering was one of 20 teams from engineering and military colleges invited to participate in the 2014 Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) University Design Challenge . . . and the Auburn team bested the competition with ease. Students Morgan Allison, John Bissell, Kamaren Braxton, Travis Campbell, Luke Hasha and Matthew Park took first place for their heavy lifting bag system, capable of raising a 45,000-pound armored vehicle. They surpassed competitors including Johns Hopkins University, Purdue University and Texas A&M University.

From left, John Bissell, Kamaren Braxton, Luke Hasha, Travis Campbell, Matthew Park and Morgan Allison.

“The AFRL and a group of special forces created a competition to improve upon current systems and fix issues they are having in the field,” said Bissell, the team’s project manager. “One piece of equipment that operators often use is a heavy lifting bag system, which can be inflated to lift downed vehicles and aid in the recovery of soldiers trapped underneath.” Understanding that special forces would likely travel while carrying the lifting equipment in the field, the students knew their creation would need to be of a lightweight composite material. With the help of David Beale, professor of mechanical engineering and the team’s adviser, Roy Broughton, professor emeritus of polymer and fiber engineering, and Mike Cahill, military liaison for the College of Engineering, the team decided to work with the material Vectran, the same material that made up the landing bag system for the Mars rovers. After effortlessly lifting a filled dumpster with their first bag design, the students moved to lifting bigger items. They created larger bags to lift construction equipment, successfully raising an eight-ton bulldozer. “We could not have been blessed with better luck,” Bissell said. “When we drove out to Arnold Air Force Base’s rifle range for the competition, we were ecstatic to see the object that we would be lifting. It was another bulldozer.”

Sí, she’s good

Arianna Tieppo Rappo, a doctoral student in chemical engineering, was one of 10 students recently honored as a university-wide 2014 Outstanding Doctoral Student by the Graduate School and the Graduate Student Council. Honorees were nominated by their departments throughout campus, and a committee of graduate faculty members selected the winners. Recipients were recognized at the Graduate School’s annual awards ceremony. In the same week, Rappo was also recognized for her academic achievements by the International Student Organization which named her the 2014 Outstanding International Graduate Student. Rappo played a pivotal role in establishing Auburn’s student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in 2010, the university’s first Hispanic engineering student organization.

14 Auburn Engineering

Arianna Rappo pictured with husband Hector Galicia and son Santiago.

Photo courtesy of Cliff Whitmore

Jourdan Beaumont and Taryn Greene navigating the rover

Movin' on Mars Mechanical engineering seniors Jourdan Beaumont, Bradley Boyett, Taryn Greene, Robert Northup, Shawn Roades, Jacob Sparkman, Ryan Whitmore and Katie Zoladz placed fourth out of 46 college teams competing in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville this spring. The competition focused on NASA’s plans to explore planets, moons, asteroids and comets, with teams instructed to design, construct and test technologies for mobility devices to perform in these different environments. Each team’s vehicle had to be capable of overcoming large obstacles and able to fit inside a 5’x 5’x 5’ cube, in addition to being operated by two drivers – one male, one female. A competition rule change eliminated the use of pneumatic tires, which the Auburn team overcame by using solid rubber tires. The students spent much of the spring semester in the Wiggins Mechanical Engineering Hall machine shops building parts for their rover, which consists almost entirely of steel tubing with aluminum components and carbon fiber seats of their own creation. Commercial biking parts were used for the rover’s drivetrains such as pedals, chains, sprockets and brakes. 15 Auburn Engineering


Mighty fine fellows Chris Bartel, Jacob Clary and Alex Roman, seniors in

The $100,000 fellowships will support three years of

chemical engineering, as well as Zack Coker, a 2013

graduate study for each student. “This is a very competitive

graduate in software engineering, have been named

fellowship,” said Dean Christopher B. Roberts. “These

2014 graduate research fellows by the National Science

awards will assist our students who are pursuing research-

Foundation. Alex Wolff, a senior in aerospace engineering,

based master's and doctoral degrees in science, technology,

received an honorable mention.

engineering and mathematics disciplines.”

The students, who were recognized for their demonstrated

In addition, Andrew Hightaian, a student in chemical

potential to be high-achieving scientists and engineers,

engineering, has been honored with the 2014 Susan Stacy

have been performing long-term – defined as greater than

Entrenkin Yates award for most outstanding junior at Auburn

two years – undergraduate research while being partnered

University. This award is sponsored by Auburn’s chapter

with faculty members. Bartel is under the direction of Mark

of Phi Kappa Phi and was established by 1933 pharmacy

Byrne, Daniel F. and Josephine Breeden associate professor

graduate S. Blake Yates in honor of his mother. Hightaian is

of chemical engineering; Clary is working with Elizabeth

the fourth engineering student in the past 10 years to win

Lipke, assistant professor of chemical engineering; and

this award.

Roman is supervised by Ram Gupta, Woltosz professor of chemical engineering. Coker worked under the direction

“Our students represent the highest caliber and quality in

of Munawar Hafiz, assistant professor in the Department of

the nation,” Roberts said. “These recognitions are well-

Computer Science and Software Engineering

deserved, and we are excited for these students to continue expanding their research and their impact on the future.”

Ergo Diva s

The ErgoDivas, Auburn University’s ergonomics team, took top honors among 36 teams from across the U.S. and the world to win the 7th Annual Ergonomics Design Competition. The competition consisted of teams assessing ergonomic hazards in assigned work tasks and identifying solutions to those hazards. The event was divided into three areas: a preliminary problem, lightening round problem and a design charrette. Using eTools Shop ergonomic software, developed by Auburn engineers, teams created online solutions. A panel of judges consisting of a group of professional ergonomists from around the world evaluated each team’s work. The ErgoDivas consist of five women from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering: Brittani Edwards, Neely Ketzler, Menglu Li, Menske Salar and Viviana Valenzuela. The group examined and developed solutions for the ergonomic hazards of working chefs, as well as those of handling furniture and other household items during a move.

The team from left, Menglu Li, Neely Ketzler, Brittani Edwards, Viviana Valenzuela and Menske Salar.

The prize was a trip to the Applied Ergonomics Conference in Orlando where the ErgoDivas were recognized for their top award.

16 Auburn Engineering

You’re a good man,

Ch a rli e M i ller

By Beth Smith

For many, the college experience is a means to significantly broaden one’s education. For others, it is the opportunity to make friends of a lifetime. For Charlie Miller, ’80 civil engineering, it was both. Growing up in Louisville, Ky., Miller’s parents strongly encouraged him to explore college options that would allow him to experience life beyond home. With a propensity for math and science, he followed in his father’s footsteps and chose engineering as his major. He also chose Auburn. Miller began to create valuable relationships at Auburn through his time in KA fraternity. One of these friendships was with Raymond Charlie and Lisa Miller Harbert who would eventually become much more than a fraternity brother. Now, the two work together as close business colleagues.

management firm focusing on alternative assets that are not typically found in standard investment portfolios. Since its inception, Miller has served HMC in various treasury and financial management positions including chief financial officer. Today, he is executive vice president and global head of distribution for HMC. And now, his story comes full circle as he takes a significant role in helping students gain the knowledge and experience that Auburn once afforded him. Miller, along with his wife Lisa, has recently given a $1 million gift to the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering to create an endowment to support a top faculty member with experience and expertise in engineering and business practices. Miller believes it is crucial that engineering students are familiar with how businesses operate financially. “It is my hope that this endowment will further the college’s ability to equip engineering students with a solid understanding of business principles, and enable them to stand out among their peers in the world of engineering and business,” he said.

For Miller, obtaining an engineering degree was incredibly challenging. “It cultivated discipline and my organization skills by requiring dedication to the demanding coursework,“ he said. ”Even more, I gained the invaluable skill of thinking through a "It is my hope that project to anticipate its possible outcomes. this endowment It was certainly worth the hard work.” Following graduation, Miller went to work for Brown and Root in Houston as a project manager on a $2 billion gas plant project. “My time with that company allowed me to live abroad in Venezuela for two years. Any company you work with is a chance to grow your real-world experience, and my time with Brown and Root gave me plenty of opportunities to do that.”

will further the college’s ability to equip engineering students with a solid understanding of business principles, and enable them to stand out among their peers in the world of engineering and business."

While at Brown and Root, Miller got a call, not from his fraternity brother, but from Raymond’s father, John Harbert. “He told me now that I had some experience, he wanted me to work for his company,” said Miller. In 1985, he joined Harbert Corporation doing cost estimations – a position that would enable him to understand the business and financial aspects of large engineering projects. In 1994, he became a founding member of Harbert Management Corporation (HMC), an investment

Miller, who serves on the Auburn University Foundation Board of Directors as chairman of the investment committee, noted that Lisa is equally invested in the success of Auburn Engineering. “She has been a lifelong partner,” he said. “She is my biggest supporter. She knows how much I love Auburn . . . so she loves it, too.” Lisa was raised in Buffalo, N.Y., and graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. She is an active community volunteer, and together, she and Charlie have two grown children, Katherine who lives and works in New York City and Jack, a junior at Furman University.

“This was a big decision for us,” said Miller. “But we believe that Auburn provides Charlie Miller students with a solid foundation, and to future employers, that is everything. We are proud to give back to Auburn, and we are excited about what the college will accomplish in the future.” 17 Auburn Engineering

It’s my job It’s my job by Morgan Stashick

Jacque Cole ’01, mechanical engineering Assistant Professor Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University Raleigh, N.C. Early years . . . My

dad is a mechanical engineer, so I was exposed to engineering at a very young age. I think I was the only first grader who had a calculator watch and used a mechanical pencil . . . so I guess you can say that I’ve always wanted to be an engineer. Typical day . . . I

am the director of the Orthopaedic Mechanobiology Lab, and the goal of our research is to improve current strategies for preventing and treating bone loss from aging, disease and injury. We focus on the mechanical, metabolic and vascular factors that improve therapies for bone regeneration . . . I also teach a senior/graduate biomechanics class. Right now, my days are filled with research – training students to do CT image data analysis, mechanical testing and histology, as well as developing and writing several research grant proposals.

Current projects . . . We are measuring structural and cellular changes in bone tissue following a stroke, and determining the effect of exercise type, frequency and duration on stroke recovery . . . stroke is the leading cause of permanent disability in developed countries, and current treatments are not very effective for most patients. Our study will hopefully provide insight into the best exercise therapy to achieve optimal recovery. Engineering challenge . . . Bone

is very complex, from both a material and structural viewpoint . . . it’s a composite material that has both anisotropic and viscoelastic properties. Its structure varies widely from the dense cortical bone in the shaft of long bones to the porous cancellous bone in the ends of long bones and in the vertebrae. The most challenging part is that bone is a living tissue that is constantly changing and remodeling. Figuring out robust therapeutic strategies often feels a lot like hitting a moving target in gale force winds.

My Auburn Engineering . . . The

most valuable part of my Auburn experience was working on the Baja and Formula SAE teams for four years . . . it trained me to appreciate the intricacies of complex systems and to balance engineering knowledge with real-world intuition. Perhaps even more importantly, I learned to engage productively in teams and communicate ideas and solutions effectively.

Turning point . . . I

had a few of these . . . when I was a sophomore, Carol Chancey (’98 M.S., mechanical engineering) and Nicole Faulk (’99 M.S., mechanical engineering) planted the seed that I should go to graduate school. I followed their advice, but I always intended to get a job in industry afterwards. During my third year at Cornell, I was a teaching assistant and realized how much I enjoy working with and mentoring students . . . that ultimately changed my mind about staying in academia.

Sense of pride . . . I love that I’m working on ways to improve skeletal health, which may one day impact clinical care and prevent bone fractures. The best part of my job, though, is mentoring and guiding the career paths of engineering students, which amplifies my contributions to society. Geek moment . . . When I had my prenatal ultrasound last fall, I was more interested in my son’s skeletal development and femoral length measurements than in the usual head circumference and weight estimates. I think the technician got a good chuckle out of my “Look at his bone structure!” exclamation. 18 Auburn Engineering

by Jim Killian

Are YOU smarter than a freshman? Try your hand at this freshman engineering problem and find out for yourself.




year day 100 cents = 6.4 cents

kW 350 days 24 hours W (10 hp)(year)

1.341 x 10-3 hp 1000 W $4,000

Solution: The given information tells us that $4,000 per year can be

saved per 10 hp. In other words: $4,000/(10 hp∙year). This has the same dimensions as the desired answer: money per (power∙time). Simple unit conversions such as 1.341 x 10 -3 hp equals 1 watt and assuming 24 hour operation for 350 days per year allows us to estimate the price of electricity as 6.4 cents per kwh.

You’re in charge of a manufacturing facility and are considering upgrading a certain piece of equipment. The equipment normally operates with a power input of 100 horsepower (hp). An upgrade of the equipment would allow it to operate with a power input of 90 hp. The savings from this conversion would amount to $4,000 per year. What is the price of electricity for your facility in cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh)?

Submitted by Bill Josephson Lecturer Department of Chemical Engineering 19 Auburn Engineering

We gotta

20 Auburn Engineering

Photo courtesy of NASA/MSFC

The Auburn University Rocket Team, consisting of eight engineering students and two advisers, is taking to heart Def Leppard’s lyrics ‘We gotta fly’ from its 1987 hit song “Rocket.” The team competed in the NASA University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) in Salt Lake City in May as one of 37 teams from across the country, Canada and Puerto Rico to take part in this research-based, competitive exploration project.

Fly By Megan Burmester


he trip to Salt Lake City for the rocket team, also known as Team Nova, marked the first year it qualified for the competition in the past four years.

Team Nova began its rocket journey in December by submitting a detailed proposal to NASA’s USLI. After making it through the initial proposal round, the team had to pass preliminary design, critical design, flight readiness and launch awareness reviews. Auburn’s proposal, which totaled nearly 350 pages, followed the NASA engineering design lifecycle standards consistent with NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations workforce. During the design phase, the team built the rocket around the motor, aerodynamics, payload deployment and payload size. After the design was finalized, the group agreed the optimal material to use for the rocket parts would be fiberglass for the nose cone, body and fins. When the rocket was completed, it measured 108 inches in length, and five inches in diameter, with a mass of 55.2 pounds. “Getting to help design and build a nine-foot rocket with Team Nova was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had,” said team member Bethany Bittinger, a junior in aerospace engineering. “From figuring out the best material to use for construction to making vehicle design changes, and determining our three payloads, we have all learned countless lessons. After writing design reports and working on fabrication for months,

Photos courtesy Joseph Majdalani

“Competing at such a high level of competition has been a one-of-a-kind experience for our students,” said Joseph Majdalani, Auburn Alumni Engineering Council endowed professor and chair of aerospace engineering. “I am proud

of the team for exceeding expectations and working as hard as they did to qualify right up to the last minute.”

Team Nova makes last minute preparations before the launch competition.

21 Auburn Engineering

it was amazing to see our ideas come to fruition and launch our rocket in Utah,” Bittinger said. The culminating effort represents eight months of design, outreach and finally building the pre-impregnated carbon fiber rocket to launch 15,500 feet into the air in Salt Lake City. The team was judged on how close the rocket came to its target height. Nova competed among several universities, including Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Purdue and Cornell. Prior to the event, students participated in practice launches as part of the Georgia Rockets in the Sky program which allowed teams to evaluate how far each rocket would launch and make needed adjustments to the scientific payload prior to the student launch. In addition, the rocket was tested at Phoenix Missile Works in Sylacauga, Ala., and Southeast Alabama Rocket Society in Samson, Ala. While in Salt Lake City, the team had to evaluate payload and flight data during a post launch assessment review and complete an initial and final launch readiness review. By the time all of the final reviews had been performed by judges, and teams advanced to the rocket launch round, Auburn was one of only 16 teams to qualify. “Our team has learned so much throughout this process,” said Luke Humphreys, a senior in aerospace engineering and student team leader. “We learned how to work together more efficiently to solve challenges, especially those that we faced right before the rocket launch,” he said.

22 Auburn Engineering

Team Nova conducts a test launch.

The team consists of Joseph Majdalani, Benjamin Bauldree, Cassandra Seelbach, Luke Humphreys, A.J. Pollard, Bethany Bittinger, Aaron-Jacob Herrera, Alex Lin, and Montie Cutlip (not pictured).

Young rocketeers Auburn's Team Nova also completed an outreach component of the competition. With guidance and supervision from Rob Kulick, coordinator of student services in the Department of Aerospace Engineering, the group developed a rocket curriculum for more than 600 Drake Middle School seventh graders (exceeding the USLI requirement of 200 students). In April, members of the team taught the students about gravity and its force on the human body during their life science class. After learning about gravity’s impact, the middle school students built their own rocket with instruction from the Auburn rocket team. Rocket materials were provided by Auburn University’s Department of Aerospace Engineering through a grant from NASA. “Most seventh graders are at the stage where they are just beginning to think about their future and career,” said Kulick. “It was our goal to demonstrate how science can be interesting and impact the world through a rocket-based curriculum. The amount of time and energy the team spent putting together the curriculum paid off with the seventh graders’ positive reactions,” he said. The grand finale ended with students launching their homemade rockets in an open field near the back of the school. “The students were curious and excited about the curriculum and asked a lot of good questions,” said A.J. Pollard, a junior in aerospace engineering and team member. “Our goal was to encourage them to go into a math, science or engineeringrelated field and I hope they will continue to stay engaged.”

23 Auburn Engineering

Into AEROSPACE Joseph Majdalani, Auburn Alumni Engineering Council endowed professor and chair of aerospace engineering, and Joshua Batterson, assistant professor of aerospace engineering, are studying the oscillatory behavior and vibratory response, known as combustion instability, of chemical rockets, gas turbines and large combustors. These researchers are investigating the behavior of resonant combustion modes and acoustic instabilities which are known to appear suddenly and inexplicably in combustion devices under otherwise normal operating conditions. The corresponding acoustic instabilities arise due to a natural coupling between chamber acoustics and thermal energy. In many cases involving chemical propulsion and power generation devices (which are constantly driven toward high efficiency and low emission margins), the resulting instabilities materialize as large amplitude limit cycle oscillations in the flow variables. Including efficiency, combustion stability remains the most important aspect to evaluate by new engine designers. In the past four decades, these uncontrolled oscillations have 24 Auburn Engineering

become the leading cause of new rocket program cancellations. For this reason, acoustic and stability engineers are among the most sought after in the aerospace community. Majdalani and Batterson have focused their research on creating a comprehensive stability algorithm that can be used as a diagnostic tool in the developmental stages of these combustors. Their newly constructed approach is based on the latest technological advances that suggest incorporating the effects of acoustical, hydrodynamic, thermal, and vortical waves into the energy balance equation. Their representation is expected to enhance the accuracy of both linear and nonlinear stability equations adopted by various industries. Moreover, their gains in acoustic energy help to explain experimental findings that elude stability assessment codes in use today. Finally, their work helps to explain the origins of injection-driven instabilities observed in solid, liquid and hybrid rocket motors.


John Fulton, associate professor of biosystems engineering, is developing intelligent planter technology through an in-depth understanding of how individual planter row units and soil

characteristics affect crop emergence and development. His automated, on-the-go system combines the use of actuators with prototype sensors to regulate individual planter row units, and helps determine soil moisture. The actuators will place crop seed at a target depth regardless of soil conditions, as well as control the amount of down force applied to maintain good contact between the row unit and soil without disrupting other seedlings. The technology responds to the variability in soil conditions that growers face during planting, and will allow farmers to increase their crop production through improved planter performance based on in-field conditions.


It is said one hour of sunlight hitting the Earth can run the operations of mankind for one year, and Bruce Tatarchuk, Charles E. Gavin professor of chemical engineering and director of the Center for Microfibrous Materials Manufacturing, is ready to help harness that energy. Tatarchuk received an X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) instrument from the U.S. Navy through the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program valued at

the Lab $750,000. The XPS is a small spot x-ray photo electron spectrometer used to measure the composition of solid surfaces at their outer most atomic layers. This is used to help researchers make chemical reactions go faster at the surface. XPS is regularly used to analyze inorganic compounds, catalysts and semiconductors, among many others. Currently, there are approximately 150 similar instruments around the world, but Tatarchuk and his research team are modifying their XPS machine in order to record spectral analyses in one microsecond. This modification would make the instrument the only one of its kind in the world. This capability will allow Auburn researchers to observe chemical reactions as they occur in real time, including the photochemical and photocatalytic splitting of water to molecular hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight. This reaction pathway has the potential to address the global challenge of how to take sunlight and directly produce storable high energy fuels for mankind’s needs. “The XPS we plan to modify, and the new capability that it will provide, is of great interest to a wide range of

researchers because of the global issues it can help us better understand and solve,” Tatarchuk said. “This device can help us figure out how to better use the sun to be a game changer across the world.”


Each year, an average of 359 people are killed by wrong-way driving collisions in the United States. This number of fatalities has remained steady since the interstate highway system was built in the 1950s. To tackle this serious traffic safety problem, Hugo Zhou, associate professor of civil engineering, has been working to identify contributing factors to wrong-way accidents and develop innovative countermeasures to reduce the number of crashes caused by wrong-way drivers. Zhou’s work in this area won the High Impact Project Award from the Illinois Center for Transportation in March, and since then, the Illinois Department of Transportation has initiated a statewide, $7 million project to implement interchange improvements developed in his project, including improving wrong-way signs and pavement markings on exit ramps to reduce the state’s fatality rate. Zhou and his research team are now focusing their research on Alabama’s

roadways. The team is looking to study wrong-way crashes that have occurred in the past five years, identify high crash locations for field observations, and develop general and site-specific countermeasures for reducing wrongway crashes.


Weikuan Yu, associate professor of computer science and software engineering, is increasing the efficiency of computer systems that process big data. From international information technology corporations to the internet search engines we routinely use, Yu’s work has the potential to accelerate the amount of data processed at one time, with one software product already released to Mellanox Technologies for the quick analysis of unstructured data. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Yu is currently exploring methods to achieve both system and task efficiency on high performance cluster computers. The project focuses on advancing the programming model MapReduce, used by leading corporations such as Yahoo and Facebook to process big data sets with multiple computing jobs simultaneously.

25 Auburn Engineering

Into the Lab Yu and his research team are creating a set of techniques across multiple layers of software packages by exploring cross-layer cooperation techniques to achieve system efficiency. He is also investigating cross-phase techniques to enhance job fairness and system throughput which enables data to be analyzed at every phase of the software package. To maximize the resource utilization and completion rate of processing multiple tasks, Yu is studying cross-job task co-scheduling techniques that recognize the relationship between jobs to process them in a productive manner. A wide variety of federal and industrial sponsors of Yu’s big data research include the NSF, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Mellanox Technologies, Intel and Scitor.


Gopikrishna Deshpande, researcher at Auburn University’s Magnetic Resonance Imaging Research Center and assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and a team of scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are investigating how brain networks shape religious beliefs, and have found that brain interactions are different among religious and nonreligious subjects. The group has discovered differences in brain interactions that involve the theory of mind, or ToM, brain network, which influences people’s ability to differentiate between their own personal beliefs, intents and desires and those of others. Individuals with stronger ToM activity were found to be more religious. Deshpande notes that

26 Auburn Engineering

this supports the hypothesis that the formation of religious beliefs in humans may be attributed to the development of the ToM brain network. “Religious belief is a unique human attribute observed across different cultures in the world, even in those cultures which evolved independently, such as Mayans in Central America and aboriginals in Australia,” he said. “This has led scientists to speculate that there must be a biological basis for the evolution of religion in human societies.” Deshpande and the NIH researchers recently published their results in the journal “Brain Connectivity.” The team was following up a study reported in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to scan the brains of both self-declared religious and non-religious individuals as they contemplated three psychological dimensions of religious beliefs: the involvement and intent of supernatural agents, such as God; the love and anger of those supernatural agents; and the mixed foundation of religious beliefs based on doctrinal and experiential knowledge. The fMRI allows researchers to study specific brain regions and networks that become active when a person performs a certain mental or physical task. The team found that although the amount of activation in different brain networks did not vary among religious and nonreligious subjects when contemplating the three dimensions, there was a difference in the actual brain networks that were activated by the dimensions.

Through the use of this technology, Auburn researchers are gaining a better understanding of the human mind and the ways in which we form our belief systems.


The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering is leading the effort to examine, refine and improve the world of advanced vehicle manufacturing. The Southern Alliance for Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing, under a grant from the National Science Foundation, is envisioned as a research-based center to guide vehicular manufacturing companies on improving their capabilities and facilities. Auburn Engineering hosted an informational session and invited several prominent automotive players, including Kia, Hyundai and Honda, along with representatives from Louisiana State University, Clemson University and the University of Alabama, to become partners and learn more about this initiative. “We can add value, great value in many cases. Sometimes the cost of membership in the consortium can easily bring a ten-fold return year after year. We can look at their operations and opportunities for employment,” said Tom Devall, director of automotive manufacturer initiatives for the college. As the Southeast continues to boom with automotive plants, Auburn, along with other partnering universities across the South, wants to examine research including lean production,

Into the Lab safety and ergonomics, advanced manufacturing processes and data analysis. Faculty and students would perform the research and help solve challenges facing the industry. “We would utilize the expertise and facilities of each university for the benefit of our industry partners,” said John Evans, professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering. “They will gain real dollar savings by applying the research into their manufacturing processes.” By fostering strong partnerships with industry professionals and other universities, the College of Engineering is poised to solve problems that continue to impact advanced vehicle manufacturing through research and collaboration.


A rechargeable battery is a component needed not only for electronic devices, but also for vehicles and renewable power systems such as solar and wind. One particular challenge in the implementation of electric and hybridelectric vehicles is the development of batteries that provide the range and lifetime that drivers expect. The lithium ion battery has become the most preferred electrochemical energy storage device in vehicular applications because of its high energy density, power density and coulombic efficiency, or charge efficiency. Mechanical engineering faculty members Song-yul Choe and Jeffrey Fergus are leading an interdisciplinary team to investigate these batteries to increase their lifetimes, which could reduce costs for drivers, as well as conserve natural

resources by placing more electric vehicles on the roadways. When a cell is being charged and discharged, various interrelated processes take place inside a battery. Ions are transported in the liquid electrolyte and in the solid electrode materials, heat is generated and transferred and mechanical stresses are generated. At the same time, degradation processes occur in different cell components which may lead to poor performance or failure of the battery. The mechanisms by which these processes occur are not well understood. One of the major causes of degradation is the side reaction caused by reduction of the electrolyte. The side reaction, which takes place at the interface between the carbon anode and liquid electrolyte, consumes lithium ions and electrolyte solvents and produces deposits. The deposits cover electrode particles, which reduces the active area, as well as ionic conductivity. As a result, the energy capacity and power output of the battery decrease. Choe and Fergus are focusing on understanding these mechanisms by testing battery performance using instruments developed by their team. The testing equipment is capable of measuring a battery’s current, voltage, temperature, heat generation, capacity, power and electrical impedance, while advanced control algorithms can be tested in real time by interfacing MATLAB with LabVIEW codes.


Xinyu Zhang, associate professor in polymer and fiber engineering,

received a $350,000 award from Leading Edge Aeronautics Research for NASA Fund to study technology that would improve composite material in aerospace structures. This is phase two of Zhang’s ongoing research titled: “Poptube Technology, Enabling Multifunctional Hybrid Composites for Next Generation Aircrafts.” Phase one of research determined a novel method, Poptube Technology, which can be used to grow carbon nanotubes (CNTs) on carbon fiber fabrics, or “fuzzy fibers,” through microwave heating at room temperature in air, without a need for inert gas protection and additional feedstock gases. The goal of phase two is to use this technique on a larger scale to implement a continuous manufacturing process to produce CNTs in mass production, at high energy-efficiency and high cost-effectiveness. There is no parallel technology to grow CNTs at this production level. Hybrid structural composites with superior mechanical performance and many novel properties can be manufactured using carbon fibers/fabrics produced by this ongoing technique. Zhang’s study will show that through CNT reinforcement in structural composites, next-generation aerospace structures will remove two barriers preventing applications of CNTs in reinforcing composites: lack of large-scale manufacturing capacity and high-costto-benefit ratio. The award is for 18 months and Auburn will share 40 percent of the project with other universities including the University of Alabama and North Carolina State, along with NASA.

27 Auburn Engineering


By Beth Smith

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” William James


commitment to become one of the top engineering programs in the country is no small undertaking. It takes

great effort on the part of many people, both outside and within the college. As the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering works to take its place among the nation’s premier institutions, there are those among us who believe that their participation makes a difference. Sam Ginn, ’59 industrial management, and Walt Woltosz, ’69 and ’77 aerospace engineering, along with their wives Ann and Ginger – who are equally committed to the success of the college – have made significant gifts to help ensure Auburn Engineering’s continued success. Sam and Ann Ginn began giving back to Auburn early in their married life with a gift of $25. Their giving, as well as their involvement, has grown steadily through the years, culminating in the college’s largest private gift in its history in 2000 – a $25 million investment that put the college

Samuel L. (Sam) Ginn Sam Ginn has more than four decades of experience in the telecommunications industry. Following his service with the Army Signal Corps, he built a 27-year career with AT&T beginning as a student engineer in 1960. In 1977, he was appointed vice president of network operations for AT&T Long Lines. After the Bell Systems breakup, Ginn joined Pacific Telephone in 1978 as vice president – Los Angeles, going on to serve as chairman and CEO of Pacific Telesis from 1988 until 1994. He then launched AirTouch, a pioneer in the cellular industry.

Sam and Ann Ginn

28 Auburn Engineering

In 2012, the Secretary of Commerce named Ginn the inaugural chairman of the board of directors for First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). The organization works to develop a nationwide broadband network to enable public safety officials to communicate more effectively. Ginn served on the board for two years, laying critical groundwork during FirstNet’s formative years. During his time

that transform on a new trajectory and resulted in it bearing Ginn’s name. They

have continued to support the college with financial commitments of nearly $40 million. The Ginns’ contributions have set a course for the college to achieve new levels of excellence and to initiate the nation’s first undergraduate degree program in wireless engineering. Auburn Engineering continues to reap the benefits of the Ginns’ vision for the college. Most recently, their support has resulted in a new, attractive entry to the engineering perimeter of campus which includes the Ginn Gates, Ginn Concourse and a central gathering area and water feature known as the Ann Vance Ginn Plaza. Creating a more aesthetic entry into the university on the north side of campus from Magnolia Avenue, the Ginn Gates and Ginn Concourse proceed to the Thach Concourse, with the Ann Vance Ginn Plaza offering a focal point. The new concourse and water feature have enabled the university to update and beautify this portion of campus. Many alumni and friends, as well as a number of corporate partners, have invested recently in new, state-of-the-art engineering facilities that enable the college to advance technology in a variety of disciplines. The contributions of the Ginn family have provided a means to create external spaces that match the appeal and attractiveness of our new engineering facilities. Their philanthropy has continued a commitment to providing a growing and dynamic engineering campus.

with FirstNet, he was honored with the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials’ 2014 Leadership in Advancing Communications Policy Award, and was recognized as a champion in the public safety community. He has served as the driving force behind the wireless engineering degree program at Auburn and continues to be involved with the institution through its wireless advisory board. In addition to his industrial management degree, Ginn was awarded Auburn University’s honorary doctorate in 1998. He was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 1992. Ginn also served on the university’s board of trustees from 2005-2013 and is a member of the Engineering Eagles Society and the university's 1856 Society.


he Ann Vance Ginn Plaza, located just east of the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology, features a cascading waterfall in a casual setting of granite and greenery. It is a place that honors Ann’s marriage to Sam Ginn, namesake of the College of Engineering, as well as her connection to the Auburn campus and the engineering quad. Born in South Carolina and raised in North Carolina, Ann first became familiar with all things Auburn through her husband’s involvement in the university. Appreciating the beauty of the campus, Ann felt the need to create an inviting retreat that would provide a peaceful place where students could gather, and where they would find a renewed sense of purpose in its tranquility. She also thought of the waterfall as a source of strength and continuity. Finally, Ann sought to create a place that speaks to the special bond of the Auburn spirit, one that brings us together in a common experience. Having found her own sense of connection to Auburn, it has been her hope that all will benefit from the beauty and serenity of the plaza in the years to come. Those who know Ann realize that the qualities she sees in the waterfall and plaza are the same qualities that others see in her. A woman of grace and understanding, her caring demeanor is one that is easily recognized and appreciated. Closely involved with the planning of the plaza, Ann’s vision was that her belief in the Auburn family and value of higher education would be reflected in its execution and in its use. Those who experience the beauty and grace of the plaza invariably feel the same way.

By Jim Killian 29 Auburn Engineering

Advancing research Walt and Ginger Woltosz have long supported faculty and students

In recognition of their support, the Auburn University’s Board

at Auburn, beginning with a gift of $50 in 1978. Their subsequent

of Trustees voted to name the college’s central research facility

gifts have totaled nearly $13 million, and include resources for

as the Woltosz Engineering Research Laboratory. The facility,

unrestricted funding, scholarships and student projects such as

constructed as a part of Phase II of the Shelby Center for

the Formula and Baja SAE student competition teams, as well

Engineering Technology, creates space for both ongoing and

as the Department of Aerospace Engineering. In addition, their

emerging research within the college. Flexible laboratories and

recognition of the value of graduate education led them to make

state-of-the-art clean rooms provide space for conducting research

a generous gift to the college’s graduate fellowship program. In

that will transform the future of many of the college’s research

honor of this contribution, students who receive support from this


funding are known as Woltosz Fellows. The generosity of these families, in addition to the many gifts This spring, Walt and Ginger made a commitment to provide

our alumni and friends make to the college, are the foundation

the second largest private gift in the college’s history with an

on which Auburn Engineering will continue to achieve the

investment of more than $10 million to support the educational

benchmarks associated with a top engineering program. There is

needs of our students, and provide funds for faculty research

work to be done, and our benefactors continue to demonstrate a

efforts and technical advances in our research facilities. The gift

commitment to making a difference in the future of the college.

enhances the Woltosz Graduate Fellowship Program which allows the college to recruit and retain outstanding graduate students. It also creates a new endowed professorship in the Department of Aerospace Engineering in addition to the one the couple has previously funded, and establishes a Fund for Excellence within the college to support initiatives in strategic areas.

Walter S. (Walt) Woltosz Combining his engineering knowledge with a problem-solving approach, Woltosz has established himself as an engineer who has improved the quality of life for people worldwide. His technologies have set him apart in three distinct careers – the aerospace industry, technology-assisted communications, and pharmaceutical research and development. During his 13-year career in the aerospace industry, he managed the development of software for the simulation and optimization of a wide range of solid propellant rocket motors and missile systems, including the space shuttle. Woltosz has coupled his engineering accomplishments with sound business practices and seen the success of two cuttingedge companies. He is chairman, president and CEO of Simulations Plus, Inc., a leading developer of pharmaceutical simulations and modeling software, and its subsidiary, Words+, Inc., a provider of state-of-the-art communications products. His innovative communications systems have been used by people with disabilities throughout the world.

30 Auburn Engineering

Walt and Ginger Woltosz

Woltosz holds the Distinguished Auburn Engineer Award and was inducted into the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, the Engineering Keystone Society, the Engineering Eagles Society, and the Engineering Ginn Society, as well as the 1856 Society and the All American Society.

31 Auburn Engineering

Through the looki By Jim Killian

Who doesn’t appreciate closed captioning on televisions in loud sports bars or busy airport terminals? It’s an easy way to follow the action on the field or the anchor on the morning news, without trying too hard to listen. It’s so convenient. What if you took away the clatter and the noise forever? Would life be less irritating? Now, what if you took away the conversation itself, or the sound of a car horn, the cry of a baby or even the sound of a door closing? What is it like to be deaf or hard of hearing, and to have to depend on technologies such as closed captioning? That’s the reality of Illeen Moore and Matt Kochie. Nick DiChiara, a software engineering senior involved in undergraduate research, met both of them at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) located in Talladega. Kochie works there as an assistive technology instructor for the deaf, while Moore is involved in an internship in vocational rehabilitation in Montgomery. DiChiara spoke to them through Carolyn Jones, an academic instructor at AIDB’s E.H. Gentry campus, who interpreted the conversation in American Sign Language (ASL). DiChiara was meeting with them for his undergraduate research under Daniella Marghitu, a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering whose own interests include helping those with disabilities. He is a ‘Glass Explorer,’ one of the estimated 8,000 software developers nationwide who was granted early access to Google Glass to 32 Auburn Engineering

explore the development of applications on the new platform. He is the only student at Auburn whose proposal to Google was accepted. Google Glass isn’t so much a pair of eyeglasses as they are simply wearable computers. Essentially, a smart phone paired to eyeglass frames, they are activated by gestures or swipes across a touchpad on the temple piece, and by voice. “Okay, Glass,” DiChiara would say, “navigate to the nearest drugstore.” A Google map materializes. Or, “Okay, Glass, take a picture.” A frame floats in space, right in front of your eye, on a tiny screen that is almost unnoticeable. The picture – or video, if you want – is captured. The irony of assisting the deaf by using a device whose primary instructions are made verbally is not lost on DiChiara. “What we are trying to do is to apply this technology in ways that can improve the day-to-day life of someone with a disability, in this instance, with those who are deaf or hard of hearing,” notes DiChiara. “This is where the research comes in, because Glass is really designed as a mainstream consumer product. We are looking at pushing the boundaries to develop applications that can provide new solutions to existing challenges. Another venue – one that is down the road for me – would be to develop apps for other disabilities, for example, visual impairment, or physical disabilities such as paralysis.”

At the institute, he is trying to assess the challenges of the deaf through a dialogue with them. In this case, it is done through Jones, who interprets Kochie’s ASL into the spoken word, and DiChiara’s dialogue back into ASL. The give and take is not unlike translating a foreign language, because it is, in fact, another language; and some say, almost another culture. It also points to one of the primary concerns of the deaf: assistance and help are often very centralized, and because it involves other people, often professionals as go-betweens, it can also be expensive. This, DiChiara explains, is why he is intrigued with the possibilities inherent in Glass. “One of the solutions we are developing involves an app that can ‘listen in’ on a conversation and provide on-screen closed captioning in real time,” he explains. “The end goal here is to develop a tool that can help close the gap in communication – for example, in situations such as closing a sale at a store counter, visiting a doctor’s office or going to a church service. These are all places where hearing people simply take these interactions for granted . . . but they offer real challenges to the deaf and hard of hearing.”

ng glass

DiChiara points out that some of that technology is already here and simply needs to be adapted to assist those with disabilities. “My phone can discriminate between unique voices, which makes possible a configuration that restricts commands to only

those that I give,” DiChiara notes. “This discernment could allow Glass to key voices to different speakers in a conversation.” In addition to these kinds of captioning functions, DiChiara points out that it is not out of the question to develop apps that can listen to spoken language and display computer generated hands performing ASL. Another facet of an app he envisions would allow users to use Glass as baby monitors through visual cues, rather than the ones that parents most likely react to now – the baby crying. “The visit to the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind has opened my eyes and given me a good sense of direction,” DiChiara points out. “The research that I conducted before making the visit was instructive as well, but it really hits home when you’re introduced to the people that would use it. That is really a bottom line in what I am trying to do . . . a desire to understand the kinds of frustrations that I am unaware of as a hearing person.” DiCharia believes that this is an essential part of the Auburn Engineering experience. He points to the Education and Assistive Technology Laboratory that Marghitu heads as an important part of the learning process. It is where the Access STEM program is housed which provides students with the research opportunities to assist people with disabilities. “Other developers in this industry are racing to create the next Angry Birds or other computer game,” he points out. “At the same time, there are mothers in this world who can’t hear the sound of their newborn babies in the room next door. Trying to tackle these kinds of problems really drives me in my work and gives me a sense of purpose.”

From left, Illeen Moore, Matt Kochie and Nick DiChiara.

33 Auburn Engineering

minutes with Bill Goodwin Interviewed by Jim Killian

There is nothing particularly special about Bill Goodwin’s office on the second floor of the west wing of the Shelby Center. His desk is neat, but not obsessively so. The stuff in his office is also just what you would expect. Some pictures. Bookshelves with the kinds of texts, manuals and miscellany that walks into any room. A couple of lowkey items let you know he is an Auburn fan, even though he graduated from the University of South Carolina. A retired naval officer who rose to flag rank with high-level commands in Europe and the U.S., he can recite the Auburn Creed in an almost casual way that makes you believe it more, not less. On the wall to the right of his desk is a photo of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. It’s more than just a picture. It’s been a part of his life. In a career before his current one as director of the College of Engineering’s Alabama Power Nuclear Power Generation Systems program, he was the first captain of CVN-76, the Navy’s $5 billion supercarrier that continues in active duty today.

JK: What does it take to build a boat? I’m not talking about laying the keel, but how people are brought together on a project of this scope. BG: To build a crew, you bring some in by choice, and some by chance. I had some latitude in finding a nucleus of officers in senior leadership positions, but 95 percent of the ship’s complement was, in normal fashion, sent to us. We had a couple of dozen people working on the USS Ronald Reagan before there was a USS Ronald Reagan – in what we call the precommissioning phase. In September 2001, some departments started on the ship for testing, and a year before sea trials, the crew lived aboard the ship. Some of them were experienced, and others were right out of boot camp. The vast majority had never been to sea before. JK: Tell me about the sea trials on your ship. BG: I have to say this first – that it was never my ship. It belongs to the taxpayer, not me. Beyond that, the ship belonged to our crew. It was my pleasure to see a high level of leadership among our officers, because they were given the opportunity to bring

34 Auburn Engineering

themselves together for a common, greater purpose. This was never more evident than during the ship’s sea trials in 2003, which I remember well. Four days without sleep. We tested all of the ship’s systems, its safety gear, and the many on-board aircraft systems crucial to its operation in a wide variety of circumstances. We also tested our top speed: over 30 knots . . . in an unclassified kind of way. JK: The USS Ronald Reagan is billed as a supercarrier – tell us what that means in terms of size. BG: Let’s look at the flight deck first. It’s the size of three football fields, and I always point out to people that it’s like standing at the 50-yard line of Jordan-Hare Stadium, with another football field on each end. Or it’s from home plate at Plainsman Park to Petrie Hall on the Thach Concourse. The flight deck is four and a half acres, and the bridge is 100 feet above the water line. The deck is 65 feet above water, which is a small advantage coming off the catapult, but also a long way down if something happens. The sight line from the bridge to the bow is such that there is about a 400-yard blind spot in front of you. The ship’s company includes about 2,800 officers and sailors, with an additional 2,000

in the air wing – pilots, mechanics and support personnel. The vast majority of the crew is 18 to 20 years old, while most of the others are in their late twenties. JK: How does that compare to the carrier USS Lexington, where you also served? BG: You could easily fit the entire Lexington on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan, with plenty of room left. But I have a soft spot for that carrier, a World War II ship with a wooden deck, if that can be believed. I was assigned to it for two years, operating the arresting gear and catapults. Carrier landings are tricky, to say the least, and the USS Lexington, I have to add, is where I made my first 10 landings as a student pilot. Later, I was attached to a squadron on the USS Eisenhower, flying A-7 Corsairs. JK: Later – much later – you were on the bridge of the USS Ronald Reagan. What was that like? BG: As captain, working with a hierarchy of officers, the safety and operational efficiency of the entire ship is your responsibility. There are 16 departments on board, sort of like 16 schools and colleges on a university campus, along with a chief engineer, chief supply officer, even medical and dental units. Our bottom line was training for combat missions, always. I was privileged to be the first captain of the USS Ronald Reagan – and with that came the sobering realization that with a 50-year service horizon, the ship’s last captain had not yet been born. An engineering fact, if you will: the twin reactors only need to be refueled once during that lifespan. At about 23 years the ship will be drawn out of service to do just that. In a way, it’s amazing. Fifty years, two tanks of gas.

JK: Bringing the carrier to life, you have told me, was truly a highlight of your military career – how so? BG: Mrs. [Nancy] Reagan was the ship’s sponsor, and broke a bottle of champagne across her bow in March of 2001. But she was more than that – she was so very gracious, and never turned down a request to write a note to a sailor, something she did quite often. She was honored at an event we held in Williamsburg, Va., that was attended by a virtual who’s who of the eight years of the Reagan White House. It’s a memory I will always have – Mrs. Reagan on the stage – Jim Brady, former press secretary, in the front row. JK: How have these experiences informed your Auburn career as director of the Nuclear Power Generation Systems Program? BG: It’s all about leadership and ethics. I have come to believe that leadership is learned through a succession of experiences, and that it doesn’t come from reading a book. The same thing with ethics. If you don’t have a sense of integrity, you are probably not going to succeed as a leader. In my own career I have had to do the right thing . . . which was so often the hard thing. I hope that makes sense. It’s something that students are going to have to learn, particularly in the nuclear industry, which perhaps more than any other, is based on a sense of an ethical compass. There’s always a lot at stake. In my course at Auburn – Introduction to the Nuclear Power Industry – I don’t preach or proselytize, I simply put integrity into the core of my discussion. It’s leadership by example.

35 Auburn Engineering


state of alabama

After completing his degrees, Poor became a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, teaching in both the U.S. and abroad at numerous universities and research institutions. In 1990, he joined the faculty at Princeton University as an electrical engineering professor. He earned numerous honors, including being named the George Van Ness Lothrop Professor in 2003 and the Michael Henry Strater University Professor in 2005. The Keller Center for Innovation in Engineering Education was founded in 2005 with Poor as the founding director. The following year, he was named dean of engineering and applied science at Princeton. Poor’s professional work, most notably his research in wireless networking, has influenced applications in many arenas. His major contributions, spanning a diverse spectrum, include theories and algorithms that have expanded the knowledge of signal processing technology and digital wireless communications. He has contributed 16 books, more than 450 articles in scientific and technical journals, and hundreds of conference papers. His leading textbook in the field earned him the American Society for Engineering Education’s (ASEE) Fredrick Emmons Terman Award which is presented to an outstanding young electrical and computer engineering educator. From left, Jeff Stone and Vince Poor

Poor also co-authored the first book on advanced signal processing for wireless communication systems; the first comprehensive book on multiple-input/multiple-output systems; the first book on 36 Auburn Engineering




Poor also serves as an adviser to key research activities at leading academic institutions worldwide. His contributions have been recognized through numerous awards, including the National Science Foundation’s Director’s Award and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Education Medal, as well as the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Ambrose Fleming Medal for Achievement in Communications. He has held leadership positions in prominent professional organizations, and is a Fellow of IEEE, ASEE, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was recently elected a foreign member of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge.



Vince Poor earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1972, and a master’s degree in 1974. He also holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton University in electrical engineering and computer science, 1976 and 1977, respectively.

S TAT E O F to offer a the cyber layer of smart grid; and the first book A L A B Aprinciples M A underlying comprehensive view of the fundamental this emerging field.


The State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame honors, preserves and perpetuates the outstanding accomplishments and contributions of individuals, corporations, institutions and projects that continue to bring significant recognition to the state. The 2014 induction ceremony was held in February in Tuscaloosa with six new individuals being inducted, including two Auburn Engineering alumni who have served as outstanding representatives of the college.


Engineering Hall ofG Fame O F FA

Jeff Stone received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1979 and joined Birmingham-based general contractor Brasfield & Gorrie as an estimator. He rose through the ranks there, managing office, retail and hospital projects in Alabama and Florida. He has served as division manager for healthcare, vice president for operations, and president of the firm’s central region. He is currently COO and oversees $2 billion in annual construction revenues, 29 operating divisions and projects in 19 states. His work can be seen in the Birmingham skyline, with notable projects such as the Colonnade, Bellsouth Services headquarters, the Kirklin Clinic and the McWane Center, as well as other high profile projects in Alabama including major components of the European Aeronautics Defense and Space Airbus production center in Mobile. Stone is a board member of the Associated General Contractors of America and the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., two organizations that serve construction professionals and promote skill, competition and enhancement of the industry. He has served as a board member of the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame and as chairman of the Construction Education Foundation of Alabama. He is a member of the Class of 2005 Leadership Alabama, a nonprofit organization which selects members based on leadership abilities, career accomplishments, volunteer activities and contributions to the community and state of Alabama. He

is also a 1999 graduate of Leadership Birmingham, a similar nonprofit organization that focuses on issues, solutions and opportunities for the city of Birmingham. Stone is also actively engaged with Auburn University, serving as chair of the Auburn University Foundation Board of Directors, and as a member of the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council,

the Auburn Civil Engineering Industry Advisory Council, the Auburn Engineering Campaign Executive Committee and the Auburn Athletic Advisory Council. He also serves on the Board of Overseers at Samford University and the Norton Board of Advisors for Management and Professional Education at Birmingham Southern College.

2014 �i�etime �chievement �wards From left, Larry Benefield, Pat Sullivan, John Brown and Tim Cook.


ach year, the Auburn Alumni Association recognizes individuals with its Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding achievements in their professional lives, personal integrity and stature, and service to the university. Established in 2001, the award honors extraordinary accomplishments by members of the Auburn family. Four individuals, which include three Auburn Engineering alumni, received the distinguished award at an induction ceremony in March at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National. Larry Benefield holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University in civil engineering, and a doctoral degree in civil engineering from Virginia Tech. He began his career at Auburn in 1979 as an associate professor of civil engineering and was later named an alumni professor. Following a stint as interim associate dean for research of the college, he was named Feagin Professor of Civil Engineering, and returned to administration in 1992, when he was named associate dean for academics. He became interim dean of engineering in 1998, and was named dean in 2000. Benefield has an international reputation for his research and applications in biological treatment processes and, in particular, biological nutrient removal. He has served as the principal author

of three highly regarded texts in the environmental engineering field and has published 41 refereed publications and 77 additional publications and technical presentations. He holds professional engineering licenses in Virginia, Alabama and Colorado. As dean of engineering at Auburn, he spearheaded a number of significant advances moving Auburn Engineering to the highest national rankings in its history. In addition, the college successfully completed a $154 million facility enhancement program. Benefield’s leadership was evident in four critical areas: student recruitment, faculty performance, facilities improvement and financial stewardship and development. He brought the most talented cohort of engineering students to the Auburn campus, with the highest ACT scores in the institution’s history, as well as the most recognized in terms of national merit scholarships. In addition, faculty achievements, as recognized by peer review and scholarly publication, reached new highs. Benefield shepherded a building program that transformed the northern sector of the Auburn campus with major projects including the renovation of Wilmore Laboratories and Ross Hall, as well as the construction of both phases of the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology. His tireless fundraising efforts enabled the college to move forward in unprecedented ways.

37 Auburn Engineering

Benefield also pushed engineering education in the state of Alabama to be responsive to the needs – and the future – of Alabama’s citizenry including the creation of a worldrenowned curriculum in wireless engineering, academic minors in automotive manufacturing and nuclear power generations systems, as well as unique programs such as the BusinessEngineering-Technology program and the Alabama Power Academic Excellence program. Benefield retired in 2012 after more than 30 years with Auburn Engineering. He earned Auburn’s Department of Civil Engineering Outstanding Alumnus Award, and has been inducted into Virginia Tech’s Department of Civil Engineering Academy of Distinguished Alumni, as well as the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. John W. Brown graduated from Auburn University in 1957 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Following graduation, Brown took a position in Ohio as a process engineer with Olin/Revere Copper and Brass. In 1961, he moved to Marshall, Texas, to join defense company Thiokol. After three years of cutbacks and lay-offs in the industry, Brown decided to look for more stable opportunities, and in 1965, joined pharmaceutical company Squibb. His assignments ran the gamut from manufacturing and marketing to head of organic synthesis, culminating in a position as assistant to the U.S. company president. A successful tenure at Squibb led to assuming the role as president of Stryker Corp., then a small family-owned medical equipment manufacturer located in Kalamazoo, Mich. After much convincing, Brown joined the organization with the aim to take it public, and grew the company’s sales to $6.7 billion with 17,000 global employees at the time of his retirement as chairman of the board in 2009. Stryker Corp has been named to Forbes magazine’s “200 Best Small Companies in America.” Brown has been actively involved in state and local economic development efforts, as well as in the community. He credits much of his success to the education he received as a young man, and he actively encourages young people to pursue higher education to accomplish their personal and career goals. He has been a long-time participant and board member of Junior Achievement, an organization that teaches youth about capitalism and free enterprise. Brown is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association, and serves on the Auburn University Foundation Board of Directors. He is a member of the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. Tim Cook graduated with a degree in industrial engineering in 1982 after participating in Auburn’s co-op program. He earned his master’s degree in business administration from Duke University where he was a Fuqua Scholar in 1988. After graduate school, Cook was hired by IBM, working his way up to the corporation’s North American fulfillment director, managing manufacturing and distribution functions for IBM’s

38 Auburn Engineering

personal computer division in both North and Latin America. In 1994, he became a chief operating officer of the reseller division at Intelligent Electronics. Three years later, Compaq Computer hired Cook as vice president of corporate materials where he managed the company’s product inventory. After six months at Compaq, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, hired Cook as the manager for worldwide sales and operations during a time marked by a decline in Apple profits. Cook also led the Macintosh division and developed reseller/supplier relationship strategies. After only one year under Cook’s direction, the corporation reported profits – a significant turnaround following the previous year’s net loss of $1 billion. In June 2012, Cook assumed the role as Apple’s CEO. One of his most significant contributions to Apple during his 15-year tenure has been to revolutionize Apple’s supply chain by closing down warehouses and eliminating stockpiled inventory, moving the product directly from the manufacturer to the consumer. Cook also persuaded Apple to partner with external manufacturers rather than manufacturing components in house. Cook is involved in a number of organizations outside of Apple. He is on Nike’s board of directors and has served as a founding member of Auburn University’s Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) Alumni Council. During his years on the council, Cook made an effort to meet with students and faculty, and has assisted the council in improving both the quality and quantity metrics of the ISE program. He has established an endowed fund for excellence, a professorship and a leadership scholarship in the department. He also serves on the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council, and is a member of the State of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.

14 14 Be part of Auburn’s newest tradition

Auburn Engineering's first young alumni campaign, 14 for 14, provides a new way for alums who have graduated in the past 10 years to give back and stay connected to the college. The campaign aims to encourage young alumni to establish a commitment to philanthropic giving at the beginning of their professional career. Play a role in expanding Auburn Engineering's ability to reach new levels of excellence.

Visit /14for14

From the desk of...

faculty highlights

Mark Byrne, Daniel F.

Accreditation. Fergus was selected as one

experts to make research funding

and Josephine Breeden

of 36 keynote speakers. His presentation

decisions for the Paul G. Allen Family

associate professor of

on the assembly and preparation of

Foundation’s Distinguished Investigator

chemical engineering,

accreditation teams was heard by

program. The competitive grant program

has been awarded a

professors, scholars, policy makers and

supports high-risk, high-reward research

$400,000 grant from

administrators from around the world.

that is otherwise unlikely to receive

the National Institute of

funding through traditional sources.

Health to study and develop extended-

Sean Gallagher,

wear contact lenses that treat glaucoma

associate professor of

Anton Schindler,

by slowly releasing a controlled dose

industrial and systems

associate department

of medication to the eye over an

engineering, has been

chair and professor of

extended period of time. Byrne is the

recognized as an

civil engineering, has

principal investigator (PI), and is joined

American Industrial

been selected as a

by veterinary ophthalmologist and co-

Hygiene Association

Fellow of the American

PI Meredith Voyles, doctoral student

(AIHA) Fellow. This distinction is awarded

Liana Wuchte, chemical engineering

to individuals who have been AIHA

designation of fellow is a highly respected

undergraduates Andrew Hightaian and

members in good standing for a minimum

and recognized title in the industry.

Carter Lloyd, project veterinarian Bettina

of 15 years and have made significant

Schindler is honored for his contributions

Schemera Toro Guzman, and veterinary

contributions to industrial hygiene or

to concrete materials research and

ophthalmologist Eva Abarca Piedrafita.

related disciplines through research,


Concrete Institute. The

leadership, publication, education or

Edward Davis, lecturer

related professional service.

of polymer and fiber engineering, Virginia

Davis, associate professor

Joseph Majdalani,

Alice Smith, W. Allen and Martha Reed professor of industrial

department chair of

and systems engineering,

of chemical engineering,

aerospace engineering,

has been selected to

and Mark Liles, associate

along with graduate

give a keynote address

professor of biological

student Josef

at the 2014 International

sciences, have been awarded a multiyear

Fleischmann, won first

Conference on Quality, Reliability, Risk,

grant to study the

place in the research

Maintenance, and Safety Engineering,

synergistic properties of

paper portion of the American Institute

in Dalian, Liaoning, China. Smith, also

nanotube/antibiotic films.

of Aeronautics and Astronautics

recently elected as a senior vice president

The objective of the work

Southeastern Regional Conference. The

of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, will

is to develop biologically

award-winning paper was titled “Complex

be among seven individuals presenting

relevant protocols for

Lamellar Helical Solution for Cyclonically

at the conference in July. She will speak

assessing the antimicrobial

Driven Hybrid Rocket Engines.” At

on multi-objective genetic algorithms for

activity of nanomaterial films and evaluate

the graduate level, this marks the fifth

optimization of reliable systems, based on

potential synergistic effects for two model

consecutive year Majdalani’s team has

the paper she co-authored for the journal

nanomaterial-antimicrobial systems.

earned top honors.

“Reliability Engineering & System Safety,”

Jeffrey Fergus,

Hari Narayanan, the

professor of materials

John H. and Gail Watson

engineering, traveled

professor of computer

to New Delhi, India, in

science and software

March for India’s National

engineering, has been

Board of Accreditation

invited to serve on a panel

2nd World Summit on

of artificial intelligence

which has been reported as the second most cited of the more than 3,000 papers included in the journal.

39 Auburn Engineering

Laundry by the TON By Beth Smith

Gene and Tillis Brett


very good set of instructions on washing clothes includes the advice to wash whites with whites and not use bleach on colored items. It is doubtful however, that most of those instructions delineate how to wash thousands of pounds of laundry – all at once. For Tillis Brett, ’59 industrial management, and his brother Gene, ’64 electrical engineering, that’s all in a day’s work.

More than four decades ago, the Brett brothers pooled their resources, which amounted to roughly $500, and began selling real estate. They partnered with Tommy Robinson, who had experience in construction, and formed Brett/Robinson Realty – an Orange Beach, Ala., business that today is a full-service development, construction and management company. Well known for its commitment to quality construction that can withstand the periodic storms and hurricanes of the Gulf Coast, the company’s signature properties are the nearly 20 high-rise Phoenix condominiums. These buildings, plus a number of other rental properties, translate into hundreds of units and thousands of beds – that’s a lot of linens. Add towels and washcloths, and you literally have tons of laundry. As their rental units have multiplied, the brothers saw the need for an in-house laundry facility that would cut the cost of “sending their laundry out” and provide a more efficient means to wash, dry, press and fold the vast amount of linens their guests use every day. As a result, they set about creating a laundry facility, in close proximity to their condominiums, that could handle the load.

wash drop

40 Auburn Engineering


From left, Claudette Brett, Prashant Malyala, Nick Smith, Carson May, Alice Smith, Yousif Abulhassan, Neely Ketzler, Rusty Jessup, Shamari Patton-Webb, Tillis Brett, Thelma Quansah, Stetson McCain, Tianqi Gao, Gene Brett and Cong Zhao.

Last fall, the Bretts invited engineering students to tour the facility and see first hand its processes and machinery. Along with Alice Smith, W. Allen and Martha Reed professor in the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE), 11 undergraduate and graduate students traveled to the facility to witness the result of engineering ingenuity on the mundane task of doing laundry. “The facility was amazing, who knew that there was that much engineering involved with washing linens,” said Yousif Abulhassan, a graduate student in ISE. “I was very impressed with how automated the process was for washing the linens and having them transferred from the huge washer to the dryers with minimal human interaction with the machines.” The facility functions with about 90 percent automation. “It was interesting to see how they have set up their in-house plant to drive the laundry process with so much automation,” said Prashant Malyala, also an ISE graduate student. “It is incredible how that small footprint of area can result in such tremendous cost cutting in operations, and allow for greater system control compared to an external vendor.” For students studying manufacturing processes, the tour was a real-world look at industrial systems. “This experience was both educationally valuable and inspiring for the students,” said

Smith. “The facility was impressive with its advanced technology and its streamlined operations, both important aspects of industrial engineering.” The story of the Brett brothers’ humble beginnings and their hard work to build a company based on integrity and customer service resonated with many of the students. “The most important take away for the students was learning about the Bretts' high-achieving careers and lifelong dedication to embodying the Auburn spirit,” Smith said. “It was amazing to hear how they were able to use the skills they gained as students from Auburn to live the ‘American Dream,’” said Abulhassan. The brothers also shared the lessons they learned at Auburn. “My engineering degree has served me well,” said Gene. “Understanding engineering principles has been important in our work. You have to be concerned about what you produce. Make your work reliable, and people will notice.” Tillis echoed that sentiment noting that their business found its roots in providing a product that people value. “People must know that they can trust you,” he said. “There is no better place than Auburn to learn to do the right thing.”


fold crease

41 Auburn Engineering

Nonprofit Organization U.S. Postage PAID Permit # 5377 Denver, CO

Samuel Ginn College of Engineering 1301 Shelby Center 735 Extension Loop Auburn, AL 36849-7350

Auburn University is an equal opportunity educational institution/employer.


Profile for Auburn University College of Engineering

2014 auburn engineering spring magazine  

2014 auburn engineering spring magazine