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A P u b l i c a t i o n o f t h e M i s s i s s i pp i S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y Ba g l e y C o l l e g e o f E n g i n e e r i n g

Places & Spaces

Explore what happens in the BCoE’s spike-laden lab. Pg. 8

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F a l l 2 012


NEWS & NOTES 48 Departments













Wrapped in Maroon and White: Alumna’s college experiences prove to be fit for a king

Pilot plant explores large-scale use of MSU-developed biofuel production process


Bulldogs of the Beltway: Alumnus’ firm takes a bite of D.C. consulting industry


Lab Reports

King of the mountian: 42 Engineer finds power in

Alumnus leaves mark on campus, example for aspiring Bulldog engineers Places & Spaces

Semi-Important 09 Questions


In his own Words


On the Clock


Outreach in the BCoE

Researchers’ idle talk helps Southeast breathe easier


landfill science

Squishy circuits give kids firm grasp of electrical principles



26 Art Direction Heather M. Rowe Writer

Susan Lassetter



Megan Bean Russ Houston Susan Lassetter Heather M. Rowe Beth Wynn

Features 22

On a wing and a prayer: Aerospace engineer recalls life during American aviation boom

26 (un)Manned 30

Maroon on the Mall: Smithsonian celebration brings MSU EcoCAR to nation’s front yard


Todd Dickey

Copy Editor

Allen Snow

Editorial Board Sarah A. Rajala Royce Bowden Lori Mann Bruce Bennett Evans Rita Burrell Robert Green Subscriptions, Inquiries & Address Changes: Momentum PO Box 9544 Miss. State, MS 39762 or visit us online at


from the

BCoE Since 1989 the Bagley College of Engineering has produced Momentum magazine to share the news, research and accomplishments of our alumni, faculty, staff, and students. In an effort to continue to inform and entertain our readers, we are introducing some changes to the magazine. You will notice that the magazine is now organized to make it easier for you to find the content you want. Our “Around Engineering Row” section contains stories and information about things happening around campus, “Eureka Moments” provides insight into the college’s current research activities, and “Bulldog Engineers” will help keep you up-to-date with what BCoE graduates are doing with their degrees. There are also certain new columns that you can look forward to in each issue, including “Place and Spaces,” “Semi Important Questions,” “Viewfinder,” and “On the Clock.” We will also continue to develop the magazine’s website to bring you updated content between printed issues, as well as Web-exclusive photos and videos. Look for the “play” icon throughout the magazine to indicate which stories have additional content available online. And check your inboxes and the college’s social media inbetween issues for quarterly updates. Finally, we are also excited to say that Momentum will once again be delivered twice a year to your mailboxes. We are currently working to establish partnerships to ensure that the magazine will continue to be provided free to our more than 20,000 readers, including all BCoE alumni. We hope that you enjoy Momentum magazine as much as we enjoy putting it together for you. And, as always, we would love to hear what you think. Please don’t hesitate to send your thoughts, comments or ideas to our publications team.

Happy reading,

Heather M. Rowe Susan Lassetter Publications Manager Publications Editor

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Todd Dickey Communication Specialist

Going the


BC o E-L earning Convenience, Quality, Affordability online engineering The Bagley College of Engineering allows working professionals to enroll in flexible graduate engineering courses and programs in order to enhance career opportunities, realize educational goals, and acquire advanced degrees from a well-recognized EAC-ABET accredited institution via BCoELearning. All programs meet institution-wide standards, providing consistent quality and academic excellence in faculty instruction.

Degrees are offered in the following programs: Aerospace Engineering (M.S. & Ph.D.) Civil Engineering (M.S. & Ph.D.) Computer Science & Engineering (M.S.) Electrical & Computer Engineering (M.S. & Ph.D.) Industrial Engineering (M.S. & Ph.D.) Master of Engineering

An online education provides: Professional advancement Flexible schedule Degree from an EAC ABET program Equivalent to on-campus degree




Alumnus leaves mark on campus, example for aspiring Bulldog engineers By Susan Lassetter Generations of Bulldogs have walked past it everyday, but most don’t know what it means. Tom Hardy did. More than 70 years ago he helped create the 6-foot Bent that stands in the corner of Mississippi State’s Drill Field as a testament to the integrity exemplified by members of Tau Beta Pi. This past spring, the monument provided the backdrop as the 93-year-old visited with the newest members of the engineering honor society. It would prove to be his last visit to campus, as he died a little more than a week later, but through the stories shared that day, he helped the students understand what it means to be a Bulldog engineer. “When I graduated I sent out a lot of applications, and the only one I heard from was Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in Connecticut. It was the biggest of the firms I applied to, and probably the most sought after,” Hardy said. “I went in for the interview and the hiring manager asked me to sit. I was getting nervous and he said, ‘I see you grew up on a farm.’ So I said, ‘Yes sir. Is there anything wrong with that?” He said the hiring manager wasn’t against farm life, he just didn’t see how it would be applicable to the kind of technical work required at Pratt and

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Whitney. To prove him wrong, Hardy explained the complicated process of replacing the bearings on a tractor. “He asked, ‘Well, have you ever replaced the bearings on a tractor?’ And I said ‘Oh, yes sir!’ And I had, one time,” the Columbus native recalled. “I could see that he was satisfied, but then he said, ‘We’ve never hired a Southern engineer.’ “I asked why not and he said, ‘Well, to tell you the truth, we always thought a Southerner would be kind of lazy.’ And I said, ‘Well I can see you never had anything to do with a Southern engineer who grew up on a farm.” Hardy delivered that last line like the punch line to a joke, and in a way it was. No one who looked at his list of extracurricular activities—boxing, cross-country, ROTC, and honor societies— could ever think he was anything but energetic and driven to excellence. However, it wasn’t in his nature to boast. Most of his stories ended with his recollections of his classmates’ successes rather than his own. “About a month after I started working for Pratt and Whitney, the hiring manager called me into

his office again,” Hardy said, continuing his story. “He was reading another resume and asked, ‘Did you know this boy, Bill Brown, in school down at Mississippi State?’ and I said ‘I ought to know him pretty well. I went through four years of engineering school with him in every class.’ “He asked me what kind of engineer I thought he’d make. I was kind of stunned. I said, ‘Well sir, I hate to tell you this, but I’m afraid he’ll make a hell of a lot better engineer than I’ll ever make.’ And I was right. He stayed with Pratt and Whitney and developed engines for the SR71 Blackbird spy plane.” A 1939 mechanical engineering graduate, Hardy went on to talk about his time as a pilot in World War II. Aside from joking about how he was in the Army, the Army Air Corps and the Marines before he found a branch of the military that would let him fly, he didn’t talk about his military accomplishments—not even his success in aerial combat or the fact that he earned the rank of major before leaving the service. Instead he talked about the many classmates, and even professors, that he crossed paths with while serving in the Pacific theater.

“My dad was not one to blow his own horn, but since he passed away, I’ve learned so much about how he lived his life,” Hardy’s son, Will, explained. “When I got on his computer to send an email to let people know he died, there were over 300 people that he was corresponding with. And they were all people he had met at one time or another.” He continued, “For weeks I had people telling me stories about him that I didn’t know; things he had seen and done. He was fearless. I’ve even had a half dozen people tell me he taught them to fly.” Will said his dad was always very generous with his time, which is why he wanted to come to campus to meet with the engineering students despite being in the late-stages of cancer. That day Hardy smiled and laughed as he spoke of his adventures, and at the urging of the students he offered his best advice to aspiring engineers:

Decide what you want from your career and go for it. Visit Momentum online for a video of Hardy telling his stories in his own words.

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Greek symbols for 1885, the year Tau Beta Pi was founded

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Greek letters Tau Beta Pi using an older version of the letter Pi


The date Mississippi State’s chapter was founded.

Popular misconception holds that this phrase refers to MSU’s roots as an A&M college but it actually stands for Alpha of Mississippi, which is the official name of the Mississippi State Tau Beta Pi chapter.

A unique mark with a common message A cold December night in 1938, Tom Hardy sat in front of McCain Hall babysitting freshly poured concrete. Using oil lamps, he and other students took shifts making sure the mixture didn’t get too cold as it hardened. At the time, they were just working to complete a service project. They didn’t know that more than seven decades later the concrete Bent monument they created for the Mississippi Alpha chapter of Tau Beta Pi would be one of the most iconic structures on Mississippi State’s campus. “If concrete gets too cold it could disrupt the reactions that cause the material to harden,” explained Isaac Howard, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “If they hadn’t monitored the concrete during placement and it had gotten too cold, the concrete structure wouldn’t have lasted for 70 years.” Mississippi State’s Bent monument has achieved its iconic status despite the fact that most Bulldogs, especially those not in engineering, don’t know exactly what it means. Often confused with the symbol for the Greek letter Delta, the shape is actually meant to represent a “bent of the trestle,” a type of bridge support that is the symbol for Tau Beta Pi, the only honor society that represents the entire engineering profession. Dylan Lane, a spokesperson for the organization’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., explained the symbol’s meaning.

“The idea behind the Bent symbol is that the bent on a trestle bridge is key to giving the structure its integrity, which aligns with our association’s creed ‘integrity and excellence in engineering,’” Lane said. Many of the more than 200 university chapters nationwide have Bent monuments on their campuses. However, Lane said Mississippi State’s concrete structure, which is more than 6 feet tall and estimated to weigh more than five tons, is unique in its style, size and construction. Lane explained that only a few concrete Bent monuments exist. Today, most are cast in bronze, aluminum, or brass, and are made from a 4-foot pattern rented from the organization’s national headquarters. These newer statues feature a “ring” on the top and a “stem” on the bottom meant to better reflect the actual Bent keys presented to members upon their initiation.

Fast Facts Estimated Weight

10,100 pounds

Concrete extends approximately

4 inches below ground level

The lettering is made of

hand-hammered copper that was nailed onto the concrete during the final stages of curing. Monument rests on an approximately

8-inch thick bed of gravel

Mississippi State’s chapter has started its own initiation tradition of taking a group photo around its unique Bent monument, which Howard said should be around for generations to come thanks in part to the expertise shown in its construction. “This monument is probably stronger today than it was a year after it was poured,” Howard explained. “This will be here until someone tears it down.”

Special thanks to civil and environmental engineering department head Dennis Truax, and seniors Rachel Jacobs and Rae Ann Ott for providing calculations and information about the structure of the Bent, and to chapter faculty adviser J.W. Bruce for giving background on the monument’s history.

In the days before email, hanging a piece of fabric from

the hook

in the apex of the structure let members know there was a chapter meeting that day.





Places & Spaces A look at the high-tech, low-tech and just plain interesting areas that compose the Bagley College of Engineering’s facilities.

With large, 2-foot-long spikes lining its every surface, this small dark room looks like some sort of medieval torture chamber. But far from being dangerous, this space actually allows BCoE researchers to safely test new technology. Called an anechoic chamber, the room is designed to provide isolation from electromagnetic waves being broadcast by cellphones, radios, aircraft, and other everyday devices. The spikes, officially known as absorbers, are made of a medium density foam that dissipates waves being transmitted inside the room instead of allowing them to reflect off of the thick metal walls. Erdem Topsakal (cover), an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said the chamber has many uses including the development of antennas and testing the shielding effectiveness of new materials.

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Although it is available for many engineering purposes, the chamber is primarily used by Topsakal’s Implantable and Body-Centric Antennas Research and Education Laboratory. Through this unit, he and graduate students like Ryan Green (left) and Erin Colebeck (right) can study the effectiveness of electromagnetic waves in treating medical conditions or diseases like cancer.

Uplinks For additional articles, media and the latest news, visit Uplinks in between issues of Momentum.

Remember E-Week? Relive your favorite engineering memories with a video recounting this year’s festivities. Edward Swan and his augmented reality research featured on Science Nation. Ratneshwar “Ratan” Jha is the new director of the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory at Mississippi State University. Five BCoE students have been honored with Mississippi State’s premier student award, the Spirit of State. Additional online content in this issue will be noted with a video icon.

Semi-Important Questions with:

Mechanical Engineering Students A fuel injected, twin turbo-charged, 5.8 liter, supercharged, V12 engine, and a car body made of Dyneema, which has 20 times the tensile strength of steel.

Something on the back window that allows me to put up messages for the other drivers.

Cole Mobley Pontotoc, Miss., junior

Jeremiah Deang Ocean Springs, Miss., graduate student

As a lady in engineering who is always on the go, it would be nice if a vehicle contained some type of mechanism that refreshed my make up and styled my hair. Palara Grant Clinton, Miss., senior

I want a car that can drive sideways to make it easier to parallel park. Skylar Jones Memphis, Tenn., freshman

A teleporter so I won’t have to drive an hour every day Zack Myers Aberdeen, Miss., senior

A car that showers, cleans, brushes your teeth and dresses you while you drive so that I wouldn’t have to do it when I wake up in the morning. Marshall Shows Hattiesburg, Miss., junior

If you could have any feature on your vehicle—real or fictional—what would it be?

Auto inflatable tires

A hovercraft system so I can drive over the water

Brandon Watts Hernando, Miss., freshman

Brian Denton Hernando, Miss., graduate student

I just want electric cars to be more efficient so they can go a lot farther Jay Coleman Pelahatchie, Miss., freshman

Amazing fuel economy, plus the ability to fly and operate in water. Jeffrey McMillian Decatur, Ala., sophomore


In his own words:

How life-threatening news changed student’s perspective on his future By Jason Engel Jason Engel is a junior in biological engineering from Hernando. In 2007, after months of pain, misdiagnoses, and accusations of prescription dependency and truancy, he was diagnosed with cancer. He has been in remission for five years. This is his story of how the experience changed his life.

It’s a miracle I survived the night. With sirens blaring, an ambulance rushed me to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After three pain-filled months I finally had a diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukemia. My body sprouted tubes in every direction. I was surrounded by machines that beeped and buzzed. I was fading in and out because of the pain and lack of oxygen. Strangers hovered over me all night. They talked, but I was too tired to listen or respond. I saw the worried faces of my parents and the medical team — poking, prodding, touching me. The pain was too much. I closed my eyes again. I was fighting for my life. Drenched in sweat, I was as white as the sheets on the bed. My red blood cells were dying fast. Doctors pumped bag after bag of fresh, healthy red blood into me. One transfusion should have been enough, but as fast as they could put the blood in, the cells died. My spleen and liver were huge and my belly distended from hopelessly trying to filter the toxins from my body. After 18 hours of constant transfusions, the doctors confronted my parents. “This is it,” they said. “If we give him any more, the transfusions will kill him.” But thankfully that was the last one I needed. That was May 6, 2007. I was 15 years old and my life, as I knew it, was gone forever. My new normal became a sea or doctors, nurses, drugs, and side effects as I traded my car keys for a wheelchair. I was suddenly confronted with a lack of control and the uncertainty of life. I was thrust into a new world, forced to overcome my fear of doctors, needles and the sight of blood. I gave up modesty and privacy. I gave up being a normal teenager.

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Those first few months are a blur in my memory, a blur of fatigue, nausea, pain, hair loss, and worry. Treatments left me with no immune system. Any germ could have killed me. But stress and worry about my health were just the first of the challenges I would need to overcome. As time went on I was able to spend less time at the hospital, and although I was still taking chemotherapy every day, it was time to begin picking up the scattered pieces of my life. Looking back, it’s almost good that this happened to me. Before I got sick, I was coasting through school—unchallenged, unfocused and without any plans for my future. But after my diagnosis, I knew I had to have goals. I set my sights on the Mississippi School for Math and Science and eventually a degree that would allow me to do medical research. Ever present nausea, pain and low immune system kept me from returning to my high school to complete my sophomore year, so I began working through a home-bound teaching program to keep up my education while I completed my MSMS application. When I was accepted, I moved into a campus dorm, three hours away from the medical team that was keeping me alive. For a year, I returned home every weekend to take treatments early Saturday morning so I could be sick over the weekend then go back to school on Monday. It was difficult, but it was worth it. And I managed the balancing act, staying on top of my studies and my health. Many classmates didn’t even know what I was going through. Still, the schedule took a toll and against medical advice I decided to stop treatments with three months left. I wanted to enjoy my senior year, and I did. I visited many colleges to plan my next step and help me decide whether


ENGINEERING Engineering a cure


This past spring, the groups and departments within the Bagley College joined forces to raise money for Mississippi State’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life event. The goal was $1,000 but by the end of the night, the BCoE team had raised more than $2,500—the most of any team at the Mississippi State event. The mechanical engineering department’s team raised an additional $840. The college kicked off its fundraising efforts during E-Week with the Engineering Student Council donating the proceeds from its annual Quarter Wars competition to the cause. The EcoCAR 2 team got into the act by selling raffle tickets for two free oil changes, while other team members, including the electrical and computer engineering department, collected donations for the team.

to major in engineering or pre-med. It was a visit to Mississippi State that showed me I didn’t have to choose one over the other. It’s hard to believe that I went from being a video game playing 15-yearold to a straight-A high school senior planning for a future where I could impact people’s lives, but the cancer experience changes a person. I had grieved when St. Jude friends died, all the while wondering if I would survive my own fight. It forced me to grow up quickly and changed the way I feel, think and interact with others. I realized that every moment is precious, so today I am more appreciative of my health, friends, future, and the opportunity to live a full, active, hopeful life. I’ve come to terms with my own abilities and values—I know I want to make a difference in this world. Cancer treatments are brutal, often putting survivability rates ahead of considerations of a patient’s quality of life. I live with the scars, aches and pains that came from monthly spinal taps and chemotherapy treatments. And while I’m grateful for the life-saving results, I hope to one day help develop successful treatments that are more patient-friendly. But most importantly, I want to leave people with the knowledge to never underestimate the power of goals: decide what you want in life, pursue your dreams and don’t let anything stop you. Personally, I look forward to someday telling my grandchildren how my life’s challenges turned into life’s blessings, inspired me to take the path of academic excellence, and encouraged me to pursue my dream of ending the disease I fought so desperately against.

One of the most popular fundraisers was the mechanical engineering team’s Dunk Your Doctor competition, which gave people a chance to “vote” for which of the willing volunteers they would most like to see in a relay-night dunking booth. Paper money donations counted as positive votes, while silver coins could be used to subtract from someone’s total. The top five vote-earners took shifts in the dunking booth. “It was an intense competition,” explained Kimberly Dickey, captain of the mechanical engineering team. “People were keeping an eye on the totals and were making plans on how to keep themselves out or put others into the dunking booth.” In the end, it was Dean Sarah Rajala, assistant professor Oliver Myers, graduate students Haley Brown and Alta Knizley, and Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems’s director and deputy director Roger King and Zach Rowland who faced the dunking free-for-all. The night of the event, faculty, staff and students lined up for the opportunity to send their colleagues and teachers into the drink. “It was cold and wet, but it was worth it,” Myers said. “Relay for Life is such a good cause, why not have some fun while raising money?” Want to see Bagley College engineers make a splash at Relay for Life? Visit for a quick video of the dunking booth action.


Walker is a senior flight test engineer at Mississippi State’s Raspet Flight Research Laboratory. He has been a faculty adviser for the university’s student UAS design team since it was established in 2003.


Bagley College of Engineering exper ts answer your questions about engineering, technology and life. The increased presence of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) in domestic situations has some people singing, “I always feel like somebody’s watching me.” But are these tools really destined to be Big Brother’s eye in the sky? Aerospace engineering’s Calvin Walker answers questions about the privacy issues that arise with UAS usage.

Q: What are the main concerns about increased UAS usage? A: The biggest concern we keep hearing about is the idea that law

enforcement or your neighbors might somehow be monitoring your activity using these systems. But people don’t have problems with helicopters or airplanes flying overhead, or even satellites that take pictures, and to me it’s basically the same thing. I think UAS just seems more personal to people because they are small, relatively inexpensive and can fly lower than normal aircraft. Plus, with many commercially available systems you don’t need special training to use them.


So if these systems are so inexpensive and easy to use, what is to keep law enforcement agencies from using them to patrol?


Any government entity using UAS must have a certificate of authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly. These COAs, and the special airworthiness certificates that must be obtained by commercial entities, are primarily to protect the airspace and prevent UAS from interfering with regular air traffic, but in doing so they restrict how UAS can be used.

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There is no such thing as a blanket COA. They are issued for specific UAS to do specific jobs at specific times. So even if a law enforcement agency, like your county sheriff’s office, has UAS technology, it can’t be used for everyday patrol. They have to put in a request for a specific purpose and more than likely, if it involves surveillance of private property, it would need to be accompanied by a court order like a traditional search warrant.


But what about recreational users, is your privacy at risk if your neighbors purchase and use camera-equipped UAS?


UAS use is considered recreational as long as you are not profiting from it. So that would cover hobbyists, for example if your neighbors have UAS that they enjoy flying around the neighborhood. COAs don’t cover recreational use, but hobbyists are expected to follow guidelines that state that they should keep their UAS in sight during operation. In reality, you’re at no more risk of having your privacy violated by UAS use than if your neighbor peeked through a hole in your fence or snapped pictures using a digital camera with a telephoto lens. And really, unless you are outside in an area with very little tree cover, it’s going to be difficult for recreational UAS to see you. Plus, it takes a lot of skill to fly a UAS below tree cover because you have to dodge trees, power lines and other obstacles at lower altitudes. Basically, nosy people are going to be nosy, but you would have the same legal protection from UAS snooping that you would from traditional forms of invasion of privacy. Want to suggest a topic for On the Clock? Submit your ideas to




Summer Engineering Experience

OUTREACH in the BCoE Each summer the college hosts several programs and camps for elementary, high school and community college students to expose them to engineering; as well as the variety of careers and opportunities within the field. To see more from this summer’s camps, check out the video on the Momentum website. Visit to learn more about the Bagley College of Engineering’s outreach activities.

Broadening Participation in Computing Program

WISE BioFuels Camp

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IMAGE Summer Bridge


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Mississippi State’s live mascot, Bully XX, also known as Champ, attracted a lot of attention as he posed for pictures in front of Carpenter Hall. This and other pictures of the big Dawg in front of BCoE buildings can be found on the college’s Facebook page. Check out the BCoE Cover Photo album at and feel free to snag one of the pre-formated photos for your own profile page.

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Researchers’ idle talk helps Southeast breathe easier By Susan Lassetter

As the engine rumbles to life, thick black puffs of smoke boil out of the 18-wheeler’s smokestack. The noxious fumes and acrid smell of burnt diesel fuel make your throat tighten, eyes water and nose burn. For most of us the discomfort is over in a minute, as the source of the unpleasantness pulls away into traffic and you breathe in fresh air. But for the thousands of people who live or work near truck stops, warehouses and distribution centers where these long-haul rigs congregate, airborne pollution from the trucking industry can have more long-lasting effects. 16 MOMENTUM Fall 2012

“The trucking industry is essential to our way of life, but diesel emissions are known to have a negative impact on the environment and the health of those who breathe it in,” said Angie Card, a research associate at the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS). “If they are driving down the road the pollutants are dispersed over a large area so it has less of an impact. But if the trucks are just sitting there idling, you have a bigger concern.” The solution, Card explained, is obvious—find ways to reduce the time trucks’ engines idle. Making that happen, however, isn’t quite as simple as taking the key out of the ignition. “Tractor-trailers often are left running because the drivers live onboard and they want air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter just like the rest of us,” said Mike Mazzola, a professor and associate director at CAVS. “But on a typical truck, the only way to have that is to leave the engine running.” Technology exists to heat and cool long-haul trucks without the engine idling, but proving it works and is cost effective has been a challenge. Now, after a two-year study of this technology, truck owners have quantitative proof of what these devices can do for their trucking operations. The study was funded by a $1.08 million grant from the Southeast region of the Environmental Protection Agency. It allowed CAVS to partner with Mississippi-based KLLM Transport Services and Dufour Petroleum Inc. to install and evaluate the usefulness of zero-idle air conditioning units in 18-wheelers. “We’re not finished compiling the data, but right now we can say that KLLM saved more than $100,000 in fuel costs over 18 months with these devices in only about 15 percent of its fleet,” Card explained. “We have estimated that as many as 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and 18 tons of nitrogen oxide emissions were avoided annually.” The researchers facilitated the instillation of battery-powered air conditioning units in 123 trucks. These units function independently from the truck’s motor, which means drivers can turn off their engines and still enjoy a temperaturecontrolled environment. Once the driver is ready to hit the road again, he or she simply switches back to the standard air conditioning system and the truck’s alternator recharges the new unit’s batteries.

“Every hour these trucks don’t idle, a gallon of diesel fuel saved,” Mazzola explained. “These units can run eight to 10 hours on a charge, and during that time there are no diesel emission coming from the truck and no fuel is being consumed.” Card noted that in addition to quantifying the costs and emissions benefits of this technology they also needed to evaluate how receptive drivers were to the new systems. After all, it doesn’t matter how beneficial a product is if people use it incorrectly or not at all. “Semi-trucks are extremely sophisticated machines, so we were able to monitor almost everything about their operations and even some of the drivers’ behaviors,” Card explained. “But even without that data, the drivers themselves reported good results.“

She added, “Some of the drivers I talked to said they slept better, could breathe easier, and had fewer diesel headaches. So, not only are there cost savings and environmental benefits, but this can improve their quality of life.” Steven Latham, one of six independent drivers to receive a zero-idle unit, said, “It makes things feel more like home and lets you relax a little more. And since the engine isn’t running all day, every day there’s less wear and tear on the parts.” A long-haul driver for 12 years, Latham said he had considered adding a zero-idle air conditioning unit before, but he was unsure of which type to get or if it really would be worth the investment. Now, he serves as an expert on the topic for his fellow drivers.

TOP) Steven Latham of Starkville said that using the battery-powered air conditioner saves approximately $40 a day in fuel costs when he is on the road. MIDDLE) The aftermarket air conditioners run without using the trucks’ engines for power. BOTTOM) Additional batteries power the air conditioners, which look like standard window units in the trucks’ sleeper compartments. Once the trucks resume their routes, their alternators recharge the units’ batteries.

“They come up and ask me how it’s working out,” Latham said. “Once I tell them how much money I’m saving and how well the unit functions, they seem really interested in trying it out themselves.” Card added, “And that’s what we were hoping for. We’re spreading the word of how beneficial this technology is so that maybe it will become standard in the trucking industry and help clean up the air in some of our most polluted areas.” Want to learn more about this project? Visit Momentum online to see it in action.


Pilot plant explores large-scale use of MSU-developed biofuel production process By Susan Lassetter Dressed in a lab coat and hardhat, Bill Holmes ducks around a network of pipes and climbs to the top of one of several sleek, stainless steel vats positioned around the room. On a platform 15 feet in the air he checks its gauges to make sure all variables fall within acceptable levels. As director of advanced instrumentation at Mississippi State’s biofuels pilot plant, it’s his job to make sure all of its processes run smoothly. The plant is housed in a concrete and cinder block room about the size of a three-car garage—a deceptively simple setting for large-scale tests of a process that could be worth millions. The technology uses microorganisms to produce biodiesel, and, surprisingly, it makes the room smell like baking bread.

the wastewater generated by domestic wastewater treatment plants. This microbial-seed is then put in fermenters where it feeds on biomass found in industrial wastewater or agricultural residue. Under the specific conditions created in the facility, the organisms produce an oil that is similar to a vegetable oil or animal fat. “Once the microorganisms are fat with oil, we separate them from the water and add a solvent to dissolve the lipid,” Holmes said. “We then separate the dead cells from the liquid and extract the solvent so we are left with the pure lipid, which can be used to produce biofuel.” “And the whole thing is done using waste products,” added Todd French. “We’re creating a renewable fuel without using potential food sources.” Rafael Hernandez added, “This pilot facility is allowing us to validate the technology we developed in the lab, while calculating the economics involved in its implementation and testing the quality of the fuel it produces.”

“That’s because of the fermentation process,” Holmes explained.

French and Hernandez, who are both associate professors in the Swalm School of Chemical Engineering, began developing the process nearly 10 years ago when a few gallons of wastewater proved to have interesting biodiesel components when examined under a microscope.

The pleasant aroma shocks most visitors because of the materials involved in the process. It starts with researchers collecting microorganisms from

“We started really small, at first just proving that we could produce biodiesel using these microorganisms,” Hernandez recalled. “Then we

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worked to perfect the process using domestic wastewater, which is the most difficult type to work with.” He explained that the availability of domestic wastewater makes it a logical source of raw material, but it is difficult to use in scientific processes because its composition changes depending on the time of day, the time of year, and even weather conditions. By perfecting their process on the most plentiful and most difficult to use waste, the researchers can now more easily adapt their technology for other types of wastewater.

“We’re really branching out to find non-food sources of biomass for our process,” French explained. “Biomass is just sugar for our microorganisms, but it doesn’t need to be sugar from foods that we eat. Almost any industry that uses plant-based biological material—like the pulp and paper industry or breweries—has wastewater that can provide biomass for this process.” Other biofuels being developed across the country have encountered resistance in the marketplace because of their reliance on food sources as raw materials or because their production processes are not economical. But

those setbacks have not affected people’s desire to find a reliable, renewable fuel source, and the Mississippi State-developed process seems to hold promise for everyone involved. “It is estimated that 5 percent of U.S. energy consumption is to treat sewage and this is a path to potentially recovering some of the energy and the money that goes into that treatment,” French said. “We are recovering energy from cheap materials to produce an environmentally and user-friendly fuel.” Once the researchers finish their tests in the pilot plant, the next step will be finding industry

partners to carry out full implementation at an industrial facility. “This is the last step before full-scale deployment of this process,” Hernandez explained. “Once people see how cost effective and environmentally friendly this technology is, it will spread. It has the potential to change the way we think about biofuel and wastewater treatment. And it will always carry the name of Mississippi State University.” Visit Momentum online to view a video about the pilot plant and biofuels research.


Lab Reports Energy Agricultural and biological engineering’s mobile environment and energy laboratory will help Mississippi’s largest industry bring cost savings home to roost. Developed through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the laboratory is a scale model of a modern commercial chicken coop. Assistant professor Jeremiah Davis said that the unit is outfitted with the latest technology to make the poultry industry more efficient. “Many poultry growers are faced with drastically increasing costs such as those associated with energy and livestock feed,” Davis said. “With this mobile lab we can go to the grower’s complexes and educate them about engineering issues that can help overcome these cost issues.” Since the 45-foot, enclosed mobile lab was completed it has traveled across the state to provide hands-on education to poultry farmers. Later this fall it will head to the University of Illinois and Iowa State University, where they are interested in building a similar unit for the pig industry. Davis said that in addition to being a teaching tool, the mobile lab also serves as a research platform. “It is fully instrumented to allow for prototype tests of equipment and control methods without the presence of the birds,” Davis explained. “Once perfected these studies can then be scaled up for commercial application.”

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Human Health Enhancement

Information and Decision Systems

With funding from the National Science Foundation-sponsored Mississippi EPSCoR, Keisha Walters plans to help asthma patients breathe a sigh of relief.

While other technology answers the “who, what and when” of recorded events, Derek Anderson wants to find a way to provide the “where.”

The associate professor of chemical engineering is working with a team of faculty and student researchers to create models of how aerosol medicines interact with the tissues in the human lung. “Aerosol medications are a popular treatment for many respiratory illnesses, but for effective treatment, it is important to understand how these particles behave inside the body,” Walters said. To understand how these particles interact with and are dispersed within the body, the researchers are evaluating how they diffuse through a material that mimics the mucus lining of the lung. Walters said that developing this predictive model will provide a quicker, more cost-effective way to study the effectiveness of new aerosols, and it can be adapted for diffusion studies of other tissues and nanoparticles.

The assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering has teamed with a researcher from the University of Missouri to use high performance computing, image and signal processing, and pattern recognition to pinpoint where an image was taken in areas where road signs and other traditional markers are not available. The project is funded by a more than $450,000 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. “In non-urban areas, especially regions that are of strategic and tactical interest to the Department of Defense, terrain features are often all that is available to identify a location,” Anderson explained. ‘We are developing large worldwide databases of terrain silhouette signatures with geolocating perspective images and video data.” The project is using remotely sensed data to build databases that can be searched in real-time to find likely matches to geological markers—such as mountains, plains and rock formations— identified in images. Further development of the project is also providing new ways to strengthen geolocation by addressing the fact that terrain features are often partially obstructed by foreground objects.

EU R E K A MOMENTS A glimpse into the Bagley College of Engineering’s current projects and engineering advances. Materials Science and Engineering

Transportation and Vehicular Systems

Water and the Environment

Judy Schneider is working to give small manufacturers a competitive edge.

Mississippi State is the lead institution for the new National Center for Intermodal Transportation and Economic Competitiveness.

Funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping the Bagley College of Engineering agricultural and biological engineering department solve the Delta’s water woes.

Through the advanced materials and processing research group, she and a team of researchers are developing guidelines to help small companies use friction stir welding, an advanced welding technique that might otherwise be out of their reach. “Friction stir welding is a relatively new process that was adopted by industry really quickly,” Schneider said. “Because of that, there’s not a lot of literature to explain its properties or tell people how to use it.” A stronger, more environmentally friendly weld than traditional processes like fusion welding, friction stir welding is already widely used by aerospace and automotive companies. Schneider said proper implementation of the process could also give a boost to smaller companies that work with steel. Through the Bagley College of Engineering research group, she is working to develop methods to qualify weld quality using data monitoring techniques. This approach builds a physical model of the process, which can also be used to optimize process parameters. These techniques will form guidelines to help smaller manufactures more easily use this weld to build better products.


“We want to explain the structural features of these welds and understand what affects its strengths so that we can give guidance on how to best use it in manufacturing,” Schneider said. MOMENTUM Fall 2012

Funded by a $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s University Transportation Center program, the center will help develop a national intermodal transportation network by integrating all modes of transportation for both freight and passengers. Principle investigator Burak Eksioglu, an associate professor of industrial and systems engineering said the center was developed to provide research and develop and deliver training to help the country maintain its economic competitiveness. “Doing business in the U.S. is greatly enhanced by the relatively low cost of moving goods and people throughout the country, but the cost of fuel and an aging infrastructure are starting to slow economic growth,” Eksioglu said. “Our goal is to provide assessment and development for the methods, tools, technology, and resources to improve the nation’s transportation system.” He added that the center will also work to improve the transportation workforce to better meet the needs of the increasingly complex passenger and freight transportation systems. The center’s membership is rounded out by the University of Denver, University of Mississippi, Louisiana State University, and Hampton University.

Joel Paz, Jonathan Pote and Mary Love Tagert, along with Charles Wax of the geosciences department, are studying the impact irrigation storage reservoirs can have on the region’s declining groundwater levels and the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone, an area that has low oxygen levels because of an excess of nutrients delivered, in part, from irrigation runoff. “Water storage reservoirs offer farmers and landowners the practical benefits of providing supplemental surface water for irrigation while also capturing and reusing nutrient rich tail water from irrigated fields,” Tagert said. “Through this project we will determine the extent of those benefits.” In addition to examining the impact of reservoirs, the engineers will also work in the communities promote water conservation and environmentally conscious actions. This project, which focuses on Mississippi’s Porter Bayou watershed, is a collaboration between the university, Mississippi Natural Resources Conservation Service, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, and Delta Farmers Advocating Resource Management.


On a wing and a prayer:

Aerospace engineer recalls life during American aviation boom

By Susan Lassetter It was a warm summer day in Jackson, Miss., and 9-year-old Cloyce Matheny was anxiously awaiting the end of Sunday services. He knew his mother had made a freezer of ice cream and packed a basket of fried chicken so that once church let out, his family could head to the barnstorming at the local airfield. It was a big event for the Jackson airport, with people coming from all around to see the performance. He knew those who had early

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church would get the first seats, but that didn’t bother him. Nothing at all seemed to bother him as he heard the buzzing of the biplanes that meant the show was about to start. Squinting into the bright sky, he watched the airplanes dip and spin, performing stunts to make the crowd gasp. He marveled at the patterns the planes left in the air and was in awe of the maneuvers the pilots pulled off. But of all the performances at the flying circus, it was the

stuntmen who really caught his attention— death-defying wing-walkers who stepped outside the safety of the cockpit to stand on the planes’ wings, and skydivers who leapt from the plane, plummeting towards the Earth in a free fall before releasing their round, white parachutes to land safely in the field below. The show made an impact on young Matheny’s mind, and he left the airfield that day with big ideas.

Cloyce on . . . His first flight “My first time in an airplane was when I was a kid in Jackson. It was a tri-motor Ford and there had been a big ballyhoo that it was coming to town. We had never seen a three-engine plane and they would fly you around for 35 cents, which was something at the time. They had to have every seat in the plane full before they would go, but that wasn’t a problem. We ended up having to wait in line.”

Being a successful engineering student and young professional “Have a goal and don’t let anything keep you from meeting that goal. Always give 110 percent to make sure your employers know how valuable you are. And always be honest. A lie will come back to haunt you.”

Staying active and vital “Stay active, stay interested and help other people. Give back by volunteering in your community or helping out a neighbor, and hobbies are a good thing. I have a whole bunch of hobbies and I enjoy learning new things.”

His best advice for life “Don’t stop living until you die!”

“I thought the skydivers were fantastic and realized that I needed to make myself a parachute,” Matheny recalled. “So when I got home I kiped my mama’s pepperell sheet out of the cedar chest and went to the garage. I rounded the sheet with a pair of scissors, made some mooring and fastened it with my Daddy’s belt. I told all the kids I was going to jump, so I packed my parachute, got up on the barn and jumped off.”

He added, “I guess I’ve always been … let’s call it adventurous. But I waited 81 years to do it again. I was 90 years old when I jumped out of my first airplane from 12,000 feet. I had a 45 second free fall before the parachute opened.”

That was Matheny’s first experience with flight. “And needless to say, it was unsuccessful,” he said with a chuckle.

Matheny’s stories are filled with influences, experiences and recollections that revolve around aviation. At 93 years old he recalls them all with remarkable clarity, which allowed him to share his wisdom and life-lessons with Bagley College of Engineering students during a recent campus visit.

“When I fell, all the kids ran away, except one. He ran by my parents’ back door and hollered ‘Cloyce is in the alley and he’s unconscious!’ to get my mama’s attention,” Matheny explained. “The doctor said ‘keep that kid awake until midnight’ in case I had a concussion, but I was fine—just had the wind knocked out of me.”

Arranged by his son, Larry, the visit was Matheny’s first time on campus in more than 60 years, but he eagerly filled in the gaps between 2012 and his 1941 graduation, starting with what happened when the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) hired him as an aeronautical research scientist.

“The salary didn’t go along with the title,” Matheny recalled. “My dad told me, ‘Son, I know that $2,000 a year looks good, but I’d suggest that you don’t learn to eat too high on the hog.’ With that warning in mind, I got a one-way train ticket to Hampton, Va., packed all of my possessions in a little suitcase, and headed to start my new life as a professional engineer.” Matheny knew that starting out that he would be living on a wing and a prayer, but that didn’t stop him from making big plans for his new life and the family he hoped to start. “On the long train ride to Virginia, I gave a lot of thought to who might be my future wife. I knew how to cook, so she didn’t have to, but I wanted her to be feminine and share my faith in God,” Matheny recalled. “My first Sunday in the new town I decided to join a church, and when I looked over the audience I saw what I had


X-1 – As an engineer, Matheny helped

* F-101 Voodoo – After leaving his job with

calibrate the wings on the X-1 aircraft, which was completed in 1945. Test for the new aircraft included the first manned supersonic flight with pilot Chuck Yeager.

NASA, Matheny was hired by McDonnell Aircraft, giving him the opportunity to work on the F-101 Voodoo. He installed the strain

dreamed of on the train. A beautiful young lady sitting on the very back row.”

meant to go riding in an airplane. I’ve never flown before.’ After looking around, her next question was ‘Where’s the pilot?’ She didn’t seem too confident when I said, ‘You’re looking at him.’”

He explained that he pushed through the crowd of well-wishers and warm welcomes in order to meet her. “Her name was Kathleen Lowe, and she was much more beautiful up close. I asked if I could escort her home. She did not appear to be overcome by the suggestion, but she also didn’t say no,” Matheny said. “She was playing hard to get, and our parting left me feeling that I had not been a howling success. When I looked for her the next Sunday, she was not there. So I plunged into my new job all the while hoping to see her again.” With his first paycheck, Matheny purchased his first automobile—a green, ragtop Ford Phaeton he affectionately named the Green Hornet. His next paycheck went to renting a plane at the local airport. “I love to fly and it helped pass the time in the absence of the girl of my dreams,” he said. A few weeks later when she returned to Virginia, Matheny thought it was a stroke of luck. He knew just how to impress her. “I asked her to go for a little ride that afternoon,” Matheny recalled. “I picked her up in the Green Hornet and we made small talk until we arrived at the airport. She said, ‘I didn’t think that you

24 MOMENTUM Fall 2012

Even though she was scared, she mustered up the courage to board the plane. Everything was going well until I tipped the wing so she could see her house. She didn’t like the plane not being level, so instead we headed out over Chesapeake Bay. “She had gotten really quiet, so I thought I’d better check to see if she was enjoying her flight and at that moment I decided to ask, ‘Kitty, will you marry me?’” Matheny said there was a long pause before she exclaimed, “Don’t be foolish, of course not.” His response was to simply push the controls forward, diving straight for the bay. “That changed her tune,” Matheny recalled. “She said, ‘Yes, yes, I’ll marry you, you silly fool. I can’t swim and that water’s deep.’ But when I returned to level flight she said,’ That was under duress, of course I will not marry you.’” Feeling mischievous, Matheny again pointed the plane to the blue waters of the bay and once again he got a reassuring response of “Yes, I’ll marry you.” “All was quiet for the rest of the flight, except when she would direct me on how much I could or could not drop the wing,” Matheny explained.

gauges to study and test loads on the aircraft wings, as well as special equipment to record data during atomic tests from operation Redwing on Eniwetok Atoll in 1956.

“She became my fiancee and my flight instructor in a single afternoon—what a happy stroke of fate.” They were married in 1942, and with that, Matheny had a promising career, the beginnings of the family he dreamed of, and a partner who for the next 69 years would share his adventurous spirit as his work took them to locations around the world. At his job with NACA, which later became NASA, Matheny became known as one of the few people in the country who could measure inflight load. Soon, he was serving as a NACA engineer on projects with outside contractors and was instrumental to their aircraft development teams—even when he didn’t know exactly what project his work would be used for. “One of my first jobs working on an outside contract was reading a big pile of film to evaluate the pressure distribution on the wing. But it was a big mystery what plane it was,” Matheny said. “For six months or more I worked on that, observing subsonic, transonic and supersonic pressure distributions. “It turned out that the plane was the X-1. It was very secret, and once I submitted my report they quickly cleared me to be on the project with Bell Aircraft. I was able to go out to the desert where the airplane was being tested and observe the flights,” he said.

* Images courtesy of NASA

Other photos provided by Matheny

* * Mercury Spacecraft – While at McDonnell Aircraft, Matheny also worked with the Mercury Spacecraft program. The Mercury program was the first human spaceflight program in the United States.

That was just the first of many projects Matheny worked on that are now well known in aerospace history. He was at the ground floor of NASA, helped Bell Aircraft break the sound barrier, and after accepting a position with McDonnell Aircraft, he helped prepare the F-101 Voodoo. He was also instrumental in providing NASA with data reduction on the Mercury and Gemini Space Shuttle orbits. Despite an exciting career, Matheny was ready to retire at the age of 64, but his employer wasn’t quite ready to let him go. A new project with the British navy’s Royal Submarine Fleet was enough to convince him to stay. With that assignment, he and his family moved to a castle in Scotland while he worked to erect and validate a missal subsystem test set for the unit’s nuclear submarines. Three years later Matheny again thought he might retire, but this time a project in Pakistan put a hold on his paperwork. With $1 million in term life insurance taken out on both he and his wife, the couple moved to the country, which at the time was recovering from the Afghan Russian War. During the six months they spent there, the couple took the opportunity to explore and indulge their adventurous-sides including traveling the Karakoram Highway, one of the highest paved roads in the world. With the completion of the Pakistan project, Matheny was finally allowed to retire and begin

* Gemini Spacecraft – The United State’s second

manned spaceflight program, Gemini also received support from McDonnell Aircraft. Matheny said one of the main purposesof their work on Gemini was to show that one spacecraft could dock with another—and they did.

his personal world travels. He and his wife began traveling as missionaries. They helped build a seminary in Venezuela and taught English as a second language in Thailand. Not even a doctor’s discouragement could keep the Mathenys at home.

the work being done in some of the aerospace engineering research facilities. He was especially interested in the work at the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory where students were evaluating wing assemblies using strain gauges, like the ones he used during his career.

“We were preparing to go to Peru to work high in the Andes Mountains, so we went for a checkup. The doctor said, ‘Mrs. Matheny absolutely should not go, and neither should you, Mr. Matheny’ but I just said, ‘I didn’t ask for your permission.’ So we went,” Matheny recalled. “My wife worked at an orphanage while I helped drill water wells. And we had a fantastic time.”

“It makes me want to put on my grubbies and get busy,” Matheny said.

Today Matheny’s home hosts a world map that helps track his travels with little red-topped pins scattered all across the United States, Europe and Asia, and even in small clusters on tropical islands, South America and Africa. But with all of that adventure and all of that traveling, he hadn’t been able to revisit Starkville. That changed in February when Matheny, one of the university’s oldest living alumni, returned to Bulldog Country. “I haven’t been on campus since Christmas 1943,” Matheny confessed. “It’s changed dramatically. Hull Hall is about the only building I recognize.”

He said the equipment available to the students, like the wind tunnel and composite material workroom, impressed him. He was also impressed by the university’s aircraft that are housed at the facility, which brought back recollections of his first time in an aircraft and his most recent turn behind the controls—to celebrate his 90th birthday. He said he has more adventures planned and promises to keep us informed. And as he walked out of Raspet after a day of exploring campus he said, “I’m proud I’m a Bulldog and a Mississippi State engineer.” Want to experience one of Matheny’s adventures first-hand? Check out Momentum online for a video from his second sky diving experience, which was to celebrate his 93rd birthday.

But even though he no longer recognized many of the locations, Matheny did recognize


26 MOMENTUM Fall 2012

Maroon on the Mall:

Smithsonian celebration brings MSU EcoCAR to nation’s front yard By Susan Lassetter Being in the shadow of the Washington Monument didn’t do much to help with the heat, but it did give Mississippi State’s automotive design team a prime location for its students to share their work as part of the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

The storm knocked out power for millions of people along the East Coast and wreaked havoc on the outdoor Folklife Festival, which had to be shutdown for a day as crews worked to cleanup and rebuild damaged tents. Many tents, including the Mississippi State EcoCAR exhibit, were totaled.

More than half a million people from around the world visited the festival on the National Mall during its two-week run that coincided with the Fourth of July holiday and one of the worst heat waves in Washington, D.C.’s history.

“We didn’t know what to expect when we got to the Mall the day after the storm,” Torries recalled. “It looked like a tornado had come through. There was debris everywhere. The tents were in pieces with their support poles broken in half.”

“This is considered one of the largest tourism events in our nation,” Mississippi State President Mark Keenum said. “I am proud of our award winning EcoCAR team and the people who are here showcasing this wonderful vehicle and explaining to all the different visitors what MSU is doing to design the automobile of the future.” This year’s festival celebrated the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Morrill Act, legislation that led to the creation of land-grant universities such as Mississippi State. Seventeen of these institutions were selected to participate in the event, of those only MSU had multiple projects chosen for display. Mississippi State’s Mobile Veterinary Clinic was displayed in the festival’s “Transforming Communities” area, while the university’s thermal imaging technology was included in the “Reinventing Agriculture” section. The EcoCAR—a student-designed plug in hybrid SUV that gets 118 mpg and has a 60-mile all-electric range—was part of the “Sustainable Solutions” area. “We had the first EcoCAR to be classified as a Smithsonian exhibit,” said Kim Torries of Biloxi, the team’s outreach coordinator. “That’s really awesome when you think about it.” Although it added an air of prestige to the vehicle, being a temporary Smithsonian exhibit couldn’t protect the car from Mother Nature. In addition to battling extreme high temperature for the festival’s duration, it also endured a severe thunderstorm that produced 70 mph winds in the Washington, D.C. area on June 29.

The EcoCAR tent collapsed, causing one support beam to fall across the car’s hood while another rested against its bumper. The fabric of the tent obscured much of the car leaving onlookers to wait with bated breath as event workers and team members lifted the ruined structure off the vehicle to see the scope of the damage. “Truthfully, it couldn’t have hit the car at a more perfect spot,” explained Matt Doude of Starkville, the former team leader. “In most vehicles, the hood would have buckled under the impact, but we had replaced our SUV’s standard hood with one made of carbon fiber. It’s probably the strongest point on the body of the car. We were very lucky.” The only damage to the car was a few scratches, dings and scuffs in the paint. Rather than detract from the exhibit, it actually made a good visual aid for the students explain the benefits of engineered materials, like the carbon fiber used in the hood. When the festival reopened July 1, members of the Mississippi State delegation, including those from the agriculture areas, banded together to rebuild the EcoCAR exhibit and have it ready for the Fourth of July crowds that were expected to start rolling in that afternoon.


Changing perceptions

A new challenge

Torries and Doude were two of nine students who staffed the exhibit during the two week event, showing visitors the EcoCAR, explaining the team’s plans for EcoCAR2, and letting them experience engineering in action through the studentbuilt driving simulator and hands-on activities for the kids. But the most popular stations were those closest to the electric fans.

Torries said the team will have to draw on every lesson, piece of advice and technical skill available as it moves forward in the EcoCAR2 competition.

“It was so hot and so humid that we were all sweaty messes within the first hour each day, but the visitors were too so I guess they didn’t mind,” Torries said jokingly.

The latest in a series of advanced vehicle technology competitions sponsored by General Motors and the Department of Energy, the three-year EcoCAR2 program asks 15 competitively selected teams to re-engineer a Chevrolet Malibu. Their goal is to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy, while maintaining safety and consumer appeal.

The heat didn’t keep the crowds away or temper their attitudes about hybrid vehicles. Torries said she was surprised by how passionate the visitors were about automotive technology, whether they were fans of hybrids or not.

The Mississippi State team placed first in the competition’s inaugural year, which focused on design and simulation. The team’s proposed series-parallel hybrid design is expected to earn 80 mpg and have a 57 mile all-electric range.

“Most of the people who visited felt very strongly one way or the other,” Torries said. “We spent a lot of time addressing people’s misconceptions about hybrid technology and answering their questions.”

Team leader Blake Brown of Columbus, said this design will help the car feel more like a standard vehicle to drivers.

Tom Goddette of Pensacola, Fla., added, “The crowds at the festival seemed to have a lot of knowledge about hybrid and electric cars. They had a lot of specific questions about voltages, charging stations and things like that.” Goddette said he was proud that the team members had the knowledge necessary to help visitors better understand the differences between various types of hybrid vehicle designs and alleviate their concerns about expensive replacement parts and potential hazards. But the education wasn’t all one sided. Torries said talking to people from larger metropolitan areas helped the team better understand the needs of city drivers. “Some visitors were really concerned with charging stations and the infrastructure necessary to accommodate electric cars,” Torries said. “We always talk about being able to charge our car on a standard outlet, but that wouldn’t help a lot of them. They aren’t able to park close enough to their apartment or condo to reach any outlet at all.” She added, “Those kinds of conversations really helped us understand the needs of different demographics.”

28 MOMENTUM Fall 2012

“A lot of times people feel strange driving electric or hybrid cars because they don’t sound or operate the way a regular car would,” Brown said. “Our design allows the engine to at different speeds giving the car a more natural feel.” The team controls group leader, Jonathan Moore, agreed. He said that although this vehicle design is more complex than what the team has done previously, it will pay off in the car’s performance. “I think this is going to be a more balanced car than what we’ve done before,” the Fort Worth, Texas, native explained. “Because we are taking it from a different approach, this car should be more efficient and handle better.” The team received its Malibu a few days before leaving for Washington, D.C., and the students began disassembling it in September. For the rest of the school year they will focus on implementing their design to prepare for the year-ending competition that will test its endurance and performance. The third year of the competition will focus on refining the vehicle’s systems and turning it into a production-ready prototype. Although this is Mississippi State’s third time participating in the advanced vehicle technology competitions, Josh Hoop, the team’s mechanical group leader, said the team will face new challenges in EcoCAR2. “In past competitions we’ve rebuilt SUVs, which are a lot bigger than this vehicle. That translates into our most tightly packaged design yet,” the Brentwood, Tenn., native said. “Integrating components into the car and getting them tuned and calibrated will be the key. I can already tell that will take a lot of time.”

Despite the challenges, the team is confident they will continue to build on last year’s competition victory and the legacy of superior student-design automobiles the university established through the Challenge X and EcoCAR programs. “We’re really challenging ourselves with this design, but that’s a good thing,” Torries said. “A good team needs to challenge itself and not rest on its laurels.” She explained that even though none of the current team members were around when the MSU

advance vehicle design team was started, they all feel as though they are building on the knowledge and experience that the original students founded. “Being part of Mississippi State’s vehicle design team is like being part of a family or a culture,” Torries explained.

really wonderful and we have to build from that background and keep going forward.”  Want to see more from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival? Check out the video included on Momentum online.

“We feel a responsibility to live up to that first team,” she continued. “They were so successful despite the fact that they were just getting started. Now we have no excuse. They started something

Overheard at the Folklife Festival The team members noted that everywhere they go, everyone seems to have an opinion on automotive technology. And in a city as diverse as Washington, D.C., at an event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all around the world, the students encountered many different personalities during their time at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. From those who thought they were funny:

grandchildren.” – a senior citizen visiting Washington, D.C.

“How does this thing run? Being from Mississippi I figured it just runs on a prayer.” – a middle aged male visitor from Maryland

“But these batteries are dangerous/too expensive/bad for the environment.” – various visitors

To the inquisitive:

To the confused:

“Why is running the engine at its most efficient point not the best option for reducing emissions?” – a high school sophomore visiting Washington, D.C.

“So it’s a golf cart?” – a middle-aged man from the D.C. area.

“Where can I buy one?” – various visitors

“Since it’s electric, if I drive it in the rain will I get electrocuted?” – a man visiting from Virginia

To those who wanted to be helpful:

To the awestruck:

“What if you added a wind turbine/solar panels/a weed eater motor? That would make it even more efficient.” – various visitors

“I wish we could start a program like the EcoCAR competition.” – a woman from Japan

To the confrontational:

“My son is interested in engineering so I wanted to bring him by so he could see what these students have done.” – a mother, with her teenage son, from Illinois.

“You’re using ethanol and that’s taking food away from future generations; from my

“I always wanted to sit behind a steering wheel.” – a 3 year old girl from the D.C. area who eagerly hopped into the driver’s seat. “It’s nice to see students learning to think about making things more sustainable and efficient, because they are the ones who will be designing our cars in the future. They are the ones who can make the necessary changes.” –a retired autoworker vacationing in Washington, D.C.

And even those who just wanted to stop by and show their support: “This is awesome. I keep telling my friends that Mississippi isn’t as backward as people like to think. This just proves my point.” – a woman from Virginia “We just wanted to come by to see what Mississippi State brought. We’re so proud to have something like this from the university.” –a young alumni couple from West Virginia.

But no matter what notions visitors brought to the exhibit, they left with a dose of Southern hospitality and a better understanding of what Bulldog engineers have to offer. 29 MOMENTUM Fall 2012

(un)Manned Unmanned aerial vehicles changed the way we approach war. Now, the men and women behind the tools’ development, design and operation are working to help them change civilian life as well. By Susan Lassetter

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In 2004, Maj. Jay Lovelady entered a command center in Iraq and saw the future of military tactical operations. There, in the back of the room, were monitors and controls for an unmanned aerial system (UAS). He didn’t know exactly how but he knew that technology would change his job forever. “I was a pilot and they just had us sitting in the back of the room while they discussed how we were going to carry out operations,” Lovelady recalled. “Then these guys started setting up this UAS next to me, so I started asking questions. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know about the possibilities of this technology.” It wasn’t long before UAS became a staple in many military missions. Lovelady said these systems were particularly important for missions where the Army needed eyes on a scene but sending a person in would have endangered lives. “UAS has become a valuable tool for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance,” Lovelady said. “A lot of times we need to do persistent surveillance in an area, but pilots can only stay in the air for so long before fatigue begins to be a potentially dangerous issue. Plus, full-sized aircraft are noisy and fairly easy to spot from the ground.” He continued, “With unmanned systems you can watch an area for days at a time without letting your presence be known. That way we can notice small changes in activity that could indicate something is going on that we should know about.” Sgt. Brett Vanwey, whose second deployment to Iraq was with a UAS unit, agreed. He said that in his field experience the systems were “force multipliers.” “These systems gave us the ability to react to situations more effectively by allowing us to know what we were going into,” he said. “It gave us situational awareness so we could plan and react without sending someone into harm’s way to assess the situation.” Today both Vanwey and Lovelady work at the regional flight center at Mississippi’s Camp Shelby. Located just outside of Hattiesburg, it is one of only a few sites nationwide that provides training for the Army’s unmanned aerial systems program. “This is essentially a place where soldiers from across the military can come fly unmanned aircraft safely,” Lovelady said. The training center offers the airspace and infrastructure necessary for soldiers to learn and test the limits of UAS technology without interfering with commercial air traffic. But Lovelady said he believes that as more people learn to use this technology, the more they will want to explore its possibilities and integrate it into the national airspace. “These don’t have to be just military tools. Their domestic applications are endless,” Lovelady said. “It’s not the uses we

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can see on the horizon, it’s the things we can’t even think about yet that are exciting. The technology they develop to make those things possible, it could spin out and affect all aspects of our lives, not just UAS. “And it’s engineers that are going to do that,” he continued. “It’s got to be exciting to be on the ground floor of technology like that.”

Exploring the possibilities of UAS Taking unmanned systems to the next level was the topic of a conference held last spring at Mississippi State. Leaders from across the country came to campus to discuss issues in the industry while the university showed how it is in the position to be a hub for UAS research. “Our experience ranges from aerospace engineering and computational modeling to simulations and advanced materials,” said David Shaw, vice president of research and economic development. “We have a tremendous pool of talent across the university with immense opportunities to work with everyone from federal agencies to manufacturers.” Shaw explained that UAS are seen as good tools for jobs that are considered dull, dirty or dangerous. Referred to as the three Ds, these types of tasks can be anything a manned flight couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Most people are familiar with the military uses for these aircraft—weapons systems, surveillance and guidance— but there also are endless civilian possibilities to be explored. “This technology has the potential to change the way we monitor hurricanes, patrol our borders, respond to disasters, or even continuous monitoring of areas that are of scientific interest,” Shaw said. Already, researchers at MSU’s Geosystems Research Institute have started collaborating with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop UAS capable of monitoring weather phenomenon. Engineers and scientists within the college are also helping train local SWAT units to use these systems in active shooter scenarios. In this application, the aircraft can send live images to a control unit so officers can see what’s going on in a building before sending in people. Meanwhile, Pan Li, an assistant professor of electrical engineering, is exploring a use of UAS that goes beyond its applications as a visual system. He wants to use these aircraft as wireless network boosters during emergencies. “After disasters, communication is very important, but many times you have limited network access that quickly drains your power sources as you try to connect,” Li said. “If we can use UAS to boost signals, you can transmit and receive messages over larger distances while using less of your device’s energy.”


Giving industry a boost Lori Mann Bruce, the associate dean for research, said there is a lot of excitement surrounding UAS in the college, but it’s not limited to exploring and developing uses for the technology. Many researchers are partnering with manufacturers to build better unmanned systems and products. “Our research facilities, and specifically our material fabrication capabilities, make us valuable partners for manufacturers,” she said. “We can use these aircraft for low-cost testing of technology that will be applied to larger aircraft.” Matt Fox at the Raspet Flight Research Laboratory recently finished such test, which was able to provide more extensive data than his client thought they would be able to afford. “Our partner needed to test a product that will eventually be used on full sized aircraft on a specific type of material,” Fox explained. “Because of our

experience with unmanned vehicles, we were not only able to test it on that material, but we were able to fabricate a scale model wing which provided more thorough test data.” Raspet is a unique facility in the Southeast, which has been instrumental in bringing aerospace industry to Mississippi. Bruce said building a strong base in UAS research is a natural continuation of the lab’s mission to be on the forefront of aerospace research and able to help industry with its changing needs. One specific need the lab addresses is helping manufacturers test their products. Raspet’s Phil Bridges explained that because unmanned aircraft are relatively new, the Federal Aviation Administration is still working to integrate them into the national airspace. “The biggest problem with having unmanned vehicles in the civil airspace is ‘see and avoid,’” he

said. “There’s not a person onboard to react if it crosses paths with another aircraft, which could put manned flights at risk. We need to make some advances to overcome that problem, and until then the FAA is very strict about UAV use.” Currently, nonrecreational use of unmanned vehicles requires a certificate of authorization (COA) from the FAA, which allows for a specific vehicle to be flown, in specific airspace, under specific conditions. “And these certificates are only available to public entities,” Bridges continued. “So for a company to test its UAV products it must have a partnership with a public unit and Mississippi State is one of only a few public universities with experience in obtaining and administering COAs.” As part of a partnership with Stark Aerospace, Mississippi State has acquired a COA to test the company’s Heron unmanned aircraft. This means

LEFT) Members of the Mississippi Army National Guard sit at the ground controls for a Shadow UAV. The system is housed in the back of a military vehicle in a 5-by-4 foot space that allows three people to control and monitor the vehicles. TOP) The UAS training center at Camp Shelby maintains a fleet of Shadow UAV and ground control stations. One of the biggest obstacles to UAV training is finding places to fly, but the more than 130,000 acre facility has enough restricted airspace to fly six UAV at one time. BOTTOM) Trucks with specialized storage are used to move disassembled UAV from location to location.

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that representatives from Raspet are responsible for observing the test flights to make sure everything is in accordance with federal regulations. Bridges said that experience administering a COA helps solidify the university as a hub for UAS development, which helps make the state of Mississippi an attractive location for aerospace companies in need of a home for their UAS operations. “The COA is just another demonstration of the expertise we have in unmanned aircraft,” Bridges said. “Our faculty, researchers and students are gaining UAS experience from many different angles and that can mean big things for the state as this industry grows.” Want to see UAS in action at Camp Shelby? Visit Momentum online to see video from a recent training session.

The Name Game Conversations about unmanned flying can leave the uninitiated feeling like they’re swimming in alphabet soup. For industry insiders these acronyms have distinctive meanings that can reveal not only information about the topic at hand but also the speaker’s background. But it doesn’t take an aviation expert to join the discussion. Consider this a cheat sheet for informed aircraft discourse. First, of all the terms that can be used to refer to unmanned aircraft, the one word those in the know don’t use is drone.

RIGHT) Computer scientists from the Bagley College of Engineering are helping SWAT teams explore use of UAS in emergency response situations.

“Drone is an older term for these aircraft,” explained Phil Bridges, an emeritus professor of aerospace engineering. “It came into use because of the idea that these machines carry out missions while being impervious to the outside world, but that’s not an accurate description. There is a ground component that allows the aircraft to be observed and controlled.” Bridges said that as the term “drone” fell out of favor, the term unmanned became more common, which gave rise to the two most common acronyms: • UAV, which stands for unmanned aerial vehicle—a small aircraft that flies without a pilot onboard • UAS, which stands for unmanned aircraft system—a collective term for an unmanned aircraft and the ground station that controls it However, with growing concern that “unmanned” would fuel misconceptions that these aircraft function without human assistance, the Air Force began using the term remotely piloted. Now, especially in military circles, there are two new interchangeable acronyms in the mix: • RPA, for remotely piloted aircraft • RPV, for remotely piloted vehicles Both terms refer to the actual machine that flies. Finally, the term COA, pronounced co-ah, often comes up in conversations about unmanned aircraft. This initialism, which stands for certificate of authorization, will likely become more and more common as the FAA works to find a place for unmanned technology in the national airspace.

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Colvard Student Union. E ) The entrance to the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems. F ) An architectural element found over the Drill Field entrance of Carpenter. G ) Stephen D. Lee’s bust in the middle of the Drill Field. H ) Located on the Bent in front of McCain Hall. I ) Simrall Electrical Engineering building

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A ) Fountains at the Niles R & Mary Lyn Moseley Plaza located between Simrall and Stennis Institute. B ) Sculpture in the Gipson Court between McCain Hall and Carpenter. C ) The entrance to the Swalm Chemical Engineering Building. D ) Statue of Bully in front of the



the locations of these photos. out? See if you can identify State’s campus inside and Think you know Mississippi




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Wrapped in Maroon and White: Alumna’s college experiences prove to be fit for a king By Susan Lassetter

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Every Bulldog leaves Mississippi State with warm memories of time spent as a student on campus. Kristen Parker found a way to translate that feeling into a tangible reminder of sunny days on the Drill Field, Saturdays at Davis Wade, and late nights studying with friends.







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“A friend of mine had an MSU-themed quilt and I got this idea that it would be great to have one with a design that was personal to my time at State,” Parker said. “I didn’t know anything about quilts, but my mother-in-law, Brenda, offered to take advanced quilting classes and construct it if I came up with the design, so I started searching for patterns that I liked.” Parker began planning the quilt in 2003 after she completed her bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Now, nine years and a master’s degree later, she has an 8-foot wide work of art that chronicles her life as a Mississippi State student.

“Each square shows something that was important to me during my time at State, so there is a lot of engineering symbolism and influence in the design,” Parker said. “We didn’t want the amount of detail to overwhelm the design, so we also incorporated a paw print, a simple maroon and white carpenter square, and of course the big logo in the middle.” In addition to the larger center square, the quilt features 20 smaller sections with custom designs. There are emblems for different engineering organizations she belonged to, as well as depictions of her degrees and thesis. Being an avid Bulldog sports fan Parker was careful to also include designs for football, baseball and basketball, as well as her cowbell and the women’s soccer club. “We probably spent two years just planning the design. My husband, Brock, and I would find

pictures and sometimes I would make sketches that we would show his mom,” Parker recalled. “There was a lot of back and forth deciding the best way to do things.


“The whole process was a lot more complicated that I thought it would be,” she added. “Once we decided on the design, we had to do calculations to figure out how big the squares and borders would be based on the overall size of the quilt. My engineering background definitely helped with that. I actually made an AutoCAD design showing squares and borders with the maroon and white color scheme.” Parker explained that her mother-in-law used the time they spent planning to learn how to quilt the special decorative stitches needed. She then spent a year and a half assembling and hand-stitching the entire piece. “We’ve spent no telling how many man hours on it, and I don’t ever want anything to happen to it. We’ll probably hang it up for display,” she said. Since its completion, the piece has won Best of Show at the Pine Needles Quilters Guild Show and first place in the Stone County, Miss., fair. The Parkers both work as engineers with Southern Company, and while they still haven’t decided where to permanently display the quilt, Kristen says it’s nice to have a reminder of Mississippi State in their Birmingham, Ala., home. But as for Brock, who graduated from Mississippi State with a degree in computer engineering, or anyone else who might want a personalized memory quilt, they are on their own. Neither Kristen nor Brenda sees another largescale quilt project in their immediate future. “Most people who have seen it have said ‘Oh, I want one,’ but with all the hours put into it, I don’t think there is anyone who could afford one,” Parker said, with a laugh. “It is priceless in more ways than one.”

1) This square contains an applique of the arch element from the Bagley College of Engineering logo. 2) ECE stands for electrical and computer engineering. They added images of electrical components to give the square character. 3) This logo for IEEE, a professional organization for electrical engineers, is all-thread and hand-stitched. 4) The letters SWE stand for the Society of Women Engineers and are surrounded by electrical components such as diodes and capacitors. Parker said her mother-in-law added flowery embellishments to the letters because she wanted to have some more feminine elements on the quilt. 5) Parker played the flute in the Famous Maroon Band. The notes depicted on this square are the first bar of Hail State, the university’s fight song. 6) In 2003, Parker was captain of the IEEE SECON robotics team, which placed first at the competition in Jamaica. This square shows a scale version of the course the team’s robot had to navigate.



Bulldogs of the Beltway: Alumnus’ firm takes a bite of D.C. consulting industry By Susan Lassetter When it comes to navigating federal budget cuts, many government offices have a secret weapon—they call Jeff Herren to let the Dawgs out. As founder and CEO of Herren Associates, the 1979 industrial graduate has used his knowledge of engineering to help organizations streamline their operations and absorb budget shortfalls without sacrificing essential services.

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“We are trying to help federal executives do more with less and make smart decisions with taxpayers’ money. I see that as an industrial engineering kind of challenge,” Herren said. It’s the engineering approach that makes Herren different from his competitors in Washington, D.C. While they focus on hiring CPAs and MBAs to find ways to stretch a dollar, he said he hires industrial engineers who can implement systems that save clients money. And while not all of his employees are Mississippi State graduates, he said the company still holds true to the principles he learned as a Bulldog.

“There is a lot of competition from companies that are larger and have more political clout, but we have carved out a niche by being engineering centric,” Herren explained. “We provide quantitative information for our clients to base decisions on, which has helped us build a reputation in this town.” Herren, a native of Alexandria, La., got his start in federal budget consulting as a subcontractor with a large company specializing in helping the U.S. Navy. Then, after 10 years, one small Navy contract, which wasn’t large enough for the full company’s resources, gave him the opportunity to break out on his own.

from the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Army and the White House.

“We like to find the projects that deliver the best challenges for our employees, so we try to understand what they like and which areas they want to move into,” Herren said. For Kirby Hobbs, a 2008 industrial engineering graduate and senior consultant at Herren Associates, a new challenge means helping Army Medical Command evaluate more than 20,000 wounded, ill or injured soldiers returning home from war. After landing stateside, these soldiers must be evaluated by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Army to determine the extent of their injuries and what benefits they should receive. Hobbs said the national average for completing the evaluation is 180 days, but Herren Associates has shortened that timeframe through process optimization. “When a wounded, ill or injured solider comes home, it’s already a stressful time. You don’t want to see them having to wait around to get the benefits they deserve, so we aim to cut that process time,” Hobbs explained. “Cutting down the processing time will not only help the soldier transition, but it can save the government money.”

“I jumped out with a really lean contract,” Herren said. “That first year I almost starved, but the next year there was another contract and it kept going. But ever since the day I first started I keep my fingers crossed that the contracts keep coming.” So far, he has nothing to worry about. Since he first opened his doors in 1989 as a lone consultant, Herren’s company has grown to more than 100 employees and $20 million strong. It is estimated that in the last five years, the company has helped save its clients more than $1 billion. “And we’re steadily growing still,” Herren said. “In today’s environment, our services are more in demand than ever and we are excited about what’s in front of us.” Since the beginning, the Navy has been Herren Associates’ largest client, but there has been a recent push to expand, which has brought in contracts

The Jackson native said it cost the government $326 per soldier each day he or she is in the process. “Which isn’t an optimal use of tax dollars,” he added To make the evaluation process more efficient, the Herren team is working to integrate the efforts of the VA and the Army to eliminate redundancy and improve communication between the two units. This new system can carry a soldier through the process in just 28 days. A test launch of the system at the Fort Bragg Army hospital in North Carolina saved the government $3.9 million in the first six months by processing 163 soldiers in the new 28day timeframe—76 days faster than the center’s previous 104-day average. “There is a sense of urgency in this project because it’s about helping soldiers get on with their lives,” Hobbs said. “It’s very gratifying to see this type of inefficiency improved, and with over 20,000 soldiers in the integrated disability evaluation system, we’ve only scratched the surface.”

After the initial success at the test facility the Herren team is working with the VA and the Army to expand the optimized process to the other 49 centers nationwide. Hobbs said this project draws heavily from the lean manufacturing principles and statistical analysis taught in industrial engineering, which aim to streamline the system and better define the process. Meanwhile, his colleague, Arshish Tarapore, is engaged in a project that uses engineering economy to find success. “Understanding the time value of money and how it plays a part in engineering projects was a valuable lesson I learned in my courses,” Tarapore, a New Orleans native, said. A 2010 industrial engineering graduate, Tarapore serves as an engineering consultant for Navy Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), a program that standardizes Navy business operations across all departments. “Before ERP the Navy had many supply and financial programs for individual programs, but this merges them into one business management system to make assets more visible and provide increased efficiencies,” Tarapore explained. “It’s about coordinating efforts and helping people get information more easily.” By the end of the year, the Herren team will assist the Navy with deploying the program to more than 70,000 users. Tarapore explained that meeting that deadline involves building cost estimates for program sustainability, managing acquisitions, evaluating program risks, scheduling program deployments, and clearly communicating the program’s needs and goals with all the people involved. “One of the things I learned as a student is that engineering projects involve a lot of different people who don’t necessarily have an engineering background,” Tarapore said. “So the engineer often becomes the meeting point of all the project information and responsible for putting it into language anyone can understand.” He continued, “It’s great to have a job where we’re so clearly taking our education and applying it to something real. It’s great that there are alumni like Jeff Herren who come back and give young engineers a start, like he did with Kirby and me. And hopefully we can go back to Starkville and bring more Bulldogs into our team.”



King of the mountain:

Engineer finds power in landfill science

By Susan Lassetter

Stepping out of Jimmy Sloan’s mud-splattered work truck, I was struck by the scenic beauty of rural Mississippi. We stood on top of a hill, with flocks of birds flying overhead, enjoying a panoramic view of the well-kept gravel roads, healthy stands of pine trees, and ponds that surrounded us. While enjoying the warm summer air, I realized it was only the small details that betrayed where we were. The birds lazily looping overhead were buzzards, the only traffic on the dirt roads was a lone dump truck, and the hill we were standing on was actually 2 million tons of garbage. Below us, an open pit was slowly being filled with trash, but it was only the tranquility of the Golden Triangle Regional Solid Waste Management Authority’s facility that took my breath away. “Most people are surprised their first time out here,” Sloan says. “There’s a lot more to it than just putting garbage in a hole.” A 1979 civil engineering technology graduate, Sloan is executive director of the 667-acre facility, which receives about

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Most people are surprised their first time out here,” “Sloan says. “There’s a lot more to it than just putting garbage in a hole.

“We knew at some point we would have to install a reclaiming system, so even though we weren’t putting out as many emissions as we are allowed, we decided to go ahead and install the flare,” Sloan said. “After only three months, we were looking at the flare saying, ‘That’s a shame. That’s a fuel source up there and we’re just burning it off.’ “That’s when we discovered the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Generation Partners Program, which pays a premium for green power. We realized with a little investment we could get a pretty nice return.” The board of directors approved a $3 million project to install a power generation system that processes landfill gas, which is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, and converts it into electricity that goes directly to the power grid. “It took about 14 months for us to design the system, bid the project, purchase the equipment and get it operational,” Sloan said. “During that time, that is what I did, all day, every day. It was really important for us to develop the project ourselves, rather than turn it over to an outside company, so we could stay in control. We got to decide what type of equipment was added to our operations and all of the revenue that is generated comes back to our facility.”

450 tons of trash a day from the six counties it serves. Only about 35 percent of the facility’s land will ever be available for dumping. The rest is set aside for roads, storm water retention ponds, workshops, offices, and a 250-foot wide buffer that separates the landfill from its neighbors. “Our day to day operations are like a really big construction project. It’s a highly regulated business in terms of managing the effect all this garbage will have on the environment,” Sloan explained. “We try to be proactive to make sure we are as environmentally-friendly as possible.” For Sloan, being proactive means staying ahead of federal requirements and addressing environmental issues as the technology becomes available. That’s why in 2009, well before his facility would have been required to, he oversaw the instillation of a landfill gas reclaiming system that uses wells to draw the gasses out so they can be burned off through a flare.

The generation system currently averages $85,000 a month in revenue, which has offset rising costs and allowed the Golden Triangle landfill to avoid raising its customers’ prices. The energy produced is enough to continuously power 600 homes. Those figures exceed the project’s initial estimates because the landfill gas is richer, and therefore produces more energy, than what is emitted from other garbage dumps-–an unforeseen benefit that no one can explain. “I guess we have better bugs,” Sloan said with a laugh. “Really, no one is sure why our landfill gas is richer, but we think it might have to do with the materials we use at our facility.” Sloan explained that small landfills operate by filling available space one cell at a time. At the Golden Triangle facility, a cell is 1,000 feet long, 400 feet wide and 50 feet deep. The dirt that is removed from these pits provides the materials necessary to finish their construction. Clay is used to create a 24-inch watertight layer on the bottom, sides and eventually the top, of the cell. Selma chalk, a type of limestone, is used daily to cover the trash in active cells. And topsoil is reserved to cap cells that are full. Sloan said that


the cells are constructed that way to prevent water from coming into contact with the trash and keep contaminated water out of the ecosystem. Ditches around the top of a cell help stop rainwater from filling the hole, and because it does not come into contact with the trash it can be treated as storm water and released into the environment. Water that touches the garbage, called leachate, is considered contaminated and must be treated. Typical leachate is acidic, but at the Golden Triangle facility it is almost neutral. “The Selma chalk around our cells helps counteract the acidity of the trash,” Sloan said. “We think that makes the environment in there more hospitable for the bugs that breakdown the trash and create the gasses.” Even without an acidic atmosphere, landfills do not encourage the presence of trash-eating insects and microbes. Because dumps are built to be water-and airtight, many of these organisms die as the trash is compacted and buried. Without the presence of natural processes that break down materials, things that end up in a landfill are likely to stay there for a long, long time. “Things in landfills will eventually decompose, but not as well, or as quickly, as it would it if was exposed to the elements,” Sloan explained. “But until it does decompose, we’ll keep working to make sure it’s contained and as safe for the environment as possible.” Want to learn more about the Golden Triangle Regional Solid Waste Management Authority? Visit Momentum online for our video.

TOP) A network of wells and pipes carries landfill gas to this generator system located in the back corner of the facility. The system produces enough electricity to continuously power 600 homes and averages $85,000 in revenue each month, which helps offset rising costs. MIDDLE) The facility operates by filling one 1,000-by-400-by-50 foot cell at a time. Sloan explained that each cell will fill at a different rate because the more cells that are filled, the higher each one will be able to go. BOTTOM) The facility originally installed a flare system to reduce landfill gas emissions by burning it off. It now operates as a backup to the generator. Eventually the torch, which burns at approximately 1,400 degrees, will be operate in conjunction with the generator to ensure that no landfill gas is released into the atmosphere.

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A case for compost With modern landfills slowing the breakdown of even natural materials, many homeowners and the environmentally conscious are turning to composting as an alternative to sending organic waste to the dump. “Most items that could be composted are sent to landfills in plastic bags that last decades, or longer, so those nutrients don’t have a chance to reintegrate into the soil,” explained Brian Templeton, a Mississippi State extension associate. “By composting, not only do you put nutrients back into the soil, but you are also putting less material into the landfill and potentially helping your municipality save money.” Composting is a process that breaks down organic substances into a crumbly, nutrient-rich material that can be added to the soil in your yard or garden. Templeton said that compost can improve soil structure and can reduce the need for synthetic fertilizers. He added that it doesn’t take lots of equipment or gardening experience to create a compost pile. There are just a few rules to follow.

Adding materials Compostable materials fall into two categories: brown material, which adds carbon to the mixture, and green material, which adds nitrogen. Layering these different types of materials, with brown layers being twice as thick as green layers, helps maintain a proper carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. Getting started Location is important in creating a compost pile. It should be in a convenient location, for ease of use, but not too close to the house for aesthetic reasons and its potential odors. It should also be in a shady location, but not too close to trees whose roots can interfere with compost pile maintenance. Composting can take place in a single open pile, but some people prefer to build or purchase structures to contain the materials. Whatever you choose, it should be at least 3 feet square. The optimal design would have three piles or sections: one being added to, one decomposing, and one with finished material that is ready to use. If a structure is used, its sides should be loose and easy to open for air circulation and easy maintenance.

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Templeton provided guidelines for what materials are best suited for backyard composting: • Brown materials include straw, sawdust, newspaper, cardboard and dry grass, leaves and yard waste • Green materials include fresh grass clippings, fruit and vegetable waste, egg shells, hair, livestock manures, coffee grounds, and tea bags • Small or broken up materials decompose faster • Do not add diseased plant material or treated wood in order to protect living plants from disease or chemical damage • Do not add weedy, exotic or invasive plants that have gone to seed to prevent them from spreading • Do not add grease, fats, oils or meat scraps which may smell or attract pests

Maintaining and using Compost piles are relatively simple to maintain. Piles should be turned twice a month to aerate the materials and might need to be watered during dry spells in order to maintain an optimal 15 percent moisture content, however, be wary of too much water, which can slow the composting process and create odors. Templeton said that the composting process takes about six months to complete. When it is finished the material should be the ambient temperature, dark in color, crumbly, and have an earthy smell. For more information and tips for composting success, visit www. p1782.pdf.


Squishy circuits give kids firm grasp of electrical principles Kids across the Golden Triangle have a firmer grasp on electricity thanks to some squishy teaching aids and students from the Bagley College of Engineering. Working with Angela Verdell, director of diversity programs and student development, the students spent time teaching youths at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Starkville and Columbus the basics of engineering through hands-on science and math activities. “There were some non-believers in the classes when we started,” said Maya Luster of Meridian, a junior in electrical engineering. “But by the end of the day we’d converted them. They began to understand and believe that they were capable of doing this stuff.” Luster explained that when they first arrived for classes, the kids would stare at them blankly as if wondering what they’d done wrong to have to do math and science during their summer vacations. But their faces would light up as they started their activities and realized that it was more than just equations in a textbook. “Once they realized that science and math were things they could feel and see and mess with, their attitudes shifted,” Luster said. “We were able to introduce them to a lot of different engineering disciplines through hands-on activities that made everything fun.” One of the activities, called squishy circuits, used light, buzzers and dough to teach the kids about electrical energy. Within minutes of beginning

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the project, the kids were giggling, squealing excitedly and staring in awe at what they’d been able to do. “You could watch their faces and see that aha moment; that moment when all the abstract stuff they’d been taught clicked in their minds,” said John Laws, a junior in civil engineering. “It was a lot of fun to be a part of; a lot more fun that I expected.” The oldest of six children, Laws, a native of Atlanta, Ga., is no stranger to being around kids. He said he likes to help get them excited about math and science, and knows from experience what a difference engaging instructors and activities can make. “I know if I was in class and there was someone just going on and on reading from a textbook I would get bored immediately,” Laws admitted. “I wanted to make sure I was really energetic and excited when we were teaching the lessons.” The engineering students saw some of the benefits of their efforts when several kids stopped them to ask about studying engineering. And while the experience hasn’t necessarily made the engineers consider switching their majors to elementary education, Laws said it did open his eyes. “I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough patience to take my time and walk the kids through the experiments, but I learned a little about myself,” he said. “When it’s fun and the kids are excited, I have more patience that I thought.”


How-to Project Want to make your own squishy circuit? You’ll need: - water - distilled water - flour - sugar - vegetable oil - salt - cream of tartar - two colors of food coloring - 10 mm LED bulb* - a AA battery pack with terminals* *available from electronics stores or online retailers

Making Insulating Dough 1. Mix 1 cup of flour, ½ cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and second color of food coloring in a bowl. 2. Add ½ a cup of distilled water 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring between each addition until the mixture reaches a crumbly texture and most of the water is absorbed 3. Knead mixture into a ball 4. Knead in the rest of the water until dough has a sticky texture 5. Knead in ½ a cup of flour

Making Conductive Dough 1. Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup flour, ¼ cup salt, 3 tablespoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and one color of food coloring in a medium sized pot. 2. Cook over medium heat and stir continuously. The mixture will begin to boil and get chunky. 3. Keep stirring until the mixture forms a ball in the center of the pot. 4. Carefully remove HOT ball from pot and place on a lightly floured surface. Flatten dough and let it cool for a few minutes before handling.

6. Store finished dough in airtight container. Reknead dough after removing it from the bag.

Squishy circuit experiment The goal of this experiment is to use conductive and insulating dough and a battery pack to power an LED bulb. Key words: Circuit: a loop that allows energy to travel from its source to a device and back again

5. Slowly knead ½ cup of flour into the ball.

Conductive: a property that means electrical current can pass through a substance

6. Store finished dough in airtight container. Reknead dough after removing it from the bag.

Insulating: a property that means a substance will not let electrical current pass through it

47 MOMENTUM Fall 2012

Parental supervision recommended for children younger than 12 years old

To create a circuit, separate the conductive dough into two balls. Attach one terminal from the battery pack to each ball. Place one “leg” of the LED bulb into each conductive dough ball. If the two balls are touching, the LED bulb will not light up. Electric power travels through the most conductive material available to create a circuit. In this case it can pass more easily through conductive dough than the LED bulb, so it will only travel from ball to ball and back to the battery pack. If there is space, or insulating dough between the two balls of conductive dough, the LED will light up as the energy passes through it to complete the circuit. Because the current can’t pass through the insulating dough or empty space, the current is forced through the LED bulb to complete the circuit. See how it works? Try different combinations of dough and LED bulbs to build more complex circuits. Complete squishy circuit kits are available online at This lesson was adapted from information provided by the University of St. Thomas and Michigan Technological University.


NEWS & NOTES Alumni Nick Altobelli of Brandon (B.S. ‘89-CE) has been appointed state bridge engineer. He has 22 years of experience with the Mississippi Department of Transportation and is a certified public manager. He most recently served as assistant state bridge engineer and has also held positions as senior design section engineer and MDOT Highway Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation project champion with the bridge division. Ed Blakeslee (B.S. ‘63-EE) was named president of the Mississippi College Board. The Gulfport resident, has served on the board since 2004 when he was appointed by then-Gov. Haley Barbour. Paul Dees of Canton (B.S. ‘01-CE) is the new bridge design section engineer for Districts 1, 5 and 7. He previously worked as a design team engineer. He has more than 10 years of experience with MDOT. The Vicksburg District, Corps of Engineers’ chief of engineering and construction division, Henry A. Dulaney (B.S. ‘85-EE, M.S. ’93-IE), received the 2012 Black Engineer of the Year award for career achievement in government. The award was presented in Philadelphia, Pa., at the Black Engineer of the Year Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Conference that recognizes outstanding accomplishments in industry, education, and government. Dr. Ervin Fox (B.S. ‘89-BE) received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. The Jackson Heart Study researcher and professor of cardiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, was selected for his research into how cardiovascular and vascular structures The mayor of New Orleans announced that retired Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan (B.S. ‘91-CE) has been hired as director of the city’s Department of Public Works. He is a licensed professional engineer and certified project management professional with

48 MOMENTUM Fall 2012

over 20 years of active duty service as an engineer officer in the United States Army. A.K. Rosenhan ( M.S. ’65-ME) has earned the designation of Fellow in the Institution of Fire Engineers, an international organization headquartered in England. He has also been recognized as a 35-year member of the International Association of Arson Investigators and serves on several committees in the organization. Justin Walker (B.S. ‘97-CE) now holds the position of assistant state bridge engineer. A 14-year veteran of MDOT, he previously served as senior design section engineer for Districts 1, 5 and 7. Joey Windham (B.S. ‘03, M.S. ‘10-CE) was selected as chief of the modeling branch of the Modeling, Mapping and Consequences Production Center of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer’ Vicksburg District. He will serve as senior technical reviewer for all hydrologic and hydraulic engineering products produced by the unit. He has been with the district since 2003.

Faculty & Staff Lori Mann Bruce, associate dean for research and graduate studies, was named a W.L. Giles Distinguished Professor, the university’s highest honorary distinction for faculty. During an April ceremony, Only 13 of the university’s 1,096 active faculty members hold this honorary title. Rita Burrell, graduate and distance education manager, was recognized as the National Graduate Education for Minorities Consortium’s Standing Chair of the Year. She has served as standing chair for its university committee since 2007. Burak Eksioglu, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering and co-director of the National Center for Intermodal Transportation, received the 2012 BCoE Research Award. Sandra Eksioglu, associate professor of industrial and systems engineering, and Bill Elmore, associate professor of chemical engineering, were announced as the newest members of the BCoE’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers. Donna S. Reese, professor and head of the computer science and engineering department, has been named a 2012 Distinguished Alumni by Louisiana Tech University’s college of engineering and science. She is actively involved in national efforts to broaden participation and improve retention of students in the

fields of computing, science, engineering, technology and mathematics. She has been recognized by MSU and national organizations for her work as a teacher, adviser and student mentor. Keisha B. Walters, associate professor of chemical engineering, received the Raymond W. Fahien Award from the American Society for Engineering Education’s Chemical Engineering Division. The award is given annually to recognize early-career faculty who have shown evidence of vision and contribution to education in the field. Byron Williams, assistant professor of computer science, is one of 12 academics included in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education’s 2012 Top “Under 40” Emerging Scholars list. Nicolas Younan, head of the electrical and computer engineering department and the James Worth Bagley Chair, received the 2012 Bagley College of Engineering Career Achievement Award. In the last year, five newly filled or renewed professorships and endowed chairs were named: Pasquale Cinnella, Bill and Carolyn Cobb Chair in Engineering; Steve Daniewicz, PACCAR Endowed Chair; James Fowler, Billie Ball Endowed Professorship in Engineering; Jason Keith, Earnest W. Davenport Chair in Chemical Engineering; and Robert Moorhead, Billie Ball Endowed Professorship in Engineering.

Students Collierville, Tenn., native Michael Barton, an aerospace engineering graduate, was selected from a nation-wide pool of applicants for a Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internship with the National Research Council’s Space Studies Board, an independent forum that advises companies and government agencies on space science. Ben Cox of Meadville was named the inaugural recipient of of a fellowship established by Mississippi-based Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions Inc. The Doctoral Fellowship in Construction Materials will annually support a civil engineering doctoral student studying under Isaac Howard, an assistant professor and active pavement researcher. The National Science Foundation selected Meridian-native Jonathan Harper, a computer science graduate, for an annual $30,000 graduate research fellowship,

which he will receive for the next three years. Andrew Odenthal of Stayton, Ore., a senior in civil engineering, was named a New Face of Civil Engineering by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) through its first annual New Faces of Civil Engineering – College Edition program. Chemical engineering students Clint Diamond of Lucedale, John Wright of Pascagoula, and Josh Tucker of Tupelo, were honored by the Mississippi section of the Society of Petroleum Engineers with a $3,000 scholarship to support their education.

Student Teams The Mississippi State Formula team earned a personal-best finish in a collegiate competition at the Michigan International Speedway. It placed 34th in a field of 109 teams, from four continents, in an annual design competition sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers International. A three-day event, the competition tests each team’s design and engineering skills, as well as their businesssavvy and racing prowess. The Space Cowboys rocketry team blasted past the competition in this year’s NASA-sponsored University Student Launch Initiative (USLI). The team finished second overall out of a field of 40 teams. It also earned the Best Science Mission Directorate Payload Award and an honorable mention for their education engagement activities. Mississippi State’s alternative vehicle design team was named year-one winner of EcoCAR 2: Plugging into the Future. In addition to the overall first place finish, the team brings home $13,000 in prize money and five individual category awards: Best Facilities Inspection, Best Final Technical Report, Best Project Initiation Approval Presentation, Best Trade Show Evaluation, and Best Controls Presentation. Team member Rachel Wheeler won the Women in Engineering Award. The university’s Xipiter team finished 10th overall out of 26 student groups that were able to fly during the twoday Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s student challenge in Maryland. The 24-member team also finished sixth in flight and 10th in the journal paper and readiness review presentation.

Noteworthy A ) Tiffany Lampkin (B.S. ‘03, M.S. ‘07IE), recipient of the 2012 BEYA Modern-Day Technology Leader Award. B ) Electrical engineering major Tyler Ross (right) and his brother Kaleb, know that MSU fans “gotta have more cowbell.” During the Oct. 13 Bulldog football victory over the Tennessee Volunteers, the Vancleave natives were dressed as Christopher Walken and Will Ferrel from the Saturday Night Live cowbell skit—a favorite among MSU fans. Tyler earned the “student fan of the game” honors for his effort.



C ) Five recipients of NSF CAREER awards, highly competitive grants from one of the organization’s most prestigious programs: (L-R) Changhe Yuan, assistant professor, computer science and engineering; Pan Li, assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering; Ming Xin, associate professor, aerospace engineering; Sandra Eksioglu, associate professor, industrial and systems engineering; and Yong Fu, assistant professor, electrical and computer engineering. D ) 2012 Distinguished Alumni Fellows: (L-R) Tim Duncan (B.S. ’95-PE), Judy Johnson (B.S. ’75-IE), Mike McDaniel (B.S. ’79-ME), Susan Bridges (M.S. ’83CS), Phil Bridges (M.S. ’76, Ph.D ’83ASE), Bill Mitchell (B.S. ’75-CE, M.S. ’87), and Patrick O’Sullivan (B.S. ’88-BE). Not pictured Mark Dumas (B.S. ’96-EE), Ralph Harrison (B.S. ’78 ChE, PE) and Ernest Waaser (B.S. ’78-NE). E ) 2012 Student Hall of Fame inductees: (L-R) Mary Ann Murdock of North Little Rock, Ark., Michael Barton of Collierville, Tenn., Adam Collins of Starkville, Dean Sarah Rajala, Phillip Jamison of Macon, Katie Sloan of Sturgis, and Evan Howlett of Horn Lake.




F ) Graduate student in mechanical engineering and GEM Fellow, Christopher Walton of Fayetteville, Ark., received the Mike Shinn NSBE Distinguished Member of the Year award and a Board of Corporate Affiliates’ scholarship.

Upcoming During the 2012-2013 academic year, the Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Celebration events will be held next spring in conjunction with Super Bulldog Weekend. As the events are planned and scheduled, more information will be available at the departmental website,



PO Box 9544, Mississippi State, MS 39762

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Momentum Fall 2012  

The Bagley College of Engineering's bi-annual magazine cover the news and events on engineering at Mississippi State University.

Momentum Fall 2012  

The Bagley College of Engineering's bi-annual magazine cover the news and events on engineering at Mississippi State University.

Profile for bcoe