A mission by University of Rhode Island engineering students to treat wastewater at a Guatemalan school brought students to the nation’s capital in April 2014.
At the National Sustainable Design Expo, students updated government officials and industry executives on their multi-year project in rural San Mateo Ixtatán, Guatemala. Under the auspices of the Engineers for a Sustainable World URI chapter, the students have designed and started to implement a septic system for a local school. The low-maintenance, self-running system replaces a pipe that deposited raw sewage into a nearby river.
The students will travel to Guatemala in the summer of 2014 to continue work on the project. They plan to build a sand filter and constructed wetlands to serve as a secondary treatment process for the septic tank they previously installed.
Students who presented in Washington, D.C. were Maria Briones (’14), Mattia Gorga (’15), Jonathan Rosales (’16), Joseph Rocchio (’16), and Engineers for a Sustainable World URI chapter President Jessica Damicis (’15). Civil engineering Professor Vinka Oyanedel-Craver serves as the group’s advisor.]]>
Oyanedel-Craver will use the five-year, $432,000 award to study how bacteria respond when exposed to rare earth element oxide and metal nanoparticles. Such nanoparticles are used as contrast agents during MRI examinations and as agents to prevent odors in clothing, among other uses.
When released into the environment, such nanoparticles may change how bacteria function. Because bacteria recycle environmental nutrients and some of them can cause disease, their reaction to exposure to nanoparticles is of interest to researchers.
“Nanotechnology can greatly improve our quality of life through the development of more effective medicines or materials with novel functionalities,” Oyanedel-Craver says. “However, this technology needs to be developed in a responsible way. My research will help to ensure minimum negative impacts to the environment and human health.”
The CAREER Award comes as the College of Engineering seeks to focus its research around seven themes. One emphasizes nanoparticles research and another seeks to leverage engineering expertise to deliver clean water around the world. As a group, the seven themes seek to shape the world in which we live.]]>
That bumpy ride over a bridge is not just an uncomfortable, but possibly causing the bridge to deteriorate prematurely. Civil engineering Associate Professor Mayrai Gindy wants to better understand how the smoothness of concrete bridges can lengthen the lives of bridges and, ultimately, improve their safety.
Armed with a $131,370 grant from the R.I. Department of Transportation, Gindy will conduct research to determine the relationship between the placement of steel rebar in bridge decks and the measured smoothness of the deck that carries traffic. She’ll use ground-penetrating radar to locate the rebar in bridges and then use a surface-profiling machine to measure the smoothness of the concrete.
Back in her lab, Gindy will put all the results together to find the optimized location for rebar and just how much concrete workers should pour over the steel bars. In the end, her results will bring a smoother ride for drivers.]]>
In late September 2013, Marinaccio was selected as one of the elite few to participate in the American Public Works Association Emerging Leaders Academy. The yearlong program offers young professionals leadership and management training and accepts just 16 or so people a year.
We’re positive Marinaccio will shine in the program. While at the University of Rhode Island, he traveled to San Mateo Ixtatan, Guatemala to assist the improvised village design a rainwater runoff catchment system and bio digester for a local school. (Watch the video.)
According to Dr. Gindy, one of the most important challenges facing structural engineers today is the development and implementation of effective techniques for detecting, diagnosing, and treating structural damage. To meet this challenge, future structural engineers must possess a true understanding of the behavior of structures in various conditions and under various static and dynamic loadings. Although structural analysis is a basic component of the undergraduate civil engineering curriculum, students are seldom provided the opportunity to instrument and test real structural components using state-of-the-art equipment.
By introducing current sensor technologies and structural testing practices to the undergraduate curriculum, URI civil engineering students will be better equipped for a seamless transition into a diverse and globally-oriented workforce. The proposed interdisciplinary approach between CVE and ELE faculty will bring a unique perspective to the processing and interpretation of structural response data. CVE students will learn advanced signal processing analysis, filter design and numerical modeling techniques for enhancing their ability to accurately assess structural behavior while ELE students will gain experience in instrumentation used to measure, record, process and analyze data collected in real world settings. This will serve as an academic model for developing multi-disciplinary partnerships within the engineering college departmental structure that is historically divided into traditional, independent engineering disciplines.
Equipment to be used in this lab includes accelerometers, tiltmeters, linear variable differential transducers, a data acquisition system, laser doppler vibrometer, a portable weigh-in-motion system, and a strain system. Ten computer stations will be available for processing of field data as well as a van equipped to house the various instrumentation units.]]>
Since then, she has served in positions of increasing responsibility, and in 2006, was named business manager of the Space Shuttle Program (SSP). She is a key advisor to the SSP manager, sharing program responsibility and accountability for managing an annual budget of more than $3.2 billion and a multi-disciplinary workforce of more than 11,000 civil servants and contractors across the country.
With the decision to retire the Space Shuttle in 2011, Rasco was asked to manage the transition and retirement of this highly complex program. Leading an organization of more than 700 government and contractor employees, Rasco provides strategic guidance, technical management policy, acquisition strategy, budget processes, analysis and assessments, for retiring the Space Shuttle Program.
She was awarded NASA fellowships to the Smith College Management Program and the Harvard Business School Leadership for Senior Executives. Her accomplishments have been recognized by numerous awards, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the JSC Certificate of Commendation, JSC and the NASA Group Achievement Awards, the Equal Opportunity Award, Outstanding Performance Award. She has served as vice-president and president of the Asian Pacific American Council, vice president of the board of directors of the JSC Child Care Center, and a member of Senior Executive Service, Society of Women Engineers, the JSC Diversity Council, the JSC Exchange Council, and the National Managers Association.
A native of South Kingstown, she lives with her family in Houston, Texas.]]>
The heat radiating off roadways has long been a factor in explaining why city temperatures are often considerably warmer than nearby suburban or rural areas. Now a team of engineering researchers from the University of Rhode Island is examining methods of harvesting that solar energy to melt ice, power streetlights, illuminate signs, heat buildings and potentially use it for many other purposes.
“We have mile after mile of asphalt pavement around the country, and in the summer it absorbs a great deal of heat, warming the roads up to 140 degrees or more,” said K. Wayne Lee, URI professor of civil and environmental engineering and the leader of the joint project. “If we can harvest that heat, we can use it for our daily use, save on fossil fuels, and reduce global warming.”
The URI team has identified four potential approaches, from simple to complex, and they are pursuing research projects designed to make each of them a reality.
One of the simplest ideas is to wrap flexible photovoltaic cells around the top of Jersey barriers dividing highways to provide electricity to power streetlights and illuminate road signs. The photovoltaic cells could also be embedded in the roadway between the Jersey barrier and the adjacent rumble strip.
“This is a project that could be implemented today because the technology already exists,” said Lee. “Since the new generation of solar cells are so flexible, they can be installed so that regardless of the angle of the sun, it will be shining on the cells and generating electricity. A pilot program is progressing for the lamps outside Bliss Hall on campus.”
Another practical approach to harvesting solar energy from pavement is to embed water filled pipes beneath the asphalt and allow the sun to warm the water. The heated water could then be piped beneath bridge decks to melt accumulated ice on the surface and reduce the need for road salt. The water could also be piped to nearby buildings to satisfy heating or hot water needs, similar to geothermal heat pumps. It could even be converted to steam to turn a turbine in a small, traditional power plant.
Graduate student Andrew Correia has built a prototype of such a system in a URI laboratory to evaluate its effectiveness, thanks to funding from the Korea Institute for Construction Technology. By testing different asphalt mixes and various pipe systems, he hopes to demonstrate that the technology can work in a real world setting.
“One property of asphalt is that it retains heat really well,” he said, “so even after the sun goes down the asphalt and the water in the pipes stays warm. My tests showed that during some circumstances, the water even gets hotter than the asphalt.”
A third alternative uses a thermo-electric effect to generate a small but usable amount of electricity. When two types of semiconductors are connected to form a circuit linking a hot and a cold spot, there is a small amount of electricity generated in the circuit.
URI Chemistry Professor Sze Yang believes that thermo-electric materials could be embedded in the roadway at different depths – or some could be in sunny areas and others in shade – and the difference in temperature between the materials would generate an electric current. With many of these systems installed in parallel, enough electricity could be generated to defrost roadways or be used for other purposes. Instead of the traditional semiconductors, he proposes to use a family of organic polymeric semiconductors developed at his laboratory that can be fabricated inexpensively as plastic sheets or painted on a flexible plastic sheet.
“This is a somewhat futuristic idea, since there isn’t any practical device on the market for doing this, but it has been demonstrated to work in a laboratory,” said Yang. “With enough additional research, I think it can be implemented in the field.”
Perhaps the most futuristic idea the URI team has considered is to completely replace asphalt roadways with roadways made of large, durable electronic blocks that contain photovoltaic cells, LED lights and sensors. The blocks can generate electricity, illuminate the roadway lanes in interchangeable configurations, and provide early warning of the need for maintenance.
According to Lee, the technology for this concept exists, but it is extremely expensive. He said that one group in Idaho made a driveway from prototypes of these blocks, and it cost about $100,000. Lee envisions that corporate parking lots may become the first users of this technology before they become practical and economical for roadway use.
“This kind of advanced technology will take time to be accepted by the transportation industries,” Lee said. “But we’ve been using asphalt for our highways for more than 100 years, and pretty soon it will be time for a change.”]]>