Also participating was mechanical engineering Professor Bahram Nassersharif. He too had been challenged by the president and was happy to comply.
The professor and the deans challenged Provost Donald DeHayes and his staff to take part as well.
To learn more about ALS or donate, visit the ALS Association.
Amtrol, West Warwick, RI.
Amgen, West Greenwich, RI
Advanced Interconnections, West Greenwich, RI
A.T. Cross, Lincoln, RI
L.L. Bean distribution center, Freeport, ME
Pratt & Whitney, Hartford, CT
Rogers Corporation, Rogers, CT
Slater Mill, Pawtucket, RI
Staples fulfillment center, Putnam, CT
Baku State University, Azerbajan
Bishop Hendricken, RI
Bristol High, RI
Chariho High School, RI
Classical High School, RI
Cumberland High, RI
East Greenwich High School, RI
East Providence High School, RI
Holbrook High School, MA
LaSalle Academy, RI
Middletown High School, RI
Milford High School, MA
Narragansett High School, RI
|Needham High School, MA
North Kingstown High School, RI
Old Rochester Regional High School, MA
Parkmont High, DC
Pilgrim High School, RI
Ponagansett High School, RI
Providence College, RI
Robert College, Turkey
Roots College International, Pakistan
Saratoga High School, RL
South Kingstown High School, RI
St. George’s School, RI
The MET School, RI
The Prout School, RI
Westerly High School, RI
Mechanical engineering student Mike Pinto combines his passion for planes with cutting-edge research in composite materials that will allow the next generation of aircraft to travel farther on less fuel.
Mike Pinto grew up making model airplanes with his brothers. Years later, he’s studying composite materials at the University of Rhode Island in hopes of parlaying the innovative research into a new generation of real aircraft.
The mechanical engineering Ph.D. student from Milford, Mass. is exploring composite materials under extreme environments using equipment and expertise unavailable anywhere else. Cameras here can record explosions at hundreds of thousands of frames per second, allowing researchers to see a literal blow-by-blow replay of a blast and its impact on a composite material. A 2,000-gallon pressure vessel provides the opportunity to study real underwater explosions rather than merely simulate them.
“There’s nowhere else in the country where I can do this type of research right now,” Pinto, 23, says.
For companies like Boeing, the research is crucial to their future. Boeing’s latest plane, the 777 Dreamliner, relies on lightweight composite materials for most of its body. Rival Airbus’s A350 XWB also extensively depends on composites. Both aircraft makers hope to improve quality and save airlines money by building planes that are lighter and fly father on less fuel.
Pinto wants to be part of the team that develops the next generation of aircraft that depend on composite materials. To get there, Pinto is looking not at the sky but deep underwater.
Using the College of Engineering’s pressure vessel, Pinto spends his days creating underwater explosions and implosions, essentially the opposite of an explosion. The work offers unique insights into how materials hold up under extreme environments. The knowledge is transferable to planes flying high above the ground that also face high pressures and extreme forces. Plus, Pinto says it’s fun work that offers a chance to break ground.
“There’s so much that can be done with composites,” he says. “Most of the work that’s been done in industry has been trial and error. That doesn’t lead to good design processes.”
Pinto arrived at the University of Rhode Island with a bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. At UMass, he studied under Vijaya Chalivendra, a former student of URI mechanical engineering Professor Arun Shukla, Pinto’s doctoral adviser.
Pinto says at URI he’s been blown away by the access to the pressure vessel, super high-speed cameras and Shukla’s decades of expertise. The son of two schoolteachers, Pinto says his time in Kingston fulfils his passion to leverage math and physics to solve problems.
He’s also sought to solve problems outside of the classroom. Through a local martial arts school, Pinto raised money to provide breakfast to low-income children in Rhode Island. His troupe routinely performs demonstrations at fundraisers and Pinto is always encouraging donations for local food banks.
On a lighter note, he’s taken up cooking and on a quest for the perfect scone.
Why do it all?
“The more challenging the project, the better,” Pinto says.]]>
Raw sewage from the school no longer flows into a nearby river. Instead, the waste works its way through a filtration system made of local materials and not dependent on electricity, which is unreliable in the remote village high in the mountains of northwest Guatemala.
Various teams of students spent school years designing the system under the guidance of civil and environmental engineering Associate Professor Vinka Oyanedel-Craver. In the summers, they traveled to Guatemala to assist with construction and teach residents how to maintain the system. They arrived at the urging of the Ixtatán Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit that supports education projects in developing nations and asked URI to tackle the wastewater project in San Mateo.
“In the United States there are few times where engineers do a project and have such a close interaction with the beneficiaries,” Oyanedel-Craver says. “With this project, the students saw that engineering impacts people. It’s not just a paper you sign and submit.”
This year, the professor brought five students to the country: Louis Barone of North Providence, R.I., Jessica Damicis of Richmond, R.I., Max Grabinski of Williston Park, N.Y., Andy Shepard of Simsbury, Conn. and Joshua Wolf of South Easton, Mass. All are pursuing degrees in civil and environmental engineering except Wolf, who is a mechanical engineering student.
This year’s team had the satisfaction of completing the project, but not without a moment of panic.
The students spent the previous year designing a secondary filtration system dependent on local sand. Low cost and easy to maintain, the system would remove organic material and bacteria, and prepare the water for reuse in agriculture. When students arrived in San Mateo and opened the bags of sand, they were rock solid. Lime had mixed with water and made the sand unusable.
Far from the resources of a college campus and nowhere near a home-improvement store, the students improvised. They realized that stones could substitute for sand. They drew up new plans, procured stones, and turned a wooden garbage bin and section of wire fencing into a rudimentary gravel sieve.
“I don’t think any of us is the kind of person that would give up that easy,” Damicis says, who first visited the village in 2011. “It was exciting to have a challenge.”
It turned out to be a physical challenge and well as mental exercise. The stones that arrived on a flatbed truck were all different sizes. Students sifted through them, bagged them and lugged them up a hill to the worksite.
“Coming in freshman year I definitely didn’t see myself lugging rocks up a hill in Central America,” Barone says. “I thought it was cool to have that experience. There wasn’t a moment when I thought, ‘What did I get myself into?’”
At the worksite, students spent two weeks mixing concrete and arranging pipes to complete the trickling filter. Local residents and Stephen Andrus, a project manager at GZA GeoEnvironmental Technologies in Providence, R.I., assisted.
As the system neared competition, Damicis taught local high school students about its operation, a task she excelled at thanks to her fluent Spanish. Damicis is simultaneously pursuing a Spanish degree and an engineering degree as part of the University’s International Engineering Program, which includes a year studying and interning abroad.
Damicis says the program and her most recent visit to Guatemala inspired her to look at engineering from a global perspective. Moreover, it’s given her new view of different cultures and the challenges facing developing nations.
“San Mateo gave me a lot more appreciation about the physical labor that goes into these projects,” she says. “A lot of the stuff that works on paper doesn’t always work in the real world.”]]>