Ware Lab tours open to public

Never been to the Ware Lab for a tour? Now’s your chance. With this weekend’s Virginia Science Festival hitting campus, the Joseph F. Ware Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory will be open two days for the general public to see scores of student engineering teams, including the Formula SAE, BOLT Electric Motorcycle, Human Powered Sub, SailBOT – an autonomous sail boat, a concrete bridge team and a steel bridge team, and the Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team, the latter participating in the new EcoCAR 3.

The Ware Lab will host an open house for the general college and university communities on Friday, October 3rd, from 10 am to 6 pm. Teams will have student members in each bay to discuss current projects and plans for upcoming competitions for the 2014-15 academic year. The lab again will be open to all visitors on Saturday, from 10 am to 4 pm as part of the festival. 

“If you have never seen the Ware Lab this will be an opportunity to speak with our hard working and enthusiastic students,” said Dewey Spangler, manager of the Ware Lab. “If you have been here before this would be a good time to catch up on the exciting things going on in the lab.”

Since 1998, the Ware Lab has served as the center for senior design for Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, with teams representing the mechanical, civil, electrical and computer, mining, aerospace and ocean engineering departments. The lab is located in front of the Virginia Tech power plant — look for the very tall brick chimney on campus — at 320 Stanger Street, directly across from Kelly Hall.

PICTURED: The Virginia Tech Baja team – a long-time presence at the Ware Lab – spent a part of Tuesday afternoon prepping for a weekend competition event in Louisville, Kentucky.

Photo/words by Steven Mackay, Virginia Tech College of Engineering


Aerospace and Ocean Engineering meeting space to get major overhaul in Randolph Hall


We’re mighty proud of the new Signature Engineering Building, which opened this week after nearly there years of construction. Among College of Engineering faculty and staff, we’re sharing and posting photos of the new building during the first week of classes as if they were grand baby photos.

But we’re also looking ahead to future building and renovation projects, among them, an overhaul of Holden Hall, which dates back to 1940.

At nearby Randolph Hall, built in stages from 1952-1959, the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering is renovating its large Room 217, which held offices, a design lab, and meeting space, turning it into the AOE Studio for Design Innovation, ASDI@VT for short. With some faculty heading the Signature Engineering Building, the student design studio portion of the suite will more than double.

Demolition of the old space is expected to start next week. Among the additions to the space will be new meeting areas and a trophy case to highlight student achievements.

Fairfax, Virginia-based architect firm Dewberry handled the design of the $900,000 project. Work is expected to finish around December. The project is funded by an engineering fee paid by AOE students.

“The renovation will be used to support three capstone design courses: Aircraft Design, Ship Design, and Spacecraft Design,” said Eric Paterson, AOE department head. “Particular focus is on collaborative design with industry and international partners. As such, we have focused on technology enabled spaces for teams of five to eight students.”

The area also will include engineering workstations and general discussion areas.

— Steven Mackay, Virginia Tech College of Engineering

PHOTOS: Above, a design concept of the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering’s new AOE Studio for Design Innovation, to be built inside Room 217 at Randolph Hall. Below, some current images of the room, and more design images from Fairfax, Virginia-based architect firm Dewberry.




Virginia Tech hosts hockey STAR helmet testing summit


BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA. Earlier today, Virginia Tech researchers met with industry members, scientists, and manufacturers of hockey helmets and the hockey sport as the university prepares for the fall 2014 debut release of its new Hockey STAR safety ratings. Following 10 years safety ratings for football helmets on both the professional and youth levels, the new Virginia tech-led ratings are being deigned to guide consumer choice of head protection worn by professional and youth hockey players. The 4-hour session included a breakdown of methodology research behind the forthcoming rankings, led by Stefan Duma, professor and biomedical engineering department head, and Steve Rowson, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, both within the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. A question and answer session followed. Duma and Rowson will use feedback from the session as they finalize research. Work into the ratings thus far has involved two years of lab and on-location rink testing and analysis. In the above image, Duma shows session attendees helmet testing machinery at his Kelly Hall lab. More information on the event can be found via Virginia Tech News.

OcEaNA 2014 inspires student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics

A group of 20 rising 7th and 8th graders from across Virginia participated in the July 7-11 OcEaNA – that’s short for Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture — 2014 STEM Camp, building SeaPerch underwater robots and participating in several engineering design challenges such as building mars(hmallow) landers to paper oil rigs to ice-cube penguin habitats. The camp was hosted by the Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s Hampton Roads facility, and led by Leigh McCue-Weil, an associate professor in the Department of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. Campers and counselors greatly also enjoyed a field trip to the U.S. Combat Direction Systems Activity, Dam Neck. The CDSA is located in Virginia Beach and is part of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, which provides fleet engineering solutions to improve readiness. In the above PHOTO, middle school students Joycie Hagan (center), from An Achievable Dream in Newport News, Virginia, and Sarah Liu (far left), Grafton Middle School, Yorktown, Virginia, keep a watchful eye on a pressure chamber as U.S. Navy engineer Ted Schindler demonstrates the effects of pressure on their decorated marshmallows and other items. The marshmallows were sucked down to a tiny size inside a vacuum chamber. OcEaNA is designed to boost student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through practical, hands-on learning. (Photo courtesy Taammy Van Dame, U.S. Navy.) 

College of Engineering’s RASC-AL team wins First at 2014 RASC-AL design competition


The Virginia Tech College of Engineering’s RASC-AL team won First Place honors at the 2014 RASC-AL – that’s short for Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage – Human Scale Architecture and Systems Competition, held in late June in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

The team – comprised of aerospace engineering students – won top spots in theme (Human Assisted Sample Return), the undergraduate division, and for the overall event itself.

The event is sponsored by NASA and the National Institute of Aerospace. Serving as faculty advisor is Kevin Shinpaugh, an adjunct faculty member with the College of Engineering and director of the Virginia Bioinfomatics Institute’s Information Technology and Computing Services. 

(In a bit of competition among teams outside of exploration, Virginia Tech also took the top spot in a series of beach volleyball matches.)

Earlier this month at a RASC-AL robotics competition, the college’s Robo-Ops team placed Third with its rover Animus at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

IMAGE: Kevin Shinpaugh (left) and winning students pose in Cocoa Beach, Fla.

College of Engineering student team to debut new electric motorcycle at New Jersey race


A Virginia Tech College of Engineering student team this weekend will publicly debut its new self-built electric-powered motorcycle at a race in New Jersey.

The Battery Operated Land Transportation (BOLT) team of Virginia Tech will compete in the latest eMotoRacing Series event at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey, part of an international effort dedicated to zero-emission motorcycle racing. Virginia Tech is the only university team in the series, squaring off against professional racers and motorcycle enthusiasts in the public race.

The motorcycle is a rebuilt 2004 Suzuki GXR-1000. The bike – starting at roughly 400 pounds – was stripped down to a rolling frame with the gas motor and exhaust system ousted for a battery pack system for power and an electric motor. The braking system was spiffed up and a new cooling system also was installed. The bike – painted in Virginia Tech colors of orange and maroon, along with white – now weighs roughly 535 pounds, under the 600–pound weight limit set by race series organizers.

The public race takes place this weekend, July 11-13, with multiple rounds. The team’s goal for this weekend is not to win, but test the bike’s power for a short, fast run. The team wants a bike that can deliver top speed in a short distance and time frame versus a street electric motorcycle – Harley Davidson recently introduced a new highway model, a company first – that would be designed for the greatest distance possible and comfort.

“We want to compete in both sprints so we can return home and make improvements,” said team leader Kyle Harvey of Erie, Pennsylvania, and a senior in the Virginia Tech Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “We want to optimize power delivery.”

The New Jersey race marks the first time the motorcycle will be raced competitively on the track. A stationary performance test put it at a top speed, thus far, of 170 miles per hour. An alumnus of the College of Engineering and former member of the BOLT team will race the bike in New Jersey, said Harvey.

Data will analyzed post-race and used by the 25-member team to improve the bike’s performance during the next academic year and leading up to future competitive races. “Our goal is to transmit the energy from the battery pack to the pavement as efficiently as possible over the length of one race,” said Harvey.

This is the second fully electric racing motorcycle built by Virginia Tech students. The first BOLT bike in 2012 competed in several races of the North American TTXGP eGrandPrIx competition, finishing as the fastest 75-class bike in the western hemisphere. The TTXGP eGrandPrIx has since shifted owners and names to become the eMotorRacing Series.

As with the previous bike, the BOLT team has been helped with support financially and with bike components from a variety of sponsors, including the Virginia Tech Student Engineers’ Council, Lockheed Martin, and Radford, Virginia-based Kollmorgen, which has supported the BOLT team for several years and has hired several team members post-graduation. Collision Plus, based in Blacksburg, painted the bike as well.

The team is based in the Joseph F. Ware Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory (https://www.eng.vt.edu/warelab).

Follow the team at their blog or on Facebook.

—Words/Photo by Steven Mackay / Virginia Tech College of Engineering

IN THE PHOTO: Battery Operated Land Transportation (BOLT) team members Joseph F. Ware Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory team members, left to right, Kyle Harvey of Erie, Pennsylvania, and Eddie Nieves of Little Falls, New Jersey, both seniors in electrical and computer engineering, ready their electric motorcycle inside the Joseph F. Ware Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory.

Advice from Paul Torgersen on his last day of teaching at Virginia Tech


(Pictured: Paul Torgersen posing and talking with students after his final class Theory of Organization on 7 May 2014. Students and faculty wore shirts printed with lessons they learned from the professor with 56 years of experience at head of the classroom.)

This has been a bittersweet May thus far for Virginia Tech. As we prepare to see Charles W. Steger retire as president of the university after 14 years in the role, and welcome Dr. Timothy Sands as our new president, Paul Torgersen – head of industrial engineering (1967-70), dean of engineering (1970-90), president of the Corporate Research Center (1990-94), and university president (1994-2000) – taught his final class to packed room Wednesday, answered by applause, and students (and faculty and staff) lining up to shake his hand, get an autograph, and take photographs on cell phones.

His last official lecture – save for a guest appearance one day down the road – focused on life lessons, not just engineering. It is well timed as thousands of undergraduates will walk next week, leaving Virginia Tech as alumni.

We grabbed a copy of his notes from the class, Theory of Organization. We expect to soon post the video of the lecture soon. As well, Roanoke’s CBS affiliate WBDJ has posted a video news story on Torgersen’s last day in the classroom and his eternal dedication to education.

 From the pen of Paul Torgersen: “Some advice”:

 Learn to communicate well.

            Written – Construct an outline before you begin writing.

            Speaking – Speak from an outline rather than reading from a script. “Of all the talents bestowed upon men, none is more precious than the gift of oratory” — Winston Churchill

Practice management by walking around and then be a listener

            “The average person suffers from three delusions:  (1) That he is a good driver, (2) That he has a good sense of humor, and (3) That he is a good listener” —Steven Sample

Thank people and congratulate people, preferably in writing.

Beware of arrogance: Recall the department head who couldn’t return phone calls in Sample’s text.

Planning is necessary but be opportunistic: Take advantage of unexpected opportunities (e.g., The VT PC initiative).

Don’t be petty and resist the temptation to get even: Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton from “The Man with the Blue Umbrella.”

Assume there are no secrets, e.g., salaries, personal life, etc. Live as if you resided in a glass house.

“Fortune (i.e., luck) plays the greatest role in determining the success of any leader and fortune favors the bold.”        —Niccolo Machiavelli

The third occasion for decision can significantly impact the organization:

            (e.g., Branch Rickey’s decision to integrate baseball)

            And on occasion don’t ask permission, just do it (Stuart Cassell’s golf course).

Your most critical decisions are the hiring, nurturing and firing of lieutenants. Then work for those who work for you. — Steven Sample

Make an effort to develop a sense of humor

            No one likes a grump, except possibly other grumps.

            In speaking, “manage people’s attention with humor.” — Steven Sample

“We have all drunk from wells we did not dig. We have all been warmed by fires we did not build.” — Mary Miller

Enjoy your blessings and be thankful: If, across the world, individuals and their blessings were arranged from the most to the least, everyone in this class would be in the top 1 percent.

You have an obligation to help the less fortunate.

To Dr. Torgersen, we offer our unending thanks. Ut Prosim. And, to borrow another Latin phrase, excelsior, sir!

Engineering students win Virginia Outdoor Writers Association awards, in writing and photography


Two Virginia Tech College of Engineering students captured top awards at the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association’s Dominion 2013-2014 Annual Collegiate Undergraduate Writing /Photo Contest.

The association honored the students at its annual meeting/conference in Charlottesville.

VOWA/Dominion Collegiate Contest Winner Victor Harangozo of Haymarket, Va., and a freshmen in general engineering, was awarded a cash prize by Dominion. His winning essay, “Mr. Crabs,” recounts a day of hunting for a trophy deer. His essay also won the Cooperative Living magazine Award, given by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives for the best entry related to Virginia.


Above, Harangozo (yellow shirt) accepts his award.

This award includes an additional cash prize and publication in the Cooperative Living. The theme for this year’s writing contest was a memorable outdoor experience or special interest.

“Spending so much of my time alone in the wilderness has made me who I am today,” said Harangozo, who wants to continue writing and “travel the world sharing my stories with those who don’t have the same opportunities.”

In a new category sponsored by Hunt’s Photo and Video, Sara Fleetwood, a junior majoring in materials science and engineering won the VOWA/Hunt’s Best Outdoor Photo Award. Her image, “Castle Rocks,” was taken at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. (The winning photograph is at top of story.)


Sara (pictured above) received a gift certificate from Hunt’s. She enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, caving, and photography. Her goals include using her engineering skills at a biometric materials or outdoor gear company.

A lunch, with Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Joseph Ward in attendance, honoring the winners was sponsored by Dominion Power. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also published the winning entries in The Outdoor Report.

 —Copy courtesy Virginia Outdoor Writers Association, edited for clarity and length.

Virginia Tech to host Society of Women Engineers’ Mid-Atlantic Region conference this weekend


The Virginia Tech section of the Society of Women Engineers will host the organization’s Mid-Atlantic Region conference March 28-30 at the Inn at Virginia Tech.

More than 250 people registered for the conference, including students and professionals from Virginia to New York, according to Peggy Layne, an organizer of the event and director of AdvanceVT and faculty project’s with the university’s provost’s office.

Slated for the weekend event: A networking reception in the Hillcrest Dining Hall on Friday evening. On Saturday, Richard C. Benson, dean of the College of Engineering, will welcome guests on Saturday morning.

Lunch speaker will be Amy Elliott, a new doctoral graduate of the college’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Dinner keynote speaker will be Linsey Marr (pictured above), professor of civil and environmental engineering. Workshops and various sessions and meetings will be held throughout the day.

Registration is closed for attendees who plan to eat at both meals, but the talks are open to the public for those who wish to hear Elliott or Marr.

Elliott, of Fayetteville, Tenn., was one of 10 contestants on the new Discovery Channel reality television competition show “Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius,” which focuses on using logic and design to crack different engineering-related challenges each week. She finished second on the show which aired in spring 2013. In fall 2013, she gave spoke at TEDxVirginiaTech.

Marr’s research areas focus on the transformation and fate of pollutants in the atmosphere, improved quantification of air pollutant emissions, environmental and health impacts of engineered nanoparticles, and airborne transmission of infectious diseases. This past year, Marr received a $2.28 million National Institutes of Health New Innovator Award in support of her research on influenza transmission by bioaerosols.

Several national leaders of the society will be in attendance, said Layne.

More info 




HEVT to co-host ‘green’ car event in Roanoke next weekend


Words by Steven Mackay / College of Engineering

In another great example of Virginia Tech students bettering the world as they Invent the Future, our College of Engineering’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team (HEVT) is teaming with Virginia Clean Cities to host Innovation Under the Hood, Roanoke’s green car show on 29 March.

The 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. event will take place at the roof of the parking garage at Church Avenue and 1st Street in downtown Roanoke, Va. (In the event of inclement weather, and it *is* supposed to snow this week, so you never know, the event will move to a lower level of the garage that has also been reserved.

HEVT member and spokesman Chris Bonelli, a communication major from Mechanicsville, Va., says the alternative fuel vehicle car show will feature the latest hybrid and electric vehicle models on the market. Members of HEVT, gearing up for the final Phase 3 of the North American EcoCAR 2 challenge, will be on hand with their two hybrid electric competition cars.

“We will mostly just be displaying vehicles at the event with trunks and hoods open,” he said. “Near the end of the event we may offer rides around the garage, but that depends on the crowds.”

The show will give the Roanoke community the opportunity to compare these new makes and models side-by-side, according to organizers. The event is intended to raise awareness of advanced vehicle technologies and increase buyer consideration of alternative fuel vehicles.

Virginia Clean Cities will bring a compressed natural gas vehicle as well as a solar-powered generator to display. An official program, with Roanoke city officials invited, will begin at 11 a.m.

All Roanoke area car dealerships and Roanoke/New River Valley community members are welcome to bring their alternative fuel vehicles to showcase at the event, said Bonelli. (Those bringing vehicles to showcase should plan to arrive between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Saturday.)

For more on the “Innovation Under the Hood” event, visit the groups’ Facebook event page. For event logistics, contact Josh Beckner at joshb1@vt.edu; for media inquiries, contact Bonelli at cbonelli@vt.edu.

Spring will be busy for the Hybrid Electrical Vehicle Team, whose faculty adviser is Doug Nelson, professor of mechanical engineering.

The EcoCAR competition finale begins June 1 at General Motors Milford Proving Grounds, in Milford, Mich., where more than a dozen university teams will undergo dynamic vehicle testing, with a few static events/presentations to follow. June 9 the team will travel to Washington, D.C., for final presentations, media tours and the awards ceremony taking place June 12.

In 2011, the HEVT won the first EcoCAR competition, beating out 16 other teams.