ASU team continues upward climb in automotive engineering competition

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in Organizations and Teams, Students |

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The Sun Devil Motorsports team spent most of the past year designing and building the race car that team members took to this summer’s international Formula SAE competition. Photographer: Alexander Nie/ASU


The team that Arizona State University’s chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers sent this summer to the most prominent international student race car design and performance competition showed vast improvement over the previous year.

The Sun Devil Motorsports team of about 30 students — most of them in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering — scored 375.5 points in the Formula SAE event in Lincoln, Nebraska. That tripled the score achieved by the 2016 team, and came up only 4.7 points shy of the best score yet by an ASU team in a few dozen Formula SAE competitions since the mid-1990s.

This year’s score put the squad in 40th place among the 80 or so college and university teams that participated in the event, a result that was a jump of 20 places over last summer’s performance.

“We are building momentum,” says Troy Buhr, who captained this year’s team. “We’ve laid a foundation to build on what we’ve learned through each of the past years’ competitions, and we are staying aggressive.”

The team’s car was evaluated on design, engineering, costs, driving performance, endurance and more — including a business plan. Photographer: Alexander Nie/ASU

In the competition, cars are evaluated on technical details and cost analysis. Teams submit to judges an in-depth evaluation of the engineering principles that guided the design and building of the car.

Teams also give a sales presentation requiring them to make the case for how mass production of their vehicle could be a viable business venture.

Cars are judged further on their performance in acceleration, aerodynamics, braking, general driving stability, overall efficiency and endurance. They’re driven on an autocross run, a timed competition requiring drivers to navigate a track designed to test the vehicle’s responsiveness and road-handling capabilities.

Buhr graduated this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Fulton Schools and is now working for Ford Motor Company in Michigan. He will be succeeded as captain of ASU’s Formula SAE team by William Craig, a junior electrical systems engineering major.

Buhr leaves the role confident the team will build on its recent progress.

“They will continue to improve. I believe the team could easily score 500-plus points in 2018 and move up another 20 or more places,” he says. “They have the leadership and the knowledge to do that.”

Interested in joining the team? Learn more about Sun Devil Motorsports and the Formula SAE team.

ASU’s Formula SAE team poses with its race car during the competition in Lincoln, Nebraska. Photographer: Alexander Nie/ASU


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Earning the gold: IISE chapter recognized for outstanding service to students

Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 in Students |

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IISE chapter

Some of the officers of ASU’s chapter of the Institute of Industrial & and Systems Engineers attended the national organization’s annual Western Regional Conference hosted by Oregon State University earlier this year. From left to right are Fulton Schools industrial engineering students Lewis Ruskin, Kelly Wilmink, Monica Kiilehua, Alejandra Casas, Rebecca Mercer and Erin Glavin. Photograph courtesy of IISE ASU chapter.


The Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers has awarded Gold Status to its Arizona State University chapter for what the student group has done to benefit its members over the past year.

During the 2016–2017 academic year, the chapter’s leadership has organized career-fair preparation sessions, with industry professionals and faculty members on hand to evaluate students’ résumés.

Students were also connected with résumé and job interview preparation services offered by the Fulton Schools Career Center.

Chapter luncheon events helped to build relations between students and faculty.

“One of our members found his thesis director through our spring luncheon,” says the chapter’s new president Monica Kiilehua, a senior in ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College and an industrial engineering major.

The group, with more than 70 members — 30 of whom are members of national IISE — also partnered with the ASU student chapter of the Supply Chain Management Association and GE Healthcare to host a workshop focused on “lean manufacturing.”

After the workshop, a number of students “were able to apply lean manufacturing principles in their class projects and internships,” Kiilehua says.

The chapter provided 17 members scholarships to cover fees to become members of the national IISE, sent six members to the national organization’s Western Regional Conference and three to the Annual National Conference, where they participated in a student engineering design competition.

At the conference, strong relationships were built with chapters at the University of Arizona and Oregon State University, and with IISE leaders with the Intel Corporation and other engineering and technology companies, Kiilehua says.

The group also made progress on plans to launch a high school outreach program this year, organize tours of industry centers and host social events.

The Gold Status award confirms “that ASU has an active and healthy IISE chapter,” Kiilehua says.

IISE, an international nonprofit association, is the world’s largest professional society dedicated to the support of the profession by providing leadership for education, training and research in industrial and systems engineering, as well as the development and application of those branches of engineering.

The ASU chapter’s accomplishments “have been a team effort, the entire leadership team deserves the credit,” says Daniel McCarville, a Fulton Schools industrial engineering and engineering management professor of practice who has been the student organization’s faculty advisor for the past three years.

The group’s 2016–2017 academic year officers were Kiilehua (treasurer), and other industrial engineering majors Erin Glavin (president), Lewis Ruskin (vice president), Rebecca Mercer (secretary), Alejandra Casas (membership director) and Kelly Wilmink (fundraising director).

Fulton Schools Professor Feng Ju becomes the chapter’s faculty advisor in August.

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Radio quiz show appearance caps off spring graduate’s senior year

Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Students |

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Frea Mehta spent the past five years as an engineering and science student in ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College — including a semester studying abroad in Singapore and two summer research internships in Germany.

ASU engineering graduate on NPR show

Recent Fulton Schools graduate Frea Mehta came oh-so-close to being the winning contestant on a popular National Public Radio program.

She did more research for her honors thesis project during almost two years exploring aspects of stem cell biology under the mentorship of David Brafman, a Fulton Schools assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

Mehta graduated this spring with degrees in chemical engineering and molecular biology — just a few weeks after receiving a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to spend most of the next year in a research program at Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

Then she plans to head to the Boston area, where she has been accepted into the biomedical engineering doctoral degree program at Tufts University.

Along with those impressive accomplishments, Mehta also got the opportunity to bring all the education she has attained in her successful undergraduate years to tests of her knowledge of words that start with the prefix “re,” “Things With Wings,” and names and phrases containing letters and words that describe modes of transportation.

That challenge came by way of her appearance a few weeks before graduation on the popular National Public Radio program “Ask Me Another,” a quiz show of puzzles, word games and trivia, mixed with humor and music.

A fan of the program and its “house musician,” singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton, Mehta said she just happened to tune into local NPR affiliate station KJZZ during an announcement that the Brooklyn, New York-based production was coming to Arizona to record a show at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix.

ASU engineering student on NPR show

Mehta posed for this photograph on a hill overlooking a castle in Bavaria, Germany during one of her summer research internships. Alas, her knowledge of science and engineering was of little help on the “Ask Me Another” quiz show.

She later went onto the program’s website to buy tickets and noticed the link to apply for a chance to appear on the show that’s taped before a live audience.

The application consisted of “questions about popular culture and games similar to the kinds of things they have on the show,” Mehta recalls. “If I didn’t know something, I just made a silly joke. I guess they liked my funny answers.”

She was contacted within a few days and invited to be a contestant.

“Things were very casual,” she says of the production. “They told us to come an hour before the show to run over the rules. They reminded us that we were going to be on public radio, so no swearing or saying anything crazy.”

Still, she says, “being on stage in front of a lot of people was nerve-racking.”

Nevertheless, Mehta made it through two quiz rounds to become one of the two contestants in the final round.

She came in second when she couldn’t answer a question about the name of a long-running television music show whose name contained a mode of transportation. (It was “Soul Train.”)

In banter with the show’s hosts, however, she did get to tell the story of the time she accidently stumbled and did a “face plant” into an exhibit of the Declaration of Independence during a high school trip to the nation’s capital city.

And she got a chance to explain a bit about the biological engineering work she will be doing in her Fulbright Scholarship project with one of the world’s leading researchers involved in developing artificial meat in the laboratory.

You can listen to Mehta’s national radio debut on the recording of the April 28 broadcast of “Ask Me Another” on the NPR website.















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Health protection, musical-instrument sustainability combine in student’s award-winning project

Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Students |

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Photograph courtesy of Ahwatukee Foothills News.

Fulton Schools electrical engineering student Rachel Rhoades’ ingenuity recently earned her the highest honor bestowed by the Girls Scouts.

A former long-time Girl Scout and marching band musician, the freshman undertook a “music-hygiene” project for the band at the high school from which she graduated.

Her efforts to help protect the health of band members and teach them how to keep their expensive instruments in good working condition brought her the much sought-after Girl Scout Gold Award.

The full story is published in her hometown newspaper, the Ahwatukee Foothills News.

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Concrete Canoe team endeavors cast these Fulton Schools alums off on rewarding journey

Posted by on Mar 31, 2017 in Alumni |

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concrete canoe compeitition, civil engineering competition

The concrete canoe that engineers Rene Bermudez and Yuliana Armenta helped to design and build nine years ago at ASU is on display in the front yard of their home. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU


It’s not difficult for Yuliana Armenta and Rene Bermudez to pinpoint their most pivotal experience during the time they spent earning degrees in civil engineering at Arizona State University.

They say much of the best of what they got out of their undergraduate years — and what helped put them on course to start careers in engineering — sprung from their work to design and build a canoe.

In this case, a watercraft made of concrete.

Bermudez was captain and project manager, and Armenta was a co-captain, on the team that entered the American Society of Civil Engineers annual student Concrete Canoe Competition in 2008.

Making a canoe out of concrete and putting it through competitive performance tests (a race, a presentation, a technical report and a display) challenges students to demonstrate their mastery of basic engineering skills.

Armenta recalls that in the weeks leading up to the competition, “We fell in love with the project and ended up spending more time working on the canoe than on class work.”

It was her first year on the team. Bermudez had been on the teams in the previous three years. Each time, the ASU squad’s canoe broke in half during the competition.

He took on the leadership role on the 2008 team because he was on a mission.

“I had learned a lot in those three years and I knew I could help build a canoe that was not going to crack,” he says.

At the competition that spring hosted by California State University, Northridge, the canoe did not crack. Going up against teams from the 18 other universities in the ASCE’s Pacific Southwest Conference, ASU’s team finished fourth overall. It was at the time the best performance ever by an ASU team.

The 2008 canoe is special for other reasons.

As the team was working on it, Bermudez found out his mother had breast cancer.

The team — for which Armenta had been deemed the “aesthetics engineer” — then decided to name the canoe “Breastroke,” and put on it the pink ribbon logo associated with breast cancer awareness efforts.

The slogan for the canoe project became “Fighting Cancer with the Strength of Concrete.” The team even displayed the boat as part of a local fundraising event put on by a national breast cancer organization.

Other good things came out of the experience.

“We had great teammates. They are still some of our best friends,” says Bermudez.

He and Armenta also say their various duties on the project — finding industry sponsors, raising funds, leadership and management roles — gave them the contacts, connections and skills that helped them get engineering jobs.

Bermudez says that the Concrete Canoe project and the year he served as president of ASU’s ASCE chapter provided him “the perfect transition from the world of academia into the world of industry.”

Armenta, likewise, says the teamwork helped to give her confidence in what she could achieve.

She now works for HDR, a large architecture and engineering consulting company, where she does site design and related work that’s necessary “to get building projects off the ground.”

She worked on the demolition plan for the company’s project to take down the old Palo Verde Main student residence complex on ASU’s Tempe campus. She had lived for a year at the original complex when she was studying at the university.

Bermudez works as a cost estimator for Haydon Building Corp., a civil engineering and construction contracting company that builds infrastructure such as highways and bridges, as well as buildings and facilities for hospitals and schools.

The Concrete Canoe team’s year-long collaboration also led to them spending a lot of time together.

They married in 2014, and moved into a house in Phoenix where they’ve since put the “Breastroke” canoe on display in the front yard.

“That canoe brought a lot of things into our life,” Bermudez says.

One of the things in their lives now is a growing family. They have a young son, soon to be four years old, plus another boy due in the fall.

Armenta and Bermudez say they would be more than pleased if one or both of the boys someday decided to become engineers.

Read related story: “Student engineering team taking “Harry Potter”-themed canoe into competition”

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