Alumni Newsletter - Summer 2008

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CU Engineering Students 'Strut Their Stuff' at End-of-Year Competitions

Creativity abounds at Design Expo

Solar-Thermal Biomass Conversion Shows Promise for Generating Sustainable Fuel

Fuel from concentrated sunlight

CU Engineering Students 'Strut Their Stuff' at End-of-Year Competitions

Students finished the spring semester with a flurry, showcasing their skills and creativity at the end-of-year Design Expo and competing in various events across the country. More than 430 students displayed their inventions at the largest-ever Design Expo in the ITL Laboratory on April 26, 2008.

Rube Goldberg devices, a prosthetic hand, solar-powered products, hovercrafts, and a bicycle-powered water pump (top photo at left) were among the projects. The People's Choice Award went to mechanical engineering seniors who designed a rotational putter pendulum that closely resembles the putter stroke of a skilled golfer.

CU aerospace engineering students posted their best-ever performance in the AIAA's annual Design-Build-Fly competition in Wichita, Kansas. The "DBF" team's aircraft (middle photo) finished fifth out of 68 entries in the 12th annual event, which challenges students to design, build, and fly a radio-controlled aircraft, awarding points based on a design report as well as performance on a mission designed to test accuracy and efficiency in flight.

Mechanical engineering students, meanwhile, entered two national races this year. Buff Racing finished in the upper quartile at the highly competitive Formula SAE race in Michigan, while a second team designed and built an ultra low-mileage vehicle (bottom photo) to compete in the Shell Eco-Marathon at the California Speedway for the very first time.

Solar-Thermal Biomass Conversion Shows Promise for Generating Sustainable Fuel

Chemical engineering professor Alan Weimer and his students are getting a lot of attention these days ― not to mention research support ― for their work using concentrated sunlight to generate sustainable fuel. "Team Weimer" was awarded $1 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Energy to develop rapid solar-thermal chemical reactor systems for the conversion of biomass material to synthesis gas. The intermediate "syngas" can then be converted easily into hydrogen or liquid fuels through known technology.

The grant supports CU-Boulder as well as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Colorado State University, which are collaborators in the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, or C2B2. NREL will provide a high-flux solar furnace for the research, and CSU will study switchgrass growth and supply quantities of the tall prairie grass to CU-Boulder for the conversion.

Weimer envisions a totally renewable technology in which a significant fraction of the nation's fuel supply is provided using solar-thermal processing in marginal lands where the farming of crops like switchgrass and algae can provide the needed biomass. "Since the process is driven by sunlight and converts biomass to fuels, the end result is a process that is carbon negative," he says. "This provides an opportunity to substantially reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere without impacting the food supply."

CU Alumnus Co-Founds 'Domino Award' to Inspire and Support Students

"Did you know that in a topple of only nine dominoes, it's possible to knock over a domino 15,000 times the mass of the first domino? And, when the last domino falls, it will have more than 2 million times the energy of the first?" ―CU alumnus Herb Morreale (CompSci '91)

CU computer science students John French, Kelly Anne Shuster and Alan Versteeg were selected to receive the 2008 Domino Award, a $500 award co-founded by CU alumnus Herb Morreale and Professor Clayton Lewis to inspire and support today's students.

The winners were selected for their essays describing how the actions of one person in the field of computer science set in motion a series of dominoes that changed the world. "All it takes is one small strategic action to set big things in motion!" says Morreale, who is pictured at right starting a 1,200-piece domino topple at this year's ceremony.

Bill Coleman, CEO of Cassatt Corp. and the founding donor of the CU Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, helped present the awards.

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