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Larry Stauffer Dean of the College of Engineering University of Idaho

Fall 2013 Issue 1

 Message from the Dean
 Women in Engieering Day
 Spinning Manure into Money
 Eco-Routing Mobil App Tracks Pedestrian Travel
 Alumni Accomplishments
 2013 College of Engineering Faculty Cohort
 New Associate Dean for Undergraduates
 Peer-Mentoring Getting Results
 Computer Science Grad Wins Stan Bates Award
 Upcoming Events

A Newsletter for Alumni and Friends


Let me begin by welcoming Chuck and Mary Beth Staben to the UI. Dr. Staben becomes the 18th president of the University of Idaho on March 1, 2014 and on behalf of the College of Engineering I want to wish Chuck and Mary Beth the very best in their transition. As you are aware, it has been a while since I have written. But that is not for a lack of things to report. As you will recall from past newsletters I have outlined three priorities for the College of Engineering as we move forward. 

First, is to increase collaborations with industry, alumni and friends of the college. Second, is to provide an exceptional experience for our undergraduate students. And third is to focus and grow our research, graduate programs, and outreach.

At the core of our priorities is a fundamental understanding that an exceptional faculty will drive the process. At the beginning of the fall semester I had the pleasure of welcoming ten new faculty to the college. I have highlighted them below and encourage you to learn more about their teaching and research contributions.

We have also hired new staff in the Dean’s office to move our priorities forward. Long-time Electrical and Computer Engineering faculty Joseph Law has joined us as Associate Dean for Undergraduates. You can read more about how Joe plans to engage with students below in a recent new release. 

I’ve also kept a busy travel schedule the past several months and have met many alumni all over the country. As I travel the accomplishments of our alumni always impresses me. For example, I recently met with Jeff Ashby, Mechanical Engineering class of '76, and 2012 Academy of Engineers inductee. Jeff is working at Blue Origin, a private spaceflight company in Seattle, to develop technologies that will provide for safe, reliable, cost-effective human access to space. Meetings like these remind me of the importance of the work being accomplished by the College of Engineering’s research centers and faculty only a fraction of which I’ve touched upon below in this newsletter.

Finally, as you may know we are in the middle of our annual Vandal Connect pledge campaign. A team of forty plus student callers representing several majors is working to contact over 78,000 U-Idaho alumni this year. In the past the College of Engineering, Dean’s Excellence Fund has greatly benefited from the contributions raised by Vandal Connect, this year callers have already received pledges upwards of $60,000. Student callers are the backbone of this campaign so if you receive a call, have a conversation with the student, find out about their Vandal experience, share yours, and remind them that their hard work is providing for our tradition of excellence.


Larry A. Stauffer, Dean



2013 Women In Engineering Rover Lander Design WinnersThe College of Engineering and the NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium Research center co-sponsored Women in Engineering (WIE) Day, November 15, 2013. Seventy-five female high school students, grades 11-12, from several states came to campus to participate in the one-day workshop designed to introduce students to career options in engineering and computer science. The WIE Day highlight featured a Rover Lander Design Challenge. Groups of 4-5 students were given the task of designing a Lego Mars rover kit model that could withstand the impact from a landing. Using a Lego kit and various other materials such as marshmallows, pipe cleaners, duct tape and bubble wrap teams had to perform a three foot drop test. Teams also made presentations explaining their concept, design and process. Each team and rover model was scored using six criteria: overall design, survivability, presentation, originality, teamwork, and rover name. The winning team, pictured below, comprised of Cheyenna McCurry (ID), Larissa Larsen (ID), Kyah Lucky (ID), and Sadie Steele (WA) designed a geometric cage made of Popsicle stick triangles. Inside they protected their "Ride Rover" with bubble wrap flooring and a bungee suspension system. Members of the winning team received an iPod shuffle for their efforts. Event organizer and judge Shandy Lam commented on the success of the event through bringing students together from different walks of life to work together on a common goal, she said, "I was astonished by what they accomplished in just a few hours."
"Ride Rover" named afterAstronaut Sally Ride. Women In Engineering 2013 winner
The "Ride Rover" Named After Astronaut Sally Ride


Researchers within the College of Engineering are working tirelessly to explore issues of critical social importance. Faculty and student researchers are examining areas as diverse and complex as cybersecurity, sustainable energy, transportation and water management. Below are a few examples of efforts currently underway.


UI Professor’s Project Turns Cow Manure into Biodegradable Plastic

A piece of plastic made by Professor Erik Coats’ research team doesn’t look particularly special. In some ways, it’s not. It’s clear and flexible like a piece of sandwich bag. Chemically, it’s similar to the plastics in everyday products like garbage bags or packaging material. But unlike the usual petroleum-based plastics, this is made from cow manure.

Dr. Coats is an associate professor of civil engineering at the University of Idaho. His research team has developed a unique system to transform manure into polyhydroxyalkanoate, or PHA, a biodegradable plastic. “We are the only research group looking to advance this technology in the United States,” Coats says.

Manure to Plastic Video Link. College of Engineering University of Idaho Research
The project is part of Dr. Coats’ overall goal to find valuable uses for municipal and agricultural waste streams – like the 250 million tons of manure America’s dairy cows produce every year. Read the complete article featuring Professor Coats' work.


Research Hopes to Reduce Traffic Congestion

Researchers from the civil engineering department have recently deployed a mobile app in their experiments to better understand the daily travel routines of individuals. Lead investigator Professor, Michael Lowry, hopes this eco-routing research will provide insights into pedestrian travel patterns to help city planners reduce traffic congestion and provide individuals opportunities to make travel decisions that reduce vehicle emissions and fuel consumption. Dr. Lowry’s work is part of a larger consortium of research being funded by the PacTrans (Pacific Northwest Transportation) and TranLIVE (Transportation for Livability by Integrating Vehicles and the Environment) University Transportation Centers at the Universities of Washington and Idaho respectively.


Dr Karen Higgins College of Engineering University of IdahoU-Idaho Engineering Alumnae and 2012 Academy of Engineers inductee, Dr. Karen Higgins has recently published a book, Financial Whirlpools: A Systems Story of the Great Global Recession. 

Dr. Karen Higgins is an adjunct professor of management at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito School of Management, Claremont Graduate University in California, where she teaches Project Management, Ethical Leadership, and Systems Thinking. She is founder and president of the management consulting business Élan Leadership Concepts. Dr. Higgins holds a BS Mathematics ’72, and an MS Electrical Engineering ’74, from the University of Idaho.

Financial Whirlpools: A Systems Story of the Great Global RecessionFinancial Whirlpools: A Systems Story of the Great Global Recession, is a systems theory approach to understanding the interdependent causes and effects of the 2008 global financial crisis. Dr. Higgins combines human psychology, cultural values, and belief formation with descriptions of the ways banks and markets succeed and fail to provide a compelling integrated view of the economy and crisis. Dr. Higgins recently gave a presentation on Financial Whirlpools at Claremont University in California.



Ten New Faculty to Carry on Our Tradition of Excellence

As I mentioned, a strong faculty are at the core of our mission to educate tomorrow’s engineers and leaders. I would like to introduce to you the College of Engineering’s 2013-14 faculty cohort. We have added faculty to strengthen our teaching, research, and outreach missions. While we have had a few retirements or departures of faculty, half of these positions are new to complement our growth. In particular is our increased focus on the growing field of cyber security. We have added two new faculty and two additional faculty will be added this coming fall to address this growing need to protect critical information infrastructure in the transportation and electrical power segments of our economy. Our program has a tradition of strong fundamentals, hands-on learning, and exceptional design and research opportunities. These faculty will carry on this tradition. I encourage you to learn more about them and their academic contributions.

Chemical and Materials Engineering

James Moberly
Heavy metals and microorganisms

Soumya Srivastava
Microfluids and bio-separations

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Saied Hemati
Joint algorithm hardware design

Michael Santora
Robotics and control systems

Mechanical Engineering

David Alexander
Advanced energy technologies

Dan Cordon
Alternative fuels and design

Civil Engineering

Kevin Chang
Transportation safety and planning

Computer Science

Daniel Conte de Leon
High assurance critical computing

Engineering Management

Sandy Lieske
Global product development

Industrial Technology

Cheryl Wilhelmsen
Training, advising & human factors


Dr. Joseph Law to Focus on Improving Undergraduate Engineering Experience

As part of making the undergraduate experience a priority, we have recently named alumnus and longtime faculty member Joseph D. Law the new associate dean for undergraduates. Dr. Law, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has demonstrated a passion for and long-term commitment to the education of undergraduate engineering students as a UI faculty member over the past 24 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UI in 1981 and his master’s and doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As associate dean for undergraduates, Law will develop and execute a multi-year plan to continuously improve the undergraduate experience, said College of Engineering dean Larry Stauffer. “I plan to create focus groups composed of faculty, students and professional engineers to research ideas, plan and execute new initiatives to enhance the experience for undergraduates, and improve the multicultural environment of the College of Engineering,” said Law. “For example, one of the groups will explore methods to enhance content and delivery of engineering courses offered in the first two years.” For the complete news release on the appointment of Dr. Joe Law as associate dean for undergraduates click here.



Engineering Scholars in Residence (ESIR) in Theophilus Tower Providing Help

Engineering Scholars in Residence (ESIR) is a new collaboration that began this fall between COE Student Services and mechanical engineering professor Bob Stephens. In an effort to provide students tools they need for success ESIR is founded on the idea of delivering help to students where they reside rather than having them seek it out. The program places three trained engineering mentors in the Theophilus Tower to run math, physics, and chemistry study groups. Financial support from the Dean’s office and training from ASIU allows student mentors J. Remaley, Brandon Arakawa and James Tigue to conduct weekly study sessions throughout the semester. Junior mentor, electrical engineering major, Brandon Arakawa comments that as an ESIR, "our hope is that by maintaining an active presence in the freshmen dormitory, we can encourage these students to think about how their study skills now are going to affect their long-term success." Further Arakawa explains that being an ESIR has given him, "the opportunity to help students with homework, studying for tests, career planning, registration, and making connections between what they are learning now and what skills they will need in the future. The students I get to work with regularly have given me positive feedback about the study sessions."


Pole Vaulter Jermey Klas Highly Decorated Scholar Athlete

jermey klas college of engineering university of idahoRecent computer science grad and All-American pole-vaulter Jeremy Klas was named the ninth Vandal and sixth Idaho cross country/track and field athlete to earn the prestigious Stan Bates Award, given annually to the league’s top male and female scholar-athletes. Klas earned his degree in Computer Science from the College of Engineering this past May graduating with a 3.62 grade point average. He was a four-time Vandal Athletics Scholar-Athlete, a six-time WAC All-Academic selection, a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and a three-time USTFCCCA Division I All-Academic pick. For more on the accomplishments of Jermey Klas see his Vandal biography.



celebrating 125 years university of idahoRecent computer science grad and All-American pole-vaulter Jeremy Klas was named the ninth Vandal and sixth Idaho cross country/track and field athlete to earn the prestigious Stan Bates Award, given annually to the league’s top male and female scholar-athletes. Klas earned his degree in Computer Science from the College of Engineering this past May graduating with a 3.62 grade point average. He was a four-time Vandal Athletics Scholar-Athlete, a six-time WAC All-Academic selection, a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and a three-time USTFCCCA Division I All-Academic pick. For more on the accomplishments of Jermey Klas see his Vandal biography.


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