EXPO 2009: Ski Forces, Moscow’s Water and Space Ladders

Friday, April 24 2009


April 24, 2009

Written by Ken Kingery


MOSCOW, Idaho – Analyzing forces on skis to improve ski and binding designs, helping Moscow manage its water more effectively, and building a ladder to space – these three subjects are completely unrelated, except in that each will be demonstrated at the University of Idaho’s annual Engineering Design EXPO.

On Friday, May 1, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., these senior design projects and 53 others will be displayed at EXPO 2009. The event is the culmination of an entire year’s work for student participants and one of the region’s largest interdisciplinary showcases for engineering and technological innovation.

“The College of Engineering is proud of our students, faculty and staff members that make this premier event the finest in the Northwest," said College of Engineering Dean Don Blackketter. "These students and the skills, knowledge and new ideas they bring to the field of engineering, hold the promise. Senior-class teams work with faculty and graduate mentors to design and build innovative projects."

"Recognizing the quality and value of the program, industry leaders advise our students and sponsor their projects. Many of our design teams go on to earn top awards in the region and in national competitions. Please join us,” said Blackketter.

The entire day is packed with events including ceremonies, technical sessions, speakers and awards. But the main event is the student design displays, which are available for all to view. Attendees will be greeted by an array of interesting design projects.

The Student Union Building parking lot will host a crane suspending a 30-foot cable featuring a remote-controlled climber designed to carry objects into space. The project, dubbed SkyHook, is captained by Jason Stirpe who began the project two years ago with a handful of friends. The team has since grown to more than 20 students – including public relations and architecture students – who plan to take their project to next year’s global competition.

“It’s designed to be powered by a laser beam, but the EXPO robot will be powered by ultra capacitors,” said Stirpe, of Spokane, Wash. “Unfortunately, we don’t have an eight kilowatt laser on hand. It’s the size of a semi, so we have to make-do.”

Another set-up will feature a skier riding a machine designed to measure the forces in the skis during a typical downhill run. When coupled with a separate motion capture system in a University of Idaho research lab – the same system that brought the Lord of the Rings’ Gollum to life – correlations can be made between knee joint forces, ski and binding performance, and potential injuries.

“The best experience I’ve gained has been team management,” said Josh Hartung, captain of the design team. “Keeping everyone on task, directed in the right way and motivated is hugely difficult. We definitely had our problems and difficulties, but that’s how you learn. It’s been awesome.”

Besides taking objects to space and saving knees on slopes around the world, the design projects are also helping those closer to home.

Ashley Hobbs and her team of senior civil engineer students have designed a flume to measure the flow of Paradise Creek right before the water treatment plant, as well as a way to bring irrigation water to proposed athletic fields near the golf course and arboretum.

The concrete flume will accurately measure the creek’s flow in real-time, helping the plant optimize its water treatment efforts, even during periods of low flow during summer, which are typically difficult to gauge.

“The coolest thing for us is that the city could use our work and we could actually see it happen,” said Hobbs.

“EXPO is another example of how the College of Engineering provides students with an outstanding education, integrating basic fundamentals with theory and analysis, and culminating with a design experience that is as close to professional practice as we can make it,” said Howard Peavy, associate dean and academic chair of EXPO.

Design EXPO events are free and open to the public and take place at the University’s Student Union Building, 709 Deakin Ave. For more information about Design EXPO, visit the Web site at http://www.engr.uidaho.edu/expo/.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu

Media Contact: Ken Kingery, University Communications, (208) 885-9156, kkingery@uidaho.edu







About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.