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Professor Taufik with Fulbright scholar Onny Setyawati

Sharing the Cal Poly Way

Dec 11, 2018

Electrical Engineering professor Taufik (right) invited Fulbright scholar Onny Setyawati to come to Cal Poly as a visiting scholar.

The hands-on opportunities at Cal Poly stand out most for two professors visiting from Indonesia this quarter.

“If you have labs and great facilities, it’s easier to teach and easier for students to practice,” said Onny Setyawati, a Fulbright Scholar from Brawijaya University. “Normally, we ask our students to simulate something instead of using hardware.”

Setyawati and Alfredo Bayu Satriya, of the University of Jember, have been conducting research at Cal Poly this quarter, thanks to Electrical Engineering Professor Taufik, who grew up in Indonesia.

Taufik – who, like many others in his homeland, has just one name – frequently returns to Indonesia.

“And when I’m there, I usually visit universities,” he said.

Since 2012, Taufik has recruited fellow academics to come to Cal Poly for shared experiences. Last year, he brought three visitors.

“I’m hoping when they go back, they put in a good word about Cal Poly so we can get more – not just for the electrical engineering department, but others as well,” said Taufik, who was recently one of three faculty members campus-wide to receive the Distinguished Scholarship Award from President Armstrong. “The goal is to strengthen international partnerships.”

Alfredo Bayu Satriya (second from left), a visiting professor from Indonesia, inspects a drone antenna with (left to right) Tyler Couvrette (electrical engineering); Katie White (animal science); Jared Rocha (electrical engineering); and Sarah Bartak (animal science).

Setyawati is researching energy harvesting systems to power small devices while Satriya, who is an Islamic Development Bank scholar, is interested in researching health care applications, including non-contact tool to detect the human heartbeat.

“Usually, with medical tools, if you want to know about your heartbeat, you have to put something on your chest,” he said. “To make it non-contact means you need a wireless system.”

Like Setyawati, Satriya was surprised by the Learn by Doing approach he witnessed during his 2-month visit.

“I had training with first-year students, and they already know how to use the instruments,” he said. “Wow. That’s great. At my university, the graduate student doesn’t always know how to operate the instruments, but here the freshman already knows.”

When Taufik (far left) visits his former home in Indonesia, he visits universities, often inviting faculty to come to Cal Poly to share knowledge. Here he is with Onny Setyawati and Alfredo Bayu Satriya, two professors who conducted research here this quarter.

The importance of industry connections at Cal Poly is also very important, the visiting faculty noticed.

“I think it’s because they have many alumni from Cal Poly that work in the companies,” said Setyawati, who is here on a 3-month visit. “They have very good relationships.”

When she returns to Indonesia, she added, that’s one thing she hopes to take back.

“I hope we can do more collaborations with our alumni,” she said. “It might not be easy, but it is something that we should strive to improve.”

Continue reading Sharing the Cal Poly Way...
Members of Swipe Out Hunger

Fighting Student Hunger

Dec 5, 2018

Members of Swipe Out Hunger are working to reduce food insecurity at Cal Poly. Pictured here are, front row left to right, Sanjana Gupta (Business Administration), Jessica Gutknecht (Aerospace Engineering) and Emily Bonilla (Business Administration). Yervant Malkhassian (English), back row.

Near the end of spring quarter, almost every Cal Poly freshman faces an important financial question: How do you spend your leftover meal plan dollars? A new Cal Poly club, Swipe Out Hunger, has been raising awareness for an answer that provides thousands of meals to students in need.

According to a California State University (CSU) basic needs study, about one in four students on state university campuses are food insecure, which is defined as lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of food. In response, Swipe Out Hunger was founded by third-year aerospace engineering student Jessica Gutknecht and partner Sanjana Gupta. With the surprising statistics in mind, Swipe Out Hunger is fighting to reduce that number at Cal Poly.

For Gutknecht and Swipe Out Hunger, one opportunity has been overlooked at the end of every school year: student meal plans. Students often have tens to hundreds of dollars left on their PolyCard by the time school ends. If you don’t spend your last dollars, they disappear -- they’re non-transferable and non-refundable.

“What happens a lot is people realize they have all of this money left over and it’s a mad rush to buy things,” Gutknecht said. “Like, ‘I’m going to buy groceries for me, or for my parents, or go buy pots and pans.’”.

Often, this panic spending can be frivolous, especially when the money could be going toward those students who need it. That is why Swipe Out Hunger has been active in promoting Campus Dining’s new Mustang Meal Share Program.

“The Mustang Meal Share Program lets freshmen donate their leftover dining dollars at the end of the year to students who need them,” Gutknecht said. “For me, it’s so much better to know, if I have $20 left over, I can donate it, and it’s going to someone who needs it.”

The meal sharing program was received well across campus after its inception. Swipe Out Hunger made its presence known at Cal Poly by presenting in classes to freshman and attending local events. So far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The program started and raised over 2,000 meals that have already been handed out to students this year,” Gutknecht said. “When students hear that their peers are hungry -- that they need the support -- they’re pretty quick to get involved and donate.”

805 Kitchen, one of the dining venues on campus, is a popular spot for first-year students to visit for a bite to eat.

Despite student sentiment being in favor of the program, it was surprisingly difficult for the Swipe Out Hunger club to get their initiative approved. The leftover meal plan money was a reliable source of money for Cal Poly that was allocated in yearly budgets, and in order to turn that money into donations, Gutknecht had to work with the Dean of Students. Negotiating from two to ten meals, Swipe Out Hunger has opened the doors for students to donate up to $65 worth of meal plans.

“We’ve gotten really far in our fight, but now, trying to remove the donation limit is our goal,” Gutknecht said.

Meanwhile, Swipe Out Hunger is taking on the fight against food insecurity from all angles. Gutknecht and other club members volunteer at the food pantry on campus and the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo in addition to working with the Mustang Meal Share Program.

“Fighting hunger is something I’m passionate about,” says Gutknecht. “Freshman year, seeing I had all of this money that I felt was going toward nothing made me want to get involved. I wanted to know, with all of the money that I’m putting toward the campus, where that leftover was going and that it was helping other students.”

As an aerospace engineering student, Gutknecht finds that her involvement in Swipe Out Hunger is a valuable part of her “Learn by Doing” experience at Cal Poly.

“For me, it’s an ethics thing,” Gutknecht said. “While I learn about engineering, it’s a reminder that these are real people that I’m designing and building for. They have lives, they’re not just a number. It’s easy to look at the big picture and forget what should be the focus: the individuals.”

Continue reading Fighting Student Hunger...
Tim Weise gives thumbs up at mission control

Mission to Mars

Dec 3, 2018

Standing near an image projected by NASA’s lander, named InSight, Cal Poly alumnus Tim Weise gives a thumbs up at mission control 15 minutes after InSight’s dramatic Mars touchdown.

At mission control, what had been projected as “seven minutes of terror” was actually a bit of an understatement, a Cal Poly graduate said, after he and his fellow NASA team members nervously monitored a robotic lander’s nail-biting descent to Mars.

“That last hour leading up to the landing was nerve-wracking,” said Tim Weise (AERO, ’94 BS; ’97 MS), a deputy mission manager for the project. “Reviewing the data from the spacecraft, reviewing the procedure, making sure everything was just so, and knowing that there was no time to fix anything.”

The touchdown of the lander, known as InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), captivated audiences worldwide and marked a significant step in a renewed era of space exploration – a period of high-profile space endeavors that will feature multiple Cal Poly alumni.

NASA’s InSight lander, which took this image of Mars, will help scientists study the interior of the Red Planet. (Photo/NASA)

InSight is especially interesting because it will study the interior of Mars and, NASA says, will provide valuable science as it prepares to send astronauts to the moon and eventually the Red Planet. While recent space missions have inspired youngsters and adults, Weise had no plans to be involved in the space industry when he was younger.

“Growing up, I was always interested in planes,” said Weise, who is from San Juan Capistrano and now lives near Northridge. “My dad was an airline pilot, and my mom flew gliders briefly in her late teens, so I guess it was in my genes!”

During an on-campus interview with Hughes Space & Communications, the interviewer saw Weise’s master’s thesis – which involved building and programming a control system/stabilization system for a radio-controlled helicopter – and told Weise his work was similar to what he might do at Hughes.

“That led to my first job doing flight software for satellites,” he said.

After working at Hughes for five years, he joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, where he eventually became part of the Dawn mission, which explored the two largest bodies in the asteroid belt, called Vesta and Ceres. As the engineering team lead, Weise was responsible for forming the engineering team made up of systems engineers and subsystem engineers who would cover all of the spacecraft’s subsystems.

“This team was responsible for operating the spacecraft safely,” he said. “Reviewing the telemetry data, building, testing, and reviewing the sequences of commands that control the spacecraft to meeting its mission objectives.”

This artist's illustration shows NASA's InSight lander on the surface of Mars, with its solar arrays deployed. (Image: NASA)

As the mission continued, Weise took on greater roles, eventually becoming mission manager. In that role, he was responsible for the overall mission success, providing oversight of all of the operations teams as well as being the final sign-off on command sequences being sent to the spacecraft.

As deputy mission manager of InSight, he helps ensure that all of the flight teams, as well as the ground software needed, were ready for operations.

InSight launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on May 5. Along for the launch were two CubeSats – or mini satellites – that were tested at Cal Poly. After an 11-month, 300-million-mile journey from Earth, InSight was ready to land near Mars’ equator this past Monday.

News of the upcoming touchdown – and the hazards involved – created a buzz, fueled by the projections that the landing would represent “seven minutes of terror” with a devastating crash being a real possibility. Stories about upcoming missions sending Americans back into space – involving Cal Poly graduates Victor Glover, an astronaut, and United Launch Alliance CEO Tory Bruno – also added to the intrigue, as space exploration makes a dramatic comeback.

“Other missions that I’ve worked on have not had such widespread public engagement, so it is really amazing to see how excited people all over the country, and even the world, get for something that I’m working on,” Weise said. “It is very humbling to be a part of such a historic event.”

After working through the holiday weekend, Weise arrived at the Jet Propulsion Lab at 6 a.m. to complete the final steps of the procedure – taking advantage of one last opportunity to tweak some of the values in the entry, descent and landing algorithms based on the latest navigation data. Two hours prior to the landing, he was in mission control, wearing the maroon shirt the team was seen wearing on live streams across the nation.

There were no cameras on Mars to record the landing live. So the team had to listen for signals, which came in 8-minute delays.

“During the landing, there were expected data drop outs, and the room got so quiet, you could hear a pin drop,” Weise said. “Then we’d get a data point to confirm the next step, and the team would erupt in applause.”

Applause followed when the team learned InSight’s parachute deployed and again when it locked onto the ground with radar. As members of the team stared at their computer consoles, a flight controller announced altitude measurements over an intercom – and the real tension began.

Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager for NASA JPL, left, and Sue Smrekar, InSight’s deputy principal investigator, react after receiving confirmation that the Mars InSight lander had successfully touched down on the surface of Mars on Nov. 26. (Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA)

The time between “17 meters” and “touchdown confirmed” seemed like an eternity, Weise said.

Those in mission control – and across the country, including those who watched it at Times Square –held their breaths as InSight’s status was announced:

“Touchdown confirmed!” a voice announced. “InSight is on the surface of Mars!”

After six and a half minutes of sweaty palms and held breath, the lander was on the Red Planet and ready to work.

“Finally, when that first image came down, showing the lander’s new home and to see the surface of another planet that no one has seen before, I was just awestruck,” Weise said. “It was an amazing experience – I really don’t have the words to describe it adequately.”

Continue reading Mission to Mars...
Brian Self with ME students

A Good Fellow

Nov 28, 2018

Mechanical Engineering Professor Brian Self observe ME students Jase Sasaki and Devin Bodner on their model of a Daimler semi-truck and trailer that will be used for autonomous driving research.

An advocate of evidence-based teaching practices whose classic dynamics textbook is used by students nationwide, Brian Self was recently named a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

The ASEE, dedicated to the professional needs of engineering educators across all disciples, says fellows are chosen by its board of directors for outstanding and extraordinary qualifications and experience in engineering or engineering technology education. Fellows raise and deliberate key issues regarding engineering education and formulate position papers, sometimes proposing courses of action for the ASEE board.

Self, a mechanical engineering professor, said he has benefitted much from his ASEE membership.

“In my early career, presentations at ASEE gave me a number of great ideas to improve my teaching,” he said.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Brian Self works with ME student Emily Vassilev.

As a result of contacts forged through the ASEE, he was asked to be part of a collaborative grant shortly after arriving at Cal Poly in 2006.

“That grant developed a number of project-based learning assignments in mechanical engineering,” he said. “Our team also hired over a dozen undergraduate students over the years and had them present at ASEE conferences.”

It was through his relationship with ASEE that he was asked to be a co-author a book, “Vector Mechanics for Engineers” (McGraw-Hill), which is used in classrooms nationwide.

Self previously worked in the Air Force Research Laboratories before teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy for seven years. He has also taught at the Munich University of Applied Sciences and the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences.

Not only is he a member of the ASEE – he was a board member from 2008-2010. The organization, he said, has taught him quite a bit of knowledge that he has been able to pass on.

“Through ASEE, I have learned a lot about evidence-based teaching practices and used it to improve my own teaching and to mentor others,” he said. “Also, I have become much more aware of issues of inclusivity and diversity and served on the first ASEE Diversity Working Group.”

In other Cal Poly/ASEE news, Benjamin Lutz, a new member of the Mechanical Engineering Department faculty, is a 2017 ASEE Best Paper Award winner.

Benjamin Lutz won Best Paper Award at the 2017 ASEE. Here he is with co-author and doctoral advisor Marie Paretti accepting the award from Bev Watford, then president of ASEE.

The paper, “Exploring School-to-Work Transitions Through Reflective Journaling,” was co-authored with Marie Paretti from Virginia Tech. The paper explored the experiences of recent engineering graduates throughout the first 12 weeks of their jobs.

“While an engineering degree program is positioned as preparation for the professional workplace, researchers and practitioners note a critical misalignment across engineering school and engineering work,” the paper notes. “This misalignment arises, at least in part, from faculty and administrators’ misunderstandings about professional engineering work. As a result, recent engineering graduates can struggle to learn and adapt in their new organizational context.”

Continue reading A Good Fellow...
Tory Bruno with the Cal Poly PolySat team

PolySat Team on Cloud 9

Nov 26, 2018

Bruno-CubeSat-5 : Tory Bruno (right), CEO of United Launch Alliance, visited with members of the Cal Poly PolySat team this month during a visit to the PolySat lab.

When students gather at the University Union to watch a historic Mars landing Monday, members of the PolySat team will be there to boast about their own space exploration.

The team will have a booth at the University Union, (room 220, 11 a.m.) during a live broadcast from NASA featuring the landing of InSight. The robotic lander represents the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars – its crust, mantle and core. The broadcast will feature live commentary from NASA’s mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and live animations of InSight’s landing.

As NASA details its latest space coup, members of the PolySat team will be on hand to talk about its CubeSat named DAVE (Damping and Vibrations Experiment), which was launched into space Sept. 15. The mini-satellite tests a way to reduce vibrations aboard orbiting satellites, and the visuals it has provided offer stunning glimpses of the earth from space.

This artist rendition depicts NASA’s InSight lander over Mars. InSight is set to land on the Red Planet Monday.

The PolySat team has posted several photos on its Facebook page, and it just released its first high-resolution image, depicting Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago located between Norway and the North Pole.

“This is one of our better pictures,” said Grigory Heaton, a senior studying aerospace engineering and physics from Ramona, CA. “Our satellite is not controlled. It’s just spinning, so we have to get lucky with the pictures. This one, we were right overhead and got almost the entire archipelago.”

The camera lens was apparently damaged during launch. All the images have a dark splotch near the center, possibly the result of being struck by an outgassed particle on the satellite, said PolySat member Michael Fernandez, a physics junior from Glendale, CA.

Members of the PolySat team released their first high-resolution image taken from DAVE, its CubeSat that is currently in space. The image depicts Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago located between Norway and the North Pole. (PolySat image)

DAVE was designed and built by Cal Poly students, working with Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, to study the behavior of particle dampers in microgravity conditions. In space-based applications, particle dampers could potentially serve as a device to eliminate jitter in orbital assemblies or other sensitive scientific equipment at a reduced cost compared to existing technologies.

This has been an exciting time for the PolySat team. Last week, Tory Bruno, a Cal Poly alumnus and CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA), visited the team at the Cal Poly CubeSat Lab. ULA launched the rockets that sent both DAVE and InSight into space.

Two CubeSats that launched with InSight were tested at Cal Poly. Called MarCO, the two briefcase-sized satellites — 12 inches tall, 4 inches deep and 8 inches wide — arrived on campus last February. Over the next 17 days, engineers from Cal Poly and the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena assisted in inserting, or integrating, the satellites into the deployment boxes that would eject each CubeSat into space. Meanwhile, Cal Poly students spent nearly 15 hours wrapping the deployment boxes in protective gold aluminized Kapton tape.

MarCO will fly by Mars while InSight lands on the Red Planet.

Cal Poly alumnus Timothy Weise (Aero, ’94 BS; Aero ’97 MS), who works for NASA, is a deputy mission manager on the InSight project.

Continue reading PolySat Team on Cloud 9...
Tory Bruno and Victor Glover shake hands

CENG Honored Alumni

Nov 26, 2018

The Honored Alumni Award honors those Cal Poly graduates who have made significant contributions to society, and whose accomplishments, affiliations and careers have honored the legacy of Cal Poly.

The Honored Alumni Award, established more than 50 years ago, is the highest honor bestowed upon Cal Poly alumni by the university's Alumni Association. The award recognizes alumni from the university's six academic colleges. The Alumni Association also recognizes alumni through three distinguished awards, as well: The CPAA Distinguished Service Award, the Cal Poly Alumni Excellence Award and the Sandra Gardebring Ogren Leadership Award.

We are pleased to share the following esteemed Cal Poly Engineering alumni who are recipients of these prestigious awards.

2018 Honored Alumni

Tory Bruno - 2018

B.S., Mechanical Engineering, 1985

Tory Bruno graduated in 1985 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He is the president and chief executive officer for United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing to provide reliable and cost-efficient access to space travel. Prior to joining ULA, Bruno served as the vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Strategic and Missile Defense Systems. After joining Lockheed Martin in 1984 he served as vice president and general manager of the Navy’s Trident II D5 Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM); the Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Reentry Systems and vice president of the Missile Defense Agency’s Terminal High Area Altitude Defense (THAAD). In addition to his leadership roles, Bruno worked in engineering positions involving design and analysis for control systems of rockets and hypersonic re-entry vehicles and holds several patents. Bruno is an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Fellow, a companion of the Naval Order of the United States, a member of the Navy League and former member of the board of directors of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. He served on the National Blue Ribbon Panel for Bettering Engineering and Science Education and as chairman of the Diversity Council of Lockheed Martin Space Systems. On a recent visit to campus, Bruno spoke to a standing-room only crowd of students on the “Future of Space” and helped kick off the College of Engineering’s series of “Listening Sessions” as host of the first event.


Victor J. Glover, Jr. - 2018

B.S., General Engineering, 1999

Victor J. Glover, Jr. graduated with a degree in general engineering in 1999. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2013 while serving as a legislative fellow in the United States Senate. He is currently training for Crew-1, the first post-certification mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and a long duration mission aboard the International Space Station. Glover and his crewmates are working to develop their new spacecraft systems, which will provide round trip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil. The California native holds a Master of Science in flight test engineering, a Master of Science in systems engineering and a Master of Military Operational Art and Science. Glover is a Naval Aviator and was a test pilot in the F/A-18 Hornet, Super Hornet and EA‐18G Growler. He and his family have been stationed in many locations in the United States and Japan and he has deployed in combat and peacetime. Glover currently serves on the Cal Poly College of Engineering Advancement and Advisory Board and the Cal Poly Athletic Directors Council.

Previous Years' Honorees

Continue reading CENG Honored Alumni...
Professor and students inspect unmanned aerial tracking vehicle

In Search of Weasels

Nov 14, 2018

Tyler Couvrette (electrical engineering); visiting professor Alfredo Bayu Satriya, from Indonesia; Katie White (animal science); Jared Rocha (electrical engineering); and Sarah Bartak (animal science) inspect an unmanned aerial vehicle that will be used to track the Pacific fisher.

Inspecting multiple drones parked in the Advanced Technology Lab, Dean Arakaki makes an important observation about tracking small mammals.

“We can’t use this one because it’s too loud,” says Arakaki, associate professor in the Electrical Engineering Department, sizing up a large helicopter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

While the UAV would easily support the kind of antennas the U.S. Forest Service needs to study the tree-swelling carnivores called Pacific fishers, the aircraft’s loud propellers would surely scare the cat-sized critters off.

And that’s not natural.

“It sounds like the weed whacker from hell,” adds Marc Horney, noting the UAV’s noisy 2-cycle engine.

Chris Boone, a mechanical engineering student and member of the Autonomous Flight Lab team, and Katie White, a student in the animal science department, place a wing on an unmanned aerial vehicle that will be used to track a weasel-like carnivore called a fisher.

The two faculty members are assisting an interdisciplinary team of students tasked with using UAVs to gather location and movement information from the fishers in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains. While the project aims to help the U.S. Forest Service gather data on the fisher, the technology, once proven, would also be useful for many other wildlife species, including mountain lions, and studies of free-ranging cattle, sheep, and horses.

The project, which brings together students from electrical engineering, aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering and animal science, originated last year when Horney, an associate professor in the Animal Science Department, visited the Forest Service’s San Joaquin Experimental Range research facility with staff and faculty from Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch, and spent the day discussing collaborative research opportunities. Horney had been working with Dr. Aaron Drake in Aerospace Engineering for several years, using their UAVs for carrying research project payloads, and suggested that they might be an option for resolving some difficulties the Forest Service researchers had been having with tracking their fishers.

The long and skinny fisher, a member of the weasel family, was once abundant throughout Washington, Oregon and northern California. But the population declined in the 1800s due to the fur trade. Even after California banned fisher trapping in the 1940s, its population thinned due to logging, development and severe forest fires.

Considered a “sensitive” species, the U.S. Forest Service has used small collars fitted with GPS dataloggers and VHF beacon transmitters to monitor the furry creatures.

The Pacific fisher, a member of the weasel family, was once abundant in California, Oregon and Washington. But its numbers shrank due to hunting, logging, and forest fires. (NPS photo by Emily Brouwer).

“For these animals, we don’t always know where they live, where they hang out, where they nest,” Horney said. “It is extremely difficult to follow these animals through miles of woodland, so the GPS is a convenient alternative. It can be programmed to automatically record the animals’ position at intervals all day long for weeks to months at a time.”

Miniaturizing GPS units and transmitters is just one of many challenges in tracking the fishers.

“Every time you trap and handle one of these animals, there’s a real risk of accidentally injuring them,” Horney said.

There are two main reasons why a marked animal would need to be recaptured, he added – to physically recover a data storage card or to replace batteries. With wireless systems in common use now, data recovery options typically entail using satellites, which is a better option for larger animals, or having someone on the ground, trying to follow VHF signal “pings” from handheld directional antennas and hoping to get close enough to trigger a data download.

Handheld directional antennas are routinely used by wildlife biologists for tracking marked animals, but it’s difficult to navigate the rugged terrain where the fishers live. That terrain also makes it dangerous for manned aircraft to fly over the area and get close enough to download the GPS data.

“Here is where there is an opportunity for UAVs,” Horney said.

Horney knew Drake and his students in the Unmanned Flight Initiative program could help develop UAVs. Then he contacted Arakaki about developing the antenna gear.

“The primary goals [with the antenna] is to not interfere with the flight dynamics,” Arakaki said.

The group recently met to discuss funding efforts – they’re applying for a Warren J. Baker Endowment -- and travel plans. From there, they visited the drone lab, where it was quickly decided that they would use a fixed-wing UAV that resembles a plane.

“We’ve come up with three antennas that size-wise could pretty easily be installed on it directly,” said Chris Boone, a mechanical engineering major.

Dean Arakaki, an associate professor in the electrical engineering department, discusses antenna equipment with electrical engineering student Jared Rocha.

Arakaki and the electrical engineering students will have to determine the right amount of range and span for the antennas. Once that is decided, the unmanned aerial system will have two tasks related to the fishers, Arakaki said.

“It has to first detect where the collar is,” Arakaki said. “Once it gets a fix on where the collar is, they’re going to circle it for a little while – long enough to get the data.”

Even though the UAV will be able to download a month’s worth of data in less than a minute after getting close to the animal, the antenna handling that information can be very light, even a few ounces.

“What I’m going to have them look into is something called a patch antenna,” Arakaki said. “Something that could be mounted flush with the wing or on the fuselage.”

Olivia Lockhart, an aerospace student, is eager to pilot the aircraft on this mission.

“We’re ready to go whenever they’re done,” said Lockhart, an experienced drone pilot.

The team will first test the technology on farm animals on campus. And they expect to head to the mountains sometime in the spring, when the official fisher search will begin.

For students like Lockhart, the project represents something different that is also being used in the real world.

“I’m glad someone cares about that weasel,” she said. “I can help them.”

Continue reading In Search of Weasels...
SURP 2018 Event in Building 192

Prized Posters

Nov 6, 2018

A computer-generated lift simulation of a fighter plane won first place for posters this month during the first College of Engineering Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium.

The symposium is an event recognizing student achievement in the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, which pairs students and faculty to develop diverse future engineering leaders with the critical skills needed to solve big societal challenges. During the program, undergraduate researchers participate in interdisciplinary, hands-on project learning that fosters critical thinking, teamwork, communication and entrepreneurial skills.

Work from the program is highlighted in poster presentations during the symposium. This year’s event was well attended, with guests that included Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong, College of Engineering Dean Amy Fleischer and several faculty members. The symposium featured close to 40 poster projects vying for three top spots.

The first place team included William Newey, Austin Quick and Sebastian Seibert von Fock, with Christian Eckhardt of the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department serving as the faculty mentor.

Their project, Real Time Lift Simulation, looked at the F/A-18 Hornet, an all-weather jet aircraft used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, with the goal of creating a compute shader based on real time lift and drag simulations for dynamic bodies in gas/fluids.

Second place went to a project called IoT Cattle, which set out to develop an affordable, easy-to-manage and user-friendly product that would give ranchers live updates on the whereabouts of their cattle. Team members included Nate Tjepkema, Rey Punao, and Jaedo Han, with Chris Lupo, chair of the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department, and Peter Livingston, chair of the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department, serving as faculty mentors.

Third place was awarded to Rory McDermott for his project entitled Design and Development of Laboratory Dual Axis Single PV Module Tracker, which outlined the design and development of a laboratory single axis sun tracking system. While two-axis tracking is superior in energy performance, costs and reliability can make single-axis tracking more appealing. Dale Dolan, of the Electrical Engineering Department, was the faculty mentor.

The first place team won $1,000, while prizes of $750 and $500 went to the second and third place finishers, respectively.

College of Engineering Dean Amy Fleischer joined a team of five top leaders from engineering industries and three department chairs as they faced the challenging task of judging each of the posters.

Continue reading Prized Posters...
Michael Whitt with 2018-19 CIE Faculty Fellows.

A Lift to the Market

Nov 6, 2018

Biomedical Engineering lecturer Michael Whitt (center) is one of three new 2018-2019 CIE Faculty Fellows. He joins Bo Liu (left), and Erik Sapper.

Michael Whitt, a biomedical engineering lecturer who holds five medical device patents and a master’s degree in business, was one of three new Faculty Fellows recently named by Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

Whitt joins Bo Liu, from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences and Erik Sapper, from the College of Science and Mathematics, as part of an interdisciplinary community committed to inspiring the next generation of entrepreneurs. The fellows work to raise awareness for the center’s programs and provide guidance to students and faculty with an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Our students are extremely creative and talented,” Whitt said. “They have developed amazing prototypes in the senior design class. I believe that part of our responsibility as Faculty Fellows is to guide them through the process of getting their ideas to market.”

Whitt is currently working to get a significant medical device to the market himself. His SmartCuff device, measuring endothelial dysfunction, would help predict a major adverse cardiovascular event. Whitt’s company, Cordex System, has raised over $5 million in investor money for the device.

“We are analyzing clinical data and are very excited about the future,” he said.

Michael Whitt demonstrates the SmartCuff with Tamiko Saldin, a graduate biomedical engineering student from El Segundo.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Purdue University, Whitt earned a master’s and doctorate in bioengineering from Rutgers. He returned to school for a master’s degree in business administration from UCLA. His stint in industry includes 13 years working for Eli Lilly as a senior engineer. And his academic career includes teaching jobs at Purdue, Notre Dame and Miami Dade College, where he chaired the Engineering Department. He has taught at the Biomedical Engineering Department at Cal Poly for four years.

As a CIE fellow, Whitt will share knowledge he has gained in all areas.

“My hope is that my experiences from industry and start-up activities will lead to incredible successes for individuals and teams within our community,” he said. “I see my primary role as a conduit providing assistance for students that have pharmaceutical or medical device entrepreneurial ideas.”

Whitt joins a contingent of 18 other Faculty Fellows, five of which are from the College of Engineering: Bob Crockett (biomedical); Graham Doig (aerospace); Dale Dolan (electrical); David Janzen (computer science and software engineering); and Lynne Slivovsky (electrical).

The CIE, which began its Faculty Fellows program in 2012, promotes entrepreneurial activity across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo.

Continue reading A Lift to the Market...

Gang to Mustang Video

Nov 1, 2018


Jeffrey Aparicio doesn’t have to go far for a reminder of his dark past: All he has to do is look at some of the tattoos on his body.

“Every time I look at my gang tattoos, I just remember how I’ve come so far,” he said.

While Aparicio committed crimes ranging from armed robbery to residential burglary as a member of a Sacramento gang, he has since turned his life around. And today he gives back by inspiring others with his comeback story.

“I’m very thankful because people can learn from my experience, and I can learn from theirs,” said Aparicio, a 27-year-old aerospace engineering student.

In this video, Aparicio, who is featured in the next giving issue of Engineering Advantage magazine, shares his journey from gang to Mustang.

Continue reading Gang to Mustang Video...


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