COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
PERSPECTIVE For alumni and friends of the
UW-Madison College of Engineering
At UW-Madison, student entrepreneurs win BIG
A coil experiment built by Ludois and electrical and computer engineering grad student Justin Reed.
Built by electrical and computer engineering graduate student Dan Ludois, this Tesla coil is driven
with a solid state converter and can play music. View more of Ludois’ creations at www.ludoislabs.com.
PERSPECTIVE Volume 37, Issue 1
The magazine for alumni and friends of the UW-Madison College of Engineering SPRING 2010
12 INSTITUTION FOR INNOVATION
Over the last decade, UW-Madison has built up a suite
of opportunities for students to develop their creativity
and expand their business savvy.
By Renee Meiller ON THE COVER
16 THE CHEMISTRY OF MEMORY
Chemical and Biological Engineering Professor Regina Murphy has dedicated her career
to studying the chemical processes that underlie debilitating brain ailments, including
By Sandra Knisely
4 In Depth
By Dean Paul Peercy
5 From the Lab
College research news
11 Who Knew?
Five questions …
with Mechanical Engineering Associate Professor Nicola Ferrier
20 The Next Generation
Engineering students take on local and global challenges,
have fun, and learn a lot in the process
24 Engineering Beyond Boundaries
Rethinking engineering education: Integrating engineering and biology
26 Wisconsin Ideas
Custom solutions keep manufacturers competitive
28 Badger Engineers
Two alumni you should meet:
• Miller Park Executive Director Michael Duckett
• Qualcomm CDMA Technology VP Jim Thompson
Photos by Tim Obermann
30 A New Perspective
Haiti: From helpers to helpless
By Eyleen Chou
Dean Paul S. Peercy
fall 2009 survey of UW-Madison College of Engineering
alumni revealed some valuable information about your
The magazine for alumni and friends of the UW-Madison College of Engineering
More than 1,500 alumni completed the September 2009 SPRING 2010 • Volume 37, Issue 1
survey, which focused on communication, alumni engagement
and philanthropy. One of the strongest messages to come through Renee Meiller
is that PERSPECTIVE remains valued as the primary vehicle for Writer
keeping alumni informed about the college. Of the general survey Sandra Knisely
group, more than two-thirds of respondents labeled PERSPECTIVE Design
as either “very important” or “important” to staying in touch with Phil Biebl
college news. Photography
When asked for their preference for receiving information Jeff Miller, David Nevala,
Tim Obermann, Bryce Richter
through print vs. electronic formats, the result was a virtual 50-50
split. This might seem surprising, given the explosive growth of COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING
online and social media platforms, but the enduring appreciation www.engr.wisc.edu
for print publications gave us a useful reality check. Paul S. Peercy, Dean
Steven Cramer, Associate Dean
for Academic Affairs
Brian Mattmiller, Assistant Dean
Redesigned from top to bottom, the new PERSPECTIVE magazine for Alumni and Corporate Relations
James C. Beal, Director,
will provide more of the news and features alumni value in a modern Engineering External Relations
and visually compelling format. Contact the college:
It’s one of the reasons we are very excited about the publication you hold in your hands.
Redesigned from top to bottom, the new PERSPECTIVE magazine will provide more of the email@example.com
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One significant change is that all future issues will have a lead cover story that represents a Nancy Hansen
significant trend or issue in the college. This issue explores the growth in student opportunities 608/262-2473
to build skills in innovation, from hands-on competitions to academic certificates. We also are EGRadvisor@engr.wisc.edu
incorporating new voices into the magazine, beginning with a moving piece from student Industry, R&D:
Eyleen Chou about the Engineers Without Borders student members’ experience in Haiti. Lawrence Casper
We also reorganized our core content to emphasize your highest priorities. Survey firstname.lastname@example.org
respondents gave either high or medium importance to research news (91 percent) and
educational quality and improvement (91 percent). Respondents also placed high value Department of
on news about economic impact and industry outreach (87 percent). The new PERSPECTIVE Engineering Professional Development
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With this change, we also recognize a much greater need for more avenues of online email@example.com
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alumni of the impact we are making in the world—one that builds on the prestige of Renee Meiller
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From the Lab
GOING WITH THE GRAIN
Novel approach to a new superconducting material
S uperconductors are powerful materials that conduct electricity with no resistance,
meaning no loss of electricity. Recently, scientists have discovered a new class of
superconducting materials called pnictides, which are based on iron and arsenide.
Pnictides are promising because they can operate at relatively high temperatures and
have other ideal properties.
A team led by Materials Science and Engineering Professor Chang-Beom Eom has
demonstrated a breakthrough approach in fabricating pnictide thin films with promising
results. Until now, no one has been able to study the intrinsic properties of pnictides because
it has been impossible to fabricate a single crystal of it with all of the material grains pointing in the same direction.
Eom, who is collaborating with teams from the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and the University
of Michigan, hypothesized that the pnictide thin films couldn’t grow properly because the substrate used most
commonly by researchers is oxide-based. Thin films like to grow in the same way as the material beneath them.
Hence, the metallic-based pnictides couldn’t thrive on the oxide substrate.
The researchers then engineered a thin template to place on top of the oxide substrate. This template has
both metallic and oxide elements, meaning it can interface with both the substrate and the thin film. With the
template, the film grows in a more ideal arrangement. The template also acts as barrier between the conducting
thin film and the non-conducting substrate.
Previously, researchers were only able to measure 10,000 amps of electricity per .06 cubic inch, which is a
relatively useless amount. With the template, which is made of barium titanate or strontium titanate, Eom’s team
has demonstrated that pnictide thin films are capable of producing 5 million amps per .06 cubic inch—a 500-fold
increase that brings pnictide current capacity into the usable range.
The team’s research will help other researchers learn more about pnictides and expand basic knowledge
about superconductivity in general. Beyond superconductors, the template approach can be applied whenever
a researcher wants to grow a metallic film on an oxide substrate.
The research appeared online in the journal Nature Materials on February 28, along with a second paper by
Eom about a new approach to help researchers “couple” the electric and magnetic mechanisms in a special class
of materials. This could lead to a wide range of magnetoelectric devices, such as new integrated circuits or tiny
electronic devices with the information storage capacity of hard drives.
A superconductor makes a magnet levitate.
From the Lab
Casting industry goes nano
plants + process = fuel
T he National Institute of Standards and
Technology has awarded a $10.1 million,
five-year grant to a team led by Mechanical A team of chemical engineers has developed a highly efficient, environmentally
friendly process that selectively converts gamma-valerolactone, a biomass
Engineering Professor Xiaochun Li. The derivative, into the chemical equivalent of jet fuel. The simple process preserves
researchers are studying a process that could about 95 percent of the energy from the original biomass, requires little hydrogen
yield new technologies for commercial-scale input, and captures carbon dioxide under high pressure for future beneficial use.
Li production of aluminum and magnesium With Steenbock Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering James Dumesic,
matrix nanocomposites postdoctoral researchers Jesse Bond and David Martin Alonso and graduate students
in the traditional Dong Wang and Ryan West published details of the advance in the February 26, 2010,
casting industry within edition of the journal Science.
the next five years. Much of the Dumesic group’s previous research of cellulosic biomass has focused on
“If successful, the processes that convert abundant plant-based sugars into transportation fuels.
production of these
will enable transforma-
tive changes in multiple
industries and directly
address the critical
national needs of
reducing oil dependency,
gas emissions and main-
taining U.S. leadership in
A magnesium nanocomposite cast sample manufacturing,” says Li. HERE’S A TIP:
Most molten metals Technique yields durable diamond probes
have a large surface-to-volume ratio and are
unable to maintain contact with the solid
nanoparticle surfaces, meaning the nanopar-
ticles clump together. Li’s lab has developed
W hen a university-industry team of researchers tried a novel,
foundry-style mold-filling technique to make nanoscale devices,
they realized they had discovered a gem: They used their process to fabricate
an experimental technique that uses high- ultra-hard, wear-resistant nanoprobes out of a material much like diamond.
intensity ultrasonic waves to disperse the
nanoparticles through the melts. The waves
cause the formation, growth and collapse of
microbubbles, which produce
microscopic “hot spots” that reach temperatures
On a larger scale, materials that look smooth still abrade because of slight
above 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Li and his
team have shown that the violent micro-shock irregularities and defects on their surfaces. Now, zoom in: At the nanoscale,
waves from the hot spots disperse nano- atoms rub off one at a time, challenging researchers who build devices just
particles evenly through the molten metals. tens of atoms wide. Silicon-containing diamondlike carbon, or Si-DLC, could
Li’s collaborators include Kuo K. and Cindy F. solve this problem.
Wang Professor of Mechanical Engineering Engineering Physics Distinguished Research Professor Kumar Sridharan
Tim Osswald, Industrial & Systems Engineering developed the “nano foundry” technique. He started with an IBM silicon-
Associate Professor Shiyu Zhou, Eck Industries on-insulator wafer previously etched with sharp, pyramid-shaped “molds.”
Inc., the Oshkosh Corporation, Nanostructured Then, he used plasma immersion ion implantation and deposition, a room-
and Amorphous Materials Inc. and the temperature deposition process, to fill the molds.
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
However, in previously studied herbal food and perfume additive. “The product we make is ready for the jet
conversion methods, sugar mol- Using laboratory-scale equipment fuel application and can be added to existing
ecules frequently degrade to form and stable, inexpensive catalysts, hydrocarbon blends, as needed, to meet specs,”
levulinic acid and formic acid— Dumesic’s group converts aqueous says Alonso.
two products the previous methods solutions of GVL into jet fuel. Now that they have demonstrated the process
couldn’t readily transform into high- “With very minimal processing, for converting GVL to transportation fuel,
energy liquid fuels. we can produce a pure stream Dumesic and his students are developing more
With levulinic and formic acid as the starting of jet-fuel-range alkenes and a fairly pure efficient, cost-effective methods for making
points, the team’s new method exploits sugar’s stream of carbon dioxide,” says Bond, of the GVL from biomass sources such as wood, corn
tendency to degrade. In the presence of two-step catalytic process. stover, switchgrass and others. “Once the GVL
metal catalysts, the two acids react to form The hydrocarbons produced from GVL in is made effectively, I think this is an excellent
gamma-valerolactone, or GVL, which now this new process are chemically equivalent way to convert it to jet fuel,” says Dumesic.
is manufactured in small quantities as an to those used in the present infrastructure.
New laser structure is a bright idea
T wo electrical and computer engineering professors—Philip Dunham Reed Professor
Dan Botez and Professor Luke Mawst—have created a nanoscale laser structure to
produce more efficient, reliable and stable semiconductor lasers emitting in the mid-infrared
like the way in within the next two years.
which a snowfall The structure all but eliminates the temperature sensitivity for lasers operating in continuous-
blankets the wave mode, meaning the laser emits uninterrupted, coherent light. These lasers could benefit
ground. In this a wide range of industries, including biomedical devices, environmental monitoring devices,
case, the “snow” is missile avoidance systems and food packaging processes.
ionized hexamethyl Botez and Mawst created the structure via metalorganic chemical vapor deposition, a scalable
disiloxane, a liquid process that involves exposing a substrate to high heat and chemicals, causing the layers with
precursor to Si-DLC varying compositions to form on the substrate in an
that gasifies in the atomic-lattice configuration.
plasma chamber and packs neatly into Varied layer composition prevents electrons from
the molds. Fabricated on standard escaping the laser structure, a process called carrier
Botez and Mawst
silicon microcantilivers, the ultrasharp leakage. The result will be continuous-wave lasers that
tips in wear tests were 3,000 times the researchers expect to achieve at least 20 percent
more wear-resistant than silicon tips. wall-plug efficiency (the electrical-to-optical power
The team, which included researchers efficiency of a laser system), which would be roughly
from the University of Pennsylvania and double the current world record for practical, continuous-
IBM Research-Zurich, published its work wave quantum cascade lasers. Botez and Mawst are
interested in commercializing the technology, which is
January 31 in the advance online edition
covered by two issued and one pending U.S. patents.
of Nature Nanotechnology.
For a more detailed story about the structure Botez
and Mawst have created, visit www.engr.wisc.edu/
From the Lab
he National Science Foundation recognized these five promising
young faculty members with prestigious CAREER awards. Funding
from the awards supports their leading-edge research in hydro-
ecology, biomedicine, computing technology, and decision theory.
Low-power computers could benefit
environment and U.S. economy
Chemical & biological
Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant Professor
engineer elected to Nam Sung Kim is designing low-power computing
national academy systems that, if implemented on a broad
scale, could have significant environ-
In February, the National Academy of mental and economic benefits. He is
Engineering included Milton J. and developing algorithms to program
A. Maude Shoemaker Professor of machines to process computations more efficiently
Chemical and Biological Engineering and reduce wasted energy during computations. His
Tom Kuech among its 68 newest work includes trying to identify which circuit blocks can be
members. Election to the academy turned off during certain functions to reduce the overall power
is among the highest professional consumption of the processor. “We have to perform computations
distinctions for engineers. The academy for almost every aspect of our lives now, and by reducing the cost for
recognized Kuech for his contributions doing these computations, our national economy could gain a competitive edge,” Kim says.
in developing and characterizing
In particular, Kuech and his students
study methods for forming these nano- Reconfigurable hardware for
scale structures, which drive high-power boosting computer performance
devices such as those used for wireless
and optical telecommunications. He Electrical and Computer Engineering Assistant
has made fundamental contributions Professor Katherine Compton is studying how
to the understanding of chemical vapor to use reconfigurable hardware, which is a form
deposition, a method for developing of special-purpose hardware, to implement a
semiconductors with controlled wide range of computer accelerators that boost
electronic and optical properties. performance and increase energy efficiency.
In addition, Kuech and his students The hardware is flexible enough to allow developers to customize the
are developing ways to increase the func- accelerators to execute multiple applications. The CAREER award will
tionality of compound semiconductors allow Compton to expand to study the entire computer system and
for use in applications ranging from schedule multiple computing resources to work in tandem with the
solar cells to biological sensors. reconfigurable hardware. She is working to demonstrate to hardware
A fellow of the American Physical companies that reconfigurable hardware provides enough of a boost
Society, he came to UW-Madison in 1990. to warrant adding it to everyday computing devices. “We’re looking at
He earned his PhD in applied physics from having potentially the same or faster processing speed, but with lower
the California Institute of Technology. energy consumption,” she says.
Exploring how estrogen-mimics affect cells
In everything from children’s toys and plastic bottles to food, agricultural land
and our own lawns, humans daily encounter hundreds of natural and synthetic
chemicals. Some of these compounds can interfere with the endocrine system
and contribute to such adverse health effects as reproductive problems,
hormonal changes, brain and behavior problems, impaired immune functions,
and various cancers, among others. Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor
Pam Kreeger is developing methods for testing how endocrine disrupters affect cells. In particular,
Kreeger is interested in endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic estrogen, the primary female
sex hormone. These chemicals act like estrogen, bind to the estrogen receptors in normal cells,
and trigger some—but not necessarily all—of the functions in cells that true estrogen initiates.
Cellular responses to the mimics vary. “Our interest is in how they differ,” says Kreeger. “Can we pre-
dict a little better what parts of the cellular network will be affected by these different chemicals?”
River provides scientific basis Models for making good decisions
for future restoration projects Current computational approaches to
Environmental groups annually spend more than decision-making suggest solutions for
$1 billion on projects aimed at restoring streams and the best outcome on average. For ex-
former wetland ecosystems to their native states. Yet, ample, standard tools could produce
says Civil and Environmental Engineering Assistant a call center workforce schedule that
Professor Steven Loheide, there is little solid science results in a small number of unhappy
to guide these efforts. Loheide and graduate students customers on an average day. However, the
Eric Booth and Arlen Striegl are developing and implementing a new schedule may not help the center be equipped
technology for monitoring soil moisture in a restored site along the East to deal with days that have an abnormally high
Branch Pecatonica River in southwestern Wisconsin. They also are creating number of calls, and therefore an abnormally
a modeling framework through which they can study groundwater and high number of unhappy customers. This may
soil moisture changes and how they relate to vegetation composition and be an unacceptable risk for the manager.
patterns. “We would like to be able to improve the practice of restoration by Industrial and Systems Engineering
allowing people who are designing restoration projects to be able to predict Assistant Professor James Luedtke is working
what the hydrologic change will be and how that will affect the distribution to develop new algorithms in a field known as
of vegetation across the flood plain,” says Loheide. stochastic programming to specifically address
uncertainty in decision-making settings, while allowing for
individual preferences for risk. These new algorithms, which will
address constraints that limit the probability of bad outcomes,
will offer alternative solutions to the best-on-average solutions
produced by current models. “When you aren’t making a decision
thousands of times, being best on average doesn’t matter to you,”
explains Luedtke. “If a decision-maker has just one shot, she may
be willing to give up making a choice that is best on average to
Restoration in progress at the reduce the risk of being one of the bad outcomes.”
East Branch Pecatonica River. Luedtke’s methods could have a broad range of applications in
fields such as medicine, business and finance.
From the Lab
Back in circulation: Why certain could lead to some level of control over other stem cell behaviors,
polymers improve blood flow such as new tissue formation.
“The long-term culture of mesenchymal stem cells on well-defined,
With funding from the National Science Foundation, controllable substrates may enable us to optimize stem cell growth and
Harvey D. Spangler Professor of Chemical and Biological differentiation,” says Murphy. “In turn, these studies could lead to clinical
Engineering Michael Graham is using computational and theoretical strategies for optimal stem cell expansion and differentiation, and
tools to study whether “drag-reducing” polymer molecules enhance could have a significant impact on regenerative medicine strategies.”
flow through some of the tiniest blood vessels in the human body.
Smaller than the diameter of a human hair, capillaries are embedded
How to polish a nano part
within the body’s organs and are important for distributing blood
throughout the tissues. Drag-reducing polymers show particular promise Polishing the parts of a micro-device isn’t as simple as, for example,
for improving circulation in situations that involve blood loss. “One of the polishing a shoe or sanding a piece of wood. Technicians maybe could
issues is making sure that, under situations where there’s a disease or polish a micro-part by hand—if they had a big enough
injury, blood is still able to get to where it needs to be,” says Graham. magnifying glass—but it is impossible to selectively polish par-
ticular areas of the tiny
‘Magnet’ materials to components. In addition,
tiny parts can’t handle as
attract growth factors
much heat as can their
Within the body, macro-sized counterparts,
growth factors meaning that too much
are important friction could actually
molecules in a melt the part.
wide range of These barriers to
cellular processes. They can pro- micro polishing, which
mote cell survival, proliferation, In 2009, the American Recovery & Reinvestment (Stimulus) Act likely will become more
and differentiation. Sequestering provided UW-Madison researchers 294 awards totalling nearly important as nanotech-
these growth factors on a surface $120 million. Among them, more than 30 engineers received nology advances push
enables researchers to locally funding for their research. Here, we highlight a few projects. the development of
modulate the processes. ever-smaller components,
With a portion of his $2 million are the subject of a new
grant from the National Institutes partnership between a
of Health, Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Bill Murphy, team of mechanical engineering professors and a Minnesota-based
and grad students, including Greg Hudalla, are designing materials laser processing company.
that act like magnets for growth factors. These “smart” materials can The partnership has received funding from the
deliver signals that affect cell behavior. “So, it’s possible to use the ma- National Science Foundation to identify an effective,
terial as an active platform to affect cell behavior,” he says. “You could laser-based micro polishing system. The NSF award,
envision designing implant surfaces that are capable of doing this, or formally called a Grant Opportunity for Academic
designing custom cell culture substrates that are capable of doing this.” Liaison with Industry, comes with a three-year grant
of almost $500,000.
Mechanical Engineering Professors Neil Duffie
A scaffold for stem cells
(top) and Xiaochun Li (middle) and Associate
Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Professor Frank Pfefferkorn (bottom) are collabo-
Padma Gopalan and Biomedical Engineering Assistant rating with William Dinauer (MSMSE ’90)and other
Professor Bill Murphy have received a three-year, engineers at LasX Industries Inc., a company in
$325,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a St. Paul, Minnesota, that provides high-performance
biomaterial platform for studying human mesenchymal stem cells, industrial laser systems and contract laser materials
which are stem cells derived from adult human bone marrow. These processing services. The team is working to identify
cells can differentiate into several mature cell types, including bone, a laser-based system that can polish three-dimensional, metal
cartilage, fat and muscle cells. parts measuring approximately .16 inches or less. The system could
Most stem cell types need to adhere to their surrounding “matrix” also polish select areas of those parts or the metallic molds used to
in order to survive, grow and form tissues, and Gopalan and Murphy fabricate plastic microcomponents, and the new system could apply to
are developing engineered materials to control this adhesion. This also the electromechanical and medical device industries.
five questions with Nicola Ferrier
Professor teaches mechanical devices how to ‘see’
In her Robotics and Intelligent Systems What about your field do you think surprises people the most?
Laboratory, Mechanical Engineering Most people have a “Hollywood” perspective on robots and the reality is not yet on
Associate Professor Nicola Ferrier is par with these dreams. I think people are often surprised (more likely disappointed)
helping design the next generation when they see the reality of my work on robot manipulators. Everyone envisions more “sexy”
of robots. They may not look like the research—little mobile robots running around—instead of industrial manipulators.
anthropomorphic machines depicted
in the movies, but these mechanical How did you first get interested in robotics?
arms and manipulators are learning I found robotics when I was looking for a research project that combined math,
how to “see.” computer science and engineering. There was something exciting about working at a
Working at the interface between computer, solving mathematics and seeing a robot move as a result of my calculations and program.
robotics and computer-aided vision,
Ferrier trains robots to extract the What’s the research question most on your mind right now?
most important information from a
It isn’t really a research question, but I spend a lot of time contemplating what is
visual scene with the goal of using the bottleneck or hindrance that limits the application of much of robotics research.
images to control the devices. I keep asking, “What still needs to be done to take this work outside the lab?”
Her focus on computational image
analysis has also led her into several What outcomes do you see from your work for society?
projects on machine vision, with
Images are everywhere now—for example, microscopes, electron tomograms,
applications ranging from medicine
scanning electron microscopes and various medical imaging techniques—and
to manufacturing, navigation and their uses for scientific discovery, medical intervention, and more traditional robotic settings
even traffic control. such as manufacturing will be huge.
What inspires you in your work?
It is an adventure. I sometimes feel scientific and engineering research is the
modern-day version of being an explorer.
By Renee Meiller • Photography by David Nevala
Over the last decade, UW-Madison has built a
suite of opportunities for students to develop
their creativity and expand their business savvy.
“ want to be independent, work on major problems, and have
more meaningful work,” says Sean Kelly.
A freshman biomedical engineering student, Kelly calls himself a
“big-ideas person.” In less than a year on campus, he has pitched an idea to
a group of angel investors, built a breathalyzer lamp for a 100-hour campus
challenge, and entered ideas in two UW-Madison invention competitions.
Kelly lives in a university dorm for entrepreneurs and daily seeks to rub
elbows with like-minded innovative faculty, staff and students.
He’s not alone. Many of today’s students aim to be
entrepreneurs, to start their own companies, and to solve
problems that are both personally relevant and socially
important. “They recognize that maybe careers aren’t as
“You’re going to see more
steady as they used to be in a lot of the disciplines, and that job creation come out of new
they may need to make their own way,” says John Surdyk, companies, small companies
a faculty associate in the Wisconsin School of Business.
At UW-Madison, this trend has not gone unnoticed.
and growing companies.
Beginning more than a decade ago, university leaders began We will also see economic
establishing a vast array of classroom and extracurricular benefits and improvements
opportunities that feed students’ desire to immerse
themselves in innovation and entrepreneurship.
in the quality of life come
There are entrepreneurial student organizations, chat from new, creative ideas.”
groups, peer-mentoring networks, lecture series, and small- —College of Engineering Dean Paul Peercy
business and patenting advice resources. Undergraduates
can major in entrepreneurship, while graduate students can
choose it as a minor. In the works are cross-campus certificate
programs in both technology innovation and entrepreneurship. More than a dozen campus
departments offer courses on topics as diverse as product design and development,
intellectual property, marketing, entrepreneurial finance, managing startup ventures, and
e-commerce, among others. In Sellery Hall, there is an entrepreneurial residential learning
Nate Cira and Alex Rio invented the community for undergraduates, while grad students can participate in a weeklong, high-
PolyForm Pack, which combines a intensity entrepreneurial boot camp.
sleeping pad, backpack, sleeping Myriad competitions reward students at all levels for creative ideas, outstanding proto-
shelter and chair into a waterproof types, innovative product designs, best business plans, environmental solutions, computer
pack that weighs less than five pounds. software, and novel arts ventures.
More than 430 students
have entered ideas in the The first such competition at UW- founded in 2008 to develop Parallel Kingdom. People play the mas-
Schoofs Prize for Creativity Madison is the Schoofs Prize for Creativity. sively multiplayer role-playing game via GPS-enabled mobile phones.
since the competition began Sixteen years ago, chemical engineering In February 2010, it logged more than 100,000 user accounts.
alumnus Richard Schoofs funded the com- Beck credits Innovation Days for informing his role as PerBlue CEO. “I
in 1994. petition, which provides substantial cash don’t think I would have had the experience and the exposure to business
prizes to novel, marketable student ideas. and innovation necessary to start PerBlue without the Innovation Days
A few years later, electrical engineering competition,” he says.
alumnus Peter Tong and the Tong Family Foundation established the Mechanical engi-
Tong Prototype Prize to encourage students to build their ideas. Now neering and business
both are part of Innovation Days, held annually in mid-February. alum Chad Sorenson Wisconsin School of
“The competitions are a great way to challenge your creativity is among several Business Faculty Associate
in ways you don’t do with your schoolwork, and push your ideas Innovation Days John Surdyk maintains an
forward to production,” says electrical and participants to found
computer engineering senior Jason Lohr. companies based on extensive list of campus
Lohr is a two-time, award-winning their winning inven- entrepreneurship resources
Innovation Days participant, and the kind of tions. “It was really at www.bus.wisc.edu/insite.
student who’s not necessarily into creativity my start to pursuing
for the money. In 2010, he and mechanical an entrepreneurial
engineering senior Eyleen Chou and career,” he says.
biomedical engineering senior Tyler Sorenson eventually sold his company, Fluent Systems LLC, and
Lark entered—and earned cash with a couple of partners, founded Sologear Corp., which counts
prizes for—a cooking stove among its products the FlameDisk, an environmentally friendly
that burns plant oils, rather than alternative to charcoal grilling.
wood charcoal, for use in devas- Now, with wealth of business experience under his belt,
tated or developing countries. Sorenson also serves as a mentor for UW-Madison
Their business plan includes students who want to try entrepreneurship. In fall
sharing the idea with residents of 2009, his weekly seminar series for Innovation Days
rural Haiti, who can manufacture, participants covered everything it takes to transform
generate income, and cook with a creative idea into a commercially viable product. The
the coconut-based stove. series was so successful that Sorenson transformed it into a for-
CEO of his own company, three-year credit course, now offered in fall.
Innovation Days participant Justin Serial entrepreneur Matt Ogle says business knowledge helps
Beck says the competition gave him scientists gain credibility in the business world. He should know:
a venue to pursue his passion for An engineer by training, Ogle worked in the medical device
inventing things. “We were always industry before founding Lumen Biomedical in 2002. His latest
thinking, ‘Could we use this for startup is Vatrix Medical, a company that develops technology to
Innovation Days?’” says Beck, who diagnose and treat aneurisms.
earned BS degrees in computer engi- On campus, Ogle teaches Business for Engineers, a course for
neering and computer sciences in 2009. undergraduate and grad students from multiple engineering
He and teammate Daniel Gartenberg disciplines that debuted in fall 2008. From Ogle and guest lecturers,
earned $10,000 in the 2009 competition students learn everything from how to generate, protect and
for their iPhone application, Proactive market their ideas to how to structure a company and navigate
Sleep Alarm Clock, now available for regulatory hurdles. “There has to be a marriage of understanding
download via the Apple App Store. the technology and understanding the business,” he says.
These days, however, Beck and fellow Based on a real technological idea, student teams ultimately
computer engineering and computer write a business plan and present it to venture investors.
sciences alum Andrew Hanson spend their One group from the inaugural course turned its business
time growing PerBlue, the company they Justin Beck plan into Respicure, a startup company.
N T O I N V E N TI O N
INNOVATION WINNERS 2010
TH E U
Chemical and biological engineering postdoc- ER
toral researcher Ankit Agarwal also aims to start Y O F WIS C O N SI First place Schoofs Prize for Creativity ($10,000) and second
a company. “Having witnessed many innovative place Tong Prototype Prize ($1,250)—Automated Pest
technologies never flying out of the university Elimination System (APEL), an automated, self-contained
patent offices, I decided to advocate my inven- system to spray fruit trees while minimizing pesticide
tions all the way to commercialization,” he says. overspraying. Invented by mechanical engineering junior
Agarwal, whose goal is to translate bio- Tom Gerold and finance sophomore Kara Anderson.
medical research from the lab to the clinic,
is one of 13 Kauffman Postdoctoral Fellows
nationwide who received the honor to help
First place Tong Prototype Prize ($2,500) and second place
commercialize their scientific advances. A 2009
Schoofs Prize for Creativity ($7,000 )—PolyForm Pack,
Wisconsin Entrepreneurial Bootcamp graduate, which combines a sleeping pad, backpack, sleeping shelter
Agarwal developed a unique method for using and chair into a lightweight, waterproof piece of backpacking
silver in antibacterial wound dressings that aid equipment. Invented by biomedical engineering junior
healing without damaging cells. Nate Cira and chemical engineering senior Alex Rio.
Translational research also is a theme in the
Department of Biomedical Engineering. The
department weaves design courses throughout
its undergraduate curriculum, enabling student Third place Schoofs Prize for Creativity ($4,000)—
teams to collaborate with clinicians on solutions TriCrimp, a lightweight, pneumatic crimping tool for steel
to real-world problems. From these solutions, fastening that replaces tedious hand-crimping tools and
the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation has bulky mechanical crimpers. Invented by mechanical
received more than 40 patent disclosures. engineering junior Scott Johanek.
Similarly, the college has enhanced design
opportunities for students in all departments,
says Dean Paul Peercy. “Even before I came,
Fourth place Schoofs Prize for Creativity ($1,000) and Younkle
freshman design was put in place to help
Best Presentation Award ($1,000)—Plant Oil Burning Stove,
students think about design,” he says. “But if
an inexpensive cooking stove that burns plant oils, creating a
you look now at the level of sophistication of new industry in rural Haiti. Invented by electrical engineering
our capstone design courses, where we bring senior Jason Lohr, mechanical engineering senior Eyleen
together students from multiple disciplines to Chou and biomedical engineering senior Tyler Lark.
come up with ideas for new products, design
those products, and build prototypes of those
products—that’s an area of increasing strength
in the college.” Third place Tong Prototype Prize ($700 )—BreezeDry, a
Peercy calls this college culture shift toward specialized towel bar with fans designed to dry clothes via
entrepreneurship critically important in today’s efficient air flow. Invented by chemical engineering senior
high-tech, highly competitive global economy. Andrew Burton.
“You’re going to see more job creation come out
of new companies, small companies and growing
companies,” he says. “We will also see economic
benefits and improvements in the quality of life
come from new, creative ideas. And this will be Sorenson Design Notebook Award ($1,000 )—Solar Panel
innovative and entrepreneurial, whether the Snow Removal System, a motor-powered system to “squeegee”
students who graduate and do this are working snow or debris off without damaging the panels. Invented by
in a big company or whether they’re working in mechanical engineering senior Adam Strutz and industrial
their own startup company, or whether they’re and systems engineering graduate Elizabeth Konkol.
working in a small company.”
New strategies for battling brain disease
t has taken more than a decade for Regina Murphy amyloid find each other, they bind into links called oligomers. These
and her colleagues to determine that sometimes it’s oligomers, or intermediates, grow as they find more and more beta
actually better to rush things. amyloid copies, eventually forming a clump called a fibril that can
At least that’s the case when those things are protein measure around 1 micron long, which is visible in the brain tissue.
processes in the brain that can lead to devastating
neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s. Rethinking the disease process
Murphy, the Smith-Bascom
Professor of Chemical and Patients with Alzheimer’s have
Biological Engineering, is study- these beta amyloid fibrils, and
ing the kinetics of proteins and for years, researchers and drug
peptides that aggregate in the companies assumed that the
brain. Her work has helped to fibrils were causing cell death
dramatically change the research and disease. However, in the late
paradigms that guide neurologi- 1990s, Murphy and UW-Madison
cal drug development, creating Chemistry Professor Laura Kiessling
new possibilities for therapies showed that in the case of
that could treat not only the Alzheimer’s disease, the fibrils
symptoms of these diseases, themselves aren’t the problem.
but perhaps the actual causes. Rather oligomer “clumping” is
Alzheimer’s, the most the toxic part of the process. And,
common form of dementia, is speeding up this intermediate
a progressive and fatal brain dis- aggregation into fully formed
ease that currently has no cure. fibrils actually reduces overall
Characterized by severe memory toxicity in the brain.
loss and confusion, the disease Murphy, who has been a mem-
affects as many as 5.3 million ber of the UW-Madison faculty for
people in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. more than 20 years, recalls visits to pharmaceutical companies where
A new patient develops the disease every 70 seconds, and while the she met researchers trying to develop drugs intended to prevent
majority of patients are over age 65, as many as 200,000 people in fibrils from forming. “They weren’t looking at whether they were just
their 30s, 40s and 50s are living with the disease. pushing everything back to the intermediate phase, which would have
Doctors do not fully understand the cause of Alzheimer’s, though been worse since that’s the most toxic stage, because it just wasn’t
age, family history, and serious head injuries appear to be risk factors. accepted wisdom that the intermediates were bad,” she says.
Similarly, scientists do not know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s Murphy believes beta amyloid is still the main culprit in Alzheimer’s
at the cellular level, but they have linked the disease to a particular since the intermediates appear to have a physical effect on the cell
protein in the brain. membrane of neurons, which is where the cell most actively transmits and
Imagine the protein, called the beta amyloid precursor protein receives signals. Neurons make up around 10 percent of all brain cells and
(APP), as a chain. A few links of this chain make up an amino acid are, says Murphy, the racehorses of our bodies. “They’re fast and great,
called beta amyloid. Enzymes work like a saw to “cut out” the beta but they’re touchy,” she says, adding that neurons appear to be particularly
amyloid section from the rest of the protein. When cut pieces of beta sensitive to changes in their physical properties, resulting in cell death.
By Sandra Knisely
Photography by David Nevala
While some scientists have yet to believe that fibrils are not “bad Murphy and Johnson have received almost $413,000 in federal
actors” in and of themselves, the Alzheimer’s research community has stimulus funding from the National Institutes of Health to study how
experienced what Murphy describes as a “sea change in how we think exactly TTR affects beta amyloid and how researchers can induce this
about the whole problem with these proteins.” The new emphasis on interaction to perhaps prevent Alzheimer’s from ever developing in
beta amyloid intermediates has led to research into alternatives to brain tissue. “We want to find out how to turn a human into a mouse,
therapies that prevent or target the fully formed fibrils. basically,” Johnson says.
While the experimental mice produced more TTR, human patients
Turning humans into mice with Alzheimer’s have decreased levels of the protein. High levels
of TTR can either force—or totally prevent—aggregation of beta
One alternative Murphy is studying in collaboration with UW-Madison amyloid. While Murphy and Johnson don’t understand fully why this
Pharmacy Professor Jeffrey Johnson is another protein in the brain that happens, they are working on strategies to increase TTR levels to
could be used to protect neural cells from beta amyloid—and perhaps learn more.
even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Their many research questions include whether they can develop
In 2002, Johnson’s lab published the results of experiments that small molecules that can facilitate TTR and beta amyloid interaction
injected mice with mutated forms of human APP. As in humans, the and how much they should increase TTR levels to reduce beta amyloid
transgenic mice produced the damaging beta amyloid deposits in their toxicity. The answers to these questions could lead to the development
brain tissues. Unlike in humans, the mice did not develop other signs of of drug therapies to treat the actual Alzheimer’s disease process,
Alzheimer’s, such as neurofibrillary tangles (aggregates of a different instead of only alleviating symptoms.
protein inside neurons) that lead to cell death. Instead, the mice pro- This highly innovative Alzheimer’s disease research is likely to
duced an excess amount of another protein, called transthyretin (TTR), lead to an effective therapy for the disease, says Sanjay Asthana,
which appears to interact with beta amyloid and reduce its toxicity. the UW-Madison Duncan G. and Lottie H. Ballantine Chair in Geriatrics
and director of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute and Wisconsin
Comprehensive Memory Program. “Such a therapy will favorably alter
the basic pathology of Alzheimer’s, which could potentially slow the
progression of the disease and, hopefully, one day prevent the disease
from developing,” he says.
Age or Alzheimer’s?
In research that has the potential to make such a significant difference,
Johnson says collaboration is key. “Combining expertise with those
outside of your area is going to be the nature of science in the future,”
he says. “We have to cross those disciplinary bridges in order to move TYPICAL AGE-RELATED CHANGES
forward faster than we have been. The whole of our research is going • Making a bad decision once in a while
to be greater than the sum of our individual parts.”
• Missing a monthly payment
Going beyond Alzheimer’s • Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
• Sometimes forgetting which word to use
In addition to her work with Johnson, Murphy has received almost
$300,000 from the National Science Foundation to study protein • Losing things from time to time
folding and aggregation in a set of rare neurological diseases, such
as Huntington’s disease. The Huntington’s Disease Society of America
SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER’S
estimates more than 250,000 people in the United States have it or
have a significant risk of inheriting the devastating genetic brain • Poor judgment and decision-making
disease, which gradually shuts down the neurons that control muscles
• Inability to manage a budget
and eventually destroys cognitive abilities as well.
• Losing track of the date or the season
• Difficulty having a conversation
• Misplacing things and being unable to retrace
steps to find them
(Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
challenges in her separate lines of research, Murphy approaches all of
the proteins she studies like a chemist would approach any molecule
or polymer. “These are biological problems, but some basic physical
chemistry comes into play,” she says. “I think this perspective allows
me to bring a different dimension than a classically trained biochemist
brings to these questions.”
Ultimately, Murphy is driven by the fact that the basic behaviors
of proteins have a direct, widespread effect on human health. “We’re
Like Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s and related diseases are dealing with the fundamental physical chemistry of how these
caused by sections of proteins in the brain that misbehave. The proteins—these molecules—behave, and why,” she says. “And the
specific proteins and amino acids at work are different—the protein is biological consequences of these behaviors—disease—give us
huntingtin and the amino acid is glutamine—but despite the distinct reasons to investigate beyond pure curiosity.”
Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock, USAF
Hacking for Haitian relief
“I have this bumper sticker that says, ‘Python will Hacker members tackled a request management system that
save the world. I don’t know how, but it will,’” adds pleas for aid, as well as the locations of those requests, to a
says postdoctoral researcher Nicholas Preston. database so that aid organizations can respond.
Programmers worldwide contributed Python code to eight
O n January 14, 2010, Preston got his chance to use the powerful
programming language to help earthquake victims in Haiti. He
and fellow members of student computing organization The Hacker
Sahana modules. In Madison, about seven students worked virtually
around the clock for a week to finish writing the majority of the
request management system.
Within, and staff of the UW-Madison The students used real-time
Healthscapes project, worked day and Internet text messaging, called
night to help convert Sahana, an estab- Internet Relay Chat, or IRC, to guide
lished web-based disaster management Students use their work. “Because of the open-
tool, from the web scripting language computing skills source nature of this, we went on IRC
PHP into Python. to hasten and we were instantly in contact with
Haiti aid efforts the lead developer of Sahana and the
president of the Sahana Foundation,”
Sahana launched in response to the says Milad Fatenejad, an engineering
December 2004 Asian tsunami. Now physics PhD student who co-founded
the free, open-source system enables aid The Hacker Within. “We were chatting
organizations to coordinate the logistics with them on IRC, and it was only
of disaster response and management, because of this process and these
including tracking missing people, managing open-source tools that we were
volunteers, mapping, and communicating among various groups. within two days actually contributing code into Sahana. And that
When the Haiti earthquake occurred, Sahana developers were in the for me was really amazing.”
midst of converting the tool from PHP into Python. Since text messages Even though Haiti earthquake rescue efforts have become
pleading for assistance were pouring in from Haiti, Sahana developers long-term relief initiatives, the UW-Madison students are still
needed help—fast—so that earthquake victims and aid organizations writing code for Sahana—an endeavor they find both personally
could use the tool in rescue and recovery efforts. “We were able to and professionally rewarding.
add this functionality that was specific to this disaster,” says Preston, “At one point, I was on the chat room, and I commented to some-
who works as a programmer for Healthscapes under Jonathan Patz, one, ‘I’m learning so much, I feel like I should be paying you tuition,’”
a professor in the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies says Fatenejad. “I got an education, and we got to help people.”
and Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.
UW-Madison chapter of
F or much of the year, the Saint-Cyr River in northern Haiti is a
docile trickle 1 foot deep. Yet when the late spring rains bear
down on the Saint-Cyr, the river swells in some points to be more
Engineers Without Borders
than 30 feet across and 10 feet deep. This volatility left a sinking
feeling in the student members of the UW-Madison chapter of
wins United Nations award
Engineers Without Borders when they realized the extent of the
flooding during a June 2009 trip to Haiti: The site for the hydroelectric
power generator they planned to start building was in one of the
areas where the water raised the most.
The students rallied and found a safer site to continue their work
on a mini-hydroelectric power generator that will provide 3 to 5
kilowatt hours of electricity to a school, library and church in
Bayonnais, Haiti. The generator will serve as a pilot project for a
larger, 15 to 25 kilowatt generator the group may build for a
community clinic currently in design.
A bridge project in Haiti was one of the earliest initiatives started
by the group of University of Colorado-Boulder students who founded
the first chapter of Engineers
Without Borders in 2000. governmental organization in Haiti, and a church in North Carolina. In
Graduate student Scott Hamel This is the second addition to finishing and repairing the bridge after Hurricane Hannah,
was with the project from time the Engineers the EWB-UW group is repairing a 10-mile pipe that carries fresh water
the beginning, and when he Without Borders through Bayonnais.
came to UW-Madison in 2002 The project attracted international attention when it was awarded
UW group has won
to pursue a PhD in civil and $22,400 and a gold medal Mondialogo Engineering Award in November
environmental engineering, a Mondialogo award. 2009. The award is part of a UNESCO (United Nations Educational,
he encouraged the new EWB- In 2005, the Rwanda Scientific and Cultural Organization) and Daimler initiative to recognize
UW group to get involved. project won a bronze intercultural engineering achievements related to development.
“It’s the poorest country award and $7,000. Civil and environmental engineering student Kyle Ankenbauer and
in the western hemisphere,” mechanical engineering student Eyleen Chou traveled to Stuttgart,
Hamel says. “I feel a sense of Germany, to receive the award, which the UW-Madison group shares
responsibility toward people who haven’t had the same opportunities with Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
I’ve had, and the people I’ve met in Haiti are now my friends.” “This is a huge honor, and it feels really good to have the project
In 2006, EWB-UW did get involved. Members continued work recognized at such a high level,” says Ankenbauer. “The award will help
on the bridge project in collaboration with the EWB San Francisco generate a lot of momentum behind this project.”
professional chapter (which currently is designing the clinic), a non-
Students strive to improve medical care around the world
H oping to convey a more positive impression of
healthcare, biomedical engineering student
members of the UW-Madison Engineering World
calibrate it, and write a user-friendly operations manual that
travels with the equipment to remote areas of the world.
Others serve on medical missions trips or design simple,
Health chapter spearhead initiatives that could low-cost medical equipment for developing nations.
benefit residents in countries around the world, Amit Nimunkar (PhD ‘09), who is among the
yet inspire students and teachers in Wisconsin. UW-Madison chapter founding members, stresses
The group offers workshops for middle- and high- that global engineering starts with developing interest
school students that help them relate math and science in and raising awareness of global medical needs at
to careers in medicine and engineering. Several biomedical home. “It is work at all these different levels,” he says.
engineering students fix broken medical equipment, test and “It‘s more like a ‘drop by drop makes a whole ocean’ effort.”
Inspiring elementary students
UW-Madison engineering students at all levels participate in many
outreach opportunities. Recently, student members of the engineering
fraternity Triangle shared their passion for engineering with third- through
sixth-grade students at Rusch Elementary School in Portage, Wisconsin.
In addition, they helped fourth-graders build “capsules” they hoped would
cushion raw eggs dropped from the gym balcony. “Having these engineer-
ing students come in, explain what engineering is, tell students how they
can do it and have fun with it was the ‘hook’ my students needed to get
motivated,” said a fifth-grade teacher. “The seed was planted. Awesome!”
UW-Madison and Beloit partnership produce water-run scooter
UW-Madison and Beloit partnership produces water-run scooter
A t first glance, a 50-cc Vespa scooter
and a squad car may not appear
to have much in common; however,
alternator, funneled the hydrogen directly to
the engine via a stainless steel tube. This year,
the class altered the system to be a dry-cell
the two connected in a partnership system. Unlike a wet-cell design, which sub-
between a class of UW-Madison fresh- merges the electrical components in water, the
man engineering students and officials dry-cell system keeps the electrical connections
from Beloit, Wisconsin. The partnership above water. This combined with Lutz’s unique
made progress toward technologies designs has created an efficient system that
that could eventually run a variety of powers the scooter with hydrogen and oxygen,
vehicles on nothing but water. which are produced on demand in the fuel cell.
During the fall 2009 semester, a section of Future classes may be able to run the scooter
InterEGR 160: Introduction to Engineering, The electrolyzer “splits” water into hydrogen and oxygen. entirely on water by using the battery to start
led by Civil and Environmental Engineering the electrolyzer. Anderson also anticipates
Professor Marc Anderson and Beloit Public speeds. Since hydrogen creates more complete engine combustion, students will work on a system that works with
Works fleet manager Dan Lutz, demonstrated the class scooter produced fewer emissions than factory Vespas. tap water, rather than the distilled water with
a new hydrogen-assisted system that can run In spring 2009, Anderson’s freshman engineering class developed sodium hydroxide used in the current system.
a Vespa on a hydrogen-gasoline fuel mix. The a wet-cell system that ran water through a container called an “It’s exciting to be working with hydrogen-
students were able to run the Vespa entirely electrolyzer, which contained fuel cells to split water via electrolysis based technologies, and I really want to see
on hydrogen both at idling and high-throttle into oxygen and hydrogen. The fuel cells, powered by the scooter’s this go further,” says Lutz. “We’ve got a long
Tight-knit steel bridge team
aims for the top
Purdue University), having hovered among
N early as long as a football field, the expansive Engineering Centers Building atrium offers
ample space for many university events and expositions held throughout the year.
On spring Saturdays, it also serves as a training ground for a unique athletic endeavor that
the nation’s best steel bridge builders for a
decade. The team has earned second-, third-,
marries basic civil engineering with agility, speed, precision—and of course, teamwork. fourth-, sixth- and 12th-place finishes in six
The challenge? Build a strong steel bridge across a pretend river using hundreds of parts of the last seven years.
and pieces set up in delivery “yards” on either end. Time is of the essence, as is accuracy. An offshoot of the student chapter of the
Construction team members—and the bridge itself—must hold up well under pressure. American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE),
In 2010, there’s an added layer of complexity—one that members of the UW-Madison Steel the Steel Bridge Team generally boasts a
Bridge Team have imposed upon themselves. “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to go all the couple of dozen members. About five students
way. We’re going to try to win nationals,” says civil and environmental engineering student make up the competition construction team,
Tyler Hoehn, who co-chairs the team with fellow while other members help shape the bridge
students Ed Sippel and Edson Rosenberg. design, spearhead fund-raising efforts (the
Team members are hungry for a national team has many sponsors), fabricate key parts,
championship (nationals are May 28-29 at mentor new members, or serve as crew for
the construction team.
Bridge design begins in September when
major competition sponsors ASCE and the
American Institute of Steel Construction
release rules for the upcoming competition.
plating with a proprietary surface coating For a week during the university winter break,
developed by Anderson that improves the students work with professional welders
way to go, but by running a Vespa entirely on performance and efficiency. A U.S. patent and machinists, whom Waunakee, Wisconsin-
hydrogen, we’ve proved it can be done.” on this coating is pending through the based Endres Manufacturing Co. supplies to
Lutz hopes to eventually implement a Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. help fabricate major portions of the bridge.
fine-tuned version of the system in a variety of The partnership between UW-Madison Then there are the spring-semester
Beloit vehicles, including squad cars and city and Beloit Public Works was mutually construction practices, which are a mixture
pick-up trucks. Beloit Public Works has been beneficial. Lutz was able to leverage of silly and serious. “Even if they’re not the
testing hydrogen-based systems in city fleet university resources, including laboratories people doing the run, there’ll be a couple of
vehicles since the spring of 2008, and Lutz, and faculty expertise, to advance hydrogen people standing around, helping take the
who oversees the more than 300-vehicle fleet, technologies and eventually enable bridge apart in between,” says Sippel. “And
has worked to meet the city’s sustainability suppliers to build systems for him to it gets to be a lot of fun, just joking around,
goals by testing hydrogen-on-demand systems implement in the Beloit fleet vehicles. being together for a while, taking a break
to save fuel and help the environment. The engineering students also benefited from homework.”
Lutz was put in contact with Anderson from Lutz’s presence on campus, says And, says Hoehn, membership on the Steel
through various public works and UW-Madison Anderson, and took full advantage of their Bridge Team is a good time with a reasonable
contacts. Throughout the semester, Lutz opportunity to learn from both instructors. time commitment: “I haven’t had a sleepless
traveled to Madison every Wednesday evening “We cancelled class the Wednesday night yet,” he says.
to help teach the students about hydrogen- before Thanksgiving, and several students
based technologies. During class, the students still came into the lab because they didn’t
tested fuel cell designs and coated the fuel cell want to miss a week,” says Lutz.
Intergrating engineering and biology
or students studying a discipline strongly rooted in the physical In each of the modules, students apply what they’ve learned
sciences, it might seem contradictory that biology could appear about biology and engineering as participants on interdisciplinary
alongside math, chemistry and physics as a course most teams. They also share their knowledge, in “lay” language, through
engineering undergraduates should take. a community outreach project of their choosing. Keenan and Beebe
Yet, says Tom Keenan, as multidisciplinary teams seek to solve added the outreach component to the four-credit course to encourage
global challenges in health, medicine and the environment, this students to think about how to communicate science and technology
natural science is integral to many engineering disciplines. As a to public audiences. “You can’t say, ‘It’s really complicated,’ because
postdoctoral researcher in Biomedical Engineering Professor David that’s dismissive,” says Keenan. “You have to make it uncomplicated,
Beebe’s lab, Keenan began brainstorming ideas for a biology course and that’s your job.”
that would appeal to all College of Engineering undergraduates. In Students in the class have given talks to groups ranging from
2007, he and Beebe received funding through the college Engineering elementary and high school students to visitors at a senior center.
Beyond Boundaries (EB2) initiative to One recent outreach presentation had ties to
develop InterEGR 301: Engineering and University of Wisconsin-Madison computing: Students explored silicon-based
Biology: Technological Symbiosis. memory and processors and how they might
“There was a lot of interest from our integrate such technologies with the human
students in community-level engineering, brain to improve their ability to think and store
as well as global engineering,” says Keenan, information. “That’s the kind of ‘out-there’
who now is an assistant scientist in neurology
in the UW-Madison School of Medicine and
ENGINEERING thinking we’re hoping they’ll do,” says Keenan.
Keenan and Beebe crafted three modules
that are both meaningful to students and demonstrate the connection As part of the outreach effort, student teams research their topic and
between biology and engineering. (Now, the course counts as an give an in-class presentation that solidifies their technical knowledge
elective in most College of Engineering departments.) “We introduce of the subject. Then, they redevelop their talk for a general audience,
them to biology, with a specific application in mind—and in a way also considering such factors as ethics and context.
that employs their engineering training,” says Keenan. Former student Emily Maslonkowski and her group presented a
In the superhuman bionics module, students in the class study how talk about stem cells to about 25 senior center residents. “I think that
to make prosthetic devices that exceed human function. A module that getting the students at the university to share their knowledge with
debuted initially as an exercise in using personal waste to generate the surrounding community is a great way to thank them for their
electricity now engages students in discussions about how to manage support,” she says.
agricultural and municipal solid waste and use it for energy. For the third The students discussed what stem cells are, how they are made,
module, students learn how to adapt “Western” HIV/AIDS diagnostic what political issues surround stem cell research, and how stem cells
tools for use in countries with limited access to electricity or water. could replace damaged cardiac tissue. “We got so many questions from
Keenan and Beebe deliver Engineering and Biology online, and EB2 the people there that you could really tell that they were interested
funding in 2009 enabled them to improve their content. They have and wanted to learn,” says Maslonkowski, who earned her bachelor’s
coupled their own web-based narrated PowerPoints with multimedia degree in biomedical engineering in May 2009 and now works for GE
content in the public domain. For example, students better understand Healthcare in its operations management leadership program. “It was
the limitations of prosthetic devices after they watch YouTube videos also really great to see how they didn’t just want the ‘watered-down’
created by people who use prosthetics. In addition to viewing the version of science that they see on the news, but they wanted to know
lectures, students also take required web-based quizzes. how it really worked and what it meant for them.”
Students like the format and flexibility of the online lectures and, The course is open to any engineering undergraduate. “They can
when they come to class, they’re prepared to tackle the challenge come together with a project that really makes sense from all the
at hand, says Keenan. “They’ve watched those presentations and the engineering disciplines—and work on a team that probably is a lot
professor who’s leading that module—or the special lecturers, which like what they’ll work on when they go to industry,” Keenan says.
we have a series of for each module—can then sit down and have Former student Kenny Kearney agrees. “I think the most important
a really in-depth discussion or analysis,” he says. “We take them far thing that I learned from the class was how different fields of engineer-
beyond the course material they’ve learned and really maximize the ing can be combined to help solve problems that would be difficult for
efficiency of the learning process.” the individual fields to solve on their own,” he says.
As multidisciplinary teams seek to solve global challenges
in health, medicine and the environment, biology is integral
to many engineering disciplines.
at work in the world
very weeknight when the lights came
up on the set of “The Tonight Show
with Conan O’Brien,” the staff at
Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC) could point
to the television screen and say, “We did that.”
As a global company, ETC produces lighting
fixtures for many countries, each with different
voltage and connector standards. To find a
way to efficiently produce a variety of fixtures,
the company turned to the UW-Madison
Center for Quick Response Manufacturing
(QRM). The center is a partnership between
UW-Madison and more than 50 member
companies dedicated to researching and
implementing quick-response manufacturing
(QRM) principles, methods and tools.
The QRM philosophy was originally
developed by Industrial and Systems
Engineering Professor Emeritus Rajan Suri.
QRM focuses on reducing lead time (the
amount of time needed to develop and
deliver a product) by evaluating the entire
manufacturing process. This includes order
processing, purchasing, design, the shop
floor, shipping and after-market service.
Faculty and students at the center work with
manufacturers to develop new principles to
create tailored solutions for businesses that
help them dramatically reduce lead times.
Industrial and Systems Engineering
Custom solutions keep
Professor Ananth Krishnamurthy took over as
director of the QRM center in January 2008 manufacturers
when Suri retired.
Krishnamurthy completed his PhD in industrial engineering under the center helps transfer university research to industry, resulting in
Suri’s mentorship and has been affiliated with the center for more than tangible benefits to their bottom lines. In the 16 years since its founding,
a decade. He supervised industry projects, led research activities the center has completed more than 400 projects with more than 200
and spoke at numerous QRM workshops and conferences. company partners, most of which are based in the Midwest and range
Connecting with the Krishnamurthy is also the director of the UW-Madison from small, local manufacturers to large, national corporations.
Manufacturing Systems Engineering (MSE) program, An example is P&H Mining of Milwaukee, which manufactures
College of Engineering an interdisciplinary master’s program that custom mining equipment, including shovels, draglines and drilling
The college welcomes inquiries from combines engineering and business courses. products. The company designs and engineers each product to meet
business and industry about solving The QRM center provides extensive support its customers’ specific needs. As a result, each P&H customer order
technical problems, tapping into specialized to the MSE program. varies in quantity and manufacturing complexity; QRM offers specific
expertise or serving professional training needs. The center conducts cutting-edge principles to address this complexity.
research on strategies to improve manu- “We were visiting lean manufacturing factories, but the philosophy
• Lawrence Casper, assistant dean
facturing competitiveness and works wasn’t the best match,” says P&H plant manager Bob Mueller. Lean
for research and technology transfer,
in partnership with several businesses manufacturing is a traditional approach that establishes production flow
operating in low-volume, high-mix in high-volume, low-variety environments. Mueller and project manager
• Philip O’Leary, chair, Department of manufacturing environments. Through Kathy Pelto led the efforts to implement QRM principles at P&H Mining,
Engineering Professional Development, graduate student-led projects, confer- while QRM center faculty conducted employee-training sessions. When
608/262-2061, firstname.lastname@example.org ences and employee training sessions, the company purchased new shop equipment, the P&H team ensured
Ananth Krishnamurthy (wearing tie) and three
of his students tour the production facility of the producer of energy-efficient ventilation systems. RenewAire became customer what they want, when they want it.
RenewAire factory in Madison with company a QRM partner in 2002, when the company was experiencing rapid This gives U.S. companies an advantage.”
representative Chuck Gates (right). growth. Like P&H Mining, RenewAire didn’t find lean manufacturing The partnerships between manufacturers
to be a good fit for its variable environment. and the QRM center are mutually beneficial.
“We struggled mightily with variable customer demand, and it Several partners have hired QRM students,
was a huge relief to find a central methodology we could build plans including P&H Mining, which has hired two
around,” says RenewAire president Chuck Gates. “QRM allowed us to graduates full time and others as interns to
move from bunker mentality to a mindset of empowerment.” continue their academic-year projects into
With help from the QRM center, RenewAire established two the summer. “Every year the students are
focused target markets: residential and commercial customers. The really high caliber,” says Mueller.
company then created teams to directly serve both customer groups ETC hired Alex Stoltz 11 years ago after he
from order to delivery, so instead of specializing in one production graduated from the MSE program and worked
task, employees specialized on their particular customer. on a QRM center student project.
The results were tremendous. “Between 2003 and 2008, revenue “I really understood the philosophy of lead
has increased 130 percent,” says Gates. “Lead time for residential time reduction, and ETC was just getting into it
products has been reduced from 10 days to one. Lead time for when I started here,” he says. “We’ve hired an-
commercial sector products was 25 days and now is 10 days.” other engineer from the program and another
Such results challenge the misconception that manufacturing is is currently enrolled. It’s really been a win-win
too expensive in the United States and must be outsourced to other relationship for ETC, MSE and the QRM center.”
countries. According to Krishnamurthy, labor costs generally make up ETC regularly participates in student proj-
only 10 to 20 percent of total manufacturing costs, ects. After each one, the company implements
so reducing labor costs by outsourcing some of the project recommendations.
overseas may save only 5 or 6 percent Overall, ETC has reduced lead times
of total costs. These meager savings by more than 30 percent and has
also come at a price: time. “QRM methodology seen cost savings by reducing
“When you ship from makes it possible to offer a scrap, handling and rework.
overseas, the products sit wide variety of products delivered In addition to the student
on a boat for three to four projects, the QRM center
in a short amount of time—in effect
months, so you have to hosts international
machine months worth of giving the customer what they want, conferences and seminars
competitive inventory ahead of time,
which may be obsolete by
when they want it. This gives U.S.
companies an advantage.”
to introduce a wide range
of businesses to the benefits
the time it gets here,” says and possibilities of QRM.
the equipment was set up according to a QRM Krishnamurthy. “Sourcing from —Chuck Gates Krishnamurthy is looking
workflow, which groups employees working on overseas also limits your ability to forward to expanding the center’s
a particular product into a cluster, or cell. adapt to demand changes and introduce national presence as he and his team
QRM principles helped reduce P&H Mining the latest designs into your product. This continue to help businesses embrace QRM.
lead times by 66 percent, resulting in significant could lead to loss of potential business opportunities.” “We recognize that in the future, more and
cost savings. According to Mueller and Pelto, These are valuable openings for manufacturers that would like more manufacturers will be required to offer
key to this success is how well P&H Mining to compete based on their ability to manufacture custom products a high variety of customized products at short
employees embraced QRM. quickly —the QRM center is helping companies take advantage of lead times,” Krishnamurthy says.
“Workers plan their own work, which these opportunities. “At the QRM center, we are at the forefront
leads to more fulfillment after a day on the “The strength of American manufacturing is in small- and medium- of identifying theories that would define
job,” Mueller says. Pelto adds that the shop sized manufacturers. That’s where the innovation really takes place, manufacturing competitiveness in the
workers, who are unionized, feel a sense of and by supporting these companies we provide a valuable service,” future and helping businesses implement
ownership for the products since they are says Krishnamurthy. these theories. As we pull out of these tough
part of the process almost from start to finish, Gates appreciates the help. “Small to medium manufacturers economic times, companies that are well
rather than seeing a product only at one point make up the majority of manufacturing output in the United States,” equipped to meet these challenges will
in the production process. He says. “So this sector is absolutely vital to our economic health as succeed and the QRM center is proud to help
QRM principles also are making a difference a nation. QRM methodology makes it possible to offer a wide variety them chart their success.”
for Madison-based RenewAire, a leading of products delivered in a short amount of time—in effect giving the —Sandra Knisely
meet two alumni
Making a mark
on Miller Park
W hile your typical Milwaukee Brewers fan might have a favorite
moment to share about a game at Miller Park, Mike Duckett
can narrow it down to his favorite time of day.
sports good for the local economy and worth
the public investment? “I’ve always said,
being a good Wisconsin boy, that it’s a good
Duckett, the executive director of the Miller Park Stadium District, barstool argument,” he says. “You can argue
says he is enamored with that intersection between the end of his long and hard about the benefits and/or costs
workday and the start of a night game, when he can watch thousands of professional sports, with valid points
of fans thread into the sprawling ballpark. “I’ll often wait until about supporting either side of the argument.”
7 p.m. to leave work, and just watch the building load with people,” From a numbers perspective, economists
he says. “My favorite time is when you see the families bringing kids often fall on both sides of the question. But
in, some for the very first time, and they’re holding their mom or dad’s in the case on the Milwaukee Brewers, the
hand, looking up and just going, ‘Wow.’ That’s really fun to see them economic benefits to Milwaukee are measur-
soaking it all in.” able, with more than 50 percent of all ticket
This inside-looking-out perspective perfectly suits Duckett, a 1974 sales coming from outside the five-county
bachelor’s and 1975 master’s degree graduate of the Department region, Duckett says. The fact that Miller Park
of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Since Miller Park opened
attracts millions of visitors each year to south-
in 2001, Duckett has served as Executive Director of the Southeast eastern Wisconsin is an indisputable economic
Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District and represents the benefit of the ballpark.
interests of southeastern Wisconsin taxpayers, who own 70 percent of Miller Park. The open concourse design— Then there’s the less measurable quality-
the stadium. He oversees about $2 million per year in capital projects allowing a 360-degree ring of unobstructed of-life perspective. “We are a major league city
and improvements. views from the concourse— thanks to the Brewers,” Duckett says. “Every
But the satisfaction with helping “My favorite time is when you was a first and is now one of the night, in every city in America, you can turn
create a great major league experi- hottest trends in professional on the evening news and hear reports about
ence in Milwaukee goes deeper for
see the families bringing kids stadium design. the Brewers, or the Milwaukee Bucks or the
Duckett, who was associated with in, some for the very first time, He pointed to ways the park Green Bay Packers. This puts Milwaukee and
Miller Park before a single blueprint and they’re holding their mom continues to offer a fresh experi- Wisconsin on a more respected major league
was drafted. As an engineer with ence. At the right field foul pole level nationally.”
HNTB Associates in the mid-1980s,
or dad’s hand, looking up and is the new AirTran Landing If there is a common theme to Duckett’s
he participated in a study on the just going, ‘Wow.’ ” Zone, an enclosed bullpen engineering career, it would be, simply put,
future of the former County Stadium. sports bar that seats 75 people. “big-league construction.” His work with Miller
That pivotal report concluded it would cost nearly as much to give the And next to the sausage race entrance, a new Park led to him being tapped as a construction
deteriorating County Stadium a modern facelift as it would to build a kids’ play area includes batting cages, speed consultant for the Lambeau Field renovation
new one. pitching, photo booths and a bicycle-powered project five years ago, and most recently,
He remained a key consultant with the stadium development sausage race. Miller Park has also added he provided assistance on the massive new
through the 1990s, a time of political strife for the project. Things several group and party areas, including new stadium project for the Minnesota Twins. He
looked rosy in 1994, when state polls showed 70-percent support for party skyboxes and the Gehl Club, a unique, has also served as an engineering manage-
a new stadium and the Legislature was poised to create a new sports upscale group area on the club level with ment consultant on the recently completed
lottery for its construction. Only one problem: The summer of 1994 seating for 240 people. Marquette Interchange ($810 million), and
brought the major league baseball strike, and with it the fury of fans. In 2005, Sports Illustrated named Miller the current Highway 41 ($1.5 billion) and
“The referendum went down in flames,” he recalls. “There was so much Park the No. 1 baseball stadium in America in Interstate 94 ($1.9 billion) artery overhauls.
animosity over the strike and the rich millionaires who can’t get along.” terms of value for the money. Duckett says it’s Still, the Miller Park work is easily
Following a rocky political road, stadium backers ultimately no accident. “The Milwaukee market is a little classified as a “dream job,” Duckett says.
succeeded in creating a 0.1 percent sales tax in the five adjacent different,” he says. “The old joke was that out of “There’s something special about baseball.
counties to build Miller Park. Duckett was hired in late 1996, prior 30 major league baseball markets, Milwaukee Parents and grandparents teach their
to the groundbreaking for Miller Park, to manage the complex ranks No. 32 in market size. They tried to create youngsters how to play the game, and usually
construction project on behalf of the Southeast Wisconsin Professional a more level playing field for fans, so they enjoy taking them to their first game,” he
Baseball Park District as its executive director, the position he still fills don’t need a lot of money to come to Miller says. “In the 1940s, the top three spectator
today. Miller Park is now one of the great iconic sights while driving Park and have a good time.” During the 2009 sports in America were baseball, boxing and
into Milwaukee, with its trademark retractable dome roof arcing like season, 60 of the 81 home games had some horse racing. Today it’s baseball, basketball
wings over the red brick structure. sort of special discount or promotion. and football. Something about baseball has
Over a club sandwich lunch at Friday’s, the in-stadium restaurant Duckett still encounters the million-dollar consistently transcended generations.”
overlooking the field, Duckett pointed out some his favorite features of question about Miller Park: Are professional —Brian Mattmiller
D riving through San Diego’s Sorrento
Valley, where rolling hills are populated
with dozens of gleaming buildings bearing
“I feel so lucky to be part of this industry, starting at Qualcomm
when I did,” Thompson says. “We started out with a relatively small
group of people working on this new technology. We felt like we were
the Qualcomm Inc. logo, it’s hard to imagine going to change the world with it, and I think we did. The dramatic
a time when Qualcomm would have been growth of the company forced young guys like me—who were barely
considered a corporate underdog. shaving—to take on big leadership roles.”
But that time was just two decades ago, The big-picture impact of the cellular industry also inspires Thompson.
when the era of digital cellular technology “Four billion people now own a cell phone. And close to a billion people
was beginning to take shape. Jim Thompson, use a 3G phone, a very data-capable device. When you think about
a three-degree graduate of the Department Internet access today,” he adds, “more of it will come through cell
of Electrical and Computer Engineering, phones than through a desktop or laptop computer.”
joined Qualcomm during those pivotal early As the head of engineering, Thompson now works with a new
days, when a high-stakes technology gamble generation of engineers and a new set of challenges. Foremost is
fueled the company’s meteoric rise. reducing power consumption in cellular phones, he says. With a tiny
Thompson, vice president of Qualcomm
J TiM hoMpson
battery and little surface area to dissipate heat, the growth of cell
CDMA Technology (QCT), today leads phone capability rests with packing more and better features into a
engineering efforts in the Qualcomm chipset day’s supply of battery power.
division. CDMA—short for code division the cellular network using CDMA by a factor One way Qualcomm is answering the challenge to increase battery
multiple access—is the heart and soul of of 40,” Thompson says. “TDMA was expected life is with mirasol display technology. Qualcomm has developed a
Qualcomm, and the platform technology to improve it by a factor of three. That’s when reflective color display that doesn’t require power-hungry backlighting.
that enabled the explosion in “smart phone” you could say that we really bet the company Thompson says a display pixel made from thin-film optics using
capability that the world enjoys today. on this technology.” interferometric modulation reflects color in natural light. He likens it
But CDMA was viewed as a longshot in Facing industry skepticism, Qualcomm to the physical phenomenon that produces vivid colors found in multi-
those early days, Thompson says. At the time, forged on with CDMA development, using layered butterfly wings.
the cellular phone industry was searching for profits from a satellite tracking system it had Thompson earned a bachelor’s (1985), master’s (1987) and PhD
the best answer to moving from “the scratchy developed in the (1991) in electrical
analog days” of wireless (Remember the 1980s for the truck- and computer engi-
2-pound brick phone?) into the tremendous ing industry. When “We started out with a relatively small group of neering, and studied
promise of digital wireless. The core question: the company started people working on this new technology. We felt under ECE Professor
Which technology will support the broadest demonstrating like we were going to change the world with it, Jim Beyer. He credits
consumer usage and the fastest and most success, Thompson his success to getting
dependable cellular transmission? says the competition and I think we did. The dramatic growth of the a mix of engineering
This is a tale of two competing approaches. became fierce. company forced young guys like me—who were fundamentals and
The majority of the industry backed a system “Things got really barely shaving—to take on big leadership roles.” a broad education
known as TDMA—time division multiple heated over time,” outside the field.
access—as the best solution, Thompson says. Thompson says. (His father, Howard
Both CDMA and TDMA aim to accomplish the “There were stories about how CDMA couldn’t Thompson, is a professor emeritus of business at UW-Madison.)
same thing—essentially, to enable multiple possibly work because it defied the laws of Says Thompson: “Graduate school was about developing an
users to share the same frequency or channel physics. There were big technical and legal independence—being able to think for myself, manage my own time,
on the radio spectrum—but with fundamen- battles over CDMA, as well as battles in the pursue my own ideas and gain the confidence that you can actually
tally different approaches. press. In the end, we prevailed simply because accomplish something without a professor assigning you homework.”
One metaphor about the technologies the technology was so much better.” Thompson says he remembers stumbling across a Forbes magazine
imagines conversations at a cocktail party. The rewards of that risk have been great. article in graduate school titled “Over the Hill at Forty,” and at the time
The TDMA approach would require having As the largest fabless semiconductor producer the concept seemed ridiculous. But after 20 years in the technology
each person at a party take turns speaking in the world, Qualcomm sells more than a business, he says it now makes perfect sense.
in a round-robin fashion to complete a billion chips a year, all for the cellular “The only way to avoid becoming obsolete in the technology world
conversation. CDMA, on the other hand, industry. Fortune magazine this year ranked is to keep learning and relearning,” he says. “What’s important is always
would have all conversations taking place Qualcomm No. 9 in the list of the top-100 changing. The broad education I received at Wisconsin is instrumental
at once, but each one in a different language. companies to work for. in allowing me to keep up with changes and branch into areas outside
“One of our lead engineers did a study and For Thompson, it has been an incredibly my expertise.”
found that he could improve the capacity of rewarding ride. —Brian Mattmiller
BY EYLEEN CHOU
Senior, mechanical engineering; president, From helpers
UW-Madison Engineers Without Borders
he January 2010 Engineers Without Borders
Haiti Project trip was supposed to be a simple
assessment trip. However, it happened to be
scheduled from January 8-14, 2010. The catastrophic
earthquake occurred during our trip and it was a
What it was like to be in Haiti
life-changing event. when the earthquake struck
There were six travelers from UW-Madison who
went on this trip: five engineering students, and one
professional mentor. We had prepared all semester
for a final assessment on a waterpipeline that served Bayonnais, a After dinner, I checked my E-mail and the subject lines and
community of 10,000 people, clean drinking water. One section of message previews screamed at me:
pipe had been destroyed in June 2009 by flood damage. Our job was Are you ok?
to design and build a new pipe crossing that would stretch the pipe HAITI EARTHQUAKE
across a small river. Status
The first few days of our trip were quite normal for an EWB Haiti trip. Hope you’re safe
We had an smooth, stress-free pick-up at the Port-au-Prince airport on You are OK, right??
Saturday with Moses driving the bright yellow ICB school bus, church Are you alive?
on Sunday, scouting and surveying on the first two work days, and I quickly Googled “earthquake Haiti.” At the next moment,
continual meetings with community members and community leaders. John came striding through the common room with his laptop open.
However, Tuesday, January 12 is a day all of us will remember An article from the New York Times showing a map of Haiti: “Haitian
vividly. It was particularly windy. Very late in the afternoon, John earthquake causes hospital collapse.” The words seemed to glare
Lee, Tyler Lark and I sat on a concrete retaining wall and watched as with the black, powerful font. We all fell silent and could do nothing
Michael Hoeger, Randi Schieber and Alysen Kohlnhofer finished but keep reading.
surveying the area. Theanaud, a student teacher at the local school, The rest of the trip progressed much faster than we could have ever
had joined us that afternoon; he was done teaching his seventh- anticipated. The 7.0-magnitude earthquake had brutally severed the
graders at the school for the day. We were talking about what kind main artery of Haiti. Port-au-Prince was flattened. Actionnel Fleurisma,
of math he had been teaching. the main community leader, kept coming in and out of the guesthouse
All of a sudden, there was a strong gust of wind, but it felt mightier with reports from the radio that was playing in his truck outside. “The
than the other ones that day. The retaining wall felt like it was reso- National Palace collapsed.” “Government buildings collapsed.” “Schools
nating from the force of the wind. It felt like how little ball bearings collapsed.” “Hospitals collapsed.” We Americans searched the internet
look on a manufacturing line, vibrating along the conveyor, shifting, for stories, each one seeming more horrific than the last.
bouncing and trembling. It was only for a few seconds. The kids On Wednesday, we decided the best thing to do was to continue
nearby seemed to scream with delight. “Tremble terre! Tremble terre!” with our project work. We were 70 miles away from Port-au-Prince;
Michael had fallen over from his perch with the graduated rod. there was nothing we could do. None of us had any experience in aid
Alysen and Randi were yelling back and forth. For the four of us on work; we were only engineering students. On the way to our surveying
the retaining wall, all of our eyes seemed to widen with curiosity. site, we saw that the temporarily repaired pipe crossing had broken
Theanaud said with a grin, “C’est un tremblement de terre. Vous avez due to the earthquake.
jamais senti les tremblements de terre?” After the post-earthquake pipe break, we and the Haitian sub-
Of course we’d never felt an earthquake before! It was exhilarat- contractors decided that we would work together to fix the pipe that
ing. We come from one of the most stable areas on a tectonic plate. I day. From noon to 5 p.m., a fantastic collaboration occurred, Haitians
quickly asked him in French if there are earthquakes regularly in Haiti. and Americans working side by side: We discussed possible solutions,
He said that they probably occur once a year, but never this strong. took measurements, lined up the steel pipe, removed the cemented
We hopped off our once subtly trembling retaining wall and joined threads from the broken pieces, lifted the 20-foot length of pipe into
the others surveying. Everyone was still talking excitedly. It seemed our the support brackets, cut the 4-inch pipe with only a hack saw,
work was done for the day, as the bubble in the level of the theodolite adjusted the coupling to the new steel pipe, attached the pieces of
was still moving back and forth in the same rhythm as the vibrations. pipe, tightened the gaskets on coupling, and waited anxiously to hear
We had no choice but to pack up and head back to the guesthouse. the air flow through the air release valve.
We, Haitians and Americans alike, were elated when we saw the or li vene. That word “pa” was the difference in “they came back” or
project come together. Bayonnais would be getting fresh drinking “they did not come back.” Then, it was clear: A woman had collapsed,
water from the spring source once again. Everyone was congratulating sprawled across the church steps, screaming and sobbing. It was as
each other. Warm, energetic handshakes were being shared; we if all of her muscles had failed her. The students had not returned
couldn’t help but smile. from Port-au-Prince.
Our success, exhaustion and hunger from not having lunch created Perhaps the most difficult thing about the trip to Haiti was leaving.
an interesting exhilaration. How quickly that feeling would fade. It was not all that difficult to physically leave the country—but
We walked back to the OFCB Ministries church and school grounds rather, it was heartbreaking to leave so quickly and helplessly. All
and soon saw that Actionnel’s white truck had returned. Actionnel of us wished we could have helped in the relief process. All of us
had left early that morning with three other OFCB representatives to wanted to stay. But it was best for us to leave and not be a burden
go to Port-au-Prince to find students from Bayonnais who had been on the community.
studying at the university-level in the capital city. Everyone had heard Our role and contribution will be for years to come. Engineers
the night before of the extent of the damage to the buildings in Without Borders strives to create long-term, sustainable projects. Our
Port-au-Prince; these students’ lives had never been so uncertain. future projects for Bayonnais, Haiti, will help the community recover
Three of us saw the truck pull up and decided it was best to let long-term. It may be a clinic that provides jobs and healthcare for
the community have its time to hear the news that Actionnel had people in the community, it may be a small-scale hydroelectric
to bring. We rounded the corner of the guesthouse and distracted generator that provides electricity to students who need light to study,
ourselves with checking the spigots fed by the water main we had it may be a drastic reforestation project to restore nutrients to the soil.
fixed earlier that day. Night was slowly falling. We continued to walk We have many projects coming up, but no matter which ones we
the loop to the driveway leading to the church. All of a sudden, we work on, we will always be working to improve the quality of life
were hearing cries. We could not tell whether they were cries of joy in Bayonnais.
or of severe sorrow. As we walked up to the church, the confusion Contact Chou at email@example.com for more information
and chaos only grew. I could not tell if people were saying li pa vene about the Haiti project or about Engineers Without Borders.
College of Engineering
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON
1415 Engineering Dr., Madison, WI 53706
Thanks to recent funding from government and industry, UW-Madison is emerging as a powerhouse
in wind-energy research, technology transfer, and education. In spring 2009, the College of Engineering
began a partnership with world-leading wind-turbine manufacturer Vestas that will support initiatives in
education, research and development. And, grants from the U.S. Department of Energy have enabled faculty
in three engineering departments to add to the existing curriculum several new wind-energy courses,
including a suite of courses for professionals working in the industry.