Seeing it through and seeing through it

Matt Horst won a spot in the coveted 2015 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship program for his work in developing a 3D real-time wideband microwave camera that can produce images. Sam O'Keefe/Missouri S&T

Matt Horst won a spot in the coveted 2015 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program for his work in developing a 3-D real-time wideband microwave camera that can produce images. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

At 7 a.m. on a weekday, many college students are still asleep. Others hit the snooze button and struggle to get out of bed for an 8 a.m. class. But not Matt Horst. He is usually already at work in the Applied Microwave Nondestructive Testing Laboratory (AMNTL) at Missouri S&T.

Horst, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering at S&T, spends most of his time working in the lab running simulations, fabricating circuit boards or reading literature related to his research.

The winner of a coveted spot in the 2015 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program, Horst is working to develop a 3-D real-time wideband microwave camera that can produce images. [Read more…]

Celebrating ‘110010’ years of computer science

Missouri S&T Computer Science Golden JubileeThe first computer on the Missouri S&T campus — a Librascope General Precision, or LGP-30 — was about the size of two desks. Its memory was nonexistent. It retailed for $47,000, or about $400,000 in today’s dollars.

It was worth the price, too. That first computer sowed the seeds of the computer science program at Missouri S&T, the first of its kind in Missouri and a national leader in the field.

To celebrate, Missouri S&T is kicking off a Golden Jubilee celebration marking 50 years (or 110010 years in binary code) of its computer science degree program, says Pam Leitterman, who earned a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from the university in 1975 and is president of the Academy of Computer Science. The celebration will last through the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters. [Read more…]

What you should know about the Nest Home

The Nest Home, the Solar House Design Team’s entry into the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, receives its final touches before being shipped to Irvine, California, for the competition.

The Nest Home, the Solar House Design Team’s entry in the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, receives its final touches before being shipped to Irvine, California, for the competition.

It’s that time of season again. There’s a crispness in the air, pumpkin is in everything, and Missouri S&T’s Solar House Design Team is promoting sustainable living.

The team just shipped its Nest Home, named for its nature-driven approach, to the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon in Irvine, California. And while team members may not build a new house every autumn, you can bet that at this time of year since 2001 they have either been preparing a house for the competition or devising plans for a future Solar Decathlon entry.

Vote for the Nest Home to win the People’s Choice Award.

[Read more…]

Smart living in everyday life

The university's eBus and Solar Village are just two of the ways S&T is researching and implementing smarter and more sustainable ways of living. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

The university’s eBus and Solar Village are just two of the ways S&T is researching and implementing smarter and more sustainable ways of living as part of its Smart Living signature area. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

Missouri S&T’s Smart Living signature area concentrates on improving your quality of life. Its researchers work to transform home, workplace, transportation and energy infrastructures into “smart” environments.

Smart Living also helps expand the world’s understanding of how people and technology interact. It’s more than just creating sustainable homes. It means developing intelligent systems that will change the future of everyday life.

“Currently, there is a rapid expansion of technology that impacts our lives each day,” says Nathan Weidner, assistant professor of psychological science at S&T. “Weak artificial intelligence systems – algorithms that help us make choices throughout the day – lead us to make better decisions and are having a clear impact on society. These technologies can be so small that they are wearable but have an enormous influence on us.”

Smart Living draws on S&T’s strengths in cyber security, sustainable energy research, social dynamics, usability, big data analytics, architectural design, behavioral and environmental psychology, and transportation and infrastructure to lead research and development efforts toward a more secure and sustainable society.

“People in these new smart systems will have to learn to share resources,” says Bruce McMillin, professor of computer science and associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computing. “With that comes the need for privacy and security. This allocation of resources carries a lot of personal information in it, and we must rely on history to give us clues to help predict the future of this technological advance.”

“Trust in human-computer interaction and AI decisions is important, but there are immediate problems that need to be considered as well,” says Weidner. “For example, if a metropolis has a large number of electric car drivers, what will happen when they arrive home for the night and all plug in their vehicles at 10 p.m.? We don’t want rolling blackouts to happen to that city nightly, so energy storage needs to be considered.”

Research in Smart Living includes:

  • Smart grid and transportation systems. Intelligent peer-to-peer systems manage renewable energy resources like wind and solar, which are backed by energy storage, including fuel cells and batteries, to provide energy to buildings. S&T’s Solar Village is a “micro” example of a smart grid in operation. Transportation and energy systems interlink with improved urban planning to provide individualized, cost-efficient transportation.
  • Decision-making and governance. Smart living requires more than data and analytics. Understanding how people process, react to and interact with information and technology will lead to a sustainable shared governance of resources.
  • Privacy and security. Intelligent systems must be resistant to security attacks while maintaining personal privacy and supporting the users’ trust in the system. In Smart Living, people must adapt to the technology and the technology must adapt to the people. The result is enhanced trust and security.
  • Building materials. New smart materials turn buildings into “living laboratories” that, through advanced analytics, provide feedback to inform users as well as to adapt to human behavior. This leads to improved infrastructure, chemical or biological environments, and decision-making. Embedded sensors can monitor how efficiently a building uses energy, water or even bandwidth, empowering people to make informed decisions on how to use resources wisely.

“Usually, we think of technology as leading the charge in this area, but if we do that we risk missing the human aspects of living,” says Nancy Stone, professor of psychological science at S&T. “The human aspects have a very high potential for research, with acceptance and ethics both needing to be addressed to ensure the needs of individuals are being met.”

S&T’s Smart Living initiative is led by McMillin and Stone. Smart Living is an interdisciplinary effort pursued jointly by faculty from arts, languages, and philosophy; business and information technology; chemical and biochemical engineering; civil, architectural and environmental engineering; computer science; economics; electrical and computer engineering; engineering management and systems engineering; English and technical communication; history and political science; mathematics and statistics; mechanical and aerospace engineering; and psychological science. It also involves industry partners and other University of Missouri System campuses to make the research a statewide effort.

Story by Peter Ehrhard
Video by Terry Barner

Joe Miner’s big break

For most, summer is a time for vacations and relaxation. But at Missouri S&T, one individual sees summer as a time to get ready for the upcoming semester. Mascot Joe Miner uses every minute of down time during the break to support his students.

Before students arrive for the first day of class, Joe takes care of all the things he doesn’t have time for during the busy school year. Here’s what Joe Miner did this summer:

Getting an edge


The first thing Joe did was visit the Student Design and Experiential Learning Center to sharpen his pickax. After a long school year, it was getting dull.

[Read more…]

Learning outside the classroom box


Missouri S&T students enrolled in the summer Field Ecology course return to the field station at the Bohigian Conservation Area after conducting experiments in Mill Creek.

Southwest of Rolla, 10 acres of land once farmed by some of the area’s earliest settlers is now being explored by Missouri S&T students, who are themselves pioneers of a sort.

Students who took Field Ecology, Cave Biology or Vegetation of the Ozarks courses over the summer were among the first to spend more time in this outdoor laboratory than inside a classroom. They studied in and alongside three spring-fed ponds, a wetland fen, a nearby stream and countless flora and fauna. [Read more…]

CACAARR celebrates 30th anniversary


George Holmes (left), a senior in mechanical engineering, and Marquia Lewis (right), a junior in computer science, student representatives on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on African American Recruitment and Retention (CACAARR), talk with Shenethia Manuel, vice chancellor of human resources, equity and inclusion at Missouri S&T and the chancellor’s liaison to the committee, about the success of CACAARR. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Earlier this month, we sat down with Shenethia Manuel, vice chancellor of human resources, equity and inclusion at Missouri S&T, to talk about the growth, success and future of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on African American Recruitment and Retention (CACAARR) as the committee celebrates its 30th anniversary. Manuel serves on the committee as the chancellor’s liaison.

S&T: CACAARR is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Why was this group formed?

Manuel: This committee was formed when members of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and their key advisors met with the chancellor at the time to express concerns about recruitment and retention programs for African American students at the university.

S&T: Why is it important to have a committee like this?

Manuel: In general, African American students at predominantly white universities have had lower retention rates. When you walk around campus and can’t find others who look like you, who have shared backgrounds, it can be very isolating. It’s important for our university community to do what we can to make our campus a welcoming environment for all individuals.

S&T: What about recruitment, the other “r” in CACAARR?

Manuel: Recruitment and retention go hand in hand. As you increase the number of African American students on campus, retention becomes easier because the culture of the university itself is changing. We’ve been able to make great strides in the number of African American students over the years by stepping up our recruiting in African American communities and establishing articulation or transfer agreements with colleges and universities that have historically attracted African Americans.

S&T: So, it’s been 30 years. Why is it still important to have a committee like this?

Manuel: Because we still have a long way to go! Our goal is for the demographics of this campus to mirror that of our state and nation. Plus, it’s vitally important to focus on diversity and to welcome and support African Americans and other underrepresented minority groups and women, because it’s of the utmost importance to our corporate partners. They expect that we will have diverse students and graduates — diverse in terms of gender, race and ethnicity, where they’re from, what they studied, and so on.

S&T: What is Missouri S&T doing to change those trends?

Manuel: We’re doing lots of things, from adopting diversity and inclusion as a core, shared value of this university to encouraging African American alumni to come back and mentor students today. Over the years, the committee has also provided scholarships for African American students.

S&T: Of the 17 members of the advisory committee, the vast majority — 14 — are alumni. What motivates them to remain engaged with their alma mater?

Manuel: I think it is a love of the institution and the students, and a recognition of the opportunities that opened up to them as a result of the education they received here. It’s a way to give back and pay it forward.

By Liz McCune

See a full list of Black History Month events at Missouri S&T.

Alumni couple says you’re ‘mine’

S&T alumni Genevieve (DuBois) Bodnar and Greg Sutton exchange vows in the Experimental Mine on Dec. 20, 2014.

S&T alumni Genevieve (DuBois) Bodnar and Greg Sutton exchange vows in the Experimental Mine on Dec. 20, 2014. Contributed photo

Hard hats? Check. Overalls? Check. Steel-toed boots? Check.

Marriage license? Checkmate.

In an unusual twist on the fairy tale wedding, Missouri S&T alumni Genevieve (DuBois) Bodnar and Greg Sutton were married underground at S&T’s Experimental Mine on Dec. 20, 2014. Wearing hard hats, overalls and steel-toed boots, the couple tied the knot before hard-hat-wearing friends and family.

Bodnar and Sutton first met at a Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration meeting in St. Louis about eight years ago. They’ve both participated in and judged the International Intercollegiate Mining Competition, which is considered by some to be the Olympics of mining, with seven events that demonstrate techniques used by old time miners.

“We just came up with the crazy idea we wanted to be married in the student mine,” says Bodnar, who earned bachelor’s degrees in metallurgical engineering and mining engineering from S&T in 1998 and 2001, respectively. Bodnar also helped start the Haunted Mine that’s become a Rolla Halloween staple.

The wedding took place about 100 feet inside the mine from the adit – the horizontal entrance to the experimental mine. Portable lights illuminated the ceremony.

“We decided to do it that way because of our great appreciation of mining,” says Sutton, a 1988 mining engineering graduate. Sutton helped teach a drilling and blasting lab and a surveying lab at the mine during his time on campus. He also worked at the experimental mine as a laborer.

Jimmie Taylor, the experimental mine supervisor who oversees all mining operations, including explosives storage inventory, has worked at S&T since 1992. He’s seen about all there is to see when it comes to the mine – until December.

“It’s the first I have heard of anyone getting married at the mine,” he says.

They capped the ceremony – literally – by setting off seven blasting caps with an old-time plunger detonator on a five-second delay. Dr. Paul Worsey, director of explosives engineering education and professor of mining engineering, and senior mine mechanic DeWayne Phelps set up the explosions, Taylor says.

Dr. Samuel Frimpong, chair of the mining and nuclear engineering department, gave permission for the wedding to take place – safely. No alcohol was served.

These days, Sutton runs G&G (Genevieve and Greg) Mining Solutions in Bunker, Missouri, where the two make their home. Genevieve works for the Doe Run lead mining company, which is where Greg worked from 1992 to 2014.

For the couple, mining is in the blood, and getting married in S&T’s experimental mine was the next logical step.

“It was a way to incorporate our passion for each other into our passion for the mining industry,” Sutton says.

Are you one half of a Miner couple in love? Share your story in the Comments section.

By Joe McCune

Taking the Earth’s temperature

Since installing 144 geothermal wells on campus over the past two years, Dr. Curt Elmore, professor of geological engineering, has led a couple of ongoing geothermal research projects.

Since installing 144 geothermal wells on campus over the past two years, Dr. Curt Elmore (center), professor of geological engineering, has led two ongoing geothermal research projects. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

On the surface, it looks like nothing more than a turf-covered soccer field. But the ground beneath Missouri University of Science and Technology’s intramural field houses a complex system of 144 wells, each one 400 feet deep, that supply the campus’s Gale Bullman Building with heating and cooling using geothermal energy.

That well field is also home to two ongoing geothermal research projects led by Dr. Curt Elmore, professor of geological engineering at Missouri S&T. The first project is designed to monitor possible long-term changes in the Earth’s temperature that could result from the operation of a large-scale geothermal system.

With funding from the geological engineering program and in partnership with the physical facilities department, Elmore and his team outfitted one of the wells in the center of Missouri S&T’s intramural field with eight pairs of thermocouples placed every 50 feet to measure temperature at various levels throughout the 400-foot well.

Wires connect the sensors to a small flush mount vault that looks like a water meter you might find in your yard. Nearly every day, Charlie Smith and Jordan Thompson – two students working with Elmore on the project – connect equipment to read the temperature measurements that the sensors recorded. An additional well, drilled 20 feet from the geothermal well field, provides baseline readings for comparison. Thompson, a junior in geological engineering, is working on the project as part of the Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Experiences program (OURE).

Before the geothermal system went live, the researchers collected about six weeks of background temperature data. Once the system was operational, they began to notice a change in the ground temperature.

“We observed that the average temperature did increase over the course of the summer as energy from the building was transferred to the subsurface,” says Smith, a Ph.D. candidate in geological engineering. “We are now observing the cooling of the subsurface as energy is being removed to assist in the heating of the building. We would like to record data during several full heating and cooling cycles to fully see any long-term overall warming or cooling trends.”

Over time, changes in ground temperature could effect the performance of a geothermal energy system, Elmore says.

“A ground source geothermal system works by taking heat from the air and sending it into the ground,” Elmore says. “Or we take heat from the ground and send it into the air. Here, cooling is predominant. If the ground is warmer, it can’t take on as much heat and that could effect the performance of the geothermal system,” he says. “Let’s say you want to chill a bottle of Coke, for example, and you’re used to putting it in cold water for 10 minutes. If your water gets warmer, it will take longer to cool your Coke. If it’s really cold, it will cool faster.”

An expert in groundwater remediation, Elmore is also working on a project to see if geothermal energy could be used in place of electricity to treat water as a part of an innovative desalination process.

“Geothermal energy has the potential to heat and cool water during the treatment process, thus reducing the amount of water wasted and reducing the amount of energy required to treat the water,” Elmore says.

To pilot the project, Elmore is designing a small desalination system that will fit on a utility trailer towed behind a pickup truck.

Elmore is working on the project with Dr. Mostafa Elsharquawy from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia. They hope to build a water treatment facility that uses geothermal energy.

“Saudi Arabia spends millions of dollars every year changing sea water into drinking water,” Elmore says. “Geothermal energy could provide a much more cost-effective treatment system.”

Missouri S&T’s geothermal energy system – one of the most comprehensive in the nation – provides heating and cooling to 17 buildings on campus and chilled water to the majority of campus buildings. Completion of the system allowed S&T to decommission its World War II-era power plant last spring. The system is expected to cut energy usage by 50 percent and reduce the university’s carbon footprint by 25,000 metric tons per year.

By Mary Helen Stoltz

The essential creative experience

The essential creative experience

Laurie Myers leads students of all majors on a creative journey that combines artistic expression with digital technology in her Exploring Digital Art class. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Each week when Laurie Myers steps into her Castleman Hall classroom to teach Art 3001, she is more than a lecturer. She is a guide for students exploring digital art, problem-solving and professional development. [Read more…]