STEM Showcase

In Moser Hall, engineering projects such as the concrete canoe, steel bridge, and moon rover, competed for space with posters including one which described research that developed a mathematical modeling of fracking, for example, as approximately  30 student projects were on display at the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Showcase held on Sunday, April 22. The three-hour event provided an opportunity for STEM students to present their projects to peers, faculty, and the community.

In addition, Dr. Nathan Ritchey, chair of the Mathematics department, welcomed roughly 40 outstanding high school seniors into the STEM Leadership Society (SLS). These incoming fall 2012 students, among the best graduates from their high schools, were selected based on their written application and in-person interview. These outstanding student leaders will have the chance to be engaged in community service, research, and internships through their four year program as STEM majors at YSU.

Upcoming member Matt Pelch, senior at Howland High school will be majoring in computer engineering, and said that computer courses and interest in video games lead to his decision to enroll at YSU. Pelch added that he looks forward to be a part of SLS and YSU.

STEM students spent months, or longer on projects, typically in teams. A part of NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race, Mike Uhaus and his team were on hand to show their moonbuggy rover, which was a part of a national competition. The event is held in Huntsville Alabama, and high school and college students may participate. Two riders, one male and one female, face away from each other to pedal this human-powered vehicle. Uhaus noted that “last year the team experienced a suspension failure” so for this year’s competition the team focused primarily on suspension design.

Senior mechanical engineering student Chris Fenstermaker and his team worked with Canfield, Ohio, Linde Hydraulics, on the hydraulic system for wind turbine. The team, found, researched, and purchased a small- scale wind turbine then “designed a hydraulic system to fit the turbine size that we purchased.”

Junior Mechanical Engineering student Ken Minteer worked with art student Chris Kamykowski on a Collaborative Learning (CoLab) project. CoLab is an effort from the College of Fine and Performing Arts and STEM to bring art and engineering together.

Minteer described how Kamykowski wanted to make a barrel of monkeys cast out of bronze. With Kamykowski’s design, Minteer made templates on SolidWorks, a 3D program. “From there” Minteer said “we printed them out on our thermal jet printer.” In Bliss Hall, Kamykowski was able to finish the process by baking the molds and pouring the bronze from the two-coil induction furnace located in the art department.

The 2012 Showcase marked a hike in attendance. STEM students were able to present their hard work to families, media, and the community, who were able to see first-hand the capabilities of STEM College students. Also, high school students from area schools were in attendance to learn more about the YSU STEM program, and opportunities for research and project activities.

YSU Engineering Students Win Award in Fracking Wastewater Treatment Competition

Youngstown State University (YSU) Civil Engineering students placed third out of ten universities in an Environmental Design Competition held at the University of Pittsburgh on March 31. The contest was part of the annual American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Ohio Valley Student Conference. Other universities participating included the University of Kentucky, University of Pittsburgh, University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati, and Ohio University.

The main goal of the competition was to remove barium and turbidity from wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) of shale for natural gas wells. The YSU team added simple household chemicals – Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) – to precipitate barium sulfate and neutralize pH, then passed the water through a sand filter to remove turbidity. Their design removed 93% of barium and 98% of turbidity from the wastewater. Their treatment performance score tied them for first place in this category with the University of Kentucky.

Research on the treatment method was performed by Darshan Baral, a graduate student in Civil Engineering. In laboratory studies, Darshan was able to achieve 99.9% removal of barium. The treatment apparatus was prepared and operated by Tom Bowser and Sentel Rodgers, both seniors majoring in Civil Engineering. The students were advised by Drs. Scott Martin (Civil Engineering) and Felicia Armstrong (Environmental Studies).

Mathematical Modeling of Fracking Chemical Dispersion in Groundwater

Dozens of Youngstown State University graduate and undergraduate students showcased their scholarly achievements at the 22nd annual QUEST Forum for Student Scholarship on Tuesday, April 3 in Kilcawley Center.

The project chosen by Scott Brand, Sean Gabriel, Michael Hernandez, Jessie Grimm, Brian Crawford and Paul Jones was the Mathematical Modeling of Fracking Chemical Dispersion in Groundwater. A major concern in finding fuel sources in shale deposits underground is the brine solution, used in fracking and containing many harmful chemicals, dispersing into the groundwater above these shale deposits.  If it could be determined how the brine solution ends up getting into the groundwater, then maybe this water pollution could be prevented altogether or another way to break up the shale could be found.

Pictured are (left) Brian Crawford and (right) Scott Brand in front of their poster during the Quest presentation.

To model the ground, semi-permeable marbles in a clear plastic column were used; and to model the brine solution, saltwater solutions of different conductivities were created (it was assumed that the chemicals moved with the salt).  Water and the different salt solutions were pumped up through the vertical column, and the conductivity was measured on a computer program called LoggerPro by conductivity probes inserted into the side of the column.  From the data and using an equation model, it could be determined whether the solutions were traveling in plug-flow manner–one solution right after the other–or mixing–where the two solutions mix and do not flow one solution after the other–by finding the diffusivity of the one solution into the other.  It was found that plug-flow dominated as the conductivity increased, whereas mixing occurred when switching back to a lower conductive solution.  In fact, the difference in diffusivity from switching from pure water to a salt solution and from a salt solution to pure water again was a factor of 100.  Future studies could analyze exactly what factor is causing this to occur and what is the best way to prevent this mixing.