STEM Showcase

On April 22, Moser Hall was the location for the annual College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Showcase. The three hour event serves as a way for undergraduate STEM students to present their research projects to the campus community, as well as have high school students see, first hand, the opportunities available at the College and YSU.

About 30 projects were on display, such as the concrete canoe and moon rover. STEM faculty was also present to guide tours through research laboratories and answer questions.

In addition, Dr. Nathan Ritchey, chair of the Mathematics & Statistics Department, welcomed incoming Fall 2012 YSU students who will be inducted into the STEM Leadership Society (SLS).  Through an application process, SLS accepts exceptional high schools students majoring in any STEM discipline.  The students will be involved in community service, internships, and various research initiatives.

NSF STEM Research Poster Session

YSU undergraduate students Kristen Hernandez, Nikki Rendziniak, Nick Ragan, Brian Stahl and Hannah Rebraca presented “Extraction and Characterization of Intermetallic Fe-Al particles from Aluminum Alloys” at the 4th Annual Success in Math and NSF STEM Research Poster Session. Together with Dr. Matt Zeller, YSU Research Staff Scientist at the College of STEM, the students analyzed an aluminum rich Al-Fe melt sample that was sent for analysis by Fireline, Inc., of Youngstown, OH. Fireline, a prime manufacturer of ceramic and refractory materials as well as ceramic-metallic composites, was interested in the exact composition of the melt which is used during the fabrication of metal matrix composite materials.

Optical microscopy of a polished piece of the solidified indicated the presence of two compounds, a silvery matrix with small black needles and plates embedded. Using X-ray diffraction, the students identified the silvery matrix as aluminum metal. To determine the nature of the black needles, the Al-Fe melt was cut into small pieces and the aluminum matrix was dissolved using a chemical extraction processes – an iodine tartaric acid method and a method using boiling phenol. The latter method succeeded in selectively dissolving the Al matrix. The students analyzed the extracted black needles and plates using powder and single crystal X-ray diffraction and were able to identify them as an Al-Fe alloy of the composition Al13Fe4. The alloy, which initially was thought to be potentially unstable over time based on the tables published by the American Society for Metals (ASM International), which would have had implications for the stability and strength of products containing this Al-Fe alloy, was confirmed to be the most stable Al-Fe alloy of this composition.

For their presentation, the YSU students were awarded one out of only two First Place Prizes from a total of 112 contributions from over 300 students from Case Western University, University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Kent State University, and Cuyahoga Community College.

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.