TECH Talks

WSGW is involved in the seminar series called TECH talks (Transporting Engineers Closer to Home). This seminar series will bring young, accomplished women in Mechanical Engineering to Tech to share their research and potentially foster new collaborations. We would like to thank the Woodruff School and Dr. Wepfer for their support of this project.

Our next TECH Talk will be from Katie Kirsch

Exploring Microchannel Heat Exchange through Numerical Optimization and Additive Manufacturing


March 17, 2017

Time: 11 a.m. Location: MRDC 4211
Abstract:  Continued progress in additive manufacturing (AM) technology has positive implications for those in the design community. The choice to employ AM instantly lifts many design constraints imposed by conventional manufacturing techniques, thereby opening the design space considerably. The choice as to what exactly should be designed, however, can be overwhelming; finding an optimal solution is a task well-suited to numerical simulations.To inform the discussion on the relationship between AM and numerics-based design tools, a set of micro- sized cooling channels were designed, numerically optimized, additively manufactured and tested for pressure loss and heat transfer performance. This talk will include details on the chosen optimization scheme, an adjoint-based optimization method, and the resultant manufactured parts, which were built using Laser Powder Bed Fusion, a specific type of AM process. The optimized, organically-inspired microchannel shapes were designed to promote strong vortical structures to enhance the heat transfer. The manufactured microchannels replicated the intended shapes relatively well, but contained large, irregular roughness features as a result of the manufacturing process. Experimental results showed mixed success in the performance of the channels relative to their intended designs. The advantages and drawbacks of this design procedure will be discussed from the perspective of both the computational and manufacturing approaches. This work aims to contribute knowledge to the heat transfer community on consequences of design decisions as they relate to an as-built AM part and to lend some insight into design for additive manufacturing at the micro-level.


Kathryn Kirsch is a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Penn State University. She received her B.S. (2011) and M.S. (2013) degrees from Penn State as well, also in Mechanical Engineering. In between her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, she spent time as a visiting researcher at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. She is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, with research interests in the field of heat transfer and additive manufacturing. She is currently involved in the ASME International Gas Turbine Institute (IGTI) as past chair of a committee to plan student activities and increase student involvement in the Institute’s annual conference, Turbo Expo. She recently received a best paper award from the IGTI. She also founded Penn State’s Engineering Young Alumni Advisory Board and was awarded the Joan M. McLane Recent Alumna Award by the Penn State Alumni Association in 2014.



WSGW would like to thank our past TECH Talk guests:

WSGW would like to thank Jessica Menold for speaking at our TECH Talk!

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The Prototype for X Framework: A holistic framework for structuring prototyping methods to support engineering design

February 24, 2017

Time: 11 a.m. Location: MRDC 4211
Abstract:  Each year, companies spend billions of dollars on product research and design. Studies indicate that anywhere from 40-50% of those resources are wasted on cancelled products or those which yield poor results. The largest sunk cost of product development occurs during the prototyping phase of the design process, yet engineering design research has largely overlooked this pivotal stage in the design process. Prototypes ranging from low fidelity (simple physical models) to high fidelity (fully functioning devices or systems) are used throughout the design process to communicate ideas, gather user feedback, explore parallel design concept, and make decisions. Prototypes are clearly critical artefacts in the design process, helping designers and design teams progress towards a finalized product; however, a structured prototyping framework that incorporates all of these insights and best practices into one cohesive strategy does not exist. We also know from previous work that structured prototyping methods can have enormous benefits for individual designers, design teams, and end products; however, many of these insights from research have not been translated into practice.This TECH talk will review a new theoretical framework for prototyping called Prototype for X or PFX. PFX draws from Human-Centered Design (HCD), Design Thinking (DT), and Design for X (DFX) frameworks and methods to enhance the design process and enable designers to prototype more effectively. Among the anticipated impacts of PFX are increases in user satisfaction, technical quality, and manufacturability of end designs. Results from a between-subjects analysis indicate that PFX methods helped increase the desirability, feasibility, and viability of end designs. These results imply that teams introduced to PFX methods produced prototypes that outperformed designs from the control teams across user satisfaction, perceived value, and manufacturability metrics. This work will improve our understanding of the prototyping process and highlight the potential impact that structured prototyping methods could have on end designs.


Jessica Menold is pursuing her PhD in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Design Theory and Methodology. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the Pennsylvania State University in 2013 and is expected to graduate with her PhD in May of this year. She is interested in exploring prototyping and its role throughout the product development process. Jessica is also interested in entrepreneurship and has founded a prosthetic device company as well as an educational toy company. She won the ASME Innovation Showcase for her company, Amparo, and won a summer fellowship to further develop her second company, CurioSpace. Amparo, the prosthetic socket Jessica designed, was recently named as one of 2016’s top five social innovations. Jessica is also the recipient of the ASME 2016 Teaching Fellowship.


WSGW would like to thank Mona Eskandari for speaking at our TECH Talk!


Modeling the Mechanics of Chronic Lung Disease

January 29, 2016

Time: 11 a.m. Location: MRDC 4211
Abstract:  Current diagnosis of asthmatic and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients continues to consist of trial and error methods. Despite pulmonary disease affecting more than a quarter of the population and ranking as a top leading cause of death, clinical approaches demonstrate the ongoing lack of understanding in the fundamental physiology and governing mechanics of airway wall remodeling due to chronic endurance of lung disease. Two mechanisms commonly describe the pathophysiology of pulmonary disease: mucosal growth and smooth muscle contraction initiate an inward instability of the airway wall, triggering folding of the mucosal layer and progressive airflow obstruction. Since the degree of obstruction is closely correlated with the number of folds, mucosal folding has been extensively studied in idealized circular cross sections. However, airflow obstruction has never been studied in real airway geometries; the behavior of imperfect, non-cylindrical, continuously branching airways remains unknown. In this TECH talk, we employ the nonlinear field theories of mechanics supplemented by the theory of finite growth and perform finite element analysis of patient-specific airway segments created from magnetic resonance images to understand airway remodeling and obstruction. While patient-specific modeling of the lung has gained increasing interest in the fluid mechanics community, the solid mechanics of the pulmonary system are understudied and insufficiently characterized. Our model is the first to computationally explore airway mechanics in realistic patient-specific geometries, before and beyond the onset of airway occlusion. This study helps explain the pathophysiology of airway obstruction in chronic lung disease and holds promise to improve the diagnostics and treatment of asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and respiratory failure.


Mona Eskandari is a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona in 2011 and her master’s degree from Stanford University with an emphasis in computational mechanics and biomechanics in 2013.

She is a recipient of the Robert Nugent Leadership Medal, and is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow (NSF-GRFP), a Stanford Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow (SGF), and a Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence Fellow (DARE). Eskandari is also the Early Engineering Educator Awardee from the American Society for Engineering Education.

Her research interests combine principles of engineering and medicine, using finite element and continuum mechanics to computationally model the mechanisms responsible for airway obstruction and difficulty breathing. Eskandari leads I-Cubed: Inspectors, Inquirers, Inventors!, a non-profit startup summer camp for under-represented students to gain exposure to STEM. Her dedication to educating the next generation of engineers spans from K-12 to college-level.

WSGW would like to thank Berna Özkale for speaking at our TECH Talk!


Engineering Complex Materials for Nano- and Microrobotic Applications

April 13, 2015

Time: 11 a.m. Location: MRDC 4211
Abstract:  The development of functional microscale and nanoscale devices will enable truly minimally invasive medical procedures. These devices can be injected into the bloodstream and guided directly to pathogenic locations to perform drug delivery, localized electrical stimulation, or ablative functions. Moreover, these devices can be functionalized to respond only to specific environmental stimuli allowing for the treatment of conditions potentially before they are widespread enough to be diagnosed. This level of sophistication transforms simple micron sized pillars into nanorobots.
At the Multi-Scale Robotics Lab (MSRL), we specialize in fabricating and manipulating magnetically sensitive nanorobots.  Powered by external magnetic fields, our microrobots can be wirelessly steered to a specific location where external stimuli can trigger specific tasks such as targeted drug delivery. To functionalize devices at the micron scale, we use electrodeposition to combine various materials with different properties such as magnetic and magnetostrictive alloys, conductive polymers, biodegradable hydrogels, and piezoelectric ceramics. Electrodeposition allows us to work with a wide range of materials, and offers batch processing as well as patterning.
This talk will cover the engineering of complex micro- and nano-materials and how electrodeposition can be used for this purpose. Several examples of corrosion resistive nanocoatings and nanomaterials with tunable magnetic properties will be presented. The advantages in utilizing electrodeposition and the challenges in the field will also be discussed.

Bio: Berna Özkale graduated from Istanbul Technical University (ITU) and received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering. She completed her M.S. at ETH Zurich, in Biomedical Engineering. She is currently a PhD candidate at ETH Zurich, in the Multi-Scale Robotics Lab. Her research focuses on building new nanomaterials for the purpose of nanorobotic biomedical applications.

WSGW would like to thank Kristen Cetin for speaking at our TECH Talk!

Picture - Kristen Cetin

Building Energy and Peak Load Reduction Strategies Using Smart Grid Technologies and Data

March 9, 2015

Time: 11 a.m. Location: MRDC 4211
Abstract:  Building operations consume approximately 40% of energy and 72% of electricity in the United States and are responsible for over 70% of the peak demand on the electric grid, particularly in warm climates.  The increasing deployment of technologies such as smart meters, home energy management systems (HEMS), and smart home-connected sensors and devices (Internet of Things) and their associated data provide an opportunity for real-time, data-driven operation and evaluation of the performance of buildings and their systems. This is particularly important as we face challenges in electricity price fluctuations, distributed and renewable energy grid integration, and climate variability.
Two of the largest users of electricity in residential buildings include the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and large household appliances. This seminar will discuss the use of smart technology energy data-driven methodologies to determine current use patterns of HVAC and household appliances.  It will also cover identifying and quantifying the opportunity for peak load reduction using appliance demand response, and energy reduction through real-time detection and diagnoses problems in residential HVAC systems. This research is accomplished through a combination of modeling, field and laboratory data collection.
Bio: Kristen Cetin is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, in the department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, in the Building Energy and Environment Group. Her research focuses on use smart grid-connected technologies to reduce building energy use and peak loads.



WSGW would like to thank Dr. Ann Majewicz for speaking at our TECH Talk!



Human Enabled Robotic Technology for Medicine: A Case Study in Robotic Needle Steering

April 3rd, 2014

Abstract:  Human-controlled robotic systems can greatly improve healthcare by synthesizing information, sharing knowledge with the human operator, and assisting with the delivery of care. Robotic devices could also enable complex medical procedures currently not possible. In needle-based procedures, for example, straight needles cannot reach some targets within the body due to obstacles such as bones or vessels. Our group has developed a method for steering long, thin, flexible needles with asymmetric needle tips to reach these difficult targets though robotic control. In this work, we bring robotic needle steering closer to clinical use by (1) conducting the first needle steering experiments in ex vivo tissue and live animals, (2) designing an intuitive teleoperation interface for the human user, (3) developing a teleoperated needle steering system with electromagnetic (EM) tracking and novel duty-cycled spinning algorithms, and (4) demonstrating clinical applications for diagnosis and intervention. This work serves as a prototype to describe a larger research direction aimed at improving human health through the development of novel, effective, medical robotic systems, and through improved understanding of intuitive human-robot sensorimotor interactions.

Bio: Ann Majewicz completed B.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at the University of St. Thomas and the M.S.E. degree in Mechanical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University. She is a recipient of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Her research interests are in robotics, dynamic systems, control, teleoperation, and haptics.

WSGW would like to thank Dr. Nancy Diaz-Elsayed for speaking at our TECH Talk!


Characterizing the Energy Consumption of Manufacturing Processes and Systems to Inform Decision-Making

December 9th, 2013

Abstract: Manufacturing accounts for more than one-third of the global energy demand, and initiatives for boosting manufacturing are underway around the world to improve economic performance and create jobs. The increasing use of renewable energy sources and the introduction of energy-efficient technologies in manufacturing operations result in some savings, but having a comprehensive understanding of manufacturing systems and processes is necessary to maximize the impact of green strategies. In this TECH Talk, methods to characterize the energy consumption of production equipment and factory operations will be presented in order to inform the development of effective strategies to lower energy consumption.

Historically, materials-based approaches to estimating the manufacturing phase of a product were utilized, but these methods were found to constitute only a fraction of the actual energy consumption of material processing. By using inverse modeling, the energy consumption of a milling machine tool was characterized and found to have an average accuracy of 97% for a complex material removal rate profile. At the facility level, a methodology will be presented for implementing the green scheduling of machine tools while accounting for a high product mix with discrete event simulation. Alternative factory designs were suggested, which led to energy savings of up to 9%. Additionally, a case study will be presented that shows the impact of siting decisions on energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and costs. Electricity costs were found to dominate in developing countries where manufacturing costs were one-fifth or less of the costs of sites in developed countries.

Bio: Nancy Diaz-Elsayed graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and minor in Management in 2008. She obtained her M.S. and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering in 2010 and 2013, respectively, from the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), where she also received certificates in Engineering and Business for Sustainability and the Management of Technology.

She is a Research Affiliate of CIRP, the International Academy for Production Engineering, and an active member of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. She was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award at UC Berkeley in 2011 and was the recipient of the MIT Albert G. Hill Prize in 2007.

Her current research interests include product design for sustainable production and use, life-cycle assessment, and the design and implementation of sustainable manufacturing operations. Her projects have spanned the aerospace, dairy, industrial machinery, and recycling industries. Dr. Diaz-Elsayed is currently working as a Sustainable Manufacturing Specialist as a contractor for Autodesk, Inc. where she manages university research projects and assists in the development of new technology offerings for designing and operating sustainable factories.


WSGW would like to thank Dr. Vinutha Kallem for speaking at our TECH Talk!


Perception-Action Loops for Autonomous Navigation

From Steering Needles to Driving Robots in Complex Environments

This talk addressed two questions: What if sensitive organs and anatomical obstacles prevent a physician from accessing a percutaneous

target using a straight, rigid needle? What if there are obstacles blocking the path of mobile robot or a team of heterogeneous robots? While these questions arise from categorically different applications, we will demonstrate how a common framework involving perception-action loops can be used to navigate these constrained systems.

Dr. Vinutha Kallem (PhD, Johns Hopkins University)
Research Sci


WSGW would like to thank Dr. Dennice Gayme for speaking at our TECH Talk!


A Robust Control Approach to Understand Nonlinear Mechanisms in Shear Flow Turbulence

It is well known that the laminar profile in plane Couette flow is linear while the turbulent velocity profile is a blunted “S” shape. On the other hand, the underlying mechanisms involved in creating this blunted profile still remain unknown. Previous work shows that linear models generate flows with streamwise elongated features reminiscent of those observed through experiments. However, a nonlinear model is required to capture the momentum transfer that produces a turbulent velocity profile. Numerical and experimental observations which suggest the prevalence and importance of streamwise and quasi-streamwise elongated structures motivate the study of a streamwise constant projection of the Navier Stokes equations. The resulting two-dimensional, three velocity component (2D/3C) nonlinear model captures important nonlinear features of turbulence, while maintaining the linear mechanisms that have been shown to be necessary to maintain turbulence.
In this talk, I describe how this 2D/3C model in a robust control framework can be used to rigorously connect experimental observations of streamwise coherence to the shape of the mean velocity profile. Small amplitude Gaussian noise forcing is applied to simulate the model’s response in the presence of disturbances, uncertainty and modeling errors. A comparison of the simulation results to experimentally verified DNS data demonstrates that this system model captures salient features of fully developed turbulence, particularly the change in mean velocity profile. A forced version of the 2D/3C model shows that the momentum transfer that produces a “turbulent-like” mean profile requires a nonlinear streamwise velocity equation. Finally, I attempt to make a connection between the linear processes responsible for large disturbance amplification and the nonlinearity required for the blunting. I show that while the linear equations allow one to appropriately model the spanwise extent of the large-scale streamwise structures, this comes at the expense of capturing the mean velocity profile.

Dr. Dennice Gayme (PhD, California Institute of Technology)
Post-Doctoral Scholar, Computing and Mathematical Sciences Department, California Institute of Technology


 WSGW would like to thank Dr. Caroline Genzale for speaking at our first TECH Talk!


Towards High-Efficiency Clean Diesel Engines

Although internal combustion engines have been in use for over a century, diesel combustion engines can enable the efficiency improvements needed to significantly cut petroleum use and CO2 emissions. However, amidst the increasingly stringent emissions-regulation environment in the United States, the success of future diesel-engine technologies hinges on developing new combustion strategies that can mitigate emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) without sacrificing fuel-economy and CO2 reduction benefits. In addition, we will need to develop solutions that can adapt to the emerging landscape of alternative fuels.
I will discuss my research efforts to address these challenges, working to provide the science base needed for the practical realization of clean high-efficiency diesel engines. I will demonstrate how the application of laser-based diagnostics in optically-accessible engines and high-pressure spray vessels has brought forth breakthroughs in our understanding of the physical and chemical processes of diesel combustion. I will discuss the critical need for this type of data to support improvement of multi-dimensional engine models, which can enable rapid exploration of novel combustion solutions. Finally, I will show how the use of biodiesel fuels can affect spray and emissions formation processes, displaying some potential benefits and challenges.

Dr. Caroline L. Genzale (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Post-Doctoral Researcher, Combustion Research Facility, Sandia National Laboratories