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E-Week in brief: page two

Some familiar tools helped introduce about 1,000 mid–Missouri youths to advanced technology research during Mizzou Engineering’s annual Open House and Laboratory Exhibit program.

About 1,000 students toured this year’s engineering exhibits, designed to introduce youths to engineering and its effect on their everyday lives.

The college’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department won first place for its exhibits, earning $3,000 to help upgrade undergraduate laboratory equipment. The Electrical and Computer Engineering Department took the $2,000 second–place award, and the Computer Science Department won the $1,000 third–place prize.

P. Frank Pai, a mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, won the $1,000 first–place individual prize for the “Smart Structures” exhibit. Yunxin Zhao, a computer science professor, won the $500 individual second prize for the “Automatic Captioning for Telemedicine” exhibit , and Guilherme DeSouza, an electrical and computer engineering assistant professor, won the $250 third–place prize with the “Human Robot Interface” exhibit. Students working at the winning exhibits will receive a pizza dinner and individual plaques.

Still, all the departments earned top honors for their hands–on demonstrations of complex engineering research and principles. Among the March 15 open house exhibits were:

The Hydrogen Economy

Pencils and a model car provided lessons on the hydrogen economy so many predict lies in our future. Standing in electrified water, the pencils generated a small amount of hydrogen visible as bubbles, while the car was fueled by hydrogen.

While these and other techniques exist to produce hydrogen, the gas’ flammability makes it difficult to harness, said Michael Anderson, a chemical engineering senior who explained the exhibit to the younger students. Making the hydrogen economy cost–effective is another significant challenge, he said.

Shake and Break

Marshmallows, lifesavers and spaghetti helped demonstrate design techniques for building in earthquake-prone areas.

Perched on a spaghetti strand, the marshmallows and lifesavers aimed to show how large, concrete buildings—though slower than steel buildings to move—are more likely to break once they start to bend, said John Hoemann, a CoE graduate student who ran the exhibit. A vibrating “shake table” reinforced the lesson that flexibility is better than strength in preventing earthquake damage.

“In engineering, we don’t want big, heavy buildings,” Hoemann said. “It’s a bad scenario for us.”

Capturing Carbon Dioxode—The 25 Million Dollar Problem

Activated carbon and water running demonstrated ways of removing carbon dioxide from materials.

Discussing what he dubbed the “Big Money Problem” for British tycoon Sir Richard Branson’s recent offer of $25 million for anyone who figures out how to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, CoE student Samuel Yoder reviewed for students two methods of collecting carbon dioxide.

One involved absorption, as demonstrated by water falling over a packed column, and the other adsorption, by which activated carbon reduced the carbon dioxide level.

“The techniques shown may not be practical to solve the $25 million dollar problem,” Yoder said. “However, these methods combined with something innovative may be of use. Only the future will tell if this problem can be solved practically.”

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