Spring Break is often a chance for college students to visit home and catch up with friends and family. This year, a group of seven Golden Bears wanted to make sure others had a place to call home, so they teamed up with Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha and Putnam to help with one of the organization’s projects in Charleston.
The group spent two days working at Habitat’s ReStore location. The ReStore sells donated furniture, appliances and building materials at discounted prices, and proceeds from the store help to fund local Habitat projects. At the ReStore, the group helped to clean and organize portions of the store and prepare donated items for sale.
Volunteers also spent their time working at one of the organization’s construction sites in Charleston. Students worked with Habitat volunteers to provide landscaping around one of the houses and ensure proper yard drainage. The group also worked to lay down mulch and straw.
Student volunteers included Igor Pereira, Brenda Rivera, Ana Flavia Monteiro, Vinicius Kawamukai Rios, Scotty Stone, Patrick Gnagbo and Mark Magallanes.
“Spring Break is an important time for all students, either to rest from school or to go visit their families,” said Pereira, a junior chemical engineering major from São Paulo, Brazil.
“Habitat for Humanity is a pretty awesome project made by people who care about others. I chose to be a volunteer because we are all part of the same community and I feel that I can help a lot of people, even if I don’t know them. I feel really good knowing that with this kind of job I’m being a part of a change in someone’s life,” he said.
WVU Tech resident director Michael Sheldon organized the volunteer trips and said he was impressed with the students who participated.
“I think it is great that the students spend time here during their Spring Break to help with the community. They are learning important skills and also about the Habitat for Humanity program, such as the process one goes through to get a house,” he said. “I can’t give them enough credit. They have worked incredibly hard this week and deserve as much thanks as they can get.”
For more information on Habitat for Humanity or the ReStore, visit the Habitat for Humanity of Kanawha and Putnam website.
WVU Tech was among a dozen schools featured in Newsweek’s “The Best of ABET’s Accredited Programs 2016” list in early March.
The Newsweek piece was created in partnership with ABET. The article includes a description of ABET’s process and the importance of individual program accreditation. WVU Tech maintains nine ABET-accredited programs in engineering, engineering technology and computer science.
Read more about ABET and the best ABET-accredited schools in America below, and be sure to check out the full article at Newsweek.
From Newsweek Educational Insight, March 3, 2016:
ABET is the global accreditor of nearly 3,600 technical programs at over 700 colleges and universities in 29 countries. The work that we do influences programs all over the world. From Lima to Manila and Miami to Honolulu, the quality we guarantee inspires confidence in the programs we accredit.
Our accreditation is proof that a program has met standards essential to produce graduates ready to enter the critical fields of applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. Graduates from an ABET-accredited program have a solid educational foundation and are capable of leading the way in innovation, emerging technologies, and in anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public.
Our focus is strictly on the education students receive. The global standards that we set and the review process that we employ are rigorous, yet flexible. Our program evaluators look at outcomeswhat students are actually learning from courses rather than what they are being taughtbecause those are the real indicators that a graduate has the professional and technical skills that employers demand. Sought worldwide, ABET’s voluntary peer-review process is highly respected because it adds real value to academic programs in disciplines where quality, precision, and safety are of the utmost importance.
This process is the culmination of a practice of ongoing self-assessment and continuous improvement, which assures confidence that ABET-accredited programs are meeting the needs of their students, preparing graduates to enter their careers, and responsive to the needs of the professions and the world.
We accredit college and university programs, not degrees, departments, colleges, institutions, or individuals. This allows us to be single-minded in our commitment to determine that a program fully prepares a student to enter the workforce.
We accomplish this through the work of our Expertsprofessionals from industry, academia, and government. They are recruited and assigned by leading professional and technical societies, such as IEEE, ASME and ASCE. Virtually every team includes executives from companies such as Boeing, Caterpillar, DuPont, GM, IBM, Raytheon, and UPS.
Responsive to increasing globalization, we work to ensure that the graduates of ABET-accredited programs can employ their talents internationally. We do this by signing agreements with educational quality assurance organizations in other countries and jurisdictions. Not only does this allow ABET-accredited program graduates to use their skills around the world, but it also raises their value to employers. The U.S. Government, for example, and many multinational corporations seek employees with degrees from ABET-accredited programs that translate globally.
When ABET’s quality standards are applied and promoted around the globe, the results are a better-educated, geographically mobile, diverse technical workforce well prepared to advance innovation and excel professionally in fields of critical importance to society.
Students and their families choose schools for many different reasons, but one thing they all seek is a solid quality education. ABET accreditation allows families to be confident that their students are attending a program that will give them the knowledge and skills to continue their education or enter the workforce.
West Virginia University Institute of Technology (Montgomery, WV)
Pennsylvania College of Technology (Williamsport, PA)
The University of Virginia’s College at Wise (Wise, VA)
Loyola Marymount University Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering (Los Angeles, CA)
Texas A&M University-Kingsville (Kingsville, TX)
University of Colorado Denver, College of Engineering and Applied Science (Denver, CO)
The Citadel (Charleston, SC)
University of New Haven (West Haven, CT)
Grove City College (Grove City, PA)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette College of Engineering (Lafayette, LA)
The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Engineering (San Antonio, TX)
University of South Florida (Tampa, FL)
West Virginia University Institute of Technology is pleased to announce the 2016 Alumni of the Year: David F. Meadows, ‘74, from the Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering and Sciences and Deborah Hill, ‘86 and ‘87, from the College of Business, Humanities and Social Sciences.
Meadows, of Culloden, West Virginia, received his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Tech in 1974. He also hold a Master of Science degree in Engineering from West Virginia College of Graduate Studies and a Master of Engineering degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Meadows is the Chief Technical Officer and Southwest Regional Manager for Triad Engineering, Inc. In this capacity, he is responsible for the technical expertise, quality and risk management of Triad’s services as well as day-to-day operations of the region. He is a member of the WVU Tech Civil Engineering Advisory Board.
Hill, of Mt. Nebo, West Virginia, is a graduate of Tech with both an associate’s degree in Nursing in 1986 and a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Services Administration in 1987. She also hold a Master of Science degree in Health Care Management from West Virginia College of Graduate Studies.
As an experienced healthcare professional, Hill has 28 years of health care management experience and is currently the Director of Long Term Care for Montgomery General Hospital. She serves on several state and community boards, including the WVU Tech Health Service Program Advisory Board.
Since 1949, it has been a tradition for WVU Tech to honor graduates from each college by selecting outstanding alumni for the Alumni of the Year Award. To be selected for this honor, alumni must have achieved recognition in their chosen profession, have a strong commitment to service and have given their time, talent and treasure to Tech by serving as a role model of loyalty and service for all alumni.
On Saturday, April 23, 2016, Meadow and Hill will be recognized as the newest members of this distinguished group at the Alumni of the Year Awards Dinner at the Marriott Hotel in Charleston. To purchase tickets to the dinner, go online to alumni.wvutech.edu or call the Office of Alumni Relations at 304.442.3131.
On Tuesday, March 15, WVU Tech Career Services will welcome nearly 50 employers from a wide range of industries for the University’s annual JobFest event.
JobFest kicks off at 10 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. in the Tech Center Ballroom and the fireplace lounge. The event will bring in 47 employers from a wide range of fields, including healthcare, business, engineering, manufacturing, military, government, insurance and retail. (View the entire list of employers and the majors they’re seeking.)
Employers will be seeking candidates for full-time and part-time positions, as well as internships, co-ops and seasonal summer employment.
“This is a very big event with employers from throughout the region,” said Candice Stadler, director of WVU Tech Career Services. “There will be something for every major. If you’re getting ready to graduate or if you’re looking for experience while you’re in school, this is a fantastic opportunity to connect with these recruiters.”
Stadler said students attending the event should prepare as though they’re attending an in-person job interview. Students should dress appropriately in business or business casual attire (no jeans, flips flops, sneakers, sweats or athletic gear) and come prepared with copies of their updated resume. Students who choose not to print their resumes should upload their resume files to services like Dropbox or Google Drive so they can share them electronically with recruiters.
At JobFest, students will receive a map showing where employers are located. Graduating students who are looking to maximize their exposure to regional employers should plan for an hour to an hour and a half to work their way through the event. Students should also be prepared to talk about themselves and what they want to pursue after graduation.
“If you’ve worked on an elevator speech, this is a good time to practice that,” said Stadler. “Students need to be comfortable talking about themselves with employers about their career goals and what they’re learning in their major.”
A number of employers will be conducting on-campus interviews. CDI Corporation, West Virginia Power, the West Virginia Army National Guard, Columbia Pipeline Group, Kennametal Inc., RDX and USDA-FSIS will conduct interviews following JobFest from 2:30-5:00 p.m. Siemens Industry, Inc. will visit campus on Wednesday, March 16, from 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. to conduct interviews. Stadler suggested that students should arrive early to secure a spot in the interview schedule.
Stadler said the event is also important for students not currently on the job hunt.
“JobFest presents opportunities for students who are not actively seeking full-time employment. It’s a good idea to prepare for next year. If you’re going to be looking for internships or full-time work, you’ll get practice and a sampling of the types of regional opportunities you can go after. You’ll also become familiar with the companies that come out, what they do, who they are, what kinds of questions they ask and what kinds of qualifications they’re looking for in a candidate,” she said.
For seniors, Stadler said JobFest is a great way to jumpstart the job hunt.
“If you’re getting ready to graduate and you haven’t started the process, now is a great time. It can take a company somewhere between 40-60 days on average from job posting to hire, so starting earlier is better. Nothing beats a face-to-face with recruiters to get you motivated and excited about the career opportunities that are open to you, so don’t miss this chance to do just that,” she said.
Students who want help polishing up their resume should explore the resume-building resources on the career services webpage. They can also use the resume wizard in the new Golden Bear TRAK online career management system. The wizard asks students a series of questions to help them populate a professional resume.
Golden Bear TRAK was recently launched in cooperation with WVU and is connected to the University’s MountaineerTRAK system. The portal offers access to thousands of job postings and pulls resources from top national job search engines like Internships.com and Indeed.com.
This week, five members of WVU Tech’s first-ever Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Aero Design team will travel from Montgomery to Forth Worth, Texas, to compete in SAE Aero Design East, March 11-13.
The competition challenges engineering students to design, construct and fly a remote-controlled, fixed-wing cargo plane.
The project marks another major entry for WVU Tech SAE, which is known for its work in the Society’s Baja buggy competitions. Dr. Winnie Fu, WVU Tech professor of Engineering Technology and advisor to the student chapter of SAE, said that putting together an aero design team was the next logical step for the organization.
“I’ve been looking to start an SAE Aero Design team for a while,” she said. “It is a competition that is almost purely design at heart. It provides all the benefits: engineering learning, team building and camaraderie without being costly or equipment-intensive. Team sizes also tend to be smaller, which fits in nicely with our student population.”
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Aero Design competition. In Texas, WVU Tech’s team dubbed “Golden Wings” will be facing off against 75 teams from around the world.
LS Wang, team leader and senior mechanical engineering student, said he hopes it will mark the first in a long line of successful seasons for Tech’s new team.
“It’s an international event, so it’s going to be very exciting. We’re a little nervous, but we’re confident. It’s our first time going out. We’re excited to see what we can do,” he said.
The team has been working on their #19 plane since last August. The design phase ran from then until the end of January. Now the team is wrapping up the build phase and testing their design before they make the 16-hour trip to Forth Worth on Wednesday.
The competition is divided into three components: the design portion, an oral presentation and a flight competition. In the latter, the plane is loaded with cargo and must take off from a 200-foot runway, complete a midair turn and successfully land.
The #19 plane is no handheld toy. It boasts a wingspan of eight feet and from tip to tail, the plane is over four feet long. It’s made of materials like balsa wood, pine and spruce each material chosen for its specific properties in relation to where it would be included in the plane.
The team has quite a bit of room to design, but is required by competition rules to use a power limiter on the plane’s motor. This part prevents the motor from drawing more than 1000 watts from the battery and serves to even the playing field for each team. With standardized power limits, teams must focus on elements such as weight and flight design to make their projects stand out.
“We had to factor in the weights and structural properties of the different kinds of wood. The whole thing will weigh around 12.5 pounds with no payload, including electronics. We’re hoping it will be able to realistically move a payload of around 25-30 pounds, depending on weather and wind,” said Wang.
Wang said he’s excited to put #19 to the test because it represents the culmination of an educational journey for the entire team.
He and his teammates were able to rely on help from professors and friends from varying disciplines throughout the state. The team partnered with BridgeValley Community and Technical College to use the college’s laser-cutting machine in South Charleston. They consulted with mechanical engineering professors at Tech and at WVU in Morgantown. The group bought books on flight design, bounced ideas off of aerospace engineering students and even worked with civil engineering professors to learn about structural integrity.
“We didn’t know much about aerospace going into this, so we had to learn a lot of material. We have a lot of resources. We were fortunate enough to have that help through the manufacturing process and to have someone to let us know what kinds of problems we would be facing,” he said.
For Wang, the project has been a powerful way to connect what the team is learning in their coursework with real-world applications.
“We know how to calculate stress. We know how to make something lighter or thinner or more efficient on paper, but many times we don’t get to put those designs to the test. We learn about stuff in 100 percent perfect conditions, but in real life, we’re learning that it might not be the case. You can’t have perfect conditions, so we have to compensate and compromise to make our designs work” he said.
In all, the team has spent around $2,500 for registration, parts and material. The project is supported by SAE’s general sponsors and WVU Tech mechanical engineering alumnus Cory Igo, ‘13, is covering the team’s hotel expenditures to offset costs.
For Fu, the team’s work and upcoming competition is a sign that the student chapter of SAE is flourishing.
“I believe it shows that students, the university and our sponsors are recognizing the value of what students learn through participating in the SAE organization,” she said.
Wang agrees, and said that the team’s experience is already paying off.
“Being a member of SAE lets students work on real-world problems so they can prepare for the workforce. There are manufacturers and engineers that are looking for people like us. They need people like us because we can set up and start getting to work on the first day,” he said.
Find out more about SAE Aero Design East and get competition results on the SAE International website.
February 21-27 is National Engineers Week, and WVU Tech is celebrating by sharing the stories of students who are preparing to launch their careers and alumni who are doing great things in theirs.
Check out this story for more: WVU Tech students and faculty showcase STEM fields, celebrate National Engineers Week
A little over 40 years ago, a boy sat at a desk in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, with a simple task: write about what he wanted to be when he grew up. He didn’t hesitate. Putting pencil to paper, he wrote “a civil engineer.”
That boy from Cross Lanes was John Jarrett, P.E., ‘84, president of Jarrett Construction Services, Inc. Since then, he’s built a career spanning thirty years, earned his professional engineering licensure in two states and launched a successful construction company that has been renovating and building structures in West Virginia and the surrounding states for nearly two decades.
“My dad was a survey party chief, and a pretty good one from what I’ve been told. He had an eighth-grade education. When I was 11 or 12, I would go with him on weekends to small side jobs he was doing, like sewer and water lines throughout the Kanawha Valley,” he said.
When he began his college career, Jarrett thought he would go into architecture, and started out in architectural drafting at West Virginia State University. The pull to engineering was too strong, so Jarrett switched gears and enrolled in the civil engineering program at WVU Tech.
During his time in Montgomery, Jarrett was involved in intramural sports and Greek life on campus. He was also a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and competed with the organization’s concrete canoe team at ASCE’s regional competitions. He said his college experience was a mix of excitement and challenge.
“All of that rolled into one is the foundation of my career and my business. I wouldn’t trade my Tech education for anything,” he said.
Shortly after graduation, Jarrett took a job as a civil engineer working at the Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington, D.C. He worked there for four years, then moved into a position with a private contractor working on government projects in the D.C. area. As the Cold War wound down in the late eighties, so too did spending on military and government construction projects. Jarrett left the Beltway area and headed home to West Virginia in 1990.
For the last 17 years, he’s been running Jarrett Construction. The business started out with a heavy emphasis on the restoration of older buildings, but has since expanded to include the design and construction of commercial and light industrial facilities, office buildings, churches, schools and auto dealerships. The company maintains offices in Charleston and Morgantown, West Virginia, and services the state and the Mid-Atlantic region.
“The rush that gets me going is seeing the delight in our clients’ eyes when we turn their new building over to them. It was a thrill 17 years ago and it remains the same today. Helping our clients determine what they need, how they can afford it and then bringing it all together is still what charges me up the most,” he said.
Jarrett said his years at the helm has allowed him to oversee some fascinating projects.
One of Jarrett’s largest builds was the Charleston headquarters of Energy Corporation of America (ECA). Completed in 2014, the 60,000-square-foot facility cost more than $10 million to construct and is located in Charleston’s NorthGate Business Park. The building houses more than 100 ECA employees and features a modern glass exterior, motion-sensor lighting designed to conserve energy, wellness facilities and an interior quarter-mile walking track.
Jarrett said some projects have offered him experiences he never thought he’d have in the business, like when the company built a gathering space addition onto the Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Charleston. The cathedral was built in elaborate Romanesque style architecture in 1897. Its addition called for specially prepared building materials.
“That project required 300 tons of sandstone quarried from the side of a mountain in Pennsylvania. We went there and saw the boulders quarried and cut into huge slabs. Those slabs were sent to Cleveland to be cut into stones, then on to Rock Branch, West Virginia, to be sandblasted to give them an aged appearance. We brought them to Charleston to be used in the addition. That has always stood out in my mind as a wonderful, very memorable project,” he said.
For Jarrett, projects like the ECA building and the cathedral addition highlight the versatility of an engineering education. He said engineering students have a wide range of paths open to them outside of research and design that they may not consider when they’re in school.
“A typical workday for me includes meeting with clients, coordinating manpower and other resources for all our jobsites, planning for current and future projects, reviewing the firm’s financial performance and charting its course. It’s different than the typical day for most engineers,” he said.
“The fact that I have an engineering degree and professional engineering licensure allows me to communicate on the level of the many engineers I encounter in my business. I negotiate engineering contracts regularly, and since I understand their work, I can work with them closely to get into the finer details that make a project successful,” he said.
Jarrett said that, in addition to the technical understanding that comes with an engineering background, solid communications skills and flexibility are a must in the industry.
“Engineering teaches that there is a logical black and white solution to problems. However, field experience, on-the-job training and real life situations have taught me that there are intangibles that don’t always fit neatly into a mathematical equation. This is especially true when dealing with people, whether that may be mentoring a fresh new intern, reviewing a seasoned employee or describing project details to a client,” he said.
For new grads breaking into the civil engineering and construction industries, Jarrett said he sees a future packed with technological innovation and the ability to work from anywhere in the world.
“Technology is leading a revolution in the construction industry,” he said. “Our project managers and superintendents all use computers and construction-specific software. We have smart phones, lap tops and video conferencing. Our superintendents are taking iPads onto the job site, snapping pictures of problem areas. Our site contractors are using GPS to layout and grade roads and building pads. We can even estimate site work, building restoration and a variety of other items on a project anywhere in the country without having to leave our desk with the use of Google Earth.”
When he’s not on the job site, Jarrett is active in the business and philanthropic community. He’s still a member of ASCE. He’s also active with the West Virginia Society for Professional Engineers and the World Presidents’ Organization (WPO), which connects business leaders from throughout the world to share their experience and exchange ideas.
He serves as a board member of Mid Atlantic Technical and Engineering, the Tech Golden Bear Alumni Association and Poca Valley Bank, and as a volunteer director for the Capitol Market in Charleston. Jarrett is also active with AMBUCS, a charitable organization that helps people with mobility disabilities by offering therapeutic tricycles and scholarships for physical therapy students in the state.
In his free time, Jarrett is a family man. He married his high school sweetheart, Susan. The two are WVU football and basketball fans, and frequently travel to Morgantown to attend games. They have three children together; a daughter and two sons. Jarrett also stays busy doting on his granddaughter, who turns two this spring.
Jarrett’s oldest son is currently studying civil engineering at WVU. For students going into the field, he offers the same advice he gave to his own son.
“The future is bright, however, success will require hard work, dedication and perseverance. My advice would be to study hard and make good grades. All things being equal, when I’m interviewing recent graduates, the one with the best GPA will be selected,” he said.
“No matter what, don’t forget to have fun along the way. Whatever career it is you choose, make sure you enjoy it. I love what I do and can’t imagine what a bummer it would be getting out of bed dreading going to work every day,” he said.
For Cody Webb, there’s no greater feeling than being out on the job site.
Growing up in Pinch, West Virginia, Webb was exposed to construction at an early age. He remembers being around the field as a kid, tagging along with his father and grandfather to various jobsites and setting up his own construction projects in the back yard.
“I have always had an interest in construction and building things. I’ve been around it all my life. My grandfather was a homebuilder and painter. My father worked in the oilfields. All of that got me fascinated with heavy equipment and watching how a construction project comes together,” he said.
The senior civil engineering major plans to go directly into the construction industry after graduation, where he can spend his days making those kinds of projects happen on a much grander scale.
“Civil engineering will allow me to have a lifelong career in a field that is related with construction. I enjoy being out on a job site, not stuck doing the same thing every day. There are different challenges you see when you’re out there and you have to come up with solutions. It’s not the same every day and it keeps you on your toes,” he said.
Webb said he chose to study at WVU Tech because he was attracted to the small class sizes and the fact that he knew he would get to work directly with his professors. In his time at Tech, Webb became a member of the WVU Tech student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). He also works for the civil engineering department chair as a student grader.
“I grade the homework assignments for different classes throughout the year. To grade assignments, you have to have had the class previously, so I’m always going over materials I have already learned. It’s like a constant refresher course. It helps you stay sharp,” he said.
Webb’s primary career goal is to become a professionally licensed civil engineer. He’ll have to take a series of exams after graduation and work in the field for some time before he can earn that title. Ultimately, he wants to find himself in a position where he can design simple, practical projects that enhance the wellbeing of those around him.
“Civil engineering is important in today’s world because everything is changing constantly. With those changes, roads, bridges and buildings are always needing to be updated and built to accommodate these changes. To me, that makes it our responsibility to be as safe and efficient as possible and to improve the quality of infrastructure for everyone,” he said.
Outside of the classroom, Webb is gaining experience where he can. Last summer, he worked for a local construction company. He said his time in the field taught him a lot about the way design and practice work together.
“I was out there doing simple stuff like material calculations. At the same time, I was able to help the workers on-site and was able to see the problems you run into in a construction project,” he said.
“I learned that a design on paper and what you’re actually building can be two different things. You can’t always make the perfect design on the first try. Without being there in the field to see the problems and challenges that come up, you don’t always know what to account for,” he said. “But you also can’t solve all those problems without an understanding of design to come up with a solution.”
In his study of the discipline and his work in the field, Webb found that he has an interest in the mechanical behavior of soil and how to design structures in problematic terrain. He said he’s also interested in building materials and was surprised by the amount and variety of materials used in the industry. He’s particularly fascinated with recyclables.
“In the near future I see the field of civil engineering using more recycled materials and using advancing technology to develop superior structures more affordably and efficiently. Right now, engineers overseas are using a lot of geosynthetic materials, which are mostly made up of plastic,” he said.
“They’re using up these old plastics so they’re not sitting in a landfill somewhere. They’re being put to good use as geogrids or geotextiles that reinforce soil. These materials are very durable and, if you use them right, you can do almost anything with them. They’re also cheaper than the steel I-beams and other structural materials we tend to use, which are much more expensive to purchase and install,” he said.
Webb said he’s happy with his college career choice and that he’s excited to start putting his training and education to use. His advice for students considering a career in the industry? Go for it, and don’t look back.
“Civil engineering is a great career choice. There are endless possibilities in civil engineering due to its different disciplines,” he said. “You can be a project manager or a design engineer. You can work collecting safety data for roads. You can do wastewater and drinking water systems. There are endless opportunities. It’s not just roads and bridges. It’s everything.”
WVU Tech students joined student researchers from throughout the state today for Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol.
WVU Tech students showcased 14 research projects ranging from the role of religion in coping with stress among college students to smart window technology and the use of algae to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions.
Daniel Noel, a senior electrical engineering student from Clay County, was part of a team that tackled electricity production in automobiles.
“Our project attempts to solve the issue of electricity production in vehicles. Right now, the typical alternator in your car is only 21 percent efficient, which means that for every dollar you spend in electrical power production to run things like your air conditioner or radio, you lose 79 cents. Not very many people know that,” he said.
“We’ve taken the wasted power from vibrations in the shocks and heat from the exhaust and converted it into electrical energy. It will increase the fuel efficiency of your car by 5 percent. Over the life of a vehicle, that’s a savings of about $2,500. The technology can also be used in a much larger scale to capture and convert wasted vibration energy on trains and bridges,” he said.
Robert A. Gresham, a senior in WVU Tech’s mechanical engineering program, visited the capitol with his team to share their work on ocean thermal energy conversion.
“This type of conversion uses temperature difference between low and high points in the ocean to create power. This process typically relies on steam to produce power, but our design works with ammonia, which allows us to operate within a much smaller temperature difference. We used modeling software to model what the real system would look like and to see how changes in surface temperature would impact power output and efficiency,” he said.
He said that modeling projects in this way is an important step in working out problems and ensuring that multi-million-dollar energy projects have solutions in place before they are built.
For Gresham, Undergraduate Research Day is an important opportunity to showcase the work of West Virginia’s students.
“It lets people know that we have very, very smart kids right here in West Virginia. If we provide them opportunities to show the kind of work they can do and how smart they can be, it reminds people of the importance and value of what college students are doing,” he said.
Mark Magallanes, a junior psychology major who came to WVU Tech from Arizona, said the day is also about professional practice. He discussed his research on narcissism among college athletes, and found that he was gaining valuable experience in pitching his work to professionals.
“It’s important to put yourself out there as you prepare for graduate school and finding a job,” he said. “It’s nice to meet with people and recruiters to get your name out there. To learn to talk about your work with confidence and open your mind to other research that’s going on.”
Visit WVU Tech on Flickr to see photos from Undergraduate Research Day.
When Lori Shaffer, P.E., ‘94, had to decide on the college program that would shape the course of her career, she knew it had to be chemical engineering.
“I love mathematics and chemistry. My dad was a civil engineer. So I chose chemical engineering. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but I did a couple of internships and fell in love with it,” she said.
A few years later, she graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, a degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics.
Now Shaffer puts her WVU Tech education to use at Columbia Pipeline Group as Lead Gas Quality Engineer. She’s responsible for monitoring gas quality in the company’s more than 15,000 miles of pipeline stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to New York and from Virginia to Indiana.
“I’m responsible for monitoring the quality of the gas coming into our pipelines to ensure it meets the limits set by our tariff. As part of that, I do a lot of electronic monitoring of receipt points into the gas pipeline. The general idea is that I keep the bad gas out and make sure that gas is flowing in a way that ensures our pipeline is safe and reliable,” she said.
Shaffer has held a number of titles in her engineering career. She started out at Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical) as a production engineer, where she worked in a chemical plant making sure the facility produced products in a safe and efficient way. She was also given the reins over some major plant projects.
“I was the field engineer over the installation of a large enclosed filtration system for one of the chemicals we produced. It was a large-capital project. I was the field contact, so I had to commission it. It was a new piece of equipment that no one else in the company had worked with before. It was a little daunting, but we made it work,” she said.
In 2001 Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide. Shaffer moved into a supply chain role within the company, working as a production planner and scheduler. She monitored product orders and inventory. In that role, she coordinated the activity of reactors, drumming stations and tank car racks to make sure the facility was effectively meeting client demand.
Shaffer became a certified Six Sigma Black Belt, which gave her specialized training in using data to find and eliminate weaknesses and defects in processes. She put those skills to work in project management where her mission was to save the company money and remove inefficiencies in different plant processes.
This love for logistics led to one of Shaffer’s favorite projects. At Dow, she was charged with examining logistics for the company’s chemicals business across the entire country.
“We had drums of materials stored in several facilities across the country because that was the previous company’s model. They kept a little bit of inventory close to each customer base. They would ship ten drums to a location and monitor when the customer had used that up. That turned out to be a very costly way of doing things,” she said.
“Dow wanted me to optimize that network, and to look at how we could still offer great service to our customers who needed product quickly. The project took a lot of data analysis and looking at logistics networks to come up with a solution. We settled on a centralized storage facility. We could ship full truckloads of material from there to our customers or to a satellite area, and I was able to save the company over a million dollars in logistics costs in that project. It was pretty awesome,” she said.
Shaffer worked in logistics for a few companies after Dow, and left the chemical business in 2009. She decided to try her hand at teaching and became an instructor in WVU Tech’s engineering technology department. She taught industrial and mechanical engineering technology classes at her alma mater for three years.
After her time at Tech, Shaffer joined Columbia as an operations analyst. That position required her to analyze data from natural gas compressors, or the massive, motor-driven devices that compress natural gas so that pipelines stay pressurized and gas keeps moving. Her analysis allowed the company to predict potential failures in these compressors and get ahead of the game on their maintenance.
Soon after, Shaffer moved into her new position in gas quality, where she said her education and training has come full circle.
“I have to apply my chemistry and chemical engineering education because I have to understand the chemistry of all of the impurities that come up from the ground in natural gas and how those constituents interact with each other. I also have to understand fluid dynamics, so this job is calling on everything I learned at Tech,” she said.
In order to monitor gas quality in the pipeline system, the company uses a network of gas chromatographs. These devices are used to determine the chemical makeup of natural gas flowing through various receipt points where natural gas enters the system.
To operate properly, these gas chromatographs require the use of a calibration gas. When the company recently needed to find a new vendor for that gas, they relied on Shaffer’s expertise to make it happen.
“I’ve been interviewing vendors, doing site visits and auditing businesses to see if they’re capable of handling our needs. So now that we’ve settled on a new vendor, I’m taking new information and a new ordering process and rolling it out to our field employees because they’re the ones who work with the calibration gas. There’s a lot of coordination that goes into even the simplest changes when you’re working on a system of this scale,” she said.
For Shaffer, this kind of problem solving is just part of the day-to-day in chemical engineering. It’s a field she said works behind the scenes to make products people use every day.
“Chemical engineers make just about anything you touch, from the plastics in sandwich bags to the gum you’re chewing. Wrigley’s bubblegum base is made right here at a chemical plant in Charleston. The de-icer that allows airplanes to take off safely and the brake fluid used in GM cars are made here, too. Car dashboards are manufactured using the same polyvinyl resin as the bubblegum base,” she said.
“That’s the thing about chemical engineers. If we don’t have them, then there’s no one out there to make all this stuff we use on a daily basis,” she said.
Shaffer lives in Charleston, West Virginia with her husband Paul, a 2008 graduate of WVU Tech’s mechanical engineering program who also works at Columbia. The couple has two young children. Their son plays hockey for a traveling team and their daughter plays volleyball, so the family spends much of their free time traveling.
Shaffer is a member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the Institute of Industrial Engineers and the Tech Golden Bear Alumni Association. She also holds a master’s degree in engineering management from Marshall University. While at Tech, she was a founding sister of the University’s Alpha Sigma Tau (AST) sorority and remains active in the organization.
She’s built an impressive career on her love of chemistry and mathematics, and said that one of her greatest rewards is being able to give back through mentorships. Through programming at Columbia, she’s been able to work with an intern each summer to show these young students what a STEM career could mean for them.
“I have the opportunity to help shape and guide their working lives and help them get through school. I’m fortunate to have this opportunity. Two of the students that have worked for me are now with the company full time. That’s so rewarding,” she said.
For new grads heading out into the field, she said the oil and gas industry is going to be an area of opportunity for chemical engineers in the coming decades, particularly in distribution, transmission and drilling. Regardless of which field newcomers choose, she said that chemical engineers can be confident in that they’ll always have a place to work.
“STEM degrees are powerful. You know there’s always going to be innovation. You always need someone to keep processes moving along. You will always have a job. It’s not always going to be your dream job, but you’ll be able to find work somewhere because STEM and engineering degrees are so versatile,” she said.
“My background proves it. I’ve done everything from true production engineering to supply chain, logistics and higher education. An engineering background doesn’t just teach you how to engineer. It teaches you how to think logically and apply problem-solving to the world around you, no matter where that is or what you’re doing,” she said.