Where Are They Now?

Each year some 250 students “graduate” from S&T’s student design teams, and for their hard work they also get a bachelor’s degree almost as important to employers as their design team experience.

These grads seem to disappear into the bowels of industry perhaps to redesign Corvettes, return to campus with a pre-production Chevy Volt, and rise to an investment manager at GM Ventures about ten years down the line.

But some Miner grads carve their own path into the world, and so begins the story of Doug Hoang, his friends, and their new start-up company, Enflux.
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Doug (BS ME ’10), seen above testing engine sound levels at the Michigan International Speedway, was the 2010 engine group lead on S&T’s Formula SAE team. “Through the design team program I developed friendships with many like-minded students some of whom I took engineering classes with. Eventually some of us became roommates and that’s where we began to realize that we wanted to start a company together,” says Doug.

“Matt Brown (ME ’09) whose chief engineer’s role on the Human Powered Vehicle Team culminated in S&T being the first team ever to capture a National Championship (2007), and Elijah Schuldt (AE, EE, ’10) Advanced Aero team president (2009) and micro-class chief engineer (2010), and I stayed in touch after graduation to work on our entrepreneurial dreams.”

“Enflux began to take shape after Eli and I developed sensor technology to analyze motion in racecars. At the time I was also training to run triathlon but wasn’t getting the results I wanted and kept getting injured. I realized we could put the same racecar sensors on the body to collect data on movement during exercise, and the idea was born. why not develop a line of athletic clothing with embedded motion sensors that capture your body’s 3D movement during exercise?”
“The clothing measures the quality of your form, intensity of your workout, other advanced exercise metrics, and reports back on a smartphone app in real-time. After your workout is complete, you can review results, get coaching on your form, and view a 3D avatar performing the exercises exactly as you just did.”

“We’ve sunk a lot of our own money into this project and already lined up major investors, and our next step is a kickstarter campaign at getenflux.com that starts today.”

“All this is happening because, some ten years ago, each of us decided to join a Missouri S&T design team. Best decision we ever made.”

The Best Birthday Present EVER!

And the story behind it…

Let us first introduce to you, Richard Dalton, shop and safety operations manager at S&T’s Student Design and Experiential Learning Center.

Richard has a slightly mellow personality, but he shoulders tremendous responsibility at the center. He teaches dozens of technical and safety classes, oversees OrgSync and all the sophisticated software needed to design student projects, buys (or steals) and maintains a barn full of lathes, mills, grinders, welders, and composite layup equipment, machines that well-meaning (but inexperienced) students seem to trash as fast as he can fix it.

Richard also teaches truck/trailer drivers’ education classes after normal(?) duty hours. It’s a wonder he hasn’t burst a blood vessel trying to show students how to back up a 28-foot trailer, or park a big dually pickup truck. Stressful at best…

He’s a master mechanic, superb machinist and even built his own home. A computer/IT wizard, YouTube aficionado, and has been deployed to Afganistan with the Army Reserve.

DSC_7810His office is his inner sanctum, his personal retreat where few are welcome. It’s home to several video monitors, his personal tool set, and the occasional canoe when things get too crowded in the shop. It’s even been known to house a few hundred plastic Easter eggs lovingly placed where it’ll take him months to find them.

But.

DSC_3246Many months ago, Richard’s very expensive and custom-fitted office chair went missing. He was very “close” to that chair and distraught when it disappeared, as similar chairs just wouldn’t “fit.” There were rumors it rolled away DSC_6536 (1) on its own, to go “find itself” and travel the world. Sightings were reported all over the western U.S., often in the vicinity of traveling S&T design teams it was said.
But it never resurfaced.

Fast forward to Irvine, California with the Solar House Design Team and their Nest Home at the Solar Decathlon; high-energy house reassembly under strict time constraints. Richard absolutely WOWED the students with his skills, enthusiasm and experience, and with his birthday on the horizon the students were desperate to show their appreciation to “’Mater,” as he’s known on campus. What to do?

The house has to be furnished, right? What if, just IF, they could find the errant furniture, wouldn’t it be great to bring it “home”? If they COULD recover it, how could they possibly sneak it into the Nest Home as a proper surprise? What on-hand equipment could they use?

Well, there IS that big crane sitting right outside, and since Richard (that’s him on the left) was busy talking……….
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And THAT is the story of the best birthday present EVER!

P.S. Too bad the crane operator wouldn’t haul him up about 100 ft. Stupid OSHA rules…..

This is not your little brother’s tricycle…

Springtime means the Miners are on the road to design glory. Just a few weeks back we had four (count ’em, FOUR) multi-disciplinary teams on the road in just one weekend.

In the chaos we neglected to mention the unveiling of Leviathan, the Human Powered Vehicle Team’s technical and creative masterpiece. The ASME-sponsored event calls on student teams to develop a practical human-powered vehicle, and the Peter Frieberger, Garrison Keith, and their teammates did that. But they took it one step further in building a technically superior and very fast device that just ate up the competition. Literally and figuratively.

At the west coast event in San Jose, CA “Leviathan”, the tricyle that leans and handles like a two-wheeler, proved so fast the velodrome course couldn’t even contain it. Peter’s momentum took him up the slope and onto the retaining wall, where, for a few seconds the trike was riding on a vertical surface before gravity again took hold. Nikia Chapman beat all other teams, female AND male in the sprint races, as the Miner men had their sprints cut short by crashes, leaving the team in second place overall.

Just two weeks later the Miners replayed their dominance by winning the Florida event. They swept male sprints, female sprints and the endurance race, took the innovation award, and earned 3rd in design presentation.

Words cannot describe how sophisticated, successful, and beautiful their sea monster-themed design was, so we’ll let their stunning video show you how total their domination was. Why not? We ARE the Show-Me state!

And if the engineering doesn’t work out this crew certainly has a future in video production.

It’s Springtime In The Ozarks!

The dogwoods are blooming, turtles are crossing the road en masse, thunderstorms are brewing and S&T’s design teams are on the road. SolarCarDSC_6875
A revitalized solar car team took a weekend training run on the Licking race circuit, aka US highway 63. They’re wringing out Solar Miner VIII to make sure the battery management system is doing its critical job. SolCarDSC_6824Cloudy weather, road kill and brittle battery tabs limited the car to a mere 90 miles, but before long they’ll wire in the new, and much more energy dense battery pack.

Tomorrow morning four teams head out to intercollegiate competitions. Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe head to KU at Lawrence, KS for the ASCE Mid-continent student conference while two other groups head to drought-plagued California; Human Powered Vehicle to San Jose and Advanced Aero Vehicle Group/SAE Aero to Van Nuys. The HPVC team will debut Leviathan, the amazing leaning recumbent trike. We’ve seen other vehicles made up as cattle, but never has a team showed up with a sea monster beautifully painted on their bike, trike, or whatever.

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The Miners have built their best boat in years and dubbed it (cue Star Wars theme) Joebi-Wan Canoebe. A concrete cross-section is nestled in R2-D2’s belly and miniature TIE fighters make the cutest little materials containers you ever saw.

Steel Bridge’s over-arch design is a radical departure from last year’s winning entry. It’s much lighter and there’re holding last-minute practice this evening.

Tonight’s a packing frenzy. Loading gear, checking lists for the 10th time, just another evening on a design team.

Stay tuned for more anecdotes and pics. It’s gonna be a busy weekend!

It’s Late On A Saturday Night. Do You Know Where Your Children Are?

LRmodEWBdinner1-TEDSUN_72487Your kids (well, college students) have moved out and don’t answer your calls or texts. Unless they’re broke.

Ever wonder what they’re up to at night?

Well, if you were to sneak onto campus one (or most any) evening, you’d discover: Ignite Rolla; two hours of what looks like stand-up comedy, but it’s serious. The Council of Graduate Students hosted a Ted Talks-style evening devoted to ideas worth spreading. Among the dozen or so student speakers were members of two student design teams who presented on topics that inspire them. Brian Gifford, long a stalwart of the Solar House Design Team and four-year S&T basketball player, drew a strong analogy between childhood memories and the need to develop long-term sustainable housing in the U.S.

LRmodEWBdinner1-TEDSUN_74731Hanna Frye and Kelsey Crossen of iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) gave Ignite Rolla a redux of their technical presentation of how their DNA modification holds promise of reducing coal-fired power planet emissions into ammonia fertilizer.

Saturday night is for celebrating, EWB-style (Engineers Without Borders), with a rice and beans banquet. Sound tasty? It was, with authentic recipes from their customer communities in Central and South America. This event was a celebration of the life-saving clean water
BLOG2blprintprojects these students designed and built for remote villages in Guatemala, Bolivia and Honduras. More important, it was a way of saying “Thank you!” to the people that inspire these 20-somethings to tackle these enormous, real-life challenges, their advisors and key financial backers who help make these trips possible.

LAtheblogDSC_6504For a post-dinner stroll, drop in the Student Design and Experiential Learning Center and listen to the chaos. Loud music. Shouting. Hammer on steel. Humming lathes and mills. The sound of production, of work being done. Design teams are beginning to turn their designs into reality. Evaluation via non-destructive testing, which sometimes turns into destructive testing, whether they like it or not.

They’re learning the language of the machine shop. The metals and composites are “talking” to students, saying “are you really sure I’m the best choice of materials for this thing on which you are staking your engineering reputation?” A daunting thought…………..

Christmas In September

Yeah, it’s a cliche, but we’re not talking about Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas decorations on store shelves before the summer even ends.

It’s a fact of life that design team students must project their manufacturing/material needs many months in advance. Stealing a line from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” students are “making their list and checking it twice” to get the materials on hand when needed.

Design teams aren’t funded by the university, they’re “assisted.” They can’t simply buy what they need (blank check? Fuggedaboutit!) unless they’ve found the cash, and that’s a tough process. A better idea is to establish long-term sponsor relationships with people who have a stake in S&T’s experiential learning programs.

A top “stakeholder” is Chuck Miller of Coastal Enterprises, manufacturer of high density urethane (HDU) boards. Coastal’s HDU boards are used dimensional signage, model making, marine applications and a variety of tooling applications from solar car forms to robot shrouds. Chuck’s crew not only ships pallet-upon-pallet of this high-dollar material freeto Rolla each year, they also follow the progress of many S&T design teams. They’re proud to trumpet our Human-Powered Vehicle’s progress in a California event, and Chuck even drove down to Irvine, California to meet the Miners’ Solar House Team last fall.

The Human Powered Vehicle Team first “negotiated” the Coastal relationship. The “negotiations” had but one contractual term, pay-it-forward; pass on to others the good that has been done to you. Now the Mars Rover, Formula SAE, Solar Car, and Robotics Competition teams all share in the largesse, and any excess gets hauled to competition and shared with other universities.

That’s a life-long lesson that you don’t find in a textbook.

If you’ll excuse us we have to email Chuck with our HDU needs for the 2014-2015 season.

THANKS, Chuck (and Amy, Brad, Don and Krystle)!

The Need For Speed, and Design Team Fans Across the Country

Student design teams depend heavily on off-campus sources for money and material. Sponsors don’t just write a check or drop inner tubes in the mail, they remain extremely interested in what goes on year-round. The continued excellence (and sometimes heroic attempts to stave off disaster) of these design/build crews creates thrilling engineering/athletic drama, ripe for consumption by a tech-crazy nation.

Students often brag about the support that comes from individuals and commercial firms alike. As recipients of the largesse they SHOULD be excited, because little gets done without outside help. They also know they’ve made a good impression when sponsors start bragging about their association with S&T teams.

A few years back teams got an unexpected best life lessons from Coastal Enterprises, a California-based manufacturer of high-dollar tooling foam. A few years ago students reached out to Coastal for material donations, and were told “yes, we’ll help, but it comes with strings attached.”

Paraphrasing company owner Chuck Miller, “I didn’t build this company by myself, I had lots of help along the way. If you want our support you must agree that, when you are in a position to help others, you do so.” The Miners immediately honored the contract by sharing the goods with other S&T teams, and handing some off to up-and-coming teams from other universities. In doing so they learned that value comes in many forms; personal relationships, generosity, integrity, respect and character in business as in life. And that karma is real.

It’s Coastal that’s thrilled to be a part of S&T’s experiential learning programs. Chuck touts their association with our design teams, follows our adventures, and even drops in to see Miner teams (i.e., Solar House) that don’t use their products.

In their social media posts Coastal advances their code of business ethics through the connection with student design groups. In doing so they ensure that future generations of engineers will give back to Coastal by following Chuck’s example. And that, dear readers, is Karma.

p.s. Pick up the phone and call Chuck sometime. His entire crew is a blast to talk to, a sure sign of a great place to work.

Two-Week Hiatus for Student Competitions

That DOESN’T mean things are quiet*

The Design Center’s trucks, trailers and vans are getting some much-needed rest and maintenance. Steel Bridge, Concrete Canoe, Human-Powered Vehicle (twice) and Advanced Aero Vehicle (also twice) have been on the road from Orlando to the San Francisco Bay area and points in between.

We often say there’s a whole lot more to engineering than just engineering. Time management and logistics are equally important in the process of global product development. Students must understand the difference between price and cost. They must weigh the cost of airline tickets vs. fuel, food, and lodging for a grueling two-day road trip and time away from class is a huge issue. Think “Penny Wise and Pound Foolish.”
CRSUN_3926The Human Powered Vehicle team spent weeks debating whether to fly or drive to the West Coast. They evaluated the trip’s costs of time, safety, and risk and decided to fly. Design center director Chris Ramsay did the driving honors, stopping along the way to meet with some friends of the university and to change a tire and see a few sights along the way. Hauling all their gear let the remaining fourteen students arrive fresh and ready to compete, kept them from missing many classes, and the design center vans didn’t smell like a restaurant dumpster.

*Steel Bridge is improving their bridge and rehearsing for the Nationals, and Solar Car is finally getting some miles on the new vehicle.

Just Another Weekend at the Office

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With a guest appearance by Batman, the Flying Squirrel……….
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Amateur Bobsled Races/HPVC Teaser

Most ASME Human Powered Vehicle events are held on college campuses (campi?), business parks, closed-off roads or an out-of-the-way Indianapolis track that comes alive every Memorial Day weekend.

The Hellyer County Park Velodrome, San Jose, CA is the site of next weekend’s ASME West Coast Competition, and if the video below is any indication, there’s a troubling resemblance to southern-style bootlegger’s racin’.

At the 1:05 mark S&T shows how it’s done. Thirty seconds later see how it’s not done.

Peter Freiberger’s carbon-fiber masterpiece BANSHEE performed beautifully in Orlando last week until it became “Trike? Meet hay bales. Hay bales? Meet trike.” Collisions and rollovers cost BANSHEE a tie-rod end, steering column and a connecting rod, but the vehicle’s lightweight but incredibly strong fairing (and rider) came out with nary a scratch.

Repairs and realignment should be finished this weekend for the westward journey, and BANSHEE should do beautifully.