Newsletter Volume 05 | Spring 2018
This will be my last chair’s message (as I will serve as Dean of the Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville beginning in July). Hence, I have decided to reminisce on my 24 years in the Department of Mechanical Engineering with 7 years as chair.

I remember that when I interviewed here, the PhD program had only existed for 6 years. Due to the overall youth of the College of Engineering, I was extremely skeptical that I could accomplish world class research at this institution. However, when I was shown what was then the Fluid Mechanics Research Lab (FMRL), I observed world class research in experimental aerodynamics and was convinced that I could build a strong program in controls and robotics here. One of the pleasures I have experienced is observing the FMRL morph (with considerable effort on the part of key faculty) into the Florida Center for Advanced Aero-Propulsion (FCAAP), a State of Florida Center of Excellence.

We now have many strong research programs, including Advanced Manufacturing, Applied Superconductivity, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Cryogenics, Mobile Robotics, and Sustainable Energy. In fact, another pleasure I have had is to see our PhD program ranked 27th by using the National Research Council S-Rankings, a recognition of the strength of our research and its ability to produced quality PhDs. This is a remarkable achievement for such a young program and we have a base of young researchers that should lead to future growth in our research and graduate programs.

I am very glad that despite our emphasis on research, teaching in our department is very strong. Most of our teaching specialists excel in the classroom and are frequent winners of teaching awards. But some of our most prolific researchers also receive exceptional student evaluations and have also received teaching awards. My hope is that this dual emphasis on excellence in both teaching and research continues as the department continues to advance.

I would be remiss by not mentioning the outstanding alumni that have been produced by this department. We recently began formally recognizing our outstanding alumni in an awards banquet. They are the most visible hallmark of the quality of our program and we should continue to highlight their successes.

Finally, I would like to remark that we have an excellent staff. We have lost some good ones recently, but have been able to replace them with equally qualified and productive staff members. Many of our staff and faculty members have remarked on the cordial environment we have developed in this high achieving department. I am confident that the next chair will preserve and improve upon this atmosphere.

It has not always been an easy 7 years as Chair, but it has been rewarding. Although I will see it from a distance, I expect to observe a program that continues along the path of excellence.
Student scholars from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering shine at BEYA conference
Engineering students Latarence Butts and Daziyah Sullivan were honored at BEYA, the Black Engineers of the Year Awards  STEM Conference  this year. The scholars won academic leadership awards at the event February 2018 event held in Washington D.C. 

“To achieve this kind of award student leaders have to be outstanding contributors to their schools and communities, explained Lango Deen of CCG Magazine, a spokesperson for the event. “They are dedicated scholars who shine in the classroom.”  
Both students are part of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering's  Engineering Living Learning Community , which is led by Dr. Charmane Caldwell.

Sullivan is a promising second-year mechanical engineering student and became interested making renewable energy more affordable after her first introduction to the subject during a green-energy summer camp. There she became inspired and made the connection to real-life situations.
“There are so many ways to incorporate renewable energy resources into people lives-- it needs to be cheaper so people can afford it and implement it,” the young researcher said.  

Hands-free Wheelchair Umbrella wins FSU 'inNOLEvation Challenge'
A team of six student engineers, who brainstormed a hands-free umbrella for wheelchairs, won the grand prize of $10,000 in Florida State University’s annual InNOLEvation® Challenge sponsored by the Jim Moran School of Entrepreneurship.

The students, all seniors at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, created an umbrella called DriGo that automatically deploys when a person pushes a lever located behind the left elbow.
Claire Kelly, an industrial engineering student, said there’s nothing else like DriGo on the market.

“Currently, wheelchair users don’t have a lot of options to protect themselves from the rain,” Kelly said. “We learned that many of them just don’t go outside to avoid the rain altogether. So, this device would be very beneficial and give them more independence in the rain.”

The DriGo team of entrepreneurs learned how to navigate and organize the many steps required to develop a workable design and prototype. Each member brought specific engineering skills to help advance the project.

The team includes two mechanical engineers (Megan Simpson and Brianna Yeung), two industrial engineers (Jose Miranda and Claire Kelly), an electrical engineer (Billy Courson) and a computer engineer (Hunter Wheeler).

Mechanical Engineering professor William Oates appointed 2018 Cummins Inc. Professor in Engineering

The Cummins Inc. Professor in Engineering endowment, appointed through the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering since 2016, was recently awarded to Dr. William Oates, professor in Mechanical Engineering and the Aeropropulsion, Mechatronics and Energy (AME) center. The endowment is funded through engine-manufacturer and energy powerhouse Cummins Inc., operating in more than 190 countries worldwide.

Engineering dean J. Murray Gibson said Dr. Oates’ nomination and appointment comes “in recognition of [his] exemplary leadership, outstanding record of research accomplishment with a sustained upward trajectory, and contribution to engineering education and career development.” The Dean also noted Oates’ success in raising funds from Cummins Inc. to forward his pioneering work in the field of quantum computing.

Quantum computing is an emerging field that uses what is called is called a qubit (the analog of a computer bit). Unlike classical bits which process information using their zero or one state, qubits are simultaneously in both the zero and one state afforded by the complex world of quantum mechanics—a branch of physics that deals with matter on a subatomic level. This property, combined with the mysterious world of quantum entanglement, offers extraordinary computational potential.

Cummins, Inc. is interested in Oates’ research to advance the design of new fuel cell technology—which he aims to improve using quantum machine learning and quantum linear algebra. While quantum computing is still in its infancy, Oates has been awarded $300,000 through the FSU Foundation. The Cummins Inc. professorship is offered for a term of five years, and is eligible for renewal following a review period afterward.

Since joining the college in 2006, other distinctions Oates has amassed during that time include becoming a Fellow of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) among 3,521 Fellows out of 112,647 members. He has also been awarded the FSU Developing Scholar Award, the ASME Gary Anderson Early Achievement Award, the NSF CAREER Award, and the DARPA Young Faculty Award. 

“This is quite an honor and a privilege,” Oates said. Referencing the pedigree of Cummins, Inc., he then went on to add: “Growing up with a father who was a diesel mechanic his whole career makes this one particularly special.”

Louis Cattafesta Gains Fellowship in Prestigious American Physical Society

Mechanical Engineering professor and FCAAP director Louis Cattafesta was welcomed into the scientific elite in October when he received word of his election to fellow of the American Physical Society. The non-profit is the second-largest organization of physicists worldwide and publishes journals across the globe.

In the award letter sent by the organization and signed by its president Laura H. Greene, the A.P.S. Council of Representatives noted it was bestowing the fellowship at the recommendation of its Division of Fluid Dynamics. The citation on his fellowship certificate reads that it is granted “for seminal contributions in active flow control and aeroacoustics, including real-time closed-loop control, design tools for actuators and micro-electro-mechanical flow sensors, design and characterization of unique aeroacoustic facilities, and phased-array beamforming methods.”

In response, Dr. Cattafesta said the following: “I am honored to be named a Fellow of APS-DFD, particularly to be recognized by my peers in the field. I am grateful for those that enabled this, such as my mentors, my colleagues and collaborators and, most importantly, my students. Without them, this would not be possible.”

Each year, the A.P.S. only elects new members proportionate to a maximum .5% of its total membership, which currently sits at over 50,000.

Learn more at

Rajan Kumar to Collaborate With Private Industry on Ultra-Rare Grant

One of the key elements in science is collaboration. In academia that often means leaving the nest to flock to partners in private industry.
Few exemplify that spirit better than Rajan Kumar, an associate professor at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. Kumar's research at the FSU-based  Florida Center for Advanced Aero-propulsion  recently resulted in an ultra-rare Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. It is the first time that such a grant in that phase has been received by anyone at the College of Engineering.
Kumar's grant, "Supersonic Turret Advanced Research (STAR)," is a continued partnership between himself, the United States Air Force and the Ohio-based company Spectral Energies, LLC., all of whom worked together on the grant's first two phases. In its third phase, the grant has been awarded more than $425K through November 2020.
The project's objective is just as evocative of science fiction as its name suggests. But, with time and research, fiction may one day become fact.
"The goal of these airborne laser systems is to produce an aircraft-mounted laser capable of engaging specified targets," Kumar said. "The most common of these systems consists of a photon source, a beam transport system as a means of transferring energy from the laser to a telescope and a tracking system used to focus on an intended target."

AME Enters Global Spotlight with International Conference

Always at the cutting edge, the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering’s Aeropropulsion, Mechatronics, and Energy (AME) center boasts technology that includes a 30-by-30 foot subsonic wind tunnel, an anechoic (low-speed) wind tunnel, short take-off and vertical landing facility, and a high-temperature jet facility that can exceed 2200 degrees Fahrenheit and mimic real jet engines.

While in impressive company, it’s the center’s 12 by 12 foot polysonic wind tunnel that distinguishes itself as a focal point of study from around the globe.

Proof of this was FSU becoming host to this year’s Supersonic Tunnel Association, International (STAI) conference, which was held in the AME Center in early October. Formed in the mid-1960s and comprised of tunnel operators worldwide, STAI is an international authority on high-speed aerodynamics testing facilities.

Nearly 50 STAI members attended the conference, the purpose of which was to share research and collaboration potential among attendees. It was the college’s—and FSU’s—first time hosting the conference.

“What they discuss is how can we run these [wind tunnels] better, more efficiently, while modifying them to meet the next requirement coming down the pipe, which is hypersonic defense,” said Dr. Farrukh Alvi, former FCAAP director and the College of Engineering’s current Associate Dean for Research.

Anything with speed above Mach 4, Alvi noted, is considered hypersonic. With the ability to experiment up to Mach 5, it’s a threshold that the PSWT is more than up to the challenge of meeting.
For more information on Supersonic Tunnel Association, International, visit the organization’s website at

Looking to the Future, AME Researchers Rein in Millions in Grant Dollars

Down the road from the main FAMU-FSU College of Engineering building, big things are in the works over at the Aeropropulsion, Mechatronics, and Energy (AME) Center. In 2017 alone, over $2.5 million in grant money has been awarded to aerospace projects headed by Dr. Farrukh Alvi, Dr. Louis Cattafesta, and Dr. Rajan Kumar.
The center, which stays true to its namesake in pioneering technologies related to aeropropulsion (including aerospace), advanced robotics, control methodologies, and energy storage and transfer, has become an international leader in the aforementioned fields. Through their efforts, the college has gained the attention and interest of many, with U.S. military institutions paying particular notice.

Defense-funded, research-approved

The Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office, and Air Force Research Lab have each awarded or renewed 3-4 year grants among the three professors and their collaborators. These include $500,000 for an AFOSR grant entitled “Dynamics of Unsteady Flow Past Bluff Bodies with Lofted Bases” spearheaded by Alvi and Kumar, as well as over $1 million for a grant to Cattafesta for the project “Flow Physics and Nonlinear Dynamics of Natural and Perturbed Turbulent Separation Bubbles” subcontracted by Princeton and John Hopkins universities.

Cattafesta, whose current research is focused on low-speed aerodynamic applications, has been working to solve a common aerospace problem concerning separation during lift. In layman’s terms, what he intends to do, among other things, is prevent airflow from detaching from wings during initial flight due to pressure forces.

Cutting down drag– the friction of the flow on the surface –will also cut down energy and fuel costs, he said.

“This is what drives the fuel economy, but it also cuts down emissions of harmful gases. So it’s a very wide-reaching problem,“ he said.

In addition to those already named, Dr. Kumar brought in additional funds through the A.R.O.’s Research and Education Program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions which dispensed another $500,000 for the project “Development of a Time-Resolved Pressure Sensitive Paint Technique for Shock Dominated Flaws”. He also saw another project from the AFRL renewed for an additional $286,042, bringing its total to $571,847.

From the private sector, Kumar’s project “Characterization of Air Data Probes at High Speeds” was awarded $74K by Aerosonic Corporation. Seeing the college’s funding expanded by commercial companies, the professor called it “a win-win situation.”

FAMU-FSU scientist nets $1M grant to advance particle accelerator research

When you think particle accelerator, you think big. CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, for example, spans two countries, features a tunnel more than 16 miles (27 km) long, employs thousands of scientists and requires a budget of $1 billion a year.

Turns out, particle accelerators need not be so massive. In fact, proton-smashing technologies initially developed to reveal the mysteries of the universe are being scaled down to solve less lofty, but no less important, problems related to environment, health and safety.

The Florida State University-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is playing a role in a nationwide effort to make human-scale particle accelerators for a host of applications. With a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, scientists at the lab’s Applied Superconductivity Center are developing a key component of these slimmed-down accelerators called radio frequency (RF) cavities.

“They can be used for everything from zapping cancer cells to curbing pollution to scanning cargo for contraband,” said Lance Cooley, an ASC scientist and professor at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering who is leading the RF cavity research.

Whether made of protons, electrons or ions, beams generated by accelerators can break up unwanted molecules like coal flue gases or bacteria; catalyze processes helpful in industry and manufacturing; and identify nefarious stowaways hidden in shipping containers. The list of potential applications is long.
“The can be used anywhere you need a catalyst or an X-ray,” Cooley said.

But downsizing complex technologies to a size both portable and affordable is a massive challenge that requires solving lots of engineering problems.

Cooley is focused on the problem of designing an RF cavity that doesn’t require the fancy infrastructure used in large-scale accelerators and doesn’t break the bank.

$1M DOE grant supports commercial development in solar and distributed energy systems

The project entitled "Developing Optimal Control Technology for Distributed Energy Resources" (DOCTdER) has recently been funded by the US Department of Energy through a program which helps bridge the transfer of technology from universities to industry. The $1M Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase II Grant is designed to bridge the "valley of death" for innovative startup technology companies before they seek private capital.

FAMU-FSU engineering professors  Omar Faruque , Electrical and Computer Engineering and  Emmanuel Collins , Mechanical Engineering, working with  Nhu Energy Inc. ’s President and Principal Engineer, Rick Meeker, will collaborate on the development.

The Nhu Energy team will develop breakthrough control technology to drastically improve the value proposition for distributed energy resources such as solar PV, storage, electric vehicles, and price-responsive load, to enable significant improvements to electric power system resiliency, economics, and environmental impact.

$1M Grant to help researchers deliver big savings on big motors — FAMU-FSU Engineers to develop greener, cheaper tech

Invented almost 200 years ago, electric motors are a mainstay of our modern world, powering everything from personal gadgets to massive machinery.

Now, a team from the Center for Advanced Power Systems (CAPS) and the FSU-headquartered National High Magnetic Field Laboratory (National MagLab) is hoping to take a big bite out of that power bill.

With a $1 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the help of industry partners, researchers will study ways to make industrial motors more efficient and reliable, improvements that could significantly reduce energy use, save billions of dollars and contribute to a cleaner environment.

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