Carnegie Mellon University | Fall 2016
THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
REAL WORLD PROBLEM SOLVING
JIM DILLINGER: 35 YEARS OF HEARTFELT WORK
BEST FOOT FORWARD & LIGHTWEIGHT FLIGHT: ALUMNI
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Dear Alumni and Friends,
Becoming a mechanical engineer extends beyond the classrooms, labs and
machine shop. Experiences across campus, the country and the world shape the
perspectives of our students to help them become better engineers.
This issue of our magazine features some of the remarkable work of our students
and young alumni who are tackling the challenges they see around them, using
what they’ve learned at Carnegie Mellon University to make a difference in
Also in this issue, we announce the exciting partnership with ANSYS to
revolutionize the future engineering workforce. A new building will provide
simulation labs, a large-scale building area for student projects, and space to
promote education and research collaborations. Nestled beside Hamerschlag’s
MakerWing, this facility will extend our “maker ecosystem.” (Don’t miss the
MakerWing construction update on page 8 and the new dual degree program in
technology ventures on page 11.)
In these pages, we also celebrate Machine Shop Foreman Jim Dillinger’s 35 years
of service, welcome two of our new faculty members, wish good luck to Professor
Fred Higgs as he joins Rice University, and remember the inspirational alumni
who have passed during the year.
As we approach the end of the fall 2016 semester, we reflect with pride on the
department’s collective accomplishments and look ahead to the new challenges,
ideas and opportunities.
Allen Robinson, Department Head, Mechanical Engineering
FOR THE REAL WORLD
MECH E featuring:
THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
ERIC PARIGORIS HEADS TO
SWITZERLAND ON WHITAKER
After graduating in May 2016, Eric Parigoris
boarded a plane to Switzerland to spend a year
applying his mechanical engineering chops to a
serious biological problem — early detection
The trip was made possible thanks to his winning
of the Whitaker Fellowship. The Whitaker
International Program aims to send emerging
leaders in U.S. biomedical engineering abroad,
and help them not only become top-quality
scientists, but also to advance the profession
through global perspective.
Parigoris will spend his year abroad in the lab of
Professor Jess Snedeker, who works on cancer
biomechanics at ETH Zurich. From the start of his
application process in the fall of 2015, Parigoris
was drawn to Snedeker’s research.
“Professor Snedeker’s work focuses on both
orthopedic biomechanics and cancer cell
mechanics, the two fields I am most interested
in,” says Parigoris. “His research focuses on
engineering-based solutions that have direct
social impact. He has worked alongside MechE
Professor Phil LeDuc for the past three years on
two projects in the field of cellular biomechanics.
The first looked to model a malnourished intestine,
then built that model into existing “gut-on-chip”
device designs to develop a more physiologically
relevant microsystem. The second looked to
engineer magnetically activated artificial cells
that can be used in localized drug delivery.
Parigoris wants to take a few years gaining
experience abroad after graduation before
ultimately pursuing an M.D.-Ph.D. in biomedical
“While most mechanical engineers are interested
in the mechanics of vehicles or manufacturing,
my research interests lie in applying these same
principles to biological systems.”
The Whitaker Fellowship is the perfect opportunity
for Parigoris to spend his time off from school
building international connections in the rapidly
expanding biomedical engineering community.
Parigoris is working with Snedeker on a project
designed to characterize complex cell mixtures in
order to identify cancerous cells. Currently, earlydetection
remains the most effective strategy
for reducing cancer-related deaths, but until
now, only a few early detection methods have
been effective enough for clinical use. This novel
mechanical characterization method shows great
potential for early cancer detection.
Throughout his undergraduate career at Carnegie
Mellon, Parigoris developed a passion for using
mechanical engineering principles to help solve
critical medical problems with widespread
MECH E featuring:
THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
NICOLE HUANG LEADS CARNEGIE
MELLON MEDICAL BRIGADE TO
Mechanical Engineering’s Nicole Huang and a
group of Carnegie Mellon students returned from
an alternative spring break vacation — in rural
Along with co-president Ashwath Sankar, Huang
headed the Carnegie Mellon chapter of the Global
Brigades, the world’s largest student-led global
health and sustainable development organization.
With the help of the organization, Huang
organized this alternative spring break and led a
group of students from across the university to a
Panamanian village, hoping to alleviate the health
problems experienced by the residents, as well
as partner with the residents to teach lessons on
personal health, building and farming practices.
“For the first half of the trip, we set up a makeshift
health clinic, usually in a school or an old building,”
Huang says. “For the other half of the trip, we take
a more holistic mindset, targeting the potential
environmental causes of the issues we see in
the clinic. It’s easy to treat patients with stomach
parasites, but that’s just a short-term fix. If we can
provide them a means of obtaining clean water,
we can keep them from getting sick, even long
after we’re gone.”
While the global organization chooses the
community and lays the groundwork, it’s up to
the chapter presidents to make the trip happen.
For Huang, this meant coordinating travel plans,
writing grants for fundraising, and more. The
group even spent their Saturdays and Sundays
standing outside of Rite Aid, asking customers to
purchase a donation of over-the-counter medical
supplies for them —things like ibuprofen, cold
medicine and pregnancy tests. All told, they were
able to bring more than $100,000 worth of muchneeded,
donated medication to Panama.
However, for Huang, even this was not enough.
She wanted this year’s trip to bring something
new to the table, in the form of vision tests and
“To see a hundred patients,” she says, “you need
almost three times as many glasses, so you have
a selection to pick from. We processed over 1,300
pairs of distance glasses before the trip.”
The biggest part of the preparation for the trip,
however, isn’t medical at all, but cultural. Without
a cultural awareness of the region, it’s difficult
for local people to trust that you care about their
well-being, so trying to teach them new health,
economic or even farming practices becomes
“It’s very hard to make a respectful impact
as someone who is from a different country;
someone who looks different and doesn’t
understand,” she says. “That’s why education is
one of the most important things in sustainable
Upon returning to campus, the team started to
raise funds for the next trip with a 5K. Huang
continued to work through the semester on new
tools to help health care providers in rural areas,
such as a dental suction pump to keep the mouth
dry that can operate without electricity.
Although she graduated in May, Huang has no
plans to abandon her love of service.
“I do want to be a surgeon, because that’s my
academic passion,” she says, “but I would
like to incorporate my engineering on the side,
developing projects of this type to stay
connected to service work.”
PRATITI MANDAL WINS
UNIVERSITY-WIDE 3 MINUTE
The College of Engineering presented a strong
showing at the final round of the Carnegie
Mellon 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition,
held on Tuesday, April 4, with four of the 10
finalists representing the college. Biomedical
Engineering’s Shinjini Kundu and Blue Martin,
Electrical and Computer Engineering’s Amit Datta,
and Mechanical Engineering’s Pratiti Mandal
along with six other Ph.D. students from across
the university competed in front of an audience
of their peers and a panel of esteemed judges to
see who could most accurately, effectively and
compellingly present their thesis in under three
The event, hosted by the University Libraries, was
moderated by Dean of Libraries Keith Webster,
who originally brought the 3MT competition to
Carnegie Mellon from its home at the University
of Queensland in 2013. The judges’ panel was
made up of prestigious university figures, such as
University President Subra Suresh, Posner Fine
Arts Foundation Executive Director Anne Molloy,
Professor of Drama and Dean of the College of
Fine Arts Dan Martin, Vice Provost for Education
and Biological Sciences Teaching Professor Amy
Burkert, and Chemistry Ph.D. student and last
year’s first place 3MT winner Annie Arnold.
Finalists’ presentations were judged on
three distinct criteria: communication style,
“I feel even more passionate
about my work, knowing that
people actually think it is of
consequence to society.”
comprehension and engagement. Each was
allowed one PowerPoint slide or image as a
visual aid for the audience, but no more. If their
presentation went over the 3-minute mark by any
margin, they would be immediately disqualified.
After the judges’ and audience’s deliberation,
Pratiti Mandal won both the first place award
and the People’s Choice Award, receiving $3,000
and $500 for each respectively, for her thesis
presentation titled “Investigation and mitigation
of degradation of fuel cells.”
Mandal’s research looks to make hydrogen fuel
cells more durable and economical by creating
a system to clear away water — a byproduct of
hydrogen fuel cells — from the inside of the cell,
where it can cause blockage in the electrodes and
thereby degrade the cell. Not only that, but her
design can then use that water as additional fuel,
making the cell more efficient.
“The 3MT competition was a very enriching
experience for me,” she says. “I feel even more
passionate about my work, knowing that people
actually think it is of consequence to society.
It also helped me realize the importance of
being able to drop the jargon and deliver the
true essence of the research without having to
The $2,000 second prize was awarded jointly
to BME’s Shinjini Kundu for her work in training
algorithms to better predict osteoarthritis from
MRI scans, and to English Ph.D. student Juliann
Reineke. The $1,000 third prize went to ECE’s
Amit Datta, for his research into cracking
companies’ ad targeting prediction algorithms to
determine how web-browsing patterns affect ad
“I never thought I would get first place as well
as the People’s Choice award,” says Mandal.
“I am immensely thankful to all my friends and
colleagues who attended the competition for
their support and to the judges who considered
me eligible for first place.”
MECH E featuring:
THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
Ph.D. Student Interns at NASA’s Langley Research Center
Imagine you are an atmospheric scientist
collecting air samples in the field. You need
to teach a robot how to fly — specifically an
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). These vehicles
collect air quality and ozone samples, but
generating a flight path requires the expert
knowledge of specialized engineers. So what
do you do?
Meghan Chandarana, who earned her Ph.D. in
mechanical engineering in May, spent last summer
working on a more intuitive way to allow nonexpert
users to build UAV flight paths. As an intern
at Langley Research Center’s Autonomy Incubator,
Chandarana developed a program that uses
gesture-based controls to build UAV trajectories.
By using gestures and an infrared hand sensor,
anyone can teach a UAV to fly, even kids.
“My project consisted of making interfaces easier
to manage and more intuitive between humans
and robots,” said Chandarana. “I’m interested in
creating interfaces for systems as my research is
in human factors and robotics.”
Chandarana created an interface that responds to
intuitive gestures — there is a very short learning
curve to operate the UAVs. Chandarana received
feedback from multiple users through machine
learning. She built a library of 12 gestures that are
used to create a flight path, confirm it and tell the
UAV when to take off and land. For example, to tell
the UAV to go left, the user would move their hand
to the left. To tell the UAV to fly in a spiral, the user
would move their hand in a spiral gesture.
“Of course the interface worked for me,” said
Chandarana. “But it has to work for the scientists
as well; it needed to be generalizable. So if I said,
‘make the vehicle go left,’ you’d have to make the
gesture for left without me teaching you.”
The interface has deep implications for users
in the field. The intuitive nature of the interface
reduces the need to pre-plan. The samples taken
by UAVs replace the need to properly model the
environment. Instead any sensor can be added to
the UAV regardless of the environment.
Through her work in Professor Kenji Shimada’s
robotics lab at CMU and at a previous internship
at Marshall Space Flight Center, Chandarana
knew she was interested in creating interfaces
for systems. She also managed the Tsuneishi
underwater robotics project in Shimada’s lab, a
project that brought a design perspective to
robotics. She spent the first four weeks of last
summer at the Tsuneishi internship in Japan where
she worked with a group of students on building a
ship-hull cleaning robot.
The Autonomy Incubator is intended to bring more
autonomy to the scientists and engineers at NASA.
Originally a short-term incubator project, they have
now agreed to continue funding the project. The
team will now be known as the Langley Autonomy
and Robotics Center.
“A lot of people were working on a lot of
different things from different fields, but it was
one co- located team,” said Chandarana. “The
environment was very collaborative. And the work
we were doing applies to many fields — not just
Oleg Sapunkov and Zeeshan Ahmad,
MechE Ph.D. students, discuss
sodium air batteries during the
Graduate Research Symposium.
Jab, an interactive kickboxing
target, won best overall project
at MechE’s undergraduate
Ph.D. student Rose
Eilenberg collected field
data in rural India on
air quality related to
METAL 3-D PRINTING
Hillary Clinton speaks with
MechE graduate students
Zachary Francis and Luke
Scime about additive
manufacturing and metal
MECH E EXPANDING THE MAKER ECOSYSTEM
The Department of Mechanical Engineering
announced the opening of new,
collaborative workspaces in the MakerWing
on September 12, 2016.
This marks the completion of Phase I of the
MakerWing transformation of Hamerschlag
Hall, a major overhaul of 40,000 square
feet in the College of Engineering’s iconic
Located on the building’s B-level and
mezzanine, the renovated space features
high ceilings, natural lighting and a modern,
It is more than just a facelift, however; the
multiphase MakerWing project represents
a $23 million commitment to cultivating a
multidisciplinary, collaborative environment of education and research.
“We wanted to eliminate barriers to collaboration among our students,” said Allen Robinson, head of
the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “This new space will encourage the kind of spontaneous
interactions that foster innovative thinking and creative problem-solving.”
Additional phases of the project will include more collaborative research space for students, design
workshops, electronic fabrication facilities, a student machine and teaching shop, a professional shop,
advanced and additive manufacturing labs, and micro/nanosystems labs.
All phases of the MakerWing project are scheduled to be completed by December 2017.
Watch the MakerWing video: http://engineering.cmu.edu/giving/maker_wing.html
ANSYS AND CMU PARTNER TO EMPOWER FUTURE ENGINEERS
A new 30,000 square foot building, thanks to the generosity of ANSYS, will become the
hub for undergraduate students working on real-world problems. It will firmly connect
computation with making, greatly expanding the hands-on, learning-by-doing culture —
the maker ecosystem — of the college.
The computational resources in the new building will revolutionize the design process,
setting a new standard for engineering education and industry. Engineering students
will explore ideas as fast as they can imagine them, without being bogged down by the
The focus of the making activity in the building will be a large, high bay space, where
students will assemble full-scale projects and prototypes after manufacturing smaller
components next door in Hamerschlag Hall’s MakerWing.
Additional features include collaboration areas, conference rooms and office, lecture
and training spaces. Another element of ANSYS’ gift is an endowed Early Career
Professorship for a faculty member conducting education and research in areas related
to engineering simulation software.
A groundbreaking celebration took place at the site of the new building between Scaife,
Hamerschlag and Porter Halls on October 4, 2016. A reception followed, featuring
hands-on student research demonstrations in Scott Hall’s Rothberg’s Roasters II.
“From human created
parameters or through an
analysis of existing designs,
computer intelligence and
simulations can generate
concepts that are novel,
surprising and creative.
Designers can draw upon such
machine generated ideas to
further inform their designs
or to efficiently explore what-if
It can digitally test — and discard
— millions of permutations of
designs, materials, flows and
shapes to find the optimal
design for a product.
It can make the entire process
quicker, cheaper and more
Levent Burak Kara, Professor of
MECH E EXPANDING THE MAKER ECOSYSTEM
NEW SWANSON ENERGY LAB IN SCOTT HALL
The opening of the new Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall has added valuable space and
equipment into the College of Engineering’s maker ecosystem. One of the spaces to support
collaborative, interdisciplinary research among faculty and students is the Daniel and Karen
Swanson Energy Technology Laboratory.
“Energy is an interdisciplinary topic, and while overarching
energy challenges encourage top-down collaboration, we hope
that our collaborative lab space will also engender bottom-up
solutions due to the day-to-day interactions our teams now have
with one another.”
Jonathan Malen, associate professor, mechanical engineering
Located on Scott Hall’s fifth floor,
this lab combines the research
facilities of B. Reeja Jayan, Shawn
Litster, Jonathan Malen and Sheng
Shen. These faculty members
investigate areas like energy
conversion, nanoscale transport and
multifunctional hybrid materials.
The NextManufacturing Center, one of the world’s leading research centers for additive
manufacturing (3-D printing), has created a consortium to advance additive manufacturing
technology to widespread adoption and certification.
The consortium’s founding members are major players in the industrial, government and nonprofit
sectors. General Electric Company, Alcoa and ANSYS, Inc. are among the current members.
A launch event in July featured demos on metals additive manufacturing processes and parts,
3-D characterization of metal powders and printed parts, simulation and testing of powders, 3-D
bioprinting and printing of soft materials for medical applications.
Professor Jack Beuth is the center’s faculty director.
Read more: engineering.cmu.edu/next
NEW MECHE DUAL DEGREE:
MS in Technology Ventures rooted in Silicon Valley
In the current climate of innovation, there is a demand for crosstrained
engineers who understand emerging technologies as well
as possess the business skills to deliver them in a way that truly
“The Master of Science in Technology Ventures dual degree will
equip students with the tools and skills needed to bring their high
tech ideas to market,” said Jonathan Cagan, professor of Mechanical
Engineering and co-director of the Integrated Innovation Institute,
which is offering this new program.
Students pursuing the Mechanical Engineering master’s course-work
option may apply to complete the technology ventures dual degree.
In Pittsburgh, students will study mechanical engineering, innovation
methods, and how to use technology to solve society’s problems
before heading to the West Coast.
In Silicon Valley, they will complete an internship with established
startups and two semesters of immersion in business aspects of
Read more: www.cmu.edu/integrated-innovation
Are you a practicing engineer with experience in
mechanical design and the latest fabrication techniques?
Do you have a vision for a maker culture?
We are hiring an enthusiastic engineer to:
> lead the maker ecosystem
> develop and teach design and manufacturing courses
> inspire and enable design activities among students
Apply today: www.cmu.edu/me/employment
MECH E FACULTY
WHITEFOOT BRINGS EXPERIENCE WITH
POLICY MAKERS TO ENGINEERING
What do economics, policy, manufacturing and mechanical engineering have to
do with each other? They are all essential to reduce the environmental impacts of
the transportation sector — as demonstrated by Assistant Professor of Mechanical
Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy Kate Whitefoot’s research. New to
Carnegie Mellon University, Whitefoot has experience working with policymakers in
Washington D.C. and conducting research on fuel economy regulations.
“I’ve always had my eye on Carnegie Mellon because it’s so multidisciplinary,” said
Whitefoot. There aren’t too many places where you can find so many colleagues
who can put the pieces of policy, engineering design and manufacturing capabilities
together all in the same place.”
Whitefoot joined Carnegie Mellon from the National Academy of Engineering in
Washington D.C., a nonprofit, nongovernment organization that seeks to inform
policymakers on specific aspects of science and technology. She worked closely
with policymakers to inform them on manufacturing policy, which has the potential
to reinvigorate manufacturing in the U.S.
Whitefoot’s research centers around sustainable design with connections to energy efficiency and
additive manufacturing (also known as 3-D printing).
“There has been a lot of attention on additive manufacturing lately in the policy realms,” said
Whitefoot. “CMU has some of the best researchers on that topic so I am looking forward to working
within that space.”
“What drew me to
engineering was that
you can actually create
technologies that will help
impact ... It’s really the
coupling of policy and
engineering that will reduce
A desire to solve environmental problems motivated Whitefoot to pursue
engineering, receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in
mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan.
Whitefoot completed her Ph.D. (also from the University of Michigan) in a
program called design science — a cross between economics and mechanical
engineering. She created a method of analyzing what the change in fuel
economy regulations means for automakers in terms of providing incentives.
At CMU, she will continue her research on fuel economy regulations and how
they impact the adoption of energy efficiency technologies in vehicles with
alternative power, like electrical vehicles.
Whitefoot has enjoyed returning to the classroom. She teaches a course
called “Quantitative Entrepreneurship” in engineering and public policy,
where students analyze a particular design and manufacturing process of
a product from an entrepreneurial standpoint. She will also teach the senior design course in
Whitefoot brings her experience from D.C. as a way to help students who may be interested in
nonacademic career trajectories. Her experience working with major manufacturing companies and
government agencies gives her insight into many career paths.
“I really enjoy interacting with students as they go through more real-world problem solving,” said
Whitefoot, “when they’re in the transition from working out problem sets on paper where there’s one
specific answer to the messy world of actually designing and creating products.”
NEW FACULTY MEMBER SHAPES THE FUTURE
OF ENGINEERING THROUGH EDUCATION
How do cruise control sensors know when to give your car more throttle? How do you
teach a thermostat’s “brain” to work? How do you design all the parts of a submarine
so they fit together? These are some questions that mechanical engineering students
seek to answer — questions that professors like Mark Bedillion help students to
Mark Bedillion is a new associate teaching professor in the Department of Mechanical
Engineering. His new role is unique — unlike traditional tenure-track positions,
associate teaching professors teach two classes and place more priority on teaching
than on research.
“I think that just by the existence of these teaching-track faculty positions, the
department is really putting an emphasis on the quality of education,” said Bedillion.
“By bringing in people like me, we’re able to give more variety of offerings.”
One class that Bedillion will teach is an undergraduate gadgets course. The course is
a basic mechatronics class that introduces the most useful bits of electric circuitry to
A lot of devices now have a “brain,” or an internal control that tells a device what to do. The
control is found prevalently in robotics, but devices like thermostats also have “brains.” The
gadgets class will teach mechanical engineers how to make that internal control work, how to
integrate sensors, read from the sensors and use the measurements.
Bedillion will also teach a feedback control systems elective. Feedback control systems are
systems where something is automated — like cruise control on your car — that involve
sensors to determine how to make something function on its own. In the cruise control
example, the car uses the sensor to figure out how fast or slow the car is going. If it’s going too
slow, it uses the measurement to know how much throttle to give the car, and automatically
gives the car more gas.
“This class teaches, for relatively simple systems, how to
design that control, or how to make decisions based on that
sensor measurement in order to make the car go a constant
speed even though it’s going up and down hills,” said
Though focusing on teaching in this role, Bedillion conducts
research in the areas of distributed manipulation systems,
alternative locomotion methods for mobile robots and STEM
education — looking at how to bring skills from systems
engineering to the undergraduate level.
A field that most people enter after their time as
undergraduates, systems engineering deals with complex
systems, like cars or submarines, to understand how all the
parts fit together, what the dependencies are between the
parts and how to design the system. Bedillion works to bring
these skills to the undergraduate level.
“It’s a crash course in
electrical engineering from
a very practical standpoint.
We’re also going to
and do a little coding, so we
can start building systems
that have sensors and
use those sensors to drive
But at the end of the day, it’s being able to interact with students and make a difference at the
personal level that motivates Bedillion in what he does.
“What I’ve found in my career is the thing that really motivated me to come to work as a
faculty member was the teaching side of it,” said Bedillion. “I still enjoy the other stuff, I still
want to do the other stuff, but I’ve just put more of my focus into that area.”
FACULTY NEWS Bytes
Fred Higgs Begins
Appointment at Rice
Mechanical Engineering Professor Fred Higgs has left a frictionless trail of
influences on both research and teaching during his time at Carnegie Mellon.
As the founder and director of the Particle Flow and Tribology Lab, Higgs
researched new methodologies to predict the behavior of granular, powder
and slurry flows in sliding contacts, which has applications to energy, nanotechnology,
space and other industries.
Higgs received many awards, including an NSF CAREER award, the Clarence
H. Adamson Career Faculty Fellow in Mechanical Engineering,
the 2010 ASME Burt L. Newkirk Award and the 2012 Benjamin
Richard Teare Teaching Award for excellence in engineering
In July 2016, he began a new role at Rice University as the John
and Ann Doerr Professor of Mechanical Engineering and faculty
director at the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL). We
wish him the best as he continues his career.
EPA Awards $10M
for New Air Quality
Carnegie Mellon launched a multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research
center, funded by a $10 million grant from the Environmental Protection
Led by Mechanical Engineering Department Head Allen Robinson,
the Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions (CACES) represents an
unprecedented approach to the integrated management of air quality,
climate and energy.
The center will measure and map air pollutant concentrations across the
country to improve the health of vulnerable populations like children, the
elderly and those suffering from cardiac, respiratory and other medical
conditions. It will also develop air quality assessment tools to help
average citizens and policymakers alike understand which regions and
neighborhoods hold the most health risk.
“Issues like shale gas development, electric car subsidies and power plants
of the future are interconnected issues that require integrated thinking,”
said Robinson. “When you consider that air pollution is the fourth leading
cause of death globally, an innovative approach to addressing pollution and
climate change challenges is critical.”
Jim Dillinger started working at Carnegie Mellon University
35 years ago after replying to a two-line ad in the Pittsburgh
Press. Dr. Paul Wright, a mechanical engineering faculty
member at the time, was looking for a machinist to help with
his research. Now, 35 years later, Dillinger
is head machine shop foreman at CMU, is
someone with a heart for students and has a
real love for the trade.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into,”
said Dillinger. “But when I sat down and
interviewed for the position I thought, ‘this is
what I want to do.’”
As foreman of the machine shop, his role
is to oversee the machinists who support
professors with their research and to
educate students in the student shop. Machining can
become monotonous when manufacturing 10 to 50,000
copies of the same part. But for Dillinger, the intrigue comes in figuring out
how to make the part. When involved with research, he is working with
multiple revisions of a part until it works.
“It’s just fabulous. In here it’s a great venue to express my creativity and also
to be able to mentor students,” said Dillinger. “My clientele never gets old, so
it keeps me young.”
Dillinger values being able to help students learn and grow in confidence:
from being afraid to push the button on a computer numerical control (CNC)
machine to seeing the light come on when they understand how to assemble
a part. The value of teaching hands-on making is something that Dillinger has
been professing for years.
“There is a lot that you need to know about how things go together,” explains
Dillinger. “You can design many things, but if you have not tried to make
something and fit it together, you’re missing out on quite a bit.”
It’s clear the students also value the experience with Dillinger and the other
machinists in the shop. When students in the Design I class were asked to
come dressed up as superheroes the day their project was due, a group of
students came dressed as the machine shop guys.
Dean James H. Garrett
and Jim Dillinger
“The payoff for me is being able to mentor
all these students and pass along this
information,” said Dillinger. “But in return
we get the appreciation from the students,
and it’s heartfelt. It’s such a blast — this
is not a get up and go to work job for
me; this is an ‘I’m going to Kennywood’
MECH E ALUMNI PROFILES
BEST FOOT FORWARD
Josh Caputo (ECE 2010, MechE 2010, 2015)
knows it’s hard to predict the future. As a
prospective college student, he didn’t predict
starting a company that develops advanced robotic
prostheses and exoskeletons. Since launching his
startup, HuMoTech, Caputo couldn’t have predicted
a few months ago where he’d be now.
It’s here that Caputo wants to improve the
connection between the university and industry.
There are not currently many commercial robotics
devices, so the market is full of opportunity,
but there could be more industry-academia
collaboration. In order to really improve patients’
lives, he thinks that needs to change.
Caputo was a postdoctoral researcher in the
Experimental Biomechatronics Lab. After working
on a robotic foot during his Ph.D. in mechanical
engineering in Steve Collins’ lab, Caputo saw the
opportunity for turning it into a post-graduate
business. “When other researchers saw the device
we’d developed and wanted it for themselves,”
said Caputo, “I saw an opportunity.”
HuMoTech, short for Human Motion Technologies,
develops powerful but lightweight robotic limbs and
exoskeletons. But what differentiate these devices
from anything else on the market are the off-board
motors that power the devices.
“Other robotic devices currently on the market carry
their motors on board, which makes them heavy
and limits performance,” said Caputo.
“The device is extremely capable — it’s your Iron
Man, your million-dollar man,” said Caputo. “You
can’t leave the lab and walk around with it, but in
the lab, you can do super-human things.”
But one challenge facing the development of
portable devices with similar capabilities is the
need for better batteries, motors, computers and
materials. These components are slowly improving,
but there are still major technological barriers to
In the meantime, developers face another problem:
how to control these devices, how to program them,
what sensors they need, and how they interact with
the user. But Caputo is addressing these issues.
“We are alleviating these tech limitations by putting
the actuation off board,” said Caputo.
The off-board motor enables a wider range
of behaviors, reduces weight and presents an
interesting opportunity for the science side — it
allows researchers to see how humans can
coordinate motion better with the technology of
the future. Currently, Caputo has sold three
systems to other labs, but he’s looking to do more
with it than just that.
“The goal is to transform clinical practice and
provide immediate benefit to current amputees,” he
said. “You can program in the behavior of off-theshelf
devices and test drive a broad range prosthetic
foot in a matter of minutes. Trial and error in current
practice is currently very time consuming and
With Caputo’s device in their labs, researchers
will be able to figure out better ways to control the
devices. As technology improves, they will be able
to find better solutions and create devices that will
transform daily life for many people.
“The research side is growing rapidly,” said Caputo.
“Lots of students are graduating and starting new
research endeavors. Now, with this device, they can
hit the ground running instead of spending the many
years it takes to develop new hardware.”
Alumni startup creates lightweight materials for
sustainable, efficient air cargo transportation
If you’ve traveled on a flight overseas on a large
aircraft, you’ll know the airplane’s tremendous
size and weight. These aircrafts are large. They
have twin aisles, and make up three quarters
of the world’s aircraft economy. The materials
used on devices to store and transfer cargo are
key in limiting the cost of fuel and emissions, but
currently the parts used to make these massive
machines are weighty and inefficient.
Seeing a need for lighter weight materials,
alumnus Glenn Philen (MechE 2015) began
Carbon Freight, a company that creates durable,
lightweight air cargo products.
To transport air cargo, airlines use pallets and
containers, known as unit load devices. The
goal of Carbon Freight is to minimize the weight
of pallets and containers, making air cargo
transportation more efficient. Carbon Freight’s
pallets are 20 percent lighter than any other pallet
currently on the market — this means lower fuel
costs, more cargo on each flight and a better use
of capital. Pallets and containers of cargo are
stored on the underbelly of the plane, each of
which can currently take 38 pallets.
“Planes can only carry so much because the
pallets take up a certain amount of weight,” said
Philen. “With lighter pallets, you carry more cargo
at the same weight, increasing efficiency.”
Philen started the company with fellow CMU
alumnus John Dieser (MCS 2015). Philen saw
the need for Carbon Freight after interning with
Boeing, where he worked on the 777X, a plane
with carbon fiber wings and an aluminum barrel,
the most efficient model currently on the market.
“Companies spend a lot of time making primary
structures more efficient,” said Philen, “but without
focusing so much on the secondary structure.”
With Carbon Freight’s technologies, airlines could
increase revenue by $500,000 to $1 million a year,
per aircraft. A normal pallet weighs 200 pounds,
but the one manufactured by Carbon Freight
weighs 160 pounds, a 40-pound difference.
Pallets are riveted together by fasteners that are
difficult to remove. When these pallets become
damaged, the process for repair is long and
expensive. You need to cut off the head of the
rivet, punch it out and drill 42 new holes to insert
new rivets. It’s about $40 in parts and eight hours
of time, and happens at least once a year.
“Carbon Freight’s pallet can be repaired in
minutes,” said Philen. “Instead of rivets, our pallets
are held together by eight bolts. It’s the best pallet
on the market.”
Another project venture is creating a container
made from carbon fiber. Current containers are
made from aluminum with fiberglass panels. The
carbon fiber containers prove difficult, though,
because they are liable to corrosion and can
become loose in the aircraft if damaged. Carbon
Freight’s solution is to prevent the liberation of
the carbon fiber, further reducing the weight of
the container. Moving forward, Carbon Freight
will test the pallet for the Federal Aviation
Administration in March and will continue to look
for airline partners.
“With the focus on primary structures, there is
room for a new market leader with innovative
products,” said Philen. “And Carbon Freight is
ready to be that.”
“I am who I am in part because
others invested their time in me.
I joined the Alumni/Student Advisor
Network and am grateful for the
opportunity to invest in others.”
Tyler Crummy, MechE 2006
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Alumni/Student Network and have one-on-one
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J. Fletcher Osterle Sr. graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT) with a
bachelor of science. For Osterle, it was the end of a four-year venture, but not the end of
his stay at Carnegie Mellon.
Six years after graduating, he earned both his master’s and doctor of science in mechanical
engineering from CIT (now Carnegie Mellon University). He went on to spend his entire
career at Carnegie Mellon becoming an instructor, assistant professor and later the
Theodore Ahrens professor of mechanical engineering.
In the 1950s, Osterle’s research centered on lubrication, and in the 1960s shifted to
direct energy conservation. He explored the magnetohydrodynamics field, an area of
thermodynamics, with other Carnegie Mellon professors. In 1956, he received the
Walter D. Hodson award from the American Society of Lubrication Engineers.
From 1975-1983 he served as the department head of nuclear science and engineering and
from 1985-1986 he served as acting head of the mechanical engineering department.
Osterle’s service as department head, professor and alumnus earned him the prestigious
Carnegie Mellon Alumni Merit Award in 1989. He remained a faculty member until 1995,
when he retired and continued to be an actively involved alumnus.
Osterle passed away peacefully on July 22, 2016 at the age of 90, shortly before his 91st
birthday. We remember and celebrate his commitment to Carnegie Mellon and the field
Jeremiah Mpagazehe (E 2006, 2010, 2013) passed away in Kigali, Rwanda, on January 18,
2016. An accomplished researcher, scholar, project scientist and mentor, he had just learned
that he had won a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to commercialize high-value
algae products. He was a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon Rwanda.
As a project scientist, he secured a new algae biofuel lab, obtained roughly a million dollars
worth of research equipment, and supervised and mentored almost 50 student researchers.
Deriving inspiration from his father, who is from Uganda, Mpagazehe’s long-held dream was
to explore research and educational opportunities in Africa.
The entire college is saddened by the loss of a colleague whose future held such promise.
Dan “Denver Dan” Smolens (E 1969) died on October 21, 2015 at home in
Oxnard, Calif. He fought a valiant battle with multiple myeloma. Our thoughts
are with his family and friends.
MECH E ALUMNI
David Eisenberg (M.S. 2014, Ph.D.
2015) has enjoyed working on
sensors for firefighters,
medical devices at TDA Research Inc. in
Golden, Colo. The company also does
work in chemical processes, specialty
materials and clean energy. He was
well prepared through his studies and
research in Professor Yoed Rabin’s
Biothermal Technology Laboratory.
Jorge L. Jimenez-Rios’ (B.S. 2003,
Ph.D. 2007) current role is team
leader for Research and Development
Engineering for Urology and
Reproductive Health at Cook Medical
in Bloomington, Ind.
Karen J. (Lewis) Levin
(E 1976) accepted
a position as acting
operations manager/sr. program manager
for QinetiQ-North America (QNA)
in Pittsburgh, Pa. QNA develops robots
in a variety of sizes and with varying
capabilities that enable soldiers, first
responders and commercial workers
to stay out of harm’s way.
Anjali Sehrawat (M.S. and Ph.D.
2015) is an engineer at
where her role ranges
from hardware development
to thermal modeling of buildings
to reduce energy consumption.
Located in the same building as
Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley,
the company is a startup that
was co-founded by electrical and
computer engineering alumnus
Eric F. Spina (B.S. 1983) left his
position at Syracuse University to
become president of the University
Conrad Zapanta (B.S. 1991)
American Society for
Engineering Division’s 2016 Theo
Pilkington Award for his significant
contributions to biomedical
engineering education. The
associate head of the Biomedical
Engineering Department at CMU,
he also earned the College of
Engineering’s Benjamin Richard
Teare Teaching Award.
Mana Heshmati founded Peace
Meal Kitchen, a
pop-up dining and
that serves food from countries
with which the United States is in
conflict. The initiative was featured
in the Detroit Free Press. Heshmati,
an engineer with Ford, earned her
bachelor’s in 2011.
Alexander Lavin (M.S. 2014),
a former researcher at artificial
intelligence company Numenta,
was named to Forbes’ 30 Under
30 in Science. Look for a story on
Alex in the next issue of MechE
Hannah Lyness (B.S. 2016)
won first place in
the senior honors
research poster competition at
CMU’s Meeting of the Minds last
spring. Her undergraduate work
on ankle/foot prostheses and
balance prepared her for her
current pursuit — a master’s in
robotics at the Robotics Institute.
Noah Tovares, who
earned his master’s
degree in 2013, is
a co-founder of Zenrez. This San
Francisco-based online service
provides last-minute deals on
fitness classes. A feature story on
Zenrez ran in Carnegie Mellon
Deepak Vidhani (B.S. 2013,
M.S. 2014) co-founded Autopods,
service of threewheeled,
bicycles. CMU’s Piper
ran a story about the company
earlier this year.
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Mechanical engineering alumni,
faculty, staff, students and their
families enjoyed the annual
Spring Carnival lunch at Scaife
Hall last spring.
the additive manufacturing
techniques used to design and
3-D print products ranging
from a plastic buggy to metal
April 20-22, 2017
Carnegie Mellon University
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