Engineering

This story appears in the 2014-15 issue of Mines' research magazine, "Energy & the Earth."

 

Water and oil don’t mix. With oil and gas production and water, it’s quite the opposite.

Getting at the unconventional oil and gas reserves at the heart of America’s energy boom can take millions of gallons of water per well before the first hydrocarbons emerge.[1] One estimate puts the hydrologic demands of the 80,000 wells in 17 states drilled since 2005 at more than 250 billion gallons.[2] That’s three times the volume of Denver Water’s Dillon Reservoir.

Yet in the western United States and elsewhere, geologic “accident” has placed some of the most promising unconventional oil and gas reserves below parched landscapes.

Mines researchers are at the forefront of enhancing our still-nascent understanding of this modern story of oil and water, and more broadly in the development of new ways to boost freshwater resources in an era of rising demand and growing scarcity.

ConocoPhillips’ recent $3 million gift to establish the new Center for a Sustainable WE2ST (Water-Energy Education, Science and Technology) is the latest testament to Mines’ strengths in water.

The idea is to focus on a single formation such as the Niobrara, taking a comprehensive look at the complex technical and social interdependencies of oil and gas development and limited water resources. Professor John McCray, head of Mines’ Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, describes a wide-ranging effort, involving remote sensing and hydrological models to map out water sources and the tools of geochemistry, hydrology, microbiology and environmental engineering to develop ways to clean up the water that emerges from the depths during oil and gas operations. The work also will involve a strong social-sciences component led by Mines anthropologist Professor Jessica Rolston, McCray said, to help define ways to communicate the actual risks of unconventional energy development and get energy companies, regulators and the public on the same factual page.

“It’s a partnership with ConocoPhillips that can break new ground, and one that doesn’t exist outside of this center,” McCray said. “We want to come out and be the honest broker.”

Education is a key component of the ConocoPhillips center, said Associate Professor Terri Hogue, who is directing the new center. A big part of the budget will go to fellowships for 15 to 20 masters and PhD students, she said, in addition to 10 undergraduate fellowships each year. The center will attract top-notch talent all focusing on the nexus of water resources and energy development.

Professor Tzahi Cath is among those at Mines already at work at that confluence. Cath directs Mines’ Advanced Water Technology Center (AQWATEC), which is developing a range of water-treatment technologies. This spring, the masters students in Cath’s Environmental Engineering Pilot Lab course were studying if adding an inky slurry of activated charcoal to the city of Golden’s water treatment process might help remove the organics that have spiked in reservoirs along Colorado’s Front Range after the 2013 flood. A green garden hose snaked from a tank in the bed of the AQWATEC pickup parked on the sidewalk outside Coolbaugh Hall. It fed a bench-scale model of Golden’s water treatment plant, its upper tanks full of fluid like curdling apple cider. If it worked here, they would test the activated charcoal in a Mines pilot plant housed in the treatment facility itself and, assuming the city adopts the approach, would help with the transition to the full-scale plant.

“Usually, the city adopts our recommendations,” Cath said.

A bit downhill, in AQWATEC’s space in Mines’ General Research Laboratory, PhD student Bryan Coday was working near several hip-high plastic drums, some encrusted with salt (they’re for a project testing new ways to extract valuable potassium sulfate from the Great Salt Lake).

Others contained produced water from hydraulic fracturing operations, and Coday was working on a system to cleanse it using low-pressure osmosis and flat-sheet polymeric membranes. To the touch, the membranes felt like high-end wrapping paper, but in practice is a very sophisticated material. The system uses salt water to attract clean water from the deep-brown produced water across the membrane, which retains contaminants.

“Produced water is difficult to treat because of the hydrocarbons and complex organic compounds, plus high salinity,” Cath said. Mines environmental chemist Professor Christopher Higgins is working with Cath to identify just what chemicals from the different samples of produced water cross the membranes, and how they can improve the process to produce even drinking-quality water from produced water.

A test system had performed well enough that Coday and research assistant Mike Veres were now in the midst of building a pilot-scale system. “Harnessing the natural chemical energy of brine as the driving force for wastewater treatment has its advantages,” Cath said. “Such systems are mechanically simpler, take less energy, and are easier to clean because the grime hasn’t been rammed into filter pores as happens with high-pressure systems.”

If some combination of low-pressure filtration and microbial treatment (another AQWATEC project being tested across the lab in columns of activated carbon next to the AQWATEC aluminum boat) can economically bring produced water to the high standards of municipal wastewater treatment, the benefits are hard to miss. Water locked up two miles below could be released into streams in drought-prone regions, actually boosting the water budget. And oil and gas operations could reuse some portion of this new resource in their hydraulic fracturing operations. Coday is enthusiastic.

 “It’s a great opportunity to work on a project where industry is moving at such a quick pace on the energy side, on the water side and on the regulatory side,” he said.

Another major project has a similarly sweeping purview, but pertains to urban water use. Since 2011, Mines has teamed with Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley and New Mexico State University on a 10-year, $40 million effort that aims to transform how cities in the arid West use and reuse water. The program, called Re-Inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), is the first National Science Foundation-funded Engineering Research Center to focus on water issues.

McCray, who leads the Mines effort, said a dozen Mines faculty are leading or working on some 20 ReNUWIt projects. Hogue is spearheading an effort involving several Mines colleagues to determine the potential impact of August 2013’s 257,000-acre Sierra Nevada Rim Fire on water supplies to San Francisco and surrounding counties. Cath’s team is refining a portable, commercial-scale sequence batch membrane bioreactor that has proven its mettle with the wastewater from the apartments at Mines Park – capable of producing drinking water from domestic wastewater. Mines professors Tissa Illangasekare and Kate Smits lead a project that is developing technology to allow underground aquifers to treat and store water and then re-use it rather than letting it escape downstream. They are researching the use of sensors that provide real-time feedback on system performance, so decisions can be made to improve operation efficiency. Mines Associate Professor Linda Figueroa is working with the Plum Creek Wastewater Authority south of Denver on a pilot-scale system using anaerobic wastewater treatment. The system has been in operation for 1.5 years and has reduced more than 40 percent of the influent organic matter without the expense of oxygen (unlike traditional aerobic methods) and, as a bonus, produces energy while it cleans wastewater.

As with the ConocoPhillips center, ReNUWIt involves a heavy social science component. That’s because, for all the technological capabilities on display at Mines, the biggest challenges facing smarter water systems may reside between our ears. People just don’t like the idea of drinking reclaimed water (in Singapore they call it NeWater), McCray said, even though that’s what the South Platte River really is. Collectively, such apprehensions coalesce into powerful social and political barriers.

 “They’re by far the biggest hurdles to clear if we’re going to have any change in the way we develop our infrastructure,” McCray said.

 

Mechanical engineering professor Ozkan Celik and two Mines students have designed a robotic exoskeleton, named the Wrist Gimbal, which would assist stroke patients to complete repetitive movement therapy tasks. Based on a previous model Celik designed, this new robotic device focuses on two rotational degrees of freedom and would cost less than $5,000.

Robots have degrees of freedom, otherwise known as joints that enable their movements. Each revolute joint creates one rotational degree of freedom. As the team decreased the degrees of freedom from three to two in the new device, they used more balanced and robust materials and created an improved intuitive visual interface.

“The degree of freedom we eliminated was wrist abduction and adduction—which has the smallest range of motion among the three,” Celik said. “Also, exercising wrist flexion and extension can be expected to benefit abduction and adduction as some muscles are involved in both movements.”

Since wheelchairs are not uncommon for stroke patients, the team developed a robotic exoskeleton that a stroke patient could be strapped into while seated. Patients would hold onto the device and use wrist movements to complete assessment exercises that would determine their maximum range of motion. The robot applies force to aid or deter movements, and records responses in particular tasks.

“The device provides motivation,” Celik said. “Our game-like interface exerts assistive forces to stimulate patients and prompt them to complete exercises with assistance.”

Senior mechanical engineering student and president of Robotics Club David Long worked on the mechanical design and 3D printed, machined and laser cut several of the parts of the device and specialized in the robot’s control system.

“Feedback control is one of those classes I took last semester that I didn’t think I was going to use much. Then suddenly, that’s all I did all summer and it was great because when you see something theoretical like that and apply it in practice, it really gives you a lot of faith in course work,” Long said. “I am going to be using it for a long time.”

Graduate mechanical engineering student Hossein Saadatzi is currently working on the kinematics and dynamics of the device and developing an active gravity compensation method that would allow the robot to provide more accurate force feedback.

“In my graduate study, I wanted to improve my skills in practical and experimental work,” Saadatzi said. “I chose biomechatronics because I can apply my knowledge to help patients get better.”

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

This story appears in the 2014-15 issue of Mines' research magazine, "Energy & the Earth."

For those of us residing on the planet’s surface, the term “shale” evokes visions of flaking layers of rock you can all but peel away by hand. Oil and gas shale is nothing like this. Pick up a cylindrical core brought up from a reservoir two miles below – from the Bakken in North Dakota, the Niobrara in Colorado, the Vaca Muerte in Argentina, it doesn’t matter – and it’s heavy and solid like a hunk of marble. The hydrocarbons are locked inside, perhaps 100,000 times more tightly than would be the case were it merely mixed into concrete.

This is the stuff, though, of the American – and, increasingly, global – boom in unconventional oil and gas. You can’t just drop a well bore into rock like this and watch hydrocarbons gush out. You muse use advanced horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies to release the oil and gas. Roughly one-third of the U.S. natural gas production heating our homes and fueling our factories is won this way. Two-thirds of all rigs are drilling horizontal wells. Unconventional energy, at least as applies to shale oil and gas, has become conventional.

Hydraulic fracturing has been around for decades, but we’re still learning about it. What are the true environmental impacts? How can we increase yields to bring more output per well and so have fewer wells, lower costs, cut trade imbalances and lessen the impact on the planet? Can these same techniques be applied to renewable geothermal technologies? Researchers at Colorado School of Mines are working to answer these and other questions via a broad set of disciplines and several noteworthy vehicles. Among them include the Marathon Center of Excellence for Reservoir Studies (MCERS); the new ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable We2st (Water-Energy Education, Science and Technology); and a new National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored program to understand the risks of natural gas development to the Rocky Mountain Region’s air and water.

As Mines Professor Dag Nummedal, who directs the Colorado Energy Research Institute, put it, “We really focus on making fossil energy more sustainable. That means reducing CO2 emissions, reducing methane emissions, and doing energy development in ways that allow the fossil energy industry to coexist with clean water, agriculture, breathable air and optimal temperatures.”

As part of a five-year, multi-institution NSF project, Mines researchers will focus on quantifying what those risks actually are, said Professor Will Fleckenstein. In the public arena in particular, assertions about the environmental and public health impacts of hydraulic fracturing have not infrequently outstripped their scientific basis, he added.

The projects include a study of the stresses in the cement sheaths and well casings for a better sense of what they can actually handle, he said. Fleckenstein is at the forefront of such work, having invented a technology, now ready for market, that uses a pressure test to ensure a sound hydraulic seal at depths of 300 to 2,000 feet, the zone of freshwater aquifers. The team will also examine databases relating to hydrocarbon migration for a better sense of if, how, and how often it happens.

Elsewhere at Mines, researchers will use a wind tunnel filling what used to be the Volk Gymnasium pool to better grasp how methane from natural gas production migrates through surface soils. Ground and aircraft-based sensors are sometimes finding methane hot spots with no obvious methane sources. That ground-based and air-based sensors tend to disagree on the volume of methane leaking has made the work all the more urgent, said Kathleen Smits an assistant professor. PhD student Ariel Esposito was at work on a small-scale version of the experiment at the pool’s edge. She would feed methane into the bottom of a tank of fine gravel, sand and water and detect it through sensors on top at a rate of 500 samples per second.

“It’s a really important field because there’s a lot of uncertainty about the amount of gas that’s leaking,” Esposito said. “We’re trying to lend some insights into the underlying processes.”

Meanwhile, Mines is applying its renowned strengths in reservoir characterization to boost the production of hydraulically fractured wells, which makes both economic and environmental sense. There’s a big potential upside, said Professor Hossein Kazemi, who co-directs MCERS: current production techniques only yield about 10 percent of unconventional oil, compared to 30 to 40 percent for conventional reservoirs. The work ranges from major field studies of the Bakken, Niobrara and Vaca Muerte led by Professor Steve Sonnenberg to lab experiments focusing on the nanoscale properties of reservoir rock.

As with much of the work at Mines, the research involves both experimentation and computer modeling. In one of Kazemi’s Marquez Hall labs, Mines PhD student Younki Cho has spent two years building a core flooding experiment to measure shale permeability at the nanoscale. The experiment can also inject surfactants or carbon dioxide to simulate enhanced oil recovery, he said. The stainless-steel setup was forcing pressurized brine into a 1.5-inch by 2-inch cylindrical rock core at confining stress of 2,625.7 pounds per square inch (psi) and pressure differential of 2,100 psi, producing a flow of 0.003 cubic centimeter (cc) per minute.

“It’s a very slow rate because permeability is so small,” Cho said. “You have to be very patient.”

Downstairs, PhD student Somayeh Karimi was spinning cores in an ultracentrifuge humming at 13,000 rpm. It was 420 hours into a cycle.

“Right now we have not seen any published data on direct measurement of capillary pressure with reservoir fluids in tight shale rocks,” she said. The results will feed into modeling of how much oil and gas might be recoverable, how fast, and how long that recovery might take, Karimi added.

Over in Professor Marte Gutierrez’s Brown Hall lab, PhD student Luke Frash was fracturing rocks of his own, but larger ones of about a cubic foot. Using a black-steel cell of his own design, Frash applies heat and pressure in three dimensions, and then drills into and hydraulically fractures cubes of shale, high-strength cement and granite, testing for strain, temperature, pressure, sound, even micro-earthquakes. The idea is to understand the rock-mechanical behavior of underground formations, Gutierrez said.

“It’s a scale model of what’s going on in the field,” Gutierrez said.

The granite cubes in Frash’s lab are for studies of hydraulic fracturing for renewable geothermal applications, an active field of study at Mines, said Associate Professor Bill Eustes. He and Fleckenstein are working on a project with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to see if multi-stage hydraulic fracturing technology used in unconventional shale can be applied to geothermal energy. There are many challenges, Eustes said – among them, thicker geothermal well bores and much more heat.

These and other efforts, including work to characterize possible reservoirs for carbon sequestration and storage, illustrate how the definitions of conventional, unconventional and renewable energy are starting to blur. It’s a fascinating time to be in the energy business, Nummedal said.

“The push for sustainability is driving technology at a faster rate of change than ever before,” he said.

 

 

Former Denver Nuggets dancer and founder of her own activewear company, Kady Zinke, contacted Mines metallurgical and materials engineering research professor Terry Lowe for engineering expertise to develop clothing that could help protect dancers from injury – specifically bruised knees. Knee injuries are among the most prevalent in dancers, and the protection that is offered currently tends to be “bulky, unattractive and constricting.”

Zinke noticed the high-end suits that motorcyclists and car racers wore at events and couldn’t understand why there wasn’t anything comparable in the dancer world.

“No one treats us (dancers) like athletes. I want to create something that’s sophisticated and high tech for dancers,” Zinke said. “This knee problem has existed for years and no one has really solved it.”

Lowe wasn’t convinced he could offer a solution or receive the financial support to pursue the project.

“The constraints imposed by Kady were just too difficult: trying to put aesthetic, non-restricting, nearly invisible padding into dancer-style tights and still provide adequate protection,” Lowe said.

After nearly giving up on Zinke’s concept, Lowe discovered a solution that could meet her requirements: crafting a new energy absorbing hybrid material system that combines shear-stiffening compounds (similar to cornstarch) and specially designed impact-lattices (that look like miniature bridge trusses).

“If you have an impact in one spot, the rest of the pad can contribute to absorbing energy. A pressure wave from the impact goes out into the shear-thickening fluid and transforms it to absorb energy,” Lowe said. “By adding in impact-lattices, you can design structures that absorb four or five times more energy than a typical foam.”

Incorporating specially designed impact-lattices also help the pads recover instantly from compressed while keeping the same protection in place, which in turn reduces the trauma dancers experience from multiple falls.

In June, the duo received a $30,000 grant from the Advanced Industries Accelerator Program to fund the assessment of the best currently available padding materials, and then design, fabricate, and test their new high performance product – nicknamed “dancy pants.”

Metallurgical and material sciences student Michaela Rillings helps Lowe oversee the “Dancy Pants” project team of six students (four from Mines, one from University of Colorado Boulder and one from Princeton University) to test different competitor products to gain information on how to optimize the energy absorption properties of their new prototype hybrid materials system.

“Getting other perspectives and folks from other institutions makes the team richer,” Lowe said. “Success depends on the team, and not a single individual.”

As a competitive Irish step dancer, Rillings knows several people who have suffered impact injuries that have caused them to stop performing.

“I have had personal experience with dance related impact injuries and having the opportunity to combine my two passions, dance and materials and metallurgical engineering, is quite literally a dream come true,” Rillings said. “Quoting some of Macklemore’s lyrics, "And we danced (in other words, we fell) and we cried (but then anti-injury active wear was developed) and we laughed and had a really, really, really good time.”

The team hopes their technology will eventually be incorporated into many different aspects of life, including other sports, protecting police and military personnel, and compact impact tolerant packaging.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

A team of Mines computer science students engaged in a field session this summer that focused not only on advanced software engineering, but also on developing a product with a philanthropic mission.

The Giving Child Organization presented a challenge to the students: Develop a game app that appeals to children of all ages, increases awareness of world hunger and raises money for Heifer International.

“When I first read the description for this project, I knew I had to be on the team,” said Walter Schlosser, who will enter his senior year this fall with a double major in engineering physics and computer science. “The project matched perfectly with my interests and skills and I was excited to get to develop a game with a team of other skilled programmers.”

But as Schlosser noted, the project wasn’t just about making a game.

“Before this project, I would have felt that learning game design would be unrelated to helping the less fortunate. However, I loved the fact this project allowed me to use my talents to make a difference. It’s exciting to think of the endless creative ways people can help out.”

According to Asha Barnes, co-director of The Giving Child Organization, the object of the game “Aleksandra” (named for the protagonist of the game) is to herd animals to the market to make enough money to buy a book.

“Our object is to show children solutions to the struggles their peers around the world face,” said Barnes. “Our goal is to invite children into the world of giving in fun and meaningful ways. And right now, that means through games.”

The organization hopes to collaborate with WorldBuilders, a non-profit organization founded by New York Times Bestselling Author Patrick Rothfuss benefiting Heifer International, during its annual fundraiser and sell the game for $22.

“It’s expensive for a game, but the goal is to make a genuine difference, so $2 will go towards The Giving Child to fund the next game and $20 will go to Heifer International to buy a real live gaggle of geese for a family in need,” Barnes said.

“Aleksandra” is currently available for free in the Google Play store. It will officially launch in October.

Barnes said the Mines team was incredibly competent and far exceeded expectations.

“I don’t play games but I found myself skipping out on my responsibilities in order to finish this game,” said Barnes.

Daniel Victor, a computer science major also entering his senior year, said the project taught him a lot about teamwork.

“If you have a good team, it can make a project much easier. The skills and personalities in our team meshed well and made for a really enjoyable field session,” Victor said.

Ben Casey, who recently graduated from Mines with a degree in computer science and minor in economics, would like to see the game go viral.

“It’s a really cool app that is unlike any other on the Play store,” Casey said, noting he chose to work on this project because of the humanitarian mission behind it.

He also learned about seeing a project through from start to finish, delegating work and working with a client.

“The client had only a rough estimate of what they wanted, so this project taught me how to take an outline and implement it in a really cool way,” Casey said.

Cyndi Rader, electrical engineering and computer science teaching professor, coordinated the course and advised the team that developed the game, which also included Kelly Masuda.

 

Contact:

Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations, Colorado School of Mines / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu
Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator, Colorado School of Mines / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
 

Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate student Skylar Zilliox received an Engineering Physics degree from Mines in the spring, but this was not her first degree. She also received a bachelor associate degree in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Santa Fe in 2009. Being a non-traditional student, we asked Skylar to tell her about her experiences here on campus and give advice to future students like her.

What was your experience like before you came to Mines?

Since it's kind of an unusual program, I'll give you my 30-second cocktail party spiel on it. It's a Great Books program, which means that we read the original texts in philosophy, literature, math, and science that have been most formative for western civilization. We start with the ancient Greeks (Plato, Aristotle, Homer), and move forward in time from there, up to about mid-20th century; every class is discussion-based, with a strong emphasis on building critical thinking and conversational skills. I loved everything there, but I was probably most passionate about history and philosophy of science.

Why did you choose Mines?

I graduated from St. John's thinking I wanted to become a high school teacher, but three semesters working as an in-class tutor for a college prep program in Denver Public Schools convinced me to seek out a different career path. As important as teaching is, I found myself wanting more concrete results from my work. My parents are both engineers, and my mother actually graduated from Mines in 1980, so going into engineering was a fairly natural transition. I grew up in Denver, and I knew I wanted to stay close to my family, so Mines was far and away my first choice, particularly given the high academic standards here.

Afterwards you became a teaching assistant. What did you gain from that experience?

I was a TA for Physics II, which focuses on electricity and magnetism. I would say the main thing I learned was how to quickly adjust my explanations for different learning styles. I am a very visual person, so to me, the concepts in that class were easiest to grasp by visualizing what the electromagnetic fields were doing. However, many students respond much better to equations, or to analogies to physical objects. Learning to switch up my teaching style was probably one of the most important skills I took from being a TA. That, and compassion: if you assume that everyone in there is having a hard time (because it's a physics class, so who isn't?) and treat them gently and with lots of encouragement, students learn better. Being intimidated by a subject is a serious hurdle to actually learning it.

How did you get involved with the Nanoethics and Policy Education Effectiveness project and what resulted?

Physics professor Chuck Stone was actually a major factor here. I applied to REMRSEC, but told Chuck I was particularly interested in the ethics of energy development; he told me to go knock on Liberal Arts and International Studies professor Carl Mitcham's door, since Dr. Mitcham does a lot of work on ethics and technology. Dr. Mitcham, after a few meetings, arranged for me to work under fellow liberal arts and international studies professor Jessica Rolston's guidance last summer. I analyzed data from courses in Human Systems and Nature and Human Values that looked at how student's views on nanotechnology and related ethical issues changed as a result of those courses; this work continued this past school year as part of an Undergraduate Student Fellowship, culminating in one paper, submitted to NanoEthics, which is currently under review; we will hopefully get another paper, examining impacts across multiple semesters, written and submitted by the end of the year.

As a graduate student at Mines, what will you be working on with Jessica Rolston in the fall?

I will be in the Civil and Environmental Engineering graduate program, as part of a fellowship through the new ConocoPhilips Center for a Sustainable WE2ST (WE2ST stands for Water, Energy, Education, Science, and Technology). My research will be focusing on social aspects of the joint sustainability of water and unconventional energy sources. Jessica Rolston and civil and environmental engineering professor Terri Hogue will both be advising me—Terri will provide support for engineering aspects of the work, and Jessica, with her background in energy anthropology, will be guiding the "human" side of the investigation.

What advice would you give a non-traditional student at Mines?

It's not a race! I think it's easy to feel out of place, unaccomplished, or just "behind" when you're surrounded by people several years younger than you. Forming study groups with other non-traditionals is an excellent way to make friends with people in the same boat.

What do you intend to do after Mines?

You'd think, at my age, I'd have that figured out. Part of me wants to follow up on my passion for education, and end up teaching at the college level; however, I'm also quite interested in environmental remediation, and there are several companies that do very interesting work in that area. If past performance is any indication, I'll probably end up doing a mix of things. 

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / kmorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / kgilbert@mines.edu

Geophysical engineering student Austin Bistline details his experiences during the two-week Geophysics Field Camp in Pagosa Springs, CO.

Monday, May 12

Today we gathered at Mines campus to leave for Pagosa Springs, CO. It was snowing quite heavily so we delayed our departure until 11 a.m., which allowed for a short geology lesson. Dr. Robert Raynolds (Dr. Bob) of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science quickly outlined the geology along our route to Pagosa. Once underway, Dr. Bob and others pointed out the geology and interesting landmarks. Everyone arrived in Pagosa Springs shortly after 5 p.m.

Tuesday, May 13

The group was presented a broad overview of the regional and local geology and an attempt was made by our instructors to outline the problem at hand—understanding the subsurface plumbing that causes the geothermal anomalies in Pagosa Springs. We were also shown a small portion of the geothermal heating infrastructure of the Town of Pagosa Springs to gain an understanding as to how people can benefit from the geothermal resources. The entire group of students were together today, guided by Dr. Bob and Dr. Michael Batzle. We studied through fresh morning snow, heavy snowfall in the afternoon, and freezing temperatures, finishing around 5 p.m.

Wednesday, May 14

Today was about gathering geological information in the Chromo valley, to create a rough idea of the subsurface geology and geothermal fluid flow in the locale of Chromo where we will be collecting our geophysical data to reinforce or correct our initial geological inferences. Cross-sections were created using collected strike and dip, as well as oil-well data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. The entire crew of students were together today, guided by Dr. Bob, Dr. Batzle, and a local, Marvin Johnson, who happens to be an expert in seismic acquisition/interpretation and a Mines alumni. Marvin was gracious enough to work with us from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m., when we finished our rough geological cross-sections. The weather was sunny and cool today.

Thursday, May 15

We began the process of gathering geophysical data today, after a short discussion with Dr. Bob about our geological cross sections that we created the day before for the Chromo anticline. The data collection process for the next seven days was outlined and we were assigned to one of 10 geophysical methods to help perform for the day. I was assigned to DC Resistivity (which measures apparent resistivity in the subsurface) with Dr. Andre Revil and four other students. Dr. Batzle decided to tag along with us as well because he had never been on the DC Resistivity crew before and he ended up placing most of our flags, marking 20 meter spacing between electrodes. DC resistivity should tell us something about fluid type and location in the subsurface as well as prominent geological features such as shale/sandstone contacts as well as faulting, but it is important to note that it is a very low-resolution method.

The goal is for all of the students to assist in each geophysical method for a day, gaining equal exposure to all, so I should be able to report on a different method each day. The weather is sunny but cool today in Chromo– very nice weather to begin collecting data.

Friday, May 16

Today I was on the seismic crew placing geophones—jug-hustling they call it. We were able to place about 1.5 km worth of geophones, six per ten meter spacing, so around 900 geophones were stomped into the ground. The work wasn’t hard, but there were a lot of curse words flying around due to the endless fiasco of tangled wires that we had to unwind—tedious to say the least. At one point, one of the locals driving by stopped to let us know he had a generator we could borrow so we didn’t have to string out so much extension cord. We had a good laugh. The crew from CGG was working on the Vibroseis trucks and had the engines revved up for about two hours. At one point, they drove one of them out on the road close to where we were laying out geophones, and tested the frequency sweep of the system. We could feel the Rayleigh waves traveling through the surface and some of us thought that was pretty cool! I’ll be excited when we see the seismic data come into fruition and figure out the structure of the Chromo Anticline.

Around noon, a report came in that a bear had been sighted north of the Navajo River across from the fire station, which wasn’t too far from where we were. We all tried to locate it from the road to no avail, and finally decided that the EM crew that spotted it had made the whole thing up. The weather was great again today, nice and sunny, not too hot and not too cool.

Saturday, May 17

Today was interesting because I was the crew boss for the Magnetotellurics (MT) and Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) methods. It was my responsibility to make sure all equipment we used was accounted for; that everyone in my crew had what they needed, stayed safe and worked effectively. Everyone gets the chance at some point to be crew boss. MT requires a large 100 by 100 meter space, so we had to set it up in some of the lots north of County Road 392. We quickly realized that the fields were jam-packed with spiders and snakes—so that was interesting. We had another report of a bear, this time with two cubs, passing close to one of the crews to the east down the line.

The GPR method consists of dragging a small plastic box backwards down the road 20 meters at a time. Usually one person is dragging and another is walking and taking notes, so it’s not too bad if the other person is a good conversationalist. We have really been spoiled with the weather pretty much every day that we’ve been collecting data. Nice and warm today, sunny and warm in the morning, cloudy and a few raindrops in the afternoon.

Sunday, May 18

I was assigned to the Electromagnetic method today. This procedure is done with the instrument known as the EM47. We actually got more done today than any other crew has doing this method nine stations total—and we had a lot of fun while doing it. I’m not sure if we are getting sillier because we are delirious from working seven long days straight, but everyone is definitely more laid back and having fun. We all had transceivers and our own channel to communicate, so it wasn’t long before we had radio humor happening, warning the others to not “feed the wild professors” seen on the road nearby, and other silly quips that got everyone laughing.

On a more serious note, we did see three bears today—all of them cubs. Two were small enough they could have been easily mistaken for small dogs. The small ones were hanging out on a branch in a tree just east of the Chromo fire station. The other probably weighed 90 lbs and was seen running across the road across the field from where we were conducting our EM survey first thing in the morning. As a camp, we’ve seen bears nearly every day since we started doing our geophysical surveys so we have been exercising caution, eating together at the fire station, etc. According to the locals, there are thousands of them in the Chromo valley and we shouldn’t be at all surprised to see them.

Monday, May 19

Today I repeated the seismic method, but it was much more interesting than it was on the previous Friday. Instead of stomping geophones in the ground, I controlled the Vibroseis truck or ‘Vibe’ from the ‘doghouse’—the enclosure that houses all of the seismic recording and acquisition parameters. All was well and we were recording our first four sweeps (which is essentially just the Vibe shaking the ground from low to high frequencies) when the GPS antenna fell off the doghouse, ruining the timing. From then on, the doghouse was unable to start the Vibe and we spent two hours troubleshooting the problem. I left during this time to put in my time surveying the last few points on the DC Resistivity line. After that, I helped the rest of the seismic crew pull up geophones and wind up cables to get ready and progress the seismic line to the east.

At the behest of our professors, we began a ‘student site’ to the south of our main survey area located at the Crawley Ranch. We had chosen this area due to the existence of an oil well drilled in the 1930s that now had geothermal water flowing from it and we thought we might get some additional information about the Chromo Anticline by conducting geophysical surveys close to the well. I was dismayed to find that some of the other students had laid out an elaborate survey grid in a direction opposite to what I had pictured. After some heated debate and input from Dr. Richard Krahenbuhl, we decided that in the interest of time, we would simply change the target of our investigation from the subsurface geology to the old oil well in order to keep the survey grid. Fun stuff.

Tuesday, May 20

We really knocked it out of the park at the student site today. Our original intent was to conduct a DC Resistivity survey, five lines, 315 meters long, over the student site. Due to hammer seismic operations at the student site, we were forced to cut the length of our DC survey in half, and by doing so, we were able to not only run five lines in a northwest/southeast direction, 25 meters apart, but we were able to run five lines in the northeast/southwest direction, 40 meters apart, attaining a true 3D DC survey. The inversion should be fantastic!

Four other students and myself gave a short presentation to a group of local kids this evening, explaining who we are, what geophysics is about and what we are doing here in Pagosa Springs. We demonstrated several geophysical methods that we use. They really got a kick out of the demonstrations. One of the girls caught me off guard when she asked me if Santa Claus was real, then gasped when I returned a quick “Nope!” Maybe I should have told her that none of our geophysics experiments have shown evidence of his existence. All in a day’s work.

Wednesday, May 21

There has been a cold floating around the camp and it manifested itself in me quite heavily today. We were still able to get a full magnetic survey at the student site and a small 30 meter by 30 meter EM31 survey done directly over the old oil well that we are interested in, but I was definitely dragging my feet due to a loss of energy. I think several of the students have had this at some point and it makes me appreciate that we are all able to continue toeing the line.

Today was the last day for collecting data—or at least it was supposed to be. One of our professors is determined to collect a 1.26-kilometer line of DC resistivity at the student site, something that I have been advocating for along with several others. We just thought we wouldn’t have time now, but our professor is making it happen. By contrast, the seismic survey on the main line looks like it will be cut short by two-thirds, which greatly disappoints many of us students. Seismic data is the most informative for the subsurface geology, but the company that is performing the survey (and educating us in the process) has had a myriad of problems and setbacks and we are simply out of time. We are grateful for the data that they did collect though and are excited to process it back at Mines next week.

Thursday, May 22

Today was ‘breakdown’ day. Most of the students went south to Chromo to pick up all of the geophones and seismic line as well as finish the electromagnetic EM47 survey at the student site. Ten of us stayed behind in Pagosa Springs. Four of us, including myself, stayed to participate in hammer seismic while demonstrating two other geophysical methods (magnetics and GPR) to high school students. The other six stayed behind to assemble a preliminary presentation, presented in the evening, for anyone interested in listening to what we had found during these last two weeks. The high school students were a no-show unfortunately, but we still collected some hammer seismic data, and then proceeded to pack all of the equipment and supplies into the U-Haul truck for the trip home on Friday. Everyone showed up around 1:30 p.m. with all of the remaining equipment from Chromo and we finished packing by 3 p.m. and headed back to the hotel.

This evening we all arrived back at our headquarters to listen to the six students give their presentation. Several of the local Pagosa Springs residents showed up as well, much to everyone’s delight, and some even had some pretty tough questions that took several tries to answer – somewhat successfully I’d say. All in all, the presentation was great and I thought we were represented well. Afterwards we all participated in a customary bonfire back at the hotel, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows, to signify our last night in Pagosa Springs. It has certainly been a long two weeks and I am very proud of my class and all that we have been able to accomplish!

Friday, May 23

We all were able to sleep in for 45 minutes this morning, throwing our duffel bags into the U-Haul and leaving by 8 a.m. It was an uneventful ride home back to Mines, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one examining the rock outcrops along the way and pondering their physical properties and thinking about better ways to image them, using geophysics, when they are far below the surface. Colorado is certainly a prime area to test future hypotheses and I’m excited to be acquiring the background that it takes to be a relevant future geophysicist. In the meantime, we will be re-assembling next week to begin the final processing of our data and construct the report and final presentation of the geological structure in Chromo, for which I’m sure we are all excited and honored to participate in!

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

In August, mechanical engineering professors Douglas Van Bossuyt, Cameron Turner, Jered Dean and Jenifer Blacklock will be teaching a five-day professional workshop that aims to help build Mines as a major player in additive manufacturing research and learning.

The Additive Manufacturing Summer Institute offers courses geared toward mechanical engineering professionals, and is focused on educating practicing engineers on the 3D printing process and design for additive manufacturing.

“We see this as the first step in addressing a larger need in industry for understanding additive manufacturing.” Van Bossuyt said. “We want Colorado set up as a major hub for this kind of manufacturing.”

Dean said the summer course is a way to introduce students to new ways of understanding the 3D printing process.

“This course will change how you think about design,” Dean said. “Designing for additive manufacturing requires a different approach than a traditional subtractive process.”

Mines students will also have access to additive manufacturing courses. In the fall, Blacklock will be teaching a Manufacturing Processes course for junior ME students. She piloted the course last semester, instructing students on welding, machining, 3D printing, and automative manufacturing, on top of learning the fundamentals. As part of the class, students traveled to Stolle Precision Machinery, Lockheed Martin, Wild Goose Engineering, and 3D Material Technologies to tour the facilities.

Future advanced additive manufacturing courses will be added to the curriculum for Mines students in the near future. Van Bossuyt said the courses are essential for students who are looking for more experience in an industry where they will most likely be required to manufacture and design products.

Some of the classes will take place in the recently opened CECS Design Lab in Brown Hall W160. Mines students are able to use lab resources for 3D scanning, 3D printing and laser cutting. In the next few months, new materials will be added to the labs 3D printing capabilities, such as PLA, flexible filament and dissolvable filament. Material test equipment, a thermal imaging camera, upgraded computers and a high-precision mini-mill are also on the list of new purchases.

View information on the Additive Manufacturing Summer Institute in August.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

To kick off Alumni Weekend, the College of Engineering and Computational Science (CECS) hosted the Senior Design Trade Fair on April 24 in Lockridge Arena. Seventy alumni judges evaluated 42 design teams as they presented their projects. Teams were scored on their project content, design content, poster and display, dialogue and overall impression. Five teams were selected as overall trade fair winners.

“I'm extremely proud of the teams that presented at Trade Fair and all of the work that went in to their final projects,” said Jered Dean, mechanical engineering professor. “While the competition was close, the CSM FourCross team stood out because of the way that they balanced the needs of all the stakeholders in the design to arrive at a simple, practical solution.”

Overall Trade Fair Winners

1st Place (CSM FourCross – Team 11)

  • Emily Hixon
  • Abigail Krycho
  • Clayton Boatwright
  • Jacqueline Stabell
  • Hannah Margheim
  • William Pietra
  • Brian Stack

2nd Place (Wingin' It - Team 35)

  • Gabriel Alvarado
  • Andrew Boissiere
  • Ashley Hertzler
  • Mathew Jirele
  • Kit Lewis
  • James Wilkerson
  • Matthew Brady
  • Richard Nguyen

3rd Place (Zephyrus - Team 42)

  • Cabe Bonner
  • Kelsey Wokasch
  • Alex Dell
  • Jyotsana Gandhi
  • Katherine Rooney
  • Aaron Troyer
  • Jeremy Webb
  • Zachary Weber
  • Kevin Tan

4th Place (OmniPumps - Team 31)

  • Eric Chapa
  • Nicole Davis
  • Aaron Faulkner
  • Adam Mowery
  • Logan Ramseier

Kid's Choice (Colorado AdvantEdge - Team 6)

  • Erika Blair
  • Katherine Poffenbarger
  • Kendrick Stalnaker
  • Justin Loeffler
  • Michaela Hammer
  • Julia Morin
  • Kevin Tornes

Essay Contest Winners

  • 1st Place: "Fun Theory" by Dustin Burner
  • 2nd Place: "How a Camera Mount Revolutionized Video and Internet Content" by Benjamin Paley
  • 3rd Place: "Mile Per Gallon Readouts: Changing Driving Behavior Through Feedback" by Kevyn Young

Background
Each year senior students in the civil, electrical, environmental, and mechanical engineering programs in the CECS take a two-semester course sequence in engineering design targeted at enhancing their problem-solving skills. Corporations, government agencies and other professional organizations, as well as individual clients, provide projects for the student teams of five to eight students to work on. Students spend the academic year developing solutions for the projects to which they have been assigned, using tools they have learned throughout their careers at Mines.

View a full list of projects. Check out Mines Radio, The Blastercast, to listen to interviews with the team.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

Mechanical engineering student Chad Young won the Men’s A category and received 2nd place as part of the Mines Cycling Team in the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference Road Race Championships April 20 in Grand Junction, Colo.

When did you start cycling?

I got my first road bike at the end of 6th grade and rode it recreationally for a couple years until I outgrew it. I began cycling like I do today at the beginning of 2010, when my high school started a cycling club. 

When did you know you wanted to compete?

The high school club was a part of the "New England Prep School Cycling League." Lots of schools in the area organized races, and being a part of the club involved going to the races. I suppose I always intended to do these low-key high school races, but I had no intention at that point of racing amateur and professional cycling events like I do now. 

The first year I trained regularly, 2010, I just had a good time and got used to riding a bike daily. After that initial year was over, I decided to get involved with junior racing. I figured my fitness was good enough at that point to compete. Junior racing is for anyone less than 18 years old. I was relatively successful in my first few races, and I was hooked. 

What did you have to do as part of the competition?

The Maverick Classic Race, hosted by Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, involved a team time trial, a criterium and a road race. The team time trial is a timed course with a set distance. Up to four teammates complete the course as quickly as possible by using drafting techniques. 

The criterium is a fast, downtown circuit race, which typically lasts 60 minutes. 

The road race was a 24-mile circuit around Palisade, CO. The Men's A race lasted four laps, or 96 miles. 

How did you prepare?

I train about 15 hours a week (which ends up being around 250 miles), with long rides on the weekends, usually less than 80 miles if there are no local races. Weekdays I tend to do shorter, more intense rides. This helps me maximize available time and get both long, endurance rides, and short interval training rides. 

What did you win?

This particular race was the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference Road Race Championships. I raced the Men's A category, which is the highest category. In addition to a great experience, I got a small medal for my effort. The Mines Cycling Team got second place in the Division 2 category for the collective success of the team over the course of the season. 

How do you balance cycling and schoolwork at Mines?

Having an intense training and studying schedule is actually a bit of a benefit when it comes to managing obligations. With so little free time, I am forced to make the most out of what I have available. Thankfully, cycling is a huge stress release for me, so the 15 hours I spend each week on the bike help balance a rigorous course load. 

What's next for you in cycling?

For now, I will continue what I am doing. I race for a regional elite team in Massachusetts called CCB Racing. The support is great and my teammates are a great bunch to be around. In the future, I'd like to explore U23 specific development teams, to get a taste for higher level racing in the United States and abroad. However, at only 18 years old I have a little ways to go until I am competitive with those in their early 20s. Between now and then, I will stay in college. If I do gain enough fitness to be competitive on an international scale, I would consider postponing my schooling to travel the world and feel like a professional bike racer for a while. 

Ultimately, I'd like to take a trip with the National U23 Cycling Team. I spent a month with the National Junior Team in Europe in 2012, and ever since coming home, I have wanted to represent the country again. 

What advice do you have for aspiring cyclists?

Since day one, I had been told by my elders and mentors that the most important thing in the development of a young rider is that they were having a good time. Having fun is essential. If I thought that a five-hour ride in the winter months in Colorado was drudgery, I would be a truly miserable person. Thankfully, spending long hours outside on the bike is my definition of a good time. 

Why did you choose Mines?

I chose Mines for its engineering prestige and its proximity to the mountains. New England had good schools, but the weather left something to be desired. Colorado offered a great degree, unrivaled training grounds, and altitude training, all for less than a typical New England school. 

A huge factor was continuing my development as a cyclist, and Mines has been able to accommodate that.

 

Contact:

Kathleen Morton, Communications Coordinator / 303-273-3088 / KMorton@mines.edu
Karen Gilbert, Director of Public Relations / 303-273-3541 / KGilbert@mines.edu

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