Colorado School of Mines is a uniquely focused public research university dedicated to preparing exceptional students to solve today's most pressing energy and environmental challenges.
This is Mines.
Colorado School of Mines is a uniquely focused public research university dedicated to preparing exceptional students to solve today's most pressing energy and environmental challenges.
This is Mines.
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.
It was a first for Mines when Linda Battalora, associate teaching professor in the Department of Petroleum Engineering, presented her research on bone density and fracture risk in HIV-infected adults at the Joint Session of the 14th European AIDS Conference and the 15th International Workshop on Co-morbidities and Adverse Drug Reactions in HIV, in October 2013 in Brussels.
And as a Young Investigator Scholarship awardee, she presented her research at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in March 2014 in Boston – another first for Mines.
Breaking new research ground for Mines has been part of her pursuit toward a doctorate degree in Environmental Science and Engineering, but it was Battalora’s career in the oil and gas industry that sparked her interest in studying a health-related topic.
During her career in the oil and gas industry, she served as engineer, attorney and negotiator for international oil and gas project development. Her interest in the health of people stricken by infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in resource-limited countries led her to pursue cross-discipline, cross-college research with her Ph.D. advisors, John Spear in Mines’ Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and Benjamin Young, of the International Association of Providers in AIDS Care; APEX Research, in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in petroleum engineering from Mines, in 1987 and 1988 respectively, and then a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law in 1993. She is licensed to practice law in Colorado and Louisiana, and is a registered patent attorney.
“I grew up on the Gulf Coast, so I was familiar with offshore oil and gas development. I was good in math and science and I wanted to see the world,” Battalora said of her decision to study petroleum engineering.
In addition to her teaching role, Battalora has been a part time graduate student at Mines since 2009. She earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Engineering in May 2014. The title of her thesis was, “Bones, Fractures, Antiretroviral Therapy and HIV.”
“When I’m asked about my research, and I explain that it’s a public health topic, the typical response is another question: What does this have to do with petroleum engineering? It becomes a teachable moment,” Battalora said. “The short answer is that corporate social responsibility is an integral part of every oil and gas project. When we enter a location for project development, we have a social responsibility to the community. Depending on where we are in the world, this may include building roads, health clinics, risk-prevention programs, schools or addressing other community needs. “
Asked how her Ph.D. will inform her teaching at Mines, she explained “Every engineering project involves the human workforce and regulatory frameworks. Understanding the integration of health, safety, security, environment and social responsibility (HSSE-SR) is essential to maintain a healthy workforce and a safe, cost-effective engineering project. Students must understand these elements, integrate them in project development and be able to communicate effectively with representatives from the community, government agencies and other stakeholders.”
Battalora incorporates HSSE-SR in the undergraduate and graduate courses she teaches at Mines. She is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) HSSE-SR Advisory Board and was recently awarded the 2014 SPE Rocky Mountain Regional Award for her work in HSSE-SR.
Battalora plans to continue her research with the CDC, and collaboration with Spear and Young, on HIV-related topics and HSSE-SR.
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There’s a pretty good chance that if you see two people practicing acrobatic partner yoga (acroyoga) on Kafadar Commons, one of them is physics teaching assistant Michelle Griffith. Griffith, who graduated from Mines with an engineering physics degree in the spring, heard about acroyoga from an instructor last summer and has been practicing regularly in Golden parks and Boulder gyms ever since.
“Yoga is not about being showy whereas acroyoga is,” Griffith said. “It’s made to be dynamic and entertaining, whereas yoga is more a sacred practice.”
Acroyoga is made up of static or washing machine poses (a sequence of poses) between partners. One person, referred to as the base, is usually laying or standing on the ground to support the other, who is usually elevated (also known as the flyer).
“A lot of people think that because acroyoga involves touching it has to be romantic and that’s not the case at all,” Griffith said. “I appreciate the fact that you can have trusting, physical contact with another person and not have it be romantic or weird.”
One of Griffith’s partners is Max Schulze, a world champion unicyclist and Mines 2014 chemistry graduate. Schulze saw Griffith’s acroyoga posts on Facebook and contacted her about practicing together.
“I really like the sun and when it’s dark out for a long time, I become more stressed with school,” Schulze. “I remember driving up to Boulder twice a week, even by myself, to go to acroyoga because it was fun and just got me de-stressed.”
Griffith also uses the practice to unwind between her work at Mines.
"You’re not thinking about the last test you just took when you’re doing acroyoga,” Griffith said. “It’s super therapeutic to move and stretch your body.”
Schulze is currently working as a researcher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and is considering graduate school. Griffith is looking into obtaining yoga and acroyoga teacher certifications and exploring graduate schools for physical therapy.
“Physics is very applicable to physical therapy, but also fundamentally centered around the body and I do a lot of athletic things,” Griffith said.
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!
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.
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)
2nd Place (Wingin' It - Team 35)
3rd Place (Zephyrus - Team 42)
4th Place (OmniPumps - Team 31)
Kid's Choice (Colorado AdvantEdge - Team 6)
Essay Contest Winners
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.
Over the course of seven days, 20 Mines students from the band, orchestra and choir presented 10 concerts along with a music and instruction program to underprivileged K-12 students, mining industry professionals and college students and faculty in Peru.
Robert Klimek, director of the Mines music program, said the group’s best experience was presenting a first-ever concert in the shanty towns of Lima.
“Many in the audience commented that they were grateful for the music, because this was the first live music their children had ever heard, and one said, ‘may ever hear,’” Klimek said.
Chemical engineering student Molly Groom is a soloist in the Mines choir. She shared common interests with native Peruvians, such as the “love of music and the drive to be an engineer.”
“I met several young students who wanted to become engineers, and that created such a special bond because we both knew that it’s not easy being an engineer,” Groom said.
Chemical and biochemical engineering student Ryan Czarny, who plays saxophone in the band, said the performances abroad was just one way he could use his musical talents and engineering skills to provoke change in others.
“After the trip, I have been inspired to continue to give back to my own community, not only through giving of my time and services, but also through my musical abilities,” Czarny said.
Besides music performances, the group attended a presentation on ancient Inca music, watched a few cooking classes and visited Machu Pichu.
Colorado School of Mines will compete against nine other schools at the National Collegiate Wind Competition in May in Las Vegas. Teams will be showcasing a lightweight, transportable wind turbine that could power small electronic devices. Each team’s prototype wind turbine will be tested in a wind tunnel and scored for performance, operational safety, component durability and system reliability.
Nine students on the Mines team, Zephyrus, are in the process of using design prototypes to build the final turbine.
Competition advisor Cameron Turner said the team has taken an innovative path in the competition by establishing a supporting business plan and developing an understanding of wind power political issues, in addition to, creating a technical solution to their design.
“In many ways, they are demonstrating not only technical competence, but also personal competence as citizens,” Cameron Turner said. “In two months, they will be presenting their work at the American Wind Energy Association meeting alongside nine other schools. I fully expect that the team will be amongst the best teams at the competition.”
Mines will be competing against Boise State University, California Maritime Academy, James Madison University, Kansas State University, Northern Arizona University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Kansas and University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Mines students are working with Mechanical Engineering (ME) professor John Steele and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) professor Qi Han to build and develop a system to automate oil and gas processes through unmanned robots. Blaster, the original prototype, will be deployed to the Petroleum Institute (PI) in Abu Dhabi to increase the safety in oil and gas refineries.
Currently, refinery operators are exposed to potential explosions, gas leaks and extreme weather conditions.
“We are trying to get robots to do the same operations humans can do, but by taking the human out of harm’s way, we are increasing safety,” Steele said. “Abu Dhabi can reach up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, so people are exposed to extreme heat as well as sand storms and possibly gas leaks. If the robot is harmed, you can always build another one.”
The robot is equipped with a methane gas sensor, video camera, microphone, thermal imaging camera, GPS, digital compass, laser-range finder and Wi-Fi client-bridge. Each of these sensors will help it navigate, avoid collisions and transfer information back to the control room operator.
EECS students Adewole Ayoade and Marshall Sweatt are collaborating to develop applications that will take readings from the sensors to determine the robotic location and remotely log those readings for analysis. Alex Yearsly, a ME student, designed and manufactured the 5-degrees of freedom robotic arm after taking over from Dan Albert, a recent graduate. John Steuben, a graduate student in engineering systems, designed and 3D-printed the sensor housing for the robot’s head.
Ayoade emphasized the importance of testing the robot in conditions similar to the refinery. “Because we are working on a real life project, we have to understand the environmental conditions of where we are sending the system,” Ayoade said.
Once Blaster’s build is completed, Ayoade and Sweatt will travel overseas to test its functionality and transfer the technology to faculty and students at the PI.
“I’m really excited; I’ve never been to the United Arab Emirates before,” Sweatt said. “It is an honor to be invited.”
Blaster’s capabilities will demonstrate Mines’ ability to develop a robotic system for inspection and operations. The robot will become the basis for a proposal to a French robotic competition called ARGOS Challenge, sponsored by TOTAL, in which contestants from all over the world will develop advanced robotic capabilities for oil and gas environments.
Watch a short video of the robot here.