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Area High School Students Get Look At UH Engineering

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Erin D. McKenzie
In one of the day’s activities, Haichang Gu, a post-doc researching under Mechanical Engineering Professor Gangbing Song, used a Smart Vibration Platform to demonstrate how smart materials can be used to stabilize structure.
In one of the day’s activities, Haichang Gu, a post-doc researching under Mechanical Engineering Professor Gangbing Song, used a Smart Vibration Platform to demonstrate how smart materials can be used to stabilize structure.

Houston-area high school seniors toured UH Cullen College of Engineering April 25 as part of a Shadow Day organized by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The event, the first of its kind on the engineering campus, brought 16 students and three teachers from Sam Rayburn and J. Frank Dobie high schools to the college for an in-depth look into the field.

“We wanted to hold this event to show high school students some of the cooler things engineers do,” said Josh Douglas, ASME student section chair. “Seeing cutting edge technology now will hopefully encourage a greater interest in science and engineering in the future. Even if they don’t go into engineering in the future, what they saw today will hopefully remain with them forever.”

Douglas and two other members from ASME also took the opportunity to share the importance of joining professional groups as a way not only to network, but to further their college education as rising freshman.

“Joining professional societies such as ASME help students in many ways,” Douglas said. “Joining is a great way to meet people in your classes, get advice and help with classes, and network for the future. Best of all professional societies push your boundaries, making you go deeper into your education than you normally would.”

With the help of UH engineering professors, ASME was able to schedule a full day of events for the students. This included tours of the undergraduate labs, biomedical optics lab and echo-proof room, education on the divisions of mechanical engineering, a robotic window washer demonstration as well as two smart materials demonstrations.

In one of the day’s activities, graduate and post-doctoral students advised by Gangbing Song, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, used a Smart Vibration Platform to demonstrate how smart materials can be used to stabilize structures.

The platform—designed to represent a model of a building—used the smart materials Magneto-Rheological fluid and shape memory alloy to offer insight into vibration damping control and dynamic systems.

In the first demonstration—using shape memory alloy wires made from nickel and titanium—students were shown how change in electrical current applies heat to the wires in turn affecting their stiffness.

The second demonstration applied a magnetic field to Magneto-Rheological fluid—a substance made of oil and iron particles—increasing the fluids viscosity and making it more stable.

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