Tank UAH junior helped fabricate is about to be tested by NASA

Markus Murdy

A UAH undergraduate student will be closely watching as a huge composite fuel tank he worked on is unloaded today from NASA's Super Guppy aircraft to undergo a series of structural and pressure tests.

Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is about to begin testing the large composite cryogenic fuel tank that it says could be a game changer and enable NASA's deep space exploration missions. It is one of the largest all-composite cryogenic fuel tanks ever constructed and could yield significant cost and weight reductions on future launch vehicles.

UAH aerospace engineering junior Markus Murdy worked with the MSFC Composites Manufacturing Development team on a portion of the revolutionary new tank. As part of a 10-week NASA summer internship managed by the Alabama Space Grant Consortium (ASGC), Murdy helped with the tank's sump door fabrication at MSFC's branch of the National Advanced Manufacturing Center.


Launchpad awards $35,000 to UAH search engine developers

Complexity Engine

An Internet search engine developed specifically for use in schools by two University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) professors has received $35,000 from Alabama Launchpad, the largest award received in this round.

Complexity Engine was conceived by Dr. Philip Kovacs, an associate professor of education who is collaborating in its development with Dr. Ryan Weber, an assistant professor of English. Complexity Engine uses a sophisticated algorithm to search websites for content and delivers customized and age-appropriate reading materials to users.

"This means we'll be ready to sell Version 1, hopefully within 90 days," said Dr. Kovacs. "The Launchpad money is awesome, but the entire experience and the feedback we got from really successful industry leaders from throughout the state is what is really valuable. We just learned a lot in the past few months."


More mature, confident teen girls less likely to risk sex, study shows

Kelly Arnold

Girls and young women ages 14-19 who are focused on their futures have higher levels of maturity and more confidence in their beliefs and are less likely to be sexually active, a study by a UAH senior psychology student indicates.

The research, "Attitudes and Confidence Regarding Sexual Activity in Teenaged Girls Assessed from Language in Social Media," was presented at the Mid South Psychology Conference (MSPC) and to the Committee on Equality of Professional Opportunity (CEPO).

Advised by assistant psychology professor Dr. Aurora Torres, Kelly Arnold spent six months monitoring posts on Internet forums used by teen girls to assess their degree of maturity and confidence related to their sexual behavior. Arnold noted the screen names of the girls and, following observation of their posts, categorized them according to their attitudes about sex.

The girls' attitudes toward teenaged girls engaging in sexual behavior were categorized as either believing sexual activity was wrong, believing it was OK, or having already become active but feeling guilty about it. Then their posts were analyzed according to whether they were asking for information and advice or giving information and advice. Grammatical and spelling errors were also noted.



UAH developing system to predict lightning

Lightning Prediction

Millions of people who work or play outdoors might one day soon have a new tool to help them reduce the risk of being struck by lightning.

Supported by a two-year research grant from NASA, scientists in the Earth System Science Center at UAH are combining data from weather satellites with Doppler radar and numerical models in a system that might warn which specific pop-up storm clouds are likely to produce lightning and when that lightning is likely to begin and end.

"One of our major goals is to increase the lead time that forecasters have for predicting which clouds are most likely to produce lightning and when lightning will start," said Dr. John Mecikalski, one of the project directors and an associate professor in UAH's Atmospheric Science Department. "If we can combine data from satellites, radar and models into a single lightning forecast system, we can give the National Weather Service and other meteorologists a new tool to support forecasts."

In addition to work done at UAH and NASA, the new lightning nowcasting project will use information developed by researchers at several institutions, Dr. Mecikalski said. "A lot of the basic research in lightning prediction has been done, but weather service forecasters haven't been getting the benefit from that work. For instance, there are still very limited radar-based lightning forecast tools available to forecasters despite all the work that's been done in that field."

While there is no operational lightning forecast system using radar, researchers using the existing Doppler weather radar system can get lightning predictions right about 90 percent of the time, he said, but can only give about a ten to 15 minute lead time.


AMDREC, MSFC and UAH meet to foster cooperation in new areas

Phil FarringtonTN

The US Army Aviation and Missiles Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), and UAH recently conducted a series of technical interchange meetings (TIM) to review on going collaborations and areas of mutual interest.

AMRDEC and MSFC have a rich history in working together with several joint projects and laboratories stemming back to the founding of the MSFC from the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA). Examples include a joint Microfabrication Laboratory in place since the mid-1980s, logistics engineering practices and tools shared between the organizations, and joint purchasing of missile propellants.

Dr. Phillip A. Farrington, UAH professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering and Engineering Management, has been hosting the meetings as part of a grant from MSFC. "We are working to expand collaboration between AMRDEC, MSFC and UAH in engineering programs, production engineering and logistics," said Dr. Farrington. "As part of that, we are trying to identify ways that UAH can collaborate on projects that are of interest to both the AMRDEC and MSFC."


Propulsion Research Center places 4 co-op students in local industries


Four students from the Propulsion Research Center at UAH have been placed with local industries as part of the 2013 Industry/University Cooperative Graduate Student Research Program funded by UAH's Office of the Vice President for Research.

Christopher Paaymans , advised by Dr. James Blackmon, is doing cooperative research at Bangham Engineering Inc.; Patrick Giddens, advised by Dr. Jason Cassibry, is at The Boeing Co.; Joseph R. Buckley, advised by Dr. George Nelson, is at Plasma Processes; and Michael Mascaro, advised by Dr. Gabe Xu, is at Aerojet/Rocketdyne.

"The students are gaining practical, hands-on experiences that combine a research flavor with their academic adviser combined with practical application at the participating companies," said PRC Director Robert Frederick. "This is all about developing relationships between UAH and local businesses and understanding how we can fulfill specialized research needs that will benefit our partner companies."


Remote sensing moisture model could aid farmers

Summer farmTN

Global farmers could get better decision-making help as refinements are made to North Alabama soil moisture modeling research being done by an atmospheric science doctoral student at UAH.

The models indicate how much added moisture would be needed in a given area versus historical data to achieve various crop yields, and they could aid in making expensive infrastructure investments by helping to determine their economic viability.

"The important thing that I want to stress is that this is not a predictive model, it is a decision-support model. It helps farmers and officials make decisions based on historical weather patterns," says doctoral student Vikalp Mishra. In areas where water is in short supply, irrigation infrastructure can be expensive and the model could help to determine its economic cost effectiveness.


UAH student’s Panama forest research chosen for Congressional poster session

Casey Calamaio

A UAH student's innovative research on forest cover in Panama has been selected for the Council on Undergraduate Research's Posters on the Hill session April 28 and 29 at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Now a UAH graduate student, as an undergraduate Casey Calamaio applied to the geosciences division of the poster competition and conducted his research on rates of Panama Canal Zone forestation from the 1920s to the present. He is only the third student from Alabama to make the trip in the past nine years.

Surprisingly, there is more forest cover in the Panama Canal Zone today than there was in the 1920s, Calamaio's research finds.

"Most of that forest is secondary growth, but the cover is more dense now," he says, a finding that he attributes to the Panamanian government's reforestation and conservation efforts since the 1970s. "In the older images from the 1920s through the 1950s, what you see are basically a lot of cleared areas."

The regrowth of forest has a direct impact on biodiversity in an area that is considered one of the world's diversity hotspots.

"Panama is such a dynamic area, with all the shipping and the changes that have come with the canal," Calamaio says, "and it is also an isthmus that serves as the link between North and South America to serve as a conduit for plants and animals."


New search engine delivers content matched to ability

Complexity Engine

An Internet search engine developed specifically for schools by two UAH professors is being tested as a way to increase reading abilities in challenged students and help motivate intellectual development in gifted students, while saving schools money on textbooks.

Complexity Engine has been awarded a $10,000 development grant from the UAH Charger Innovation Fund and is in the final round of vying for an Alabama Launchpad grant. Launchpad is a program of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama to promote, reward and increase the pipeline of high-growth, innovative ventures that have the potential to grow and thrive in the state.

"We just have a host of features we want to roll out with Complexity Engine and that's why winning the Launchpad competition is essential," says developer Dr. Philip Kovacs, an associate professor of education who conceived the system and is collaborating with Dr. Ryan Weber, an assistant professor of English, to develop it. Tripp Roberts, a Georgia Institute of Technology computer science junior, collaborates to produce the necessary software.

Complexity Engine uses a sophisticated algorithm to search websites for content and delivers free, customized and age-appropriate reading materials to a user's computer. It promises to give teachers, parents and students an efficient, affordable way to promote reading. Teachers and administrators can set parameters for the search results, and the reading experience can be either student self-directed or guided by the teacher.


Undergraduate invention aims to lower costs of organ cell printing

CarmAl extruder

A specialized 3-D printing extruder developed by UAH sophomore and his collaborator could lower the costs of printing cellular structures for use in drug testing.

The CarmAl extruder – shorthand for Carbohydrate Anhydrous Rapid Manufacturing Aluminum extruder – its controlling software and the manufacturing processes being developed by second-year biological sciences student Tanner Carden and collaborator Devon Bane are able to produce a sugar grid that mimics blood vessels.

Normally a UAH mechanical and aerospace engineering undergraduate student, Bane is taking the semester off to catch up with the numerous inventions and commercial projects with which he's involved.

The CarmAl extruder's name is also a play on words, since the inspiration for the technology came from 3-D printers developed to make specialty candies.