Pitt | Swanson Engineering

The Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (MEMS) is the largest in the Swanson School of Engineering in terms of students and faculty. All of our programs are ABET-accredited. The Department's core strengths include:

  • Advanced Manufacturing and Design
  • Materials for Extreme Conditions
  • Biomechanics and Medical Technologies
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Energy System Technologies
  • Quantitative and In Situ Materials Characterization

MEMS faculty are not only world-renowned academicians, but accessible teachers who seek to inspire and encourage their students to succeed.  

The Department also has access to more than 20 laboratory facilities that enhance the learning process through first-rate technology and hands-on experience.

Each year, the Department graduates approximately 90 mechanical and materials science engineers, with nearly 100% placed in excellent careers with industry and research facilities around the globe.

Alumni Focus

FSAE car rollout 2018

A passionate auto aficionado, David Kitch BSME '68 MSIE '81 is a long-time supporter of the Department and fan of Pitt's FSAE team, Panther Racing. Read more about Dave in this semester's Alumni Focus.


New Partnership Expands Research into Rechargeable Battery Systems

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (May 24, 2019) — Energy storage influences every part of modern life, from the cell phone in your pocket to the electric car on the highway. However, seeing the chemistry of what is happening inside a battery while it is in use is indeed tricky, but it could have remarkable opportunities for identifying new materials as well as improving the battery itself. Now, the Next-Generation Energy Conversion and Storage Technologies Lab (NECSTL) at the University of Pittsburgh’s Energy Innovation Center has announced a new energy research partnership with Malvern Panalytical that will enable the lab to do exactly that. The NECSTL, headed by Prashant N. Kumta, PhD, focuses on energy conversion and storage, including rechargeable battery systems. Malvern Panalytical’s Empyrean X-ray Platform, a multipurpose diffractometer, will be used in the lab to identify solid-state materials by determining their internal structure, composition and phase while they are in use. “For example, it can be used to determine what happens to an electrode and electrolyte material as the main active component is removed and brought back during a electrochemical reaction, such as in the case of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery,” explains Prashant N. Kumta, PhD, Edward R. Weidlein Chair professor of Bioengineering. Dr. Kumta also holds appointments in chemical and petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine, and oral biology. “This understanding will lead to new discoveries of mechanisms and operation, which can result in new materials discovery and new designs for significantly increasing the performance of batteries and fuel cells.” Dr. Kumta also believes that the partnership will enable the design of new instrumentation for further in-situ diagnostics of energy storage and conversion systems. The new partnership and equipment was celebrated on May 23 at the Energy Innovation Center, where attendees got a first look at the Empyrean up close.
Maggie Pavlick

How Kevin Glunt Went From Struggling Student to Sending an A.I. Computer to the ISS

Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

Around a decade ago, Kevin Glunt was more interested in drawing cars than paying attention in class, with his parents threatening that he would repeat a grade of school if he didn’t stop. Now aged 24, he’s in awe as SpaceX has launched his team’s creation into orbit: A radiation-tolerant supercomputer that will be used in experiments on sensing, image processing, and machine learning, aboard the International Space Station. “All of our names are on the board, like etched on it,” Glunt told Inverse this week, prior to the launch. “It’s like, your name will be in space. And it’s really, really weird to think about that.” It’s not just a name in space: the computer, made by Glunt and his fellow researchers and students from the University of Pittsburgh, could pave the way for a faster future in space. More powerful systems at lower cost, and with more efficient power usage, represent another step toward more reliable research in orbit. Read the full story at inverse.com.
Author: Mike Brown, inverse.com

New Pitt Supercomputer to Launch Into Space

Electrical & Computer, MEMS, Student Profiles

This story originally appeared in Pittwire. Reposted with permission. Additional coverage at Inside HPC. A novel supercomputer developed by a University of Pittsburgh team is set to journey to the International Space Station on May 1, continuing a NASA partnership meant to improve Earth and space science. (Editor’s note: launch date is subject to delays.) It will be “one of the most powerful space-qualified computers ever made and flown,” said Alan George, department chair of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, who led Pitt researchers and graduate students on the project. On the space station, the supercomputer will serve as a research “sandbox” for space-based experiments on computing, sensing, image processing and machine learning. Researchers said the main objective of these experiments is progression toward autonomous spacecraft, like a more advanced version of the self-driving cars seen in Pittsburgh. This radiation-tolerant computer cluster, called the Spacecraft Supercomputing for Image and Video Processing (SSIVP) system, is part of the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program-Houston 6 mission (STP-H6), developed at the National Science Foundation Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing (SHREC). The system “features an unprecedented combination of high performance, high reliability, low power and reconfigurability for computing in the harsh environment of space, going beyond the capabilities of previous space computers,” said George, who’s also founder and director of SHREC. The project carries over from time’s spent with the University of Florida prior to moving to Pitt in 2017, when a pair of space computers developed by Pitt students and faculty was sent aboard the space station. Last year, the new space supercomputer embarked on a 1,400-mile land-based journey for rigorous testing, from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to the NASA Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston to the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Its final, much shorter and more meaningful trip will see it travel 250 miles skyward from NASA Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the space station with the SpaceX-17 mission on a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket. Super powered Sebastian Sabogal and Evan Gretok, PhD students in electrical and computer engineering, pose by their workstation in SHREC (Center for Space, High-performance, and Resilient Computing), where they monitor their supercomputing cluster’s progress. They’ve worked on the cluster’s design, hardware configuration and image processing. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh) The new space supercomputer is more than 2.5 times more powerful than its predecessor, which was launched to the space station with STP-H5 on SpaceX-10 in February 2017. It includes dual high-resolution cameras capable of snapping 5-megapixel images of Earth, for detailed aerial shots like the city of Pittsburgh, all in a system about the size of a breadbox. The H5 system will remain on the space station, working separately from the soon-to-be-launched H6 system on a dynamic set of space technology experiments until at least 2021. The H6 system is expected to be in service for three to four years after launch. The large amounts of data the new system captures will pose their own challenge. “There are limitations in communications between ground and spacecraft, so we’re trying to circumvent these limitations with high-performance onboard data processing to more quickly transfer data,” said Sebastian Sabogal, a third-year PhD student studying electrical and computer engineering. “We also want our systems to be highly responsive to processed sensor data to enable spacecraft autonomy, which would reduce the amount of human interaction needed to operate the spacecraft and interpret data.” “Everyone in the space community wants to build sensor systems that are more powerful and autonomous,” George said. “We must process the data where it’s gathered, which requires very powerful computers, but space is the most challenging place to build and deploy powerful computers.” Space, too, is a challenging place for computers to thrive due to high fluctuations in temperatures, strong vibrations during launch and higher levels of radiation — all of which can affect performance, said Sabogal. During its time in space, the supercomputer will gather and monitor data on weather patterns, deforestation, and the effects of natural disasters on Earth and the effects of space and radiation on electronic devices, among many applications in Earth and space science. A goldmine for students SHREC also is collaborating for the first time with the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, with the latter designing, assembling and testing the system chassis to meet the structural requirements from NASA for the computing system. For students, these space missions are an opportunity to hone their engineering expertise and interact closely with experts at NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense. The Spacecraft Supercomputing for Image and Video Processing marks the first known instance of the “Pitt Script” in space. (Courtesy of Alan George) “When I initially came in, it was one of the big projects going on here,” said Evan Gretok, a second-year PhD student studying electrical and computer engineering. “I was asked if I was up for a challenge, and I was put on developing some of the flight software for some of the secondary objectives of the mission.” These secondary objectives include studies regarding flight services, hardware configuration and studies on image processing. Gretok also earned his master’s degree in the same field at Pitt this year, and he has been working with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to certify the supercomputer’s ground-station software for mission operations that will be controlled by Pitt researchers in the SHREC lab meets NASA standards. “It’s really humbling to be part of a team that has this kind of access to such innovative technology,” Gretok said. “The amount of opportunities that open up for Earth observation for data analytics and for these students to develop their own applications and algorithms is exciting to see.” Other leading researchers for the project include Matthew Barry, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, who also works with the Center for Research Computing and was in charge of thermal modeling for the computer, and David Schmidt, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science, whose team was in charge of the design and construction of the aluminum chassis to house the electronics, ensuring that it meets NASA specifications. For more information on the mission visit NASA’s missions page.
Author: Amerigo Allegretto, University Communications

MEMS Success at Senior Design Expo

MEMS, Student Profiles

First place from left: Jamie Locklan, Arden Stayer, Ethan Linderman, and Jake Saletsky Second place from left: Dr. Dave Schmidt, Hunter Stept, Adam Argentine, Nicole Nduta, and Austin Gray Third place from left: Rui Xu, Frost Wang, Caroline Collopy, and Terry McLinden Fourth place from left: Dr. Dave Schmidt, Cameron Rendulic, and Shawn Kosko (not pictured: Stanley Umeweni) The Spring 2019 Swanson School Design Expo was held on April 18 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall. This semiannual event allows students to showcase their work from senior capstone design courses. The expo features almost 100 projects from more than 400 students, with the MEMS Department producing the most projects in the School. Project ideas come from industry, faculty and students. Students have 13 weeks to complete their projects on a budget of ~$400. Projects are judged by faculty, alumni and industry professionals in various categories including a People’s Choice Award, which all attendees can vote on. MEMS students have always done well at the competition in the past, and this year was no exception. The “Panther Junk Kart Club” team took first place for MEMS projects and also won the judge’s award for Best Overall Project by creating a practice FSAE go-kart. Team members were Ethan Linderman, Jamie Locklan, Jake Saletsky and Arden Stayer. Second place went to team Pitt Sear, who developed a searing cooking system. The members of that team were Adam Argentine, Austin Gray, Nicole Nduta and Hunter Stept. A project that involved the design of a rotating camera system for stereo imaging large deformations of soft tissues took home third place. That team was Caroline Collopy, Terry McLinden, Frost Wang and Rui Xu. Finally, fourth place went to the design of carbon fiber wheels for the FSAE car. Team members were Shawn Kosko, Cameron Rendulic and Stanley Umeweni. Dr. Dave Schmidt, associate professor and instructor of the senior design course, notes that the projects serve as a bridge between undergraduate coursework and the workforce. The projects allow students to apply their class training and gives them a story to tell to potential employers in interviews. Schmidt noted that a good work environment and culture of each team is vital for success of the projects. These necessary elements are why the Department is establishing a dedicated classroom for Senior Design projects. The classroom is located on the ground floor of Benedum Hall and was sponsored by ME alum and current MEMS Visiting Committee member, Wilson Farmerie and his wife Karen. The classroom is setup with build, meeting, computation and storage spaces for the students to complete their projects.
Meagan Lenze

Entrepreneurial Engineer Brings Creative Spirit and Connections to Campus, Honda

MEMS, Student Profiles, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs

Posted with permission. Read the original post at Pittwire. The tagline on Sean O’Brien’s Instagram bio reads “Dedicated to leaving an impact.” But over the course of his five years at Pitt, O’Brien is known more for making, not merely leaving, an impact — through his work at the Pitt Makerspace. O’Brien, president of the Pitt Makerspace, is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a certificate in innovation, product design and entrepreneurship from Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, as well as a resume that includes autonomous vehicle research made possible through several co-op rotations at Nissan. In May, he’ll start work as an innovation engineer at a brand-new Honda facility in Michigan, after fielding job offers from several auto manufacturers. He’s mapped his own career path — and paved the way for other students — admittedly not through a turbocharged grade point average, he said, but by his passion for hands-on learning, willingness to make connections and desire to solve problems. All simply “to make things work,” said O’Brien. O’Brien joined the Pitt Makerspace team early on as its sponsorship and outreach lead, a role in which he secured thousands of dollars in financial support and helped develop events designed to connect students with potential employers. “I have the ability to sell what I’m passionate about,” he said. Boosted by connections made at the Stanford University-based national University Innovation Fellows program, he has helped grow the Makerspace from a basement space with little more than a few benches and sofas, a 3D printer and some tools into a vibrant hub for creating, innovating and, importantly, for networking. O’Brien launched his own MakerHUB podcast, which has drawn notable guests — including Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher — to the Makerspace sofas for a conversation. The Pitt Makerspace served more than 1,000 students last year; a team of 30 keeps it running day to day. The suite has become a regular stop on prospective students’ campus tours, and now hosts alumni gatherings and events sponsored by industry partners. O’Brien also has made a commitment to give back as a member of Pitt’s first cohort of Panthers Forward graduates. The new Pitt program pays up to $5,000 of each student’s federal loan debt. In exchange, upon graduation, participants are asked to pay it forward in support of future Panthers Forward students. A passion in the making O’Brien knew from the time he started high school that he wanted to be an engineer. As a teen, he persuaded his parents to let him build a table large enough to seat his extended family so they could dine together rather than in separate rooms at holidays. It took 200 hours of work, but the result is a massive 11-foot-long table that is the focal point in his family’s dining room in Reading, Pennsylvania. “I realized what I could make with the proper resources and the proper help,” he said of the experience. In his senior year at Muhlenberg High School, he launched his own small business, SO’s Bows, all because he couldn’t find a bow tie in the appropriate shade of blue to match his prom date’s dress. He designed his own, then stitched it himself on a home economics class sewing machine. After perfecting the process, he began selling ties made to order. His interest in entrepreneurship led him to Pitt’s student innovation programming. He met Babs Carryer, director of Pitt’s Big Idea Center within the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute at a Startup Blitz event. He soon began working in her office — analyzing participation data in an effort to create strategies to engage students from all disciplines in Innovation Institute programming. “When students come to Pitt, they don’t necessarily know what they want to do, but they figure it out,” Carryer said. “He’s a great example of an engineering student who discovers innovation and entrepreneurship as a result of being at Pitt. It is lifechanging. He is going to be wildly successful, whatever he chooses to do.” Intrapreneurship — entrepreneurship in a company setting — suits O’Brien, Carryer said. “He wants to merge creativity and entrepreneurship with engineering,” she said, commending his motivation and skill set. “This is the dream job,” O’Brien said as he prepares for his new position in Michigan that will include creating a makerspace where his group can prototype concepts to bring to the overall organization. “I’m honored to have this opportunity. It’s a blank slate to decide what this facility means to Honda moving forward.” And the wheels already are turning in his mind: “Ultimately I’d like to create an internship program between this Honda facility and the Pitt Makerspace,” he said. “Providing value is the currency that leverages your next opportunity,” O’Brien said. “The return doesn’t need to be immediate. What I’m leaving behind is a platform for people to succeed.” Leaving an impact? Those who know his work best say O’Brien is making it happen.
Kimberly K. Barlow
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