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Mar

Mar
31
2021

Message of Vaccine Acceptance Can Boost Immunization Rates

Industrial

PITTSBURGH (March 31, 2021) — The development of a COVID-19 vaccine signaled, for many, the long-awaited light at the end of the tunnel. But for the vaccine to be effective in ending the pandemic, a large majority of the population – some estimates put it at more than 75% –  have to be willing to get it. And that might prove to be the tricky part. While hesitancy to get a vaccination makes headlines, new research finds that emphasizing the widespread and growing acceptance of the vaccine is an effective way to encourage more people to get immunized. “Our research has shown that giving people accurate descriptions of norms in their communities, like how many people are accepting the vaccine, makes them more willing to get it themselves,” said Amin Rahimian, assistant professor of industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering and co-author of the study, which is currently under peer review. “This knowledge presents an important opportunity for public health officials to effectively communicate.” The study, led by MIT Sloan School of Management professors Sinan Aral and Dean Eckles, highlights the importance of messaging in reaching the goals of widespread vaccination, herd immunity and the eventual eradication of COVID-19. As part of a larger collaboration with Facebook and using input from public health experts at Johns Hopkins University, the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), and the World Health Organization, the researchers fielded a survey with over 1.9 million responses from 67 countries in their local languages. On a sample of more than 400,000 people in 23 countries, the researchers surveyed the participants about their plans for vaccination, inserting information throughout the survey about others’ behavior. When given accurate information about the number of people who said they’d receive the vaccine, the number of people who were unsure or felt negative about accepting the vaccine was reduced by 5 percent. “Everyone has different reference points when it comes to societal norms, but overall, peoples’ preventative health behaviors are dramatically influenced by social and cultural factors,” said Rahimian. “The most important message is to appreciate the value of these norms. It is natural for people to be hesitant, but emphasizing overall acceptance is an important way to contextualize the decision they’re making for themselves and their community.” Because one cannot tell by looking at people whether they’ve been immunized, messaging around acceptance rates is an especially potent tool to encourage more participation. The researchers noted that it wasn’t clear going into the study whether learning that more people were vaccinated would encourage or decrease acceptance of the vaccine. For example, if a majority of others say they will get it, some people may think it’s safe to skip it. “Humans are sensitive to the behaviors of others. Public health communications should avoid overemphasizing the shrinking minority of people who say they won’t accept a vaccine against COVID-19,” said Eckles. “The best way forward, as is often the case, is the presentation of clear, accurate and timely information. That includes the information that other people overwhelmingly intend to accept these vaccines.” The Age of Data Rahimian’s work is at the intersection of networks, data, and decision sciences. His work focuses on analysis and decision making in large-scale, sociotechnical systems, like social media, and the opportunities it represents for researchers. “The landscape for scientific research is changing in the age of data. The combined force of high-end data analytics and high performance computing opens new ways for scientific discovery,” said Rahimian. In this project, the researchers partnered with Facebook to gather data. The survey was deployed through the social media platform, and the researchers received anonymized responses attached only to a participant number. The partnership gave them extraordinarily detailed information on the participants’ demographic data along with their responses, without revealing their identity. “It was very important for us to make sure our survey was representative of the population. Facebook is in a unique position to help with this kind of work because of the massive amount of demographic and behavioral data that they can use globally,” Rahimian said. “Ensuring that we are hearing from a lot of different kinds of people allows us to extrapolate better conclusions about the population as a whole.” The paper, “Surfacing Norms to Increase Vaccine Acceptance,” (Preprint DOI: 10.31234/osf.io/srv6t) is undergoing peer review and was co-authored by Alex Moehring, Avinash Collis, Kiran Garimella, M. Amin Rahimian, Sinan Aral and Dean Eckles.
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
29
2021

Pitt and the Global Manufacturing And Industrialization Summit Join Efforts To Advance Research And Development Efforts In Manufacturing

Industrial, MEMS

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (March 29, 2021) ... The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance research collaboration and knowledge sharing in technology, manufacturing, and education across borders. The partnership will see GMIS and Pitt, in particular its Swanson School of Engineering, collaborate to explore opportunities to encourage research and development in manufacturing, develop academic papers, and facilitate knowledge exchange between different universities and educational institutes worldwide. The partnership aims to foster cross-sector collaboration through academic research and expertise to address the industry's challenges. Dr. David Vorp, the Swanson School’s John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering and Associate Dean for Research, and Namir Hourani, Managing Director of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) signed the MoU. The partnership is designed to further the two organizations’ shared objectives to drive sustainable innovation that will help reshape the global manufacturing landscape, serving economies, industry, and civil society better. Commenting on the partnership, Namir Hourani, Managing Director of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS), said: “We are pleased to sign the MoU with the University of Pittsburgh as we continue to rollout long-term partnerships with world-class, research-focused universities from all over the world. These partnerships play a very important role within our ecosystem and contribute to multiple activities that run alongside the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit. “The city of Pittsburgh is a major center for technological innovation and advanced manufacturing in the United States and across the world, and this partnership will provide a platform for us to jointly showcase best practices from the city on the world stage.”James R. Martin II, U.S. Steel Dean of Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, said: “The University of Pittsburgh is indeed excited to be a global academic partner with GMIS, and reflects Pittsburgh’s commitment to excellence in academics, research, and sustainability. “Pittsburgh represents the intersection of Industry 5.0 and Society 5.0, as indicated when Worth magazine recently named it as the nation’s second-most resilient city. Pittsburgh was the burning heart of the Second Industrial Revolution, and the past three decades of re-invention have shown how our region has once again established itself as the nexus for creating new knowledge that improves the human condition. And as we celebrate the 175th year of engineering education at Pitt in 2021, the Swanson School is proud to help lead the way in research, academics, and cultural competency,”The University of Pittsburgh will join the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit (GMIS) in the development of its Leadership Program which was announced at #GMIS2020 and focuses on shaping future global leaders to prioritize advancing humanity and promoting global prosperity. Together with the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, the GMIS platform will work towards developing future leaders that can set their organizations on the path to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Swanson School will be instrumental in supporting with the research, developing the curriculum, engaging with stakeholders, implementing the programs, and supporting in creating awareness of for the program amongst relevant institutions all over the world.Dr. David Vorp, the Swanson School’s John A. Swanson Professor of Bioengineering and Associate Dean for Research, added: “The integration of sustainable industrial development in the mission for GMIS sets a well-charted path for our partnership. Pitt has endeavored to be a university leader in sustainable innovation, and at the Swanson School, our faculty and students are exploring new materials, advanced manufacturing, and tools that have the potential to improve the triple bottom line – social, environmental, and economic – for industry around the world. We are excited to join the GMIS ecosystem as a global academic partner and to be able to share the city of Pittsburgh’s success stories and innovations on the world stage of industrial and manufacturing excellence.” ### About GMIS: The Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit (GMIS) was established in 2015 to build bridges between manufacturers, governments and NGOs, technologists, and investors in harnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s (4IR) transformation of manufacturing to enable the regeneration of the global economy. A joint initiative by the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), GMIS is a global platform that presents stakeholders with an opportunity to shape the future of the manufacturing sector and contribute towards global good by advancing some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.The first two editions of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit were held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in March 2017, and Yekaterinburg, Russia in July 2019, respectively, with each edition welcoming over 3,000 high-level delegates from over 40 countries. The third edition, GMIS2020, was held virtually in September 2020 and convened over 10,000 attendees and close to 100 thought-provoking leaders from governments, businesses, and civil society. GMIS2021, the fourth edition of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit, will be held once again in the United Arab Emirates from November 22 to 27, alongside EXPO Dubai, under the theme – Rewiring Societies: Repurposing Digitalization for Prosperity. To learn more about GMIS, please visit https://gmisummit.com/ and follow GMIS on Twitter:  @GMISummit, Instagram: @gmisummit, LinkedIn: GMIS - Global Manufacturing & Industrialization Summit, and Facebook: @GMISummit. Press Contact:Reethu ThachilCommunications ManagerM Three Marcomms LLC, Press Office for:Global Manufacturing & Industrialisation Summit Mohammed Bin Rashid Initiative for Global Prosperity +971 58 847 6870/ press@gmisummit.com
Reethu Thachil, GMIS Communications Manager
Mar
29
2021

Karen Bursic Wins Grant Award for Best Paper in The Engineering Economist

Industrial

PITTSBURGH (March 29, 2021) — Many fundamental engineering subjects, like statics and dynamics, heat and energy, signals and systems, and statistics, have reliable methods for measuring students’ learning. Engineering economy, which uses economic principles to evaluate engineering decisions, has not traditionally been among them, despite its importance to the curriculum. The Engineering Economist recently published an article by Karen Bursic, associate professor of industrial engineering and undergraduate program director at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, that evaluates a concept inventory to determine students’ learning in engineering economy courses. The article, “An Engineering Economy Concept Inventory,” (doi: 10.1080/0013791X.2020.1777360), was recently awarded the Grant Award, an award given annually by the Engineering Economy Division of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). “With all the changes in engineering education, like flipped classrooms or problem-based learning, it’s especially important to have an unbiased, targeted assessment tool to make sure students are learning important core concepts,” said Bursic. “The Engineering Economy Concept Inventory I have developed can help instructors understand whether the pedagogical changes they make to their course have been effective.” Bursic teaches the Engineering Economics Analysis course at Pitt, a course that introduces engineering undergrads to concepts like cost estimation, interest rate calculations, depreciation, and economic equivalence concepts. “These skills are critical for the effective application of engineering skills in the real world,” said Bursic. “While decision makers are often confident in the technical solutions that engineers provide, they almost always will ask whether benefits outweigh costs or which of several alternatives is least costly.” The Grant Award, named for Eugene L. Grant, is awarded for the best paper published in The Engineering Economist. Grant was a professor of economics of engineering at Stanford University whose primary objective, both in the several textbooks he penned and his classroom lectures, was to help students develop practical skills for solving real world problems. Papers considered for the Grant Award are evaluated on originality, importance of the problem they address, logic and clarity, and adequacy of the proposed solution. The Award includes a cash prize of $1000. Bursic will receive the Award at the ASEE conference in Long Beach, Calif. on July 28, 2021.
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
23
2021

Opening the Door for Women in Engineering at Pitt

All SSoE News, Civil & Environmental, Electrical & Computer, Industrial, MEMS, Student Profiles

When Emmy Lou Haller decided to study engineering at the beginning of the Great Depression in the early 1930s, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “It takes a lot of courage to go into a school where the students are all men.” The numbers have improved since Haller earned her degree in industrial engineering from the University of Pittsburgh. Today, first-year female recruitment in the Swanson School of Engineering is nearing 40 percent, and women represent a third of the undergraduate population and more than a quarter of graduate students. That’s an impressive feat for a discipline that is typically male-dominated – and above the 21.9 percent of women who earned engineering degrees in the U.S., according to a 2018 study by the American Society for Engineering Education. “When I was an undergrad in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech, I was typically one of two or three girls in a classroom of 40 students. I only had two female engineering professors during my entire undergraduate studies,” said Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. “This often led me to feel like I didn’t belong or have what it takes to be a successful engineer.” This feeling partially inspired Hornbostel to become a professor and improve female representation in engineering education. “I want future female engineering students to have a role model and feel like they belong,” she said. “Whenever I teach undergraduates at Pitt, I’m so encouraged by the number of female students in my classroom. I love how they seem so comfortable speaking up and asking questions. Representation truly makes a difference.” Back in 1933 and despite being the only woman among a crowd of male peers, Haller enjoyed her studies and graduated at the top of her class. Coming from a family of engineers and preferring mathematics to dolls, her career choice was destined, but the journey would be difficult. For Haller, who transferred to Pitt from the all-women’s Sweet Briar College after her freshman year, community had to be found outside of the classroom. In addition to her engineering studies, Haller was also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and Quax, a women's honorary science sorority founded by seven female science majors in 1919. Today, more so than in the early 20th century, women at Pitt can still find opportunities to connect with their peers through numerous groups, such as DIVA (Determined Intelligent Victorious Available), a student run organization dedicated to empowering women of color in the Swanson School. Engineering alumna Brianna Pinckney (BS CEE’15) got her first taste of female leadership when she was asked to lead DIVA by her mentor Yvette Moore, director of Pitt EXCEL. “I had no idea this role would unleash an unknown passion to support, challenge and help expose other women to achieving personal and professional opportunities they most likely would not consider for themselves,” she said. “Women-led organizations have also taught me that we (women) don't have to compete for success; we're stronger as a unit by encouraging and celebrating each other and building off of previous success stories.” These organizations have effectively helped women create community and network of support in pursuing research and a career in STEM. Confidence to Succeed Amid New Challenges Haller’s research at Pitt included studying downtown department stores and determining the amount of light that attracts the most public attention to store window displays. She hoped to continue research in Pittsburgh after graduation and was optimistic about her prospects. “I think the average woman can accomplish more with a buttonhook or a hair pin than the average man does with the aid of a step ladder, a whole set of tools and a wife to hand him things,” she said in the Post-Gazette article. Haller’s enthusiasm for engineering and bold career move helped open the door for other women to enter the field; however, for some, the journey still is not simple. “As a female engineer, we are often told to quickly establish our presence and find our voice amongst the sea of men in our industry; as a minority female, the pressure to define your role and prove your worth is only intensified,” Pinckney said. “With more than five years of industry experience under my belt, I've challenged myself to engage in conversations and opportunities that positively highlight my knowledge, experience and ultimately my worth as a team member.” As the field continues to grow and adapt to the changing workforce, leaders and mentors play a pivotal role in motivating and inspiring people of all genders, races, and backgrounds. “Having a support system through EXCEL, DIVA, and our advisor Ms. Moore has been crucial to my success as an engineer,” said Fodun Ologunde, a senior computer engineering student who also serves as a leader and social media chair of DIVA. “From professional workshops to wellness seminars, the ladies created a safe space and provided the motivation to keep going. It is always encouraging to engage with women who have shared experiences and who genuinely care about my success and wellbeing as an engineer and also as a friend.” During Women’s History Month and the 175th anniversary of the Swanson School of Engineering, the university community can also celebrate 98 years of women in engineering at Pitt. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished in the Swanson School, and it is a legacy which I think Emmy Lou Haller would be tremendously proud,” said Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Industrial Engineering. “However, we still have a way to go to not only have parity, but to improve equity within the field itself. To do that, we will continue to recruit the next generation of women engineering students to Pitt.” # # # Image 1: Katherine Hornbostel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials scienceImage 2: Brianna Pinckney (BS CEE’15), Business Development Engineer, Turner ConstructionImage 3: Fodun Ologunde, a senior computer engineering student and leader and social media chair of DIVAImage 4: Mary Besterfield-Sacre, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Industrial Engineering, and Director of the Engineering Education Research Center

Mar
18
2021

For Women’s History Month, Women in STEM Share Their Journeys

Bioengineering, Chemical & Petroleum, Civil & Environmental, Industrial, MEMS, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 18, 2021) — The path for women in STEM fields has historically been fraught with obstacles that their male counterparts may not have had to face. The path is a bit clearer today thanks to the women who walked it before: women like Rachel Carson, the marine biologist and environmentalist; Katherine Johnson, the space scientist who made the Apollo 11 flight possible; and Edith Clarke, the first professionally employed female electrical engineer in the U.S. On Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in celebration of Women’s History Month, a panel of women from the Swanson School of Engineering will discuss their own paths to success as women in STEM and higher education. The six faculty and staff members will discuss their journeys and lessons learned while building their fruitful careers. The panel, “My Journey, My Story: The Path to Success for Women in STEM and Higher Education,” is presented by the Swanson School of Engineering Office of Diversity. The discussion is open to all members of the Swanson School. You can find more information and RSVP here. PANELISTS: Xinyan Tracy Cui, Professor of Bioengineering Tracy Cui runs NTE Lab, where they investigate and develop tools that interface with the nervous system for neuroscience research or clinical diagnosis and therapies. One major thrust of the lab research is to understand and modulate neural tissue interactions with smart materials and biosensors—an effort that can be applied to several fields of research, including neural electrode/tissue interface, neural tissue engineering, implantable biosensors and drug delivery. The NTE Lab also designs advanced functional biomaterials and electrode devices that will intimately integrate with the host neural tissue. They simultaneously develop rigorous methods to comprehensively and accurately evaluate these novel materials and devices. Related news: $2.37M NIH Award to Deliver Improved Neural Recording Technology Katherinetarget="_blank" Hornbostel, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science On the way to renewable energy, there will still be a need for traditional power plants, like natural gas and coal, to keep the electrical grid stable during the transition. Katherine Hornbostel’s research focuses primarily on making those traditional energy sources cleaner through carbon capture technology. Her research group investigates materials for post-combustion carbon capture and direct air capture. Another project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program will model a novel plant that can capture more carbon dioxide from the air than it produces, making it carbon-negative. Related news: New Research Led by Pitt Analyzes Modeling Techniques for Carbon Capture Technology Gena Kovalcik, Co-Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation (MCSI) focuses on sustainability initiatives and practices through the development and integration of curriculum, groundbreaking research, community outreach and innovation. Gena Kovalcik has led MCSI since 2003, when she joined as Codirector of Administration and External Relations. Kovalcik was also recently selected as Strategic Advisor to the Dean of the Swanson School of Engineering. In this new position, Gena will play an important role in helping to formalize and lead development of the Swanson School’s strategic processes and operationalizing its strategy across all units. In addition to her work at Pitt, Kovalcik serves as a member of the Allegheny County Green Action Team, which provides high-level, strategic input to Allegheny County officials to better support regional sustainability. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Pittsburgh Green Innovators. Related news: https://www.engineering.pitt.edu/MCSI/News/ Carla Ng, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering There are tens of thousands of industrial chemicals currently in commerce—the majority of which were not carefully evaluated to understand their toxicity, bioaccumulation potential, or persistence. As researchers continue to discover environmental contaminants, Carla Ng’s lab works to effectively screen these potentially dangerous substances. Ng’s group works at the intersection of biology and chemistry to understand and predict the fate of chemicals in the environment. They build and validate models for legacy and emerging chemicals at multiple scales, from molecules to organisms to global systems. Recent news: Mapping PFAS Contamination in Packaged Food Cheryl Paul, Director of Engineering Student Services and Graduate Student Ombudsperson In her dual role assisting undergraduates and as the school’s graduate Ombudsperson, Cheryl Paul provides support to engineering students as they navigate academic and life challenges. Additionally, Paul extensively consults with staff, faculty, and parents in situations where extra assistance is required. As a member of Pitt’s Campus Crisis Support Team, the Care & Resource Support group, & the LGBTQI+ Task Force, she is invested in leading the effort to improve student’s educational experiences with care & compassion. Paul’s work has been widely recognized by her peers. In 2013, she received the Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence for her work assisting student organizations.To honor this work, Pitt’s Fraternity and Sorority Life recently named the Cheryl Paul Professional Academic Mentor of the Year Award after her. Anne Robertson, William Kepler Whiteford Endowed Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science Anne Robertson joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1995, where she was the first female faculty member in Mechanical Engineering. Her research is focused on understanding the relationship between biological structure and mechanical function of soft tissues with a particular focus on vascular tissues. She directs a multi-institution program on cerebral aneurysms that is supported by the NIH and served a four-year term as a standing member of the Neuroscience and Ophthalmic Imaging Technologies (NOIT) Study Section of the NIH. Robertson is founding Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence in the Swanson School of Engineering at Pitt, which takes the lead in developing and implementing programs to enhance the effectiveness of junior faculty in building outstanding academic careers. She was recently promoted to Associate Dean of Faculty Development so that she can expand this work to include recently promoted Associate Professors. Dr. Robertson is a strong supporter of diversity-related initiatives and in 2007, she received the Robert O. Agbede Faculty Award for Diversity in the Swanson School. Related news: Pitt and Mayo Clinic Discover New, Immediate Phase of Blood Vessel Restructuring After Aneurysm
Maggie Pavlick
Mar
1
2021

Pitt’s Manufacturing Assistance Center Expands to Pitt Titusville and Partners with Conturo Prototyping in Homewood

Industrial, Office of Development & Alumni Affairs, Diversity

PITTSBURGH (March 1, 2021) … In a strategic move to adapt to the economic challenges of COVID-19 while providing greater reach and more flexible programming, the University of Pittsburgh’s Manufacturing Assistance Center (MAC) will expand its program to Pitt’s Titusville campus while launching a new hands-on partnership with Conturo Prototyping LLC in Homewood. The restructuring extends the MAC’s career training and placement program to prospective students in Crawford and surrounding countries, and links with Conturo Prototyping to continue to provide the hands-on curriculum to students in Homewood. Remote learning will still be provided from the MAC’s current home location at 7800 Susquehanna Street, and eventually extended to the Community Engagement Center (CEC) in Homewood and the Hill District CEC . Additionally, the curriculum will be made more accessible for working students by front-loading the three-week computer-based sessions, followed by a three-week machine program. Since many of the MAC’s students are adult learners with different time constraints than traditional students, the shift to a 50-50 hybrid model and compressed curriculum will be more accessible. “This restructuring is an exciting urban-rural partnership that will expand the reach of the University of Pittsburgh in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Catherine Koverola , Pitt-Titusville president. “We look forward to continuing to work with all of our hub partners to bring to fruition this innovative educational model, which will help to meet the education and workforce needs of our neighbors in the Titusville region.” Bopaya Bidanda , co-founder of the MAC and department chair of industrial engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, explained that COVID-19 required a reimagination of the MAC’s day-to-day operations by integrating virtual learning with the instruction of competitive manufacturing skills. “There continues to be a pressing need for advanced manufacturing training both in the city and across Pennsylvania’s rural counties, especially those surrounding Pitt’s Titusville campus. By streamlining our delivery system, we can reach more students while operating more efficiently within our resource constraints,” Bidanda said. “COVID-19 created a financial hardship for our operating model and so pivoting to an online curriculum and a shorter, intensified hands-on component allows us to reformat the MAC, serve a greater population, and more quickly get our graduates in front of employer demand.” Bidanda added that the MAC will be another strong component for the Titusville Education and Training Hub and further support workforce training in Crawford and surrounding counties. The University in 2018 began its transition of the Titusville campus to a community-focused resource with a combination of traditional college courses and vocational training, with both academic and corporate partners. The MAC’s new partnership with Conturo Prototyping, according to company founder and Swanson School alumnus John Conturo, helps to solve three obstacles: maintaining the MAC’s presence in Homewood; providing accessible training for communities east of the City; and addressing the “skills gap” in the machining and manufacturing industries. “Over the past few decades there has been a sharp decrease in the number of individuals pursuing trades rather than a traditional 4-year degree, especially in manufacturing. Because of this, the skills gap is making it difficult to keep up with demand for precision parts and machining services. If the workforce to address that demand doesn't exist, we need to create it,” Conturo explained. Indeed, Conturo and his company were planning on developing their own advanced training facility and curriculum until he learned that a partnership with the MAC would address public, private, and community needs. “I’ve employed a handful of MAC students, so I know the quality of students that come out of the program. By creating this partnership with the MAC, I can expand to a new facility in Homewood to accommodate more full-time staff and resources; absorb the classes currently offered; provide more advanced resources for hands-on training in a state-of-the-art facility; and provide a stronger, successful resource for Homewood and surrounding communities.” Lina Dostilio , associate vice chancellor for community engagement, noted that Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers (CECs) will be an important resource that was unavailable when the MAC relocated to Homewood from Harmar Township in 2018. “The CECs will lift some of the burden from the MAC’s operational structure,” she explained. “We can help to market the MAC to prospective students, especially in the city’s underserved neighborhoods, and will include virtual programming through our CEC in the Hill’s Digital Inclusion Center. The delivery of the online interface, any proctoring or office hours, and educational support will still be led by the MAC.” Bidanda noted that most student costs are absorbed through external funding, including grants, workforce redevelopment funds, trade adjustment, and the GI Bill. The MAC’s placement rate for graduates is a healthy 95%. James R. Martin II , U.S. Steel Dean of Engineering at Pitt, emphasized that this new model maintains the MAC’s mission and Pitt’s commitment to the communities it serves while addressing employer demand for workforce manufacturing skills. “The strength of a major university like Pitt is its ability to see beyond traditional academics and research to support the people who live in its communities and to provide lifelong learning skills,” Martin said. “Engineering in particular, which throughout history has helped people develop tools and new learning that then advance society, is the perfect conduit for connecting people with the knowledge they need to advance their own lives. The disruption caused by COVID-19 has forced academia and industry alike to regroup and develop new programs that address the needs of the communities we serve. I am incredibly proud of how the MAC, Dr. Koverola, the CECs, and John have come together to develop what I think will be a stronger program than when we started.  This is a win-win all around.” ### About Conturo Prototyping LLCConturo Prototyping is a precision manufacturing company located in the East End. With a specialty in producing complex machined components, Conturo plays a vital role in the local technology ecosystem by providing parts for autonomous vehicles, cutting edge robotics, moon landers and much much more.  The business was founded in 2016 by Pittsburgh native, John Conturo after he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Since inception, the enterprise has experienced rapid growth and now occupies 17,000 sq ft with a staff of 21 full time machinists, engineers, technicians and administrators across both of locations in Pittsburgh, PA and Boston, MA.

Feb

Feb
10
2021

Origami Powered by Light

Industrial, MEMS

PITTSBURGH (Feb. 10, 2021) — If you watch the leaves of a plant long enough, you may see them shift and turn toward the sunlight through the day. It happens slowly, but surely. Some man-made materials can mimic this slow but steady reaction to light energy, usually triggered by lasers or focused ambient light. New research from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University has discovered a way to speed up this effect enough that its performance can compete against electrical and pneumatic systems. “We wanted to create machines where light is the only source of energy and direction,” explained M. Ravi Shankar, professor of industrial engineering and senior author of the paper. “The challenge is that while we could get some movement and actuation with light-driven polymers, it was too slow of a response to be practical.” When the polymer sheet is flat, the light animates it slowly, curving or curling over time. The researchers found that by forming the polymer into a curved shape, like a shell, the bending action happened much more quickly and generated more torque. “If you want to move something, like flip a switch or move a lever, you need something that will react quickly and with enough power,” said Shankar, who holds a secondary appointment in mechanical engineering and materials science. “We found that by applying a mechanical constraint to the material by confining it along on the edges, and embedding judiciously thought-out arrangements of molecules, we can upconvert a slow response into something that is more impulsive.” The researchers used a photoresponsive azobenzene-functionalized liquid crystalline polymer (ALCP) film that is 50 micrometers thick and several millimeters in width and length. A shell-like geometry was created by confining this material along its edges to create a curve. Shining light on this geometry folds the shell at a crease that spontaneously nucleates. This folding occurs within tens of milliseconds and generates torque densities of up to 10 newton-meters per kilogram (10Nm/kg). The light driven response is magnified by about three orders-of-magnitude in comparison to the material that was flat. “The outcomes of the project are very exciting because it means that we can create light powered actuators that are competitive with electrical actuators,” said Kaushik Dayal, coauthor and professor of civil and environmental engineering at CMU. “Our approach towards scaling up the performance of light-driven polymers could reinvent the design of fully untethered soft robots with numerous technological applications,” added lead author and post-doctoral researcher at CMU Mahnoush Babaei. The paper, "Torque-dense Photomechanical Actuation,” (DOI: 10.1039/D0SM01352H) was published in the journal Soft Matter.
Maggie Pavlick