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Interdisciplinary HEV project

Barry McNamara
A hybrid electric vehicle wasn’t the mode of transportation for two well-traveled Monmouth College students, but their HEV was still a subject of attention at conferences in Vancouver, B.C., and Chicago.

Seniors Rodney Clayton of Plano and Henry Schmidt of Johnsburg recently presented their poster “Low Budget Modeling of HEV (Hybrid Electric Vehicle)” at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Congress and Symposium in Vancouver. They also discussed the poster at the Prairie Section meeting of the American Physical Society, held at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

“This project is an amazing opportunity for these students to work on a scale model of a real-world problem with far-reaching consequences,” said assistant professor of physics Tim Stiles. “It combines physics, engineering and business in a way that allows the students to see the connections between ideas that are often viewed only from one perspective. To me, it is a terrific example of what liberal arts colleges should do with research projects.”

“Attending and presenting our research poster at the ASME Congress was a fantastic experience,” said Schmidt. “The opportunity to receive constructive feedback on our research from engineers and other students in attendance from all over the world was incredible.”

Schmidt said it was “motivating” to see other posters and listen to talks in a wide variety of engineering areas, and he also appreciated the input at the Chicago event.

“Presenting at the APS meeting permitted an opportunity to receive feedback from physicists and allowed us to come up with some new improvements and design modifications to our vehicle,” he said. “The opportunity to take this information and effectively put it into action and make progress on our research is priceless.”

“The ASME Congress was a great experience,” agreed Clayton. “It was the first time that Henry or I had presented a poster like that, and it was a little intimidating being surrounded by professional mechanical engineers. Everyone thought that we had a great idea and was really good about giving us feedback on research and also on our presentation skills.”

Clayton said that after the ASME Congress, he and Schmidt made improvements to their poster.

“At the APS conference, we were better prepared for our presentation and it was also interesting to receive input from a different field of professionals,” he said. “Both conferences were outstanding learning opportunities and amazing experiences.”

Clayton and Schmidt were joined at the APS meeting by a dozen other MC students. Leading the Monmouth contingent were Stiles and physics professor Chris Fasano, who served as chair of the Prairie Section through the end of 2010 and now holds the office of past chair.

“This was only the second year of existence for the Prairie Section of the American Physical Society,” explained Stiles. “The students enjoyed the opportunity to be at a professional meeting of physicists and engage in presentations and poster sessions on a variety of topics. At the conference, the students talked with students and faculty from a variety of institutions and learned a great deal about how physics works.”

Fasano also traveled to New Orleans to attend SC10, the international meeting on supercomputing/high-performance computing. He was accompanied on the trip by associate professor of biology James Godde.