Bucknell Engineering Research Completed Over the Summer

This past summer, many of our students took advantage of opportunities to work side by side with faculty on a variety of interesting research projects. Below is a sampling of these projects. Students across all of our engineering disciplines, as well as some from non-engineering majors, were guided by faculty in exploring a wide range of topics. By all measures, these experiences have proven to be valuable to those involved.

Project Title: CSCI 187: Creative Computing and Society, A Student-Generated Intro Computer Science Course
Students: Sierra Magnotta ’18, linguistics, Anushikha Sharma ’18, computer science and women’s and gender studies, and Jingya Wu ’19, computer science & engineering
Mentor: Professor Darakhshan Mir, computer science

Brittany Caceres ’19, Jingya Wu ’19, Sierra Magnotta ’18, Professor Darakhshan Mir, and Anushikha Sharma ’18

Goal: We created a new introductory computer science course for non-STEM majors to make computing skills more accessible and engaging to students who might feel intimidated by ‘typical’ computer science courses. We designed the course entirely from scratch. This involved choosing and learning a programming language, making a schedule and list of concepts to cover, creating labs and projects that creatively apply concepts and skills that would be taught in lecture to problems of broader interest, and choosing readings that discuss the impact of computing on society.

This project is based on the precept that students from varied disciplinary backgrounds with intermediate computing knowledge can provide a unique lens to articulate the needs of their fellow students. A student-generated curriculum has the advantage of providing unique insights as to how best engage students and make computing skills more accessible.

Challenges: Since we had never created a course before, we had to spend a lot of time learning how to equally distribute our main themes (creativity, computing and society) throughout the course.

Highlight: Our course is being offered at Bucknell in fall 2016 and spring 2017.


Project Title: Design of a Versatile Physical Model of Multi-Lymphangion Systems
Student: Luke Riexinger ’17, biomedical engineering
Mentor: Professor James Baish, biomedical engineering


Luke Riexinger ’17

Goal: The lymphatic system plays a critical role in maintaining fluid homeostasis in the body. Collecting lymphatic vessels are composed of individual subunits called lymphangions, which can contract to move the lymph along the vessel. Because each unit functions as both a pump and conduit, the dynamics of multi-lymphangion systems can be highly complex and are poorly understood. The goal of this project is to build a versatile physical model of lymphangions that can mimic various arrangements of multi-lymphangion systems with the ability to obtain information on valve states and flow in the system during various contraction cycles.

Challenges: The biggest challenge I faced was getting the many components to function simultaneously. A digital signal from the computer-controlled solenoid produces a contraction, which produces a flow in the fluid. The fluid flow and pressure differentials were measured and that signal was returned to the computer. These different components had to interact with each other properly, otherwise the data recorded was inaccurate.

Highlight: The highlight of this project was working in conjunction with the Steele Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. I had the opportunity to see the research conducted in that lab and present my portion of the research to researchers there, which gave me a taste of what working in research is like.


Project Title: Granular Jamming Device
Students: Eddie Davis ’18, physics, Kaixiang Shi ’18, mechanical engineering and Ryder Winans, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, aerospace and mechanical engineering
Mentor: Professor Charles Kim, mechanical engineering


Various insert geometries were tested to determine the load bearing capacity in the Granular Jammed Positioner.

Goal: We have been working with a hospital in New York City to develop a prototype device to hold surgical instruments during operations to alleviate the need reduce clutter and improve visibility. The device utilizes granular jamming, which allows for a large range of motion to adjust the device when unjammed, but becomes solid when vacuum pressure is applied.

Challenges: We have noticed some shifting of the retractor when the device is in the “jammed” (solid) state. We are currently working on solving this problem by resetting the granules to eliminate an air pocket that sometimes forms in the device.

Highlight: In experimenting with different materials for a membrane that is part of the device, I learned about silicone injection molding. This included designing and 3-D printing a mold, preparing the silicone and creating the part.


Project Title: Investigating Heat and Mass Transfer Processes in Electronic Cigarettes
Student: Phoebe Belser ’18, chemical engineering
Mentors: Professor Dabrina Dutcher, chemistry and chemical engineering, Professor Jim Baish, biomedical engineering, and Professor Tim Raymond, chemical engineering

Goal: In the quickly progressing e-cigarette industry, the rebuildable drip atomizer (RDA) vape is becoming very popular among experienced vapers. Until very recently there were essentially no regulations in place regarding e-cigarettes, and there are very few studies investigating these devices. We aimed to fully understand how RDAs work, as well as document the risks that accompany them. We then investigated temperature within the atomizer as a function of voltage, the composition of the e-liquid used to produce vapor and saturation of the wick with e-liquid. We further studied wicking speeds and evaporation.

Challenges: When observing temperatures at higher voltages and lower saturations, the e-liquid would often ignite, which required us to use more safety precautions. The coils within the atomizer would also frequently break at very high temperatures, so I needed to make many coils, and reset the atomizer very often.

Highlight: We found that at higher voltages, the e-liquid evaporates faster, leading to the cotton wick drying out. When the cotton is relatively dry the coil will heat to temperatures of several hundred to a thousand degrees Celcius. At these high temperatures, any remaining e-liquid will ignite.


Project Title: Investigation of the Accuracy of Orifice Based Flow Estimates for Pulsating Compressible Flows at Low Temperatures
Student: Kevin VanDelden ’17, mechanical engineering
Mentor: Professor Indranil Brahma, mechanical engineering


Kevin VanDelden ’17

Goal: The measurement of pulsating fluid flow in practical engineering systems continues to be challenging. The goal of this project was to determine the relationship between flow resistance and frequency and amplitude of the pulsations.

Challenges: Designing the project to maximize reproducible, constant results was challenging.

Highlight: I learned some new tricks in Matlab and gained some skills with labVIEW design software. It was helpful to continue using a program that the curriculum uses so often, such as Matlab.


Project Title: Microfluidic Devices to Quantify Cellular Chemotaxis
Student: Roland Crystal ’19, mechanical engineering
Mentor: Professor Brandon Vogel, chemical engineering

Goal: Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an aggressive type of brain tumor characterized by a low survival rate. Current forms of treatment, which include chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, are not always effective due to the size, scatter and location of the tumors. GBM treatment is made more difficult by its proximity to the vasculature, which promotes cell proliferation and tumor migration.

The research project that I worked on is in collaboration with the Geisinger Center for Health Research to create microfluidic devices to enable the researchers at Geisinger to test a chemotactic factor that is supposed to attract the Glioblastoma cells for easy treatment or removal.

Highlight: The highlight of the summer project was experimenting with methods other than photolithography to improve the process of creating microfluidic devices. I had the opportunity to use my SolidWorks skills that I learned the previous semester in my MECH 202 class.

Additional Info: I am continuing this research project this fall.


Project Title: Ready, Set, Fit
Student: Sam Greenberg ’18, Computer Engineering
Mentor: Professor M. Stu Thompson, electrical and computer engineering

Goal: The goal of this project was to create an Android app to serve as a proof of concept for a health and wellness app that combines fitness with cultural and historic data updates, which provide an incentive for users to exercise.

Challenges: Learning the application programming interfaces for Android development was often very challenging because they are not well documented.

Highlight: I learned a lot about working on teams and with clients on software development.


Project Title: Sightline
Student: Jordan Sechler ’19, computer science and engineering
Mentor: Professor Evan Peck, computer science

Goal: In this joint project with Dr. Lane Harrison at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, we want to leverage the internet’s existing ecosystem of rich interactive data visualizations to answer interesting questions about how large groups of people interact with large groups of data visualizations.

Challenges: It was a challenge to learn a new programming language and toolset. I learned Elixir in the first few weeks of the summer and used it to build Sightline. It was my first functional language, and it sometimes wasn’t easy to find good resources and documentation.

Highlight: As far as we’re aware, we built the world’s first search engine that automatically collects interactive data visualizations. No one else has gathered a database of visualizations from all over the web.


Project Title: SolarBrite
Student: Omar El-Etr ’19, computer science & engineering
Mentor: Professor Amal Kabalan, electrical & computer engineering


Omar El-Etr ’19

Goal: The solar backpack aims to provide electric power to students who lack access to electricity at night. Due to political strife in Syria, many children sought shelter in refugee camps in Lebanon. In these makeshift camps, access to electric power is scarce and studying at night is almost impossible. Some students solve this problem by using kerosene lamps or try to study under streetlights, both of which are unsustainable and unsafe solutions. The problem is even worse for female students, since they are prevented from going outside during the night for safety reasons. The aim of this project is to solve the problem by providing students access to electric power.

Students can carry the solar backpack with them to school during the day. The backpack is equipped with a small solar panel and a battery and uses the sun of the day to charge the battery. At night the student can use the battery to power an LED light. The goal of the project this summer was to start a fundraising campaign in order to manufacture and send the backpacks to the refugee camps. To accomplish this, a website and a fundraising campaign video were needed. This summer I worked on building the website, which is currently up and running. We are constantly updating its contents to make sure our audience will get the latest updates from the refugee camp. In addition to the website, we have also created a logo to be the face of the company.

Challenges: The biggest challenge that we faced was figuring out how to register the company as a nonprofit organization to open a donations accounts. This created impasse for the second half of the project, since the donations account was a necessity to start online crowdfunding campaigns.

Highlight: I developed an understanding of how I can apply what I learned in my technical classes to solve real-world problems. This project was especially important to me, since my work will affect people’s lives. One of the things that I’m particularly proud of in this project was the logo. Learning how to create it challenged me and made me come out of my comfort zone a lot.


Project Title: Sustainable Transportation and Recreational Project Development: Transportation and Land Use Measures for Public Health Comparisons
Students: Greg Miller ’18, interdepartmental major in public policy, and Maddie Brown ’18, mathematics
Mentor: Professor Michelle Beiler, civil & environmental engineering


Maddie Brown ’18 and Greg Miller ’18

Goal: The goal of this project was to analyze the impact of sustainable transportation and recreational projects, specifically trails, parks and pools, in connection to public health measures. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and field data, network measures as well as project measures were applied to a real-world pilot study. The pilot study included recreational projects funded under Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Community Conservation Partnership Program within four counties in Pennsylvania (Lycoming, Northumberland, Snyder and Union).

Each project was evaluated based on selected transportation network metrics (such as connectivity) as well as project measures (such as demand). The results of these metrics were evaluated using statistical correlation as well as compared to a preliminary public health measure (neighborhood obesity rates).

Challenges: While our pilot study mainly focused on the regions of Lycoming, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties, many of the projects had accessibility buffers extending outside this four-county region. So we ended up having to contact 13 different county GIS departments for household data, all of which stored their data in a variety of formats. Cleaning the data and differentiating residential land use versus mixed/agricultural land use was a challenge; one that we were able to overcome through extensive examination of zoning codes, maps and aerial images.

Highlight: A highlight of this research was the moment when we finally computed the roadway network distance metric. This metric required calculating the average roadway network distance from households to DCNR projects. Given that we were evaluating 77 DNCR projects over a four-county region, we had to use the GIS ModelBuilder, a visual programming language for building geoprocessing workflows, in order to streamline the computation. However, learning how to use ModelBuilder and building the correct model was challenging. After many attempts, we constructed a model we believed would produce the result we needed. After anxiously waiting for the model to finish computing for over an hour, it proved to be a success! After struggling for a few days on this metric, it was especially satisfying to finally figure out how to compute it in GIS.


Project Title: Take a Five
Student: Uttam Kumaran ’18, computer engineering
Mentor: Professor Evan Peck, computer science

Goal: To improve the usability of the website takeafive.com and position the site for increased traffic in the future.

Challenges: I had to learn multiple coding languages and web development standards. This was difficult but helped me increase my ability to research and create projects on my own. It was awesome to see the array of features I could create using the set of tools that I have.

Highlight: I learned to implement new application programming interfaces and discovered new applications of the technology that I would have never thought existed. It was amazing to see that I could accomplish technical feats that are difficult for many developers, especially since I was self-taught.

Additional Info: I want to thank two people: Professor Evan Peck for urging me to pursue this project and mentoring me throughout the summer, and Professor Mike Toole for talking to me about entrepreneurship and the positives of owning your own project.




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