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Auburn University’s Pradeep Lall to lead national manufacturing center on harsh environment electronics

Auburn University has been selected to lead a national manufacturing effort on harsh environment electronics as part of a U.S. Department of Defense led flexible hybrid electronics institute.

On Friday, Aug. 28, at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced a cooperative agreement to the research consortium FlexTech Alliance to establish and manage a Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Flexible Hybrid Electronics, or FHE MII.

FlexTech Alliance, based in San Jose, California, will coordinate the FHE MII, which comprises 96 companies, 11 laboratories and non-profits, 43 universities and 15 state and regional organizations. Auburn University will head the only node in the state of Alabama.

Leading Auburn’s node on harsh environments is Pradeep Lall, the John and Anne MacFarlane endowed professor of mechanical engineering and director of Auburn’s NSF Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics, or CAVE.

“This establishment will provide engineers with the integrated skills and theoretical background for the manufacture of flexible hybrid electronics for extreme environment applications,” said Lall. “It will create intellectual property and expenditures on research, education and related activities, as well as catalyze development of technologies which can be manufactured in the state. We have developed strategic partnerships with industry and research labs in Alabama and nationally for development and demonstration of technologies for harsh environment operation.”

The institute will be awarded $75 million in federal funding over a five-year period and is being matched by more than $96 million in cost sharing from non-federal sources including private companies, universities, not-for-profit organizations and several states, including Alabama.

“The strength of the institute will stem from the strong support and previous work of our partner organizations,” said Michael Ciesinski, CEO of FlexTech Alliance. “Auburn University’s strong work in utilizing electronics in harsh environments will lend the institute a huge advantage in the special needs for that environment. We look forward to collaborating with the excellent team there and the CAVE facility.”

In addition to defense, the institute’s activities will benefit a wide range of markets including automotive, communications, consumer electronics, medical devices, health care, transportation and logistics and agriculture.

“I am pleased that Auburn University is a partner in this national organization, and that Dr. Lall is leading the way for its initiatives on harsh environments,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “The institute represents an innovative collaboration between the public and private sectors and has the potential to make a huge impact on our nation as we continue to embrace advanced manufacturing.”

The new institute is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation program. The FHE MII is the seventh manufacturing innovation institute announced and the fifth under Department of Defense management. The institutes are intended to bridge the gap between applied research and large-scale product manufacturing, and it is anticipated that Auburn’s harsh environment node will create technologies for the benefit of the nation’s commercial and national defense interests.

By: Morgan Stashick

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Auburn doctoral student and entrepreneur known around the globe for her seafood businesses

Auburn Graduate Student

When she was asked to join some of the world’s best-known senior scientists as a presenter at the 2012 gathering of the World Aquaculture Society, Noe Noe Lwin stole the show. Then just 31 years old, the teacher-turned-entrepreneur captivated the crowd with the story of her challenges and triumphs as a young, female immigrant starting an aquaculture supply company, three seafood farms and a seafood trading business in Thailand—all with no prior experience in the industry and while speaking a second language.

Widely known in aquaculture circles around the globe, Lwin is now a student in Auburn’s School of Fisheries, Aquaculture and Aquatic Sciences, where she hopes to fulfill her father’s last wish for her—that she adds a Ph.D. to her already outstanding resume.

But it is not just her father’s dying wish that motivates Lwin in her studies and research. As a small business owner in an industry that is vital to her home country, Myanmar, and neighboring Thailand, Lwin understands the need for innovation on crab farms like the three she owns and operates.

“I want to understand the science behind my daily farming activities,” she explained. “Aquaculture requires expert management and precise activity. Being a small scale farmer and business owner, I feel that innovation is the only way for me to keep going since I do not have much investment money.”

And innovation is at the heart of her doctoral research. Studying under Professor Allen Davis and Associate Professor Bill Daniels, Lwin aims to develop a practical feed for farm-raised mangrove crabs, a popular and important food source throughout much of the world. Specifically, she is examining the physiology of the digestive system of the crabs, hoping to identify key enzymes and nutritional pathways.

Once she’s accomplished this, she will test the digestibility of several ingredients typically used in aquaculture diets, then test to see whether the various formulations she’s created meet the animal’s dietary needs. Eventually, she plans to manufacture the feed and conduct trials to determine which formulas result in the fastest growth and highest survival rates.

While all of this sounds like the work of someone who has dreamed of being an aquaculture researcher for years, Lwin actually stumbled into the role while in Bangkok, doing what she had always planned to do—teaching science to children. She had learned of the need for an aquaculture supply business in her home city of Yangon, Myanmar, while completing her master’s degree, and together with an uncle and his prawn-farming boss, Lwin set up her first business. While she was in Bangkok, she would purchase the items the men suggested, then ship them home to Yangon, near the Thai border, for sale to the seafood farmers there.

In her presentation to the World Aquaculture Society and in conversations with colleagues today, Lwin describes the obstacles she has overcome as a foreigner, a female and a novice trying to break into the aquaculture industry. She has had to learn to manage employees, often acting as interpreter at medical clinics for her Burmese employees living and working in Thailand. Managing cash flow and keeping accurate records are daily challenges as well.

As a small-scale producer, Lwin does not have the capital to qualify for bank loans and so, must balance income and payments daily. In an industry where most deals are made with a handshake and very few written records are kept, Lwin says bookkeeping is an on-going effort that keeps her up into the night, making careful notes of the day’s transactions.

She has faced discrimination rooted in racial and ethnic prejudice but has made every effort to prove herself an honest and positive person, efforts she says have paid off in the seven years since she began her first farm.

During those seven years, she also witnessed the impact of Auburn aquaculture researchers’ work in Southeast Asia and came to know it as the world’s leading fisheries and aquaculture program. When given the challenge by her father to pursue a Ph.D., she knew immediately that Auburn was the school she would attend.

“It has been my long-time dream to come and study in Auburn,” she said, though she did not know how she would afford to do so.

Shortly after being admitted to Auburn’s program in 2014, she learned of a fellowship program that could be the answer to her funding challenges. Henry Fadamiro, assistant dean and director of the College of Agriculture’s Office of Global Programs, brought the opportunity to the attention of Daniels and encouraged Lwin and her major professors to pursue the opportunity.

In March, Lwin received word that she had been selected for the prestigious Faculty for the Future Fellowship. Sponsored by the Schlumberger Foundation, the program provides funding for women from developing countries to pursue doctoral degrees in the top programs at U.S. universities. The program requires that upon completing her degree, she return to her home country to apply what she has learned—something she planned to do anyway.

“Since her arrival, I have been amazed by [Noe Noe’s] enthusiasm and dedication to her goal to obtain her Ph.D. and return to Myanmar to lead development of the aquaculture and fisheries industries,” said Daniels. “She continues to emphasize the need for the Ph.D. to enter the university system in Myanmar and have a greater impact on the country’s development. She truly desires to move her country forward and be a mentor to others, particularly the women of Myanmar.”

By: Mary Catherine Gaston

Auburn University enhancing commerce and research through unmanned aircraft systems

Unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, are more than a passing hobby—Auburn University officials believe they could be a key component in the nation’s commerce and research.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers recently received a firsthand look at the potential when Auburn University Aviation Center officials demonstrated rotary-wing and fixed-wing unmanned aircraft, showing how they can be used in business and industry, as well as in research areas such as engineering, building science and agriculture.

“Auburn leads the nation in UAS technology, and I’m excited by the opportunities it will create for both Alabama and the nation,” Rogers said.

Earlier this year Auburn received the nation’s first FAA approval to operate a new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight School as part of its Aviation Center. The FAA approval requires that operators of unmanned aircraft pass a written exam and a flying test, both of which Auburn will administer through its flight school.

“The potential is immense,” said Bill Hutto, Aviation Center director. “Unmanned aircraft systems can safely and efficiently inspect bridges and construction projects, conduct search-and-rescue operations and play a key role in precision agriculture.”

In agriculture, unmanned aircraft systems equipped with sensors, such as infrared cameras, can quickly and easily monitor the health of crops and work in conjunction with GPS-guided ground equipment that can deliver resources—water, pesticides and fertilizer—precisely where they are needed.

“Precision agriculture techniques can save time and money and increase yields and profits for agribusiness,” said Steve Taylor, head of Auburn’s Department of Biosystems Engineering. “These tools will have a major impact in many areas, not only for agricultural crops but also for better management of our forests.”

Auburn will conduct UAS flight training on campus and around the state for Auburn students and faculty, members of public agencies and the general public. Hands-on training covers basic flight maneuvers through obstacle courses, while classroom work covers the proper uses for unmanned aircraft, FAA rules and regulations and how to pursue FAA approval to fly commercially. The first class is tentatively set to begin later this month at Auburn.

The university has been involved in aviation education for more than 80 years and has been providing fight training for pilots for nearly 75 years. Auburn offers three aviation/aerospace degrees: aviation management, professional flight management and aerospace engineering.

More information is available on the Auburn University Aviation Center website at http://www.auburn.edu/aviationcenter.

Published: 08/11/2015

By: Charles Martin
Video by: Kevin Fichtner

Auburn University agreement opens door with Korean automotive industry

Auburn University President Jay Gogue has signed a memorandum of understanding with Youngsoo Lee, president of KITECH, to formalize the joint research efforts of Auburn’s faculty and labs with local companies supported by KITECH.

The Korea Institute of Technology, or KITECH, recently documented collaboration in research and technology development with Auburn University to support the Korean automotive industry. Established in 1989, KITECH is a government funded research and development institute headquartered in Cheonan, South Korea, with several research centers in Korea, as well as international cooperation centers in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Germany and Santa Clara, California.

“This signing creates a portal for Auburn University that facilitates our collaboration with the local automotive industry, the parent companies in Korea and the Korean government,” said Andy Gillespie, Auburn University assistant provost for international programs. “Our King Sejong Institute, in partnership with Keimyung University, is our cultural bridge to Alabama’s Korean and American communities, and our new relationship with KITECH will become our technical bridge, building on recent efforts by a number of Auburn’s colleges and offices.”

Other visitors present at the signing were Byung-Wook Choi, director of the KITECH USA Technology Cooperation Center; Sangkug Lee, director of the International Cooperation Department; Minjin Kim, researcher for the KITECH USA Technology Cooperation Center; and SangWoo Lee, administrator in the International Cooperation Department.

In 2014, the Office of University Outreach held a workshop for local companies supported by KITECH. With this declaration of a commitment to joint research, the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development continue this collaboration with its involvement.

“There are over 60 Korean companies along the I85 Corridor between Montgomery and West Point, Georgia,” said Larry Fillmer, executive director of the Department of External Engagement and Support. “This MOU provides a framework for collaboration among KITECH subject matter experts and Auburn faculty and researchers.”

Throughout the last five years, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering professor Song-Yul ‘Ben’ Choe has been working with the Office of International Programs and KITECH to establish a regional office in Auburn for joint research and development efforts for the Korean automotive industry.

“Through supporting agreements, research projects, technical assistance, facilities and labs at Auburn may be shared to provide operational and manufacturing solutions to problems being encountered by Korean companies in our immediate region,” said Fillmer. “In the future, KITECH may seek to establish an office and operations in the Auburn University Research Park.”

by Sarah Phillips

Auburn University and NASA sign Space Act Agreement on additive manufacturing

John Mason, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Auburn University and Patrick Scheuermann, Center Director, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, today sign joint space act agreement on additive manufacturing

John Mason, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at Auburn University and Patrick Scheuermann, Center Director, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, today sign joint space act agreement on additive manufacturing

Auburn University and NASA today signed a Space Act Agreement to explore and advance the applications of additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.

The signing took place during the university’s forum on additive manufacturing, a process that uses 3-D printing to make a three-dimensional part or instrument, providing substantial technological advances and cost savings over traditional manufacturing methods. The forum was co-sponsored by Auburn University and the City of Auburn Industrial Development Board.

“Additive manufacturing is a major advancement for the future direction for the nation’s industries,” said John Mason, Auburn University vice president for research and economic development. “The partnership with NASA is an excellent opportunity to engage and leverage each other’s capabilities and expertise.”

The Space Act Agreement, in addition to focusing on additive manufacturing, is designed to advance STEM disciplines – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – by engaging students and teachers in NASA’s missions and opportunities; investigate and develop technologies; and share facilities, capabilities and technical expertise.

“As we continue developing the agency’s powerful new rocket, the Space Launch System, for deep-space missions to an asteroid and a journey to Mars, additive manufacturing techniques are making it possible to create and test innovative new designs quickly and affordably,” said Patrick Scheuermann, director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “Marshall is also pioneering the use of 3-D printers in space, and the recycling and sustainability of advanced manufacturing materials needed to enable long-term missions. We’re pleased to partner with industry and academia as we focus on technologies that not only are central to the nation’s space mission but also benefit aerospace and other activities on Earth.”

The Marshall Center has used additive manufacturing to build and test rocket engine components and manufacture the first 3-D printed parts aboard the International Space Station. These parts are currently undergoing testing at Marshall.

Auburn’s forum, “Additive Manufacturing, the Next Industrial Revolution,” brought together leaders from the private sector, academia and government to explore opportunities and challenges of using this advanced technology in manufacturing. Greg Morris, general manager of additive technologies with GE Aviation in Cincinnati, gave the keynote address. GE Aviation is bringing high-volume additive manufacturing to its facility in the city of Auburn to manufacture jet engine fuel nozzles.

“We are establishing partnerships with highly innovative businesses and organizations to spur economic growth throughout the state and region,” Auburn’s Mason said. “These relationships benefit our students with learning experiences, while companies benefit from the practical, applied solutions developed through research conducted by faculty and students.”

The Auburn University Shellfish Lab: Putting Science to Work along the Northern Gulf Coast

The Eastern oyster industry in the United States produces 23 million pounds of oysters annually valued at $82.5 M.  The Gulf of Mexico typically accounts for 89% of harvest by volume, but represents only 73% of the total dollar value.  Experts at the Auburn University Shellfish Lab in Mobile County, Alabama are working to change that.

Despite the dramatic growth of oyster farming across the US, in the Gulf of Mexico region, oysters are only farmed extensively on bottom leases with the vast majority of production concentrated in Louisiana. Subject to environmental variability, the supply and quality of extensively farmed oysters varies widely. In contrast, oyster farmers using intensive, off-bottom methods focus on producing a steady supply of consistently premium oysters for the lucrative half shell niche market.

Off-bottom oyster farming, where watermen raise hatchery-reared oyster ‘seed’ in various containers, is an opportunity for a viable near-shore domestic aquaculture industry that can provide a large economic boon to the coastal communities along the Northern Gulf, to the producers as well as to the local  supporting industries, can improve the environment, and can preserve working waterfronts. While substantial industries (over $100 million/year respectively) have been established on the US East and West coasts, a number of hurdles kept this industry from being established along the Gulf coast, including Alabama.

Beginning in 2009, Auburn University’s Marine Extension and Research Center and Auburn University Shellfish Lab’s Dr. Bill Walton, partnered with Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, began to tackle the hurdles to this industry in Alabama, conducting research to identify the most cost-effective methods of raising oysters best suited to the region. Auburn partnered with a number of industry members to share the results and identify research priorities moving forward. This led to additional research into culture methods, marketing aspects, permitting questions and food safety. In addition, Auburn University permitted a 32-acre oyster farm ‘business park’ and conducted a hands-on training program where participants established commercial oyster farms within this park.

Building off this one business park, nine new commercial oyster farms have been established in Alabama, with a 2014 harvest value exceeding $500,000, which is expected to exceed $1 million in 2015, increasing incomes and generating local jobs.

To learn more, check out a couple of short but really great videos: Redefining Gulf Oysters and For the Love of Oysters: Alabama’s Oyster Farmers.

Articles about these efforts can also be found in Auburn Speaks: On Food Systems, Auburn Speaks: On Water, and Auburn Speaks: The Oil Spill of 2010 available from the Auburn Speaks Store.

Auburn Research Advisory Board Member, Dr. Paul Lioy passes away

Dr Paul Lioy

It is with profound sadness that we share the news of the sudden passing of dedicated Research Advisory Board member, Paul Lioy on Wednesday, July 8, 2015.  Dr. Lioy was an active member of the Research Advisory Board and a strong advocate for Auburn Research.  Dr. Lioy was Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of Rutgers University.

As many of you in the scientific community may know, Dr. Lioy was a pioneer in air pollution research and was one of the first scientists to take samples from Ground Zero after the Twin Towers collapsed. He was considered one of the world’s leading experts in personal exposures to toxins and was elected a fellow at the Collegium Ramazzini Environmental and Occupational Medicine and Health, Carpi, Italy, in 1999. Since 2002 Dr. Lioy was one of Information Sciences Institute’s most highly cited scientists in the category of environment and ecology. He was the recipient of numerous national and international awards, including the International Society of Exposure Science Jerome Weslowski Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Ellen Hardin Walworth Medal for Patriotism. Among the many books he authored, he was the most proud of “Dust: The Inside Story of its Role in the September 11th Aftermath.”

Dr. Lioy’s obituary may be found here: http://obits.nj.com/obituaries/starledger/obituary.aspx?pid=175266266

A New York Times article concerning his passing and the significance of his work may be found here:  http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/12/nyregion/paul-lioy-scientist-who-analyzed-9-11-dust-and-its-health-effects-dies-at-68.html?referrer&_r=0

The thoughts and prayers of the Auburn Family are with Dr. Lioy’s family and friends at this difficult time.

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