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Student Space Program receives NSF funding to design, build and launch satellites

Auburn Student Scientists

With a National Science Foundation grant secured by Auburn University faculty, undergraduate students at Auburn will design, build and test two CubeSat satellites that will launch into space in 2018.

CubeSats are small satellites that come in multiples of 4-inch cubes. The grant marks the first time the National Science Foundation has awarded a grant for the construction, space launch, and operation of two, three-unit, CubeSats – a project that provides invaluable workforce development experience to Auburn’s undergraduate students.

“To receive this kind of funding from NSF is a real feather in our cap,” said J-M Wersinger, professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and Auburn University Student Space Program director. “The Auburn University Student Space Program is now recognized as offering one of the most prestigious CubeSat programs in the nation.”

Wersinger, along with Mike Fogle, assistant professor in the Department of Physics, will submit a proposal to NASA to obtain a rocket launch that will carry the CubeSats into low Earth orbit for a mission that will last approximately 18 months. The two satellites will undergo many tests and reviews before launch, which will take place in about three years.

“CubeSats are great for research because they are inexpensive to build, you can fly a lot of them at the same time and receive more information and you can look at data in almost real time,” Fogle said.

The student and faculty researchers will ultimately study the structure of powerful gamma-ray flashes associated with thunderstorms in the tropical regions of Earth. Auburn launched its first, single-unit CubeSat, AubieSat-1, into space in October 2011. The two, three-unit CubeSats for the NSF-funded mission are named TRYAD 1 and TRYAD 2. “TRYAD” stands for Terrestrial RaYs Analysis and Detection.

The two CubeSats are currently being designed, built and tested solely by undergraduate student members of the Auburn University Student Space Program under the guidance of faculty in the Department of Physics and the College of Engineering. More than 30 students this semester alone are balancing their classroom obligations with 15 to 20 hours per week working in the lab on TRYAD 1 and TRYAD 2.

“The work pays off because people in industry recognize the program creates future leaders,” Wersinger said. “The students are given a unique, work-force development experience where they work in teams to complete a space experiment, understand the importance of deadlines and gain a basic understanding of management and systems engineering. Also we have worked and continue to work with several NASA partners like Goddard Space Flight Center, Ames Research Center and Marshall Space Flight Center.”

In addition to designing and building TRYAD 1 and 2, Auburn students will be responsible for commanding and controlling the CubeSats in space using the NASA Near Earth Network of ground stations. Through communication with the two satellites, students will also test PULSAR, a new high-bandwidth radio developed by NASA engineers, capable of transmitting 150 million data bits per second.

The project represents a collaboration with University of Alabama Huntsville, and the funding was secured by a team of scientists from UAH and Auburn University, including faculty members Wersinger and Fogle, as well as Daniel Harris, associate professor in Auburn’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and Professor Saad Biaz of Auburn’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering. The grant is in the amount of $893,873 for a project titled, “Collaborative Research: CubeSat: Observing Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flash (TGF) Beams With A Pair Of CubeSats.”

UAH representatives on the project are responsible for developing the science instrument used to detect the gamma-rays while on orbit. They will also collect and analyze the science data, but Auburn University will have access to the data before it is distributed to the scientific community at large.

The Auburn University Student Space Program is part of the College of Sciences and Mathematics. For more information about the college, go to http://www.auburn.edu/cosam/.

Published: 10/08/2015

By: Candis Birchfield

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Driving Discovery to the Marketplace. This is Auburn Research.

At Auburn University, research fuels the engines of innovation.  Our entrepreneurial spirit drives discovery to the marketplace, improving quality of life at home and around the world.

Auburn’s new ‘This is Research: Faculty Symposium 2015’ set for Sept. 30

AUBURN UNIVERSITY — Auburn University will launch its new “This is Research: Faculty Symposium 2015” Sept. 30 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center to recognize research excellence of Auburn and Auburn Montgomery faculty.

“Our researchers are world class and do great work,” said John Mason, Auburn University vice president for research and economic development. “This symposium is a great way to bring them together and showcase their work.”

The event is also designed to provide a forum for collaboration, offer information about support offices on campus and increase the visibility of Auburn research to external constituencies, such as advisory board members, representatives from industry and foundations as well as community members.

“The morning sessions will bring together researchers with common interests,” said Jennifer Kerpelman, chair of the This is Research Symposia Committee. “We want to initiate opportunities for researchers to continue to make connections during the upcoming year.”

Three-minute, morning lightning presentations will cover cyber, energy, health disparities, military-related research, SENCER, applied design, STEM education, climate-earth systems, digital applications, fMRI research, nano-bio research, omics and informatics, data management and visual and literary arts.

A morning research expo will provide information about key research support offices on campus.

“The sessions are designed to increase visibility to both internal and external audiences,” Kerpelman said. “We will have Auburn Talks, posters sessions and opportunities for one-on-one conversations with researchers.”

Fourteen Auburn researchers from across campus will present 10-minute Auburn Talks about their work. The list of presenters and titles is available on the This is Research website (https://cws.auburn.edu/OVPR/pm/thisisresearch/auburntalks).

The afternoon will also have one-on-one sessions to allow attendees to visit with researchers in areas of health, energy, environment, cyber and technology. Another afternoon session will have updates from directors of Auburn’s institutes, centers and initiatives.

The evening portion of the program will include the presentation of the Auburn University Research Advisory Board’s Advancement of Research and Scholarship Achievement Award, followed by the keynote address by Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander and president of Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery. A reception for all attendees will conclude the event.

The “This is Research: Faculty Symposium 2015” is one of two This is Research symposia scheduled this school year. A spring event, “This is Research: Student Symposium 2016,” will be held in April in the Student Center. The two symposia replace the former Research Week which concurrently showcased faculty and student research.

In 2016 a biennial part of the faculty symposium, “Showcasing the Work of Creative Scholarship,” will debut with feature exhibitions and performances.

More details on the 2015 symposia are available on the This is Research website at www.auburn.edu/thisisresearch. For more information, contact Jennifer Kerpelman at kerpejl@auburn.edu.

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

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