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Engineering Projects

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (Drones) Research Project for High School Students
Dr. Yiannis Ampatzidis

This program will offer high school students the opportunity to work with Unmanned Aerial Vehicle-UAV (drones). The UAV (known as drone), is an aircraft without a human pilot on board. UAVs can be used for aerial surveying of crops/fields, inspecting power lines and pipelines, counting wildlife, search and rescue, deploying packages to customers etc. In this research project, the students will learn how to:

  • build a flying drone using kits
  • operate a drone using a remote control.
  • develop navigation and control algorithms (program a flight path).
  • Collect data from sensors (e.g. camera) in real time

Viscosity measurement of drilling and fracing fluids
Dr. Dayanand Saini

Guar gum, derived from the seeds of guar plant, is used as thickening agent to increase the viscosity of drilling and fracing fluids. High viscosity drilling fluids enable efficient removal of drill cuttings from deep wellbores. Guar gum also reduces friction in the wellbore thus resulting lower power consumption in drilling operations. In hydraulic fracturing operations, increased viscosity of fracing fluids achieved by addition of guar gum powder makes high-pressure pumping and the fracturing process more efficient. Due to recent boom in shale gas and oil production by hydraulic fracturing has increased the demand of environment friendly guar gum to historic high. However, volatility in prices and unstable supply of guar gum has forced oil industry to explore cheap and environment friendly alternatives to guar gum such as natural polymers and other carboxymethyl cellulose and xanthan-based derivatives. In this research project, simple experiments will be performed to measure the rheological properties (shear stress, shear rate, and their ratio i.e. viscosity) of water-based and oil-based drilling and fracing fluids at various temperatures and ambient pressures using rotational viscometer. Guar gum and its substitutes will be mixed in varied proportions to prepare blends of drilling and fracing fluids. Results will be compared to find an optimum and economic blend that has rheological properties similar to guar gum based drilling and fracing fluids. This research project will serve as a base for future research to explore, study, and test various natural polymers and other substitutes for their suitability for achieving rheological properties similar to guar gum at lower cost.

Will it wet? Water repellent surfaces.
Dr. Luis Cabrales

Fluids play an important role in every aspect of our life, from Medical Devices to Manufacturing. In every industrial process, there is an interaction of fluids with surfaces. One of the branches of Materials Science and Engineering, surface science, focuses on studying this interaction. In this project, the participant will perform several experiments to understand how fluids wet surfaces. This is an important phenomenon and the rules which govern it are going to be studied. For example, in nature there are surfaces that are highly water repellent. One example is the surfaces of lotus leaves. In this project, the wettability of natural surfaces, plant leaves, will be studied. Several fluids will be used including water, mixtures of water and ethanol, and some oils. Thus the data of liquids with different surface tensions will be used to understand the properties of the surface. The interaction of these fluids with air will also be analyzed. In addition, the participants will prepare water repellent surfaces in the laboratory. The properties of the surfaces will be studied by analyzing droplets on top of them. The concepts of superhydrophobic, oleophobic (oil repellent) and omniphobic (repels everything) surfaces will be studied and compared with the obtained experimental data. Furthermore, the participants will learn about the basic properties of fluids using a rheometer. This instrument studies the rheological properties of fluids, or how the behave when they are flowing. Liquids with different viscosities, such as oils and polymer solutions will be studied and compared with a simple fluid, in this case water. Thus the participant of this project will learn the fundamentals of fluid properties and also their interaction with surfaces.

Power System Operation with Renewable Energy Resources
Dr. Saeed Jafarzadeh

The United States' needs for electric power are filled predominantly by fossil fuels and nuclear power, resulting in a system that lacks diversity and security, contaminates the environment, threatens public health, jeopardizes the stability of Earth's climate, and discourages energy independence. Fortunately, renewable energy resources can fulfill a significant proportion of America's energy needs, which can help to reduce the impact of many of these problems while providing other important benefits. The average renewable integration in the US is around 15-20% and the percentage is increasing in many states. California in particular, has a long history of support for renewable energy. In 2009, the integration of renewables was 11.6% while another 9.2% was generated from hydro plants. As this percentage increases, California's power systems must be enhanced against possible hazards that endanger the sustainability of the system. The California legislature approved a target of 33% renewables by 2020, which opens abundant career opportunities in the state. Besides all the national motivations for renewables, San Joaquin Valley is highly interested in renewable energies due to their reductive effect on air pollution. The Valley's air quality challenges are unmatched by any other region in the State. Despite major reductions in emissions and corresponding improvements in air quality, the Valley's topography, climate, and geography, combined with the presence of two major transportation corridors connecting northern and southern California, contribute to the region's difficulty in meeting federal health-based standards for particulate matter and ozone. The Valley's extreme non-attainment designation for ozone reflects the significance of these challenges and highlights the needs for renewables. In fact, overcoming the barriers that prevent either the use of zero-emission renewable energy sources or the reduction of emissions from renewable energy systems to make them cleaner than comparable non- renewable alternatives is a major goal for the local community. In this project, we consider the impact of renewable energy on power systems. We also seek solutions for better deployment of renewable energy resources using planning and prediction. In particular, we concentrate on solar and wind energies and we investigate the challenges in their implementation in power systems. Some of the projects from last year's REVS-UP program are shown here.