Friday, December 18, 2009

Where Computer Meets Brain


In turns out that our brain is remarkably elegant but not especially efficient or reliable -- in its galaxy of 100 billion neurons, synapses fail to fire 30 percent to 90 percent of the time, which is a startling and dismal statistic. But perhaps even worse is a brain that’s firing on all or most cylinders in a body that can’t respond to the brain’s commands. What do you do for people in those situations?

The University of Michigan Direct Brain Interface (DBI) Project is developing plug-and-play brain-computer interfaces that can operate commercially available assistive technology. The Project is at the cutting edge of wide-spread research that, in the last decade, has moved from speculation to the development of devices that enable neurologically disabled patients to play Pong, Twitter, check email, send text messages, change TV channels, steer wheelchairs and even begin to speak.

The research is fascinating for those who look at it only as science. It's inspiring and thrilling for those who're doing the work. But for those whose disabilities this technology might someday overcome, the work is the essence of hope.

Where Computer Meets Brain


In turns out that our brain is remarkably elegant but not especially efficient or reliable -- in its galaxy of 100 billion neurons, synapses fail to fire 30 percent to 90 percent of the time, which is a startling and dismal statistic. But perhaps even worse is a brain that’s firing on all or most cylinders in a body that can’t respond to the brain’s commands. What do you do for people in those situations?

The University of Michigan Direct Brain Interface (DBI) Project is developing plug-and-play brain-computer interfaces that can operate commercially available assistive technology. The Project is at the cutting edge of wide-spread research that, in the last decade, has moved from speculation to the development of devices that enable neurologically disabled patients to play Pong, Twitter, check email, send text messages, change TV channels, steer wheelchairs and even begin to speak.

The research is fascinating for those who look at it only as science. It's inspiring and thrilling for those who're doing the work. But for those whose disabilities this technology might someday overcome, the work is the essence of hope.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Celebrating Flight -- December 17, Wright Brothers Day


On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright slipped the surly bonds of earth when their Wright Flyer became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard.

The brothers launched the Wright Flyer four times on that windy, bitter cold day, from level ground to altitudes of about 10 feet. Orville had the controls for the historic first flight covering 120 feet in 12 seconds at a speed of 6.8 miles per hour. Wilbur climbed aboard for the second flight, which took the Wright Flyer about 175 feet. Orville squeezed out an additional 25 feet in flight number three. The fourth and final flight of the day with Wilbur at the controls was a long-distance marvel -- 852 feet in 59 seconds. 



In 1914, just 11 years after the Wright brothers ignited flight mania, the University of Michigan saw an educational niche to fill and established the first collegiate aeronautics program in the United States. Today, that program ranks third among similar programs throughout the United States.

The Wright Flyer hung in the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries building from 1948 until 1976, when officials moved it to the new National Air and Space Museum. In 1984 and 1985, during a refurbishment to preserve the craft, technicians uncovered a number of surprises that have made the craft all the more interesting.

The Wright brothers were small town businessmen in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where they made and repaired bicycles before developing a technology that helped define the 20th Century. Although the Wright Flyer earned its wings in 1903, it wasn't until 1906 that the U.S. Patent Office granted patent 821393 to the brothers for their "Flying Machine."

Celebrating Flight -- December 17, Wright Brothers Day


On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright slipped the surly bonds of earth when their Wright Flyer became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard.

The brothers launched the Wright Flyer four times on that windy, bitter cold day, from level ground to altitudes of about 10 feet. Orville had the controls for the historic first flight covering 120 feet in 12 seconds at a speed of 6.8 miles per hour. Wilbur climbed aboard for the second flight, which took the Wright Flyer about 175 feet. Orville squeezed out an additional 25 feet in flight number three. The fourth and final flight of the day with Wilbur at the controls was a long-distance marvel -- 852 feet in 59 seconds. 



In 1914, just 11 years after the Wright brothers ignited flight mania, the University of Michigan saw an educational niche to fill and established the first collegiate aeronautics program in the United States. Today, that program ranks third among similar programs throughout the United States.

The Wright Flyer hung in the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries building from 1948 until 1976, when officials moved it to the new National Air and Space Museum. In 1984 and 1985, during a refurbishment to preserve the craft, technicians uncovered a number of surprises that have made the craft all the more interesting.

The Wright brothers were small town businessmen in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where they made and repaired bicycles before developing a technology that helped define the 20th Century. Although the Wright Flyer earned its wings in 1903, it wasn't until 1906 that the U.S. Patent Office granted patent 821393 to the brothers for their "Flying Machine."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rosetta -- Grabbing the Tail of Comet C-G


For decades, researchers relied on modeling to investigate how comets -- loosely assembled icy boulders -- hung together well enough to withstand the tortures of space. However, the European Space Agency-led Rosetta Mission took that research out of the realm of modeling and made a direct assault.

Since 2002, Claudia Alexander, has been the project manager and project scientist of the U.S. Rosetta Project, the NASA contribution to the International Rosetta Mission, which launched an unmanned spacecraft in March 2004 to study comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (C-G). Alexander said that she hopes data from the mission will "help reveal conditions in the primordial solar system, before the planets formed."

"Rosetta has the most instruments of any spacecraft -- that makes it challenging and one of the most exciting missions ever," said Alexander, whose alma mater, the University of Michigan, has a number of investigators involved with two instruments: VIRTIS and ROSINA. Bruce Block  managed the team that built the electronics for VIRTIS, an imaging spectrometer that combines three observing channels in one instrument. Two of the channels are devoted to spectral mapping (mapper optical subsystem), while the third channel is devoted to spectroscopy (high resolution optical subsystem). Tamas Gombosi is the primary investigator analyzing data from VIRTIS. Mike Combi is a co-investigator with the VIRTIS team. Block, Lennard Fisk, K.C. Hansen, Andy Nagy, Martin Rubin, Valerily Tenishev and Hunter Waite are co-investigators analyzing data collected by ROSINA, the main mass spectrometer on the Rosetta orbiter.

The Rosetta spacecraft will intercept C-G in 2014 at a speed of 75,000 miles per hour and become the first spacecraft to soft-land a robot on a comet. Rosetta will also be the first spacecraft to accompany a comet as it enters our inner solar system, observing at close range how the comet changes as the Sun's heat transforms it into the celestial ghost that terrified the ancients, mystified people of the Middle Ages and still baffles scientists who've been waiting for a mission like Rosetta to reveal C-G's inner workings.

Interest in Rosetta waned slightly in the years following launch, but halfway through the 10-year mission, Rosetta has been getting more attention.




Read more about the Rosetta Mission:
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Rosetta -- Grabbing the Tail of Comet C-G


For decades, researchers relied on modeling to investigate how comets -- loosely assembled icy boulders -- hung together well enough to withstand the tortures of space. However, the European Space Agency-led Rosetta Mission took that research out of the realm of modeling and made a direct assault.

Since 2002, Claudia Alexander, has been the project manager and project scientist of the U.S. Rosetta Project, the NASA contribution to the International Rosetta Mission, which launched an unmanned spacecraft in March 2004 to study comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (C-G). Alexander said that she hopes data from the mission will "help reveal conditions in the primordial solar system, before the planets formed."

"Rosetta has the most instruments of any spacecraft -- that makes it challenging and one of the most exciting missions ever," said Alexander, whose alma mater, the University of Michigan, has a number of investigators involved with two instruments: VIRTIS and ROSINA. Bruce Block  managed the team that built the electronics for VIRTIS, an imaging spectrometer that combines three observing channels in one instrument. Two of the channels are devoted to spectral mapping (mapper optical subsystem), while the third channel is devoted to spectroscopy (high resolution optical subsystem). Tamas Gombosi is the primary investigator analyzing data from VIRTIS. Mike Combi is a co-investigator with the VIRTIS team. Block, Lennard Fisk, K.C. Hansen, Andy Nagy, Martin Rubin, Valerily Tenishev and Hunter Waite are co-investigators analyzing data collected by ROSINA, the main mass spectrometer on the Rosetta orbiter.

The Rosetta spacecraft will intercept C-G in 2014 at a speed of 75,000 miles per hour and become the first spacecraft to soft-land a robot on a comet. Rosetta will also be the first spacecraft to accompany a comet as it enters our inner solar system, observing at close range how the comet changes as the Sun's heat transforms it into the celestial ghost that terrified the ancients, mystified people of the Middle Ages and still baffles scientists who've been waiting for a mission like Rosetta to reveal C-G's inner workings.

Interest in Rosetta waned slightly in the years following launch, but halfway through the 10-year mission, Rosetta has been getting more attention.




Read more about the Rosetta Mission:
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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Surveying Tsunami Damage in American Samoa


On September 29th, 2009, an 8.3 magnitude earthquake generated a tsunami that devastated the island of American Samoa. Three waves, the highest reaching almost 36 feet, crushed coastal structures, shorelines and coral reefs, killed 150 people and left a laboratory for researchers who study the mechanics of what is one of the most destructive forces in nature.

Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), Professor Julie Young and a team of researchers in the University of Michigan's Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering surveyed the coastal seabed.


A tsunami, a series of huge waves that travel in all directions from the area of disturbance, can reach heights of 100 feet and travel in the open sea as fast as 450 miles per hour. It ravages not only the visible coastal area but nearby seabed. This video shows some of the underwater wreckage that the American Samoa tsunami left behind -- in the first half you'll see marine debris washed out on to the coral reef offshore of Poloa, a village wiped off the southwest corner of Tutuila, American Samoa, during the tsunami. The debris includes metal sheet roofing, tires, clothing, plastics and other more unusual odds and ends. The second half of this video shows the tsunami-inflicted damage to the coral reef off the coast of Leone, which is also on the southwestern coast of Tutuila.

Surveying Tsunami Damage in American Samoa


On September 29th, 2009, an 8.3 magnitude earthquake generated a tsunami that devastated the island of American Samoa. Three waves, the highest reaching almost 36 feet, crushed coastal structures, shorelines and coral reefs, killed 150 people and left a laboratory for researchers who study the mechanics of what is one of the most destructive forces in nature.

Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), Professor Julie Young and a team of researchers in the University of Michigan's Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering surveyed the coastal seabed.


A tsunami, a series of huge waves that travel in all directions from the area of disturbance, can reach heights of 100 feet and travel in the open sea as fast as 450 miles per hour. It ravages not only the visible coastal area but nearby seabed. This video shows some of the underwater wreckage that the American Samoa tsunami left behind -- in the first half you'll see marine debris washed out on to the coral reef offshore of Poloa, a village wiped off the southwest corner of Tutuila, American Samoa, during the tsunami. The debris includes metal sheet roofing, tires, clothing, plastics and other more unusual odds and ends. The second half of this video shows the tsunami-inflicted damage to the coral reef off the coast of Leone, which is also on the southwestern coast of Tutuila.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Wireless Sensors Make Smart Bridges Smarter


America's infrastructure is sick and getting sicker -- it's simply a matter of age and an inability to know when and where some doctoring is needed. But sensor technology can identify where problems lie.Unfortunately, the sensors that we currently have available to install on bridges are expensive, in great part because only complex wiring can transform individual sensors into a full functioning diagnostic web. The answer to that problem is wireless technology.

Jerry Lynch, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Michigan, is the lead researcher of a team that's pioneering wireless sensors such as Narada, a low-cost device designed for installation in civil structures. Lynch and his students are collaborating with researchers at KAIST to validate the performance of the sensors on bridges in Korea.

Lynch and his colleagues are also experimenting with a paint-like substance made of carbon nanotubes that can be applied to the surface of bridges to detect corrosion and cracks. Since carbon nanotubes conduct electricity by sending a current through the paint, he says, it's possible to detect structural weakness through changes in the electrical properties.



Lynch and his colleagues explained some of their work in the video "Nova Smart Bridges - Nanotech Skin." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwQVpZFfP18

New Wireless Sensors Make Smart Bridges Smarter


America's infrastructure is sick and getting sicker -- it's simply a matter of age and an inability to know when and where some doctoring is needed. But sensor technology can identify where problems lie.Unfortunately, the sensors that we currently have available to install on bridges are expensive, in great part because only complex wiring can transform individual sensors into a full functioning diagnostic web. The answer to that problem is wireless technology.

Jerry Lynch, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of Michigan, is the lead researcher of a team that's pioneering wireless sensors such as Narada, a low-cost device designed for installation in civil structures. Lynch and his students are collaborating with researchers at KAIST to validate the performance of the sensors on bridges in Korea.

Lynch and his colleagues are also experimenting with a paint-like substance made of carbon nanotubes that can be applied to the surface of bridges to detect corrosion and cracks. Since carbon nanotubes conduct electricity by sending a current through the paint, he says, it's possible to detect structural weakness through changes in the electrical properties.



Lynch and his colleagues explained some of their work in the video "Nova Smart Bridges - Nanotech Skin." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwQVpZFfP18

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mark Twain – Author, Inventor and Entrepreneur

When Mark Twain wasn’t writing, he was a dabbler in technology -- a novice inventor and entrepreneur. He once claimed that the name of the greatest inventor was "Accident." But he was very purposeful in finding time amid his prolific literary production to let his imagination lead him to a workshop and hours of tinkering. For his efforts he received several patents.

On December 19, 1871, the U.S. Patent Office granted Twain his first patent (#121,992) for an adjustable strap that could be used to tighten shirts at the waist – he intended to eliminate suspenders, which he thought were uncomfortable. Twain also received patents for a self-pasting scrapbook, which sold more than 25,000 copies, and a history trivia game. (If you have either of these items, contact "The Antiques Road Show"... you'll be very happy that you did.) The process of entrepreneurship excited him so much that it slipped into his work. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, for example, one of his characters said that "a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab, and couldn't travel any way but sideways or backways."

Twain's adjustable straps didn't catch on, the biggest reason being that he approached the problem all wrong. Mohammed Islam, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan, has specialized in the development of patents. He teaches "Patent Fundamentals for Engineers," a class in which he points out that entrepreneurs have to ask themselves, 'What's the pain? Does the problem hurt people enough so that they're willing to pay for the solution? Will the product have a sustainable advantage that's different from other solutions? There has to be a competitive advantage to get beyond the first sale." Twain didn't look beyond his own pain. He needed a broader audience.

Doug Neal, managing director for the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan, agreed, saying that it's "extremely important for entrepreneurs to honestly determine who they're providing what specific value. You have to put yourself in your target customers' shoes and find out if they really see the value your idea brings. Many false starts can be traced to a failure to do this successfully."

Despite his disappointments as an entrepreneur, new technology remained a passion for Twain. The early typewriter, a clumsy configuration of rollers and spindly arms at its inception, consumed him -- he couldn’t keep his hands off it -- and he became the first person to submit a typed manuscript to a publisher. The telephone fascinated and frustrated him -- he spent hours on the line. But service was particularly bad around his Connecticut home, so he spent a lot of time grumbling about the phone company and writing satirical letters of complaint. (Things haven't changed all that much.)

Unfortunately, his love of technology overcame his better judgment when he met James W. Paige, who was developing a machine that would become the Paige Typesetter. Between 1880 and 1894, Twain invested a fortune in it -- including his royalties from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The hapless Paige filed for a patent, only to see it sit as a pending document for eight years -- the first Patent Office examiner died before the process was complete; a second examiner went insane; and the patent attorney who originally prepared the case also went crazy and died in an insane asylum. Meanwhile, mechanical problems forced Paige to redesign the machine.

By 1894, Twain was nearly bankrupt. He closed his Hartford home and headed for Europe, in part because his unprofitable investment had taken a toll on his resources and his imagination. Without realizing it, Twain experienced what true entrepreneurs know is the key to eventual success: failure. Fortunately, he had a job he could fall back on… and he was pretty good at it.

Mark Twain – Author, Inventor and Entrepreneur

When Mark Twain wasn’t writing, he was a dabbler in technology -- a novice inventor and entrepreneur. He once claimed that the name of the greatest inventor was "Accident." But he was very purposeful in finding time amid his prolific literary production to let his imagination lead him to a workshop and hours of tinkering. For his efforts he received several patents.

On December 19, 1871, the U.S. Patent Office granted Twain his first patent (#121,992) for an adjustable strap that could be used to tighten shirts at the waist – he intended to eliminate suspenders, which he thought were uncomfortable. Twain also received patents for a self-pasting scrapbook, which sold more than 25,000 copies, and a history trivia game. (If you have either of these items, contact "The Antiques Road Show"... you'll be very happy that you did.) The process of entrepreneurship excited him so much that it slipped into his work. In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, for example, one of his characters said that "a country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab, and couldn't travel any way but sideways or backways."

Twain's adjustable straps didn't catch on, the biggest reason being that he approached the problem all wrong. Mohammed Islam, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan, has specialized in the development of patents. He teaches "Patent Fundamentals for Engineers," a class in which he points out that entrepreneurs have to ask themselves, 'What's the pain? Does the problem hurt people enough so that they're willing to pay for the solution? Will the product have a sustainable advantage that's different from other solutions? There has to be a competitive advantage to get beyond the first sale." Twain didn't look beyond his own pain. He needed a broader audience.

Doug Neal, managing director for the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan, agreed, saying that it's "extremely important for entrepreneurs to honestly determine who they're providing what specific value. You have to put yourself in your target customers' shoes and find out if they really see the value your idea brings. Many false starts can be traced to a failure to do this successfully."

Despite his disappointments as an entrepreneur, new technology remained a passion for Twain. The early typewriter, a clumsy configuration of rollers and spindly arms at its inception, consumed him -- he couldn’t keep his hands off it -- and he became the first person to submit a typed manuscript to a publisher. The telephone fascinated and frustrated him -- he spent hours on the line. But service was particularly bad around his Connecticut home, so he spent a lot of time grumbling about the phone company and writing satirical letters of complaint. (Things haven't changed all that much.)

Unfortunately, his love of technology overcame his better judgment when he met James W. Paige, who was developing a machine that would become the Paige Typesetter. Between 1880 and 1894, Twain invested a fortune in it -- including his royalties from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The hapless Paige filed for a patent, only to see it sit as a pending document for eight years -- the first Patent Office examiner died before the process was complete; a second examiner went insane; and the patent attorney who originally prepared the case also went crazy and died in an insane asylum. Meanwhile, mechanical problems forced Paige to redesign the machine.

By 1894, Twain was nearly bankrupt. He closed his Hartford home and headed for Europe, in part because his unprofitable investment had taken a toll on his resources and his imagination. Without realizing it, Twain experienced what true entrepreneurs know is the key to eventual success: failure. Fortunately, he had a job he could fall back on… and he was pretty good at it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Biomimicry – Friend of Technology, Ecology and the Entrepreneur


Mother Nature's pretty smart. And we've been wise enough to steal some of her best ideas, such as taking inspiration from a leaf to create a solar cell. This biomimicry has helped us uncover products, processes and policies that are well-adapted to life on earth -- it draws on 3.8 billion years of "natural technologies" that evolution has given us to use as models. The results of biomimicry have been stunning, and its untapped potential is enough to make entrepreneurial heads spin.

As one well known story goes, the engineer George de Mestral went for a hike and noticed that burrs stuck to his dog. From that observation came Velco, which now has annual sales of $100 million annually. The blue mussel inspired biodegradable "glues" that surgeons can use in place of sutures. The natural ventilation of termite mounds led to the development of natural passive cooling structures such as hooded windows, variable-thickness walls and light colored paints that reduce heat absorption. The study of bumblebees recently sparked a new approach to wind turbines.



Wait... there's more. The plumage of owls and the beak of the kingfisher were models for the aerodynamics of bullet trains that tear through tunnels silently, without producing the rail version of sonic-booms. By observing sick chimpanzees' activity around trees from the Vernonia genus, researchers discovered chemicals with promising medical applications. The list of examples goes on and on.

Greg Keoleian, a University of Michigan engineering professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, teaches a course in industrial ecology, using a presentation (below) that exposes students to biomimicry and its role in creating sustainable systems.
Industrial Ecology and Bio Mimicry

Keoleian points out the genius in biomimicry. Technologies -- even those developed only to improve people's lives -- can sometimes be terribly harmful and enormously expensive. But technologies that emerge from biomimicry are based on mechanisms that have already been part of the natural order -- they belong, as will their technologic successors. There's no danger of patent infringement when stealing ideas from nature, which asks only that we give back to her what we've taken away. And, best of all, Mother Nature is a willing teacher, her classroom is all around us, the curricula are free and all we need to do is show up for class... and pay attention.

Read more:




Biomimicry – Friend of Technology, Ecology and the Entrepreneur


Mother Nature's pretty smart. And we've been wise enough to steal some of her best ideas, such as taking inspiration from a leaf to create a solar cell. This biomimicry has helped us uncover products, processes and policies that are well-adapted to life on earth -- it draws on 3.8 billion years of "natural technologies" that evolution has given us to use as models. The results of biomimicry have been stunning, and its untapped potential is enough to make entrepreneurial heads spin.

As one well known story goes, the engineer George de Mestral went for a hike and noticed that burrs stuck to his dog. From that observation came Velco, which now has annual sales of $100 million annually. The blue mussel inspired biodegradable "glues" that surgeons can use in place of sutures. The natural ventilation of termite mounds led to the development of natural passive cooling structures such as hooded windows, variable-thickness walls and light colored paints that reduce heat absorption. The study of bumblebees recently sparked a new approach to wind turbines.



Wait... there's more. The plumage of owls and the beak of the kingfisher were models for the aerodynamics of bullet trains that tear through tunnels silently, without producing the rail version of sonic-booms. By observing sick chimpanzees' activity around trees from the Vernonia genus, researchers discovered chemicals with promising medical applications. The list of examples goes on and on.

Greg Keoleian, a University of Michigan engineering professor in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, teaches a course in industrial ecology, using a presentation (below) that exposes students to biomimicry and its role in creating sustainable systems.
Industrial Ecology and Bio Mimicry

Keoleian points out the genius in biomimicry. Technologies -- even those developed only to improve people's lives -- can sometimes be terribly harmful and enormously expensive. But technologies that emerge from biomimicry are based on mechanisms that have already been part of the natural order -- they belong, as will their technologic successors. There's no danger of patent infringement when stealing ideas from nature, which asks only that we give back to her what we've taken away. And, best of all, Mother Nature is a willing teacher, her classroom is all around us, the curricula are free and all we need to do is show up for class... and pay attention.

Read more:




Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Solar Car Team -- Winners Before the Race Began

Solar Car team members come from a University-wide range of disciplines, including the College of Engineering, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.  As many as 200 volunteer students throw themselves into the effort of designing, building and racing a solar car -- that includes all of the business and logistics involved in any large-scale operation.


Of those 200 students, 23 have traveled to Australia to compete in the 2009 World Solar Challenge. But they're all there in sprit and all winners before the follow team members set foot on Australian soil.




Steve Hechtman, the race manager for the 2009 team, graduated from U-M in May 2009 with BSE in electrical engineering. He's been a member of the team since his first semester, and the 2009 World Solar Challenge (WSC) is his trip to the contest. Hechtman was one of Continuum's drivers during WSC 2007 and the 2008 North American Solar Challenge (NASC). He's originally from the Washington, D.C., suburb of Vienna, Virginia, and has been interested in computers and cars since his childhood.



Alex Dowling joined the team's Strategy Division just weeks into his college career. During his three years on the team, he's served the team the interim strategy director during the 2007 WSC, head strategist during the 2008 NASC, strategy director for the Infinium project, and as head strategist for WSC 2009. Dowling is a senior in Chemical Engineering department and plans to pursue a PhD. Skilled at the keyboard, he writes simulations for the everyday needs of his teammates.



John Federspiel, the team's crew chief and director of the Engineering Division, is studying mechanical engineering and will graduate in the spring of 2011. Federspiel has been on the team since his first year in college and traveled to Australia for the World Solar Challenge in 2007. He helped develop the solar concentrator system used for Continuum in the 2007 WSC, and was a member of the NASC 2008 Race Crew.



Rachel Unger recently graduated with a BS in economics and environment and has been looking forward to the World Solar Challenge. Passionate about renewable energy and sustainable transportation, she joined the Solar Car Team about a year ago and has since been working with the Operations Division. Unger, originally from a Washington, D.C. suburb in Maryland, is also interested in politics and policy.



Aubrey da Cunha is a member of the Strategy Division, specializing in simulation and optimization. Originally from Cottonwood, Arizona, he joined the team in September, drawn by the complex problem of energy management. Despite being a newer member of the team, da Cunha is a valuable member of the Infinium project. When he's not writing software for the team, da Cunha is a graduate student in mathematics studying computational complexity theory.



Josh Feldman, a member of the team's Strategy Division, is in charge of data handling and communication between race vehicles. He's entering his third year as a computer-science student in the College of Engineering. Originally from Long Island, New York, Feldman raced with the team in the 2008 North American Solar Challenge. He's enthusiastic about the team's accomplishments and looks forward to helping propel the team to the world championship.



Santosh Kumar joined the Strategy Division of the team in his junior year. Born and raised in Singapore, he's currently studying aerospace engineering and is using his talents in math and science to help Infinium run the WSC's Stuart Highway as fast as possible. Kumar contributes regularly to the team's Quote Wall and spends a lot of time building with Lego blocks, running down soccer balls and watching cherry blossoms.



Chris McMeeking is new to the team's Strategy Division this year. A junior majoring in Computer Science in the College of Engineering, he works specifically in the areas of meteorology and weather forecasting and is putting his talents to work for the team on its bid to win the World Solar Challenge. When not working on Solar Car, McMeeking enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, who (he claims) are on their way to another Stanley Cup Championship.



Julia Hawley joined the Solar Car Team as a member of the Business Division her sophomore year. She started out doing marketing and events for the team and was elected Business Director that January. She's found her solar car experience invaluable, describing it as the most challenging yet rewarding experience of her life. Excited about traveling with the team to Australia, she hopes that Infinium will bring the WSC championship back to the United States. Hawley isn't sure what she would like to do when she "grows up," but she hopes to run a marathon and live in Argentina or Spain at some point in her life.



Ethan Lardner joined the Operations Division of the team in the fall of his freshman year. Now a sophomore engineer, the Milan, Illinois, native typically logs more than 900 miles a week in his personal Ford truck. He played an integral part in Infinium's production. His official team duties make him responsible for outfitting the support vehicle and semi trailer, operations procurement and kangaroo wrangling. When he isn't driving his truck for solar car purposes, Lardner enjoys boating, hunting, camping and playing his cello.



Jeff Rogers has been on the team for about five years as a member of the Micro-Electrical Engineering Division. He's a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and is the most senior active member of the Solar Car team. As the lead micro-electrical engineer on the team, Rogers does his best to delegate work and transfer knowledge to less experienced team members. Outside of his solar car involvement, he spends time at Toyota Technical Center working on integrated vehicle systems. In his free time he tinkers with computers, cooks meals with friends and keeps his other teammates in check.



Jeremy Nash joined the Micro-Electrical Engineering Division of the team within his first weeks of transferring to the College of Engineering. He's a micro-electrical engineer entering his third year of studies in Computer Engineering. He's managed to find time to write a pop song that aired on the radio, act in a German film, learn Mandarin Chinese, rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and enter a jazz duel in concert with Geoffrey Keezer. He's also a biomedical device researcher at the WuMRC Laboratory in Ann Arbor, where he works on diagnosing vascular access failure in hemodialysis patients.



Sudeep Rohatgi joined the Power Electrical Division during his first semester at Michigan and is thrilled to be designing and racing Infinium. He's entering his third year of studies in electrical engineering. After spending a summer researching organic solar cells, Rohatgi became interested in energy conversion devices and started designing Infinium's solar array. Outside of his solar car work, he plays ultimate Frisbee, spends time with family and friends, listens to music and reads.



Ethan Stark joined the Power Electrical Engineering Division last fall at the first chance he got after arriving here from sunny California and has been on it ever since. Just finishing his first year at Michigan Engineering, he's very excited to be in Australia and even more excited to win. Outside of his team activities, Stark is a member of Theta Tau Professional Engineering fraternity and is an engineering-physics major.



Gerald Chang joined the solar car team in his freshman year as a member of the Mechanical Engineering Division. Now a second year student, he helped the 2008 race crew power the team to Michigan's fifth national championship. He also led mechanical engineers during the design phase and now makes sure he does everything he can to make Infinium a world-champion solar car. He says that the 2009 World Solar Challenge will be "the greatest event of my life."



Chris Hilger has been a member of the Mechanical Engineering Division of the team since the beginning of his freshman year. Currently studying chemical engineering, he's the head of sourcing for the team, a position in which he gets involved with both the engineering and the business aspects of the project. He's served as a mechanical engineer since production of Infinium was completed. After graduation, he hopes to launch an alternative energy company. In his free time, Hilger enjoys water sports, traveling and spending time with family and friends.



Dylan Reitzell joined the Aero Engineering Division of the team during his freshman year mainly to promote an environmental message but also because of his love to create new things and in hopes of using his Aerospace Engineering knowledge. After spending the last year and half helping to design the body of the car, Reitzell is very excited to have built and now to race Infinium in Australia.



Eric Relson joined the Mechanical Engineering Division within his first month at the University of Michigan. His work for the Solar Car Team is largely mechanical and hands-on. Ever since joining the team, he's "progressed from swallowing LEGOS to breathing carbon-fiber dust." Relson is a native of Ann Arbor and just finished his third year as an undergraduate studying nuclear engineering -- a discipline that, he said, his high school's robotics team sparked him to pursue.



Steve Durbin joined the team as a member of the Business Division in the fall of his sophomore year looking for something to do with his spare time. He's entering his senior year in pursuit of an aerospace-engineering degree. After a year on the team, Durbin was elected Interim Project Manager. While his fellow teammates are racing in Australia this fall, Durbin's leading the team in Ann Arbor. He enjoys playing sports and watching movies in his free time. He is also a devoted Detroit sports fan.



Tanya Das is on the Micro-Electrical Division of the Solar Car Team and is serving as the Interim Engineering Director while her teammates race Infinium in Australia. A team member since the beginning of her sophomore year, she's now a junior studying electrical engineering, with particular interest in the field of solid-state electronics. Das is originally from Rochester Hills, MI, and in her free time enjoys reading, camping and just building things in general.


Rachel Kramer joined the Strategy Division of the team in the fall of 2008. A sophomore in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, she knew little about computer programming before joining the team but she quickly became interested in the optimization work of the Strategy Division. Kramer has since learned a lot about programming and the workings of the team as a whole and now serves as the interim strategy director. Outside of the team and regular classes, Kramer is a proud member of the Michigan Squirrel Feeding Club. She's originally from Ludington, Michigan.



Emily Tischler joined the Business Division in her junior year at the in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business BBA program and is currently serving the team as Interim Business Director. Tischler is from Los Angeles, California, where her interest in cars began. She's interested in pursuing marketing, public relations and advertising. She also enjoys playing basketball, writing and ar, and is conducting research in organizational psychology with Prof. Lee and Melanie Henderson. Tischler hopes to go into a business career in the fashion industry.



Brian Pak is a junior in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Joining the team his sophomore year, he spent most of his time working on sponsorship procurement for the Business Division and is now the Interim Operations Leader. Pak, a native of Denver, Colorado, loves hitting the slopes during his free time to snowboard. Some of his other interests include swimming, volleyball and tennis. In the future, Pak hopes to work in corporate finance.

The Solar Car Team -- Winners Before the Race Began

Solar Car team members come from a University-wide range of disciplines, including the College of Engineering, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, and the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.  As many as 200 volunteer students throw themselves into the effort of designing, building and racing a solar car -- that includes all of the business and logistics involved in any large-scale operation.


Of those 200 students, 23 have traveled to Australia to compete in the 2009 World Solar Challenge. But they're all there in sprit and all winners before the follow team members set foot on Australian soil.




Steve Hechtman, the race manager for the 2009 team, graduated from U-M in May 2009 with BSE in electrical engineering. He's been a member of the team since his first semester, and the 2009 World Solar Challenge (WSC) is his trip to the contest. Hechtman was one of Continuum's drivers during WSC 2007 and the 2008 North American Solar Challenge (NASC). He's originally from the Washington, D.C., suburb of Vienna, Virginia, and has been interested in computers and cars since his childhood.



Alex Dowling joined the team's Strategy Division just weeks into his college career. During his three years on the team, he's served the team the interim strategy director during the 2007 WSC, head strategist during the 2008 NASC, strategy director for the Infinium project, and as head strategist for WSC 2009. Dowling is a senior in Chemical Engineering department and plans to pursue a PhD. Skilled at the keyboard, he writes simulations for the everyday needs of his teammates.



John Federspiel, the team's crew chief and director of the Engineering Division, is studying mechanical engineering and will graduate in the spring of 2011. Federspiel has been on the team since his first year in college and traveled to Australia for the World Solar Challenge in 2007. He helped develop the solar concentrator system used for Continuum in the 2007 WSC, and was a member of the NASC 2008 Race Crew.



Rachel Unger recently graduated with a BS in economics and environment and has been looking forward to the World Solar Challenge. Passionate about renewable energy and sustainable transportation, she joined the Solar Car Team about a year ago and has since been working with the Operations Division. Unger, originally from a Washington, D.C. suburb in Maryland, is also interested in politics and policy.



Aubrey da Cunha is a member of the Strategy Division, specializing in simulation and optimization. Originally from Cottonwood, Arizona, he joined the team in September, drawn by the complex problem of energy management. Despite being a newer member of the team, da Cunha is a valuable member of the Infinium project. When he's not writing software for the team, da Cunha is a graduate student in mathematics studying computational complexity theory.



Josh Feldman, a member of the team's Strategy Division, is in charge of data handling and communication between race vehicles. He's entering his third year as a computer-science student in the College of Engineering. Originally from Long Island, New York, Feldman raced with the team in the 2008 North American Solar Challenge. He's enthusiastic about the team's accomplishments and looks forward to helping propel the team to the world championship.



Santosh Kumar joined the Strategy Division of the team in his junior year. Born and raised in Singapore, he's currently studying aerospace engineering and is using his talents in math and science to help Infinium run the WSC's Stuart Highway as fast as possible. Kumar contributes regularly to the team's Quote Wall and spends a lot of time building with Lego blocks, running down soccer balls and watching cherry blossoms.



Chris McMeeking is new to the team's Strategy Division this year. A junior majoring in Computer Science in the College of Engineering, he works specifically in the areas of meteorology and weather forecasting and is putting his talents to work for the team on its bid to win the World Solar Challenge. When not working on Solar Car, McMeeking enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, who (he claims) are on their way to another Stanley Cup Championship.



Julia Hawley joined the Solar Car Team as a member of the Business Division her sophomore year. She started out doing marketing and events for the team and was elected Business Director that January. She's found her solar car experience invaluable, describing it as the most challenging yet rewarding experience of her life. Excited about traveling with the team to Australia, she hopes that Infinium will bring the WSC championship back to the United States. Hawley isn't sure what she would like to do when she "grows up," but she hopes to run a marathon and live in Argentina or Spain at some point in her life.



Ethan Lardner joined the Operations Division of the team in the fall of his freshman year. Now a sophomore engineer, the Milan, Illinois, native typically logs more than 900 miles a week in his personal Ford truck. He played an integral part in Infinium's production. His official team duties make him responsible for outfitting the support vehicle and semi trailer, operations procurement and kangaroo wrangling. When he isn't driving his truck for solar car purposes, Lardner enjoys boating, hunting, camping and playing his cello.



Jeff Rogers has been on the team for about five years as a member of the Micro-Electrical Engineering Division. He's a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and is the most senior active member of the Solar Car team. As the lead micro-electrical engineer on the team, Rogers does his best to delegate work and transfer knowledge to less experienced team members. Outside of his solar car involvement, he spends time at Toyota Technical Center working on integrated vehicle systems. In his free time he tinkers with computers, cooks meals with friends and keeps his other teammates in check.



Jeremy Nash joined the Micro-Electrical Engineering Division of the team within his first weeks of transferring to the College of Engineering. He's a micro-electrical engineer entering his third year of studies in Computer Engineering. He's managed to find time to write a pop song that aired on the radio, act in a German film, learn Mandarin Chinese, rebuild homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and enter a jazz duel in concert with Geoffrey Keezer. He's also a biomedical device researcher at the WuMRC Laboratory in Ann Arbor, where he works on diagnosing vascular access failure in hemodialysis patients.



Sudeep Rohatgi joined the Power Electrical Division during his first semester at Michigan and is thrilled to be designing and racing Infinium. He's entering his third year of studies in electrical engineering. After spending a summer researching organic solar cells, Rohatgi became interested in energy conversion devices and started designing Infinium's solar array. Outside of his solar car work, he plays ultimate Frisbee, spends time with family and friends, listens to music and reads.



Ethan Stark joined the Power Electrical Engineering Division last fall at the first chance he got after arriving here from sunny California and has been on it ever since. Just finishing his first year at Michigan Engineering, he's very excited to be in Australia and even more excited to win. Outside of his team activities, Stark is a member of Theta Tau Professional Engineering fraternity and is an engineering-physics major.



Gerald Chang joined the solar car team in his freshman year as a member of the Mechanical Engineering Division. Now a second year student, he helped the 2008 race crew power the team to Michigan's fifth national championship. He also led mechanical engineers during the design phase and now makes sure he does everything he can to make Infinium a world-champion solar car. He says that the 2009 World Solar Challenge will be "the greatest event of my life."



Chris Hilger has been a member of the Mechanical Engineering Division of the team since the beginning of his freshman year. Currently studying chemical engineering, he's the head of sourcing for the team, a position in which he gets involved with both the engineering and the business aspects of the project. He's served as a mechanical engineer since production of Infinium was completed. After graduation, he hopes to launch an alternative energy company. In his free time, Hilger enjoys water sports, traveling and spending time with family and friends.



Dylan Reitzell joined the Aero Engineering Division of the team during his freshman year mainly to promote an environmental message but also because of his love to create new things and in hopes of using his Aerospace Engineering knowledge. After spending the last year and half helping to design the body of the car, Reitzell is very excited to have built and now to race Infinium in Australia.



Eric Relson joined the Mechanical Engineering Division within his first month at the University of Michigan. His work for the Solar Car Team is largely mechanical and hands-on. Ever since joining the team, he's "progressed from swallowing LEGOS to breathing carbon-fiber dust." Relson is a native of Ann Arbor and just finished his third year as an undergraduate studying nuclear engineering -- a discipline that, he said, his high school's robotics team sparked him to pursue.



Steve Durbin joined the team as a member of the Business Division in the fall of his sophomore year looking for something to do with his spare time. He's entering his senior year in pursuit of an aerospace-engineering degree. After a year on the team, Durbin was elected Interim Project Manager. While his fellow teammates are racing in Australia this fall, Durbin's leading the team in Ann Arbor. He enjoys playing sports and watching movies in his free time. He is also a devoted Detroit sports fan.



Tanya Das is on the Micro-Electrical Division of the Solar Car Team and is serving as the Interim Engineering Director while her teammates race Infinium in Australia. A team member since the beginning of her sophomore year, she's now a junior studying electrical engineering, with particular interest in the field of solid-state electronics. Das is originally from Rochester Hills, MI, and in her free time enjoys reading, camping and just building things in general.


Rachel Kramer joined the Strategy Division of the team in the fall of 2008. A sophomore in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, she knew little about computer programming before joining the team but she quickly became interested in the optimization work of the Strategy Division. Kramer has since learned a lot about programming and the workings of the team as a whole and now serves as the interim strategy director. Outside of the team and regular classes, Kramer is a proud member of the Michigan Squirrel Feeding Club. She's originally from Ludington, Michigan.



Emily Tischler joined the Business Division in her junior year at the in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business BBA program and is currently serving the team as Interim Business Director. Tischler is from Los Angeles, California, where her interest in cars began. She's interested in pursuing marketing, public relations and advertising. She also enjoys playing basketball, writing and ar, and is conducting research in organizational psychology with Prof. Lee and Melanie Henderson. Tischler hopes to go into a business career in the fashion industry.



Brian Pak is a junior in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Joining the team his sophomore year, he spent most of his time working on sponsorship procurement for the Business Division and is now the Interim Operations Leader. Pak, a native of Denver, Colorado, loves hitting the slopes during his free time to snowboard. Some of his other interests include swimming, volleyball and tennis. In the future, Pak hopes to work in corporate finance.