My four years at the Univesity of Wisconsin - Madison have been a great experience and I have had many opportunities to develop my engineering skill set. Highlighted here are my academic studies, research for Prof. Sanders, and experience with the Zero Gravity team.

University of Wisconsin logo

University of Wisconsin - Madison

I'm a fifth-year Engineering Mechnics and Astronautics student with a Computer Science minor. I greatly enjoy engineering and it is the myriad challenges in designing space-based systems that hold my interest. Based on my experiences with Prof. Sanders and the ZeroG team I intend to pursue graduate engineering studies and envision a career in engineering research. I am cautiously optimistic on the future of NASA and commerical space endeavours, and I do beleive that we can chart an economically sustainable path beyond Earth orbit. Our future is in space; I hope to enable a small part of our continued exploration.

About EMA: EMA is similar to Aerospace and Mechanical engineering but emphasizes the underlying physical principles over applied results. (So an ME may be taught the applications and limitations of an internal combustion engine while an EM receives less-specialized knowledge. An EM may be less familiar with current industry practices but can more easily design an analyze new systems for which industry has not yet embraced.) The Astronautics specification provides additional coursework in dynamics and orbital- and fluid-mechanics.


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Engine Research Center

I've worked with Professor Scott Sanders and his group in the ERC since freshman year. Our research looks to create sensors that quickly measure combustion systems. These tools allow engine designers to verify engine performance and critique their design metrics. These methods can also be applied to other dynamic systems; eg. rocket engines. Here's an overview poster [.pdf].

Current Project:

Creation of a Fiber Optic Thermometer for Widespread Commercial Use in Internal Combustion Engines

Our research engines have windows in the cylinder walls to allow direct observation of combustion but many other engines do not have this convenience. LaVision, GmbH. has developed an optical spark plug to provide optical access to an engine while retaining normal spark plug function. With LaVision, we've developed a hyperspectral sensor to measure engine combustion in any spark-ignited engine (truck, car, jeep, lawnmower, etc.).


Hyperspectral Absorption Spectroscopy Overview [.pptx, 4.6MB] — Describes the basic technique and theory.

Source and Sensor Development [.pdf, 1.6MB] — A hardware-centric description of the source and sensor. This includes some preliminary results.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Past Projects:

High Speed Grating Spectrometer [.pdf 99MB] — Combustion can be a dirty process and as the engine runs soot can accumulate in the optical path. There are a few ways to overcome this, this design simply threw power at it (up to 0.5 W broadband). The sensor generated broadband light (1333-1373nm) centered on the 'R' H2O absorption branch and sent it through a sample. The concentration, temperature, and pressure of water in the sample caused some wavelengths to be absorbed, altering the broadband signal. This alteration is recorded by a 14kHz infrared linescan camera attached to a grating spectrometer. Comparing the altered signal to simulated water absorption measurments allows the concentration, temperature, and pressure of the water in the sample to be determined.

Light exiting multimode fiber

Visualizing Multi-mode Fiber Mode Movement [.png] — A common problem in our applications is 'catching' all of the light sent through a sample. Beamsteering (the bending of light due to inhomogeneous engine conditions) limits the amount of light that we can capture in the output fiber. Enlarging the diameter of the fiber is the simple solution but mode noise is encountered in diameters beyond 10μm. Mode noise results from the light interfering with itself and dominates other noise sources in the system, as shown in the animation (right) and picture. A single-mode fiber would lack the black and white variations in intensity, appearing to be uniformly illuminated. This investigation with former M.S. student Renatta Bartula tried to qualify the mode movement but was unable to remove the mode noise through post-processing.

Zero Gravity team logo

ZeroGravity Team

The University of Wisconsin ZeroGravity Team develops, conducts, and analyzes microgravity experiments as participants in NASA's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Program. I flew with the experiment my freshman and sophomore years and co-lead the Linear Spray Cooling experiment with Lisa McGill. My involvement has been very rewarding and I have enjoyed considering and hopefully minimizing the effect of gravity on our experiments. Here are brief summaries and documents of the last two experiments:

aluminium linear spray array

New linear spray array consisting of 200 250μm spray nozzles angled at 45 degrees.

Linear Spray Cooling

As computer processors, power amplifiers, laser diodes, and similar devices increase in performance they are also becoming smaller. Since these devices are not 100% efficient some of the input energy is lost as heat which is increasingly concentrated due to shrinking size. Removing this thermal energy is essential to the continued operation of these devices but current methods are fundamentally limited in their heat transfer capability. Specifically, forced air convection cooling quickly requires absurd velocities to cool high heat flux deviecs and liquid cooling breaks down when vaporized liqiud prevents cool liquid from contacting the hot surface. Linear spray cooling is a two-phase technique that shoots coolant droplets at the heated surface and uses their inertia to prevent the formation of a vapor bubble. Working with Professor Tim Shedd we showed that coolant flow rate is the primary determinant of a linear spray cooling system's performance and that the influence of gravity is minor (2.6% at the largest). While further work is needed, there does not appear to be any fundamental reason that would prevent linear spray cooling from being used in satellites, on the International Space Station, and in variable-gravity environments (fly-by-wire aircraft for instance).

SPESIF 2009 Presentation [.ppt 4.0MB] — John Springmann, Lisa McGill, and myself presented this work at the Space, Propulsion, and Energy Sciences International Forum in Huntsville, AL this past February. See also our proceedings paper.

Capillary Forces

This experiment investiaged fluid movement due to suface tension in a microgravity environment. In short, the surface tension forces responsible for meniscii and capilary action in plants are much more significant when gravity is removed. If a rocket's liquid fuel tank was a rectangular box, upon reaching orbit surface tension would cause a significant portion (perhaps 10%) of the fuel to be stuck in the corners of the tank where it cannot be reached by the outlet. Better tank design would eliminate these interior corners to allow all the fuel to be used. Another application would be to design tubes to transport liquids without pumps, much as trees or heat pipes do.

WSGC 2007 Presentation [.ppt 7.5MB] — Eric Leigel and myself presented our findings at the 2007 Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium Conference at UW-Superior.