ASU’s first Churchill Scholarship awarded to Christopher Balzer

Christopher Balzer
Christopher Balzer

Today Christopher Balzer became the first student from Arizona State University to ever receive the prestigious Churchill Scholarship.

Since 1963, the Churchill Scholarship has been awarded to exceptional science and engineering students to fund graduate studies at the University of Cambridge.

Upon graduating with his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in spring 2017, Balzer will make the trip across the pond to the United Kingdom in September. He’ll begin pursuing his master’s degree in Advanced Chemical Engineering come October.

Scholars are chosen based on outstanding academic achievement, personal qualities and a demonstrated interest in research. The Churchill Scholarship was established to honor Sir Winston Churchill’s vision of U.S.-U.K. scientific exchange with the goal of advancing science and technology and helping to ensure the prosperity and security of both nations.

Balzer, a student in Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, said he first heard about the opportunity from the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at Barrett. ASU has only been participating in the scholarship program run by the Churchill Foundation for the last four years.

“I’m the first but definitely not the last,” says Balzer of receiving the scholarship. “It’s an honor to be first, considering some of the great scholars who have applied from ASU in the past few years. Someone had to be first, and I’m happy I get the chance to represent ASU at Cambridge.”

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Impressive at iGEM


Soon after arriving at the 2016 International Genetically Engineered Machine Giant Jamboree to showcase the project they had worked on for several months, the undergraduate students representing Arizona State University’s iGEM team got a shocking surprise.

Their two graduate student advisors had been mistaken for team members, so the three undergraduates were placed in the graduate level of the iGEM competition instead of the undergraduate level division.

They would be up against more experienced rivals, many of them veterans of iGEM contests.

The three-day competition is the largest and most prominent test of students’ skills in synthetic biology. The fast-emerging field uses advanced cell engineering techniques to develop solutions to major health challenges, as well as new ways to produce energy, fabricate materials and more.

The iGEM event helps to fuel the advancement of synthetic biology with fresh ideas contributed by the undergraduate scientists-in-training.

Students from some of the world’s most prestigious colleges and universities were among the approximately 5,600 students on about 300 teams from 42 countries who came to Boston recently for the annual iGEM gathering.

Brady Dennison, Jiaqi Wu and Jimmy Xu represented the ASU iGEM team this year.

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Intent on making big impacts

Support from NSF Graduate Research Fellowships is motivating these engineering doctoral students to strive for exceptional achievements

Recipients of National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships are seen by the federal agency as potential leaders in research, teaching and innovation in engineering and science.

Career success for these students is viewed as critical to the United States maintaining its leading role in technological advancement and its strength in national security.

The NSF also counts on the students’ future contributions to boost the vitality of the country’s economy.

The Graduate Research Fellows are awarded a three-year annual stipend of $34,000 and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees to pursue graduate degrees.

They also have opportunities for internships, professional development and participation in international research projects, and the freedom to do their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education of their choice.

Three graduate students in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering — each pursuing a doctoral degree — are among the 2016 recipients of the highly sought after NSF Fellowships.

Alyssa Henning, Doctoral Student, ASU Engineering
Alyssa Henning is pursuing a doctoral degree in biological design. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU

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Adobe Creative Jam casts spotlight on GIT students


Twenty students, both undergraduate and graduate, competed in a fast-paced design competition known as an Adobe Creative Jam.

The event, sponsored by Adobe, took place on Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus on October 4, 2016.

The competing students were chosen by Adobe based on their design portfolios and skills as showcased in their Adobe Behance accounts.

Nineteen students from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, eighteen Graphic Information Technology majors and one Information Technology major, participated in the event.

In 2013, the Graphic Information Technology program, now housed in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering’s The Polytechnic School, was named a “Partners By Design” member by Adobe. One of only a few dozen schools and programs, the designation “connects the world’s leading art, design and film schools with one another to foster inspired collaboration and conversation,” according to the Adobe Partners by Design website. The designation further recognizes the GIT program’s innovations in digital design and efforts to adopt best practices in technological instruction through their partnership with Adobe.

Adobe has only previously held a Creative Jam with one other school.

At the event student partners received the theme “Dusk Till Dawn” and had three hours to produce a product, ranging from iPhone app prototypes to video motion animations, in their selected area of Visual Design, Motion Design or UX Design.

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Doctoral student lands sought-after NASA Fellowship

Sydney Taylor, an aerospace engineering postdoctoral student, recently secured a sought-after NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship to develop an adaptive, temperature-regulating coating for spacecraft. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU
Sydney Taylor, an aerospace engineering postdoctoral student, recently secured a sought-after NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship to develop an adaptive, temperature-regulating coating for spacecraft. Photographer: Pete Zrioka/ASU

An aerospace engineering doctoral student is one step closer to realizing a lifelong dream after securing a competitive NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship.

“I have memories of going camping, looking up at the Milky Way and thinking, ‘it would be really cool to help send stuff out there someday,’” recalls Sydney Taylor.

Taylor’s winning proposal, “Temperature-modulated radiative coatings for dynamic thermal management of spacecraft” will explore methods to create an adaptive coating to regulate the temperatures of spacecraft.

“The optimal operating temperature of many spacecraft is between -30 and 40 degrees Celsius,” explains Taylor.

To shield a spacecraft’s sensitive equipment, such as batteries or transmitters, from the rigors of thermal cycling, Taylor plans to create a coating consisting of three layers, each with different properties. The top layer will consist of vanadium dioxide, the middle layer of silicon and the bottom of aluminum. When exposed to varying temperatures, the coating and its constituent layers will adopt different properties to help regulate the spacecraft’s temperature.

When temperatures are low, the top layer adopts insulating properties, and the silicon layer remains transparent in the infrared spectrum. The bottom aluminum layer is highly reflective, so the overall structure is very reflective in the infrared, meaning that very little heat will be emitted, explains Taylor.

Originally published: Doctoral student lands NASA Fellowship to develop temperature-regulating coating

Medical device prototype wins ASU students second place at Capstone Design Conference

The Mayo Clinic Tele Vision team's prototype of an imaging system for eye disease/injury triage. Image courtesy of the Mayo Clinic Tele Vision team
The Mayo Clinic Tele Vision team’s prototype of an imaging system for eye disease/injury triage. Image courtesy of the Mayo Clinic Tele Vision team

Three Fulton Schools students won second place in the 2016 Capstone Design Conference in Columbus, Ohio, this summer.

At the conference, recent graduates and current students working on multidisciplinary, international or entrepreneurial capstone projects presented their work in a poster session.

As part of their Professional Design Capstone II, the Mayo Clinic Tele Vision team — comprised of manufacturing engineering undergraduate student Hytham Almuallem, recent manufacturing engineering graduate Mobeen Ahmad and engineering and solar energy engineering and commercialization graduate student Jiawei Wu — developed a low-cost, smartphone-based telemedicine prototype for eye disease and injury triage as proposed by the Mayo Clinic.

To address the high costs of eye treatments and a shortage of specialist eye doctors, called ophthalmologists, the Mayo Clinic is looking to telemedicine for a solution. The ASU team’s prototype helps patients avoid waiting days or weeks for a diagnosis from specialists and avoids the need for bulky equipment that can cost $4,000–$15,000. Primary care physicians, nurse practitioners or even physician assistants can instead use a $500 device that attaches to a smartphone, captures an image of the eye and electronically transmits the image to an ophthalmologist for triage.

Originally published: Medical device prototype wins second place at Capstone Design Conference

ASU team wins first prize at Intel Cup in China

ASU robotics, Intel Cup
The ASU VIPLE and Minnowboard Robot Project team continued a string of excellent performances at the Intel Cup by ASU students by winning their second straight first prize award. Photo courtesy: Yinong Chen.


The ASU VIPLE and Minnowboard Robot Project team continued a string of excellent performances at the Intel Cup by ASU students. ASU won a second prize in 2012 and now has first prizes in each of the past two competitions in 2014 and 2016.

The team consisted of four Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students who graduated in the spring and were advised by Yinong Chen, a senior lecturer in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering.

Sami Mian, a computer systems engineering major, was in charge of the hardware and designed the robots and all of the custom parts for the project. He was also an advisor on the 2012 team and helped with the hardware of that project. Gennaro De Luca, a computer science major, led the software team and developed the Visual IoT/Robotics Programming Language Environment software. John Robertson, an electrical engineering and computer science major, was in charge of the middleware that helped bring the other two teams together. Tara De Vries, a computer science major, worked in the software team. The members of the team are also members of the Sun Devil Robotics club that was founded by Mian and is advised by Chen.

The competition is held every two years and is jointly hosted by the Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education and the Personnel Education Commission and Shanghai Jiaotong University and co-organized and sponsored by Intel.

There were 160 teams that participated in this year’s competition that was held over two rounds. Forty-eight  teams, including just eight from outside China, entered the final round held in Shanghai. A total of 13 first prize awards were given out, with ASU being the only team from outside of China to win one. Intel Cup rules dictate that teams in the top eight percent of competitors receive first prize honors. The competition aims to encourage improvement of the curriculum structure and content in the disciplines of information technology and electronics, promote implementation of well-rounded education within higher education institutions and to foster innovation skills among students.

They set out to create an alternate programming environment for the robotics concentration of CIDSE’s FSE 100 class. The team created a drag-and-drop visual programming language that they call VIPLE and also built a custom robot hardware kit for students to use. The robot is made of custom designed parts, Intel boards and middleware software they created themselves.

The project is an educational toolkit with multiple sub-parts, including  VIPLE and a curriculum based on the FSE 100 curriculum that used the no longer supported Microsoft VPL.

“Our goal with VIPLE is to provide a language we can use to teach introductory level students computational thinking such as providing a focus on algorithms or higher level programming concepts without having to focus on the detailed syntax,” De Luca says. “We also developed the middleware that a user could install on an Intel board and be able to easily communicate with VIPLE and program that robot.”

The robots used in the project are just a single example of what students may build in the course to use the software. The team designed a robot toolkit so that students could quickly get started building and programming a robot as well as completing several tasks/projects, including autonomous maze navigation. In this way, students can learn about hardware, wiring and programming before learning any programming languages or advanced hardware skills.

Originally published: ASU team wins first prize at Intel Cup in China

Amelia Earhart Fellowship will propel student’s aerospace materials research

Aerospace engineering doctoral student Nithya Subramanian (center), recently named an Amelia Earhart Fellow by Zonta International, has been studying multifunctional nanocomposites for aerospace applications in ASU Professor Aditi Chattopadhyay’s (left) lab for six semesters. Photographer: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

Amelia Earhart found her passion for aviation while working as a nurse’s aid at Toronto’s Spadina Military Hospital. Nearly a century later, her influence and fame as a female pioneer in the aviation industry spans continents.

As a youngster in Trivandrum, India, Nithya Subramanian admired the record-setting aviator.

Subramanian, an aerospace engineering doctoral student at Arizona State University, developed her own love for aviation at eight years old when she was invited to sit in an airplane’s cockpit during a flight on SriLankan Airlines.

Earhart was a rarity in her time — most women hadn’t traveled on planes, let alone flown one. Society no longer has a shortage of women travelers, but according to the Women in Aerospace organization in 2010 women made up only about 10 percent of aerospace industry professionals.

The Amelia Earhart Fellowship, presented by Zonta International, a global organization for women professionals, aims to support and grow the number of women in the aerospace industry and other aerospace-related science and engineering fields.

Subramanian was one of 35 doctoral students named an Amelia Earhart Fellow for 2016-2017.

The recipients, chosen from a pool of 121 applicants, represent 19 countries and include students from universities such as Purdue University, Stanford University, MIT, Brown University and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. The fellowship comes with a $10,000 award.

Originally published: Amelia Earhart Fellowship will propel student’s aerospace materials research

Briana Del Bianco and EcoCAR3 team recognized at the Polys

Manny Padilla, Jessy Gonzalez, Briana Del Bianco and Kevin Riley were nominated and recognized for multiple awards.
Manny Padilla, Jessy Gonzalez, Briana Del Bianco and Kevin Riley were nominated and recognized for multiple awards.

Digital culture and technological entrepreneurship student and EcoCAR3 team Communication Manager Briana Del Bianco was awarded the Chuck and Judy Backus Outstanding Graduating Senior Award. This award recognizes graduating students who demonstrate exemplary leadership that improves campus life or inspires others to lead.

She was also nominated individual and with the entire EcoCAR3 team for the Community Impact awards. EcoCAR3 communication team members Jessy Gonzalez, Manny Padilla and Kevin Riley received recognition or were nominated for individual awards.

Originally published: EcoCAR3 team members recognized at Polytechnic awards ceremony

Christopher Balzer receives Goldwater Scholarship

Christopher Balzer

Raised by parents who were also engineers, Christopher Balzer grew up understanding how engineering can be a driving force for change. The chemical engineering student has his sights set on bringing about progressive change and, by all indications he’s well on his way.

Balzer, a native of Anthem, Arizona, was recently named a Goldwater Scholar, a prestigious scholarship that recognizes excellence in science, math and engineering.

More than a thousand students applied for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and fewer than a quarter of the applicants received the distinguished award. This year, three of the four Arizona students selected are Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students.

Balzer says he was initially drawn to chemical engineering due to the field’s diversity, which makes him feel as though he can make a bigger impact in the world.

Originally published: Christopher Balzer secures Goldwater Scholarship, plans to make a difference with chemical engineering