Georgia Tech Research Institute

Graduate Research Assistant

As a graduate research assistant, my responsibilities vary between brainstorming, designing, prototyping, testing and troubleshooting. During my time as a research assistant I have been able to work on 3 different projects and assist in teaching a Vertically Integrated Project.

Kennedy Space Center Vapor Trail

Fig 1. Smart Paver Tile

Following the Capstone Design Project in my final semester as an undergrad, I was hired by the Georgia Tech Research Institute to continue my work developing a flooring system for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The system consists of interlocking tiles, with features such as lights and wireless communicative abilities, self-powered by piezoelectric and photovoltaic energy harvesting components. The short-term goal is to use the flooring system in an interactive exhibit at Kennedy Space Center that showcases the power of renewable energy; long-term the goal is to develop the technology to be used for inter-planetary colonization.

Earlier stages of the design process assumed the electronic components were a black box. Once there was some idea what the electronics would look like, my assignment was to further develop the two-material prototype; this included redesigning the frame of the tile in

Fig 2. Tile Aggregation Schematic

SolidWorks as well as an intensive material selection process for both elements of the prototype. The design and materials were verified to withstand the wear and tear they’d experience as an interactive exhibit using Finite Element Analysis. This iteration of the design was then prototyped using Corian, an acrylic polymer, and then finally ultra-high-performance concrete, the material chosen for the final product.

In conjunction with my manufacturing-focused position at GTRI, I performed research under the guidance of Dr. Alper Erturk to optimize the piezoelectric components of the flooring system. This work was used to update the triggering mechanism of the tile, and was presented at the SPIE Conference held in Portland, OR in 2017. This work explored three different piezoelectric energy harvesting approaches, each with their own electro-mechanical model and experimental validation.

Fig 3. Harvester Plucking Mechanism

Fig 4. Curved Energy Harvester

The flooring systems’ unique design and purpose required custom electronic components to be designed and prototyped as well. The process started with creating a circuit using a breadboard, performing energy balance calculations to ensure the system could be self-powered, and then iterating on that design until it was optimized for use with the tile. Once the final circuit had been designed, it was installed into the tile and rigorously tested to guarantee the design fulfilled our standards. The final circuit board controlled the lights, wireless communication abilities and self-generated energy storage.

The solar panels within the tile had to be optimized as well. Different photovoltaic configurations were tested to maximize the recharging capabilities of the electronics system. Photovoltaic arrays of different size, charging circuits, and glazing samples all had to be assembled and tested.

Kennedy Space Center’s first required milestone was 7 prototype tiles to be installed on site; this would determine if more funding would be available for manufacturing development. Before shipping them over for installation, the final tiles were cycled through different charging scenarios to ensure robustness of the system now that prototype and design of individual components had been completed. After installation, data was collected in real time to observe the tiles’ performance and any chance for improvement. Currently, we are working on updating water and vapor proofing mechanisms.

Healthcare Analytics and Informatics Mat/Carpet Systems

Another project that I have had the opportunity to be a part of is the development of “Smart Mat and Carpet” systems. The initial goal of the project was to develop a yoga mat with sensors built embedded into it that could measure and respond to the pressure exerted by the user during various physical exercises. This data could be used for many different applications in healthcare. The group developed two prototypes, one using polymeric piezoelectric sensors and the other using a piezoresistive sheet polymer.

For this project, I held a prototyping and testing role. I assisted in the manufacturing of the sheet metal using a water jet, and other metal-working tools. I also assisted in the assembly of the sensors on the two different types of mats, as well as the assembly of the electronic components that are housed in the metal containers on the end of the mats.

In the future GTRI hopes to be able to scale this technology to rooms and buildings.

Martian Advanced Renewable Systems - Vertically Integrated Project

As Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) for this Vertically Integrated Project (VIP) course, I was responsible for ensuring that the students were making timely and meaningful progress towards their end of semester goals. I also taught a lecture on technical writing and how to design an experimentation plan.

At the end of the semester, I assisted with grading of lab notebooks and final reports. Over the summer I have worked to edit and improve the paper written by the Radiation Shielding team. I have also been working with the course instructors to plan the next semester of the course and schedule guest lectures for the class.

For my second semester as a GTA, I have been tasked with developing a testing plan for the Radiation Protection subteam. Throughout the semester, I will receive regular updates, and will guide the students through the experimentation and simulation process. The goal is to have the work done by the students published at a conference or in a journal by the end of the semester.