Monthly Archives: October 2013

Engineers and Scientists

By: John S. Usher, Associate Dean

My last blog post basically laid out the idea that engineers play a role in the design of just about every man-made object that we see in our daily lives.  I often hear people say that engineers “apply science”, that is, take the findings from scientists like biologists, geologists, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, and more, and apply those scientific concepts to solve problems.  In some cases that is true.  However, I would argue that it much more commonly goes the other way around.  Engineers usually design working systems long before the science is ever understood.

Take for example the steam engine, arguably one of the greatest inventions of all time, and the one which dramatically lead to the Industrial Revolution in the United States.   In 1712 the first commercially successful steam engine was developed by Thomas Newcomen.  The machine operated,  but was crude and very little of the input energy was converted to actual work, with as much as 80% wasted as heat.   Much later in the century, James Watt, (yes, that “watt” as in a 60-watt light bulb) worked as instrument maker at the University of Glasgow.  He was shown a small model of the Newcomen “atmospheric  engine”.  Watt studied it and in 1765 realized it could be greatly improved by introducing an external condenser.  Watt became famous for his steam engine designs as they became the backbone upon which the American mass production was built.

Yet, the actual science underlying the steam engine, namely “thermodynamics” was virtually non-existent in the late 1700’s.   Sadi Carnot, the so called Father of Thermodynamics, published Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire in 1824, nearly a half century after Watt’s findings were well known.  The first and second laws of thermodynamics were not known until the late 1850s, based on the works of William Rankine, Rudolf Clausius, and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin).  Rankine’s thermodynamic textbook, the first of its kind, was not written until 1859, nearly 100 years after steam engines were commonplace.

Now, I will admit, this is but one example of science trailing engineering, but we can see similar results in many other fields such as electro-magnetism, computer science, chemistry, medicine and more.  Look no further than the work of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and their success with building and selling complex computers while the field of computer science was still forming.  Again,  we see the engineer “tinkerer” in the garage making an invention work, to improve the quality of life for someone,  without the benefit of well-formed scientific principles to help guide the design process.

Fortunately, we are now seeing the lines between science and engineering blur significantly, especially on the cutting edges of additive manufacturing, nanotechnology, genetics and bioinformatics, data analytics and cyber enable discovery.   Scientists and engineers now work side by side to unlock the mysteries of mother nature and find ways to apply them to our new technological world.   I am enthusiastic and excited about the science and engineering professions and the roles they will play in solving some of the world’s most challenging problems, including, disease, poverty, terrorism, energy, sustainability, and more.

Thanks for reading!  If you want to learn more about becoming an engineer, check out our website at


Advising for Spring 2014 – It’s Happening Now!

It may be just now feeling like Fall, but our Spring 2014 Advising is well underway! Between the four advisors, Ally, Heather, Susan, and Vivian, we will see over 1,100 students, at least once, in a little over a month! This is an especially exciting time for all first year students as they are now really settling into the rigor of Speed School. First year students are deciding which engineering major is truly the right fit for them, and many are now starting to think about how to get involved at the Speed School and on campus.

Remember Speed students, you must see your advisor in order to register for classes in the Spring! If you haven’t already set up your appointment, please do so today! Priority registration begins on November 1st at 8 a.m.

For those students wishing to drop a Fall 2013 class, the drop deadline is Monday, Oct. 28th.

Homecoming & Campus Memories

Golden Alumni

A group of Speed School alumni gather to celebrate 50 plus years of receiving their engineering degrees.

As Homecoming approaches and I begin to think about all of the great memories that I have from my years on Campus, I will ask what were some of the things you remember the most about Speed School that have impacted your life or career?  One of the first things that jumps out at me is the strong bond that I built with my group of classmates once I entered into my major.  We certainly spent a lot of time together and developed friendships and business relationships that have extended far beyond the classroom and graduation.  Do you stay in touch with any of your Speed classmates, whether it be 5, 10, 20 or 40 years past?  Any traditions out there with friends and classmates getting together at your favorite restaurant or gathering place?

Chris Barnett (Sophomore) taking the 2011 car to the checkered flag in the final hour of the race.

Chris Barnett (Sophomore) taking the 2011 car to the checkered flag in the final hour of the race.

On September 28th, sixty cars representing twenty-four universities lined up for the start of the fifth installment of Louisville SAE Baja’s Midnight Mayhem! This unofficial SAE Baja endurance race takes place in late September every year as an event to help team recruit and retain new members and also provide a much more laid back competition environment to come out and have fun racing the cars that they’ve all spent countless hours designing and building. Since 2008, the event has grown each year and has now become the premier off season event for teams to attend! The event is held at Podium 1 Motoplex in Charlestown, Indiana where during the day, dynamic events are held to test individual aspects of the cars and then at 8:00 PM the four hour endurance race begins under the lights!

The University of Louisville fielded three cars this year hoping to sweep the podium and place first, second, and third. During the day, the 2013 and 2011 cars were very productive placing 1st and 2nd in the drivetrain event and 2nd and 3rd in the maneuverability event!

Nicholas Day (Senior) completing the drivetrain event with a first place time!

Nicholas Day (Senior) completing the drivetrain event with a first place time!

Just before 8:00, the cars lined up at the starting line, four rows of fifteen cars, for the land rush style start. The 2011 and 2013 Louisville cars gridded in the front row ready to lead the field onto the circuit. When the green flag waved, the 2013 car quickly jumped to the front and never looked back! After one lap, a ten second gap between first and second had been made. As the race went on the field thinned but, for Louisville the 2011 and 2013 cars were in 1st and 3rd place with McGill University in 2nd. As the race drew to a close, McGill had drivetrain issues bumping the 2011 car up to 2nd place! Once again, the University of Louisville took home the victory an astounding six laps ahead of 2nd place, the 2011 UofL car! Ohio State University took home third place.

Cody Ewing (Freshmen) driving the 2012 car in the final hour of the race.

Cody Ewing (Freshmen) driving the 2012 car in the final hour of the race.

For pictures and information on Midnight Mayhem please visit our Midnight Mayhem Facebook Page!

Steel Bridge Team Beginning Design Phase

The Steel Bridge Team has begun its design phase, training new members on the software necessary to design a competitive bridge. AISC (American Institute of Steel Construction), the major sponsor of the Steel Bridge Competition, provides each team with STAAD software. This software assists the team in designing complicated structures.

Once the new members are proficient with STAAD, each member will be proposing a bridge design of their own. From there, the team will choose which bridge appears to be the stiffest, most efficient structure. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the team, as this design could go in many different directions!

If any student is interested in joining the team, Steel Bridge meetings are held Wednesdays at 6:00PM in the ASCE Office (W.S. Speed LL004) and the team can be contacted at

National Cyber League

Since our last update, Cyber Defense has continued our training for the competition by having a previous member give a webinar in a meeting about network security and through some discussion at meetings. Several of our members have also began to compete in the National Cyber League competiton which was started only 2 years ago

to provide an ongoing virtual training ground for collegiate students to develop, practice, and validate their cybersecurity skills. Using lab exercises designed around industry-recognized performance-based exam objectives and aligned with individual and team games, the NCL is a first-of-its-kind ongoing experiment in learning and gaming using next-generation high-fidelity simulation environments.

The competition is in a capture the flag style. There is an individual component which members are working on currently, and there will be a team component that members will join in on in the future, which has a bracket championship.

To continue our preparation for the competition, we are in the process of setting up a virtual playground to perform defensive and offensive testing in. We will be setting up several virtual machines with various Operating Systems to defend from attackers and practice some penetration testing.

ELLC, Creating Community

We are now midway through the first semester and 5th year of the Engineering Living Learning Community. This semester the programs offered at the community, housed in Center Hall, are designed to help the students get better aclimated to the University of Louisville and the rigor of the Speed School, as well as expose them to opportunities to become involved throughout campus. Recently there was a two-part series on stress management and test anxiety. Programs happen every other Tuesday evening and are well attended. Next semester students can look forward to programming that delves deeper into what it means to be an engineer.

Since these are Engineering first year students, perhaps the best resource the Engineering Living Learning Community offers is Reach tutoring 3 times a week within the residence hall. Tutors come to the students and help them with Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus. This resource is invaluable as students can pop downstairs to get a quick answer to something they are stuck with, or go to the whole session to get more in-depth help. When students are not using these Reach resources, strong study groups have formed within the community. Students have excitedly related that anytime they have a question on homework they simply walk down the hall until someone can help them since many students are taking the same classses.

The Community would not be successful without the enthusiasm and dedication of the students within the program. This year’s students are active in record numbers, and because of this, we are able to do bigger and better programming. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the semester and year holds for this community!