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Student Projects

Design of Novel Polymeric Materials Using Computer Simulation

In everyday life, we encounter systems that consist of huge numbers of molecules. For example, 1 gm or water (H20) contains 3.3x1022 molecules. These molecules interact with each other in a very complex fashion. These interactions help assemble smaller molecules to larger assemblies. Everything around us is possible for the natural self-assembly of these molecules.

For larger molecules (usually also known as polymers or macromolecules) the interactions are so complex that one cannot possibly understand the basics of their motions and stability of the materials. The macromolecules often self-assemble to form natural materials like protein, DNA, rubber etc. Also, we could mimic nature and produce different kinds of materials artificially for our comfort. For example, tires, plastics, and medicines are artificially made materials which we use in our daily life. To design these materials, expensive experimental techniques are used. These experiments, however, may not produce results always and lack the basic understanding of physics.

With the help of computers, we can predict materials that can be easily produced and also understand the basic physics behind it. It is well known that the particles follow Newtonian mechanics at a classical level, i.e., they follow F=ma, where F is the force on each particle, m is the mass and a is the acceleration, which is related to the position coordinate of a particle. Therefore, if we know the force acting on a particle at a given time, we can predict, by using basic physics (Newton’s equation of motion), what is going to happen in a future time. The process is even more complicated for macromolecules because of bonds, intra-molecular interactions. For this, we feed the computer with the ‘virtual’ macromolecules and instruct the computer to find out the final product following Newtonian mechanics. Hence, the designing of novel polymeric materials on a computer can be achieved.

In this project we will try to understand how the molecules interacts using computer simulation. What are the forces that bind them together? Why do they self- assemble in a particular form? What is the temperature and density range that should be used to achieve the best material design? Our goal in this project is to engage the students in a thought process where they can understand how research can be conducted, so that they can contribute to the scientific discovery in their future studies.

ORNL Division: Computer Science and Mathematics

Mentors: Monojoy Goswami and Bobby Sumpter

Students: Serge Aleshin-Guendel, Haley Aponte, Wyatt Cox, Amber Gooch

DNA Analysis and Visualization of Bacterial Genomes for Possible Use in the Generation of Liquid Biofuels

DNA and RNA analysis is becoming routine. User friendly commercial software is now available for use in teaching courses. This project will compare 2 commercially available DNA and RNA analysis software packages to procedures designed by ORNL personnel. They will use data collected for the ORNL BioEnergy Center analysis of bacterial genomes for possible use in consolidated bioprocessing of plant material to generate liquid biofuels. The students will be tasked to assemble a bacterial genome from reads directly from Next Generation sequencing machines and analyze the expression of genes from that genome. Visualization of the resulting genomes and associated proteins will follow.

Hosting Division: Biosciences

Mentor: Loren Hauser

Facilitator: Brian Hingerty

Students: Sarah Brown, Meredith Czymmek, Bethany Reid, Sarah Seal

Fabrication and Testing of Fiber Reinforced Plastic Composites

Fiber-reinforced polymer composites have use as structural components in many engineering and domestic applications. For example, concrete is a composite of sand, gravel, and cement that can be further reinforced by steel rods. Similarly, use of fibers enhances the strength of polymer matrices in fiber reinforced plastics. In this work, several types of chopped fibers will be melt-mixed in polymeric matrices and the compound will be molded to fabricate composite sheets. Mechanical properties of those composites will be tested.

Hosting Division: Materials Science and Technology

Mentors: Amit Naskar and Marcus Hunt

Students: Olivia Erkins, Trevor Lawson, Flora Jean Madison, Adrian Pritchard

Robotic Systems and Engineering Development

Robots are used in the industry to protect humans from hazardous environments or when the work involves highly repetitive and precision tasks. The objectives of this project are to (1) expose students to robotic projects underway at ORNL and (2) provide hands-on experience in designing, constructing and programming a small robot. The students will work in two groups on similar problems at the Remote Systems Group of ORNL's Fuel Cycle and Isotope Division. The focus of this project is to develop the mechanical and programming skills that are needed to design, build and operate a robot. The student will build a robot that can navigate an obstacle course using various sensors (light, ultrasonic and/or touch). The students will learn which sensors are best suited for which purposes and what logic is appropriate for controlling the robot's trajectory. Students will be using the Lynxmotion Tri-Track Robot and AL5A Robotic Arm for building and testing.

ORNL Research Division:  Fuel Cycle and Isotopes

Mentors:  Venugopal Varma, Adam Aaron and Adam Carroll

Facilitators:  Carl Mallette and Ken Swayne

Students: Gloria Bowen, Alexis Branch, Tessa Ceppaluni, Skylar Clark, William Gentry, Richard Harry, Miriam Nava-Trejo, Matthew Pace, Mason Ward, Calla Yount

Build a Supercomputer

Students will build a supercomputer! Well, almost. Supercomputers typically use thousands of processors running in parallel to solve problems in science, finance, and other areas. Students will build a smaller supercomputer to gain insight and understanding in how supercomputers are organized and then how to program them. Students will build a Beowulf cluster using ordinary computers. Students will then write a parallel program, compile the program, and execute that program on the cluster. Areas that will be covered during this project are:

  • Computing basics
  • Computer networking
  • Linux operating system
  • Computer programming

Project review and summary

Students will be required to answer the research question: “In what year would the supercomputer we build be considered the world’s fastest supercomputer?” Students will be introduced to Extreme Programming concepts such as pair programming.

ORNL Division: National Center for Computational Sciences

Mentor: Robert Whitten

Assistants: Jerry Sherrod, Caleb Cooper, James Howard, Rob Sparks, and Mark Wagner

Students: Joshua Blevins, Heather Campbell, Darby Chapuz, Keyundra Cole, Daniel Correll, Devin Fleming, Anderson Lallande, Alex Mitchell, Kamal Patel, Kendrick Rodgers

Enabling Machines to See

Have you ever imagined gesturing a machine and receiving a response back? Well, computer vision is an exciting research field whose broad mission is to enable machines to understand what they see. The field encompasses wide range of disciplines including computer science, electrical engineering, mathematics, and neuroscience. For the past fifty years considerable progress has been made in interpreting the 3D world around us from digital signals. The progress in the field has been measured by the advancements made in theories, models, and products.

The research field is highly challenging as the performance measures and standards for machine vision have been set by the advanced human visual system. The human visual system has the remarkable capability to perceptually organize, infer, compare and understand the 3D world around us from the input received though our eyes. At birth, we start seeing things in black and white and shades of gray. But quickly, with a few months of development, we start seeing in color with improved focusing ability. Soon, we are able to judge distances and detect objects around. The visual center in the brain starts to learn interpreting the detected objects. Computer vision is progressing in a similar track. However, there remain great challenges in developing efficient and accurate systems capable of detecting and identifying thousands of objects, tracking and interpreting their motions, and understanding and predicting the behavior and intent.

In this project we will build a simple machine interface that involves a digital camera sensing the scene and a processing unit interpreting the digital signals. We will learn the basics of computer vision–how to process 2D digital signal data, efficient and machine suitable signal representation, and learning to infer from the signals. We will develop an interesting computer vision application as part of the learning process.

ORNL Division: Computational Science and Engineering Division

Mentor: Anil Cheriyadat

Students: Kristopher Davis, Toriea Foster, Conner Whitener, Sarah Wright

Teacher Projects

Nanoparticles – Production, Characterization and Uses

This research project will be conducted in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division (CSD) and is designed to allow participants to better understand processes required to conduct a research project on nanoparticles. The teachers will research a nanotechnology project and be trained on processes and safety procedures used for nanoparticles research. They will then work with a research scientist to prepare samples of nanoparticles, evaluate analytical data characterizing the nanoparticles, and draw conclusions from the data they collect. The teachers also will learn potential applications of some of the nanoparticles being produced and investigated at ORNL. During the two-week program, the teachers will meet other researchers within the laboratory community and learn about nanoparticles-related projects currently being researched at ORNL.

ORNL Division: Chemical Sciences Division

Mentor: M. Parans Paranthaman

Facilitator: James R. Davis

Teachers: Christine Cotter, Michele Perkins, James Prewitt

Forest Inventory

There is an ongoing forestry inventory of plant communities on Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) natural areas. The project outlined here makes use of these forestry data and the availability of a group of high school teachers from the ARC 2012 summer program to produce and organize information related to ORR plant communities. Gathering and analyzing substantive community-related data about lands on the ORR is also in keeping with a central recommendation by Michael J. Baranski in “Natural Areas Analysis and Evaluation: Oak Ridge Reservation” (2008).

The focus of this research will be on Middle Haw Ridge Forests (NA56), one of the ORR natural areas. Other natural areas may be studied as time allows. The teachers will use the dominant trees recorded by Bill Johnston at survey points to make a preliminary identification of the plant communities. Field trips to the natural areas will be conducted to gather additional information needed to determine the communities that are present and to remove exotic pest plants which threaten native plant communities. The teachers will work on describing all features of interest in the natural areas.

A typical day will involve field work, computer-centered work and listening to speakers on topics related to this research and to general biodiversity-related subjects on the ORR. Field work will generally be done in the mornings when it is cooler. The ARC teachers will need to be prepared to deal with slippery slopes, heat, rain, ticks, poison ivy and snakes. Much of the work will be on steep slopes without trails! The computer work will be conducted in the computer room at the teacher’s hotel.

The ARC teachers will summarize their efforts in a report and PowerPoint presentation. This group of teachers will be supervised by Kelly Roy, Larry Pounds and Bill Johnston.

ORNL Division: Environmental Sciences

Mentor: Kelly Roy

Facilitator: Larry Pounds

Assistant: Bill Johnston

Teachers: Linda Lohner, Melissa Monte, Crystal Taylor, Venetia Zachritz

Retained Austenite Measurements using Molybdenum X-rays

This project is a continuation of work done by previous teacher groups. Data from this study will be combined with data collected by previous teams of ARC/ORNL Summer Institute teachers to prepare a manuscript which will be submitted for publication in the open literature, with all the participants as co-authors.

The project involves the use of NIST standard steel samples having known amounts of retained austenite. The previous groups have used the same samples utilizing x-rays generated by CU and Fe targets which are well known and used laboratory x-ray wavelengths. This group will collect data using the same samples but with x-rays generated by use of a MO target which is another well used x-ray source. The data will then be analyzed by use of well known computer software for profile fitting of the complete spectrum for each data set.

No one has done as complete a study of these materials as this embodies. Since different laboratories possibly utilize different x-ray sources, we desired to check the possible statistical variations and repetitive fractions using various experimental conditions.

ORNL Division: Materials Science and Technology

Mentors: Tom Watkins

Facilitator: Burl Cavin

Teachers: Edward Evans, Angela Goad, Joan Luthardt, Betty Short

Cosmic Explosions and Exotic Detectors

Stellar Explosions are the most violent events in the cosmos and simultaneously serve to create and disperse the elements of life. In this two-component project, a group of ARC/ORNL Summer Institute Teacher participants will (a) learn how researchers use exotic detection systems to make laboratory measurements of reactions that occur when stars explode, and (b) learn how researchers input this information into computer simulations of these catastrophic events.

In Part (a), they will be introduced to various detectors used at HRIBF and receive hands-on training with the Versatile Array of Neutron Detectors at Low Energy (VANDLE) which will be used to detect gamma- rays and neutrons from nuclear reactions, as well as cosmic rays from space. They will use VANDLE to measure the attenuation of these exotic particles as they pass through a variety of materials such as stainless steel, lead, water, and plastic.

In Part (b), they will run explosion simulations to determine which thermonuclear reactions have the largest impact on our predications of element creation in these explosions. They will also be given information on how to use these simulations in a variety of classroom activities.

ORNL Division: Physics

Mentors: Michael Smith and William Peters

Teachers: Tracy Kawasaki, Joy Neace, Patrick Witmer