Every year, between spring and fall semesters, engineering students from Japan, China, Korea, Italy, and the U.S. travel to a rotating host country and participate in the Asia-Pacific Summer School on Smart Structures Technology (APSS). This summer, Xi Chen, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology, was one of the American delegates to the program hosted by Tokyo University, where he took home second place in the structural health monitoring competition.
APSS selects approximately 50 candidates from universities in the five collaborating countries for an immersive three-week session on the use of smart technologies in civil engineering. American representation typically includes peer institutions such as, Columbia, Duke, Georgia Tech, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Michigan, Rice, and Northwestern. These and other leading schools from around the world send highly-competitive graduate students to the APSS summer school, where they face off in structural engineering challenges as part of a "real world" approach to structural design and monitoring.
As a student of Dr. Yong Shi, Chen studies the characteristics and applications of piezoelectric (PZT) nanofiber. Supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Dr. Shi has developed nanogenerators capable of producing electric energy from mechanical energy using PZT nanofibers. Shi and his students have focused on using the devices to power nanotechnology in the bloodstream, but now Chen has some new ideas.
"The APSS lectures gave me the chance to think about the application of nanotechnology in civil engineering," says Chen. "For example, PZT nanogenerators could be used as the self-charging wireless sensors in applications that monitor the health of structures."
Although the competition, which involved designing control and analysis tools to monitor a test bridge, was a major focus of the summer school, Chen took away much more than a red ribbon.
"It was wonderful to learn with other international students and to hear lectures from top civil engineering professors from around the world," he says. "It is easy to make friends from around the world that I might work with in the future."
Chen has done a lot of traveling in 2010: earlier this year, he and a team of Stevens students took third place in the IEEE/NIST Mobile Microrobotics Challenge held in Anchorage, Alaska.
For more information, please visit the Department of Mechanical Engineering website.