Monday, August 12, 2013

Week 6 - End of Year 2

“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.” 
~ John F. Kennedy

My second year in the UNH RETE summer program has come to an end and what an adventure it has been! I have learned so much about asphalt and have seen many connections with the math I teach. I think the students will be able to relate to this topic because asphalt is a part of their life in many ways. The common core states often that is ncessary to connect the standard to real world problems. The last two summers I have had the privelege of learning how math is used in the real world and I am grateful for that.

Before I head back to my classroom with all kinds of ideas for implementation I would like to extend a huge thank you to Dr. Daniel and the rest of the asphalt group for their support and guidance this summer. It was an honor to work in a lab with so many collaborative, hardworking, helpful people.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Week 5 Year 2

“It’s hard to beat the person who never gives up.” ~ Babe Ruth

More testing!

I finished my testing this week (as long as I don't have to do any emergency testing next week) thanks to help from Dave and Sonja! At the end of last week the group of people that need to use the AMPT (Asphalt Mixture Performance Tester), the machine I am using to measure deformation had a discussion about what the best way to complete the testing that needed to be done.

 It was decided that I would not do the last few temperatures and that Dave, Sonja, and I would work together to get my testing done as soon as possible so I could begin looking at data and so the AMPT could be free for others to use. The plan worked and testing was completed mid-week! The rest of the week was spent curve fitting!

Week 4 Year 2...Testing, Testing, Testing...

“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometime courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.” ~Mary Anne Radmacher


I was able to test most of the week this week, however I was only able to get about 2 of my 7 temperatures done. I has a great time testing and am so grateful that I was able to use this amazing equipment, however I feel it is important to share that there were some “bumps in the road” this week. I think it is important to recognize these “bumps in the road” because they are a large part of the learning process. Learning can be fun, exciting, and challenging, but at times those challenges can become frustrating and overwhelming. It is then that some of the most rewarding learning takes place. I hope that the lesson I bring back to my classroom from RETE will foster a yearning for this challenge and a love for learning.

Watching the test to make sure if anything goes wrong I stop it.

Some of the “bumps in the road” this week included:

  • Something strange happening in that only 44 files were created when 104 were supposed to be. This happened to me twice while testing this week. One time I went home for the night after and everything was fine the next morning. The other time I restarted the computer and it worked! I think it had something to do with the hydraulics that run the actuator, but I am still not positive. (While problem solving for this I was able to learn a lot about the machine.)
  • At time the LVDTs were not working. As explained in a previous blog post the LVDTs are very intricate and if not set up exactly correct they could misread. Most of the time I was able to get at least a couple of of the LVDTs to work, but there are four and not often were they all working. (Through this process I tried slightly different ways to put the sensors on. After practice and patience I found a way that worked for me.)

    A close up of the an LVDT.
    These are the tools I use to set up the LVDT's on the specimen.

    This is the data I am able to see during testing.

  • There was also concern about applying a load too high for too long that the specimen might break. I am applying a load at very low frequencies which means the load is just sitting there for long period of time. After looking at the specifications and discussion it was decided that the test I am doing in nondestructive and my specimen should be fine. It was very nerve-racking for a little bit though. (Through discussion about this I learned a lot about how asphalt reacts to a load being applied to it as well as how to change the load so the microstrain or amplitude was in the range needed.)

    This is the environmental chamber which keeps the specimen at the correct temperature until they are ready to be set up and tested.

    This controls the temperature on the AMPT.
Carefully setting up the specimen for the next test.

Everything ready to go!

This week I was also able to meet with Dr. Daniels, my mentor, to discuss how I would be analyzing the data when all the testing is done as well as my lesson plan ideas for when I return to school. I am excited to further develop these ideas as I move forward.

Week 3 Year 2

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

I started some testing this week. That was fun and nerve-racking all at the same time. The first time I ran the test the machine began to make a strange noise and shake. Both the graduate students who were observing and I reached to stop the test at the same time. After a few minutes of evaluating the template which tells the machine what to do we tried it again. After a trial and errors we were able to run the test through smoothly. Luckily nothing was broken! After a test or two we had a group meeting with Dr. Daniel and I was told that another person in the lab needed to have priority on the machine since they would be on vacation next week.
Specimen ready to be tested!

This is what the computer looks like during my test.

Following the meeting the rest of the week I spent looking at data and working with others in the lab to figure out a better, easier way to look at all the data. The first afternoon I looked at the data I think I crashed the computer two or three times and spent more time watching the “thinking circle” go around then looking at data. Thankfully, Dave, the graduate student I am working with and Sonja, an undergraduate in the lab this summer were able to come up with a MatLab code that filtered my data so it is more reasonable to work with. Though, creating the MataLab code was a slow, daunting task for them it was very valuable for me. I was able to learn a little about MatLab, but more importantly I was able to witness and be part of some of the collaboration and problem solving that takes place in research.

After the code was created I was able to learn the first steps in processing the data. I first need to open MatLab and run the code to filter the data. Then I copy the data into the template that zeros the time and microstrain to give me curves to fit. Once the curves are fit I am able to get dynamic modulus and phase angle through equations in the template. These I believe I will be using to plug into another program to get the information I need for my project. I have had a great time learning more about Excel and all the tools it has for looking at data! This is something I definitely hope to bring back to my classroom.

Unfit curves

Fit curves

Friday, July 19, 2013

Week 2 Year 2

“When in doubt, take more time” - John Zimmerman

It was another wonderful week of research this week at UNH.  This week I was able to finish the specimen I will be testing, become more familiar with some of the things I will be doing on Excel, and test a dummy specimen to prepare for testing next week!

As the week began I had a few more steps to complete my specimen in preparation for testing.  It is important for me to take care in following each of the steps of the procedure so that my specimen will meet the specifications needed.  Monday I completed the cutting and coring steps.
Setting my specimen up to be cut.
These steps required some safety equipment so as instructed I outfitted myself in rubber boots, a work apron, rubber gloves, safety glasses, and ear plugs.  (I wish I had gotten a picture!)  Once ready the graduate student who is helping explain the process involved in asphalt research to me, Dave, began to explain the coring process.  Basically there is a big cylindrical drill that comes down and cuts through the middle of the compacted piece of asphalt to create a new piece with the correct dimensions.  Next was the cutting.  The specimen has to be particular dimensions before it can be tested.  The cutting process creates a smooth top and bottom for the load to be applied as well.  After Dave showed me, (I was a little nervous) I used a big saw to cut through the asphalt! 
Getting a dry weight.
At that point the asphalt was wet so I had to wait until the next day to check the air voids.  This process I had done before so it went fairly quickly.  The last step was to glue the piece in which the sensors will connect to onto the specimen.  After the glue was dry I was ready to start testing!

Gluing the brackets to the specimen.

This finished product!  Ready for testing!

The rest of the week Dave showed me how to look at some of the data and we used a “dummy” specimen to practice putting on the LVDTs which are the sensors that read the deformation.  The LVDTs are in two pieces and must be handled with care as they are very intricate.  The bottom piece plugs into the machine and connects to the bottom bracket which I glued on earlier this week.  This is attached using a small set screw.  Then you must take the top piece which has small wire on it and place it into the hole on the bottom piece.  This also connects with a set screw.  The plan is to start testing Monday if everything goes well!  Keep your fingers crossed for me!

This week during some “down time” I was also able to take a look at some ideas for bringing this back into the classroom.  Once the testing is done a large part of what I will be doing is looking at the data.  I think it is here that I will probably focus my lesson.  As I looked at the common core standards I found one of the Statistics and probability standards that I may focus my lesson on:

8.DS.2 Know that straight lines are widely used to model relationships between two quantitative variables.  For scatter plots that suggest a linear association, informally fit a straight line, and informally assess the model fit by judging the closeness of the data points on to the line.

I am excited to see the ideas I have for this lesson form as I learn more!

Chocolate asphalt with the KEEPERS!

Chocolate mixed with the "aggregate"

Testing the finished product.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Week 1 Year 2

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dresses in overalls and looks like work.
- Thomas A. Edison

I have returned for my second year in the RETE (Research Experience for Teachers in Engineering) and am so excited to learn new things that I can bring back to my classroom in Allenstown, NH. This past school year I was able to implement a couple of lessons that incorporated my RETE project from last year. The students were so engaged and enthusiastic when they were able to connect the lessons to the real world I wanted to learn more!

These are the big ovens in the lab used for heating up the asphalt before it is compacted.
The compactor in the lab used to make the specimen to be tested.

This year my mentor professor is Dr. Jo Daniel who works with asphalt. There are many different project going on in the lab this summer with focus on recycled material or (RAP). They are using different percents of recycled material and doing tests on them that include changes in temperature and loading rates. My project this summer will be slightly different than that. There are standard temperatures and load rates that are tested on the various specimen to produce a master curve. My project is going to be to collect data from a bunch of different data points to see if less or different points could be used.

Asphalt samples in the lab.

The first week here was a fun and exciting! Every morning we met as a RETE group to discuss inquiry. We talked bout things such as when do students stop being curious or do they as well as the importance of students having a toolbox of facts to pull from. It is great to have some math teachers participating in the program this year! I loved hearing some of their ideas for inquiry in the classroom. 

The first set I made!
In the afternoons I was able to get started on the research project. The first day I met with Dr. Daniel and the grad student I will be working with this summer, Dave, to discuss my project and introduce me to what they do. On day two I immediately started making my samples. I went through the process for compacting and checked for air in my specimen. Next week I will be cutting and coring!

Weighing the specimen after it has been in water.

Taking the weight while submerged in water.

Left over asphalt in the lab.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Field Trip!

Wow! What an amazing experience my students were provided with today! Since I left UNH at the end of the summer and went back to the classroom Andrew, my mentor and I, have been planning a field trip for my students to attend the Automotive User Interfaces Conference in Portsmouth, NH of which he was General Chair.

Students view posters at conference.
The first time I met Andrew we had a very rich discussion about women in engineering.  As I was preparing to head back to Allenstown at the end of the summer he came to me with an idea...what if my female students could attend the conference and meet some female role models in engineering?  I told him I thought it was an excellent idea!  Many times this summer the teachers in the RETE program along with the mentors and graduate students would brainstorm about how we could get students excited about STEM careers.  When brainstorming it was inevitable that awareness of these careers was a key point which was made.  We talked about how much of the time someone with a STEM career will express that they had a family member or someone who was close to them has a STEM career.  So needless to say I thought it would be wonderful for my female students to be exposed to a role model in the field of engineering.

Students speak with engineers about their jobs.
At the conference students were able to experience a one minute madness, which is when people who are presenting posters have one minute to sell their idea and convince you to visit their poster.  Following that students were able to view posters and speak with the engineers about their ideas.  Finally, students had a wonderful opportunity to speak with three women engineers about their job.
Students were interested in things such as: Do you enjoy your job?  What exactly do you do?  Does being an engineer effect your social life?  Who were your role models?  What made you decide to be an engineer?  What age were you when you decided to be an engineer?  And much more...  As questions were answered you could see the excitement grow in my students.  It was exhilarating for me to see the interest in my students!  A wonderful day all around!