NMSU named lead institution of the Department of Energy’s consortium



LAS CRUCES – The College of Engineering at New Mexico State University has been named the lead institution of a US Department of Energy consortium. The goal is to develop a pipeline of underrepresented minority students ready to enter the workforce and ensure quality control in the next generation of materials and processes used in advanced manufacturing.

The five-year, $ 2 million award will include three minority education institutions and three national laboratories to meet the needs of the laboratories and factories of the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Agency. It will operate under the name of QCAM (Consortium Enabling In- and Ex-Situ Quality Control of Additive Manufacturing).

Led by NMSU Associate Professor Ehsan Dehghan-Niri, Civil Engineering, the ambitious and successful proposal was crafted in just five months, with all the pieces lined up as if the prize was meant to be.

At a NASA conference in 2019, Dehghan-Niri accidentally met Harold Halliday from the Technical University of Navajo, and a series of connections followed to form the unique partnership of universities and national laboratories that formed this interdisciplinary consortium.

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Students are the focus of the consortium, mostly minority students in science, technology, engineering and math. The three universities, all relatively close together, include New Mexico State University, Navajo Technical University, and Prairie View A&M University, each serving under-represented Hispanic, Native American, and African-American students, respectively.

Dehghan-Niri saw an opportunity to develop the unique purpose of the consortium with an emphasis on quality control that did not appear to exist elsewhere. A second feature was that all courses had to be offered online. In addition, each component of the program was to include research, education and awareness activities to make the program sustainable.

New manufacturing processes that use innovative technologies, such as 3D printing, require specialized analytical techniques and equipment to assess the properties of materials, components or systems without causing damage. Additive manufacturing based on polymers and metals is emerging in the development of complex components used in the energy, automotive, aerospace, oil and gas industries. There is an emerging need to develop new techniques capable of overcoming the limitations of traditional methods used for quality control.

The main goal of QCAM’s educational partners is to establish a sustainable pipeline of underrepresented minority students to meet this growing need from the DOE National Nuclear Security Agency laboratory partners at QCAM: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Kansas City National Security Campus. The national laboratories are key collaborators and will work with the university leaders of QCCAM to develop research projects, internships and senior research projects allowing students to gain practical experience.

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The NMSU lead institution brings expertise for monitoring and inspection of advanced manufactured parts and advanced manufacturing training to the table.

Dehghan-Niri heads the NMSU’s Intelligent Structures and Non-Destructive Assessment Laboratory, a 2,300 square foot facility, which is equipped with precision measuring devices, non-destructive evaluation equipment, 3D printers and robotic systems. Attendees will also have access to NMSU’s Aggie Innovation Space, recently equipped with over $ 1 million in advanced manufacturing technology.

NTU, already a member of several National Nuclear Security Agency consortia, has metal additive manufacturing capabilities. The school, located in Crownpoint, New Mexico, offers a bachelor’s degree in advanced manufacturing engineering technology. Halliday is NTU’s Principal Investigator for QCAM and runs the Lab / Manufacturing Center for Advanced Manufacturing. laboratory equipped with advanced manufacturing technologies and materials for teaching and research.

Prairie View A&M University, in Prairie View, Texas, brings knowledge of polymer additive manufacturing and virtual reality to enhance distance education and group outreach activities. The Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department, Rambod Rayegan, is QCAM’s Principal Investigator at PVAMU. Students and researchers have access to the virtual prototyping research laboratory, the manufacturing process laboratory, the measurement and instrumentation laboratory, and the materials processing and testing laboratory.

The three schools will begin by leveraging existing outreach programs for students and teachers to increase their knowledge about advanced manufacturing and spark their interest in STEM fields of study. Social networks will be used to increase visibility.

The partners will develop a multidisciplinary undergraduate program focused on additive manufacturing with courses offered through distance education. The graduate programs will promote research and development in advanced non-destructive testing and manufacturing.

Dehghan-Niri says the partners have received the project enthusiastically and have all worked diligently to develop the proposal. He also received great support from Associate Dean of Research Phillip De Leon (now Vice President of Research at NMSU) and Head of the Civil Engineering Department David Jauregui.

“The sequence of events was not random, it’s like everything happened for a reason,” Dehghan-Niri said. “You have to have good intentions. If you approach a project for the benefit of students, it will happen. If you approach him for money, it won’t happen. If you approach him for recognition, it won’t happen.

“EYE ON RESEARCH” is provided by New Mexico State University. This week’s article was written by Linda Fresques of the College of Engineering. Linda Fresques can be reached at 575-646-7416, or by email at lfresque@nmsu.edu.

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