Engineering News Briefs: October 2008

Who You Gonna Call?
Wire d magazine just named WSE professor Tony Dalrympleto their “2008 Smart List: 15 People the Next President Should Listen To.” A member of the department of civil engineering and an expert in coastal erosion, Dalrymple could educate our next Commander in Chief on what we should do to perpare for “extreme weather” in the coming years, says Wired. His three-point to avoid disaster? (1) Plan the evacuation; (2) Restore the wetlands; and (3) Save the beaches.

Stand Back!

A senior mechanical engineering design team is receiving wide praise for a device that allows utility workers to safely disconnect power lines from residential transformers.

Built at the request of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), the students’ invention consists of a lightweight aluminum frame and a rope and a lever-and-pulley system that’s used to detach a transformer’s power connector. This operation has been known in the past to trigger explosive arcs as far as eight feet from the transformer and cause serious burns and eye injuries. The students’ device, now being tested for field use by BGE, enables workers to disconnect the line from a safe 10 to 12 feet away. Read more here .

Recent Grad’s Riveting Research

Jennifer Hooper McCarty’ 93 began researching the Titanic’s rivets when she was a Hopkins grad student in materials science. She studied the composition of rivets recovered from the ocean floor, created computer models to determine their durability under iceberg-collision conditions, and combed through documents about the ship’s construction.

Ultimately, McCarty determined that in order to save money and meet deadlines, rivets in the Titanic’s bow and stern were forged from iron, not steel. These weaker rivets popped under the stress of hitting the iceberg, causing five or six of the ship’s “watertight” compartments to flood.

In her recent book, What Really Sank the Titanic, MacCarty concludes that had the rivets been stronger, the ship still would have sunk—but not as quickly. Steel rivets would have made for a less sentimental movie, but would have provided enough time for the Carpathia to rescue all of the Titanic’s passengers.