Monday, February 9, 2015

Alcoa joins the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing

by CCAM: "Global High Tech Metals Leader Will Enhance CCAM Research and Development"

The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) today announced that Alcoa, the global leader in lightweight metals technology, engineering and manufacturing, will join the research consortium that brings together world-class businesses, Virginia's top universities, and the NASA Langley Research Center.

As an Organizing Industry Member, Alcoa will conduct proprietary research at CCAM's state-of-the-art facility in Prince George County, Va., and retain IP ownership of its developments as well as collaborate with member companies on research for new manufacturing techniques and processes.

"Alcoa is driven by innovation - not only from our own scientists and engineers but also through collaboration and ideas shared by those outside our company," said Director of Technology Leighton Cooper, who will serve on CCAM's Industrial Operations Board and provide oversight of CCAM's operations and review of research programs. "Our membership with CCAM will increase efficiencies and provide advanced manufacturing solutions that will benefit the whole consortium. Alcoa's role as an industry pioneer directly aligns with that model."

Raymond J. Kilmer, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Alcoa, will serve on the Board of Directors for CCAM, and Sherri McCleary, Director of Materials & Process Technologies will serve on its Technical Advisory Council.

Joseph F. Moody, CCAM President and Executive Director, said, "Alcoa is a multi-material powerhouse, a trailblazer in new production techniques and a leader in developing speed-to-market innovations. CCAM is delighted to welcome Alcoa to the team."

Founded more than 125 years ago after inventing aluminum, Alcoa developed a new industry from which many others benefited. Alcoa's innovations continue to evolve in markets ranging from aerospace, automotive, defense and commercial transportation to oil and gas, building and construction, consumer electronics and packaging.

The CCAM industry and government consortium now numbers 28 members, including Aerojet Rocketdyne, Airbus, Alcoa, Canon Virginia Inc., Chromalloy, Newport News Shipbuilding, Oerlikon Metco, Rolls-Royce, Sandvik Coromant, Siemens, Blaser Swisslube, EOS, Hermle Machine Co., Mitutoyo, Paradigm Precision, RTI International Metals, Inc., Buehler, Cool Clean Technologies, GF Machining Solutions, Mechdyne, National Instruments, Spatial Integrated Systems (SIS), and the NASA Langley Research Center.

Academic partners are the Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, and Virginia Tech.

CCAM is based at a 62,000 square foot facility that has computational and engineering research labs, high bay production space and commercial scale equipment, and specialized equipment and tooling for research in surface engineering, manufacturing systems, additive manufacturing, machining technologies, composite materials processing, and welding and joining. Leveraging the combined strengths and capabilities from CCAM and the network of university, industry, and government partners, CCAM bridges the gap between research and commercialization, accelerating new developments to market.


About CCAM
CCAM delivers innovative solutions for manufacturing better products. An applied research center, CCAM provides production-ready advanced manufacturing solutions to member companies across the globe. Members guide the research, leveraging talent and resources within CCAM and at Virginia's top universities, through a collaborative model that enables them to pool R&D efforts to increase efficiencies. Results can then be applied directly to the factory floor, turning ideas into profit faster and more affordably than ever before. CCAM is located in a state-of-the-art research facility in Prince George County, Virginia. For more information, visit

About Alcoa
A global leader in lightweight metals technology, engineering and manufacturing, Alcoa innovates multi-material solutions that advance our world. Our technologies enhance transportation, from automotive and commercial transport to air and space travel, and improve industrial and consumer electronics products. We enable smart buildings, sustainable food and beverage packaging, high performance defense vehicles across air, land and sea, deeper oil and gas drilling and more efficient power generation. We pioneered the aluminum industry over 125 years ago, and today, our approximately 59,000 people in 30 countries deliver value-add products made of titanium, nickel and aluminum, and produce best-in-class bauxite, alumina and primary aluminum products. For more information, visit, follow @Alcoa on Twitter at and follow us on Facebook at

Leland Melvin featured on NPR's My Big Break

"By day, I'm catching balls for America's team and at night, I'm watching materials science and engineering courses in a master's program." ~ Leland Melvin, speaking to NPR in My Big Break
From NPR: "From Touchdowns To Takeoff: Engineer-Athlete Soared To Space"

You may recognize retired astronaut Leland Melvin from his famous 2009 NASA portrait with his two dogs, Jake and Scout. Or maybe you've seen him on the Lifetime channel hosting Child Genius.

But his first claim to fame wasn't in space or on screen — it was on the field. Melvin, who is part athlete and part engineer, was drafted in the NFL in 1986.

He was signed to the Dallas Cowboys the same year he enrolled at the University of Virginia, studying materials science and engineering.

"They videotaped the courses and mailed them to me in Dallas," Melvin says. "So by day, I'm catching balls for America's team and at night, I'm watching materials science and engineering courses in a master's program."

But when Melvin suffered a severe hamstring injury during practice, his NFL career was over.

So he fell back to a career in science. He says he heard that NASA was looking for astronauts. With his athletic background and engineering experience, he thought he might be perfect for the job.

"So I applied the next selection and I got in," Melvin says. "It was pretty incredible."

Melvin went through the rigorous series of training sessions, including time at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, a 6-million-gallon pool used for spacewalk training.

"We have the International Space Station and Space Shuttle submerged underneath 30 feet of water so that you can actually be floating like you're in space," he says. "We're in this white suit looking like a Michelin Man, they lower you down in the water and one of the things they forgot to put in my helmet was this little pad on your neck ring."

Melvin says that little pad allows you to press your nose against it so you can clear your ears as you go down into the water.

"I was straining to clear [my ears] and I tell the test director, who's in the control center, to turn the volume up in the headset," Melvin says. "I could not hear a thing. All I heard was static and white noise."

They immediately stopped the exercise and Melvin was pulled out of the water.

Leland Melvin floats inside the International Space Station
alongside  astronauts Stanley Love (left) and Rex Walheim, (right)
during Melvin's first mission to space. AP

"There was blood coming out of my ear and they rushed me to the emergency room," he says. "They did surgery, they looked around, they couldn't find anything and being an astronaut, you need your hearing. If something happens and they can't explain why it happened, they won't let you fly in space."

Melvin's hearing slowly came back but he was still medically disqualified. So he traveled to Washington, D.C., to work in one of NASA's education programs instead.

"At that same time, February 1, 2003, we lost Space Shuttle Columbia," he says. "At that point we had to take care of our families."

Melvin consoled the parents of David Brown, one of the crew members on board who died that day.

"David's father said to me ... 'My son is gone, there's nothing you can do to bring him back, but the biggest tragedy would be if we don't continue to fly in space to carry on their legacy.' "

Melvin says that really stuck with him. He wanted to do his part. As he flew across the country attending memorial services, Melvin says the chief flight surgeon was watching him closely, assessing his ear injury.

"He's watching me clear my ears and go up and down in the airplane and he calls me in his office and says, 'Leland, I'm going to sign a waiver for you to fly in space,' " he says. "That was one of my big breaks."

The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off Thursday afternoon Feb. 7, 2008, at the Kennedy Space Center. "It was this incredible surge of force and sound," Melvin says. Terry Renna/AP

Melvin's first mission was in February of 2008 aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.

"We're looking at each other, we're pointing to the books and things and we're pointing to the computers and we have these huge smiles on our faces," he says. "Just like, 'Yeah, we're about to go to space!' "

The countdown began.

"The three main engines light, that's when the solid rocket boosters ignite," Melvin says. "It was this incredible surge of force and sound and your head is starting to shake."

The shuttle roared into the sky.

"I had a mirror on my wrist and I could look out the overhead window and see where the plume connected back to the ground. About three miles from where that plume was, was where my family was sitting," he says. "And it made this connection with me that they were with us."

Just 8 1/2 minutes later, the crew aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis made it into space.

"We're floating and the things that you dropped are now floating around you," Melvin says. "Seeing this blue marble below us with no borders as we go around the planet every 90 minutes at 17,500 miles per hour."

"Looking at places where there's unrest and war and we're working together as one team to help advance our civilization — that's just an incredible, incredible moment for me."

Monday, February 2, 2015

Nanomedicine student Kevin Eisenfrats leads team to Winning Entrepreneurship Cup

Last fall, nine finalists competed for a chance to win the sixth annual  University of Virginia Entrepreneurship Cup competition. The first place prize went to a team led by forth year Nanomedicine student Kevin Eisenfrats.

Story by Lauren Jones and Ashley Patterson in UVA TODAY:

Four teams divvied up $40,000 in prize money Friday at the sixth annual University of Virginia Entrepreneurship Cup competition, where new student-initiated ventures hoped to get their footing with a generous investment sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research in partnership with Third Security LLC and Vonage.

“The concepts presented today covered talents and ideas from all over the schools of the university,” said Thomas C. Skalak, vice president for research. “We can say the entrepreneurial spirit is layered over U.Va.”

He noted that more than half of the nine finalist pitches were interactive media concepts, and the rest were new inventions of physical devices or therapies. But with three-quarters of the winnings, the material inventions won out.

The winners of the $20,000 first-place prize went to an almost exclusively first-year team of Ann Liu, Alexander Karmi and Melissa Pena and their fourth-year team leader, Kevin Eisenfrats, who developed the idea for a gel-based contraceptive injection for male cats and dogs that could transform the way the animal population is controlled.

The current vet-administered procedure for neutering costs pet owners hundreds of dollars, is surgically invasive and painful, irreversibly alters hormones and can often lead to complications such as increased risks of prostate and bladder cancer, said Eisenfrats, a nanomedicine engineering major. He and his teammates are pre-commerce and engineering students who met through a biotechnology entrepreneurship program at U.Va. called Biotrep.

“The truth is that the neutering procedure hasn’t changed in centuries,” he said. “There’s a two-week recovery period after the surgery, it’s expensive, and there are way too many risks that come along with it.”

The students’ solution package, called “Contraline,” contains two parts. First, they’ll provide an existing contraceptive polymer gel that vets can inject into a male pet’s vas deferens (the tube that transports sperm from the testes). Instead of sterilizing the animal, the gel will effectively block the sperm from flowing for 12 years – the average lifespan of most pets, Eisenfrates said – but it’s also easily reversible, a trait that competitive animal breeders would find attractive.

To accurately inject the gel, the students are developing a handheld ultrasound device that vets can use to see beneath the animal’s skin, similar to an x-ray machine. The vet can use the device to insert the gel, and to check on the status of the contraception at any subsequent checkup.

“We’re taking the neutering procedure, which is surgically invasive and has many problems for the animal, and turning it into a much safer and less complicated procedure,” Eisenfrats said. “Think of it like a flu shot.”

The new procedure will reduce pet trauma while still controlling the animal overpopulation, and with a cost to consumers of $150, it promises a faster and cheaper alternative to neutering.

In a pet sterilization market valued at more than $3 billion annually, Contraline’s “no-snip” contraceptive method has the potential to make a huge impact.

“We are shocked and ecstatic to win,” Eisenfrats said. “[Our team] has come very far and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Biotrep and Dr. John Herr, my mentor and our team’s adviser.”

The $10,000 second-place check was awarded to the NostraJAMUS team, which pitched its idea for an online music platform centered on discovery and popularity betting. Commerce students Collin Waldoch, Tony Olmert and Vincent Ning developed the concept for the website, which encourages users to share songs they think will be the “next big hit,” post the song on their profile page, and then gain popularity on the site if other users agree. In a twist from other music-discovery sites, players can enter contests to place small bets on which music acts will rise, and the outcomes result in cash winnings.

The team proposed to make pick new hit songs like drafting a “fantasy football” steam, and by pairing music discovery with monetary incentives, they’ll facilitate a fun, interactive community that music lovers will want to keep coming back to – and will set itself apart from other services that rely more on their music volume than its value, they said.

Two other teams won $5,000 checks for honorable mention.

Commerce students Doug Chan, Shreyas Harihanan, Dawn Lu and Seth Nelson received funding to propel their “Community Honor Fund,” a short-term loan and financial coaching program specifically for university towns. The fund aims to offer low-interest loans to families in need living in the Charlottesville community, and enroll the borrowers with a student-run loan counseling service that will educate the families, and train students in financial literacy coaching.

The other $5,000 check went to Tim Barry, Stephen Simion, and Pearson Gunn for RHEOFLEX, a brace to help reduce knee injury in football. Football players often avoid wearing braces because the rigid, uncomfortable fit impacts their performance. The student team, made of two engineers and a commerce student, have engineered a lightweight, flexible polymer-based brace that tenses up when it sense the knee is about to give out, combating both problems. The engineering students have already started developing the brace as part of their fourth-year capstone project.

“There was a great diverse number of concepts that we got to see today, and the judges all felt that the level of poise and passion that you brought to your concepts was incredibly impressive,” said competition judge and U.Va alumnus Mark Lefar as he prepared to announce the winning teams. “Keep plugging away at your ideas.”