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Greybull Student Excels Through UW Engineering, McNair Program for Research


September 17, 2012 — Even as a Greybull High School (GHS) student, Talysa Stockert knew that she wanted to go onto higher education and achieve something with brother Kajen -- be the first among their family to earn college degrees.

With high expectations for a high-achieving student nearing the end of her University of Wyoming college career, Stockert wants to obtain a doctoral degree so she can secure a college teaching position; she now has a passion for research.

That’s largely due to her research conducted through her major in energy systems engineering, a program offered through the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science. Stockert also participated in the university’s McNair Scholars Program, which pairs UW students with faculty mentors to conduct meaningful research in a laboratory.

The 2009 GHS graduate has had a passion for various types of research. During her high school career, she won first place in her division at the Wyoming History Day competition, and twice had winning projects in the Wyoming State Science Fair, enabling her to compete at the international science fair.

The History Day and state science fair are all held on the UW campus, which made it a natural fit for Stockert to enroll at the university four years ago.

It was by chance that she learned about the McNair Scholars program when it was recommended by her UW Student Success Services adviser.

“I didn’t think it was for me until two years ago when I started to think seriously about going to graduate school,” Stockert says.

The McNair Program is for first-generation, limited-income or minority undergraduate students who seek doctoral degrees. The program is a project of Student Educational Opportunity, a unit of the Division of Student Affairs at UW.

“It means a lot to me to be given this opportunity to get a college degree and having my family’s support,” Stockert says. “Wanting to continue my education is really why I am here.”UW energy systems engineering student Talysa Stockert from Greybull works on her research under the watchful eye of her project mentor Yuan Zheng, a mechanical engineering associate professor.

She credits the UW McNair program’s Zackie Salmon and Susan Stoddard for guiding her.

“The McNair program has been one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had on campus,” Stockert adds. “Susan and Zackie help you know what is needed to get into and be in graduate school.”

As an engineering student, Stockert was able to partner on her McNair project with Yuan Zheng, a mechanical engineering asssistant professor, and Dan Mosiman, a graduate student in the department.

This past summer she presented her research, “An Experimental and Theoretical Study of Flows in a Twin-Screw Extruder for Vehicular Hydrogen Storage,” at the McNair Scholars year-end program. She will continue to work on the project throughout the semester.

“The work we are doing is testing the concept of using a twin-screw extruder to transport ammonia borane throughout a hydrogen vehicle,” she says. “Ammonia borane is a hydrogen carrier many institutions are researching as a fuel for a hydrogen car.”

Using this material, Stockert hopes to maximize the amount of usable hydrogen power the car can carry without compromising the fuel mileage from the weight of that fuel. The problem, she says, is that ammonia borane is a solid material, and the current fuel lines in that vehicle are designed for a liquid, such as gasoline.

“This is where the twin-screw extruder can be used to move the ‘sticky,’ solid material around a hydrogen vehicle,” she explains.

The full name of the device is a self-wiping, co-rotating twin-screw extruder designed by a UW senior design team guided by Zheng and Scott Morton, senior design instructor.

The first phase of Stockert’s research was during the summer, when she studied the device to understand how it works and if it would be effective in transporting the material.

“This was really digging into the science behind the twin-screw extruder by researching current designs and running various experiments,” she says.

The second phase, that she is just beginning, is redesigning the machine to address any of the problems that were found in the initial research. Since she and Zheng are now just beginning this stage, the next steps are to apply for funding to start the research.

“UW has been a great experience for me. The engineering department has a great support staff and, if you ask, they can lead you to great opportunities,” Stockert says. “Dr. Zheng fit nicely with my research style. He let me progress at my own pace while helping me to achieve more at the same time. Through his guidance, I was able to understand what it takes to be a graduate student and that it was something that I truly enjoyed.”

Photo:
UW energy systems engineering student Talysa Stockert from Greybull pours low-density polyethylene (a substitute for ammonia borane) as part of her project that maximizes the amount of usable hydrogen power a car can carry without compromising the fuel mileage from the weight of that fuel. (UW Photo)

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