UHCL mechanical engineering program receives grant for additive manufacturing and composite materials research
This project is a pivotal moment in UHCL’s pursuit of scientific excellence and innovation, while inspiring future generations of STEM enthusiasts.
University of Houston-Clear Lake’s (UHCL) Mechanical Engineering program recently received a $199,522 grant from the National Science Foundation to further research in additive manufacturing and composite materials.
Additive manufacturing (AM) involves building an object layer by layer, typically using 3D computer-aided design (CAD).
The findings of this research are expected to generate new knowledge on material-extrusion based AM of embedded heating composite molds for energy-efficient composite manufacture.
The researchers involved in the study are Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Kazi Billah and mechanical engineering students; Neel Rathod, Jeffrey “Jeff” Gleasman and Mario Gonzales.
They all agreed that this project helped them develop technical and communication skills, benefiting their future careers.
“In research, if you cannot effectively communicate your work with the rest of the scientific community, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the next big thing; it will have no value,” said Rathod.
Rathod transferred to UH-Clear Lake after receiving an Associate of Science in Mathematics from San Jacinto Community College. He chose to attend UHCL because of its convenient location and the Mechanical Engineering program, which aligned with his professional goals.
Rathod chose mechanical engineering due to his interest in the science of how machines work and his desire to make a notable impact on this project.
Gleasman is a transfer student from San Jacinto Community College who dreams of becoming an aerospace engineer and contributing to space exploration. His lifelong passion for science, coupled with his experience as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army and certification courses he completed, have fueled his interest in working on this project.
“I was excited to be a part of this novel project because it bridged the gap between classroom theory and practical application, going from a concept sketch to a practical application,” said Gleasman.
Gleasman was inspired by Billah’s passion for research and his ability to inspire students toward innovative thinking. The project has been a great learning experience for him as it has helped him to improve his 3D computer-aided design (CAD) modeling and design skills, as well as his knowledge of the maintenance and operation of 3D. Gleasman believes effective teamwork is as essential as technical skills when completing projects.
“We learned where to focus our time and that in certain prototyping processes, capability and functionality can be of higher priority, while aesthetics can be addressed as the design matures,” said Gleasman.
Mario Gonzales reached out to Billah for an opportunity to work on the project due to his curiosity about how machines work.
“It sounded really exciting and interesting to me,” Gonalez said. “Our research focuses on additive manufacturing and composite materials. It consists of designing parts, manufacturing them, and testing them.”
Gonzales also mentioned that the team is developing a tool head for a 3D printer that can embed wire within a plastic part while 3D printing.
“From researching information to designing the components and manufacturing prototypes, all of the research assistants have been heavily involved,” said Gonzales. “The current design has been achieved by bringing everyones' ideas together.”
Since beginning the project in July 2023, the students have gained valuable information and would like to highlight Billah's ambition and hardworking nature.
“This project could not have been done alone. I am inspired and humbled by such a talented and motivated team of fellow students under Dr. Billah's guidance and mentorship,” Gleasman explained. “I am excited to take my understanding of design, automation and systems integration to the next level.”
Gleasman expressed his hope that the team would gain valuable experience and learn from it as they advance into their careers.
According to Billah, this project is crucial in UHCL's pursuit of scientific excellence and innovation while also inspiring future generations of STEM enthusiasts.
For more information about UHCL’s College of Science and Engineering, visit www.uhcl.edu/science-engineering/.