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March 2016 ABe-Notes

AgrAbility 1991-2016: 25 Years, 25 Stories

"The vision of AgrAbility is to enhance quality of life for farmers, ranchers and other agricultural workers with disabilities," said Paul Jones, manager of National AgrAbility Project. "Through education and assistance, AgrAbility helps to eliminate - or at least minimize - obstacles that inhibit success in production agriculture or agriculture-related occupations."

25 years, 25 stories is a way to learn more about how AgrAbility impacts the lives of people around the nation and the world.

For more information on the anniversary activities, see this press release. There is also a National Training Workshop scheduled during the celebration.

Alpha Mu Initiates New Members

The Purdue Chapter of Alpha Mu, the honor society of Agricultural Systems Management, held an initiation on Wednesday, 3/2/16. With current members Caitlin Hubner (president), Will Borcherding (treasurer), Alex Emenhiser, Shawn Ehlers, Salah Issa, and Elizabeth Hawkins officiating, several members were initiated.  Following the meal, some historical words of wisdom regarding education from farmer J. Weston Hutchins (documented as an 1887 extension meeting presentation in Hanover, MI) were shared by the advisor, Dr. Dennis Buckmaster.

Key quotes:

“Having resolved to do what you can for yourself in education, there are two practical rules which you must follow to be at all successful: First: Begin. Second: Keep at it.”

“Let him, then, who would reap the best possible results from his toil, who would elevate his calling in the eyes of the world, who would have his influence felt in behalf of truth and right, give every leisure moment to self-improvement, remembering that the most profitable work ever done upon the farm is cultivating brains.”

Left to right: (Front row) Charlene Cheng, Will Field, Jared Bedel, Megan Shively, Jentry Flesher, Cole Mundell, Elizabeth Hawkins. (Second row) Salah Issa, Shawn Ehlers, Tyler Vigar, Austin Bitting, Adam Luhnow, Josh Shafer, Bryce Kleiman, Alex Emenhiser, Will Borcherding, Caitlin Hubner





New Initiates, left to right: (Front row) Charlene Cheng, Will field, Jared Bedel, Megan Shively, Jentry Flesher, Cole Mundell. (Second row) Tyler Vigar, Austin Bitting, Adam Luhnow, Josh Shafer, Bryce Kleiman.




March 2016 Alumni News

Author: Carol Weaver

It has been a busy week for the ABE Department - we were fortunate enough to have a number of alumni in on February 29 to review senior projects. We appreciate the fact that you are willing to take time out of your busy schedules to offer guidance to our seniors. Suzie Delay, Dave Koellisch, Dale Gick, Andy Marchese, Daniel Cassens, Jason Goley, Curt Elpers, Jack Lashenik, Rebecca Crowl, Larry Loehr, W.K. Campbell, Jacob Misch, David Dux, John Brubaker, Keith Harmeyer, Jeff Cannaday, Mike Cox, Carol Stwalley, Dalton Harbison, and I'm sure I missed at least one. Graduate students did their part as well: Rachel Sparks, Sam Noel, Salah Issa, Jordan Garrity, MD Shariar Karim, Elizabeth Hawkins, Sushant Mehan, Jack Houtman, Siwen Zhao. We also appreciate the faculty participation: Bernie Engel, Robert Stwalley, Richard Stroshine, Dharmendra Saraswat, Dennis Buckmaster. These are but a few of the reasons our students are well-prepared.

We also took some time out that day to honor the oldest employee of the State of Indiana - Bob Vollmer, AE Class of 1952 is still working as a surveyor for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Dale Gick (BS AE '93) brought him to campus where he had lunch with several students and faculty members, then the Department recognized his long service with the Lifetime Contribution to the Profession Award. You can see a video of his remarks at our YouTube site.

On Friday, March 4, we honored Karl E. Weiss, BS AE '92, with the Distinguished Agricultural Alumnus Award. He spent part of the morning at the Maha facility visiting with our alumni who work at Caterpillar Lafayette. He presented an overview of his division, the Earthmoving Division, in an information session in the department, followed by lunch with his brothers at the AGR House. The reception at 2:30 was followed by the presentation of the awards at 3:30 in the North Ballroom of the Purdue Memorial Union.

We are proud of ALL of our alumni - and those who will be!

March 2016 Graduate Student News

Supported with a Borlaug grant, ABE graduate student Taisha Vernort started a 6-month study in February on anaerobic digestion implementations in rural Kenya. She will assess the sustainability and replicability of the anaerobic digestion technology and apply her research results into the Integrated Food Energy systems (IFES) frameworks. Dr. Jiqin Ni also joined her for a 10-day visit at the beginning of the research. They collaborated with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, in Nairobi, Kenya) in the study and visited families that built anaerobic digesters during the Kenya National Domestic Biogas Program and are using biogas produced from the digesters for cooling and lighting. While in Kenya, Dr. Ni also visited the Department of Environmental and Biosystems Engineering, and the Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation at the University of Nairobi; and the school of Environmental Studies, Kenyatta University.

Taisha Vernort conducts surveys of biogas digester implementation in Nandi County, Kenya.

Taisha Vernort, Jiqin Ni, and their local collaborators with the biogas digester owner, the Sainas.


Jiqin Ni visits the Department of Environmental and Biosystems Engineering, University of Nairobi.

March 2016 Maha Fluid Power Laboratory News

On March 4, the Maha Fluid Power Research Center was proud to welcome the distinguished agriculture alumnus Karl Weiss, as well as other ABE alumni working for CAT, for a tour of the Maha lab space. The visitors were treated to an up-close view of Maha’s Range Rover, which is equipped with a novel hydraulic hybrid transmission. The transmission concept was invented by former Ph.D. student Mike Sprengel, and brought to life by former masters student Tyler Bleazard, along with current masters student Hiral Haria and the dedicated effort of Maha mechanic Anthony Franklin. The project represents one of Maha’s greatest successes— and is especially exciting when seen against the backdrop of the major overturn in automotive technology that we are witnessing today. The visitors from CAT were also able to have a look inside Maha’s sound chamber, which is equipped with a robot capable of measuring the noise a hydraulic unit produces by traversing a spherical grid of designated measuring points with an arm holding a cluster of microphones. Last but not least, the tour encompassed a stop at Maha’s excavator, which sports an extremely efficient displacement-controlled hydraulic system that may one day replace the present valve-controlled systems used by industry as the ideal new architecture. It was a pleasure to have the ABE alumni at Maha, and we look forward to their next visit.

March 2016 Undergraduate Student News

The ABE Ambassadors participated in Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on February 27, 2016. We had 42 students participate in our hands-on labs, which included the Water Cleanup and Pneumatics Labs.

If you know of students who would enjoy visiting campus, please get them in touch with Dan Taylor (

 If you are interested in becoming an ABE Ambassador, contact Stephanie Schramm (  If you have ideas for new labs, contact Amelia Lindsay (

The senior design team working on the Hopkins Family Park design, Tamara Mamon, Danielle McNeely, Jakob Keldsen, and Evan Anderson made the Princeton Daily Clarion newspaper when they made their first site visit to the proposed park near Francisco.

The Hopkins family has donated 200 acres of land to Gibson County and this team is creating a master plan for the family to begin building a community park. The team will be presenting their final design at a public community forum on April 11.



In response to a request by the White House Maker Initiative, the Senior Capstone Design Project course, a combination of ABE 48400 offered in the Fall semester, and 48600 offered in the Spring semester (or 48500 combined in one semester) was submitted as a superior example of Making curricula and was selected to represent Purdue at the White House Maker Faire. Congratulations to Drs. Stwalley, Engel, and Okos!

Third Annual ABE GSA Industrial Research Symposium

Author: Salah Issa and Min Xiao

We would like to thank all ABE graduate students, faculty members, visiting scholars, post-docs, company representatives, and undergraduate students for attending our annual ABE-GSA Industrial Research Symposium. This year we have had over 160 students participate in our full-day event including 55 students who presented posters and 16 oral presentations. Our oral presentation sessions are competitive sessions and only the top 4 abstracts in our four main areas of research (Environmental, Machines, Energy and Biological/Food) are selected to present. Our 16 students were selected from a pool of 26 interested students.

This year we have departed from what we have done in the previous years by opening our symposium to all graduate students and adopting a symposium theme. For this year, the main theme was “ingredients for innovation” and chose two great speakers that spoke on this topic. Our plenary speaker was Professor Sabine Brunswicker, an Associate Professor of Innovation and Director of the Research Center for Open Digital Innovation (RCODI) at Purdue University. She spoke at length about the role that digital technology plays in open innovation. Our keynote speaker was Nick Gray, Director of Strategic Projects at Dow AgroSciences, and he spoke at length about how to achieve innovation from both a personal and organizational perspective.  We were also impressed by the diversity of poster and oral presentations that we received this year and commend our poster winners on their excellent research and presentation skills.

Our poster presenters winners for this year:

First Place: David Orrego, Bioenergy (47.67/50)

Second Place: Jingqiu Chen, Environment & Natural Resources (47.00/50)

Third Place: Andi Hodaj, Environment & Natural Resources (46.67/50) (This poster is currently on display in ABE between 209 and 210 and will be followed by the others)

The main objective of this symposium was to promote networking and career opportunities for graduate students, as well as to give an opportunity for leadership and collaboration among students regarding event planning and execution.  We would like to thank all participants for helping us in achieving our goals. We have received very positive feedback from both students and company representatives on this event and we hope to continue hosting and improving this event in the coming years.

Last, but not least, a big thank you to the planning committee members: Jinsha Li, Laura Ortiz de Zarate, Jeremy Robison, Leyu  Zhang, Wenjie Liu, Samira Fatemi, Ahmed Hashem, Emma Brace, Amanda Kreger, Raymond (Studie) Redcorn, Josept Revuelta, Mohamed Aboelnour, Rachel Sparks, Siwen Zhao and Dr. Abigail Engelberth.

Mike Cox, State Conservation Engineer with NRCS and a previous ABE Outstanding Alumni Award recipient, wrote an article for the NRCS employee newsletter and was kind enough to share it with us:

Jeff Cannaday, NW area engineer and Mike Cox, State Conservation Engineer,  attended the 3rd annual Purdue Agricultural & Biological Engineering (ABE) Graduate Student Association (GSA) Research Symposium on February 18th at Purdue University.  Presentations on Bio-Energy research of select graduate students were attended in the morning sessions followed by a mini-career fair held before lunch with NRCS having a booth to increase awareness of the NRCS Pathways-Recent Graduate Program opportunities in engineering.  Lunch was an opportunity to network and talk with the ABE graduate students with the keynote speaker being Sabine Brunswicker, Associate Professor of Innovation and Director of the Research Center for Open Digital Innovation (RCODI), who discussed the many opportunities for using Open Data and how companies are using the public sector to provide ideas for innovation.  Presentations on Environmental & Natural Resources research of select graduate students were attended after lunch followed by a poster session for all graduate research (55 posters).  The dinner keynote speaker was Nick Gray who has served as the Director of Strategic Projects at Dow AgroSciences since 2012.  Mr. Gray challenged the group to continue to take time to slow down, reflect and come up with better ideas to solve problems and highlighted several innovative products which Dow has developed to meet customer needs.  The dinner was another chance to network with ABE graduate students and faculty while enjoying tremendous Indian food.  It was a great day at Purdue to highlight all of the research by graduate students which was shared during the presentations and poster session and to celebrate the diversity of the graduate student population in the Purdue ABE department.  The Purdue Agricultural & Biological Engineering (ABE) Graduate Student program was named #1 in the country by U.S. News and World Report for 2016 for the 7th time in a row.

Left: Andi Hodaj presents "Two-stage Ditch as a Best Management Practice"



Below: Jeff Cannaday, NW Area Engineer, talks with Colleen Moloney, ABE graduate student about Pathways opportunities.


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