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Student Research Presented
at NKU Research Celebration

Engineering Technology

Motor Skill Enhancing Pen
John Wells, Kristen Goodridge
Faculty Sponsor(s): Kassiani Kotsidou
Abstract: Our project uses positive reinforcement techniques to assist with the efficient grasping of writing utensils. It is known that poor pen grip can lead to poor handwriting. Training kids on proper pen grip may be quite challenging and our design may help with this challenge. It requires a pen device to be connected to a microcontroller, such as the Arduino platform, and responds by playing sounds and displaying visuals when the pen is held correctly. Apart from a microcontroller, our project also uses resistors and photoresistors, making it relatively inexpensive to develop.

Norse Baja
Tyler Spaeth, Daniel Walters, Karen Ely, Anthony Steffen, Jayson Lotz
Faculty Sponsor(s): Morteza Sadat
Abstract: The Society of Automotive Engineers is a professional organization for students interested in the mechanical engineering and technology field. This project is to simulate real-world engineering and related challenges. Students involved are tasked to design, build, test,
promote and race the vehicle according to the competition rules. The vehicle must withstand severe rough terrain during the competition. Norse Baja team members are responsible for generating financial support for their project. This project presents the 2015 car design and the results from previous years.

Exploring RFID-Integrated Classrooms
John Wells
Faculty Sponsor(s): Kassiani Kotsidou
Abstract: The technology behind RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, has existed for the past few decades. This technology has, until recently, been limited to a small number of applications, such as basic data collection on cattle. We have used this technology to create a classroom door opener that is more secure and convenient than the conventional door lock. All that is needed to access a classroom is the tap of a student card or bracelet. This will ensure that students are in the correct room at the correct time, while also automatically taking attendance for the instructor.

Development of a Concrete Deposition Head for Biomimicked Construction
Mohammed Alanazi
Faculty Sponsor(s): Seyed Allameh
Abstract: Biomimicking helps develop structural materials that are tough against impacts.Combining elements from the fields of Biology, Materials, Robotics and Construction allows us to produce buildings that are resistant to earthquakes. A 3D construction printer was developed at NKU to write structures using plaster, clay and caulk. This work is focused on the development of a concrete deposition system to complement other deposition techniques. It allows 3D printing of concrete structures that can be tested for dynamic shear resistance properties

Characterization of Mechanical Properties of Microstructures
Jennifer Wardlow
Faculty Sponsor(s): Seyed Allameh
Abstract: Microtechnology has matured to the point that hundreds of MEMS components are used in todays’ modern cars. These small microelectromechanical system devices allow detection and actuation regarding various tasks including acceleration of the cars and triggering
of the airbags. The mechanical structures within MEMS are made of materials that may suffer from fatigue in various aggressive environments. A newly developed microtesting system is used to characterize tensile and fatigue properties of microsamples in various environments. Specimens are made of different materials including aluminum foam, covetic aluminum, weldment steel among others. This work investigates tensile properties of aluminum foam strut at high and low temperatures

Physics & Astronomy

Enhancing the Structural Integrity of Ferrite Magnets for Magneto-Elastic Pressure Applications by Improving Various Sample Preparation Methods
Thomas Haines, Meredith Barone
Faculty Sponsor(s): Chari Ramkumar & Wayne Bresser
Abstract: The goal of this research was to investigate ways to increase the structural integrity of ferrite compounds for magneto-elastic pressure applications. We successfully synthesized ferrite composite materials of MnxFe3-xO4 using thermal decomposition of metal oxides. These
ferrite materials have been observed to change their inductance due to external pressure, thus a potential pressure sensor. We have tested various preparation methods to increase structural integrity. The SEM results show that multiple grinding and double calcination of the sample powder reduces the porosity, thus allowing better compaction of crystals. We will compare our results to previously obtained results and discuss the improvements.

Analysis of the Tracking Effectiveness of the NKU Observatory 11-inch Telescope
Shandon Stamper, Neil Russell, Mike Wilson, and Nathan De Lee
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Nathan De Lee (
Abstract: In order for a telescope to take good astronomical images, it is very important that it is able to track objects very precisely. The slightest deviation in tracking the motion of the sky can severely hinder the collection of quality data by distorting the images.  The objective of this project is to determine the effectiveness of the 11-inch telescope’s ability to track objects in the night sky, determine the maximum exposure time we can achieve, and attempt to improve the tracking. We quantify the tracking quality as a function of exposure time and determine maximum exposure times. We will discuss several methods we are developing and employing that should improve the telescopes ability to track objects accurately.

Faintest Stars Observable by NKU's 11-inch Telescope
Johnathan Wilson, Shandon Stamper, Neil Russel, Dr. Nathan De Lee
Faculty Sponsor(s): Dr. Nathan De Lee,
Abstract: NKU has a variety of astronomical equipment, which needs to be prepared for the opening of the NKU Observatory. Our goal was to evaluate this equipment and test the observation potential of the 11-inch telescope.  After getting the telescope and camera operational, we imaged two different celestial objects:  a globular cluster and a planetary nebula.  The goal of this project is to determine the faintest object we can usefully observe. We compared the magnitudes of stars present in these systems to the known, official magnitudes.  We then started to test the limits of the camera by using different exposure times to increase signal to noise.  Our analysis shows that we can observe and analyze stars down to a faint limit around 13th magnitude.


Trends in Ordovician species through sea level changes observed in the Kope Formation of northern Kentucky
James Ruehlman
Faculty Sponsor(s): Janet Bertog
Abstract: In this research we looked closely at the limestone layers of the Kope Formation from the Ordovician Period. The layers of shale and limestone were measured in thickness. Then, if the layers of limestone were fossiliferous we extracted 30X30cm systematically from the top of the Kope. We then super imposed a 30X30cm grid over the limestone layers and made a census of fossil genera at each cross-section of the graph. In conclusion we found that Sowerbyella was inversely proportional to Oneilla and Batastoma was inversely proportional to Parvohallopora throughout the 5 sequences of sea level change.

Water Quality in the Banklick Creek and a Spillway Tributary in Independence, KY
Alexandra Shelters
Faculty Sponsor(s): Samuel Boateng
Abstract: This study seeks to monitor the water quality of the Banklick Creek and a spillway tributary off the Doe Run Reservoir in Independence, KY. The goal is to assess the overall health of the creek and evaluate any changes in key water quality parameters with the seasons. Four sites within the creek and the tributary are tested weekly for their pH, temperature, conductance, oxidation redox potential (ORP), and nitrate. Additional testing is done whenever there is a rainstorm. Changes in water quality between sites are evaluated. It is expected that land use (Dog Park) may affect the creek’s water quality.

Identification of Landslide Failure Planes through Varying Geophysical Methods
Brad Vogelpohl
Faculty Sponsor(s): Sarah Johnson & Thomas Brackman
Abstract: The Greater Cincinnati area has some of the highest cost per capita in the United States for landslide damages. The goal is to generate varying models of slides, and then correlate the different surveying methods based on geophysical and drilling data in distinguishing failure planes. Methods for data acquisition are as follow: core samples,  inclinometers, electrical resistivity survey lines, and ReMi (seismic) survey lines. Processed data will assist in detecting the slip surface and also aid in modeling slope stability. The non-invasive geophysical methods, unlike traditional drilling, will describe the slope in a more economical fashion.

Use of Electrical Resistivity to Determine Locations of Unmarked Graves at Mammoth Cave
Andrew Bergman, Clint Kappesser, Josh Morely
Faculty Sponsor(s): Thomas Brackman
Abstract: The purpose of this research is to determine the extent of an old cemetery and the locations of potential unmarked graves at Mammoth Cave National Park using the noninvasive method of electrical resistivity tomography. A complete geophysical survey will be conducted
over an old cemetery in order to gather data and create a 3D model of the subsurface to help identify potential unknown graves. The resulting data and maps will be presented during the Celebration of Student Research.

Mineral Exploration Through Applied Geophysics
Bryce Hamilton, Alexandra Barker, Hannah Utterback
Faculty Sponsor(s): Thomas Brackman
Abstract: Rare earth elements (REE) are essential in the development of electronics, both militarily and for civilian consumption. The United States imports REE, with no domestic production currently taking place. It is anticipated that through geophysical investigation, American reserves can become established. Utilizing Electrical Resistivity, which applies
an electrical current into the subsurface, we will attempt to collect data over abandoned sulfide mines in Gratz, Kentucky. This is because REE are known to be deposited proximal to sulfides. Any collected data will be provided to Advanced Geosciences for continued research to
demonstrate the importance of this methodology in establishing mineral reserves.

Coral and Algae Distribution Along the Belize Barrier Reef
Katie Ollier
Faculty Sponsor(s): Sarah Johnson & Dr. Denice Robertson
Belize hosts some of the most diverse marine wildlife in and around its coral reefs. It has the second largest coral reef in the world and is characterized by being extremely well protected from harm. During the summer of 2015 our group of student researchers traveled to Belize to investigate and study the coral reef. This project focused on coral type and algae cover in different sediment depths which was then mapped using Geographic Information Systems. The GIS map will be used to show where coral cover is thriving and which areas have an abundance of algae growth. The GIS tools used for this experiment include georeferencing, geographic coordinate system manipulation, and attribute data. Each area of study was categorized in an attribute table and then compared to the Reefbase identification of different coral reef areas. This information is important to determine the health of coral reef systems and the diversity of the ocean. It can be used to indicate which areas are in critical condition and which areas are in good health. These maps are vital not only for future researchers but for the whole Earth and its oceanic ecosystems. 

Comparison of Living Coral and Algal Growth in the Belize Barrier Reef System
Heather Cole
Faculty Sponsor(s): Sarah Johnson & Dr. Denice Robertson
The benthic communities of the Belize barrier reef are composed of a variety of corals and algae, along with areas of sediment and dead coral. Our research project compared the percent coverage of living versus dead coral and algal growth in the South Water Caye area of the Belize barrier reef system. This data was then compared to findings recorded previously in 1972-79 by the Smithsonian Research Facility at Carrie Bow Caye. Our research teams used underwater video transects to record the data at six different sites along the reef. Our results suggest a marked loss in live coral coverage and an increase in algal growth. These results appear consistent with research done at other locations on reefs throughout the Caribbean