An article published in the Chicago Sun-Times, February 15, 2012
by Karen Caffarini
HAMMOND — Businesswomen joined with members of Valparaiso-based Discoveries Unlimited on Thursday in a virtual journey inside wind turbines and to the lower depths of the ocean, among other places, during a presentation at the Center for Innovation Through Visualization and Simulation at Purdue University Calumet.
The journey not only was fun, those attending agreed, but educational, as they learned how students and faculty at the university helped local businesses save at least $30 million since the center opened in March 2009 through 3D simulations, data and other tools.
“The only limit is your imagination,” said Chenn Qian Zhou, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the center, called CIVS.
Zhou said Northern Indiana Public Service Co. saved $1.9 million a year, or $2 per household, after students and faculty at CIVS discovered why two generators weren’t running at full capacity and came up with a solution for the utility. She said they saved U.S. Steel Canada $8.5 million a year and helped the steel company avoid significant downtime at one of its blast furnaces.
John Moreland, senior research scientist at CIVS, showed the audience a simulation of the Gary/Chicago International Airport and the railroad tracks that need to be moved so more airplanes can fly out of it. He also showed how research, Bing maps and virtual simulation can help pinpoint how each house near the Calumet River would be affected should there be another major rain.
Zhou said more than 80 students have worked at the center and 1,600 students have participated in learning at its virtual labs.
“I thought the program was fantastic,” said Hollina Lischalk, a mechanical engineer with Superior Engineering in Hammond and a mentor with Discoveries Unlimited, which fosters interest in science, technology, engineering and math among the young through mentoring.
She said Superior Engineering would be able to use some of the programs at the center for its work at local steel mills, BP and universities.
“It was fun, interesting,” said 12-year-old Isabella Massarella, a student at Ben Franklin School in Valparaiso and the student Lischalk is mentoring.
Melanie M. Dunajeski, a Merrillville attorney and president of Engaging NWI Business Women, said she enjoyed the cooperative effort between the two organizations.
“These young women will be important as they mature,” she said.
Zhou said there currently are some women in the engineering program but she would like to see more.
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