Previous projects

UPI-sponsored Project on Autonomous Boat Design for Aquatic Weed Management

Project summary: The primary objective of this research is to design, prototype and demonstrate a small fleet of autonomous water vehicles capable of detecting, quantifying, and selectively applying herbicide to manage invasive aquatic weed infestations in small (1-3 acre) lakes. This project will explore 1) the interactions between water vehicle design and herbicide spray delivery methods and 2) the communication and coordination requirements associated with multiple autonomous water vehicles. We expect to demonstrate that autonomous robotics can increase the efficiency and efficacy of hydrilla surveillance and management, with the results of this research being scalable to much larger lakes.

  1. Patel, M., Jerrigan, S., Ferguson, S., and Bucker, G., 2019, “Autonomous Robotics for Identification and Management of Invasive Aquatic Plant Species”, Applied Sciences9(12): 2410, doi: 10.3390/app9122410.

DOE-sponsored Project on Reducing Energy Use in Low Income Households

Project summary: The two year PEEIF project will create a database of energy efficiency programs available within a utility service area in eastern North Carolina and merge it with energy use information from the utility. This will allow for new data-driven analysis and new collaboration between utilities, government agencies, and academic institutions, resulting in improved energy efficiency programs getting to the public and increased energy efficiency among energy-intensive and low-income households.


NASA-sponsored Project Enabling All-Access Mobility for Planetary Exploration Vehicles via Transformative Reconfiguration

Project summary: The challenge of all-access mobility across chaotic terrain is overcome through the development of transformative architectural system reconfigurations. Using a system-level design process, this work first develops analytical solutions toward changing a system’s form through the exploration of transformation principles and facilitators. Technologies necessary for the realization of the planned reconfigurations will be explored, and their ability to provide the desired performance gains will be investigated. Systems-level thinking will then be used to choose the best concept, and a prototype of the system will be created. Functionality of this prototype will advance the TRL level for this embodied solution and provide a foundation for future technological developments.

  1. Edwin, L., Gemmer, T., Mazzoleni, A., and Ferguson, S., 2017, “Modeling, Construction and Experimental Validation of Actuated Rolling Dynamics of the Cylindrical Transforming Roving-Rolling Explorer (TRREx),” Acta Astronautica, 132(3): 43-53, doi: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2016.11.006.
  2. Edwin, L. E., Denhart, J. D., Gemmer, T. R., Ferguson, S., and Mazzoleni, A. P., 2014, “Performance Analysis and Technical Feasibility Assessment of a Transforming Roving-Rolling Explorer Rover for Mars Exploration,” Journal of Mechanical Design, 136(7), 071010, doi: 10.1115/1.4027336.


Eastman Chemical-sponsored Project Exploring Innovative Thermal Electric Generator Design

Project summary: The objective of the proposed research is to develop an innovative prototype for a thermoelectric generator using Eastman’s Chrysalis technology. An integral part of the project will be the identification of a viable product(s) for market launch and a clear determination of consumer value for such a product(s). This is a joint project with faculty in MAE, Industrial Design, and the College of Management. Our role will be to use multiobjective tradespace exploration to identify feasible (and economically attractive) concepts and use this information to generate, analyze, embody and select final product configurations.

  1. Antonik, M., O’Connor, B., and Ferguson, S., 2016, “Performance and Design Comparison of a Bulk Thermoelectric Cooler with a Hybrid Architecture,” Journal of Thermal Science and Engineering Applications, 8(2): 021022, doi: 10.1115/1.4032637.
  2. Tianlei, S., Peavey, J., Shelby, M., Ferguson, S., and O’Connor, B., 2015, “Heat Shrink Formation of a Corrugated Thin Film Thermoelectric Generator,” Journal of Energy Conversion & Management, 103: 674-680, doi: 10.1016/j.enconman.2015.07.016.
  3. Opeoluwa, O., Ferguson, S., and O’Connor, B., 2015, “Performance Analysis of a Thermoelectric Cooler with a Corrugated Architecture,” Applied Energy, 147: 184-191, doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2015.01.132.
  4. Antonik, M., Ferguson, S., and O’Connor, B., 2015, “Performance Comparison of a Bulk Thermoelectric Cooler with a Hybrid Device Architecture,” Proceedings of the ASME 2015 International Design Engineering Technical Conference & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, DETC2015-47610.


NSF-sponsored Project Exploring Product Line Design Optimization Using Market Models

Project summary: The objective of this project is to explore how market information and engineering design dependencies can be used to answer product line design questions like: How many variants should a company offer? What should they be? In this work we use multiobjective optimization to determine the optimal number of variant designs and their configuration when maximizing competing objectives like market share and profit.

  1. Foster, G., Turner, C., Ferguson, S., Donndelinger, J., 2014, “Creating Targeted Initial Populations for Genetic Product Searches in Heterogeneous Markets,” Engineering Optimization, 46(12): 1729-1747, doi:10.1080/0305215X.2013.861458.
  2. Foster, G., and Ferguson, S., 2013, “Exploring the Effectiveness of Using Graveyard Data When Generating Design Alternatives,” Journal of Computing and Information Science in Engineering, 13(4), 041003, doi: 10.1115/1.4024913.


American Public Power Association-sponsored Project Building a Business Case for UAS Use in Public Power Operations

The objective of this project is to explore the value proposition of using UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) to support the operation and maintenance of municipal power distribution systems. Constructing the business case for this integration will involve identifying municipality needs that can be addressed by UAS, categorizing UAS capabilities, quantifying the advantages of using UAS, modeling the cost of UAS operations, and defining optimal deployment strategies. To meet the multidisciplinary challenges associated with this project, researchers from NC State University teamed with employees from ElectriCities of North Carolina, Inc. to work with member municipalities in the state of North Carolina.

  1. Long, D. E., and Ferguson, S., 2016, “A Value Driven Design Approach to Municipal Electric Utility Unmanned Aerial Systems Deployment,” AIAA Aviation 2016, Washington DC., June 13-17, 2016, AIAA 2016-3451.


NSF-sponsored Project Building Design Apps for Early Engineering Education

Project summary: The objective of this work is to build upon advances in engineering education and engineering design research as a means of implementing multidisciplinary design problems into the early phases of the aerospace engineering curriculum at NC State. We propose that software, specifically in the form of computational “modules”, provides an effective approach to achieve this objective. Freeware Modules are created that, when combined into a Design App, build a student’s appreciation for the multidisciplinary aspect of engineering, create a hands-on design experience, and foster system-level analysis. When implemented separately, these Modules provide curriculum-wide teaching tools for component-level content.