UD students hopeful finalists in Owens Corning Composite Challenge
John Gangloff, Jr., is studying automated composite manufacturing and processing engineering under faculty adviser Suresh Advani, George W. Laird Professor of Mechanical Engineering.
Cedric Jacob is researching smart nanocomposites with faculty adviser Erik Thostenson, assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

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1:26 p.m., Jan. 10, 2011----John Gangloff, Jr., and Cedric Jacob are true Blue Hens.

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Both are Newark natives. Both completed undergraduate degrees in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware in 2009. Both, despite other offers, are continuing their graduate studies at UD and dream of launching a start-up company here.

Now, these two promising leaders hope to elevate the reputation of UD research worldwide as finalists in the international Owens Corning Composite App Challenge.

One of 16 finalists worldwide

The challenge is a design and business plan competition hosted by Owens Corning Company, a leading global producer of glass fiber reinforcements for composite systems and building materials. Its purpose is to stimulate new composite applications in four categories -- infrastructure durability, fuel efficiency, renewable energy and protection from harm.

Sixteen finalists were chosen in both “application” and “idea” categories. Gangloff and Jacob's entry for integrated structural composite fuel cells was selected in the “idea” category of renewable energy. It was one of two applications and eight ideas they submitted.

Jacob's expertise is in fuel cells, while Gangloff possesses extensive composites experience.

The two second year doctoral students were inspired to enter the competition after meeting UD alumnus Ashish Diwanji, Owens Corning Composite Solutions vice president of innovation. Diwanji attended the Center for Composite Materials' (CCM) student achievement day last summer and challenged graduate students to consider the “real-world” applications for their research.

According to Gangloff, an Honors Program alumnus who graduated with an honors degree in mechanical engineering, the pair viewed the challenge as an opportunity.

“We know that composites and fuel cells are typically separate entities. We decided to join them together by applying composite processing knowledge to the fuel cell world. What we ended up with is a totally unique design that plays on the strength of both components,” explained Gangloff, who thanked Srikanth Arisetty, a recent Ph.D. graduate, for pushing them to submit the idea.

“We hope that our participation makes clear to the UD administration that we care, we are listening and we are doing our part to support the initiatives set forth in the University's Path to ProminenceTM, especially with regard to research and worldwide impact.”

Winners will be announced at the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) trade show in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in February according to the competition website.

“We feel like winners already just having the opportunity to shake hands with these professionals and build our network of business contacts with a $5.6 billion company,” said Jacob. The $10-20,000 in prize money, he concedes, would be a positive step toward realizing their dream.

“Whether or not we win, we hope this will give us a foundation to continue our research, leverage our experience and launch a composites start-up. We are watching the opportunities coming to UD and the state closely and we want to be a part of it,” added Gangloff.

Article by Karen B. Roberts
Photos by Ambre Alexander

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