My experience at Virginia Tech Aug 2010- Feb 2018

I graduated from Virginia Tech in February 2018 with a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (ME),  where I also completed my Master of Science (Dec 2014)  and my Bachelor of Science in ME  and a Minor in mathematics (May 2012) 



I left France in 2010 to transfer to Virginia Tech as graduating with a Bachelor from one of the most prestigious American engineering universities was one of my most ambitious life goals. This ambition came also when I heard about the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, RoMeLa. This world famous robotics laboratory was one of the numerous research groups that contributed to the prestige of the university. My passion for robotics and my determination to reach high ambitions convinced me to quit my electrical engineering study in France (2005-2008) to come to Virginia Tech.


This decision was challenging because it involved stopping the intense study that composes the French engineering program with only two out of five years remaining. During the three years I was enrolled in the program, I studied a large curriculum of mathematics, physics and electronics that are relevant in my study on the field of robotics.



During my first years (2010-2013) at Virginia tech, I was gratified to be a member at the Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory where I was involved as a volunteer. At RoMeLa, I performed undergraduate research on the walking motion of a humanoid robot and simulated it on SimMechanics/Matlab. The main purpose of this research was to prove the possibility of simulating a robot without advanced skills in mathematics and physics. The software provided bodies modules that can be linked between each others to model an humanoid robot. Ground impacts were modeled using PID controllers. This was my first experience with modeling.


During my senior year (2012), I worked with other senior students on the gantry project for the humanoid robot, SAFFiR. Testing showed that the gantry was capable of supporting a 36.4 kg load dropped 20 cm, which was equivalent to a 3000 Newton dynamic load. This ensured that the SAFFiR robot was safely held during a fall. We also worked on on increasing the power efficiency of the linear actuators. For this, we re-designed the actuator by adding an additional motor. Finally, we designed the first prototype of the higher body of the humanoid robot SAFFiR. We finished a first prototype on August 2012.



During my Master study (2012-2014), I performed research in "Screw-Fastened Cold-Formed Steel-to-Steel Shear Connection Behavior and Models". This research introduced a proposed model for predicting tilting angle and limit states of single-fastened cold-formed steel-to-steel shear connections. Predictions were validated through an experimental study of cold steal plies connected by a single Hex #10 -washer head fastener, centered in a 102 mm by 102 mm three boundary window. The plies were puled from each others that made the fastener to shear and tilt.


The fastener tilting angle was captured using an self-made, optical non-contact measurement procedure. The results were used to identify cold-formed steel shear connection deformation as load progresses, including tilting, bearing, and combined tilting bearing at the plies and thread tension, shear and bearing fastener failure. The results showed that the fastener tilting played a kinematic affect for the connection. Fastener tilting were predicted in function of ply thickness and fastener pitch.


Upon completion of my Master's degree (December 2014), I joined the Advanced Vehicle Dynamics Lab leaded by Dr. Corina Sandu, and the Computational Science Laboratory leaded by Dr. Adrian Sandu. I believed that the expertise in mathematics, computer science, and mechanics from my advisers would definitely help me succeed in my Ph.D. research in the field of sensitivity analysis and optimization for multibody systems.



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