Plotting a Path to Innovation

Plotting a path to innovation


This article was contributed by the College of Engineering Communications office


 Becoming a commissioned designer for a client like The Ohio State University is an accomplishment sought out by many professional designers and engineers. One collection of undergraduate students is now adding this achievement to their resume.


The trio of second-year students—Tyler Bair (electrical and computer science engineering), Andrew Merz (materials science and engineering) and Phillip Merz (mechanical engineering)—recently imagined and built an innovative, interactive feature in the Institute for Materials Research (IMR) new Materials Innovation space, a central component of the Materials & Manufacturing for Sustainability discovery theme.



The winners of the student design challenge with the feature wall in the Materials Innovation space, which they used to print a temporary welcome sign, Mona Lisa, and space shuttle.



Jay Sayre, assistant vice president at Ohio State and IMR’s director of innovation, wanted two things: an interesting feature to welcome guests and a way to engage undergrads in the process. “We work very closely with the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME),” he said. “So I knew they had a lot of really bright undergraduates working for them.”


Sayre and his colleagues at CDME and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) encouraged those bright undergrads to form teams over the summer and pitch their ideas to IMR’s leadership.


The only requirements were that the design had to contain a flat-screen display, a space to hold 3D sample products and clear identification that the space was dedicated to Materials Innovation.


This fall, IMR, in collaboration with Paul Reeder, Executive Director, CIE, completed renovation of 2,500 square feet in the Nanotech West Laboratory on Kinnear Road. The Materials Innovation space exemplifies an operational model that allows people and ideas to “collide,” as Sayre puts it, while fostering collaboration to maximize innovation. Think few walls, lots of group work areas and energetic colors.



Tyler Bair, Phillip Merz and Andrew Merz do a live demonstration of their plotter, which uses a dry erase marker to create temporary images on the feature wall in the Materials Innovation space.


Bair and the brothers Merz knew their design idea had to match the new space’s cool factor. Featuring a large-scale plotter attached to the wall, their design allows users to program an image to be drawn on an erasable surface in mere minutes.


“We wanted there to be moving parts and we wanted the display to not just be one-and-done, just there and nothing else happens,” said Phillip Merz. “The coolest displays are the interactive ones, ones that can change up. So we decided to have a part of the display that can change to whatever the user wants, make it dynamic.”


Their pitch was made in the form of a video that quickly caught the eye of those judging the designs.


Bair had the idea to incorporate a plotter into the design, wanting to mimic the work of 3D printers on a 2D wall surface. The plotter has already been used to draw the Mona Lisa, a rocket ship and, of course, a Block O.


The group also incorporated influences from 3D printer technology in other ways. Many 3D printer parts contain hexagonal infrastructure, which is represented in their design as hexagonal shelves to hold 3D-printed pieces.


Next the students want to create a smartphone app that can convert any image to a drawing on the wall.


Some supporters have hinted that the group should commercialize the design, with the possibility of building another plotter elsewhere on campus. But for now, the aspiring engineers will focus on their upcoming final exams.


Visit IMR’s You Tube channel to see the student design team’s video of their collaborative design process to develop and create the feature wall.

IMR Welcomes Tyndall Researchers to Columbus

Researchers from Ohio State and Tyndall National Institute take a break during their workshop

Researchers from Ohio State and Tyndall National Institute take a break during their workshop

The Institute for Materials Research recently welcomed several visitors from the Tyndall National Institute, a research center in the Republic of Ireland focused on electronics and photonics with a mission to support industry and academia in driving research to market.  Tyndall scientists discussed their current research programs, toured Ohio State materials research facilities, and discussed opportunities for future research and development partnerships between Ohio State researchers and their Irish counterparts through the IMR and its Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability program.  The Tyndall group included Dr. Kieran Drain, Tyndall Chief Executive Officer, and four Tyndall researchers – Paul Hurley, Brendan O’Flynn, Emanuele Pelucchi and Aidan Quinn.


Dr. Paul Hurley provided an overview of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership Programme

Breakout sessions in the areas of electronics and photonics, semiconductors, advanced manufacturing, and sensors allowed Tyndall and Ohio State researchers to focus for a few hours on their specific areas of interest, share their research activities and findings, and explore possible future collaborations.  Tyndall visitors also toured five Ohio State core research facilities – Nanotech West Laboratory, the Spine Research Institute, Semiconductor Epitaxy and Analysis Laboratory, NanoSystems Laboratory, and the Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis – to learn more about advanced materials research activities and capabilities taking place in our campus’s world class laboratories.


The group enjoyed some social time downtown in the evening

Global Partnership Grant Funds Sustainable Materials Research Collaboration

The new Global Partnership Grants program of the IMR and its M&MS Discovery Theme focus area is supporting an international research collaboration between The Ohio State University and the Indian Institute of Technology – Bombay.  This inaugural Global Partnership Grant award funds the research project “Development and Characterization of Gallium Oxide Transistors,” a collaboration between Siddharth Rajan, Associate Professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering departments at Ohio State, and Saurabh Lodha, an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at IIT-Bombay.  The professors and their research teams will explore the design of energy-efficient electronic devices based on a new semiconductor material, Gallium Oxide.  More information about this exciting joint research project and Global Partnership Grants is available on our website.



M&MS Welcomes Kari Roth as Senior Technology Integrator

The Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability (M&MS) Discovery Themes focus area announces the hire of Ms. Kari Roth as a Senior Technology Integrator.


Roth photoAn experienced engineer and technical program manager with a strong industry background, Ms. Roth will lead projects and manage client relationships within the Materials Innovation Greenhouse (MIG), an open innovation collaboratory translating science and engineering discoveries into economic and societal benefits through strategic partnerships central to the mission of M&MS.


Ms. Roth joins us from Honeywell International where she was a Technical Project Leader of sensing and productivity solutions for over nine years, responsible for the management of multimillion-dollar programs for customers within the medical, industrial, transportation, retail and automotive markets.


Prior to joining Honeywell, she worked for twelve years with Delphi Corporation as a Program Manager and Application/Design Engineer working with next-generation controlled brake and suspension systems.  Ms. Roth earned a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from The Ohio State University and a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Dayton.


Ms. Roth brings a differentiated skillset beyond program management and best practices that will make an immediate impact on the M&MS Discovery Theme and, specifically, the MIG.  Her skills and experience in performance improvement, new product design, production, introduction, innovation lifecycle, and voice of the customer engagement are unique and complementary to our existing team.  Her addition will yield results in terms of the successful delivery of complex technical programs for our local-to-global partners.

The Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability Discovery Themes focus area is managed by the Institute for Materials Research.  For more information:


Discovery Themes:


Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability focus area:


Institute for Materials Research:

Seven New Faculty Join M&MS

Seven new faculty will join The Ohio State University’s materials community during the 2016-2017 academic year through the Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability (M&MS) focus area of the university’s Discovery Themes Initiative.  These seven professors join two others hired in 2016 – Ned Hill and Farhang Pourboghrat – for a total of nine new faculty positions within the M&MS cohort to date.


The M&MS initiative, managed by the Institute for Materials Research (IMR), is focused on enabling Ohio State faculty, students and staff to focus on translational innovation and research in technology, science and manufacturing as they apply to future energy systems and sustainability from the nano-scale to the macro-scale. With the goal to become pre-eminent in the field of advanced materials and technologies for sustainability, M&MS is building on IMR’s existing strengths in materials hiring faculty to advance materials discoveries, developing strategic industrial and global relationships, and accelerating the research process to enable a paradigm of discovery-to-deployment at Ohio State.


The faculty recruitment within M&MS targets three areas – energy harvesting, storage and systems; high performance materials and structures; and materials for sustainable information processing – which complement Ohio State’s current portfolio in the broader Energy and Environment Discovery Theme.


Click here for the full announcement, including bios on each of our nine faculty members.