Professor receives National Science Foundation Grant

Craig Beal will study auto safety

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Madison Weaver, News Co-Editor

Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Craig Beal received a $154,000 Major Research Instrumentation Grant from the National Science Foundation in September. The grant will allow Beal to research safety systems for existing vehicles, as well as inform the development of self-driving vehicles.  

The grant will allow funding for equipment that measures steering torque, and will hopefully be able to use the data to understand and predict elements of steering systems; the research results could help improve the stability and traction systems of modern cars and assist in the development of self-driving cars. According to Beal in a press release, the results may draw interest from automakers as well as federal and state transportation agencies, and the information could be shared to improve the safety of all drivers.

Beal will estimate measurements from different road conditions to better understand how much grip vehicles have on the surface using a prototype electric car with sensors inside of the wheels. The prototype was build by students at Stanford University, where Beal earned his doctorate; the grant will provide for the two sensors, which cost approximately $70,000 each.

Student researchers will be involved in all stages of the research including design, data interpretation, and even acting as passengers in the car. Beal will begin research in the spring and will continue to use the data for several years.

The car, currently situated in Dana Engineering and partially controlled by an on-board computer, will be used by Beal on a closed test course at Penn State University.

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