This summer, I worked at the Architected Materials Laboratory, a group that seeks to control the functionality of engineering materials by changing their geometric features. I was under the mentorship of Dr. Jordan Raney and PhD student, Lucia Korpas, two great mentors who allowed me to immerse myself in a positive environment. With their help, I was able to work on a project of my own, in which I characterized the behavior of flexible silicone beams.
Truss-like geometries made of this material exhibit interesting movement when in tension or compression. I was able to learn the mechanics of beam bending theory and apply it to creating an experiment. The main goal of my project was to find empirical relationships between parameters of beams and the critical stress and strain at which they bend. The interesting part, however, was not the simple bending of beams, but what happened when they were subjected to very high strain. Some of the beams depicted a “kink,” in which they actually bent out of plane, something that has not yet been characterized by any researcher. Therefore, most of my research focused on characterizing this kink, and finding when and why it happens.
Working at this lab was an amazing experience because I was able to learn the value of research, as well as develop many skills that I will use in further jobs and internships. For instance, I came into this summer with very little coding experience, but in order to analyze my results, I had to use Python and write a variety of codes. This is a skill that I became very good at over the course of the summer, and I am now comfortable to use it in the future. Also, I had to give a presentation to lab members every other week about my project. As I was the youngest one there, this was the first time I had to present to a group of people who actually knew more about the topic than I did. This forced me to become a better presenter and become more confident in my work.
This was a very challenging, yet rewarding experience, and I am very grateful for the people I met and the skills I developed.