Jacob Leachman during TEDx WSU and assembling a cryostat with Ron Bliesner and Jake Fisher.
My background is like most WSU students. I grew up in Lewiston Idaho, which is about 45 minutes from Pullman. My father is a brilliant mechanic and my mother is a small business and housing consultant. Suffice it to say, we really didn’t get out much. When it came time to apply for college I lacked that definitive story expected to propel me off into college and career that many admissions staff are looking for. Luckily I had decent grades, knew I had a knack for coaching and mechanical design, and had a gift for playing football. My football skills attracted attention from Ivy League schools and eventually won a full ride scholarship to the University of Idaho.
The U of I Mechanical Engineering program is a hidden treasure having produced incredibly engineers like Tom Mueller of SpaceX. I ended my football career after my second year with a cracked vertebrae in my lower back. Not all was a loss with football, I took the team skills to my engineering groups and led the Engineering Hall to 3 consecutive hall of the year awards in addition to the Formula SAE racecar team. These wins along with several of my design projects led to sharing the award for Most Outstanding Senior in the department and to be the Master of Ceremonies for the Engineering College Commencement.
I had an opportunity to leave Idaho for a Master’s degree at Purdue but decided to stay and work with Richard Jacobsen, the former dean, on hydrogen properties. Jacobsen’s best student, Eric Lemmon is the current world leader in Equation of State Development at NIST and helped considerably with my thesis. In the end, the decision to stay at Idaho worked out, I won the 2007 Western Association of Graduate Schools Distinguished Thesis Award. I also had enough momentum to land a great position at another graduate school.
Through a streak of incredible luck my friend Dave connected me with the Cryogenics Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Cryogenics Lab had just begun a project to conduct rheology studies of solidifed hydrogen, deuterium, and neon. Although I was in the cryogenics lab with John Pfotenhauer and Greg Nellis as my advisors, we regularly met with Sandy Klein and Franklin Miller in the Solar Energy Laboratory. Madison is incredible and my 3 years there were far too few.
I certainly was not ready for a tenure-track faculty position when I left. Cal Tech struck first and flew me out for an interview. Talk about diving in head first! My room in the Athenaeum was 2 down the hall from Einstein’s. Needless to say, the nerves had calmed for my interview at WSU the following week. WSU’s start up offer was excellent and made the decision to come back home easy. Here we are now in the HYdrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) laboratory at WSU. We’ve had some big wins: 2012 Hydrogen Student Design runner ups, 2014 Hydrogen Student Design winners, the Genii UAS, WSU TEDx, and soon to be many more. We have exceptional students in the group and have accomplished excellent research. Here’s to many more years and stories to tell.
Below you’ll find the excerpts of content I’m aggregating into books on different topics — Cryogenic Hydrogen Science and Technology, Social Thermodynamics, and Designing-Building-Testing a New Engineer. The topics and links are by no means encompassing of the content on this site. Please use the search bar to the right to find what we’ve said about a topic of interest.
A recently posited definition of intelligence is the “maximization of future freedoms.” If we accept and apply this definition, humanity needs to develop technologies that efficiently move energy, information, goods and services between grids and systems to maximize the diversity of end uses. Hydrogen has long been identified as a promising energy carrier due to utility for bulk chemical synthesis, fuel, agricultural fertilizer production, and backup power systems and storage. Hydrogen can be produced from a wide variety of sources, primarily natural gas and water, and end use technologies emit only water vapor. Over the past decade, effective market transformation approaches from the Department of Energy have led hydrogen to be the power system of choice in food and product distribution systems, in addition to backup power for cellular towers and rail systems. As micro-hydrogen economies continue to expand, amid recent news that every major automotive manufacturer are offering hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles for sale, the dawn of a wide-spread hydrogen economy is upon us.
We are currently the only academic research lab in the US with an emphasis on cryogenic hydrogen. This niche has allowed us to pioneer approaches utilizing inherent quantum mechanical properties of hydrogen that emerge at cryogenic temperatures. Specifics include the Heisenberg Vortex, our H2-Flo Cryogenic Thermal Compression Hydrogen Refueling Station, the world’s first 3D printed liquid hydrogen fuel tank utilizing endothermic para-orthohydrogen conversion, cryogenic thermodynamic property modeling and measurements, and the best is yet to come! These scientific advances are culminating in technologies advantageous to sectors of Space Exploration, National Defense, Transportation, and Clean Energy. It’s time we tell this story. That’s why I started the open source textbook for the lab that aggregates this material here: https://opentext.wsu.edu/coolhydrogentechnology/
Here are important excerpts:
Hydrogen in the Pacific Northwest:
Hydrogen Fueled Vehicles:
Social Thermodynamic Framework:
Social Thermodynamic Case Study Systems and Balances:
More Social Thermodynamics:
We’re in the middle of a dramatic phase-change in engineering education — and higher education in general. With this change is a corresponding change of resources. No longer can we, as instructors, a society, and nation, afford to produce engineers incapable of leading us into an increasingly uncertain future. We need to be employing the Lean Manufacturing philosophy of “failing-forward” as quickly as possible until we reach this new paradigm of education, In short, we need to be Designing-Building-Testing New Engineers.
The following sections outline how the values of an engineering degree are fundamentally changing with students. This necessitates new approaches to training and professionalism. I then show how we are working to implement these changes here in the HYPER lab website.
Educational Value Taxonomies:
Professionalism in Engineering:
Case Studies and Examples: