SU professor brings together top-flight minds in jet engineering
SU professor brings together top-flight minds in jet engineeringAugust 29, 2003Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
As commercial air travel has become a common, everyday occurrence, few passengers give a second thought to the engineering marvels that allow their airplanes to take flight.
Even though passenger jet travel has come a long way, researchers around the world continue to work on ways to better understand the jet engine in order to make it safer, more efficient and cheaper to run.
Ten years ago, Syracuse University engineering professor John LaGraff and two European colleagues developed a workshop aimed at bringing the top jet engine researchers in the world together with turbomachinery aerodynamicists and designers from the major international jet engine manufacturing companies.
In 1993, in the peaceful setting of the Minnowbrook Conference Center, SU’s retreat in the Adirondacks, the best minds in the field came together for this groundbreaking gathering with a simple goal: to learn from each other. LaGraff says that there can often be a disconnect between those who perform the research and those who apply it.
“These two communities have strong common interests but rarely meet, especially in an environment which encourages comprehensive discussion and interactions,” says LaGraff.
The Minnowbrook workshop is not a typical technical conference. There are a limited number of presentations, and large blocks of time for discussion and networking are built into the schedule. This format allows for researchers to present their work, and for industry representatives to offer feedback and to convey what their needs are in the application process. The limited number of participants, as well as the isolation of the conference center, creates a highly focused and interactive workshop environment.
“The atmosphere is unique not just because of the format of the workshop, but because for 60 hours, the top people in this field are placed together in one isolated facility for all meals, meetings and social activities, with few, if any, distractions except for the wilderness,” LaGraff says.
The 1993 workshop, Minnowbrook I, brought international esteem for SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) and led to subsequent workshops in 1997 and 2000. The model also garnered notice from federal agencies interested in the highly specialized field. Both the U.S. Air Force and NASA have made investments in the workshop through financial support for participant expenses.
“The Minnowbrook meetings organized by John LaGraff have advanced the state-of-the-art in a critical technology field while bringing esteem to Syracuse University,” says ECS Dean Edward Bogucz.. “It is significant when a university can regularly bring together the most outstanding minds and greatest practitioners to advance a field.”
The researchers and aerodynamicists gathered again last month in their quest to better understand and gradually improve upon the jet engine. This year’s workshop Minnowbrook IV, was Aug. 17-19. Researchers from the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as engineers from jet engine companies Alstom, General Electric, Honeywell, MTU, Pratt and Whitney and Rolls Royce, were among the participants.