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RIYA scholars' work adds to the breadth of Ohio State research

Imagine it’s Tuesday morning, and you’ve woken up more energized than you have been in weeks. You glance at the clock and quickly realize why you feel so refreshed. You’re late. Very late. You rush to get dressed and make it out of your front door in less than 15 minutes.

You hop into your car, pull on your seatbelt and you’re off. The roads are clear so you put the pedal to the metal and pump down on the gas. That’s when you realize – entirely too late – that the road is completely covered in black ice. Slippery, smooth and virtually transparent.

Before you know it, it’s as if your tires have been replaced with ice skates. At that moment, you realize there is only one thing that can save you: friction.

Shashwat Ranjan ChaurasiaShashwat Ranjan ChaurasiaFor Shashwat Ranjan Chaurasia, the scenario above is exactly what he came to The Ohio State University to study. This summer, Chaurasia, now a fourth-year undergraduate student at the Indian Institute of Technology – Kanpur (IIT Kanpur), joined four fellow Indian students for three months of intensive research.

Their time at Ohio State was made possible through a 2017 Research Internship for Young Academics (RIYA) Award. Established in 2014, the RIYA program connects exceptional Indian mechanical engineering students to groundbreaking research experiences with leading Ohio State faculty and graduate students. Funded by significant support from the Singh Family Fund and other endowments, the program provides the RIYA scholars with an allowance that covers a stipend, housing subsidy and travel to the United States and back to their home county.

In addition to financial support, the opportunity to be mentored by renowned experts in the field was the key draw for Chaurasia and his peers.

“This program offered me great exposure to research and researchers at Ohio State,” said Chaurasia. “I don’t think I would have been able to do the work that I’ve done here without their help.”

Professor Rajendra SinghOn July 12, the five 2017 RIYA scholars presented their research to faculty, staff and students in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Professor Rajendra Singh (pictured) hosted the event. This summer, he was mentored by Rajendra Singh, professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Luke Fredette, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Singh developed the RIYA program, in partnership with the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), to provide Indian students with access to internationally recognized engineering faculty.

“The intent of this unique program is to provide world-class internship opportunities to some of the best undergraduate students in India, while exposing them to modern aspects of mechanical engineering,” said Singh. “It is similar to the on-campus honors research program where top undergraduates work with MAE faculty on cutting-edge topics. The program is strictly based on gifts and we thank the donors for making this possible.”

He is already seeing a return on investment by way of the innovative research spilling out of the program.

Chaurasia aims to improve safety even under difficult driving conditions

With nearly 1.3 million people around the world dying from vehicular crashes each year, according to the Association for Safe International Road Travel, Chaurasia hopes that his work will have a direct impact on reducing this alarming statistic.

His research project, “Modeling of Dynamic Vehicle Response on Low Friction Surfaces,” examines the role of dynamic friction in an effort to determine the transient response of a vehicle. During his time at Ohio State, Chaurasia also developed preliminary simulation models which take vehicle dynamics into account to predict the response of a vehicle trying to stop on a variety of surfaces, including icy, snowy and bumpy roads.

“Although just a preliminary study, Shashwat's work identified several issues with common methods of modeling and characterizing friction, suggesting specific courses of action for the ongoing project,” said Fredette.

Throughout the summer, Luke Fredette (right), an MAE post-doctoral researcher, served as a trusted advisor for the 2017 RIYA scholars, including Raunaq Bhirangi (left). Throughout the summer, Luke Fredette (right), an MAE post-doctoral researcher, served as a trusted advisor for the 2017 RIYA scholars, including Raunaq Bhirangi (left). His project is of particular interest to Ohio State’s Smart Vehicle Concepts Center (SVC), which is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Center program. The SVC offers industry, government and professional organizations the ability to utilize the center’s innovative research capabilities in order to leverage their own research and development investments. This particular project was initiated by the Transportation Research Center (TRC), which serves as a one-stop shop for vehicle testing, certification, research, development and project management.

Chaurasia’s work has provided SVC researchers with the initial background needed to advance their research on automotive safety, including smart condition detection and monitoring.

In just three months, Chaurasia was able to accomplish much more than he had expected.

“The RIYA program is different from similar programs because it focuses on looking into the problem and exploring the physics of it instead of just getting the results,” he said. “I also had the freedom to try things on my own and to steer the project in a particular direction.”

Earlier this summer, Chaurasia traveled to Germany to participate in the Global Drive Project, sponsored by the Technical University of Munich and Hero Motocorp. He and his team developed a vehicle concept that was a crossover between a motorcycle and a bicycle with electric propulsion. Their project aims to make mobility affordable and convenient for impoverished populations around the globe.

Through his latest research at Ohio State, Chaurasia will also be able to make that travel safer.  

Chaurasia, who ranks in the top three among more than 100 students in his mechanical engineering program at IIT Kanpur, is looking forward to taking the knowledge that he gained at Ohio State back to his studies in India.

“The scholars broadened their technical horizons as well as built confidence in their ability to self-educate and grapple with very difficult problems,” Fredette said of Chaurasia and the other RIYA scholars.

“They left with a greatly enhanced understanding of the nature of research and strengthened determination to pursue a Ph.D. This experience is often not obtained until a student is well into their graduate program.”

The 2017 RIYA scholars, from left to right: Yashraj Gurumukhi, Vishnu Vishal, Shashwat Ranjan Chaurasia, Priy Ranjan and Raunaq Bhirangi. The 2017 RIYA scholars, from left to right: Yashraj Gurumukhi, Vishnu Vishal, Shashwat Ranjan Chaurasia, Priy Ranjan and Raunaq Bhirangi.


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- Kam King, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering