Preparing Metallic Specimens

As the Graph Cutting Project has come to an end, I’ve started a new project in the lab. I have started to learn how to prepare and polish metallic specimens using a hot mounting press, roll grinder, and variable speed grinder polisher. I really loved getting hands-on experience with equipment. Previously, I’ve just been coding on MATLAB, so it’s nice to learn from a new medium.

The video below shows my first ever mounted and polished specimen. It was a peice of srap-metal found in the lab; however, I got it looking just like a mirror.

This project has me really excited to begin MSE classes in the fall. I can’t wait to learn more about mounting and polishing. The lab is getting samples from Germany, so I’m eager to begin working with new material.

Updates – Summer 2018

This summer, I will be working alongside Dr. Stephen Niezgoda and his research team at The Ohio State University’s Center for Electron Microscopy and Analysis (CEMAS). Dr. Niezgoda’s primary research focuses on the deformation of polycrystalline materials, and I will be helping conduct this research.

So far, I’ve been editing and optimizing Matlab code for image segmentation techniques. For the past five months, I’ve slowly begun to understand graph cutting and how Matlab can function as a research tool outside of the classroom. Surprisingly, the code contains a lot of statistical functions; normal, guassian, and bimodal distributions are mentioned frequently, so I’m glad I took statistics last semester. A few of the images that I created were used in a graduate student’s research paper; I am fortunate enough to have been credited as an author! As the summer continues, I hope to get hands-on experience at CEMAS with electron microscopes.

To affored living in Columbus over the summer, I am received the STEP scholarship from OSU. STEP is a second year program designed to give students funds to have an experience they wouldn’t normally be able to afford. Although there are no courses required with my STEP project, I plan on extending my research through Ohio State’s Translating Engineering Research K-8 (TEK8) program in the fall. TEK8 is an outreach program designed to engage grade school students in engineering applications. I will have to effectively communicate my research to these younger students through a design challenge; I look forward to working with younger students. Giving back to the community wasn’t where I thought STEP would take me. In fact, I wish I had been introduced engineering topics in high school or earlier in my academic career. Perhaps I would’ve found my passion for materials at an earlier age. TEK 8 seems rather rigorous; it requires at least 30 hours of research a week. Therefore, my summer research is a full-time job. Thus, I believe TEK8 is an excellent extension to my research development.


Year in Review – Sophomore Year

Change is difficult and utterly terrifying. Sophomore year could be summarized with one word: change. First, I decided not to continue studying Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE). I found that I wasn’t passionate about the classes I would take. To be completely honest, I found ISE very boring. I wanted to be studying math and technical applications, not supply chains and work theory. Deciding on Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) as a major was difficult. I had to go out of my way to talk to professors and discover my passions. But this leap of faith brought new opportunities; I received a job as an undergraduate researcher, developed a professional network of coworkers, and took classes that I grew to love. As I continue down my (MSE) path, I can confidently have no doubts about alternative routes.

This spring, I took a technical writing class, dynamics, general chemistry I/II, ordinary/parital Differential Equations,  and Java. My favorite course was definietly chemistry. I am so happy that I will be building upon chemistry in the fall with organic chemistry. Normally I love math, but I found differential equations difficult. I think applying engineering concepts to real life problems was a struggle for me. In calculus, I was able to memorize formulas, but differential equations required applications and thought. Additionally, I was glad I got to re-activate my programming skills with Java. Now, I believe I have a strong foundations in coding.

Research has by far been the most rewarding experience of my sophomore year. I plan to make an additional post about my research assignments in the future, but in summary, I am using MATLAB as tool for image segmentation, where a code seperates the particle from the matrix. I wasn’t expecting research to be as team based; in the lab, I work with a graduate MSE student. Working one-on-one has been eye-opening. I realize that I need to be more comfortable not understanding material; however, I also need to be confident to ask questions. As I haven’t taken any Materials Science courses yet, I’ve learned a lot through indepedent study. I have been reading lots of articles, journals, and papers to understand the concepts.

Changing my major was scary, but I would rather be learning material that I find interesting than pursing a major where I would be unhappy. My perspective on college life has changed; my undergraduate degree is a stepping stone to where I want to be, not the final destination. My professional career might not be in the materials science industry – AND THAT IS OKAY. I am more confident being uncertain. I may not know where I will be in 5 years, but I know where my next step is. As I continue down my foggy path, I am excited for what the future holds.

Sophomore Shifts

Major Update!

Over the course my sophomore year, I was lucky enough to be accepted into OSU’s Industrial and Systems Engineering program; however, I soon found out that this major wasn’t for me. I wasn’t enjoying the classes and the career prospects looked boring. I suddeny found myself in an existential crisis! Everything I had been working on up until this point has been focused on Industrial Engineering. A majority of the clubs I’m involved with have had a manufacturing or business focus, and now that I’ve switched engineering disciplines, I’ve got to realign my interests. This task has been surprisingly difficult – What am I passionate about? What engineering discipline should I switch to?

My new dilemma has changed my perspective on pursuing an undergraduate degree. First of all, I know that changing disciplines could involve staying in school for longer than I anticipated. I’ve changed my mindset – I know now that college isn’t a race, and an engineering degree shouldn’t be squeezed into four years. Additionally, how do I find an engineering major worth pursuing? This question caused me to get out of my comfort zone; I emailed professors in different departments and scheduled meetings with them. This process was quite an eye opener as many professors didn’t respond. I had to take matters into my own hands.

I toured each engineering building, looking at the advertisements posted on bulletin boards. Although most of the ads were uninteresting, I found a research article in the Materials Science and Engineering department focused on solar cells – as a student who is passionate about climate change and environment sustainability, I thought this was the perfect opportunity! Perhaps Materials Science & Engineering would be the perfect fit for me! I emailed MSE professors again, hoping they would reach out. Luckly, one did!

After an hour long meeting with a metallurgy professor, I began to see my future as a material scientist engineer. Just from the professor’s research, I could tell this major aligned with my interests more. Unlike Industrial Engineering, technical skills like applied Calculus and chemistry were being used. In addition, I could see myself studying the content and enjoying it. Moving forward, I plan to join this professor’s research team at the Ohio State’s Mesoscale Mechanics and Microstructures Laboratory. Stay tuned for a designated post on this research opportunity.

The professor recommended I read “Stuff Matters” by Mark Miodwnik. Although I’ve just started reading this book, the first few pages have captured my interests and inspired me to write my first career post. I’ve decided to switch my major to MSE. Despite being a semester behind schedule, I would rather take classes that I find interesting than continuing to be in a major I am not passionate about. My career journey this semester has enabled me to get contacts across many different fields. Beside networking with MSE professors, I’ve been emailing a fellow Buckeye student who is interning at NASA. I’m surrounding myself with people who I find inspiring, and taking confident leaps into my future career. As I begin this new step, I am going to keep an open mind and be open to opportunities that lie before me. No longer will I be joining clubs just because they look good on a resume. I will be joining organizations that I find interesting and that I’m passionate about. Stay tuned Buckeyes – for I have a lot of future material to work with!

Coding a HailStone Series in the VBA Language

Does the series converge or diverge? Alternating series, like the HailStone series always captivated my interests when studying calculus. A HailStone Series is defined as follows:

Start with any integer bigger than 0. If the integer is even, the next value in the series is half the original integer. If the integer is odd, the next value is three times the integer plus one. Apply the same rules to create the next value in the series…

For example, below is the HailStone Series generated by a starting value of 22.


When a Hailstone Series reaches the value of 1, it has converged; the next values will be 4, then 2, then 1.

Why I am so intrigued in HailStone series is because there is no formal proof that this series converges; it is a huge mathematical dilemma!

For my CSE 2112 (Excel) Lab, I was tasked to write a VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) program that allows users to enter a starting value from which the program computes and outputs the corresponding Hailstone series stopping with 1.  This lab presented a huge challenge: I had never written a program in VBA language before. In fact, before I began taking this CSE class, I didn’t realize you could formally code in Excel. When beginning to work with VBA, I liked how visual it was. Unlike my previous coding experience in MatLab and C/C++, VBA was visual and easy to understand. For example, specific code was assigned to buttons and userforms.

Below are pictures of my code, and final output of the result.


The user is prompted to enter a number into the HailStone Series box, then presses the converge button to create the list highlighted in yellow. Each step to convergence, or calculation, is on the left column, while the number of iterations, or amount of times a calculation is performed is in the right column.

One of the most difficult aspects to this lab was the formatting; I had never coded in the VBA language, so it was difficult to format the Excel spreadsheet to include borders, change text colors, and cell colors. The actual code wasn’t too difficult; the general calculation consisted of a if statement embedded in a while loop.

This lab got me excited and passionate about coding. In the past, I didn’t have great experiences coding, but this lab has changed my mind. I will definitely take more computer programming classes in the future!

Case Study: Geothermal Well

In my Engineering Economics class (ISE 2040), I was recently given an assignment that sparked my interest; I was given a case study about the geothermal system underneath an Ohio State University residence hall (Park Stradley). A Geothermal well uses the ground as a heating or cooling system, depending upon the season. During the summer months, heat is extracted from specific buildings on south campus and pushed into the well, while in the winter, cold air is pushed into well.  The geothermal system consists of 411 wells around 550 feet below the ground. This intricate system uses plastic piping and traceable wires. The Office of Student Life hoped that the geothermal system would have long term energy savings. The purpose of this case study was to investigate if Ohio State should expand the geothermal well to heat and cool more buildings on campus, specifically the Union and Drinko Hall.

I enjoyed researching the geothermal well. In fact, this assignment tied my interests in engineering and renewable energy. I loved touring the well, and writing a paper about a real world application in my major. This has also made me considering getting a minor in environmental sustainability. I think that engineering new ways to make our world a better place is exactly what I want to do with my life.

Below is the approach paper for this assignment. I will add on the Final research paper at the end of the semester.

ISE 2040 – Case Study Approach Paper Group 14-1sysryuB

Below is the final Paper and Excel File:

Case Study Paper Group 14-1rpx3im


Lean Inventory Management at Columbus Early Learning Centers

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I decided to get more involved in my major, Industrial & Systems Engineering, by joining Ohio State’s Institute for Industrial Engineers (IISE). As a member of IISE, I chose to join a small team focused on helping the Columbus Early Learning Centers (CELC). Our role is to implement lean inventory management. Not only is this providing me real world experience in my major, but it is also very rewarding to start giving back to the Columbus community. CELCs are institutions that provide schooling to impoverished children. Although CELCs receive grants and funding from the government, they are losing supplies, and are inefficiently storing and organizing many items. In fact, an iPad has been misplaced!

My role is to engineer new, simple, and efficient organization tools to ensure that no more stationery items are lost. I began this task by visiting the CELC, and making a list of inventory items. Below are a list of pictures from the visit.



At the next visit, I would talk to the teachers, and get their advice on what needs to be fixed and implemented. From the pictures, it appears that supplies could be better arranged. For starters, I’m going to make clear accurate labels for each item, and group similar items together. Last year, inventory was monitored by placing red tape in jars/containers; when stock was running low, the red tape was visible which indicated that that specific item needed to be re-ordered. I like this idea, so I plan on using it again.

I was surprised that simple things, such as crayons and glue sticks would go missing – I’m thinking of new ways students would be able to keep track of school items, and not steal or damage them.

Our team is planning another trip to CELC soon where we will implement techniques that we think will improve the environment and the overall efficiency of the learning center.

About Me

Designing the life before him, Toren Hobbs is an excelling Materials Science Engineer in his junior year at The Oho State University. Involved in the Institute of Industrial Systems Engineers (IISE) and BuckeyeThon, Toren strives to give back to the greater Columbus community, while following his interests in the STEM field. Currently, Toren works as an undergradute research assistant in a Materials Science Lab where he studies the deformation of polycrystalline materials. In his most recent project, he edited and optimized MATLAB code for image segmentation techniques.  Toren hopes to become involved in the renewable energy field, where he will develop new materials and products to handle the changing environment. He believes that his prior experience designing, building, and coding an autonomous robot, as well his laboratory experience will enable him to problem solve a diverse array of issues in your company.