2020 in review: Top Auburn Engineering stories of the year

By Chris Anthony

Published: Dec 30, 2020 9:59:00 AM

The new Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory entrance is shown next to its sign. The new Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory entrance is shown next to its sign.

2020 has been a challenging year. But even amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Auburn engineers have been able to turn lemons into lemonade – developing emergency ventilators, 3D-printing personal protective equipment for health care workers and contributing to the COVID-19 vaccine. And despite a tumultuous year, the college enjoyed some remarkable achievements, from opening the brand new Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory to maintaining its top 30 ranking among public engineering institutions.

This list counts down the college’s most popular news stories of 2020.

Emmanuel Winful (left) and Christian Brodbeck are shown with supplies donated to the hospital.

5. Auburn Engineering spearheads PPE donation to East Alabama Medical Center

Early in the pandemic, shortages of personal protective equipment put our nation’s health care workers at risk. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Auburn Engineering donated critical PPE, such as eye protection, respirators and gloves, to the East Alabama Medical Center and started mixing hand sanitizer and 3D-printing face shields for other health care providers throughout the region.

A graphic shows the Shelby Center for Engineering Technology with the Samuel L. Ginn College of Engineering gates in the foreground. The graphic says Auburn Engineering Spring Awards.

4. Auburn Engineering honors student, faculty and alumni achievement

Each year, the college recognizes the top students, faculty and alumni from across the engineering campus. This year, the college presented 31 student awards, 19 faculty awards and 10 alumni awards, in addition to honoring dozens of faculty members who hold named professorships and chairs. 

Four people are shown and dwarfed in comparison to the Advance Structural Engineering Laboratory entrance.

3. Auburn debuts $22 million state-of-the-art structural engineering laboratory

Make way, Seven Wonders of the World. There are now eight. Dubbed “a revolution in structural engineering,” the new 42,000-square-foot Advanced Structural Engineering Laboratory is one of the premier research facilities of its kind in the United States and includes a 4,700-cubic-foot geotechnical test chamber, one of only a handful built in a university lab.

A 200-pound male Boer goat is shown anesthetized on a gurney as five individuals dressed in medical scrubs and surgical masks observe.

2. Auburn’s CPAP-to-ventilator device passes major test on live animal

In the spring, Auburn researchers successfully tested the RE-InVENT system – an emergency CPAP-to-ventilator device – on a 200-pound male Boer goat at Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Vaughan Large Animal Teaching Hospital. The test was a major step in the rollout of the RE-InVENT system.

Michael Zabala (left) is shown pointing at a component in the RE-InVENT as Tom Burch holds the CPAP unit open.

1. Auburn design adapts CPAP machines into emergency ventilators

­In the early days of the pandemic, when it appeared the nation would face a critical shortage of ventilators, a team of Auburn engineers raced around the clock to develop the RE-InVENT system, an emergency ventilator converted from a CPAP machine. The device can be assembled in as little as four hours using approximately $700 in readily available component parts in addition to a standard CPAP machine.

Read all of Auburn Engineering’s headlines from 2020.

Media Contact: Chris Anthony, chris.anthony@auburn.edu, 334.844.3447

Recent Headlines