About

I grew up in sunny California where I had the opportunity in high school to work on different science and engineering projects. I came to MIT where I discovered that in addition to engineering I enjoyed teaching and mentoring. After completing my undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in economics I decided to stay at MIT for my PHD. I have completed my masters degree and am completing my PhD in the Department of Mechanical Engineering under the guidance of Amos Winter in the Global Engineering and Research Laboratory (GEAR Lab). The focus of my research is optimizing small engines with an emphasis on improving power output, efficiency, and fuel economy.

Contact


Michael Buchman
77 Massachusetts Ave., Room 31-380
Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
email: mbuchman (at) mit (dot) edu

Personal Statement

As a child I was interested in tinkering, building, experimenting and spending lots of time playing with Legos, Meccano, model trains, and science kits. In middle school I joined the Science Club and helped start the Electric Go Kart Team, where we built one-seater electric cars that ran on tiny motors; as powerful as my family’s blender. In high school I continued my engineering education, which at the time I considered my hobby, by joining the FIRST robotics team (learning to use tools such as mills and lathes, 3D modeling software, electronics, and pneumatics). I also founded the school’s television studio (building the sets and running the technical team of 18 students). My junior year summer I worked at the NASA Ames Research Center on a Lunar Rover project. The culmination of my high school experience was the award of a full research scholarship to the International Summer Weizmann Institute of Science, where I spent a summer doing research on biomaterials and exchanging scientific ideas with over seventy students from sixteen countries. Along the way, I figured out that I was one of the lucky few that could turn my hobby into a career.

The first semester of my freshman year in college I wanted to continue to work on interesting engineering challenges. When I got to MIT I joined the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team (SEVT). The SEVT is a student run team of mechanical, electrical, and aeronautical engineering undergraduates that design, manufacture, and build a solar vehicle for the World Solar Challenge (WSC) and the American Solar Challenge. SEVT gave me an opportunity to assume a number of roles and responsibilities: mechanical team member, machine shop teacher, mechanical lead (leading a team of 7 students and responsible for designing, building, integrating and testing all mechanical systems), and design lead (responsible for coordinating the mechanical, electrical, and aerodynamics teams and making final decisions on the design and implementation of the solar vehicle for the 2011 World Solar Challenge). As an experienced machinist, I built the chassis, which was constructed in-house out of steel and aluminum, spare components such as the spindles, which act as the axles, and the rockers (vital components in the suspension system). I had the responsibility of designing the steering system, which is unique to this model with electronically actuated rear wheel steering, the canopy actuation, the body attachment system, and the chassis. I have personally designed a carbon fiber layup and led a team of more than a dozen students in the fabrication of a car body, made out of carbon fiber, Kevlar, and Nomex Honeycomb composites.

Halfway through sophomore year I decided to try other projects in addition to SEVT to broaden my skills. I got a research position in the Media Lab on the CityCar project, a two seat electric car that folds into a more compact shape for parking. I was responsible for designing and building a system for simulating different configurations for the folding seat to determine optimum seat geometry of the final product. I successfully designed and built a prototype of the cockpit which folds, has articulating seats and an entry way that simulates the actual vehicle. The model was designed to be adjusted in multiple ways and was used to determine the final seat configuration that maximized driver comfort and minimized space.

The summer before my senior year I worked at Infinium, a startup that develops advanced magnesium processing technology. It was a fast paced research environment where a majority of the engineers had PhDs. I was responsible for designing and building a key system for condensing vaporized magnesium into a liquid and then pouring it into ingots. This was a challenging problem due to the material constraints, thermal constraints, and the safety issues of dealing with magnesium vapors. The goal of the condenser is to cool the argon magnesium mixture to 700o C (just below the ideal casting temperature). The condenser design and geometry was limited by what I could buy off the shelf and fabricate. I used my thermal fluids experience to successfully design and build a system; and my work contributed to a patent.

The culmination of my undergraduate experience was my thesis to design and build a climbing pad system that would allow a human to climb a wall using ferro-fluids. The viscosity of a ferro-fluids increases when a magnetic field is applied. The premise of this project is to use the ferro-fluid as an adhesive that can be turned on and off with a magnetic field. A climbing pad with a ferro-fluid base would allow humans to scale walls by varying the magnetic field on the ferro-fluid that sits between the pad and the wall.

The summation of these experiences helped me decide to focus my graduate level research on creating new technologies that have real world applications and a positive impact. This led me to accepting a position in the Global Engineering and Research Laboratory (GEAR Lab) under professor Winter. This is a new laboratory that specializes in combining rigorous engineering theory with user centered product design to create technological solutions to problems in emerging markets. As a member of the laboratory I have spent the last two years developing a novel engine technology that would allow for turbocharging single cylinder engines. This work has resulted in the development of more fuel efficient, lower cost, higher power, and lower weight small engines. This technology will have a large impact in small-scale agriculture, especially in emerging markets where these engines are ubiquitous.