Engineering News

Northwestern Team Uses Competition Victory to Honor Ted Belytschko

Led by Wing K. Liu, a team donated its $52,000 winnings from an America Makes competition

A team from Northwestern Engineering that earned a prestigious prize is paying it forward in honor of a revered professor, the late Ted Belytschko.

Wing K. Liu, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering, led the team to win a competition named “Micro-scale Process-to-Structure Predictions” as part of the Additive Manufacturing Modeling Challenge Series administered through America Makes and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). The team obtained success through combining physics-based modeling and data analytics to predict build geometries of metal parts fabricated through additive manufacturing without prior knowledge of the experimental measurements. As the top performer of the competition they were awarded $52,000 from the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM).

Wing K. Liu

The prize money has been donated to a fund in honor of Belytschko, Robert R. McCormick Institute Professor and Walter P. Murphy Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and Civil and Environmental Engineering, who passed away in 2014. A member of the McCormick School of Engineering’s faculty since 1977, Belytschko was a central figure in the community and an internationally renowned researcher who made major contributions to the field of computational structural mechanics.

“I told my team this is a good opportunity to honor Ted,” Liu said. “Even though Ted Belytschko passed away, he created your path and is your mentor.”

Belytschko made a profound impact on Liu; the two met in 1973 when Liu was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where Belytschko was an assistant professor. They became collaborators for the rest of Belytschko’s life. Liu went on to earn his master’s and PhD from the California Institute of Technology, but stayed in close contact with Belytschko. In 1980, Liu joined Northwestern Engineering to work again with Belytschko.

The funds will help attract students to engineering and computational science.

“It’s just a way to return something in service to Ted,” Liu said.

Other members of the team include Research Assistant Professor Zhengtao Gan, PhD student Kevontrez Jones, and postdoctoral fellow Ye Lu. Former PhD students Orion Kafka and Cheng Yu, and current PhD candidate Sourav Saha also collaborated.

Launched in November 2019 and composed of four individual challenges, the Air Force Research Laboratory Additive Manufacturing Modeling Challenge Series aims to improve the accuracy of model predictions for metal AM, using INCONEL nickel-chromium alloy 625. Challenge participants were provided high-pedigree calibration and validation data sets needed to develop new models related to predicting the internal structure and resultant performance of AM metallic components.