My name is Nathan Donahue and I recently graduated from the University of Utah with a Masters of Science degree in mechanical engineering emphasizing in robotics and controls (3.973 GPA). My education has given me a well-rounded set of skills that encompasses mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science. The names of my wife and dog are Whitney and Floyd.
Most recently, I have designed a simple consumer product, filed for a patent, started my own business, and created this website (including all the content) to sell a simplified version of the product and collect data. When I’m not applying what I have learned hands-on by tinkering and inventing, I enjoy playing the guitar, composing sound, backpack camping, snowboarding, fly-fishing, rock climbing, and absorbing information.
Whitney and I met while working in a restaurant in Yellowstone National Park where we served guests from around the world, and a few years later found our dog Floyd on the side of the road, far from civilization, with no identification. Pink Floyd was playing on the radio at the time.
Whitney has a PhD in Biochemistry and currently works in the field of genetics as a research scientist.
Below are some photos for some different projects I have worked on.
Poly-cylindrical Acoustic Diffusers
This is a two-dimensional array of poly-cylindrical acoustic diffusers I designed and constructed a few years ago to improve the acoustics of our living room with high ceilings. Prior to its installation there was a distracting and harsh echo in the room. Now the room sounds large and alive, but without the destructive interference. I never formally studied acoustics in school and learned what I needed to know through independent study and use of the "Master Handbook of Acoustics, 5th ed." textbook.
Persistence of Vision Clock made from a VCR head and dsPIC Microcontroller:
The persistence of vision (POV) clock was a project for an advanced mechatronics class I took in graduate school. When an array of LEDs are rotated quickly and illuminated when located at specific locations, for short time intervals, an optical illusion is created due to our persistence of vision. A VCR head was utilized for this project because it already contained a balanced rotor as well as a rotary transformer, which can wirelessly transmit signals/power eliminating the need for sliprings. The report for this project can be downloaded here.
Program to Optimize and Preview Layout of Wood Floor:
I created a program that optimizes the layout of wood flooring minimizing waste and giving the ability to preview the end result using the MATLAB programming language. In the future, the program may be refined and rewritten into an ‘app’ for smart phones and tablets intended for novice homeowners installing a wood floor themselves. The program outputs a list which specifies the location of every plank for each row governed by a predefined set of rules regarding the layout. The product streamlines the installation process enabling a novice to achieve professional looking results regarding the flooring layout while saving money.
Resonance Analysis of a Chain of 'n' Spherical Neodymium Magnets:
The potential for a chain of spherical magnets, at the mesoscale, to achieve locomotion while experiencing resonance was investigated and a simple model, which treated the magnetic forces between the magnets as though they were torsional springs, was used to simulate the different modes of vibration for chains of various lengths. It was also thought that energy harvesting might be possible using chains of magnets and exploiting their resonant properties. This work was completed under the supervision of Dr. Jake Abbott who is the director of the Telerobotics Laboratory at the University of Utah for a semester of independent study. Due to lack of funding and greater interest towards studying robotics, I opted not to further pursue this project as a master's thesis or doctoral research. The preliminary writeup for this work can be found here.
Dr. Stewardson's Manufacturing Lab:
During my undergraduate studies in mechanical engineering at Utah State University, I had the privilege of working for a manufacturing lab within the college of engineering for 2 years under the supervision of Dr. Gary Stewardson. I received one-on-one training for many fundamental manufacturing processes including the lathe, mill, woodworking techniques, sand-casting, soldering, etc. I was involved in the design, manufacturing, maintenance, and repair of peculiar fixtures, simple pneumatic robots, air cannons, an electric scooter, and a Harley Davidson trike to name a few. This was the most valuable experience I had during my undergraduate education because it helped me develop important connections between hands-on technician and engineering based skill sets.
This is a very simple and remarkably sturdy workbench I recently built. Due to the concrete slab settling, the workbench was designed such that it did not rest on it.
Sound and Noise Laboratory:
These are some photos my music making gear, which includes many guitar effects pedals I built from scratch as well as modified effects pedals on an elaborate board to house them all that I built. Playing the guitar and experimenting with sound has been a primary hobby of mine since I was a young kid. I have done much independent study regarding how to play the guitar, music composition, audio recording techniques, room acoustics, mic and speaker placement, etc. Prior to studying mechanical engineering, I wanted to be a recording engineer, but I instead chose to keep it a creative hobby.
Lightweight Alcohol Backpacking Stove:
My attempt at making "The White Box Stove" using only hand tools. Prior to coming across this design, I machined my own designs. I was so pleased with the simplicity and performance of this design that I no longer sought to try and make a-better-alcohol-stove. I enjoy spending free-time doing projects such as this because I find tinkering to be more relaxing than simply relaxing.
Raspberry Pi Motion Camera with automatic upload to Dropbox:
A security/trail camera was constructed using a Raspberry Pi micro-controller, with a Linux-kernel-based operating system, infrared camera module, and PIR sensor. Photos and videos are captured and wirelessly uploaded via a WIFI network to a Dropbox account upon motion detection by the PIR sensor.
Snowmobile Dynamometer - Undergraduate Senior Design:
A dynamometer for testing the efficiency of an electric snowmobile was designed, modeled, and mostly constructed for a senior design class during my undergraduate studies. The design enabled a snowmobile to simply drive onto the platform for the testing with its treadmill-style concept and it used a water-brake and force transducer to measure the net output torque. I led the fabrication effort for this project because I had metal-working experience with skills such as welding, milling machine and lathe work. Aside from leading the physical build, I modeled the platform in Solid Edge and used finite element analysis to optimize the configuration and strength of the platform. My hands-on technical experience was vital to the project because I had experience and knowledge for how to build things regarding design for manufacturability and assembly (DFMA) throughout the project.
Black and White Marble Sorting Machine - Undergraduate Junior Design
A machine to sort black and white marbles was designed with all components modeled/assembled using Solid Edge 3D modeling software. Existing technologies, such as a paint-ball gun hopper/feeder, were brought together to minimize the amount of engineering needed and increase the likelihood of reliable machine should it ever be constructed. A description of the machine can be downloaded here.