January 2, 2013

Parking spots at LSU are coveted necessities. But, have you ever passed up a prime parking spot for the space at the end of the row to avoid dings and scratches? If so, you’ll be pleased to meet Joey Ham, a senior petroleum engineering student, who has used the knowledge he’s gained both in and outside of the classroom to create NanoShield, a three-layer highly durable and absorptive material that increases a car’s durability against rocks and dings. 

A childhood interest in cars that developed into a professional passion has led Ham into both engineering and entrepreneurship. Although beginning in mechanical engineering and later switching to petroleum engineering, Ham first learned about the potential of carbon particles in his carbon and organic materials class. He also credits a civil engineering course – strengths of materials – for helping him to understand the engineering behind materials.

While carbon nanotubes are heavily researched and currently used in aerospace and the military, they are expensive to manufacture despite their impressive properties. Ham’s NanoShield concept, however, bridges the gap between nanotube technology and the consumer.

The rigid, yet flexible NanoShield skin is retrofitted to the car and applied in the same manner as advertising wraps seen on many vehicles today – easily snapping on and adhering to the body of the car. In addition, NanoShield slows down the energy from a crash, so it doesn’t travel to the car’s occupants – adding a valuable safety element.

“We aren’t always taught to think outside of the box, but most engineering students have great ideas but don’t know how to make them a reality or know the resources available to them,” Ham said. “The time is now if you have an idea.”

Ham has taken advantage of many of the resources available to students including the Stephenson Entrepreneurship Fellows Program, the LSU Student Incubator and the LSU chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization. The SEI has had the biggest impact on Ham because he had the opportunity to experience and meet other successful entrepreneurs who have had an idea and made it a reality, but Ham is also extremely appreciative of the physical workspace provided through the LSU Student Incubator.

Ham is also currently the president of LSU’s CEO and encourages students interested in entrepreneurship to join.

“Being involved with CEO helps to change your mindset and see the world as an opportunity,” Ham said. “It helps you think in a more business-like manner and gain the fundamental business principles you don't’ necessarily get in your engineering curriculum.”

The road from student to entrepreneur has taught Ham quite a bit – including the myth of not disclosing your ideas until you have a patent. Ham advises students not to be shy about sharing their ideas with others in fear of being copied.

“You have to tell people your idea for it to become a reality,” Ham said. “When you share your idea with others, you end up receiving more help and resources. You have to remember that no one has the same passion you do about your idea.” 

After graduation in the spring, Ham will transition into a job he has already accepted – field engineer for Baker Hughes in Lafayette, La., conducting research, testing and modeling – while continuing to develop the application of NanoShield. Ham has also identified opportunities for how NanoShield could be applied to the petroleum industry, which is constantly seeking lighter but stronger materials.

“I’ve worked hard for my degree, so I want to be able it apply it to industry,” Ham said.

"I remember the very first time Joey stopped by my office there was a determination and professionalism in his attitude," said Mileva Radonjic, assistant professor, LSU Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering. "He has been able to successfully pursue his degree and, at the same time, contribute to the LSU chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization, managing his time effectively and continuing to be a humble and kind student who has time to help out fellow students. I am very proud of his accomplishments and believe his vision for applying nanomaterials to the petroleum industry will be welcomed, as it is definitely needed. Joey truly represents, in my opinion, what the 21st Century LSU engineer should be: open minded, interdisciplinary oriented and capable and willing to contribute to the society."


For more information, contact Cassie Thibeaux, College of Engineering, carcen6@lsu.edu or (225) 578-0092. 


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