Carmela Vallalta (Mechanical Engineering)

Carmela Vallalta (Mechanical Engineering)

About DOE Fellow

Carmela Vallalta is an undergraduate student pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at Florida International University (FIU). Her expected graduation date is spring 2016. After completing her degree in mechanical engineering, Carmela intends to continue her education by pursuing a master’s degree.

Carmela is currently the Vice President of internal affairs for the SHPE (Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers) FIU student chapter, one of the largest SHPE student chapters in the U.S. She is in charge, among other things, of organizing campus-wide events for the group. She is also an active member in IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) where she participates in both the IEEE Hardware Competition and the NASA Hybrid Rocket Competition.

Prior to becoming a DOE Fellow, she was a student intern in DiscoveryLAB, an organization based in the Computer Science Department at FIU that develops products for the marketplace. In addition, the lab provides the hands-on experience needed to solve real-world challenges, develops student-led research opportunities, and fosters students’ entrepreneurial skills. As the only mechanical engineer in a primarily computer science/computer programming lab, she was responsible for designing, manufacturing and modeling the mechanical components for many of the projects in the lab.

DOE Related Projects

The U.S. DOE Hanford Site contains high level waste (HLW) with a complex chemical composition and diverse physical characteristics. Consequently, transfer pipelines have become plugged with substances that possess a variety of properties (high radioactivity sludge and crystallized precipitates, among others) making the plugs very difficult to remove.

Working under the supervision of Mr. Tomas Pribanic, Carmela is assisting in the development and experimental testing of high-level radioactive waste pipeline unplugging technologies for the Hanford Site.

Carmela is also working on the Peristaltic Crawler, a pneumatically operated device that propels itself through the pipe by a series of pressurization and depressurization of its inner tubes. The front of the crawler includes an unplugging tool attachment designed to dissolve the plugged waste as well as a camera for visual feedback of the pipeline’s condition.