The Center for Tire Research, directed by Saied Taheri, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Virginia Tech, in partnership with the University of Akron, will hold its first industry advisory board meeting on June 4 and 5 in Blacksburg, Va. 

This National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers Program represents a combined force of academic researchers and auto and tire industry leaders focusing on improved methods of the materials development, manufacturing, and testing of tires.

The organization includes 13 member participants from the tire and automotive industries, including Goodyear, Michelin, Bridgestone/Firestone, Ford, and Caterpillar, among others. The 13 members will collaborate with NSF at the June meeting to select specific projects involving tire research. NSF provided an initial grant of $80,000 to fund the center's operations, and the 13 participating members will fund research through membership fees.

The group has already identified more than two dozen projects ready to be presented at the June meeting. Taheri says the four main areas of emphasis will include tire materials, manufacturing, modeling and simulation, and testing. "It is a much more price friendly avenue for these big companies," Taheri said. "Most auto and tire companies have their own staff hired for research. This center will allow for the industries to reach out to a group that specializes in tire research, saving them time and money."

The center will take on roughly 10 such projects per year, maybe more as additional industrial members and/or partner universities join the center. All members will share any research findings.

Working with Taheri will be Tomonari Furukawa and John Ferris, both Virginia Tech mechanical engineering faculty and research directors at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville. Several graduate students from Virginia Tech will also work at the center.

Taheri, also director of Virginia Tech's Intelligent Transportation Laboratory, applied for the initial funding from NSF two years ago. Others joining Taheri to head the center as program coordinators are Virginia Tech's Mehdi Ahmadian, professor, Ferris, associate professor, Furukawa, Corina Sandu, associate professor, and Bob West, associate professor, all of mechanical engineering, and Don Baird, professor of chemical engineering.

Funding for the center will be based on a tier level, quite similar to a nonprofit agency that might have "gold," "silver," and "bronze" membership. Larger companies will provide more monetary support, followed by smaller businesses, such as auto-part suppliers and the like. NSF will provide funding on an annual basis through at least 2017.

The members' annual membership fee entitles them to all research results, patents, and any other research outcome from the projects. In addition, they have the opportunity to hire the graduate students that are involved in the center. Graduate students initially will come from Virginia Tech and University of Akron.

The Center for Tire Research is being established in conjunction with the National Tire Research Center at Virginia International Raceway in Southern Virginia. "The center will be a step in the right direction for marketing Southern Virginia as a leader in tire research. The center will allow us to bring big name industries to our area," Taheri said. "Industries will want to send their employees to southern and southwestern Virginia to receive the proper training."

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research is engaged in research, education, and conferencing. Research at the Institute involves renewable resources, agriculture and horticulture. Education spans kindergarten through 12th grade science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs; graduate and post-graduate research; and lifelong learning. The institute also operates a full-service conference center utilized by residents of Southern Virginia and beyond for meetings and events. The institute develops and attracts technology and talent critical to Southern Virginia's economic prosperity to enable economic and community transformation in the region. It was founded in 2002 in Danville as a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chris Horne is the director of communications and can be reached at 434-766-6717 or by email.

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