FPE Grad Student Ryan Chaffer Receives UMD 2020/21 Outstanding Graduate Assistant Award

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Ryan Chaffer, a graduate student in the University of Maryland (UMD) Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE), is a recipient of the Graduate School’s Outstanding Research Assistant Award for the 2020/21 academic year.  

Over 4,000 UMD graduate students serve the campus as administrative, research and/or teaching assistants, so the Graduate School established this award to recognize and honor their contributions. Recipients will receive a credit for mandatory fees for Spring 2021. 

Chaffer, a master's student, is in the process of developing his thesis, currently entitled, "A Redesign of the Fire Propagation Apparatus to Simplify Manufacturing and Increase Measuring Capabilities." In a nutshell, he's looking to redesign the main parts of the Fire Propagation Apparatus(FPA) to make it easier to manufacture, use and fix, if need be. Chaffer will need to compare the results from the redesigned FPA to the results of the original scientific standards FPA to prove its efficiency.

"I basically started with partial drawings of the apparatus, information from the standard, and pictures I took from seeing one in person, and then just starting at ground zero, working my way up," Chaffer said. "Switching things around, making new complete drawings that machine-shops can read and understand. Currently, I'm in the construction/ building phase, which is time-consuming. Once I complete this step, I can start testing and prove that my modifications actually work."

According to Chaffer, there is only one company that produces commercial FPAs that are up to code with the FPA scientific testing standards, and that company charges a premium for them. "My ultimate goal is to demonstrate that in a strictly research environment, you can make one yourself and hopefully yield comparable results, for a fraction of the cost," he said.

Chaffer is a graduate research assistant for FireTec - managed by Drs. Stanislov Stoliarov (FPE Professor) and Fernando Raffan-Montoya (FireTEC Test Engineer & Lab Coordinator) - where he assists in running tests and experiments that are contracted to the Department. His work on the refreshed FPA will be another materials-testing service offered to the public.

“Ryan has provided invaluable effort performing standard and custom tests for FireTec customers,” said Raffan-Montoya. “He’s responsible for several lab infrastructure improvements, for example, he built an improved curtain system for our large fire hood that allows us to customize ventilation conditions quickly. Ryan has also been key in helping me set up labs for instructional courses such as ENFP620 and ENFP420. Ryan does these things while simultaneously working on his thesis without missing a beat!”

Chaffer, advised by Prof. Stoliarov, will be recognized at the Fellowship and Award Celebration in May prior to his summer commencement.

Published January 7, 2021