Rising senior Alex Finestone from Billerica, Massachusetts, enters his final year in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department having already accumulated enough honors as a student/athlete to stagger anyone’s imagination. Think about it. Finestone is the co-captain of the UMass Minuteman Track & Field Team who also carries an outstanding 3.658 GPA in the rigorous mechanical engineering curriculum, has landed on the Dean’s List five times, and, just for good measure, has been named five times to the Atlantic-10 Athletic Conference Commissioner Honor Roll.
And that’s just for starters. In addition, Finestone has served as the treasurer for the UMass National Honor Society chapter in 2012-2013; received the Barbara Hood Male Student Athlete of the Year award for 2013-2014; ran on the UMass School Record 4x800 indoor and outdoor relay teams; has been a four-time Sportsmanship Award Winner; and at Billerica Memorial High School won the President’s Education Program Award (for “Outstanding Academic Excellence”) and a National Scholar/Athlete Award.
Understandably, Finestone is highly valued in the MIE department. “Alex Finestone, MIE junior, is not only a top student in the college but is also a top athlete,” says Professor Sundar Krishnamurty, the MIE head and site-director for the Center for e-Design, where Finestone completed a cutting-edge project during his summer of 2016 Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). “I got to know him as a REU in our Center for e-Design this year, and I was quite impressed with his passion, knowledge, work ethic, and communication.”
The Center for e-Design is an NSF-supported Industry/University Cooperative Research Center involving a number of high technology companies. The mission of the center is to serve as a nucleus of excellence for the creation and dissemination of a systematic body of knowledge in intelligent e-design and product realization.
At the center this summer, Finestone finished a research project entitled “Evaluation and Advancement of a Decision Support System for Additive Manufacturing.” In the process, he advanced the decision support system for additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) by adding a mathematical foundation to it and collaborating with professors and graduate students to gain information for case studies.
As Finestone explains his summer REU project, “A major challenge for designers is coming to a decision early in the design process about how their product or device will be manufactured in terms of whether it will be by conventional or additive manufacturing. The decision support system for additive manufacturing was developed last year by Dr. Douglas Eddy and recent UMass student Justin Calderara, who submitted their work to ASME in a paper. My goal this summer was to build upon the work that Justin left in terms of the advancement of the decision support system. To improve the current work, I was looking to add a rigorous mathematical foundation to the binary and subjective evaluation of alternatives that were in place. To add this foundation, I implemented the holistic decision based technique of Analytical Hierarchy Process.”
If this sophisticated REU project sounds as though it travels far afield from Finestone’s heroics in athletics, well, he blends his efforts on and off the track almost effortlessly. Or seemingly so. After all, the common denominators in all his feats are hard work, effort, and determination.
On the track this year, Finestone set several personal records, including a 49.9 split in the 4x400-meter relay, a 4:05.22 in the 1,500-meter run, and a superlative 1:54.10 best in the 800 meters, which he says is “my preferred event.” Anyone who saw David Rudisha of Kenya win the 800-meter Gold Medal in each of the past two Olympics knows that this grueling race has turned into a nearly all-out sprint twice around a standard 400-meter outdoor track. It’s an event not for the faint of heart.
As Finestone says about the 800-meter relay legs he has run, “I also was a big part of UMass 4x800 team, placing fourth this past season at the IC4A Outdoor Championships, in a time of 7:38.78. In 2015, at the New England Indoor Championship, I was a part of the 4x800 team that placed fourth overall in a time of 7:37.65, which is also fourth best all-time mark at UMass in the 4x800 indoors.”
As evidenced by his academic honors, Finestone also pours his heart into his MIE education. For example, during the Sensata Bracket Design Challenge in the spring of 2015, Finestone worked on a team of four undergrads under the guidance of Sensata Technology Incorporated to design and manufacture a very special bracket. The team produced a functioning bracket device that, when a thirty pound force was applied, would only residually deform very slightly.
Later that summer of 2015, Finestone assisted in the creation and direction of a two-week summer program on behalf of the UMass S.E.N.G.I. Engineering Summer Session for high school students to expose them to engineering-level college courses. He also found time during his UMass career to serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the MIE 210 (Statics) course.
Oh yes, and then there were the standard MIE courses that would strike fear and loathing into the heart of any non-engineering student; courses such as System Dynamics Heat Transfer, Fluid Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Design of Mechanic Components, Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering, Strength of Materials, Manufacturing Processes, Introduction to Matlab Dynamics, and Introduction to Material Science.
It seems obvious from all this overwhelming evidence that Alex Finestone has come to UMass and managed to combine all the intellectual assets of a fine scholar with all the athletic instincts of an outstanding runner. What this all adds up to is the perfect specimen of a Renaissance Man. Is there an award for that? (August 2016)