Donald E. Bently Center for Engineering Innovation

Bently Center InnovationThe Donald E. Bently Center for Engineering Innovation was established in spring 2003 through a substantial donation by Donald E. Bently. The Center is contained within the Mechanical Engineering Department. The purpose of the endowment is to promote innovation within the discipline, support applied research, expand the curriculum and bring vision and breadth to engineering instruction. The mission of the Center is advancement of research, education, and the practice of mechanical engineering with innovation as a guiding principle. Rotor dynamics is the primary focus of the center; however, the center supports a broad range of secondary focus areas.

Every year the Center issues a request for proposals to the Cal Poly M.E. faculty to sponsor faculty release time. The proposals are reviewed by a committee consisting of the Bently Center Director, ME Department Chair, and a third reviewer, typically the CENG Associate/Assistant Dean of Research. Awards are made based on criteria that includes meeting the mission of the Center, leveraging the award, deliverables, past performance, need and the proposal quality. The Bently Director is awarded 24 WTUs per year and expected to further the mission of the Center and administer the endowment, RFP process and documentation. Awardees that are granted 12 – 18 WTUs are given the title of “Bently Professors”. In addition to the Bently Professor awards, smaller awards are granted as well.  

2020-21 Bently Professors

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Charles Birdsong, Bently Center Director

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Charles Birdsong is the current Bently Center Director for 2018-2021.  His research is focused on automotive safety, advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving.  This includes dynamic system modeling, sensor integration, signal processing and feedback control. He is also interested in engineering education research.  Dr. Birdsong teaches dynamics, vibrations and controls and senior project.

Profile ImageJohn Chen, Bently Center Director 2021-2024

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Chen’s research focused on (i) grit and how it is affected through students’ learning experiences, (ii) the collection of non-cognitive (NCA) factors related to student success, and (iii) metacognition, or awareness and control of one’s learning. Professor Chen regularly teaches statics, introductory and advanced thermodynamics, and heat transfer. He enjoys the varied mix of students from different majors across the College of Engineering in the introductory courses, as well as working with students that are learning deeper disciplinary content within

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Jacques Belanger, Bently Professor

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Dr. Belanger’s main research interests are renewable energy and sustainability. Prior to joining Cal Poly in 2017, he worked in the solar industry for over ten years. His research focuses on utility scale solar field power optimization, solar field power generation forecasting and micro-grid design and management. Dr. Belanger teaches courses in nuclear energy in cooperation with the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant and courses in thermal sciences.

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Russ Westphal, Bently Professor

Professor of Mechanical Engineering

Professor Westphal’s Bently-supported research is an outgrowth of his longstanding student-centered project to develop and apply the Boundary Layer Data System (BLDS), a unique instrument paradigm for conducting flight research.  The focus of the effort is to collaborate with students to create new Actuator Disk models for propulsion systems to predict performance penalties that may be encountered for emerging electric aircraft propulsion systems.  Professor Westphal teaches lecture and lab courses in Fluid Dynamics, Heat Transfer, Measurement, and Thermodynamics at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

View past Bently Professors

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