Kaitlin Spak

Kaitlin Spak, Ph.D., P.E.

Managing Engineer
Mechanical Engineering
Denver

Dr. Spak specializes in the mechanical engineering of systems and structures, with an emphasis on vibration characterization and dynamic analysis of materials and machines. As a certified vibration analyst, she is capable of instrumenting and conducting dynamic tests and analyzing vibration and operational data. Dr. Spak uses both experimentation and theoretical approaches to solve engineering problems. Her prior work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) included modeling and testing of cables for spaceflight structures, and her work since joining Exponent includes evaluation, analysis, and testing of industrial machinery, heavy equipment, engines, drilling operations, pipelines, commercial vehicles, light vehicles, and consumer products and appliances.

Dr. Spak performed the majority of her graduate work at JPL, investigating the dynamic response of spaceflight cables and developing analytical models to predict the effect of adding cables to space structures. During this research, Dr. Spak developed methods for cable testing and cabled structure models that include the effects of bakeout, variable bending stiffness, and hysteretic damping. While at JPL, she also assisted with the work of the Advanced Deployable Structures group, set up testing for modal analysis of space and rover assemblies, and served as a resident cable expert for design teams. Prior to conducting research at JPL, Dr. Spak worked at the Center for Intelligent Materials and Smart Structures at Virginia Tech, working with piezoelectric actuators and developing an active clearance control mechanism for jet engines. Additional graduate work included courses in finite element analysis, instrumentation, fluid dynamics, active materials and smart structures, fuel cell systems, rotor dynamics, and mathematical methods.

Dr. Spak's past work experience includes design of electronic housing, button panels, and backplane cards for broadcasting routers, troubleshooting of customer product issues, and product prototype development and design. Dr. Spak also has coursework and competitive experience in communications and public speaking. She has years of shop experience in design and fabrication of metal art and furniture, and is familiar with a variety of machining and manufacturing methods. Outside of the office, Dr. Spak spends her time participating in high-performance driving events (HPDEs) and equestrian sports. Since joining Exponent, Dr. Spak has applied her engineering skills to projects involving pipeline joint failures, drilling and mining operations, large machinery, heavy equipment, engine failures, vehicle sound analysis, bearing analysis, operational data analysis, and consumer electronics. She has been involved in both proactive design work and reactive failure analysis and litigation work, including preparation of expert reports, intellectual property and patent claims, and root cause analysis.

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2014
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, 2010, magna cum laude and with honors
  • NASA Space Technology Research Fellow, 2011–2014

    ASME Bruce J. Heim Foundation Scholarship

    AIAA San Gabriel Valley Section Student Scholarship

    Virginia Space Grant Consortium Fellow

    Pratt Fellow

    Raytheon University Design Competition, First Place

    Outstanding Senior for Contributions to the Objectives and Public Image of the University, Cal Poly, SLO

    Tau Beta Pi Dodson Scholar

    Tau Beta Pi National Committee Chair

LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS

Licensed Professional Engineer, Colorado, PE 54045

Licensed Professional Mechanical Engineer, California, #M37973

Vibration Analyst, Vibration Institute Category I, II, and III Certified

Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, Traffic Crash Reconstruction, July 2018

USPC National H (Equine Knowledge and Management) and C3 (Riding Skill) Ratings

Publications

Spak K, Klopp RW. Traces of bentonite prevent bonding of electrofusion pipeline joints. Pipeline & Gas Journal, December 2017, pp. 50-52.

Spak KS. Modal comparison of stock and performance brake rotors. Proceedings of the 36th International Modal Analysis Conference, #90, Orlando, FL, 2018.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Modeling vibration response and damping of cables and cabled structures. Journal of Sound and Vibration 2015; 336:240-256. DOI:10.1016/j.jsv.2014.10.009

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Bakeout effects on dynamic response of spaceflight cables. Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets 2014; 51(5):1721-1734. DOI: 10.2514/1.A32780

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Parameters for modeling stranded cables as structural beams. Experimental Mechanics 2014; 54(9):1613-1626. DOI: 10.1007/s11340-014-9941-8

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Modeling vibration response and damping of cables and cabled structures. Journal of Sound and Vibration 2014; in press. DOI: TBD.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman, DJ. Cable modeling and internal damping developments. Applied Mechanics Reviews 2013; 65(1): 1-18. DOI:10.1115/1.4023489.

Conference Proceedings and Presentations

Spak KS. Analysis of nonlinear behavior in machine monitoring diagnostic plots. 34th SEM International Modal Analysis Conference, #219, Orlando, FL, 2016.

Spak KS. From client to conclusion: translating the language of vibration. 34th SEM International Modal Analysis Conference, #9, Orlando, FL, 2016.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Experimental and theoretical analysis of cabled beams. Proceedings, AIAA SciTech 56th AIAA/ASMEASCE/AHS/SC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, AIAA-2015-0690, Kissimmee, FL, 2015.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Cable parameters for homogenous cable-beam models for space structures. Proceedings, 32nd IMAC, A Conference on Structural Dynamics, SEM International Modal Analysis Conference, #17, Orlando, FL, 2014.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Inclusion of shear effects, tension, and damping in a DTF beam model for cable modeling. Proceedings, AIAA SciTech 55th AIAA/ASMEASCE/AHS/SC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, AIAA-2014-0491, National Harbor, MD, 2014.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Comparison of damping models for space flight cables. Proceedings, 31st IMAC, A Conference on Structural Dynamics, Volume 4, Chapter 21, SEM International Modal Analysis Conference, # 77, Garden Grove, CA, 2013.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Toward modeling of cable harnessed structures: Cable damping experiments. Proceedings, AIAA 54th AIAA/ASMEASCE/AHS/SC Structures, Structural Dynamics, and Materials Conference, AIAA-2013-1889, Boston, MA, 2013.

Spak KS, Agnes GS, Inman DJ. Effect of bakeout on space flight cable stiffness. SEM International Student Paper Competition and Annual Conference, #535, Lombard, IL, 2013.

Spak KS, Inman DJ. Space flight cable model development. Virginia Space Grant Consortium Student Research Conference, Norfolk, VA, 2013.

Spak KS, Inman DJ. Model development for cable harnessed beams. Virginia Space Grant Consortium Student Research Conference, Williamsburg, VA, 2012.

Professional Affiliations

Vibration Institute

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Society for Experimental Mechanics

American Society of Mechanical Engineers

Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society

Society of Automotive Engineers

National Auto Sport Association

Technical Committees

AIAA Structural Dynamics Technical Committee Member

SAE Light Vehicle Exterior Sound Committee Member

United States Eventing Association Cross-Country Safety Subcommittee Member

Project Experience

Vehicles and Engines

-       Instrumented bus drivetrains and analyzed vibration and sound data to determine the root cause of an unusual noise which was preventing vehicle customer acceptance and distribution.

-       Performed oil consumption analysis, accident review, vehicle condition, and price comparisons of a passenger vehicle for litigation purposes.

-       Investigated condition and reviewed specifications and requirements to determine root cause of bursting of a hydraulic hose on a construction vehicle.

-       Evaluated data and consumer perception of vehicle sound and fuel economy changes following repairs and modifications to vehicle.

-       Evaluated vehicle sounds and performed vehicle sound testing for regulatory compliance purposes.

-       Evaluated engine sounds and developed algorithms and classification schemes for engine fault diagnostics. Led a team to analyze representative vehicles and test consumer’s vehicles.

-       Performed inspection and root cause analysis of engine failures at cogeneration plants running on digester gas.

-       Reviewed ambulance accident data recorder outputs.

Vibration and Sound Analysis

-       Measured and analyzed vibrations of a hoist gear on a dredging barge to identify the cause of excessive vibration.

-       Instrumented an industrial wood grinder to determine whether impacts on one area of the machine could be significant at a different location, and whether the magnitude of the impact was sufficient to dislodge a safety mechanism.

-       Analyzed vibrations from an ultrasonic resonator for food processing to optimize the energy provided; provided further engineering support in design and prototype construction and evaluated regulations for such equipment. 

-       Developed appropriate accelerated life testing procedures for a commercial robot based on recorded data from a prototype; recommended the appropriate instrumentation for test data collection and supported testing through conclusion.

-       Performed a design review for industrial lettuce dryer and performed calculations to determine appropriate dampers to be used to mitigate vibration.

-       Used laser Doppler vibrometer for modal analysis and frequency comparisons of consumer electronics to determine root cause of failures.

-       Used vibration data in conjunction with finite element modeling to compare performance in terms of fatigue resistance for different crimping closures for refrigeration systems.

-       Analyzed turbomachinery condition monitoring data for fault conditions and maintenance requirements.

-       Inspected and evaluated likely impact of shipping and handling procedures on high value computer servers.

-       Performed vibration modeling and analysis of cable-dressed space structures to identify modal changes and frequency shifts.

-       Analyzed truck-mounted broadcasting routers to characterize vehicle vibration that was causing lost connections.

Gas Distribution Pipelines and Components

-       Designed tests to evaluate the integrity of pipeline components damaged in fires and directed a team to perform testing and material analysis for such components.

-       Designed experiments and oversaw testing to investigate the effect of common plumbers’ drain rooters on cross-bored pipelines.

-       Designed and performed tests and analyzed test results and field failures to determine cause of electrofusion joint failures.

-       Performed electrofusion and heat fusion joint qualification testing.

-       Designed new cap lock for a chlorine gas plant to prevent valves from opening, used on over 1,500 valves.

Livestock and Equestrian

-       Inspected and analyzed equestrian equipment components for root cause of failure.

-       Determined value for lost breeding material of livestock.

-       Livestock judging and evaluation.

Industrial Mining and Processing

-       Analyzed operational data and causes of a sinkhole related to solution salt mine collapse.

-       Evaluated plant condition and mechanical component failures and suitability of rotating equipment for chemical processing plant.

-       Evaluated extent of modularization expected for industrial mine process plant equipment and compared expectations and contract requirements to the modules delivered.

Intellectual Property

-       Analyzed computer lock mechanisms for design and functionality.

-       Designed and performed nondestructive testing of a robotic toy to show how the drive mechanism worked, and how that drive system compared to competitors’ products and patent language.

-       Evaluated spring design in magnetic cartridges and prepared claim charts to analyze prior art and accused products for patent validity and infringement.

-       Evaluated medical instrument and procedure involving light transmission through blood for measurement of blood sedimentation for intellectual property considerations.

Consumer Products

-       Provided the mechanical engineering input to failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) for at least nine unique consumer electronics products.

-       Determined effect of mechanical failures for lighting systems and determined mitigating design and assembly changes to reduce occurrences.

-       Evaluated root cause of injury and assessed alleged design defects in hand-held power tools.

-       Designed tests and analyzed potentially hazardous mechanical failures of kitchen blenders.

Additional Information

Peer Reviewer

Acta Mechanica Sinica

Engineering Structures

International Journal of Mechanical Sciences

IEEE Access

Journal of Cardiac Surgery

Journal of Civil Engineering and Management

Journal of Sound and Vibration

Journal of Spacecraft and Rockets

Journal of Vibration and Acoustics

Meccanica

NASA SPIRES Reviewer

Open Civil Engineering Journal

Knowledge

News & Events

CREDENTIALS & PROFESSIONAL HONORS

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2014
  • B.S., Mechanical Engineering, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, 2010, magna cum laude and with honors
  • NASA Space Technology Research Fellow, 2011–2014

    ASME Bruce J. Heim Foundation Scholarship

    AIAA San Gabriel Valley Section Student Scholarship

    Virginia Space Grant Consortium Fellow

    Pratt Fellow

    Raytheon University Design Competition, First Place

    Outstanding Senior for Contributions to the Objectives and Public Image of the University, Cal Poly, SLO

    Tau Beta Pi Dodson Scholar

    Tau Beta Pi National Committee Chair

LICENSES & CERTIFICATIONS

Licensed Professional Engineer, Colorado, PE 54045

Licensed Professional Mechanical Engineer, California, #M37973

Vibration Analyst, Vibration Institute Category I, II, and III Certified

Northwestern University Center for Public Safety, Traffic Crash Reconstruction, July 2018

USPC National H (Equine Knowledge and Management) and C3 (Riding Skill) Ratings