Dean's Newsletter July 2014
MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN
One of my priorities is to provide our College of Engineering students with an exceptional experience. As part of improving our students’ experience I believe we need to increase their global awareness to keep pace with the globalization of engineering. Recently, two other faculty and I returned from a trip to Asia to work on developing partnerships with Chinese universities (see the story of our trip below).
While visiting Singapore, I made plans to connect with a former student who had been transferred there a few years ago. What surprised me during my visit is that I ran into 5 other former students, all of whom were there conducting business. One interpretation of this coincidence is that it is truly a small world. But what it really highlights is that engineering is globalized and many of our U of I engineering graduates are part of this phenomenon. Many of the large engineering and technology companies in our state and country employ engineers representing multiple nationalities. This fact underscores the imperative that our U of I engineers need to be aware and experience the diversity of cultures they will meet when they join the workforce.
We are seeking to increase global awareness in a number of ways. One is to bring international students to the U of I. We have always hosted international students in our college, in fact this past spring semester of the total 574 international students enrolled in degree programs at the U of I, 28 percent or 162 students were seeking engineering majors. Our hope is to increase these numbers. As a result of my recent trip we will begin a new transfer program with Wenzheng College of Soochow University that will bring more students to the U of I in a few years. We also have a growing number of engineering undergraduates coming from Brazil and Saudi Arabia. We plan to encourage these partnerships with international universities to continue to build ties and expand our diversity and awareness.
Another way we are working to increase our global awareness is to have our students go abroad. This past year we had 11 students studying abroad but would like to see more go overseas. The U of I International Programs office has many partnerships available for our students to learn abroad in countries, like Morocco, South Korea, Turkey and New Zealand, and we plan to work with their office to find opportunities that fit our students’ rigorous academic schedules to provide more of our engineers with international experience.
Our students also participate in service learning engagements abroad. Our U of I Engineers Without Borders team for example just returned from Bolivia. Unfortunately, their plan to implement drinking water wells in the small community of Chiwirapi met with non-engineering social and political challenges forcing them to prematurely cease construction efforts. Despite this set back, the team is much wiser from their experience and looks forward to forming new partnerships to conduct humanitarian engineering work in Bolivia in the future.
Thanks for reading and I hope everyone is enjoying your summer. Fall semester will start before you know it.
Larry A. Stauffer
Dean, College of Engineering
During the first two weeks of June I toured China and Singapore with Fred Barlow, Micron Professor in Microelectronics and Tao Xing, mechanical engineering professor. Our first stop was Shanghai and we were joined by one of our PhD students, Bingxing Wu, who is from Shanghai. We toured the city and learned first-hand about local Chinese culture. We then traveled to nearby Suzhou, the 10th largest city in China. It is known for its canals, bridges, and natural beauty and home to Shoochow University. Hosting us was Lynn Xiaoling, from their international programs office. We visited the Humble Garden, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and widely considered one of China’s most famous gardens.
After four days of competition and several hundreds of hours of effort, the University of Idaho’s Vandal Formula Hybrid Racing Team returned from New Hampshire Motor Speedway winners of the 2014 national Formula Hybrid Competition. The Vandal racing team – also known as Voltz N’ Boltz – drove home with the competition’s top prizes. The team earned the Chrysler Innovation Award, which recognizes innovative design and implementation, and the General Motors Best-Engineered Hybrid first place award, which is given to teams that demonstrate achievements in three categories: introducing new technologies and/or a remarkable implementation of existing technologies, making a positive difference and extraordinary vehicle balance.
With over 200 votes cast there was a clear winner of the 2014 Design EXPO People’s Choice Award. The winner was an interdisciplinary team made up of mechanical engineering and biological and & agricultural engineering students. The five member team made up of Mechanical engineering students: Matthew Guthrie and Allyson Labrum and Biological & Agricultural Engineering seniors, Jennifer Rainey, Jordan Simonson and Samantha Sutherland created a device to aid lower limb amputees in putting on a prosthetic limb. The device ensures that a prosthetic liner sits flush against the limb, properly aligns the prosthetic pin, and enables those with low hand dexterity, vision, or flexibility to don their liner independently. The team’s project was sponsored by the Biological & Agricultural Engineering department and advised by Professor Thomas Hess, and mentors Matt Kologi and Chris Ohlinger. The most common comment left on voter ballots was that it was very clear this project design fills a need and has significant potential to help amputees and individuals with disabilities.
Recently the University of Idaho, Engineers Without Borders (U of I-EWB) team and their faculty advisor Fritz Fielder traveled to Bolivia. They arrived safely in La Paz where they spent a few days getting acclimated the high elevation (12K ft.), gathering supplies and visiting the local university, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés. The team then loaded up a Land Cruiser to trek to the remote village of Chiwirapi, in the mountains southeast of La Paz, where they had planned to construct two community drinking wells. “One of the greatest needs the village has is access to clean water to reduce water borne diseases”, says project lead Riannon Heighes, a recent U of I civil engineering graduate who will be returning in the fall to do her master’s work. The U of I-EWB chapter sent seven members to work on this potable water distribution project: Tim Griswold, Joshua Suhr, Kelby Sommer, Rachel Hill, Nate Hill, Nate Suhr, and Riannon Heighes. Unfortunately, once in Chiwirapi the team encountered non-engineering challenges that halted their plans. Disagreements developed between the community’s leaders and the non-governmental organization (NGO) the U of I-EWB team partnered with to help implement the well project. In the end the team left Chiwirapi without building the wells but came away from the experience understanding how engineering and technical problems are intricately linked to social, political, economic and communication challenges.
University of Idaho Chemical Engineering students competed at the 2014 WERC (Waste management Education Research Consortium) design contest in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Students Michael Cron, St. John Richardson, Kelsey VanderWaal, and Breanna Wong developed a project titled Sunshine Island: A Floating Solar Cell System. The project design is a floating solar cell unit developed to generate power for a mining site by powering the water pumps located at the mine tailings pond. The team’s project received a 1st place WERC award competing against teams from 7 national ranked universities. Sunshine Island also won a top Technical Presentation Award at this year’s Engineering Design EXPO.
For the second summer in a row College of Engineering computer science professors Terry Soule and Robert Heckendorn have been busy running the Dig’n IT summer camp at the University of Idaho - Coeur d’Alene. The goals of the Dig’n IT camp is to encourage young people to study computing, raise awareness of the importance of information technologies, and increase the comfort-level in working with these technologies among middle school students and teachers alike. The first session of the Dig’n IT camp, which recently concluded, provided 26 middle school girls the opportunity to explore digital innovation and information technology through computer coding. Concurrent with the teen camp professor Heckendorn designed a curriculum to enabled 20 regional teachers to learn graphical programming languages and strategies to incorporate programming into their classes. The final Dig’n IT session begins July 28 and runs through August 1, and a few spots are still available. It is an intensive programming camp open to all students 12 and up. Students will developed proficiency in JAVA code to control robots. Click here for additional information on the Dig’n IT camps.
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