Posts filed under ‘College of Engineering’
With apologies to all those hard-working athletes over in the UK, this might be the celebratory photo of the day: A couple of NASA engineers rejoicing after receiving confirmation that the Mars rover Curiosity had landed intact on the red planet.
That’s Brian Schratz ’06, ’08 MS embracing a colleague Monday morning at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in California, where they monitored the rover’s descent onto the Martian surface after an eight-month, 352-million-mile journey. Schratz, the entry descent and landing communications lead for the mission, is one of two Penn Staters on the team; senior propulsion systems engineer (and fellow College of Engineering grad) Ray Baker ’98 is the other.
Congrats to Schratz, Baker, and everyone who made this bit of history happen.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
This is not the kind of thing that typically happens around here, but—hey—these are not typical times.
Turns out that the former governor’s most recent Saturday sports column, which he writes for the SportsWeek section of the Philadelphia Daily News, was particularly relevant to us: It’s about Penn State being more than a football team. He’d asked the Daily News if he could offer it to us for publication, and his editor said sure. “I’m not running for anything,” Rendell said, “but I thought this might be good for your alumni.”
You can find it below. Keep in mind that this was originally published July 21, two days before the sanctions were announced.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
In Wednesday’s Daily News there was an excellent discussion of whether Penn State’s football program should receive the death penalty for the transgressions of four of its key personnel and for the deeply flawed culture surrounding the program that was so clearly and forcefully laid out by the Freeh Report. The NCAA president, while acknowledging that this situation was unique, did not rule out that possibility.
I strongly believe that the death penalty would be an inappropriate sanction as a result of the immense collateral damage that such a sanction would create. In addition to punishing the University, it would unfairly punish the players and coaches who had absolutely nothing to do with the horrific behavior that occurred here. In fact, many of these same players were responsible for perhaps the only bright spot that took place in the last year, when the entire team walked out to midfield for the coin toss with the entire Nebraska team and knelt in prayer for the children who were abused.
I believe Penn State should be punished, but the correct action would be for the NCAA to take away all or a significant part of the profits generated by the football program and give them to non-profit agencies who are trying to deal with the horror of child abuse. This punishment should be meted out for a number of years. Now I realize that this action would hurt virtually every other sports program at Penn State that depends on the funds generated by football, but this loss of funds will have to be counterbalanced by what has already been a tremendous level of alumni support.
I have witnessed firsthand thousands of Nittany Lion alumni literally roar with great pride, WE ARE PENN STATE. In the face of the unspeakable tragedy that has occurred, it is time for every one of them to decide what it really is about Penn State that they are so proud of. Is Penn State all about the fabled football program that has achieved so much success in what seemed to be done in the “right way”? Or is it much more than that?
Is it the College of Agriculture Sciences, which helps make Pennsylvania one of the most productive farm states in the nation with its cutting edge research and scientific innovations? Is it the College of Education, which has provided schools all over the nation with tens of thousands of incredibly well prepared teachers? Or is it the College of Engineering, which annually graduates more engineers than any university in the country?
How about its Millennium Science Complex, where 232 US companies have used its nanofabrication facilities for research and testing and whose faculty has produced 2,194 scholarly papers on nanotechnology—15 percent of all those in America in a four-year period. During my tenure as governor, the state’s capital redevelopment assistance program gave nearly $80 million to help create this complex. In just a few short years, we have seen it produce thousands of well paying jobs, conduct amazing research that is helping to develop potential remedies for previously incurable liver cancer, and produce advanced materials that can be used for thermal surgery cameras and in spectrum analyzers.
The obvious point of all this should be clear to everyone—that Penn State is a whole lot more than its football program. It’s a flat-out great university that does so much good for our state, our country, and the world. So this is the time for its alumni to step up and support all of Penn State’s great athletic AND academic programs.
In a true testament to the alumni’s unwavering support of the university, more donors than ever before contributed in 2011-2012, leading to a total of $208 million, which is the second largest amount in Penn State’s history. Now is clearly the time for the alumni to continue to rally around their school and to say loudly and clearly that this great center of learning will endure, will survive even the death penalty (if imposed) because the Penn State that “WE ARE” is a whole lot more than football!!!
Tim Vitullo loved his engineering classes. He wanted a job in the field. But when it came time to write his honors thesis, he just didn’t want to do one about civil engineering. That seemed, to him, like a step on the path to a master’s degree, which was not in his plans.
But he had something to fall back on—his music. And thanks to the Schreyer Honors College policy that allows students who enroll as freshmen to choose any field for their thesis topic (if they get permission from their department and can find an adviser), Vitullo ’12 Eng created a unique thesis.
He composed and performed a jazz album titled This is the Thing! You can listen to it here.
“I had the best of both worlds,” Vitullo said. “I dig Schreyer for letting me do this.”
Vitullo grew up doodling and wanting to build things. But he also began taking piano lessons—or, as he put it, “started down the rabbit hole”—in the second grade. He moved on to various band instruments and, by junior high, he’d added the guitar.
He’s played in various bands—mostly rock, at first—back home in suburban Pittsburgh and around State College. He’s currently in Pittsburgh, looking for a full-time civil engineering job and “trying to find the right balance between engineering and music for me,” and playing rock, country, jazz, and blues … whatever he can find. He’s starting to think about another album, too.
I’ve been listening to This is the Thing! on and off since early May, when Christian Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honors College, tweeted out a link to it with this introduction: “Man, I cannot tell you how much better my day just got thanks to this EP.”
So I clicked, and the music saved me during a long day of copy editing. Vitullo composed in a a variety of jazz styles—the first track,”Cold Coffee,” is hard bop, and it’s followed by “Too Flat for Five” (modal), “Bossa Nueva” (Latin), “Minor Incident” (fusion), and “Plus Two Leslie” (ballad).
Vitullo had to turn in a written component, too, so you can click here to read a summary of the thesis and download a PDF. (All of the honors theses are open and available to the public; they’ve been online since 2010.) He discusses the artists who influenced his composition, his thoughts on American jazz and why today’s most popular albums were recorded decades ago, and a little bit about his process.
I figured the hardest part of the thesis would be, you know, actually composing the music. Turns out that while that wasn’t easy, Vitullo had a harder time actually getting the album recorded. He had to line up musicians and secure a studio and time to record—and that costs money. He eventually found musicians to play without pay, but of course that cut into practice time.
Vitullo noted in his thesis, “the sense of personal pride that these recordings and compositions instill in me is overwhelming. However, it would be interesting to hear the hypothetical recordings if a longer preparation and a larger budget were possible before the recording sessions occurred.”
I’m certainly no expert, but I think the album turned out great. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
So I just took my first spin in a Chevy Volt. I was one of a few dozen people who got that chance Thursday afternoon, when Penn State’s Center for Sustainability unveiled its very own Volt, donated to the center by General Motors. Penn State is one of just two schools in the country (the other is Michigan Tech) to receive the vehicle, which will be used by students and researchers working on measuring and improving energy efficiency in cars.
It’s no accident that Penn State got its own Volt. Gregory Slusher ’85, Chevy’s Engineering Group Manager of Body Structures, was on hand to present the car to Center for Sustainability executive director David Riley ’91, ’94g and College of Engineering dean David Wormley. And as we pointed out on our blog a couple of years ago, one of the people who has helped make this environmentally friendlier vehicle come to fruition is Mel Fox ’05, a GM battery engineer.
The folks from GM brought three Volts to State College for a ceremony at Foundry Park, right behind our offices in the Hintz Family Alumni Center. One was the actual donated vehicle; the other two were made available for test drives, which, after showing my license and taking my very first breathalyzer, I lined up for. I took a five-minute ride around campus and up College Avenue, finding out that driving a Volt feels (refreshingly) like driving pretty much any other car. The big difference? Man, is that thing quiet. I’m hoping to get behind the wheel of one of these again soon. I’ll keep you posted.
Ryan Jones, senior editor
A year ago in our Class Notes section we profiled Lynda Tollner ’84, an architectural engineering grad who’s overseeing the construction on 1 World Trade Center, being built where the twin towers once stood.
Not surprisingly, Tollner has been in the news a good bit in the past week or so, in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at that site.
She’s quoted in an Inside Edition story about the project, also known as the Freedom Tower. You can also read about her at ABC2 news—and be sure to watch the video at that site; she’s featured prominently in it.
When you watch that video, be sure to note not only her hot-pink hardhat, but also the small blue sticker on it. It’s a Penn State sticker. You can see it even better in this photo at the New York Times site—if there’s any doubt as to where Lynda’s school loyalties lie, just click on that photo.
Tina Hay, editor
P.S. If you’re new to our blog, you might be interested in knowing that you can subscribe to it—just click on the “by email” link in the upper right to get our daily slice of Penn State life delivered to your email in-box.
As Lori Shontz mentioned the week before last, we recently had a first-hand look at the Millennium Science Complex, which should be finished sometime later this summer.
Project manager Dick Tennent from the Office of Physical Plant was nice enough to give some of the magazine staff a walk-through of the building. It’s Penn State’s largest building ever, and should be home to some pretty innovative research. It brings together together Penn State researchers in the life sciences and the materials sciences—two areas of science that have more in common than you might think.
(Research/Penn State did an excellent article a few years back that shows a good example of the intersection of the two areas: the effort to develop electrical-stimulation devices to implant into the brains of people with epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disorders. You can read the article here.)
Jessie Knuth, our graphic designer, and I both took cameras along on the Millennium Science Complex tour, and we’ve posted a collection of photos to an album on our Facebook page. You can check it out here.
Tina Hay, editor
On my way back to my office from the Playhouse Theatre on Thursday, I swung by the site of the Millennium Science Complex to see how that’s coming along. I figured since I had my camera, I’d head up to the top of the Eisenhower Parking Deck and get an updated version of the panoramic photo we posted back in November 2009, when the construction was in its early stages.
Well, that vantage point no longer works—it appears that, when I wasn’t looking, they went and practically finished the building. Actually it’s about 70% complete, according to the folks in Physical Plant, but it’s now tall enough, and filled-in enough, that the view from the top of the parking deck is pretty much nothing but solid building—the north wall of the materials-sciences wing.
So I went down closer to ground level and tried to shoot a series of images to stitch together into a panoramic in Photoshop, but for whatever reason, the stitching part didn’t work out, and the panoramas I got were all messed up.
(I’ve done panoramas a million times before, so I’m not sure what my problem is. I’m tempted to blame the new camera I just bought, or the new version of Photoshop on my computer, but I’m guessing it was operator error: I just need to work on my shooting technique to better control the exposure and the perspective.)
Anyway, I did get the shot above, which shows the part of the building where the materials-science wing and the life-sciences wing meet. There will be a plaza there and, as you can see, a pretty cool skylight over the atrium.
Sometime I need to walk over there in the morning light and get you some images of the other side of the building—the part that faces Pollock Road. It’s a really impressive building.
The Millennium Science Complex was designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, the same folks who did the IST Building at Penn State, the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, and other fancy stuff worldwide. The MSC should be completed later this summer.
Tina Hay, editor
I was weeding some papers in one of the many over-cluttered corners of my house this weekend, and I came across a folder called “Uncle Bill.” I had forgotten about that folder—a collection of historical tidbits that my uncle, Bill Wolfersberger ’49, has sent me over the years. In the folder I found some family tree info, a Polaroid of an antique dresser he was proposing to give me, that sort of thing.
(One particularly gruesome item was an 1892 newspaper clipping that describes in rather explicit detail the death of my great-great uncle, Ed Wolfersberger, in a railroad accident in Somerset.)
Uncle Bill has been a postcard collector for many years, and in that folder was a Penn State-related postcard he once sent me. As you can see above, it’s pretty striking. It shows a building called the “Nittany Inn,” which looks a heck of a lot like the Hotel State College to me.
You can click on the postcard above to see a larger version of it—note the pool hall on the left and the sign for “R.C. Pearce” on the right. I’m thinking that the latter might have been Pearce Dairy or a related business.
The back of the postcard is below, with a postmark from 1914:
I looked up “Roy Kerns” on our alumni database and, sure enough, we have a guy by that name who got his bachelor’s in 1917 and his master’s in 1921, both in a now-defunct major called railway mechanical engineering. He is long deceased, of course (he was born in 1895), but the last known address for him was “General Delivery, Altoona, Pa.”
Fun stuff. I wonder what other gems are lurking in my house?
Tina Hay, editor
Got about 20 minutes of free time? If so, I urge you to take a look at this episode of a series on the Big Ten Network called Global Penn State, which shows how Penn State students and faculty are making a difference around the world.
You won’t believe what Penn Staters are doing in Kenya.
The episode features three programs. Mashavu combats the shortage of doctors in eastern Africa by enabling patients in villages to communicate with doctors who are far away. WishVast connects farmers and employers to manufacturers. And Essential Design is a class in which students built things like a greenhouse and an irrigation system with inexpensive, local materials.
It’s inspiring stuff.
Lori Shontz, senior editor
As a Liberal Arts major, I didn’t really have any idea what was going on over in the College of Engineering, sorry to say. But now I’ve got a much better idea of how engineers think, having reported the story on Penn State’s entry in the 2010 Rube Goldberg Contest. The object is to build the most complicated machine to perform a simple task–this year, dispense hand sanitizer. The Penn State entry, titled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Dirty Hanz, placed third nationally.
You can find the story on p. 20 of our July/August issue, which should be arriving in your mailbox any day now, if it hasn’t gotten there already.
I was thrilled to discover that the four members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers chapter who spent a lot of long winter nights in Engineering Unit C were diligent about documenting their progress on the machine. Drew Taylor ’10, Michael Yanek ’10, Eric Do ’10, and Shawn Gehringer ’10 shot a lot of video, which is available here.
You can see run-throughs of the 85-second, 56-step process, complete with Indiana Jones theme music. But you can also observe some of their struggles as they put the machine together, see some up-close shots of some of the coolest steps, and watch the first time the machine worked without a push from one of the team members. They’re pretty excited, and no wonder. It’s fun to watch.
Lori Shontz, senior editor