‘Learning to fail’ may sound like a paradox, but it was one of the most important lessons taught to mechanical engineering student Lauren Rivera ’18 during her ten-week experience in Central America this summer.
From building a ramp to make a local recycling center more accessible to spending time adjusting wheelchairs, there were bound to be some hiccups. Rivera found herself attempting to communicate with the local people, asking for materials that weren’t available. She found herself designing structures for which the tools needed were not available.
Rivera said, though, that each failure allowed her to grow and adapt.
“It’s part of design, part of execution, part of doing something that has never been done before,” Rivera said.
Familias Especiales, the nonprofit organization for which Rivera worked, is located in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. She traveled there with the Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service-Learning (ETHOS) to work on projects that improved the intensity of labor for workers as well as provided aid for handicap people.
It has been a dream of Rivera’s to participate in the ETHOS program since seventh grade growing up helping her dad fix rental properties, Rivera had some background in using tools but said that this experience shaped her as an engineer.
“It’s an entire different way of engineering with problem solving and creativity,” Rivera said.
According to Rivera, her service work was much less about taking expertise to the organization and fixing their problems and more about finding new approaches and learning a lot in the process.
Still, despite the challenges, or failures, in her engineering projects, Rivera said the most challenging part was “not being understood.”
“Being 100 percent immersed in a language that’s not your own is really exhausting,” Rivera said. “But all of the people were very patient.”
Aside from her service work, a highlight for Rivera was being able to spend time with the people from Familias Especiales and interacting with them at the organization’s recycling center, special education classes, yogurt factory and in physical therapy.
“We failed a few times, but we learned that the relationships we were building were far more significant to any of our shortcomings,” Rivera said.
Brilliant brainstorms that took root at the University of Dayton and changed the world
Being able to feed oneself fulfills a basic human need. Jonathan Dekar ’11 is giving that power back to people with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other conditions that limit range of motion through his invention, Obi. The tabletop device has an automated spoon, robotic arm and a four-course compartmentalized plate that can accommodate foods cut into sizes ranging from a pea to a grape. Dekar first worked on a prototype of the robotic eating device during his freshman-year engineering course. Ten years later, Obi is now available for home use. The device can be operated by switches controlled by the head, shoulders, legs, feet or mouth. “This wasn’t just another engineering project, getting food from point A to point B. I wanted it to be emotionally empowering and inspiring,” Dekar said.
PUTTING OUT FIRES
Among the 92 patents held by Carroll Hochwalt, Class of 1920, was the creation of the first practical chemical fire extinguisher. In 1925, Hochwalt sought the assistance of Brother William Wohlleben, S.M. ’04, with developing a non-freezing fire extinguisher. Wohlleben provided laboratory space for Hochwalt and his partner, Charles Thomas, to perfect a product that they subsequently sold to the Fyr Fyter Co. In his patent filed May 29, 1929, Hochwalt describes how they discovered potassium lactate not only was superior in extinguishing fires but also prevented the extinguisher from freezing at temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius and below. Among his other innovations with household applications were the process for iodizing Morton’s Salt, creating a low-suds washing machine detergent called All and developing a fast-aging technique for the National Distillers’ Association. In 1936, they sold Thomas & Hochwalt Laboratories to Monsanto, where Hochwalt became director of central research.
One day in his lab at DuPont, Charles Pedersen ’26 discovered, as a byproduct to what he was trying to do, some unknown crystals. He named them crown ethers. “Crown,” he said, because official names “were so complex and hard for me to remember.” And they were like crowns because, unlike necklaces, they had no fasteners that opened and closed; they maintained their unbroken structure during reactions. Despite that remarkable characteristic, crown ethers seemed to hold little prospect of immediate commercial value. Nevertheless, DuPont let Pedersen work on them for nine years. Later they became used in many applications from isolating and removing small, harmful concentrations of mercury from drinking water to helping identify potassium in blood samples.
And one day later in life, Pedersen got a phone call. From Sweden. He had won the 1987 Nobel Prize for chemistry.
In harness racing, a horse and driver can reach speeds of 30 mph. Between the driver and the track are two wheels and a seat attached to the frame. Bad news if the frame breaks. Odds of that happening were reduced a quarter of a century ago when the UD Research Institute analyzed sulky frames and developed standards and a testing procedure for the United States Trotting Association. UDRI’s Structures and Materials Assessment, Research and Testing Lab became then and is still now the only lab that certifies that a new or revised model of a sulky meets those standards of durability. The lab tests approximately a half dozen sulkies per year — a small fraction of its volume of testing products from ballet shoes to the F-22.
When a worker opens a commercial dishwasher hood, a plume of hot, moist air escapes and creates an uncomfortable situation for the worker plus heat loss from the machine. Students in UD’s Innovation Center helped Hobart, an international food services company, create a solution to improve operator comfort and save energy for reheating the dishwasher. Seven students are listed on the non-provisional patent filing, which will publish on the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in early 2018. The team estimates the invention will improve the energy efficiency of an Energy Star machine by at least 5 percent and the drying efficiency by at least 25 percent. “In an age where energy is getting expensive and standards keep rising, every bit counts,” said Alexander Anim-Mensah, Hobart engineering manager and the student group’s mentor.
HOT HOT HOT
If you’ve ordered delivery from Domino’s Pizza and your pie was still steaming when it arrived, you can thank research done at UD Research Institute for your hot meal. Research conducted at the labs on campus and led by renowned scientist Ival Salyer created phase-change materials that store heat as they melt and release heat as they freeze. UDRI began researching phase-change materials in the 1980s for thermal energy storage, energy conservation and energy cost-savings in buildings. The technology can melt and solidify at precise temperatures, which allows for heat to be released when needed. By the mid- 1990s, licenses for the technology’s use included hot and cold food serving ware, hand warmers, earmuffs and the shipment of temperature sensitive materials — and Domino’s is the only pizza joint that has rights to the “hot bags.”
In 1952, UD hired its first five full-time researchers, who pulled up stakes for several risky, classified projects to study the effects of nuclear weapons on aircraft and aircraft components after atomic bomb detonation tests in Nevada. Although safety precautions were taken, it was still dangerous work. “After the blast, we waited about three or four hours and went in with a monitor, a guy who measured radiation,” Charles R. “Bob” Andrews, one of the researchers, said in 1996. “You had to get in and get out quickly.” One test took them to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, where the researchers flew in a B-56 near a thermonuclear detonation. The explosive yield was nearly twice what was expected, and the plane landed safely despite crushed landing gear doors and an airplane skin that was wrinkled and burnt down to bare metal. Results yielded ways to protect aircraft instruments from extreme heat, radiation and physical shock. It was the beginning of structural testing, which continues to be one of UD Research Institute’s hallmark research areas.
In 1961, a graduate student’s thesis spawned the UD Research Institute’s first vibration damping research. It grew into a nationally recognized damping team that develops, tests and analyzes sound and vibration-absorbing materials. Researchers used these techniques to fix an airplane engine ring that was cracking and at risk of damaging the engine; the polymer-based fix was applied in 2004 to the Navy’s entire AV-8B Harrier jet fleet. In addition to improving aircraft safety and longevity, researchers have also developed damping systems to reduce vibrations on laser telescopes and satellites and improve the results of air bag testing on crash dummies.
Blaine West didn’t know anything about aircraft windshields until 1975, when he met with U.S. Air Force engineers worried about a new trend: The Air Force was losing an aircraft every eight months because of geese, ducks and other birds striking aircraft windshields during low-level flying. “It was obvious that the failure was related to the support frame’s stiffness, and that strength was a problem,” said West, a former researcher from the UD Research Institute, in 1996. The solution: Make the system stronger by making it weaker — a less rigid windshield allowed the “punch” of impact to be transferred to the larger structure. By the late 1970s the Air Force had used UDRI designs to retrofit its entire F-111 fleet. Since then, UDRI has tested and redesigned windshields and canopies for the Air Force and Navy, including the F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, B-1, B-2, AV-8, A-7, T-38, V-22 and KTX-2 models. A lieutenant colonel once said to West: “I want to thank you. … I was flying the other day in an F-111. Four ducks hit the windshield, and I’m still here.”
Bob Kauffman was called on as one of the principal investigators to find out what happened to TWA 800, which exploded and crashed in 1996 killing all 230 people aboard. Kauffman, a UDRI researcher, believed that a frayed fuel-sensor wire most likely played a significant role in the explosion. After the crash, Kauffman and senior research physicist Doug Wolf created the SMART (Status and Motion Activated Radiofrequency Tag) sensor for use in smart clamps to hold aircraft wiring in place to help prevent tragedies like the TWA explosion. The technology uses an inexpensive, modified radiofrequency identification tag that “tells” a handheld device reader if a clamp or wire has been compromised. It is also being evaluated as a way to indicate if a monitored item has gotten too hot.
In 2009, Bob Kauffman’s self-healing wire, which he developed at UDRI, was named one of the 100 “most technologically significant new products” by R&D Magazine. Known as PATCH (Power Activated Technology for Coating and Healing), the technology helps prevent frayed wires from potentially catching fire. His invention was in response to the 1996 TWA crash that killed everyone aboard and is thought to have occurred because of faulty wiring. The technology works when polyvinyl alcohol is sprayed onto the wire or wire bundle. If that liquid comes into contact with an exposed or live wire, the electrical current at the breach will transform the spray into an insoluble polymer coating. A second form of PATCH is designed to be built directly into the wires, where the solid form of polyvinyl is embedded within the wire and its insulation. If the insulation is breached while the wire is live, the PATCH coating draws moisture from the air and a chemical reaction creates a permanent repair for the wire and its breach. Automotive and helicopter companies are looking to employ PATCH for hard-to-reach wires.
On one rainy day in New Jersey in October 2010, a G-4 Gulfstream aircraft overran its runway while landing at Teterboro Airport. This could have proven deadly. However, no one on board was injured and the plane safely came to a stop. Why? Crushable concrete. Formally called Engineered Material Arresting Systems, EMAS is a mixture of lightweight concrete and a foaming agent. When a vehicle runs over the material, it collapses and provides enough friction to safely decelerate moving planes. The material was created at UD Research Institute in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City was the first to install an EMAS bed at the end of some runways in 1996. UDRI’s work in runway disaster prevention dates back to the late 1980s. The material has a 100% success rate in stopping aircraft.
Investigators count on the black boxes to give them data to determine what went wrong during an airplane crash and keep it from happening again. Kevin Poormon ’87 is helping them by shooting these boxes — officially known as flight data and cockpit voice recorders — out of a cannon. The compressed gas gun at the UD Research Institute sends the boxes hurling at 350 mph into an aluminum honeycomb barrier to simulate a crash impact at 3,400 times the force of gravity. “That’s because black boxes have to survive, even if everything else doesn’t survive,” said Poormon, research engineer and leader of the impacts physics group. He has also used the cannon to test how space station shielding holds up to meteoroid and orbital debris.
While ceramic coatings in particular are useful in strengthening biomedical implants and improving tissue adhesion, they are resource-intensive to create and pose a risk to the environment. Assistant professor of biology Karolyn Hansen has patented a process for creating an alternative using oyster shells. By depositing cells extracted from the mantle of an oyster onto a surface, Hansen and her collaborators, including her husband Doug Hansen of the UD Research Institute, have successfully induced the creation of oyster shell layers as a coating. This oyster-derived material is a strong, natural ceramic and can be manufactured at room temperature and pressure with no chemical solvents, she said. Uses range from coating metal implants used to repair bones to creating protective coatings for aircraft.
ChurchLink was an idea intended to connect the millennial generation with their churches. Today, it’s a customizable app serving more than 3,000 churches. Entrepreneur Niel Petersen and then-student Robyn Bradford ’12 pitched the idea to UD’s business plan competition in 2012. Thanks in part to the competition and its $15,000 prize, Petersen launched the business and now employees a staff of 10. ChurchLink creates apps with individualized design and coding and includes functionality that allows members to communicate or make a gift online. “Development is continual, ongoing and complex,” Petersen said of the app, now used in 50 states and 27 countries.
Rita Rapp’s meals were out of this world. A 1950 pre-med graduate, Rapp joined the NASA Space Task Group at Langley Field in 1961 and was among the early pioneers of the space program. As an aerospace technologist specializing in environmental physiology, she was responsible for the design and development of food and packaging systems during the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. Astronaut Charles Duke, lunar module pilot for Apollo 16, talked about how Rapp would introduce variety into their pre-packaged meals: “You had pea soup, you had cream of tomato soup, you had mushroom soup, maybe; and you had different kinds of breads and you had the tuna spread and peanut butter spread and the ham spread.” The photo shows Rapp posing with “Day 4, Meal A” from Apollo 16, the last lunar mission to land on the Moon on April 21, 1972.
Architect Bruce John Graham once said that, before he traveled to the United States, he had never seen a building more than 10 stories tall. In 1943, Graham was 15 and living in Puerto Rico when he won a scholarship to attend UD to study engineering, staying just over a year before enlisting in the Navy during World War ll. Graham’s most visible legacy stands high above Chicago: the 100-story Hancock Center and the 110-story Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), the world’s tallest building when it was completed in 1973. The tower was constructed using the groundbreaking tubular frame method, and to this day is the second tallest in the United States and 16th tallest building in the world. It hosts more than 1 million visitors to its observation deck each year. Graham died March 6, 2010, at the age of 84.
The next time your computer freezes, you can thank a Flyer when you’re quickly able to unlock it. Best known for inventing the three-key sequence known as control-alt-delete, David Bradley ’71 holds 10 patents related to computer design and was one of the original 12 engineers who began work on the IBM personal computer in 1980. Bradley, who earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from UD, said he was fed up with restarting the personal computer every time it malfunctioned, and so control-alt-delete was born. “It took all of about nine steps and five to 10 minutes to code,” he said. Initially meant for programmers, the keystroke caught on with the public.
Charles Magatti ’71 may not be a household name, but the drug he helped invent is: Claritin. The popular allergy medicine, known generically as loratadine, is on the World Health Organization’s 2017 List of Essential Medicines for the most effective, safe and cost-effective medicine for priority conditions. Magatti co-invented the drug while working for Schering-Plough, which is estimated to have made $15 billion from the antihistamine between 1993 and 2002, when its patent was active in the United States. “It’s the ultimate achievement for a chemist,” said Magatti, who studied chemistry at UD. “People work in this industry for 40 years and are never fortunate enough to discover a new drug.” Magatti retired from Schering-Plough in 2000 with six patents.
Dr. Mary Ann Warnowicz Papp, a cardiologist and 1970 biology graduate, needed a better way to manage prescriptions for her patients. So in the late 1990s, she went to the School of Engineering for help. Students helped her create the device now known as EMMA, the first of its kind remote medication management system. The box provides individual unit dose control managed by web-based scheduling that is remotely controlled and programmed by a pharmacist. “The biggest waste of health care dollars is pharmacies dispensing a 30- or 90-day supply of medication because the medication is unlikely to be used in that fashion,” Papp said. Automated dispensing can also prevent expensive hospitalizations caused by patients who don’t properly manage their prescriptions. On Papp’s patents for the device is listed co-inventor Chris Schmidt ’99, a member of the seven-student team. EMMA is now being sold through INRange Systems.
If you’ve ever used a computer, driven a car, flown in an airplane, gotten jiggy to the tunes on your MP3 player, talked on a cell phone, operated a video or digital camera or have been subjected to an MRI, you are benefiting from the discovery of the amazing magnetic properties of rare earth-cobalt alloys by Karl Strnat and his co-workers at the UD Research Institute. Strnat’s pioneering work in 1966 led to the discovery of magneto-crystalline anisotropy in rare earth cobalt intermetallic compounds. What? Simply put, these and later-generation related rare-earth magnets are many times stronger and more stable than the magnets they replaced. They led to the miniaturization of devices that previously required heavy and bulky magnets and gave rise to the development of many electronic devices that require tiny motors, speakers, transmitters and receivers. Strnat retired from his research work and teaching at UD in 1990 and died in 1992.
You can inherit your father’s eye color or mother’s smile — and you can also inherit a family disposition for experiencing severe side effects to chemotherapy drugs, including hearing or sensory loss. Eileen Dolan ’79, a professor of medicine at University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center, has dedicated her research to making chemotherapy more effective and less toxic. Her lab identifies DNA variants through studies in patients receiving chemotherapy and in the laboratory by building preclinical models of the toxicity. Her research contributes to efforts to implement genetics into clinical care for cancer patients. Dolan focuses primarily on children and young adults who might experience long-term side effects from chemotherapy because they have their lives ahead of them. “A patient’s genetics sheds light on potential targets for new drugs to prevent or treat these devastating toxicities,” she said.
Students from the ETHOS Center in the School of Engineering used local materials and labor to create an environmentally friendly refrigeration method for a nongovernmental organization in Bihar, India. The Solar-Thermal Absorptive Refrigeration system provides refrigeration for medications and vaccines that could spoil in areas with inconsistent or nonexistent electricity supplies. Students designed the prototype and won three awards for their design at the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. Work continues on phase two of the project, thanks in part to a $75,000 grant from the EPA to project advisers Amy Ciric and Jun-Ki Choi, faculty in the renewable and clean energy program.
In 1964 and 1965, the rubella pandemic hit the United States, where 1.5 million people contracted the disease also known as German measles. The toll was greatest among the young, including 11,000 pregnant U.S. women who lost their babies and 2,100 newborn deaths. It was the last rubella pandemic the U.S. would have to endure, thanks in part to Col. Edward Buescher ’45. Buescher was a member of the team which, in 1962, isolated and characterized the rubella virus as the cause of German measles. His accomplishment allowed scientists to produce a vaccine, and widespread immunization of children in the United States began in 1970. “[C]ountless lives will be saved in the nation and abroad,” read the citation for the Legion of Merit, bestowed on Buescher in 1969 by the president of the United States.
The power of Curiosity was born at the UD Research Institute. Chad Barklay, a senior research engineer in the Research Institute’s energy technologies and materials division, developed the layout and assembly procedures for the radioisotope power system currently on Mars that operates the Curiosity rover’s wheels, robotic arm, computers, radio and instruments. “We helped build the proverbial tail on the Curiosity dog,” said Barklay, referring to the power generator attached to the back end of the rover — whose design, including camera “head,” make it appear somewhat canine-like. The power system, called a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, works by converting heat created by naturally decaying isotopes into electricity to power the rover. Heat from the generator also keeps the rover’s mechanical, computer and communication systems at operating temperature. Barklay and his colleagues continue testing a model of the generator in UDRI labs in preparation for future space missions.
Zach McHale ’06 attends more that 20 college basketball games a year. “But it’s always bothered me that I’ve never had a good place to store my coat,” he said. His consternation became an invention with the Neet Seat, a spandex pouch that slips over your stadium and arena seats to hold coats and other items, keeping them off the floor. McHale, a chemical engineering graduate, won first place and $25,000 during the University’s 2017 Flyer Pitch business plan competition. In July, he launched a campaign to take Neet Seat into production. His company philosophy, he said, “is to create solutions that make the fan experience better — more comfortable and more enjoyable.”
NO HOLDS BARRED
Practically every item you’ve purchased in the last 40 years has a Flyer’s signature on it. Paul McEnroe ’59 first developed the bar code to improve efficiency at the supermarket. While working at IBM in 1969, he pulled together a team, contributed technically, and created a vertical bar-coding system and scanning technology known as the UPC. The last he heard, the world was scanning 5 billion bar codes daily. “What could you invent that touches more people?” he asked. And he has more inventions to his name, including the Local Area Network to connect computers, multi-chip modules for computer processing and the addition of the magnetic stripe to the SKU to allow it to be scanned like a credit card.
The SMART dipstick takes all of the guesswork out of knowing whether or not oil has gone bad or if there is still some life in it, thanks to work done by researchers at UD Research Institute beginning in the late 1980s. In 1992, R&D Magazine awarded the invention as one of the 100 most technologically significant products of that year. The device, called RULER (Remaining Useful Life Evaluation Routine) works with all types of oils, from fast-food deep fryers to government aircraft. Researchers Bob Kauffman and Douglas Wolf developed the product to quickly determine when it’s time to change the oil. It does so by calculating how much antioxidant — an additive that helps keep the oil from degrading too quickly — is left in the fluid. RULER is sold worldwide, with steam, gas and wind power plants being the largest market.
It wasn’t being homesick. It wasn’t the culture shock. It wasn’t being on her own in India.
The biggest adjustment Andrea Mott ’18 had to make during her three-month excursion to India this summer as part of the Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities (ETHOS) program was changing her engineering habits and adjusting to her work environment.
India, according to Mott, presented many engineering challenges: resource availability was limited, power outages halted work for hours, and structure for assignments and project schedules was nowhere to be found.
What Mott did have was a major project to complete and only three months to adapt to a new system.
The goal? To build a six-meter tall, 3-D printer to help construct houses out of clay for the community’s residents.
While Mott and her team did not finish the project, the printer was nearly assembled and remaining tasks planned out when they left — an accomplishment in itself, Mott said.
Problem-solving and adapting to a different culture were some of the learning experiences Mott credits the ETHOS program for teaching her.
“ETHOS combines everything I’m really passionate about, which is engineering, service, adventure, traveling, culture; so it’s a great program,” Mott said.
Immersed in a completely new culture, Mott said she was forced to reflect on her own beliefs in a way she hadn’t before, and answer questions such as “What does it mean to be female?” and “What does it mean to be American?”
“I questioned a lot of things,” Mott said. “Why do I believe what I believe? You learn, don’t just blindly follow things.”
The most rewarding part for Mott? She said, oddly enough, it was leaving. Saying goodbye to all of her new friends was “really hard and really sad” according to Mott, but made her realize how much she gained during her experience.
“I built a life here and really strong relationships here. Those things made it so hard to leave,” Mott said.
Just south of the heart of Dayton lies FoodBank, Inc., a non-profit organization placed to relieve hunger within the area. Among the organization’s many volunteers is graduate student Nivedita Penugonda ’18.
Through a partnership between Semester of Service and the Engineers in Technical Humanitarian Opportunities of Service (ETHOS), Penugonda has the opportunity to spend the summer volunteering. Working as an application developer, Penugonda has three specific ongoing projects that she will work on throughout the summer.
Using the skills she has gained while pursuing her master’s degree in computer science, Penugonda has been working to develop a mobile application for Android that will assist the organization once their proposed drive thru is set up. In addition to the mobile app, Penugonda is improvising a web application that assists in the verification of key shoppers, and lastly, she is working to making the FoodBank Inc., database more accessible.
Penugonda is no stranger to service work, as she worked in many service groups while at home in India. However, she is particularly excited for this opportunity because it allows her to develop her technical skills. After receiving a piece of mail for this program that advertised a technical immersion, Penugonda decided to go for it.
“I am thoroughly enjoying doing it now,” Penugonda said. “Seriously, it’s God’s grace that I got a wonderful opportunity.”
Penugonda appreciates the opportunity the job is giving her to hone her computer skills on a practical platform where she can work on a real project and face the difficulties in actually implementing it.
In addition to technical experience, Penugonda said she has gained communication skills, knowledge about different communities and cultures, and a deeper understanding for the inner-workings of non-profit organizations.
From a St. Joseph medal and the promise of $12,000, great things continue to grow. Building on faith and opportunity, the university founded on that promise is helping to create a school in Malawi, Africa. It will be a hub for experiential learning and research initiatives, supporting development in Malawi as well as the futures of the UD students who will serve there.
Amidst the winding, rugged dirt roads and atop the rolling green hillside, brick and mortar buildings have taken shape.
The sturdy man-made walls are in sharp contrast to the natural beauty, with the Great African Rift Valley and Lake Malawi both in view. It won’t be long before students and teachers walk among the classroom buildings and dormitories of the Wasambo High School campus. But it’s not the physical structures that will have the greatest impact; it’s what the buildings represent — opportunity.
“People in Malawi value education above almost everything else,” said Matt Maroon ’06, founder of Determined to Develop, a Karonga-based nongovernmental organization in Malawi. “I’ve seen mothers sacrifice food in order to pay school tuition for their children. I’ve seen families sell their last goat to send their promising son to the first term of high school, not knowing at all where they will get the money for the second term, let alone the following three years.”
Maroon has found the common theme in this land-locked African nation to be one that resonates more than 8,000 miles away on the campus of the University of Dayton, where students, faculty and alumni have worked with Maroon’s organization to make the school a reality for Malawian children.
“Faith — it’s people’s faith that tomorrow will be a brighter day with hard work, persistence and an education,” said Maroon, who first visited Malawi in 2006 during a year of service with the Society of Mary. “It’s the idea that one’s current condition need not assign them a set path in life, but that they have the choice if only given the opportunity to find the road toward prosperity. And that education is the surest way to lift one’s self to a state where one can comfortably, and humbly, take care of a family.”
It’s a faith reinforced by Flyer research, volunteerism and fundraising, from students and faculty in engineering, education, arts and sciences, and business. It is a faith that will also be passed on to future UD students, who will benefit from having the school as an experiential learning base. Wasambo High School, when it opens Sept. 1, 2017, will showcase the best of the University’s transdisciplinary, liberal arts education in the Marianist spirit of partner-based community building.
“UD is taking the exact opposite approach of an ivory tower, instead realizing that its talents and treasure can make a concrete and lasting impact on education in a global context — and that’s happening on the ground in Africa,” Maroon said. “This is the Marianist approach, to be around the table with the people whom we serve, partners in development and uplifting one another along the way. It’s intentional. It’s grounded in reality, and it’s faithful.”
A great need
The Society of Mary, UD’s founding order, is deeply rooted in Malawi, opening Nkhata Bay Secondary School in the early 1960s and, shortly thereafter, operating Chaminade Secondary School — which still educates students today — in Karonga. The Marianist sisters this year will open their own mission in Malawi and focus on teaching.
The population statistics of Malawi underscore the need for educational institutions: Close to 47 percent of the population is 14 years old or younger, and another 20 percent is between 15 and 24. The median age in Malawi — a country with an estimated 976,300 people living with AIDS or HIV — is just 16 ½ years old. According to Maroon, there are significant hurdles in the Malawian education system, including access to high school and quality education.
“Only about 18 percent of eighth-grade graduates, students in our area who have finished primary school, are able to continue on to high school because of capacity,” Maroon said. “There are simply not enough schools or room at the existing schools.”
Standard Malawian curriculum has not traditionally emphasized enrichment and experiential learning.
“We want to take the Malawian model — based off the British system — and infuse it with some of the best practices internationally,” Maroon said.
UD Department of Teacher Education Chair Connie Bowman is excited about her department’s involvement at Wasambo. Faculty and students will assist in professional development for teachers in Malawi, focusing on student-centered instruction and active engagement for learning, as well as curriculum development and recruitment.
“Many of our graduates are teaching in foreign countries,” Bowman said, “and we believe Malawi will be an excellent place for them to engage in teaching and infuse their training in best practices through the educational field.”
The first phase — which is currently under construction — is a boys’ high school, set up in an English boarding school style. The long-term plan includes a girls’ high school and a technical college.
The desired outcomes for Wasambo High School are threefold: provide a world-class education for the students; create a teacher training program that enables instructors to learn and implement best practices; and create a “living classroom” as part of the UD partnership where UD students and faculty can analyze challenges and work with Malawians to develop solutions.
The new school is located in Sangilo Village, Chilumba area in the Karonga District. This district is several hundred square miles with a population of about 60,000. Students will come from all around Malawi with an emphasis on offering positions and scholarships to local students. The impact of the school, however, extends well beyond the region.
“This is a benefit to the nation,” said Scotch Kondowe, Karonga District education manager. “In line with Malawi’s development strategies, strengthening secondary education is a top priority. To have a partnership with Determined to Develop and the University of Dayton is a welcome concept, and we are glad that outside stakeholders are taking interest in supporting government through the development of secondary education.”
While students will soon experience the immediate benefits of attending the new school, long-term benefits are expected for generations to come.
“Lack of education is a barrier to development,” said Senior Chief Wasambo (pictured left), the traditional authority and custodian of all land and culture in the region. “Having the school will change lives and opportunities, from poverty to prosperity, and it will transform the community for the better long term.”
The school, not coincidentally, is named in the chief’s honor, as it was he who allocated the 120 acres of land to Maroon in 2013 to establish the campus. The cost? Anyone familiar with the story of Father Leo Meyer and the purchase of the property on which the University of Dayton now stands will find the answer remarkable. Maroon paid about $12,000 to compensate a few local farmers for the land. In 1850, Father Meyer purchased 120 acres from John Stuart for the promise of $12,000 and a medal of St. Joseph as collateral. Maroon, likewise, presented Chief Wasambo with a St. Joseph medal.
Each entering class will consist of 80 boys from more than 50 elementary schools in the area. Some students at the all-boys boarding school will pay tuition, while others will receive scholarships. Looking forward, Wasambo will have 300-plus students onsite in four years.
“The community can see that there are not enough schools in our area,” said Alick Zika Mkandawire, a community liaison officer. “The schools we do have don’t have good learning materials and don’t have enough teachers. The new school will provide these, and the community is excited for good things to come.”
The Marianist way
Maroon’s connections with the University of Dayton have evolved and benefitted both the Malawians and UD students.
Students have worked on issues of human rights in Malawi with Determined to Develop since 2010. Since 2011, the School of Engineering’s ETHOS program has worked with Malawians on projects from renewable technology to potable water. The political science department initiated the Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development in 2013. The practicum, now housed in the Human Rights Center, pairs UD students with Malawian university students in-country to tackle development questions that give Determined to Develop insight into how it can best serve the community.
“It’s amazing when we have our UD students here, as they can dig into an issue and, with their Malawian counterparts, help us understand where we should focus our efforts,” Maroon said. “Their research gives credibility to our mission and influences the direction we take our programming.”
UD student research has been broad in scope, ranging from assessing community access to clean water to an assessment of gender-based violence against girls. From an examination of health systems to agricultural studies, the students work hand-in-hand with their Malawian counterparts.
“UD’s partnership with Determined to Develop and the people of Sangilo Village has grown organically over the years and has really been defined by the priorities and vision of our Malawian partners,” said Jason Pierce, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s heartening to see the collaborative spirit that has emerged on campus and with our partners. Folks just get it and are eager to play a role.”
Collaboration has translated to action, and there’s no better example than Wasambo High School. UD practicum students have examined local challenges in access and quality of secondary school education. ETHOS students conducted land surveys and are helping with plans and construction. Teacher education faculty and students are working on curriculum and teacher training.
“In my mind, the Wasambo project vividly illustrates the capacity of UD as a comprehensive university, one that leverages students and faculty from engineering, education, business, and arts and sciences to find localized solutions to global challenges,” said Pierce, who as former chair of the political science department initiated the Malawi practicum.
More than an education
‘‘I’m happy because, now, there is an opportunity for my children to go to a good quality school,” Phiri said. “Teachers coming from outside Malawi will be able to help my children learn things like English and other skills quicker. If my children learn fast they can get good jobs, which will help our family lots in the future.”
Moses Mulungu, a local bricklayer and father, anticipates that his children will, one day, travel beyond Malawi thanks to Wasambo High School.
“They will only be able to do this by get-ting a good education and learning to read road signs and other important life skills,” Mulungu said.
While the parents are hopeful, the excitement of the students who may some day call Wasambo home builds with each passing day as the campus takes shape.
Since they broke ground in September 2016, much progress has been made on the physical facilities. The garage and storehouse are complete. The foundations for the head teacher’s house, boarding master’s house and volunteer teacher’s house are also complete. Maroon said building is expected to move quickly once the water system is in place. The water tower — which will hold four plastic 5,000-liter tanks for the gravity-fed water system — has been finished, as has the drilling for the three onsite wells.
Computer and multimedia labs will be among the facilities in the classroom blocks, and space has been reserved for a small outdoor amphitheater.
“My heart is pounding with excitement and nervousness,” said James Mayni, 14 (pictured left), who is looking forward to improving his English through the teaching of native English speakers. “I have always wanted to go to a boarding school, and this could be my dream come true. I will keep hoping that my next chapter of my life at Wasambo High School awaits.”
Lowani Chirwa, 14, is also hopeful that he will be in the initial class of students admitted to Wasambo. His goal is to become one of the most educated people in his village and to fine-tune his English, as Wasambo will be an English-speaking campus.
“I believe that I will be able to learn higher reasoning skills, since the teachers will be highly educated,” Chirwa said. “I am looking forward to becoming a good, fluent English speaker.”
Rick Pfleger, a 1977 UD graduate, has been on board since the beginning of Maroon’s development work in Malawi in 2008. He and his wife, Claire Tierney Pfleger ’78, met Maroon when he was a UD student living near their daughter, Lindsay Pfleger ’06.
“When Matt first decided he wanted to stay in Malawi, we wanted to help him financially,” Rick Pfleger said. “His goal was to start an orphanage for children who had lost their parents to AIDS. At the time, we thought if he got 10 to 15 orphans under roof, it would be a home run. He now has 45-plus orphans in dormitories, four nurseries and preschools, and serves more than 500,000 meals a year in the community.
“I never envisioned he would stay this long, much less have the incredible impact he has had in Chilumba. Matt has become a fixture in the community, even to the point where the village chiefs made him an honorary member of their group,” Pfleger said.
Maroon brings two or three young members of the community to Chicago annually to meet the Pflegers.
“From the very beginning, we have been amazed by the spirit and optimism of these children,” Pfleger said. “When they share their stories with us, it enthuses us even more to continue our annual support. They are incredibly sincere, hopeful and grateful.
“Determined to Develop is certainly one of the most encouraging and fulfilling projects we have ever been involved with. We could not be more proud of Matt and what he has accomplished in the Marianist spirit.”
The Pflegers’ contribution to UD’s experiential-learning mission in Malawi has helped make Wasambo a reality. The wider UD community has also contributed, including a $10,000 fundraising initiative in 2014 by the University of Dayton student chapter of Determined to Develop.
“The Pflegers’ faith in UD, Determined to Develop and the Sangilo Village is inspiring.” Pierce said. “I am profoundly grateful for their support of this project and for seeing early on the impact the partnership could have in the community and the life-altering experiential learning opportunities it provides our students.” Pierce added that fundraising continues for future experiential learning opportunities for UD students.
While Wasambo will be life changing for the young people who attend school there, the experience of working in Malawi has also been life changing for those who have shared their time and talents with the people of the region.
“One of the most meaningful things I have learned from my time in Malawi is that no matter who you are you can probably help someone, know someone that can help, or you have the resources to learn how,” said Rob Greene (pictured left in red T-shirt, with members of the planning and work crew, including Matt Maroon, far right), an ETHOS graduate student currently working on the Wasambo project. “Being in Malawi has also made me rethink relationships and truly value them. Of course making friends halfway around the world and then leaving is one difficult aspect, but you could sit down with someone and immediately know 100 ways that you are different, but all you need is one similarity, one point to connect. Surprisingly you’ll find that not only are you not that different, but you can probably help each other.”
Greene — who is working toward a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering with a focus in environmental engineering — has been working as a project manager onsite and with Maroon on future construction plans.
“At times, it seems like ETHOS has only complicated my plans, but now I understand that I don’t only have an opportunity but also a degree of responsibility to act to better benefit my community and greater world community,” Greene said.
Department of Political Science Chair Grant Neeley has seen firsthand the impact the work in Malawi has had on the practicum students.
“It’s a tremendous learning experience and, in some cases, it most definitely shapes their career plans,” Neeley said. “But, regardless of their career path, this experience equips them with a greater understanding of how to work in a community setting. They gain a respect for others and their opinions and an ability to work through challenges, and that’s incredibly valuable because no matter where they go, they will be in a community.”
“It’s a reflection of the commitment and passion of the community in Malawi, Matt, and UD,” he said. “It’s exciting to see our faculty and students engage in work that resonates so deeply with the Marianist mission.”
Pierce anticipates University of Dayton involvement with Wasambo and in Malawi well into the future.
That’s music to Maroon’s ears.
“The longer I am here in Africa, the more I realize that people have the same goals, no matter their culture or differences,” Maroon said. “We all want to push ourselves forward and we want to take care of our families. We all have the same motivations; to be happy, healthy, useful, fulfilled, valued and loved. This school will allow that impact to multiply the current work that we are doing. It will be a transformational force for families that will ripple from each person who passes through. We are transforming a society and are building another pathway to prosperity. How exciting is that?”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
In 1998, the College of Arts and Sciences talked of sowing the seeds for human rights professionals who could collaboratively transform conversations and communities around the world. Today, those alumni serve in seven countries and numerous organizations dedicated to bettering the human condition. Here’s a look at where some alumni of the 2014 Malawi Research Practicum on Rights and Development, featured in the Winter 2014-15 UD Magazine, are today thanks to a UD education that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.
Alyssa Bovell ’14
Associate director of Project Partnerships IPM (International Partners in Mission)
“The interrelated challenges that impede the social, economic and political empowerment of women inspired me to pursue a human rights-based career in development. Women’s economic agency as a force of global poverty reduction has become an issue of international importance that I’ve become passionate about. [The practicum] has led to my current position at an international nonprofit that is focused on supporting women with equal access to resources and services to transform and sustain their communities.”
Jed Gerlach ’15
International programs assistant, Plan International USA
“It was great to be part of [Determined to Develop], a grassroots organization that was doing such great work with the resources given to them — an organization that not only helped people, but empowered them. To see that, as a student, had a great impact on me: on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.”
Jason Hayes ’15
International program coordinator, Operation Smile
“You can study these things in a classroom and read every textbook out there but, at the end of the day, it’s just not the same. It doesn’t have an emotional effect until you get there and you see, firsthand, what the realities are. It was huge for me. I would highly recommend fieldwork. It affirmed for me the work I wanted to do.”
Andrew Lightner ’16
London School of Economics
“[The Malawi practicum] introduced me to wonderful people, fascinating research and exciting future opportunities. I have difficulty describing its impact, as I cannot recognize my worldview, experience at UD or current career trajectory without the practicum. I am currently studying international development and economics and aim to continue research in international and economic issues. The values and relationships Determined to Develop helped me form will continue to drive my career and non-career decisions.”
From a small country in West Africa, Tchamie Thierry Kadja, S.M. is a man with big goals and even bigger success.
Kadja graduated May 7 with a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology from the University of Dayton and was the recipient of both the L. Duke Golden Award of Excellence to the Outstanding Senior in Engineering Technology, which recognizes hard work, dedication and academic success, and the Richard R. Hazen Award of Excellence to the Outstanding Graduate of the Electrical Engineering Technology Program.
“Since my younger age, I have always been committed to my academics,” Kadja said. “So for me, it is a recompense of all of the hard work that I have been through.”
Though his hard work and dedication allowed him to achieve these prestigious awards, Kadja said he couldn’t have done it without the support of the UD community.
“With the support I’ve received from the brothers, the faculty and the students, I was able to manage everything,” Kadja said.
Kadja lives in community with Marianist brothers at 100 Chambers St., and credited the religious life for contributing to his success. The brothers have a very structured lifestyle, in which Kadja was able to compartmentalize his time spent in prayer, community and study. Additionally, the encouragement Kadja received from his brothers allowed him to feel safe and at home.
“Especially at the beginning when you don’t know anyone, your reference is your community,” Kadja said. “When you get back home in your community, you feel safe, home, protected somehow from the outside world. They gave me that shelter.”
Originally from Togo, Kadja graduated from Collège Chaminade Kara and was excited to continue his education within the Marianist community at UD. He spent time studying math at Molloy College in Long Island, New York before coming to the University of Dayton, and decided he wanted to pursue something more practical than theoretical, leading him to choose engineering.
Kadja’s favorite part about studying engineering at UD is the diversity and community spirit. Through the School of Engineering, he met students from places all over the world.
“They have given me some of their own taste of what engineering is,” Kadja said. “When you have teamwork, people approach things differently depending on where they’re from. So I benefited from this community.”
Kadja will pursue a master’s degree in electrical engineering at UD in the fall. He hopes to one day take his skills back to Togo where technology is not as advanced and help his community.
Last August, Faith Carver received her master’s in chemical engineering and switched her focus from Dayton to Mars. Her year of working as a graduate student researcher at the UD Research Institute under Senior Research Scientist Douglas Hansen helped Carver land a position in the fuel processing unit of Los Alamos National Laboratory. A UD professor first introduced Carver to the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, a long-lived power system to provide electricity and heat to spacecraft. Los Alamos is the first step in a chain of laboratories that are creating fuel from plutonium-238 to power the Mars 2020 rover into infinity and beyond.
How did you learn you got the job?
I got a call right before my last final. They said, “You can accept it right now if you wish,” and I said, “Well, yes, I do! And I have a final in 20 minutes, so thank you!”
Was it a hard decision for you to move to New Mexico?
I had interviews and different offers, but this was the ideal job for me. I love working with alternative energy, I love electro-chemistry — this is a little bit of both — and it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s hard to be away, but I absolutely love it.
Two members of the UD family — your former professor Dan Kramer and UDRI research scientist Chad Barklay — said they created a “survival handbook” to give to alumni headed to Los Alamos; I hear there are five alumni there now.
Yes, and I very much enjoyed it. The handbook ranged from how Los Alamos operates to where to live and fun facts. It made me feel a little more welcome. UD follows you everywhere and it’s great.
Describe your workplace.
I work in a secured area and I’m still waiting for my security clearance, so I’m escorted in. The people I work with include other engineers, doctors, contractors — you name it, they’re here. They come from all over the world to work here. We have our nice work stations right behind the fence of the plutonium facility and I’m around the greatest minds in the country — it’s unbelievable.
What about your job makes you go “wow”?
It’s amazing to look at something and think, “That’s going to space; that will be on Mars in a few years.” It’s incredible, it’s surreal and I want to be actively involved in that process.
What is it like being part of the new generation of researchers to contribute to the plutonium-238 project?
It’s exciting because there are not very many people who do this job. It’s kind of intimidating to be on it because there are people working at the lab who have been doing this for 20 years and they worked on Cassini or New Horizons, and now their projects are in outer space and on Mars. But, it’s also very humbling. You realize they are extremely experienced and you should try to learn everything you can from them.
What is your favorite part of your work?
Beyond the fact that I get to work on things that are going to space, we also work with labs all over the nation — NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UDRI. I love it, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
OUT OF THIS WORLD
Since 2010, students have filled 1,592 positions working on sponsored research at the UD Research Institute. In its 60-year history, UDRI has employed approximately 13,000 students. Does that include you? If so, send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two University of Dayton graduate students received $50,000 each to work in a U.S. Department of Energy program with researchers at Emerson’s Helix Innovation Center on the University of Dayton campus.
Kefan Huang, in the renewable and clean energy program, is focused on enhancing Department of Energy software to better distribute heating, ventilation and air conditioning loads in light commercial buildings and residences using renewable energy power systems. Optimizing energy loads in real time will reduce energy costs.
Electrical engineering student Ashish Gogia is attempting to achieve a zero-energy smart home with green technologies and storage and energy management systems.
Both are using The Helix as a laboratory for their work in the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building Technologies Program administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education.
The Building Technologies Office works with universities through the Building-Grid Integration Research and Development Innovators Program to improve the efficiency of buildings and increase renewable energy generation, leading to more efficient buildings and cleaner generation of electricity.
“This is yet another example of the University’s partnership with Emerson providing a real-world laboratory for our students and helping secure funding like this to continue their work,” said Kevin Hallinan, a professor in the University’s renewable and clean energy master’s program who is overseeing the students’ projects.
The University of Dayton School of Engineering graduate programs are ranked 65th nationally — tied with Brown University and ahead of schools like the University of North Carolina, Syracuse University and the Rochester Institute of Technology — according to U.S. News & World Report. The University ranks second among Catholic universities and third in Ohio.
There are deserts in Ohio. And Karlos Marshall plans on putting an end to them.
In 2015, the academic development coordinator for ArtStreet and Institute for Arts Nexus founded the non-profit The Conscious Connect, Inc. with hopes of ending book deserts in Ohio.
The Conscious Connect’s website defines a book desert, as “a geographical area that lacks the access and/or resources to high-quality, affordable, and culturally relevant and responsive print books.”
With this definition in mind and a goal to end book deserts in area neighborhoods, the grassroots’ first initiative, “The Root,” placed culturally relevant books in 20 urban Ohio barbershops and beauty salons where children could read while they waited.
Marshall said that a staple of the program is making sure the books are culturally relevant, having either a black or brown main character, or by being written by a black or brown author. He emphasized: “Children are already being exposed to characters that do not look like them and people have a preconceived notion that the black or brown children can’t read or don’t want to, but in reality, they don’t have books or characters they can relate to.”
And soon, Marshall’s goal grew.
“We want to make literature available at every corner of the community,” Marshall said.
Now, The Conscious Connect is holding a drive for 15,000 books to pilot its next initiative – “Little Libraries” in west Dayton neighborhoods. Holding about 20-30 books in unlikely places, the libraries come disguised as bird houses.
Partnered with The University Libraries Diversity & Inclusion Committee, donations are flooding in, while student engineers-in-training work on designing the “bird house” styled library structures in professor Beth Hart’s Engineering Innovation classes.
“I would love for my students to figure out how engineering isn’t just about technical things,” Hart said. “It’s about solving a problem that can make a big difference on many many levels.”
The libraries are projected to be implemented in spring or summer 2017, and afterward, there are endless opportunities for what is next for The Conscious Connect.
“In the West we think of education as a brick and mortar structure,” Marshall said. “But all around the world education is happening outside of the classroom . . . We are redefining what is education and where you can access it.”
During Jonathan Dekar’s freshman year, a woman approached the School of Engineering with a question: Could something be done to improve mealtimes for her daughter, whose disability limited her motion and required a caregiver’s assistance?
This wasn’t the mechanical engineering major’s first exposure to this problem. Through his grandfather’s diagnosis with a degenerative disease, he had witnessed the challenges that independent eating posed for some individuals.
“It was a basic human need gone unfulfilled — you have to eat to stay alive,” said Dekar, who graduated in 2011. “This wasn’t just another engineering project, getting food from point A to point B. I wanted it to be emotionally empowering and inspiring.”
Through four years of technical coursework, prototyping and researching the market, Obi was born.
Obi is a tabletop device with an automated spoon, robotic arm and a four-course compartmentalized plate that moves with practiced precision.
After graduation, Dekar shifted his full attention into making this product, learning additional skills in finance management and regulatory compliance.
“An engineering education is a ‘license to learn,’ and with an engineering mindset you can learn to do just about anything. It’s a toolkit,” he said.
Formally launched in July 2016, Obi has already garnered accolades. It won the 54th annual R&D 100 awards in the category “mechanical and materials,” as sponsored by R&D magazine. It was also a finalist in the 2016 International Design Excellence Awards.
The engineering entrepreneur feels confident in the mission his company has undertaken — to continually improve the quality of life through exciting and usable consumer robotics.
Dekar said he feels others should never let fear of failure dissuade them from trying something difficult. He said, “Failure is an option, fear is not. College allows you to broaden your mind and explore, and when you find what drives you, you become the work you do.”
Read about how one group of UD students responded to the original challenge from inspiring children who wanted to feed themselves, originally published in the Dayton Engineer in 2006.