Why become an engineer?
“I wanted to be able to make new things to help others as well as myself,” Chris Heitkamp told a room full of third-graders. He and two other first-year chemical engineering students accompanied instructor Beth Hart to Holy Angels School today to teach Erin Wysocki’s students what it means to be an engineer.
After the talk, the students were given a task: create a better backscratcher. First, teams of third-graders sketched their ideas. Next, choosing from craft sticks, dowel rods, pipe cleaners and tape, they built, and rebuilt and rebuilt again.
Finally, they calculated the cost of production, learning that engineers look to balance beauty and cost, function and form when creating a new product.
Erin and Grace used the colorful tape to make their backscratcher pretty. Helen and Ayanna wrapped their handle in red and white pipe cleaners to make it soft to hold. Jacob and Joe made the most expensive creation, reinforcing dowel rods with craft sticks, zip ties and electrical tape.
“Getting kids interested in engineering is very important because we’re declining in the numbers going into engineering,” Heitkamp said.
UD student Jacob Kremer agreed: “And they say if you’re not interested in it before the fifth grade, then you’re not going to go into it.”
Peaking their interest was just what the UD students did. The third-graders didn’t want to part with their creations, agreeing they should stay in the classroom for others to see.
Could be the beginning of a new itch to scratch.
You can imagine my jubilation when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament brackets showed my alma mater (Ohio State) and the team I’ve followed since I was 9 years old (North Carolina) playing in Dayton for the first and second rounds.
After watching Ohio State’s practice session with my 4-year-old twin daughters, I found that the ESPN SportsCenter mentality reaches a young age. One of them said, “Daddy, the Buckeyes practice wasn’t very much fun. All they did was shoot. I liked that Iowa (Northern Iowa) school better. They dunked.”
Although the Friday games were close and my teams won, it was bad basketball. I looked forward to Sunday and watching UNC and OSU advance to the Sweet 16. The aforementioned jubilation came to a screeching halt as both teams lost.
However, I walked away from arena proud that UD put on yet another excellent show for the nation. I heard many complimentary things about UD during the weekend. As my Google news alert e-mails came in fast and furious with mentions of “University of Dayton,” I had to smile at the number of major media outlets who reported the happenings “out here in the sticks.”
Tonight I was able to have fun at UD Arena. We hosted an NCAA play-in game between Hampton and Monmouth universities. I’ve been to several of these games and really enjoyed all of them. Let me explain why.
Usually when I attend, it is to watch our beloved Flyers play in head-to-head competition. But tonight I watched from the onset not caring who won or who lost. Monmouth played better than Hampton, but both teams played with determination and with guts. Monmouth out-gutted Hampton with the help of the boy-monster John Bunch. Big John was working as a ticket-taker at a movie theater (I am not making any of this up) when the wife of a D-III coach attended the movie and asked him if he played basketball (remember the kid is now 7’2″ and weighs 320 pounds). He wound up playing at a D-III for two years and went to Monmouth as a D-I player.
He is not a starter but plays with intensity and heart. His feet are slow, but he employs quick hands. And he seems to have good court vision. Big John blocked shots all night long, and the crowd roared with approval with each block.
I left the Arena with a feel-good feeling after watching a kid who was never in the spotlight excel, and on national TV, when no one ever expected it to happen. His performance was fun to watch. And the best college men’s basketball crowd in America was won to his performance.
And guess what his and his teammates’ prize will be? To play in round one of the NCAA tournament against Villanova. I’ll bet the Monmouth kids don’t care who they play.
(The text is an excerpt of a message Barth sent to a listserv for Flyer fans after the game last night.)
For the student engineers, it was a lesson in process and problem solving. For Hope Daniels, 5, it was a exercise in independence — and feeding herself Cheerios with a fork for the first time.
Last Thursday, first-year engineering students presented their class projects, assistive-eating devices for Hope. The kindergartner with curly blond pigtails and red painted fingernails cannot feed herself using traditional utensils due to arthrogryposis, a condition that limits her ability to bend her joints.
The prototype Hope liked the most was constructed from a colorful erector set and was operated by two processes. First, she moved a spatula to push Cheerios on the plate toward the fork. Next, she pulled on a tennis ball, which raised an arm connected to the fork up to her mouth.
After the students saw the test drive, they asked to take it back and make refinements. Her response: “It’s fine the way it is.” And with a smile, she ate another forkful.
Senior engineering students are also investigating a motorized device that would further assist her. Her mother, Amanda Daniels, approached the School of Engineering after reading a Dayton Daily News article about UD students who previously worked on a similar device for 4-year-old Kailen Carpenter.
“What she does she really has to work for, so making it easier for her would be better, especially with eating,” said the mother, who agreed a motorized solution would be best. “We want to make it as easy as possible for her.”
The seats, the old choir loft and most of the floor space in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception were full the first Sunday of Lent for the 10 a.m. Mass as Little Sibs swelled the congregation. Father Francois Rossier, S.M., of the International Marian Research Institute on campus, welcomed the throng with seasonal humor. Those standing could see that posture as penance; those seated could feel guilt.
His homily was also seasonal. He spoke of Satan, whom Jesus had to face in the desert .
He talked of those who see the figure as an abstraction of evil. He spoke of the Bible, where Satan is very much a person. And he pointed out a detail in the chapel’s statue of the Immaculate Conception: Mary’s heel is crushing the head of the serpent.
He also gave us a Greek lesson. In the New Testament, the verb “symballein” is used but once — of Mary. It means “to bring together.” Tearing things apart, “diaballein,” is the diabolical one, the devil, Satan.
From this language lesson we might learn how to crush the head of evil.
As I walked through the Patterson-Kennedy Elementary School hallway with a foot-and-a-half tall, red-and-white striped hat on my head, I was greeted in an unusual way.
“Hi Cat in the Hat!” lines of kindergartners yelled.
On this, Dr. Seuss’s birthday, I was honored.
As part of the National Education Association’s Read Across America program, I spent half an hour at Patterson-Kennedy reading to the students.
I decided to read one I had never heard of before, The Tooth Book. Having a dentist for a father, I felt slightly hurt that this Seuss classic had been denied to me for so long.
Hat on head and book in hand, I wandered through the halls to Room 109, filled with first-graders eager to tell me all they knew about Dr. Seuss and his works.
One bright child proclaimed, “This is a rhyming book,” and we kept reading through.
When it was all over I made one major mistake — I related this book to a first-grader’s life: “Oh, looks like you’ve lost a tooth or two.”
Suddenly, I was barraged with tooth tales from each child until finally the teacher took over.
All in all it was time well spent.
And I sure am glad I went.
When I saw the room of toothless smiles,
I was glad I had walked that extra mile.
Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to you,
Thanks for being so fun for college kids, adults and first-graders too!
This year’s Women’s Week went out with a bang as more than 200 people — men and women alike — gathered in the Kennedy Union ballroom Saturday night for the first Women’s Advocacy Dinner.
The event was not only a celebration of women but a fundraiser to help send four UD students to Zambia, Africa, this summer. The women will live with the Sisters of Mercy in Lubwe, where they’ll help out at two hospitals, build a library and conduct research. They’ll return to campus in the fall with experiences to build awareness about global women’s issues.
The evening included door prizes, musical entertainment and an address by Judith Ezekiel, associate professor of American Studies at the University of Toulouse-le-Mirail, renowned feminist and Dayton native.
Caitlin Finn ’06 ended the evening by announcing the silent auction winners — which turned out to be a veritable Who’s Who of her family tree. Her grandpa placed the winning bid for one item, her parents won another and her grandmother took home two.
Then again, Finn’s family was probably pretty darn proud of her. The entire event was the brainchild of students, who organized and pulled off an incredibly enjoyable evening. The students even knew that a celebration for women must include chocolate cake.
“I’d like to claim more involvement with this event,” said Sheila Hassell Hughes, director of UD’s women’s studies program. “But really, they used my name to get a bank account and stored T-shirts in my office.”
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft wants to know how he can enroll in the Dayton Early College Academy.
“Do you take old people?” he asked a group of DECA students after talking to them about their experiences at the innovative high school, a partnership between UD and Dayton Public Schools.
The governor was particularly impressed with the amount of work the students tackle. One student told Taft how they all write a 75- to 100-page autobiography by the time they graduate.
“You do?!” asked the governor, incredulous.
Another student told him teachers assign homework every day, which students complete in addition to such extras as internships and preparing exhibition projects.
“Great,” Taft said. “You may not think it’s good, but I think it’s great.”
In addition to his DECA visit, Taft was on campus to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Peace Corps. Taft began his career in public service in the 1960s as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, where he taught English and other courses and coached the girls’ volleyball team.
Taft admitted that his father, a Republican congressman from Ohio at the time, wasn’t exactly thrilled his son chose to join the Peace Corps, a “Democratic initiative” in his view.
However, speaking in the student union named after the president who inspired him to enter the Corps and serve his country, Taft said his parents eventually came around. Wearing a tie adorned with flags of the world’s nations, he also spoke fondly of his time in the Peace Corps — including the first day he arrived at the Tanzanian school at which he would teach only to find the school, and such supplies as food, locked up.
“Then almost out of nowhere came this man on a motorcycle,” Taft told a crowd of approximately 130 gathered for a luncheon in the Kennedy Union ballroom. “But it wasn’t just any man: It was an African priest in a white, flowing robe on a motorcycle, inviting us to his parish for dinner. And we said, ‘Thank you, God.’
“I’m not sure if he was a Marianist priest,” Taft added. “But if you want to embellish the story here in Dayton, go ahead.”
Women’s History Month brings an interesting juxtaposition of exhibits to the Kennedy Union lobby. “Remembering Black Catholic Sisters,” displayed near the elevator, honors three black women who founded Catholic religious orders, as well as St. Catherine Drexel, who founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for the education of Native Americans and African-Americans. Cecilia Moore of the UD religious studies department wrote the biographies for the exhibit, including that of Mother Mary Lange and her thoughts about being a woman of color and a woman religious.
Throughout the lobby, bright pink life-size silhouettes display the thoughts that UD women expressed about what it’s like to live in their bodies. The exhibit, “The UD Body Monologues,” is sponsored by the Women’s History Month committee and provides space for faculty, staff and students share stories such as surviving cancer and wearing one’s “jiggly thighs” with the same sense of pride as one wears one’s family name.
If you have been to a UD men’s basketball game in the last three years, you have probably seen him. Right around the end of half time, he is that student in the second or third row dancing like crazy to the techno hit “Sandstorm.”
The funny thing about senior Kevin Davidson is that he hates to dance. Davidson never goes out to dance and swears that he will never be seen dancing at a weekend party. But, he said, “if I hear ‘Sandstorm,’ it’s hard to stay in my seat. It just makes me dance.” (Click to see a Quicktime video taken during two January games.)
The whole thing started sophomore year when he tried using keys to distract opposing players during free throw shots and to get the crowd excited right before the second half. He abandoned this idea “because I kept hitting people in the face with the keys.”
Then last year, he noticed more and more people sitting, watching and clapping along with his dancing. A star was born.
Davidson’s dance has gained him great celebrity following.
“I have been stopped by people wanting my autograph; people have asked me to pose in pictures with their children, and one woman even asked me if I would dance at her daughter’s wedding,” said Davidson, who declined the invitation.
And if you’ve been ogling his red and blue pants, hoping for a pair of your own, it’s no use. They’re one of a kind – made by his mother.
“We happened to have the same colors at my high school so my mom made me a pair of red and blue pants,” Davidson said. “They happened to work well for UD too.”