Ayorkor Korsah ’01 Th’03 has a challenge for fellow roboticists: build a $10 robot. As cofounder of the African Robotics Network (AFRON), an initiative to enhance robotics education, research, and industry in Africa, she is hoping to find the tools to help expose schoolchildren to robots. “There are many robotics activities emerging in Africa,” Korsah, a computer science professor at Ashesi University in Ghana, told IEEE Spectrum magazine. “Our goal is to highlight, enhance, and provide support for efforts in different parts of the continent.” One project involves an international competition to design a simple programmable robot for education with parts costing under $10 that students would use to explore science and engineering topics. The robot would be connected via USB to a computer, and students would use open-source software to program the robot’s behavior and share the results.
Javelin thrower Sean Furey ’04 Th’05 ’06 made it onto the U.S. Olympic track and field team competing in London. While at Thayer, where he earned his A.B., B.E., and M.E.M. degrees, he was named the 2005 U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Men’s Scholar Athlete of the Year. His sport infused his studies; he co-created a “TurboJavelin” with Daniel Hassouni ’05 Th’05 and Colin Murray ’04 Th’05 as an ENGS 190/290 engineering design project.
“Nobody needs electric motorcycles,” says BRD Motorcycles CEO Marc Fenigstein ’01 Th’04, “but we found a way to make everyone want electric: by making them go faster.” In the Bay Area, among some of the most innovative companies in America, Fenigstein and the rest of the BRD team (including cofounder David Drennan Th’09) are busy changing the face of the motocross industry through their pioneering electric bikes, reports core77.com blogger Dave Seliger ’12. BRD’s flagship 250-pound RedShift charges in a wall socket and, unlike the gas-powered competition, is legal on the street. BRD is now taking orders for its first two models, each about $15,000, and a police variant designed for city patrolling. For more about BRD, see the Winter 2012 issue of Dartmouth Engineer.
When Mongolian agricultural workers expressed a desire to extend the growing season for crops, Bill Hess ’90 Th’93 melted down beer bottles to create a model greenhouse. In summer 2010 the Charlottesville, Va.-based glass engineer and artist was first approached by colleagues from M·CAM, a business development firm that had been advising communities, businesses, and the government in Mongolia on economic policies and eco-friendly technologies. Hess and the M·CAM team designed a yurt-shaped greenhouse model with a steel infrastructure and windows of Corona bottle glass.
The project gained enough interest and funding that by last summer Hess was leading four student volunteers from the University of Virginia through markets in Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital, to find supplies and tools. He helped build the final 19-sided structure with salvaged wood, a base of rock and concrete mixed in an old bathtub, and a design that used stacked bottles along with panels made with glass melted on-site. He shares details at his website, ideasonlegs.com.
Thomas Brady ’66 Th’68, founder and CEO of Plastic Technologies Inc. (PTI), recently discussed the role of the entrepreneur with Gregg Fairbrothers ’76, founding director of the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, and Catalina Gorla ’09 for an article in Forbes. “I was first exposed to entrepreneurship in an undergraduate engineering course at Dartmouth where we were presented with a ‘gap’ in the commercial world and asked to fill that gap by proposing a solution, developing a prototype process or product, and then selling that solution as a commercially viable business,” says Brady. He applied the lessons learned in that class when he joined Owens-Illinois Inc., “where I was almost immediately asked to lead the technical development of a family-sized plastic carbonated soft drink container which wasn’t technically or economically possible in metal or glass, but which was theoretically possible in plastic—another gap in the commercial world.” As vice president of plastics technology, Brady led the development of the first PET plastic soft container for Owens-Illinois before founding PTI in 1985. Holland, Ohio-based PTI now employs 200 worldwide.
Dartmouth men’s rugby coach Alex “Mags” Magleby ’00, who was named interim head coach of the USA men’s sevens team through its season ending in mid-May, returned to Hanover in time to prepare the Dartmouth team to win its second consecutive national Sevens Collegiate Rugby Championship in June. As Dartmouth’s head coach since 2001, Magleby, who majored in engineering, led the Big Green to nine Ivy championships. He and Rich Akerboom ’80 Th’82 cofounded Sylvan Advantage, a distributor of sports performance analysis tools. See Magleby discuss coaching:
The TrailerTail, a four-foot aerodynamic fairing developed by Jeff Grossmann Th’06 that streamlines airflow at the back of a tractor-trailer, has earned California’s highest environmental honor. Transportation technology company ATDynamics Inc., where Grossmann is vice president of engineering and Andrew Smith Tu’07 is CEO, received the 2011 Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for its efforts to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing significant economic benefits.” The fairing reduces fuel consumption by 6 percent, and is expected to save the long-haul trucking industry $20 billion through the next decade.
The New York Times “Great Homes” section raved about the Emerald Art Glass House—a 53-foot-long wedge of glass and steel cantilevered over a Pittsburgh factory—designed by architect Eric Fisher ’82. “Come at the house straight on, driving across the river up to the door of the factory on Josephine Street, and you might not notice it, for the factory is two stories high and the house is set so far back. But walk a half-block down the street, past the neighboring wood-frame houses, and look up, and it will stop you in your tracks,” the article notes. Fisher, who majored in engineering, told Dartmouth Engineer about the Emerald Art Glass House in the Summer 2010 issue. A spectacular slideshow is at nytimes.com.
Books by Alums
After more than 50 years at the forefront of industrial design, Henry Keck ’43 Tu’44 Th’44 has published How Design Changed America: An Historical Memoir. Keck founded Keck-Craig in Pasadena, California, in 1951, and since then has improved the design and reduced manufacturing costs of more than 1,700 products. His designs are ubiquitous in American life: the bright-yellow hazard lights flashing along construction sites, the soap dispensers and hand dryers found in many restrooms, the most popular tennis ball-throwing machine on the court, the glass sugar and syrup dispensers on virtually every diner tabletop. “This decanter is iconic,” design historian Bill Stern, the guiding force behind the Museum of California Design, told the Los Angeles Times when it profiled Keck in 2008. “The very essence of modernism, a perfect meld of function and form.” Keck created the dispensers in 1955 for Dripcut Starline. “We hesitated on taking on the project thinking that it was too simple for our ‘exalted’ company,” he writes. “But wisdom and the need to pay the rent prevailed.” The book contains many examples of the ways his designs have affected our lives; contact Keck via henrykeck.com for a copy.
Samuel Florman ’46 Th’46 offers the low-down on high-rises in his memoir, Good Guys, Wiseguys, and Putting Up Buildings: A Life in Construction (St. Martin’s Press). As the chairman of Kreisler Borg Florman General Construction Co. (KBF) for more than 50 years, he provides “a unique insider glimpse into the politics of building the most important city of the 20th century,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. Florman made his way as a general contractor in New York City, interacting with politicians and civil servants, developers and technocrats, saintly do-gooders and corrupt rapscallions. KBF has built more than 350 projects throughout the metropolitan area since it formed in 1955, including the 76-story Beekman mixed-use tower designed by architect Frank Gehry, the eighth tallest building in the city when it was completed in 2011; a tapered 17-story condo designed by I.M. Pei; the Battery Park City marina; and the 55-story Corinthian, which was Manhattan’s largest apartment building when it opened in 1988. “I look back on this career with relish… because of the challenges met, the rousing adventures encountered,” Florman writes. “Also there have been satisfactions of a different sort: the enchantment of seeing architecture made real… the pride of creating housing, hospitals, schools, places of worship—shelter for the body and nourishment for the spirit.”