When Emily Mason-Osann ’11 Th’12 signed up as director of Dartmouth’s First-Year Trips, she brought more than enthusiasm to the job. She also brought her engineering skills. She oversaw 350 student volunteers and the logistics for transport, food, tee shirts, and other organizational details for 1,300 people participating in the pre-fall term orientation outings for Dartmouth’s incoming freshmen. “We put in over 77,000 volunteer hours this year, not including my paid hours,” she notes. A checklist in the director’s manual helped her manage the workload, but the real advantage, she says, was “being able to look at it as a complex system and see how all the parts of it work together and support each other and how changing one aspect can change the efficiency or tone and have a major impact.” One such change was packing group gear the night before a trip rather than the morning of the trip. “Because of that we had fewer calls to our safety phone about missing gear. Something we did for getting an earlier start made a big impact on how prepared people were,” she says. “The experience helped me think critically about the root of a problem, what needs to be fixed, what doesn’t matter. It was cool to practice this in a nontechnical setting, and it will be transferable back to engineering.” Mason-Osann says her favorite parts of the job were getting to tell the traditional Doc Benton ghost story to the freshmen at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge and “watching the students come back from the trips and seeing how much they had changed. They came in nervous and came back excited to be at Dartmouth and starting to feel like this is their community and their home. That was an awesome feeling.”
School Day at Thayer School’s Formula Hybrid International Competition in May attracted middle school students from around New Hampshire for an up-close look at how college teams design and build hybrid racecars. School Day is one of several ways Thayer School opens the engineering door to the public. Thayer students regularly share their engineering enthusiasm by mentoring local youngsters through LEGO League, an After-School Science Program, Junior Solar Sprints, robotics competitions, and similar projects. And every April Thayer School invites the public to an Open House featuring tours of research labs, demonstrations of student projects, and opportunities for kids to sit in racecars, operate remote-control robots, and experience the ingenuity and fun of engineering.
A walk along the second floor of Cummings Hall is now also a stroll down memory lane. A Wall of Patents documents the flow of inventions from research and course project work done by Thayer School faculty, students, and staff since the 1970s. The first, U.S. Patent 3,605,843, was granted September 20, 1971 to former professor and prolific entrepreneur Robert Dean Jr. and Hypertherm founder Richard Couch Jr. ’64 Th’65. Their invention: a cashew nut sheller. The most recent, U.S. Patent 7,994,786 B2, granted August 9, 2011 to Professors John Weaver, Ian Baker, and Eric Hansen, protects an innovation aimed at treating cancer: System and Method for Use of Nanoparticles in Imaging and Temperature Measurement. From a total of 134 U.S. patents, 94 are held by faculty, 20 by students, and 20 by teams of faculty, students, and staff. Another 39 patent applications filed since 2009 are awaiting their place in Thayer history.
At 6 a.m. one Wednesday in May, students entered an operating room at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to try their hand at robot-assisted surgery. Professor Ryan Halter Th’06 wanted his ENGS 57/169: “Intermediate Biomedical Engineering” class to literally get the feel of a da Vinci surgical system, using handles in a console to control robotic arms set above an operating table on the other side of the room. “It was incredibly rewarding to sit behind the actual instrument where, just a few weeks prior, we saw a prostatectomy being performed—and actually use the same device as the surgeon used,” says Alex Engler ’12. “Within five minutes I was successfully ‘suturing’ a rubber ring to a foam-core base. It gave a real sense of appreciation for the engineering that went into creating this device.” The experience aided students in developing solutions to real clinical needs: an LED-based technique to guide ultrasound during robot-assisted kidney surgery, a probe for sensing surgical margins during robot-assisted prostate surgery, a fixation system for jaw surgery, and a vacuum-attachment device for use in laser ablative skin procedures. According to Halter, the groups that worked on the jaw and vacuum devices are pursuing patent protection.
Thayer’s Master of Engineering Management (M.E.M.) students have a newly improved space to call their own. The second-floor complex in the Murdough Center — which physically links Thayer School and Tuck School of Business, the M.E.M. program’s educational partners — has been redesigned to better serve program growth.
The 15-month-long program, which prepares engineers for the realities of business, has doubled over the last few years from 25 to more than 50 students per entering class. According to M.E.M. assistant director and M.E.M. grad Ross Gortner Th’04, the new digs represent a kind of coming-of-age for the 21-year-old program. In his student days, he says, “I could be sitting up in the third floor of Cummings and my buddy could be three floors below in the sub-basement in his office. But now we’ve got a centralized location where all of the M.E.M. students can come together after class. They can collaborate. They’ve got small conference rooms to work in if they want to work in small groups. And the administrators and the faculty are all over here, too. We have a very nice home.”
For more photos, visit our Master of Engineering Management set of images on Flickr.
The halls of Thayer turned into a twist car racecourse for a final class exercise in ENGS 146: “Computer-Aided Mechanical Engineering Design.” Propelled by rotating a steering mechanism from side to side, the cars tested students’ design and fabrication skills. With one month from concept to race day, students mocked up wood prototypes, designed digital prototypes using SolidWorks software, fabricated their cars in the machine shop, and then wiggled their way around Thayer to see whose car worked best.
The project is about “teamwork, project management, mechanical design, technical communication, and the challenges of reducing theory to practice,” says Professor Solomon Diamond ’97 Th’98. “Culminating in a fun, competitive, and silly race makes it an engaging and memorable experience.”
Strolling through Couch Student Project Lab, we came across a whiteboard that held a bit of anonymous late-night student creativity:
ODE TO THAYER SCHOOL
(To the tune of the U.S. Marines’ Hymn)
From the halls all laced with scatter plots,
To the great I triple E.
We shall work until our dying breath,
(Or we’ve run out of coffee)…
From the lecture in the morning,
To the night of pizza and beer,
We are proud to claim the title of
The Thayer School Engineers!
“The most capable, the most faithful,”
Are the virtues we uphold.
We shall place our work before all else,
With our social lives on hold.
Lift a chorus, sing a noble song
To each and every year,
That we’ve spent immersed within the ranks
Of the Thayer School Engineers!
Here’s a toast to every tool we’ve broke,
To the op-amps we’ve destroyed.
To the labs where we have spent the night,
To the TAs we’ve annoyed.
To the Tuck and Hitchcock graduates,
We shall all be worthy peers,
For they’ll find their limos serviced by
THE THAYER SCHOOL ENGINEERS!
— Semper Insomnis
For more photos, visit our Around the Lab set on Flickr.
Students tried their hand at surgery in a mock operating room in a Thayer classroom for the final sessions of ENGS 165: Biomaterials. “The students are taken through the process of repairing a shattered proximal humerus and a broken radius using Locking Compression Plates. The surgery is led by an engineer from industry, and the instruments, plates, and hardware are the same sets that are used by surgeons in the operating room,” says Professor Douglas Van Citters ’99 Th’03, ’06 (back row, right). “Students learn about design principles, bone healing principles, and human factors — how do you put such a small screw in or drill a straight hole?” The approach makes an impression. “Although we all managed to implant the plates on the bones properly, we would make terrible surgeons,” says Monica Martin de Bustamante ’08 Th’09 (second row, second from right). “If there had been any soft tissue around, we would have destroyed it!”
Master of Engineering Management (M.E.M.) students gathered in Jackson Conference Room at the end of Fall Term for the annual M.E.M. Mugging Ceremony. A yearly ritual since 2005, the Mugging Ceremony marks the end of the 18-month degree program. Why mugging? Because each graduate receives a special M.E.M. coffee mug. “They’re going off into the workforce. They’ll need a coffee mug,” says Ross Gortner, assistant director of the M.E.M. program who earned his own Thayer M.E.M. degree in 2004. And since some grads won’t make it back to campus in June for Commencement, “the party is a chance for everyone to get together and say goodbye,” says Gortner, shown crouching in the photo. Despite the weak economy, 16 of the 40 class members are heading right into jobs at Boeing, Eaton, General Mills, McKinsey, Microsoft, and other corporations. The rest expect to find company desks for their coffee mugs within six months. The M.E.M. program is directed by Thayer Professor Robert Graves, pictured on the left, and Tuck Professor Kenneth Baker, right.
By Kathryn LoConte
Formula Hybrid isn’t the only race car at Thayer School. Dartmouth Formula Racing (DFR) students have also created an E-85 car, which runs on 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. “E-85 cars stand out from other race cars because they generally produce more horsepower,” says DFR’s Calvin Krishen Th’07, ’08, left, pictured with Scott Lananna ’08 (center), and Mark Criscimagna ’07 Th’08 (right). E-85 cars, which compete against gas-powered cars in SAE competitions, also require various adaptations. “Certain parts of the engine have to be treated to protect them from corrosion. The engine’s computer must also be reprogrammed to account for its different burning properties,” says Krishen. The car has driven Krishen to anticipate future advances in fuels and technologies. “Most every alternative source can be proven feasible given the time and resources,” he says. “There may be an even better fuel-alternative around the corner, and it just takes some open-minded engineers to learn how to use it.”
—Kathryn LoConte is Assistant Editor at Dartmouth Engineer.
For more photos, visit our Dartmouth Formula Racing collection on Flickr.