A round of applause: Kansas State Polytechnic celebrates student achievements in annual end-of-the-year awards banquet

By Julee Cobb

The motto on the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is, “the experience matters,” and for many Wildcats, these are words they have taken to heart.

Along with performing the typical duties of an undergrad – engaging in classroom discussion, attending study sessions and turning in homework on time – students at Kansas State Polytechnic are making vital contributions to their major, clubs and organizations, fellow students and the overall morale of the campus by enthusiastically and selflessly going beyond what is asked of them. Some students spend several extra hours a week in a learning laboratory just because they have a genuine desire to know more. Others take on the responsibility of being a voice for their peers and join student government. And for a few, it may be random acts of kindness that fulfill their time on campus.

Whatever the case may be, Kansas State Polytechnic highlights those students who make the most of their experience during the annual Awards and Recognition Banquet. Celebrating its 31st year, the dinner and awards show, held April 20, brought together students, faculty and staff to honor personal and educational accomplishments from the 2016-2017 school year.

Close to 30 accolades were handed out, ranging from each majors’ student of the year to the coveted Wildcat Pride awards, which spotlight community service involvement, inspirational actions, and both a determined and dedicated attitude. The award nominations were open to anyone on campus and after submitted, were voted on by an established committee.

“Each student brings a unique perspective, special talents and skills, and a vibrant personality that contribute to the success of the campus,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of Kansas State Polytechnic. “They deserve to be recognized for their dedication. The awards banquet is a great opportunity to acknowledge our outstanding students and celebrate their work.”

Taya Smith, a senior in social work, Salina, is the winner of the 2017 Wildcat Pride award for community service.

Taya Smith, a senior in social work, Salina, was announced as the winner of the Wildcat Pride award for community service. According to its nomination description, the award recognizes a student who understands the civic responsibility of serving the community. The student sees the bigger picture and is aware of the community’s needs.

Smith was selected because of her passion for helping others and bringing people together. She has been devoted to expanding diversity awareness both on campus and off. She has assisted in the planning of many events that bring the community to Kansas State Polytechnic and has been involved in many clubs and organizations.

According to her nominators, Taya “exemplifies the true meaning of service” and has used the obstacles she has faced in life as inspiration to guide others through their own hardships.

Sarah Longey-Hassell, a graduating senior in social work, Larned, is the recipient of the 2017 Wildcat Pride award for determination.

Sarah Longey-Hassell, a graduating senior in social work, Larned, is the recipient of the Wildcat Pride award for determination, which suggests its winner shows a quality of firmness in beliefs and actions, doesn’t quit until an answer or decision is reached and pursues life by focusing on achieving a goal with passion.

According to one of her nominators, “Sarah is the most determined person I have ever met.” She was chosen because she isn’t afraid of any obstacle in front of her and has a never-quit mentality. She is also a mother who has worked hard at prioritizing her life to meet her goal of graduating on time.

Alec Cork, a senior in electronic and computer engineering technology, Wichita, receives the honor of the 2017 Wildcat Pride award for most inspirational student.

Alec Cork, a senior in electronic and computer engineering technology, Wichita, received the honor of the Wildcat Pride award for most inspirational student. This award recognizes someone who inspires others to achieve the highest level at which they are capable, and epitomizes the qualities of determination, dedication and service. This student must also maintain a GPA of 2.5 or above.

Cork was selected because of his character and involvement around the Polytechnic Campus. He is a student worker in the library at the front desk and can often be found giving academic assistance to his peers in math and electronics. He also likes to interact with students on the library floor, asking about their wellbeing. Cork even uses his skills to help repair broken technology equipment on campus.

His nominators said, “Alec is a caring person who makes everyone feel they have something to contribute simply by providing encouragement and a reliable presence.”

Macy Schneweis, a graduating senior in social work, Salina, is the recipient of the 2017 Wildcat Pride award for dedication.

Macy Schneweis, a graduating senior in social work, Salina, is the recipient of the Wildcat Pride award for dedication, which is given to the student who is committed to a particular course of thought or action. He or she goes above and beyond on a project and may display characteristics of being a multitasker.

Schneweis was selected because of her energy, enthusiasm and commitment to helping the Polytechnic Campus achieve success. Through her leadership, driven attitude and solid ideas, she has helped SGA and the many clubs and committees she’s involved in to run more smoothly and efficiently.

According to her nominators, “Macy’s passion for fellow students and this campus makes her truly deserving of this award.”

Below is a list of other winners from Kansas State Polytechnic’s 31st annual Awards and Recognition Banquet:

Outstanding Academic Student Awards

Airport Management – Elliot Rogers

Applied Business – Hannah Schulte

Aviation Maintenance – Hyunsu Kim

Chemistry – Mary Monsanto

Computer Systems Technology – Ryan Fabac

Electronic and Computer Engineering Technology – Eric Perkins

Expository Writing – Reagan Hotz

Family Studies and Human Services – Courtney Hoffman

Mechanical Engineering Technology – Tyler Montgomery

Outstanding Student Life Graduating Senior – Logan Gideon

Professional Master of Technology – Steve Magnum

Professional Pilot – Matthew Katzke

Social Work – Carol Thorstad

Technology Management – Meredith Thompson

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Design & Integration – Kendy Edmonds

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight & Operations – Preston Renfro

 

Outstanding Campus Awards

Academic Advisor/Faculty Mentor of the Year – Julie Rowe

Club Advisor of the Year – Tim Bruner

Faculty Member of the Year – Cheryl Calhoun

Intramural Team of the Year – Stallions

Larry Caldwell Sportsmanship Award – Zach Smith

Staff Member of the Year – Cody Waterman

Student Employee of the Year – Spencer Schrader

Student Organization of the Year – UAS Club

Kansas State Polytechnic UAS professor keynote speaker at Kansas Natural Resources conference

By Julee Cobb

Another industry is seeing the potential of unmanned aircraft systems and has asked a professor at Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus to serve as educator on the possible applications.

David Burchfield, a teaching assistant professor in the UAS program at Kansas State Polytechnic, was the keynote speaker at the 2017 Kansas Natural Resources GIS Technical Meeting on April 6.

David Burchfield, a teaching assistant professor in the UAS program at Kansas State Polytechnic, was the keynote speaker at the 2017 Kansas Natural Resources GIS Technical Meeting on April 6. Burchfield, who specializes in UAS remote sensing data acquisition and processing, presented to geographic information systems, or GIS, professionals from across the state. His discussion, titled “Unmanned Aircraft Systems as a Geospatial Tool for Natural Resources,” explored how UAS, or drones, can be valuably utilized in GIS mapping and data collection.

“Professionals in this industry are often looking for new ways to collect aerial data that can be incorporated into geographic information systems for many different purposes, and UAS represent an exciting, low cost approach to collecting that data,” said Burchfield.

The conference, now in its second year, is a venue for GIS professionals in natural resources conservation to collaborate on potential projects, share technical knowledge, build professional and organizational relationships and learn from other natural resources GIS professionals. Along with Burchfield giving the gathering’s keynote address, there were also a variety of presenters from state, federal, tribal, local and non-governmental organizations.

“We really enjoyed having David give the keynote at our meeting,” said Erika Stanley, a representative from the Kansas Water Office. “We asked him to speak because unmanned aircraft systems is receiving a lot of attention in the GIS field and they have so many potential applications. David’s expertise in the use of UAS platforms for the collection of natural resource data and his experience with forestry applications in Kansas was spot on for the audience of this meeting.”

Prior to arriving at Kansas State Polytechnic, Burchfield worked as an image analyst, GIS specialist and UAS pilot for AgPixel in Des Moines, Iowa, creating aerial map products primarily for the agricultural industry. He holds a bachelor’s degree in geography from Brigham Young University and a master’s in geography from K-State, where he was involved with a multidisciplinary team of scientists that was exploring agricultural and natural resources applications of UAS-based remote sensing. Also while he was a K-State graduate student, Burchfield worked at the Kansas Forest Service in Manhattan as their GIS specialist.

To learn more about Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS academic degree options, contact the option coordinator, Michael Most at 785-826-2681 or mtmost@ksu.edu. For professional training offerings, including customizable courses, contact the campus’s professional education and outreach office at 785-826-2633 or profed@k-state.edu. To inquire about UAS opportunities with the Applied Aviation Research Center, contact Kurt Carraway, UAS executive director of Kansas State University’s Applied Aviation Research Center, at 785-826-7170 or kcarraway@k-state.edu.

Kansas State Polytechnic professor selected as aviation maintenance educator of the year

By Julee Cobb

Andrew Smith, professor of aviation maintenance management at Kansas State Polytechnic, has been chosen as the 2017 Ivan D. Livi Aviation Maintenance Educator of the Year by the Aviation Technician Education Council.

Andrew Smith, professor of aviation maintenance management at Kansas State Polytechnic, has been chosen as the 2017 Ivan D. Livi Aviation Maintenance Educator of the Year by the Aviation Technician Education Council.

An aviation professor on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is being acknowledged for his work in the classroom with a national educator of the year award.

Andrew Smith, a 13-year veteran of the aviation maintenance management program at Kansas State Polytechnic, has been selected as the 2017 Ivan D. Livi Aviation Maintenance Educator of the Year. The honor is presented annually by the Aviation Technician Education Council, or ATEC, to recognize the outstanding achievements of a collegiate professor or instructor in the aviation maintenance technology field. Presented since 1990, Smith will receive his award on April 1 at the organization’s annual conference in Seattle.

“Andrew is an incredible resource for ATEC,” said Crystal Maguire, executive director of the organization. “As longtime chair of the regulatory committee, he is the go-to person for regulatory compliance questions for instructors and administrators across the country. His approachable personality and willingness to assist, coupled with his knowledge and experience of Federal Aviation Administration certification requirements, are an invaluable asset for the entire aviation maintenance technical school community.”

“I love working with students every day and helping them develop into aviation professionals ready to serve and lead, so being recognized with this special award is a true honor,” Smith said. “I am thankful to those who nominated me and to the selection committee who chose me out of a pool of deserving candidates.”

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Terri Gaeddert joins Kansas State Polytechnic as director of academic operations

By Julee Cobb

Terri Gaeddert, former associate dean and director of teacher education at Sterling College, has been named the first-ever director of academic operations for the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

Terri Gaeddert, former associate dean and director of teacher education at Sterling College, has been named the first-ever director of academic operations for the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

With a continued focus on enhancing the student experience, Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus has hired its first-ever director of academic operations.

Terri Gaeddert, former associate dean and director of teacher education at Sterling College, has been selected for the new role and is charged specifically with strengthening program collaboration under the campus’ recently implemented School of Integrated Studies. She also will streamline course schedules, mentor faculty and improve faculty resourcing. The creation of the position, which Gaeddert began in January, is a part of Kansas State Polytechnic’s vision of providing an environment centered around experiential learning and cost-effective education.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Gaeddert as the inaugural director of academic operations on the Polytechnic Campus. Along with an indisputable passion for higher education, she brings years of valuable expertise and a fresh perspective that will help lead the School of Integrated Studies and our commitment to offering students relevant education with a strong experimental component,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State Polytechnic.

In fall 2016, the campus established the School of Integrated Studies after it was approved by the Kansas Board of Regents the year before. The new academic alignment allows programs and faculty to no longer be separated by department, but to be organized together under the director of academic operations. One of Gaeddert’s primary roles is to help faculty utilize the collective structure to generate synergy among the programs — integrating different disciplines so students will receive additional skills and knowledge relatable to their majors.

Gaeddert also will develop a two-year rotation of courses, ensuring every course in a major is offered at least once within a two-year window. This will provide all students — bachelor’s degree-seeking students, transfer students and students with an associate degree pursing a bachelor’s degree — the opportunity to complete their endeavors in a timely manner, which will bolster cost savings. In addition, Gaeddert will implement scheduling efficiencies for faculty so they can spend more time with students, performing research and connecting with the community.

“My teaching philosophy is based around the three R’s: relationships, relevance and rigor. One of the reasons this position stood out is because the polytechnic, or hands-on, approach this campus values encompasses those elements,” said Gaeddert. “Knowledge and understanding is only the beginning; it’s those that are able to apply, do and create using their knowledge that will be heavily sought after. I look forward to working with the faculty at Kanas State Polytechnic as they continue to cultivate an experience-driven atmosphere for their students.”

A native of Ogallala, Nebraska, Gaeddert has a doctorate in educational leadership from Wichita State University, a master’s in teaching from Friends University in Wichita and a bachelor’s in mathematics and computer science from Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska. Most recently, she served as the associate dean of Sterling College as well as its director of teacher education for four years. Gaeddert also worked in high schools as a teacher and technology specialist, wrote curriculum and problem-solving tests for the Kansas State Education Department, and has served on a number of Kansas teacher education committees.

Partners Kansas State Polytechnic, Westar Energy advance electric utility inspection and maintenance methods with drone technology

By Julee Cobb

The unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University's Polytechnic Campus is working with industry partner Westar Energy to integrate drone technology into the electric utility industry.

The unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is working with industry partner Westar Energy on integrating drone technology into the electric utility sector.

Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus and Kansas-based power company Westar Energy are propelling the electric utility industry forward by innovating inspection and maintenance methodologies with drone technology.

With a focus on increasing reliability for customers, improving employee safety and reducing costs, Kansas State Polytechnic’s unmanned aircraft systems program and Westar Energy have been collaborating over the past year to integrate unmanned aircraft into the power company’s services. The partners, whose relationship dates back to 2013, have been working to establish an in-house UAS team at Westar Energy as well as redefine inspection and maintenance techniques using unmanned aircraft — often referred to as drones — for transmission lines, power plant boilers and electrical substations.

“One of our program’s strategic objectives has been to help introduce UAS technology to the commercial market, and we are proud to have Westar Energy as a partner because this collaborative relationship is a win-win for both of our interests,” said Kurt Carraway, executive director of the UAS program on K-State’s Polytechnic Campus. “The opportunity to assist Westar Energy in building an organic UAS program from the ground up has been tremendously rewarding for us — we get to learn about the power industry while helping Westar Energy provide first-class service to its valuable customer base. We look forward to continuing this developmental work.”

Westar Energy has implemented this technology in the day-to-day inspection of thousands of miles of transmission lines and utility towers that run across Kansas. UAS platforms capture imagery of the structures to identify needed replacements and inspect completed repairs. The standard procedure for all power companies has been employees either using binoculars to examine the lines and towers, or riding lifts high into the air —which can be dangerous.

Staff members of Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program fly a drone with a Westar Energy employee practicing new inspection techniques of transmission lines.

Staff members of Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program fly a drone with a Westar Energy employee practicing new inspection techniques of transmission lines.

Westar Energy has a team of employees who have completed multirotor and fixed-wing training at Kansas State Polytechnic and lead the power company’s internal UAS division. Together with Kansas State Polytechnic, 3-D mapping of substations and boiler inspections also have been explored. The Kansas State Polytechnic UAS program has assisted Westar Energy’s UAS program with developing and testing protocols, providing additional flight instruction and creating operational guides for these new areas with UAS technology.

“Our UAS program saves money for customers by making our operations more efficient and our work safer. It also makes our service more reliable,” said Jason Klenklen, supervisor of transmission maintenance for Westar Energy. “We can use UAS or drones to identify struggling equipment before it causes an outage. Drones also make it safer and faster to inspect lines in difficult-to-reach areas when crews are locating the cause of a power outage.”

With photogrammetry, Westar Energy can generate authentic images, 3-D maps and drawings with accurate measurements of their substations so maintenance in a specific area can be outlined ahead of time instead of in the field where space can be compact and precarious. Westar Energy employees have been trained how to set up an autonomous flight plan, which is necessary for the camera on the UAS platform to take photos based on either time or distance, as well as how to execute the mission to ensure quality data.

Kansas State Polytechnic and Westar Energy’s most recent exploration has been focused on using unmanned aircraft to inspect boilers. The use of UAS inside a boiler reduces risks to personnel while allowing assessments to be conducted in an efficient and timely manner.

“Incorporating UAS, or drones, into the inspection process of boilers adds an element of safety. It allows employees to view the internal components of the boiler through real time imagery captured by a drone while securely staying on the outside,” said Sam Sharp, a researcher in the Kansas State Polytechnic UAS Laboratory and Westar Energy’s primary liaison. “Because there are no lights inside the boiler and a GPS signal is not accessible, extensive training is needed to control the aircraft. This is one of the most valuable applications of a drone within the energy sector, so the lengthy training is worth it.”

the Smoky Hills UAS Pavilion

The Smoky Hill UAS Pavilion was built in part by Westar Energy and is housed on the Polytechnic Campus. It measures 300-feet-long by 200-feet-wide and is 50-feet-tall, providing a space for accessible flight training and research.

In October 2015, Westar Energy and Kansas State Polytechnic collaborated on opening one of the largest enclosed unmanned flight facilities in the nation. Built on the Polytechnic Campus, it measures 300-feet-long by 200-feet-wide and 50-feet-tall, and employs 25 wooden poles donated and installed by Westar Energy as well as custom fabricated netting panels on all sides and across the top. The structure, called the Smoky Hill UAS Pavilion, provides a space for accessible flight training and research for students, staff and faculty in addition to outside industries for company instruction and short courses.

Kansas State Polytechnic is recognized as having the No. 2 UAS program in the nation by Drone Training HQ. The program, which began almost 10 years ago, consists of a bachelor’s degree with two focus areas — UAS flight and operations and UAS design and integration — as well as a UAS minor, research and flight operations. Kansas State Polytechnic was the first entity in the United States to be awarded statewide access for unmanned flight operations by the FAA and is a member of the FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Westar Energy provides electricity to about 700,000 homes and businesses in the eastern third of Kansas. In early 2017, Westar will provide about half the electricity needs of its retail customers from emission-free sources.

To inquire about possible research collaborations between Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program and your company, contact Carraway at 785-826-2624 or kcarraway@ksu.edu. To learn more about Westar Energy’s UAS division or its general services, contact Klenklen at 785-575-8187.

Postdoctoral fellow joins staff at Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center

By Julee Cobb

Postdoctoral fellow Amit Gautam, who previously worked in the sugar technology and water purification industries, is now a researcher for the Kanas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center in Salina.

Postdoctoral fellow Amit Gautam, who previously worked in the sugar technology and water purification industries, is now a researcher for the Kanas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center in Salina.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center is growing its staff with the addition of a postdoctoral fellow. Amit Gautam, who has previously worked in the sugar technology and water purification industries, has joined the center as a researcher in the areas of bulk solids storage and handling.

Gautam most recently was a chemical engineer with Aqua ReUse, a manufacturer of industrial wastewater purification equipment and filtration media in Mission, Texas. He was responsible for the design, development, trouble-shooting and debottlenecking of converting a batch system to a continuous system, as well as creating separation and purification strategies that decreased total suspended solids and removed heavy metals from wastewater.

Gautam also was employed by the Audubon Sugar Institute, a part of Louisiana State University in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, as a postdoctoral researcher. His duties included testing the process of milling sugar cane and extracting sugar juice from the cane to find appropriate ways of reducing cost and waste. He also explored using fibrous residue from sugar to create cellulosic ethanol and butanol.

“We are excited to add Dr. Gautam to the K-State bulk solids team,” said Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research and engagement on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus. “He brings years of experience conducting research in this area and has already presented new ideas and opportunities to consider as we move the center forward and make it a recognized leader in bulk solids technology.”

At the center, Gautam is testing bulk solids — loose, dry commodities like minerals, chemicals, sugars, plastic resin, fillers, pellets or recycled plastics — to help clients understand the best way to store and handle their materials. He examines the physical characteristics of the bulk solids and how they behave under various conditions, such as humidity and hot and cold temperatures. He also puts them through both dense phase and dilute phase pneumatic conveying to determine which process works best as the bulk solids move through hoppers and storage equipment.

An expert in discrete element method, or DEM, Gautam additionally will create modeling of simulations. He plans to study the possible positive utilizations of dust explosions, teach short courses at the center and continue developing collaborations with other bulk solids institutes.

“Often times companies do no realize they are working with bulk solids, but these materials actually make up more than 80 percent of items transported around the world,” Gautam said. “I am proud to continue my research at the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center because any advancements we discover will have an impact on a multitude of industries.”

A native of Mumbai, India, Gautam received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Mumbai. His master’s degree is focused in bioprocess technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology, also in Mumbai, and he has a doctorate in chemical and biological engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. Gautam’s ultimate goal is to become a professor.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center, in Salina, is a research, testing and educational facility dedicated to the science and understanding of bulk solids materials handling. The center is the only one of its kind in North America, housing six laboratories for university and industry-sponsored research; training, conference and lecture rooms; a material properties test lab; and a full-scale bulk solids test bay. The key tenant of the center is the university, while two local companies, Coperion K-Tron Salina and Vortex Valves, supplement the facility by serving as anchor occupants.

For more information on the facility’s research capabilities, contact John Lawrence, research director, at jlawren@k-state.edu, or Barnhart at 785-826-2972 or kurtb@k-state.edu.

Engineering technology professor Raju Dandu receives Kansas State Polytechnic’s prestigious McArthur Award

By Julee Cobb

Raju Dandu, who has served the Polytechnic Campus for nearly 20 years in engineering technology, has been awarded the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award for 2016.

Raju Dandu, who has served the Polytechnic Campus for nearly 20 years in engineering technology, has been awarded the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award for 2016.

Engineering technology professor Raju Dandu, who has been a faculty member on the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus for almost 20 years, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award. 

 

The McArthur distinction, which annually recognizes a Kansas State Polytechnic professor for teaching excellence, a commitment to research and honorable service to the university, college and community, was presented to Dandu during the campus’s Faculty and Professional Staff Showcase in September. Dandu was chosen for the award because of his leadership in several national engineering organizations and his involvement with the local engineering industry; but his selection is primarily because of the experience he provides his students, which is a mixture of professional knowledge and practical life lessons.

 

Dandu came from humble beginnings in Andhra Pradesh, India, a state on the country’s southeastern coast. His parents were only able to achieve a fifth grade level education, so he believed the responsibility of being a successful student fell solely on his shoulders. Dandu became committed to his education and graduated from high school – which stops at 10th grade in India – at the top of his class. While most students then go on to what is called intermediate school, Dandu skipped ahead and entered Andhra Polytechnic, an institute similar to a community college in the United States, for a three-year program in automobile engineering.

 

While the common next step was to land a job as a vehicle inspector in his state, Dandu was ambitious in his pursuits and driven to be different. He applied for a national study abroad competition in India, which gave its winners the opportunity to continue their education in a new country with all expenses paid. Dandu says his friends and classmates made fun of him for believing he had a chance at being chosen, but he proved them wrong.

 

After being selected as one of about 100 students from across the country for an interview, Dandu boarded a train by himself and traveled 36 hours to Delhi to make his case for entrance into the study abroad program. Dandu’s good grades, strong work ethic and enthusiasm impressed the judges and he was awarded a fully paid scholarship to study mechanical engineering in what is now Bratislava, Slovakia. 

 

For five years, Dandu worked on his master’s degree at the Slovak University of Technology, first studying general engineering and then specializing in thermal and nuclear power engineering. He next moved to Tripoli, Libya where, for four years, he was employed at a nuclear research facility. Dandu spent time in reactor maintenance and then was promoted to chief engineer for the radioactive waste management facility.

 

After living on three continents, Dandu was ready for his next adventure. He first went back to Slovakia to marry his wife, Kamila, whom he had met at the university in Bratislava. They applied for immigration to Canada, Australia and on the advice of a friend, the United States too. Dandu and Kamila ended up in Fargo, North Dakota, where he went to work on his doctorate in mechanical engineering. After completing his degree and teaching at North Dakota State University for a year, interestingly enough, Dandu was not finished traveling. 

 

Receiving an opportunity to pass on his passion for engineering, Dandu and his family moved to Puerto Rico where he was tasked, along with four other American professors, with building an engineering program for the University of Turabo. Dandu gave the project four years of his expertise, eventually helping it to become accredited with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET.

 

Dandu receiving the McArthur Award from Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of the Polytechnic Campus.

Dandu receives the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award from Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of the Polytechnic Campus, during the Faculty and Professional Staff Showcase.

Because of how welcoming the people of Fargo had been to Dandu and his wife, when they moved back to the United States, he wanted to land somewhere in the Midwest. Dandu applied for an open position in the engineering technology department on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus and was hired in 1997. Since that time, he has made it a point to include the lessons he has learned during his travels as part of the industry-relevant curriculum he provides.

 

“In all of my life pursuits and journeys, I have never been fearful of what lies ahead because I know that each new person, place or culture I have encountered is an opportunity for growth, knowledge and understanding,” said Dandu, who, through those world travels learned to speak several languages, including Telugu, English, Slovak, Czech, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi. “One of the messages I want to get across to my students is how important it is to be receptive to all life has to offer. Do not be afraid of the future, go into it with an open mind and embrace it.”

 

Dandu, who teaches mechanical engineering technology courses related to product design and development as well as senior project classes, also gives students the chance to apply their knowledge by working with local companies to solve real industry challenges. And students are able to successfully collaborate with professionals and build their skill level because he first instills in them confidence and drive.

 

“I strive to make learning easy and purposeful,” said Dandu. “Once you see purpose, it awakens your inner desire to learn and you become self-motivated. I want students to be inspired by their own ideas and believe it is possible to make them happen.”

 

Along with teaching bachelor’s level courses, Dandu helped start the campus’s graduate program in 2010 and served as its director for three years, from 2013 to 2016. Dandu is a commissioner for ABET, helping lead the teams that accredit various collegiate programs. He was elected to the board of directors for the American Society of Engineering Education, or ASEE, and is an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

 

Dandu provides consulting for area engineering companies, has served on the Salina United Way board of directors in 2014 and actively connects his mechanical engineering technology classes with the local Boy Scouts of America to assist with their programming.

 

Though Dandu is proud of his professional accomplishments and world travels thus far, he also is honored to be part of the long list of winners of the McArthur Award.

 

“I want to thank the Rex McArthur family for their support of this campus and its professors by sponsoring an award like this,” said Dandu. “The value they place on education gives us professors inspiration to be better teachers.”

 

Dandu and wife Kamila make their home in Salina and have three children: Gautama, who graduated from K-State with a degree in civil engineering and currently is pursing his teaching certificate; Maya, who will graduate from Pittsburg State University in December; and Ajay, a senior at Salina High School South.

Kansas State Polytechnic names mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman winner of 2016 Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence

By Julee Cobb

Mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman is the 2016 recipient of Kansas State Polytechnic's Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence.

Mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman is the 2016 recipient of Kansas State Polytechnic’s Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence.

Mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman, who has served the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus for almost 10 years, is the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence. The honor, established more than 30 years ago, annually recognizes a Kansas State Polytechnic faculty member’s commitment in the classroom, service to students and overall merit as a teacher. 

 

While becoming an educator wasn’t on her radar until graduate school, Hartman’s natural talent and innovative intuition are evidence the classroom is where she belongs. Hartman has been able to successfully take a subject often dreaded by students and transform it into a comprehensible ally. And knowing that the price of education is of equal concern to students as understanding the material, Hartman has incorporated cost effective measures into her teaching.

 

Hartman is the first faculty member at Kansas State Polytechnic to implement the Open Textbook initiative. She has essentially abandoned traditional textbooks in her College Algebra and General Calculus classes and in their place, created a series of 10 to 15 minute videos that explain the information step by step. Students are able to access the videos online and can pause, rewind and watch them as many times as they like until the math problem is understood.

 

“Math textbooks haven’t always made sense to me, which is disappointing because that is my profession; and if I can’t grasp how the material is laid out in the books, then why should I expect my students to?” said Hartman, who also teaches the courses online. “The purpose of an alternative or open textbook is to provide cost savings for students while improving the quality of the learning process. Because of the videos, students are not required to buy a textbook in College Algebra and General Calculus, and the information is adapted in such a way it can easily be understood.”

 

Hartman, who also teaches Intermediate Algebra and Intro to Statistics, says one of her career goals, once she got into teaching, has been to author her own textbook. Even though she thought at first the ambition might be “crazy and unrealistic,” she continued to dream about composing an instructional tool that actually aids students, not acts as a confusing hindrance.

 

“With the math videos, in a roundabout way, I turned a farfetched idea into reality. I never imagined I would actually be able to create my own alternative textbook, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance and other teachers should too. If you strongly believe in doing something, go for it!” Hartman encouraged.

 

That persistent will to succeed was first honed while growing up on a pig farm in small-town Summerfield, Kansas, where Hartman was tasked with completing her older brothers’ chores once they left for college. She cultivated that determined spirit in high school at Axtell Public School where she became competitive with some of her classmates over their math test scores. And it was during this battle for superior student that Hartman realized she had a knack for numbers.

 

Hartman attended Fort Hays State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Unsure how to turn her major into a profession, she continued her education at Kansas State University working toward her master’s in mathematics. While at K-State, Hartman was a graduate teaching assistant and says the process of leading a classroom came natural to her. Hartman’s teaching advisors even complemented her on the way she was able to connect with students.

 

What solidified Hartman’s future in the education world was a chance meeting with one of Kansas State Polytechnic’s faculty members. Hartman just happened to be the only graduate teaching assistant in her office when Don Von Bergen, the director of the Polytechnic Campus’s arts, sciences and business department at the time, came inquiring about appropriate qualifications for a math instructor that he should list on a new job posting. Hartman later applied for the open position of math instructor at Kansas State Polytechnic and was chosen for the job.

 

Since arriving on the Polytechnic Campus in 2007, and along with teaching four math sections and online classes, Hartman holds workshops to assist students who need extra help learning how to use graphing calculators. She also has served as the faculty sponsor for the campus’s dance team, the Spirit Cats; was elected chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of Faculty Senate; and has won several other awards, including a distance learning award and the 2016 Educator of the Year honor from the campus’s Multicultural Student Union.

 

Hartman, now a Salina resident, has been married to her husband Bret since 2009 and the couple currently has two children – daughter, Autumn, who is three years old, and son, Braxton, who turned two in July – and is expecting their third child in February.

Kansas State Polytechnic professor Tim Bower’s robotics education article published in prestigious engineering magazine

By Julee Cobb

Tim Bower, computer systems technology professor at Kansas State Polytechnic for 12 years, holds his published article on robotics programming for beginners in the IEEE Robotics and Automation magazine.

Tim Bower, computer systems technology professor at Kansas State Polytechnic for 12 years, holds his published article on robotics programming for beginners in the IEEE Robotics and Automation magazine.

Tim Bower, a computer systems technology professor at Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, is being recognized for his teaching methods in robotics programming by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE.

Bower composed an article in April last year about his strategies for educating beginning students on the complexities of robotics and it was chosen by IEEE Robotics and Automation magazine for publication in the June 2016 edition. The story, entitled “Teaching Introductory Robotics Programming,” was one of only nine editorials selected out of almost 40 submissions from 15 different countries.

The article is inspired by the robotics programming course Bower created in spring 2014. With a variety of majors enrolled, including unmanned aircraft systems, mechanical engineering technology and electronic and computer engineering technology, he knew many of the students would only have basic knowledge of the technology and may have challenges comprehending the algorithms involved. Bower streamlined the course by highlighting the areas of robotics that are more understandable for beginners and in one case, developed his own algorithm.

“In robotics programming, multiple things are happening at the same time ­– reading sensors, controlling wheels and motors, steering – and it can be a difficult technology to master,” said Bower, who has been with Kansas State Polytechnic for 12 years. “As a professor, the last thing I want is to frustrate and discourage students by forcing them to learn something that isn’t on their educational level. It’s important to create a path where students have an appreciation for the complexities and also leave my class feeling successful.”

Bower’s article, which gives examples of the simplified autonomous algorithms he uses in the course including the wall-following algorithm he invented, was chosen for publication because of the quality of the written document as well as its purpose of helping beginners feel comfortable with robotic programming. This is Bower’s first article that a publication of IEEE has picked up, though he has had a few previous articles appear in other educational journals.

“I’m very honored to see my article selected for such a prestigious publication – it’s a validating feeling when my many hours of research and teaching are recognized,” said Bower. “Most importantly, however, I hope it gives teachers and professors ideas and strategies they can use to help their students feel more confident and accomplished.”

Before arriving on the Kansas State Polytechnic campus in 2004, Bower was a systems administrator in the computer science department on K-State’s Manhattan campus. He also worked for 10 years at Sprint in Kansas City as an electrical engineer. Bower earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from K-State and a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas.

In 2015, Bower won Kansas State Polytechnic’s Excellence in Innovation Award during the campus Faculty and Professional Staff Awards Showcase.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s Dean Verna Fitzsimmons receives national recognition with Inspiring Women in STEM Award

By Julee Cobb

Verna Fitzsimmons, the CEO and dean of Kansas State University's Polytechnic Campus, has been chosen by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine as one of the recipients of its 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award.

Verna Fitzsimmons, the CEO and dean of Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, has been chosen by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine as one of the recipients of its 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award.

As the first woman to be CEO and dean of Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, Verna Fitzsimmons is receiving national recognition for her continued support and leadership of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education, has named Fitzsimmons a recipient of its 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award. This accomplishment honors women who work to inspire and encourage a new generation of young women to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research and successful programs and initiatives. Fitzsimmons will be featured, along with 65 other recipients, in the September 2016 issue of the magazine.

“I am truly honored to receive this recognition because part of my purpose as a female educator with an engineering background is instilling in young women the belief that there are no boundaries when it comes to their future,” said Fitzsimmons, who has been at the helm of Kansas State Polytechnic since 2012. “Growing up, I had amazing mentors who encouraged and exposed me to STEM fields and I believe it is my responsibility as well as my honor to do the same for the next generation.”

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