Testing it out


Tim Victor, a mechanical engineering senior, spent his summer working as a hydraulic development intern at a Caterpillar facility in Peoria, Illinois.

In today’s job market, practical work experience gives new graduates the edge they need to land the most sought-after positions. If that’s the case, senior Tim Victor should have no problem landing his dream job when he graduates from Missouri S&T. The mechanical engineering major from Manchester, Missouri, just completed a hydraulic development internship with Caterpillar’s Product Development & Global Technology Division in Peoria, Illinois. It was the third opportunity he’s had as a student to gain on-the-job experience.

A typical day for Victor starts with checking a rigorous endurance test of a hydraulic control valve to see if a shutdown occurred overnight. It’s a responsibility that puts the fluid dynamics and control theory he learned in class into practice.

“If I had a shutdown, I go through the data collected and discover the reason,” he says. “I use this data to hypothesize the location of a possible leak or malfunction in the valve being tested and use my resources to have the leak fixed or instrumentation replaced.” [Read more…]

Joe Miner’s big break

For most, summer is a time for vacations and relaxation. But at Missouri S&T, one individual sees summer as a time to get ready for the upcoming semester. Mascot Joe Miner uses every minute of down time during the break to support his students.

Before students arrive for the first day of class, Joe takes care of all the things he doesn’t have time for during the busy school year. Here’s what Joe Miner did this summer:

Getting an edge


The first thing Joe did was visit the Student Design and Experiential Learning Center to sharpen his pickax. After a long school year, it was getting dull.

[Read more…]

The iceman cometh

Ryan Priesmeyer, an incoming freshman at Missouri S&T, owns and operates the Tropical Sno on 10th Street in Rolla.            Sam O'Keefe/Missouri S&T

Ryan Priesmeyer, an incoming freshman at Missouri S&T, owns and operates the Tropical Sno on 10th Street in Rolla.

On a sweltering summer afternoon, a mother of three pulls in to a parking space parallel to the Tropical Sno stand at the corner of 10th Street and Forum Drive in Rolla. Ryan Priesmeyer is leaning out of the front window to greet her and her children with a smile. A tow-headed boy with red cheeks is crying uncontrollably. A brown-eyed girl with pointy pigtails is tugging at her mother’s shirt and a tall, thin teenaged boy is mostly removed from the situation.

“How can I help you?” Priesmeyer asks, then takes the woman’s order.

Soon, cups piled high with brightly tinted ice shavings are passed through the window. The crying dies down; the tugging stops; and the teenaged boy smiles.

This is a scene that Priesmeyer has repeated time and time again this past summer as manager and owner of Tropical Sno.

The Rolla High School graduate recently bought the stand outright from previous owner Dr. Judd Boehme, a Rolla dentist who moved out of state. Priesmeyer expects it to help pay his tuition at Missouri S&T, where he plans to major in mechanical engineering this fall.

“It’s going to put me through college, which I’m really happy about,” he says.

When Boehme announced that he and his family were moving to Nevada to be closer to family, he gave first dibs on the sale to Priesmeyer, who took over the stand in April — two months shy of high school graduation.

Priesmeyer is confident he can balance college classes and schoolwork with running the stand, which usually stays open through September. “I like to stay busy,” he adds.

2015_priesmeyer_ryan_discover_secondaryPriesmeyer met Boehme through a friend who worked at Tropical Sno. Boehme asked Priesmeyer to manage the shack while he was out of town and was impressed with his work. Their friendship and trust grew from there.

“It was an amazing friendship that we built,” Priesmeyer says.

Boehme showed Priesmeyer how to manage the money for the business, place orders and make snow cones.

“I’d be over at their house late making snow cones,” Priesmeyer says. “I learned how to make the flavors and how to order from Tropical Sno. All the little things you think of behind the scenes.”

Priesmeyer says the transition from managing the stand to owning it was seamless.

“I already knew what I was doing whenever I fully took over,” he says, adding that he feels good about owning a business at such a young age.

“I know that sounds really arrogant, but I’m a business owner.”

He’s also happy to be keeping a Rolla landmark in town.

“I’m glad the shack is staying in Rolla because it’s a Rolla thing,” he says. “This stand has been here most of my life. It’s like a tradition for me.

“As a kid, I never thought I would own it. I went there all the time,” he says. “The fact that I own it now is awesome.”

Story by Greg Katski
Photos by Sam O’Keefe

Experience: the S&T difference


Service learning is one of the many ways Missouri S&T students can earn experiential learning credit. Student Adam Kochan, left, volunteers to paint the interior of the New Dimensional Christian Ministry in Rolla during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.

The term experiential learning may be a recent invention, but Missouri S&T’s reputation for preparing students for the real world through a hands-on approach to learning extends back to our founding some 145 years ago. Starting this fall, it is now a formal part of the S&T student experience. [Read more…]

From the Middle East to the Midwest

Mohammad AlKazimi and Hanan Altabbakh with their children.              Sam O'Keefe/Missouri S&T

Mohammad AlKazimi and his wife Hanan Altabbakh pose for a family portrait with their children (from left) Abdullah, 12, Jana, 9, infant son Abdulrazzaq and Malak, 14. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

When Mohammad AlKazimi and Hanan Altabbakh return home to Kuwait later this summer, they will take a lot of Rolla with them.

They will return to their homeland with three Missouri S&T degrees between them, one additional child, several boxes of books, four black belts in Taekwondo and over six years of memories.  [Read more…]

Racing to the sun

Letha Young, a lieutenant with the Missouri S&T police department and advisor to the university’s Solar Car Design Team, poses with the team’s car.

Letha Young, a lieutenant with the Missouri S&T police department and advisor to the Solar Car Design Team, poses with the team’s car. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Missouri S&T’s Solar Car Team will line up on Sunday, July 26, to compete against 16 other teams at the Formula Sun Grand Prix 2015 in Austin, Texas. Letha Young will make sure the students get there safe and sound.

Young, a lieutenant on the police force at S&T, has traveled with the Solar Car Team to competitions since 2008. With a team-made badge designating her “Team Mom/Advisor,” she helps the team stay organized and fed and makes sure members follow all safety procedures.

“In 2008, I was on evening shift and would stop in to the student design area (a metal building that was located on a section of the present-day Havener Center parking lot) and check out how they were doing,” says Young. “The team members asked me to help them out with the competition and I said sure. I have been going ever since, because that is why I am here, for the students.”

Young has a strong dedication to the team and its students. She uses her vacation time from work to travel with the team and frequently checks in with team members. In 2013, she was formally named a staff advisor to the team, which now operates out of the Kummer Student Design Center.

Besides stopping by the design center on her weekend shifts and making sure the team is on track with its build, Young serves in various other roles. First aid, radio operations and driving a scout car in front of the solar car caravan to protect it on long-distance drives are a given, but the job also comes with some unexpected duties.

“One of the duties of the scout car is to clear the road of debris, so whenever there is something in the road or on the shoulder, a student team member in my passenger seat would have to hop out and move it,” says Young. “I had what the team calls the ‘Shovel of Death’ in my family van during one practice drive and along with it comes the smell. They use it to clear roadkill away from the car’s path.”

But there are benefits to being with the team as well. Young says one of her favorite memories with the team was during the American Solar Challenge in 2010. After finishing the 665-mile race, the team ran along with the car as it crossed the line to finish fifth. Young was there with the team crossing as well, but behind them picking up dropped hats and lost flip-flops. “Because I’m the mom,” she says.

“I am excited to go with the team this month and am really looking forward to it,” Young says. “I already have the first dinner planned – I will barbecue.”

By Peter Ehrhard

Below the Earth’s surface

Nathan Bashir, a graduate student in both geology and geophysics, and geological engineering, studies limestone formations, for which he says Missouri, is an ideal location.

Nathan Bashir, a graduate student in both geology and geophysics, and geological engineering, studies limestone formations, for which he says Missouri, is an ideal location. Photo by Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

Nathainail “Nathan” Bashir is more at home in the field than in the classroom. The graduate student, who is earning a master’s degree in both geology and geophysics and geological engineering, constantly travels around the state studying bedrock variations and perfecting ways to find their depth.

Bashir is studying the Burlington and Keokuk limestone formations in the southwest Missouri town of Brookline. “Missouri is a great place to be for my studies. All around the area are caves, limestone deposits and other surface data to help me find bedrock.”

Bashir uses two main mapping techniques to find bedrock’s depth: multichannel analysis of surface waves and electrical resistivity tomography. After performing these tests, he combines the results. This process helps Bashir cut through the “clutter” of false readings that can be caused by caves and sinkholes, and identifies the differing levels of bedrock depth.

The geology of the area he studies is quite different from that of his hometown. A native of Nonar, Pakistan, Bashir studied at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan, prior to moving to the United States.

“I love being in the field and seeing what we actually study in classes,” Bashir says. “There are so many interesting places that are close by, you have to go see them.”

Last summer, Bashir was on co-op at Engineering Consulting Services (ECS) in Virginia. His work dealt mainly with structural geology and included analyzing a construction site for a new National Science Foundation facility.

Besides his research, Bashir serves on the International Student Council at Missouri S&T, sings in the choir at the Campus Christian Ministry and is a part-time clothing model.

“I starting modeling back in Pakistan to help out a friend who had designed clothes for a university event,” says Bashir. “After that, I would occasionally be asked by others who saw the photos to model. It is a fun hobby and something that lets me see a whole new industry.”

By Peter Ehrhard

Dance therapy

Kailea Tilden dances in front of the Millenium Arch on campus.

Kailea Tilden dances in front of the Millenium Arch on campus. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Everyone has a passion for something. For Kailea Tilden, that passion is dance.

Through dance, Tilden can show off her own uniqueness. Teaching others to dance, she says, helps her draw out their confidence and creativity, too.

“Dancing definitely improves the lives of others,” says Tilden, who graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in biological sciences in May 2015. “It’s fun, it’s exercise, and you get to express yourself and be creative. It’s just a really great experience for everybody that’s involved.”

Tilden taught dance at a Rolla studio for two years before starting her own program at the local health and fitness center.

Tilden performs during a production of "The Little Mermaid" by the S&T Ballet and Dance Club.

Tilden performs during a production of “The Little Mermaid” by the S&T Ballet and Dance Club. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

“I am the coordinator and sole instructor for the program, which has around 25 kids and includes seven different classes,” says Tilden, who has coached and choreographed for competition dancers for three years.

As a student, Tilden served as president of the Missouri S&T Ballet and Dance Club for two years. There, she directed, choreographed and starred in several full-scale dance productions and led a group of over 40 student dancers and children from the community.

“I am in the position to share my love of dance with many people each day – from toddlers to adults,” she says.

Tilden was also a member of the Scrubs Pre-Med Society. She completed over 60 hours of observation with physicians and physical therapists and plans to use that experience as a platform to launch her next endeavor.

Tilden shakes S&T Chancellor Cheryl Schrader's hand as she crosses the stage at commencement in May 2015.

Tilden shakes hands with S&T Chancellor Cheryl B. Schrader’s as she crosses the stage at commencement in May 2015. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Next year, Tilden plans to enroll in physical therapy school. Her ultimate goal? Becoming a dancer-specialized physical therapist. Tilden believes that through dance, she will be able to help others better express themselves while they improve their physical and mental health.

“Dance is everything that I do,” Tilden says. “It has shaped me physically, mentally and emotionally. Everything I do has been influenced by dance in some way. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t dance. I can’t imagine.”

By Sam Ogunmolawa

Human powered

Lucas Parker poses with the Human Powered Vehicle Competition Team’s current vehicle, named “Leviathan,” which recently won the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 2015 Human Powered Vehicle Challenge East Coast Competition in Gainesville, Florida.

Lucas Parker poses with the Human Powered Vehicle Competition Team’s current vehicle, named “Leviathan,” which recently won the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 2015 Human Powered Vehicle Challenge East Coast Competition in Gainesville, Florida. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Lucas Parker, a sophomore in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering and engineering management at Missouri S&T, is obsessed with fitness. From lifeguarding to coaching a gym class at The Centre, Rolla’s Health and Recreation Complex, Parker spends a lot of time taking care of his body and encouraging others to do the same. And he’s been this way his whole life.

In high school, Parker rode his bike to school every day. So, when he came to S&T and wanted to join a design team, he found the perfect fit in the Human Powered Vehicle Competition Team.

Each year, the team designs, builds and races an aerodynamically fitted recumbent bicycle or tricycle. This year the team earned first place at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 2015 Human Powered Vehicle Challenge East Coast Competition in Gainesville, Florida.

“Even though we are serious about performance and begin preparation for the next competition as soon as the last one is done, the atmosphere isn’t stressful,” he says. “It’s a relaxed learning experience. It’s just a bunch of friends building a bike and learning at the same time.”

Parker says the team is more than a learning experience — it’s a life experience.

“As a freshman, I didn’t know anyone, so I would go to the shop every weekend to work on the bike and that’s how I met new friends,” he says. “The team has opened up doors for friendships, networking and travel that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

Though he loves being part of the team, Parker says that he enjoys teaching others teamwork just as much. When he coached soccer at Gene Slay’s Boys Club in the Soulard neighborhood in St. Louis, he learned just how much he loved it.

“All of the kids hated soccer because they didn’t understand it,” he says. “I taught them how to pass and how cool it could be if they worked together and slowly it worked. I felt like I had given them a sense of purpose.”

When Parker is not busy encouraging others to stay healthy, he’s focused on keeping himself healthy. In any free time, the Kappa Sigma fraternity member plays sports with friends and lifts weights in order to stay healthy for Air Force ROTC.

Fitness is an important part of his life, sure, but he says it’s not the only thing he’s focused on.

“My motto is to always stay happy,” he says. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do after Missouri S&T, but I do know I’m going to make it a priority to be happy.”

By Arielle Bodine

Faith and fitness

Kamaria Blaney exercises at the S&T Fitness Center on a recent morning.

Kamaria Blaney exercises at the S&T Fitness Center on a recent morning. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

By her own account, 2012 was the toughest year of Kamaria Blaney’s life.

She had a baby, lost her father and broke up with her boyfriend. Along the way, she ballooned to 238 pounds.

“I was eating my life away,” Blaney, now a senior in engineering management, says. “I just really relied on food instead of my feelings.”

That is, until she took a long, hard look in the mirror – literally.

“I remember the exact moment: It was Christmas time three years ago,” she says. “I was sitting in one of my favorite stores – Charlotte Russe. My boyfriend had gotten me a jacket and he said, ‘I hope it fits you.’ Because it was the biggest size they had.

“I remember sitting in the chair and looking in the mirror and being so disgusted,” she says. I was just so unhappy.”

Blaney signed up for CoolRunning’s Couch-to-5K Running Plan, in which beginners can ease into a running regimen by running 30 minutes a day, three days a week, for nine weeks. She stopped eating fast food and junk food, she says, and started praying.

Blaney says her faith helped motivate her to improve her health.

“I had a good foundation of faith but never tried to further my relationship with God, I guess,” she says. “I just really started focusing on me and God.”

Tragedy struck Blaney’s life again in March 2013, when a friend and classmate took her own life. Despite her grief, Blaney didn’t turn to food.

“I learned the value of friendship and life,” she says. “I learned that there’s no point in being unhappy.”

That loss inspired Blaney to start a motivational Instagram group called “Fit Friends Last Longer.” Here she and her friends share photos and stories of weight loss, exercise and diet.

She says Internet supporters have been her biggest motivators.

“People Snapchat me; they Instagram me; send me all types of nice messages,” she says. “They watch everything that I’m posting.

“People notice I’m putting in this hard work. They love it, and they respond. That’s what drives me.”

Since March 2013, Blaney has lost over 80 pounds.

Now, she trains fellow students, motivating them through fitness. They meet every day at 6:30 a.m. at the S&T Fitness Center. “Everybody has greatness, especially if they’re here at S&T already.”

One day Blaney hopes to get personal training certification and open a fitness center, but for now she’s focused on completing her engineering management degree. “I love the idea of collaboration, figuring out how things work,” she says. “I feel like I can apply that to anything.

“God has given me a brain, and he’s given me a lot of intelligence. He’s given me vision.”

Blaney, who was nominated for an Inspirational Woman Award in 2014 by the Women’s History Month Planning Committee, hasn’t forgotten where she was three short years ago.

“I still look in the mirror every day because I don’t want to lose sight of who I was,” she says. “I’ve been through it. So I know that you can get through it, too. You just have to have goals and trust the process.”

By Greg Katski




Gantner engineers his path to Google

Austin Gantner, who graduates in May, has already secured a job at Google's office in Boulder, Colorado.

Austin Gantner, who graduates in May, has already secured a job at Google’s office in Boulder, Colorado. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

Austin Gantner knows exactly what his future holds:

Graduate. Tour Europe. Work for Google.

In that order.

Oh, sure, first there is studying for and passing final exams to get through: World Literature and Biotech and Film and a presentation and paper in Object Oriented Numerical Modeling. But for Gantner, a senior computer science student at Missouri S&T, the future is going according to plan. It’s a plan more than three years in the making; a plan that S&T advises students to follow; a plan the university actively encourages them to pursue.

“The best thing about S&T is that they let you go take a co-op while keeping your full-time student status,” says Gantner, a St. Louis native. “They make it easy for you to get the real-world experience you need to get a job after graduation.”

Gantner secured a co-op with Nucor Yamato Steel from January to August 2012. He worked full-time and part-time internships for Garmin from January to July 2013. And he nabbed an internship with Amazon.com from May to August 2014. He hit the ground running in all three.

“With internships and full-time work, you don’t get any training when you get there,” he says. “You’re expected to know it. It’s a trial by fire. At all three internships, I made contributions that are still in use today.”

But he believes that the last internship, the one with Amazon, really put him on Google’s radar, where just getting an interview is half the battle.

After an initial interview in October, Gantner was invited on-site in Boulder, Colorado, in early November. He studied for 10 hours before his first interview — and for 15 hours before the on-site trial.

In the on-site interview, he had to write code while Google team members watched, asking him questions about why he went about things the way he did. They wanted to know the thought process that went into it, looking for more than just a programmer, but instead for someone who could think logically about problems he would face in the job and articulate ways to solve them.

His day was broken up in to four 45-minute interviews. His lunch break wasn’t a break but pretty much an interview, too.

After spending the day in Boulder, the wait began. He was cautiously confident.

“There were a couple interviews I knew for a fact that I nailed,” Gantner said. “There was one where I had absolutely no clue how I did. And there was one where it could go either way.”

In late November, Google offered him a job as a software engineer. Of course he said yes.

“It’s the best place to work in the country — if not the world,” Gantner says.

And maybe it wasn’t just three years ago that he started on the road that has led him to Google. He came to Missouri S&T’s CHIP camp (Computer Highly Interactive Program), now known as CyberMiner Camp, before his senior year of high school. By then, he knew where his future was headed — to Missouri S&T.

“It was the only school I applied to,” Gantner says. “This is the place for me.”

By Joe McCune

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