Alumnus reminisces about the Arch on its golden anniversary

Jack Wright, a 1961 graduate, helped ensure quality control throughout the Gateway Arch project, which is celebrating its golden anniversary. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

Jack Wright, a 1961 graduate, helped ensure quality control throughout the Gateway Arch project, which is celebrating its golden anniversary. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

Jack Wright‘s first big job after college was in many ways monumental.

As an engineer for MacDonald Construction, the company that was awarded the contract for construction of the Gateway Arch in March 1962, Wright played an important role in creating the “Gateway to the West,” which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The 630-foot-tall Arch is made up of 142 double-walled triangular sections that are covered in quarter-inch-thick stainless steel. The keystone triangular section that connects the north and south legs was put into place on Oct. 28, 1965. It opened to the public in June 1967. [Read more…]

Brew sisters

Delaney Sexton and Courtney Mandeville worked together at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis. Sexton worked in packaging, and Mandeville still works in brewing. Sam O'Keefe/Missouri S&T

Delaney Sexton (left) and Courtney Mandeville worked together at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis through S&T’s Cooperative Education Program. Sexton worked in packaging, and Mandeville still works in brewing. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

It has been said that beer brings people together. At least that was the case for Missouri S&T students and Zeta Tau Alpha sorority sisters Delaney Sexton and Courtney Mandeville, who worked together in co-op positions at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis.

Sexton and Mandeville worked with S&T’s Cooperative Education Program, which gives students employment opportunities to gain practical degree-related work experience before they graduate. The program is set up so that students can take a break from studies and work full time for one semester or a combination of semesters, which allows eight to nine months of work experience versus the three summer months allowed for internship positions.

Sexton, a senior in engineering management and mechanical engineering from Independence, Missouri, worked in operations, where she managed four bottling lines at the company’s historic Bevo Bottling Plant. She says she had 30 operators reporting to her at any given time during her co-op, which concluded in July.

Mandeville, a senior in chemical engineering from Belleville, Illinois, works as a brewing quality and operations group manager. As she says, she makes the beer taste good. Her co-op runs through December. [Read more…]

Smart living in everyday life

The university's eBus and Solar Village are just two of the ways S&T is researching and implementing smarter and more sustainable ways of living. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

The university’s eBus and Solar Village are just two of the ways S&T is researching and implementing smarter and more sustainable ways of living as part of its Smart Living signature area. Sam O’Keefe/Missouri S&T

Missouri S&T’s Smart Living signature area concentrates on improving your quality of life. Its researchers work to transform home, workplace, transportation and energy infrastructures into “smart” environments.

Smart Living also helps expand the world’s understanding of how people and technology interact. It’s more than just creating sustainable homes. It means developing intelligent systems that will change the future of everyday life.

“Currently, there is a rapid expansion of technology that impacts our lives each day,” says Nathan Weidner, assistant professor of psychological science at S&T. “Weak artificial intelligence systems – algorithms that help us make choices throughout the day – lead us to make better decisions and are having a clear impact on society. These technologies can be so small that they are wearable but have an enormous influence on us.”

Smart Living draws on S&T’s strengths in cyber security, sustainable energy research, social dynamics, usability, big data analytics, architectural design, behavioral and environmental psychology, and transportation and infrastructure to lead research and development efforts toward a more secure and sustainable society.

“People in these new smart systems will have to learn to share resources,” says Bruce McMillin, professor of computer science and associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computing. “With that comes the need for privacy and security. This allocation of resources carries a lot of personal information in it, and we must rely on history to give us clues to help predict the future of this technological advance.”

“Trust in human-computer interaction and AI decisions is important, but there are immediate problems that need to be considered as well,” says Weidner. “For example, if a metropolis has a large number of electric car drivers, what will happen when they arrive home for the night and all plug in their vehicles at 10 p.m.? We don’t want rolling blackouts to happen to that city nightly, so energy storage needs to be considered.”

Research in Smart Living includes:

  • Smart grid and transportation systems. Intelligent peer-to-peer systems manage renewable energy resources like wind and solar, which are backed by energy storage, including fuel cells and batteries, to provide energy to buildings. S&T’s Solar Village is a “micro” example of a smart grid in operation. Transportation and energy systems interlink with improved urban planning to provide individualized, cost-efficient transportation.
  • Decision-making and governance. Smart living requires more than data and analytics. Understanding how people process, react to and interact with information and technology will lead to a sustainable shared governance of resources.
  • Privacy and security. Intelligent systems must be resistant to security attacks while maintaining personal privacy and supporting the users’ trust in the system. In Smart Living, people must adapt to the technology and the technology must adapt to the people. The result is enhanced trust and security.
  • Building materials. New smart materials turn buildings into “living laboratories” that, through advanced analytics, provide feedback to inform users as well as to adapt to human behavior. This leads to improved infrastructure, chemical or biological environments, and decision-making. Embedded sensors can monitor how efficiently a building uses energy, water or even bandwidth, empowering people to make informed decisions on how to use resources wisely.

“Usually, we think of technology as leading the charge in this area, but if we do that we risk missing the human aspects of living,” says Nancy Stone, professor of psychological science at S&T. “The human aspects have a very high potential for research, with acceptance and ethics both needing to be addressed to ensure the needs of individuals are being met.”

S&T’s Smart Living initiative is led by McMillin and Stone. Smart Living is an interdisciplinary effort pursued jointly by faculty from arts, languages, and philosophy; business and information technology; chemical and biochemical engineering; civil, architectural and environmental engineering; computer science; economics; electrical and computer engineering; engineering management and systems engineering; English and technical communication; history and political science; mathematics and statistics; mechanical and aerospace engineering; and psychological science. It also involves industry partners and other University of Missouri System campuses to make the research a statewide effort.

Story by Peter Ehrhard
Video by Terry Barner

Working to enjoy the ride

Graduate student Manish Sharma works on his nuclear engineering research in Fulton Hall. Sam O'Keefe/Missouri S&T

Manish Sharma, a graduate student at Missouri S&T, works on his nuclear engineering research in Fulton Hall.

During high school, Manish Sharma often studied by candlelight. Power outages lasting six to eight hours a day were a fixture of hometown life in Khurja, India. For most of his peers, studying in America was a distant dream. But Sharma never gave up on his goal.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from universities in India, Sharma set his sights on Missouri S&T to complete his Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.

“I never gave up because I knew tomorrow would be better,” he says. “I turned my plans into actions and went out of my comfort zone to make things happen.” [Read more…]

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

Learning outside the classroom box


Missouri S&T students enrolled in the summer Field Ecology course return to the field station at the Bohigian Conservation Area after conducting experiments in Mill Creek.

Southwest of Rolla, 10 acres of land once farmed by some of the area’s earliest settlers is now being explored by Missouri S&T students, who are themselves pioneers of a sort.

Students who took Field Ecology, Cave Biology or Vegetation of the Ozarks courses over the summer were among the first to spend more time in this outdoor laboratory than inside a classroom. They studied in and alongside three spring-fed ponds, a wetland fen, a nearby stream and countless flora and fauna. [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

Rethinking thinking

Bekah Davis observes students at John F. Hodge High School in St. James, Missouri.

Bekah Davis observes students at John F. Hodge High School in St. James, Missouri. Photo by Sam O’Keefe

For many Missouri S&T freshmen, Chemistry 1310, General Chemistry, is a tough hurdle in their academic careers. Many students struggle with the academically rigorous and demanding course. When the faculty who teach General Chemistry approached Daniel Reardon, assistant professor of English and technical communication at S&T, about testing the effectiveness of the course, he had the perfect student in mind to complete the research.

Reardon chose Bekah Davis, then a senior in English education, to help complete the project. As part of an Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Experience (OURE) project, Davis aligned Chemistry 1310 exam questions with Norman L. Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) Levels to study how well S&T students performed on each type of question. Webb’s four knowledge levels range in difficulty from recall and reproduction questions, DOK level 1, to extended thinking questions, DOK level 4.

“After aligning the scores of exams, I looked at the average scores on a problem-by-problem basis,” says Davis. “I discovered a large drop in the average student score when the questions required critical and strategic thinking, DOK level 3, or extended thinking.”

Based on her work, Davis concluded that many of the students in General Chemistry are not equipped to answer level 3 and level 4 questions – and Davis thinks she knows why.

“This problem may be caused in part by standardized testing because those tests do not ask level 3 and 4 questions, so students never learn how to approach them,” she says. “This is an important topic in need of further study to bring about needed and effective changes to education.”

Davis completed her student teaching this past spring before graduating in May. She currently works as an editor at the U.S. Geological Survey.

“I hope that my research will spur my colleagues and peers to continue this research and encourage other scholars to contribute to this discussion on standardized testing,” she says. “I want to continue this research and I’m excited to see where it goes in the coming years.”

By Arielle Bodine