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December 2011

It Takes a Team: Reflections at the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight

A half-century ago, Yuri Gagarin, Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, and Gherman Titov brought us into the Space Age through the spectacle, and technological marvel, of human spaceflight. On November 10, ENE used their historic achievements as a departure point for a wide-ranging discussion of technology and society in its inaugural Interdisciplinary Engineering Colloquium. [Video]

It Takes a Team artworkTitled "It Takes a Team: Reflections at the 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight," the colloquium featured IDE alumnus Gary Horlacher (NASA shuttle flight director) and Purdue history professor Michael Smith on the geopolitical and societal context and technological challenges of the Space Race in the early 1960s, the human and technological systems in the space shuttle era, and the lessons to be learned for the future exploration of space.  As moderator David Radcliffe, ENE's Kamyar Haghighi Head, noted, it truly took a team, exhibiting "engineering vision, political courage, and unity of national purpose" on both the American and Soviet sides, to embark on the adventure of human spaceflight.

The colloquium, inspired by ENE's boundary-crossing Interdisciplinary Engineering program, was co-hosted by Purdue's Colleges of Engineering and Liberal Arts and took place, appropriately enough, in the atrium of the Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, where a replica of Gus Grissom's Apollo 1 command module is suspended from the ceiling.

Video time-stamps:

  • 1961 video footage on Gagarin, Shepard, Grissom, Titov: 4:38
  • Dr. Michael Smith (Purdue professor of history): 9:09
  • 1981-2011 shuttle-era video footage: 30:15
  • Gary Horlacher (NASA flight director): 35:05
  • "Lessons Learned" + Q&A: 55:00

In future years, the Interdisciplinary Engineering Colloquium will continue to present a topical subject and invite perspectives from engineering and a range of other fields, including the humanities, the social sciences, and education. For more on the 1961 spaceflights of Gagarin, Shepard, Grissom, and Titov, see The Purdue Alumnus (July/Aug '11), page 34, "First Humans in Space."

Justin Richter: How a Student With the Right Stuff Found the Right Fit in Multidisciplinary Engineering

Justin Richter graduates this December through the School of Engineering Education’s Multidisciplinary Engineering Program, 14 years after first enrolling at Purdue.

Justin at windmillBetween those milestone events, he tried chemical engineering and biomedical engineering; dropped out of school; launched his own business in diamond manufacturing and jewelry design (for which he traveled across the States and to Europe); moved from his native Chicago to Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and back again; started a family (his daughter is now 10); and ended his business. In short, as he puts it, he “lived life.”

Justin was determined to return to Purdue and earn the remaining 32 credits he needed to complete an engineering degree. (He already had 27 AP credits in biology, chemistry, calculus, English, and Spanish, plus a number of engineering credits.) He re-enrolled part-time in 2010, looking for a program that would allow him to pursue his interest in energy and satisfy his entrepreneurial drive. Through the Multidisciplinary Engineering Program’s concentration in engineering management, he found it.

“I want to get into sustainability practices,” he says. “I’m concerned about the health of the earth. If I built a business around the big blanket idea of energy—renewable and clean energies, solar, wind, geothermal—I can help facilitate change.”

Commuting from Chicago, Justin took courses in environmental and sustainability engineering, entrepreneurship and business strategies in engineering, and optimization, and he added a certificate in entrepreneurship and innovation at the recommendation of his advisor, Chris Pekny. Along the way, he endured an automobile crash that totaled his car and left him physically incapable of enduring the distance required to drive three times per week.

Justin persisted. He returned to Purdue again, this time as a full-time student living locally. “I thought, ‘If I’m doing this, I’m going at it full-out,’” he says.

He seized every opportunity that came his way. Through the Interns for Indiana program, he landed a competitive internship at a company that manufactures solar street lamps. He participated in the team that developed Purdue’s award-winning solar house for the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2011 competition. He joined Purdue’s Electric Vehicle Grand Prix team. He continued his involvement in EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service).

As he eyes graduation day, he’s looking beyond to Purdue’s graduate program in ecological sciences and engineering. Even farther out on the horizon: after building and running a successful energy business, he intends to earn a PhD in engineering education and enter academia as a professor. “I’ve been told my enthusiasm is contagious,” he says. “I’ve been able to put myself in the right places. Coming back to Purdue just changed my level of happiness and commitment and enthusiasm. I want to spark that fire in other people.”

Doctoral Class Links Baby Boomers' Retirement to Engineering Education Research

ENE’s doctoral program offered the class “Harnessing Engineering Expertise in Industry” in the Fall 2011 semester, providing five students the opportunity to explore research topics related to the retirement of Baby Boom-aged engineers.

retirement signIt’s a response to a question posed by ENE’s Industrial Advisory Council: How can ENE’s research be expanded into the industrial setting?

Created by Dr. Monica Cox, an ENE faculty member, and Dr. Rick Zadoks, a Purdue mechanical engineering alumnus who heads the council, the class focused on the key issue of the Baby Boom generation’s impending retirement and the need to capture the high-level technical knowhow and judgment of these experienced engineers before they leave the workforce. (Baby Boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day.) Zadoks spent 12 years as a mechanical engineering professor and currently works at Caterpillar Inc. as the engineering technical steward for engine dynamics, bringing experience as both an educator and an engineering expert in industry. He volunteered his time to serve as lead teacher for the class.

“The students picked topics to research and pitched their ideas to the Industrial Advisory Council in November,” says Zadoks. One such topic: making industry experts and their knowledge visible by documenting industry experts' professional networks, identifying the "big ideas" those experts communicate about, and developing strategies for identifying "latent" experts or "next" experts.

Council members—prospective sponsors of the research projects—provided feedback on what they'd heard. Students then prepared formal written proposals, to be submitted to the council, for what they hope will become funded projects.

“The students gained an understanding of what expertise is—how it’s different in industry as opposed to an academic setting,” Zadoks says. “They each identified a specific problem to pursue, learned the skills needed to write a proposal to industry, and got exposure to all sorts of research literature in fields outside of engineering education.”

$3.034M NSF Grant to Help Accelerate Pace of Innovation in STEM Education

The grant — "Collaborative Research: Deep Insights Anytime, Anywhere (DIA2)—Central Resource for Characterizing the TUES Portfolio through Interactive Knowledge Mining and Visualizations" — is awarded jointly to Purdue (ENE professor Krishna Madhavan is principal investigator), Virginia Tech, Arizona State, and Stanford.

See news release.

Scenes from the Semester's End: Engineering 131 ("Ideas to Innovation")

For First-Year Engineering students, the end of the semester means the presentation of class projects. Below, a few images from students in Engineering 131 ("Transforming Ideas to Innovation"), demonstrating how they integrated LabView programs with hardware to accomplish different tasks—from guitar tuners to burglar alarms, alarm clocks to electronic Twister. Keep your eyes open for the talking trash can.

First-year student teamFirst-year student teamFirst-year student teamFirst-year student team

Three New Matching Opportunities for Gifts to ENE

Through its Strategic Initiative Endowments program, the College of Engineering has provided $2 million to support 1:1 matches for gifts establishing new named endowments at the school level. Donors to ENE can thus double the impact of their gift amount, and ENE’s programs and students benefit from a permanent endowment that grows over time.

The minimum endowment must be $25,000 ($12,500 gift + $12,500 match) and is payable over two years. The maximum gift amount eligible to be matched is $100,000, which creates a $200,000 endowment.

We’re delighted to announce that ENE’s Industrial Advisory Council has created ENE’s first endowment under this program: the Engineering Education Industrial Advisory Council Strategic Initiative Fund for the School of Engineering Education. Our deep appreciation to council chair Dr. Rick Zadoks and all our council members!

The Indiana Challenge Match is a university-wide initiative to establish scholarship endowments for Indiana students attending Purdue. Donors may designate their gifts (minimum $12,500, creating a $25,000 endowment) at the school level—that is, ENE donors may designate their gifts to support students in the School of Engineering Education.

Purdue's Faculty Excellence Challenge Match will create named, endowed professorships, using $7.25 million in matching funds. Money from the fund will provide a 1:1 match for every new gift that provides a minimum of $750,000. Gifts exceeding that amount will be matched up to $1 million. Gifts under $1 million are payable over three years. Gifts at $1 million are payable over four years. Donors may name the associated professorship as they wish, including in memory or in honor of another individual. "Endowing academic positions is vital to our growth and progress," says Becky Fry, ENE's Director of Development. "These kinds of endowments attract faculty candidates who are unrivaled in their field."

For more information on either of these programs, contact Becky Fry, Director of Development, at or 765-496-9519.

Honors and Recognitions

Spotlighting faculty who've received national recognition.
  • Dr. Monica Cox was one of four experts participating in a September 26 panel and announcement at the White House on "Workplace Flexibility Policies for American Scientists and Their Families." [More]
  • Dr. Demetra Evangelou has been named a recipient of NSF's Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers. [More]
  • Dr. Monica Cardella and Dr. Senay Purzer have been named recipients of NSF's Faculty Early Career Development Award. Cardella's research project: "Mathematics as a Gatekeeper to Engineering: The Interplay Between Mathematical Thinking and Design Thinking." Purzer's research project: "A Study of How Engineering Students Approach Innovation." These honors bring ENE's total of Career Award recipients to seven.
  • EPICS High, offered through Purdue's EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) program, won the Judges' Award in the national competition Partnering For Excellence: Innovations In Science + Technology + Engineering + Math (STEM) Education. The competition, hosted by Carnegie Corp. of New York, The Opportunity Equation and Ashoka Changemakers, honored programs that identify creative ways to engage students, particularly in high-need communities, in STEM learning. Dr. Bill Oakes directs EPICS. [More]

ENEws is produced by the School of Engineering Education for the Purdue Engineering Education community. To view the e-letter in its entirety, click here. Questions or comments? Contact Lisa Tally, editor.

For more information about ENE, contact us at:

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