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Stories about...Mechanical Science and Engineering

MechSE’s Leon Liebenberg, SIIP Team Use Play-in-Learning Elements to Engage Students, Foster Learning

September 19, 2018

We’ve all seen toddlers learn about shapes by trying to place a round object into a toy’s square hole, and vice versa. We’ve also seen children learn basic structural engineering principles by building a tall tower of blocks or Legos with insufficient structural support, only to have it crash to the floor. If small children can learn through play, couldn’t much older students, such as undergraduates in Illinois Engineering courses? Leon Liebenberg, a MechSE Professor, and a team of colleagues who are part of his “Play-in-Learning: Cognition, Emotion, and Playful Pedagogy” SIIP proposal all seem to think so. However, Liebenberg reports, “Not everyone is convinced that play belongs in engineering…Some people are cynical or suspicious about the prospective benefits of play in engineering.”

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MechSE’s Joe Muskin Enlightens Local Youngsters About 3D Printing During Champaign Public Library Event

August 17, 2018

Does learning about STEM have to stop just because it’s summer vacation? A number of local youth (and their moms) say, “No!” So on July 25, 20 teens (and preteens) showed up at the Champaign Public Library (CPL) for 3D Pringing 101 to learn about, then experiment with, Stereolithographic 3D printing. Courtesy of Mechanical Science and Engineering’s Joe Muskin, the participants first learned a bit about the technology: they explored the equipment that's used, and learned how and why 3D printing works, including learning about the light spectrum. But even more fun was actually doing the printing itself; plus, they left the CPL armed with a couple of 3D printed objects they could whip out as proof when boasting about the activity to friends and family.

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GBAM GAMES camper demonstrates her team's prosthetic device. GBAM GAMES Camp Gets High School Girls Geared Up for Mechanical Engineering

August 9, 2018

“Lots of times, engineering is kind of this abstract sort of thing where someday I guess I'll be an engineer, but I'm not sure what they are, or what they do, or whatever, and I think it might be interesting. It's great to get [students] here and get them doing and seeing what [engineering] really is and how impactful it can really be.” – Joe Muskin, MechSE Educational Coordinator.

That’s exactly what 24 high school girls experienced when they attended the 6th annual GBAM (Girls Building Awesome Machines) GAMES (Girls’ Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science) camp from July 8–17, 2018.

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Local kids play Orphy's Escape to Space in the Orpheum's new Astronomy Kids' CornerOrpheum Launches New Astronomy Kids' Corner With Help from Community Friends

June 19, 2018

"My overall philosophy is that the museum is here really as an educational resource for the community. So that's what you elevate. That's what you focus on, and that's what we raise the bar on.” – Doug Brauer, Orpheum Children’s Science Museum Executive Director

Kids who dream of exploring "a galaxy far, far away," are intrigued with “launching” rockets, or who long to do astronaut stuff like mining asteroid rocks or climbing into a lunar lander, might want to visit the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum’s new Astronomy Kids' Corner. With some help from Busey Bank and a number of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) seniors who designed two space-related exhibits, the Orpheum in downtown Champaign launched the first stage of its new astronomy exhibit at a grand opening on Thursday, June 7th. The exhibit is part of Executive Director Doug Brauer’s efforts to expand the museum’s role as an educational resource for the community.

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I-MRSEC’s Alda Scientific Communication Workshop Trains Scientists to Relate to Their Audience

May 30, 2018

What might fun, team-building exercises have to do with communicating? In keeping with one of its chief goals—improving science communication—the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (I-MRSEC)) held “Making the Choice to Connect,” an all-day workshop on Friday, May 18th. Presented by Lydia Franco-Hodges from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, the workshop sought to improve participants’ communication skills by training them to practice relating to others.

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An ME370 student prepares to race his automaton.ME370’s Final Competition—March of the Automata—Fosters MechSE Students’ Creativity, Perseverance, and Teamwork

May 11, 2018

It was noon on Wednesday, May 2nd on Engineering Quad, and the hopes and dreams of a group of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) students were riding on the little robot they’d built for the ME370 projects course final competition: the March of the Automata. Their motivation? If their team’s automaton won the race, they’d not only have bragging rights, but they’d get a bye on the upcoming final exam.

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Physics Professor Nadya Mason, PI of the I-MRSEC grant.I-MRSEC: Creating a Multidsciplinary Materials Research Community

March 15, 2018

"The more that people understand the scientific basis of the world and of their lives and of what people are doing and researching and care about, the more we care about each other and the more we support each other." – Nadya Mason

Begun in September 2017, I-MRSEC (Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center), a new NSF-funded center, seeks to create a community around multidisciplinary materials science research, recruiting and educating the next generation of researchers, including diverse students, and informing the general public through outreach. Funded through NSF’s Division of Materials, the Center will receive $16 million over the six years of the grant, with the possibility of being renewed.

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Centennial High senior, Edward Lu, getting the laptops set up to display the laser light shows.Team of Educators, Students Design Flashy New Lesson Activity—a Laser Light Show—to Teach UMS Students Coordinate Math…and a Whole Lot More

March 5, 2018

In a fun, exciting way to learn math using cutting-edge technology, on Friday, March 2nd, two of Jason Pound’s 8th grade algebra classes at Urbana Middle School used coordinate math to design a shape which was then displayed using a laser light show. And almost as spectacular as the light show itself was the number of people, both on and off campus, who were involved in various ways to contribute to what MechSE Education Coordinator Joe Muskin calls, “a really cool outreach activity.”

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Joe Muskin shows off a 3D printed object one of the GAMES campers made on the 3D printer they designed and builMechSE Outreach Guru Joe Muskin Exposes Teachers, Students of All Ages to STEM Education

February 15, 2018

If you make the rounds of campus outreach very often, you will soon discover that one of the constants in the STEM-education-outreach universe is Joe Muskin. Education Coordinator for Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE), Muskin is an outstanding ambassador, both for his department and for the University. A tireless, creative teacher, he’s come up with innovative ways to communicate the material he’s teaching for the countless STEM education activities he’s been involved in. From teachers, to current Illinois students, to high school students, to elementary (and even pre-school) students, he’s broadened the knowledge of those he’s worked with about specific areas of engineering as well as STEM outreach. Regarding long-term impacts, he’s helped to pique participants’ interest in engineering and STEM education/outreach and has helped to recruit students into engineering, STEM, and to Illinois.

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Professor Mattia Gazzola (front center) with the fledgling Swamp White Oak he helped to plant. Mattia Gazzola’s Paper2Tree: A 3-Step Program to Give Back to Your Community: Publish a Paper ➜ Plant a Tree ➜ and Perform a School Outreach

December 1, 2017

While appreciating the beauty of nature on his 20-minute jaunt from his home in west Urbana to campus every day, Mechanical Science & Engineering (MechSE) Assistant Professor Mattia Gazzola decided that just gazing at trees and being refreshed in his soul wasn’t enough. He felt he needed to counteract one of the negative effects of his job—publishing papers that, over the life of his career would, in all probability, take the lives of a number of trees. So he came up with Paper2Tree, a practical way for those in academia to not just take, but to give back by planting real trees to replace the ones destroyed while practicing their profession.

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DJ Jackson (left), Centennial sophomore, and his mom, Antonia Jackson, at the Pygmalion FestivalCentennial High AVID Students Present iRISE Engineering Projects at Pygmalion Festival

November 7, 2017

What do My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman, Family Guy, and Centennial High AVID students have in common? Pygmalion, a play created by George Bernard Shaw. The first three (or at least an episode or two) were based on the tale of Eliza Doolittle and Professor Henry Higgins, who wants to make Eliza into a proper high-society lady to illustrate the point that no matter the social standing or different way of speaking, all people are the same. Similarly, the Pygmalion Arts Festival, held at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts from September 20–24, strives to convey a similar message by showcasing all that Champaign-Urbana has to offer, from local bands, to eateries, to innovators and entrepreneurs who work right around the corner. The AVID students who were part of the iRISE-Centennial High partnership fit into this category, and thus were invited to present their projects featuring motor-controlled wheelchairs at the Festival on September 21st.

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UHS Students Gear Up for Mechanical Science and Engineering During I-STEM Summer Camp

October 13, 2017

A 24-year-old woman, Magdalena, who had bone cancer as a child and thus had an arm amputated needs a prosthetic in order to maintain her livelihood. This was the scenario presented to 27 Urbana High School (UHS) student athletes as a part of MechSE Day on Thursday, August 17, during I-STEM’s first-ever multidisciplinary summer camp. So the day’s main hands-on activity involved making a prosthetic device. And while the students learned a bit about prosthetics and Mechanical Engineering during the day’s events, they also learned some things about teamwork and what being a MechSE undergrad might be like.

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G-BAM GAMES Camp Shows High School Girls What Mechanical Engineering is Like

October 4, 2017

On the cusp of making some important life decisions, like choosing where to go to college, what program to enroll in, and more importantly, what they want to do for the rest of their lives, 24 high school girls participated in G-BAM (Girls Building Awesome Machines) GAMES Camp might have had a few of their questions answered. Hosted by the Mechanical Science and Engineering Department (MechSE), the week-long engineering camp from June 18–24 exposed the girls to the kinds of things they might be doing should they choose a career in mechanical engineering.

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I-STEM Multidisciplinary Summer Program Exposes UHS Athletes to Different STEM Departments/Units

September 12, 2017

Twenty-seven Urbana High School (UHS) athletes, mostly underrepresented minorities, participated in the first-ever I-STEM Summer Camp from August 7–18. The goals of this multidisciplinary summer program were to 1) expose participants to various STEM fields so they know what their options are when choosing their career/ college path; 2) to build teamwork and lab skills in different STEM disciplines; and 3) to allow students to experience what STEM research is about. Ten different STEM departments and units on campus were each responsible for one day of activities during the two-week camp.

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ME370 Students Find End-of-the-Semester Robot Races a Fun Learning Experience

May 9, 2017

There was a lot riding on the 36 little robots navigating the ropes stretched across Boneyard Creek for ME 370's final competition. Held just north of the Engineering Building at noon on Wednesday, May 3rd, the contest drew a crowd of interested spectators who vicariously experienced the little robots' ups and downs, "oohing" and "ahing" during the spectacle. For the students, the contest not only motivated them to show off their engineering prowess; it got their competitive juices flowing as they sought to beat the socks off their opponents. And as an added incentive, teams whose robots beat the time set by Professor Socie's robot got to skip the upcoming final exam.
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Pakeltis Sisters Hope to Increase the Number of Women—Change the World Through Engineering

October 7, 2016

While the old Irving Berlin song, “Sisters, Sisters,” may not exactly be the theme song of the two Pakeltis sisters, a couple of lines fit Grace and Abby to a T. One is the last phrase of: "Two different faces, But in tight places, We think and we act as one." For instance, they’re both studying Engineering at Illinois. Grace, the oldest, is a senior in Materials Science Engineering (MatSE), while sophomore Abby is in Mechanical Science & Engineering (MechSE).
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LaViers' RAD Lab Uses Robots/Dance to Study Movement, Provide Automation

September 8, 2016

Surrounded by a crowd of laughing, cheering GAMES campers, NAO, an adorable little white and red robot, strutted its stuff, doing the moves the girls had choreographed and which it had been programmed to do. Then, like a chorus line, the team of high schoolers who had developed the routine lined up behind NAO and performed it along with the robot, amid gales of laughter.

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G-BAM Girls Learn to Make a Difference Via Engineering

July 22, 2016

Many of today’s young people want careers that allow them to make a difference in other people's lives. During the 2016 G-BAM (Girls Building Awesome Machines) G.A.M.E.S. (Girls' Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science) camp, the 24 high school girls who participated from June 19th–25th not only did high-tech, hands-on activities, such as building a 3D printer and using CAD to design and 3D print a key chain, and fun stuff, such as writing a program for a robot, then watching it do the dance moves they had designed.
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MechSE's WYSE Camp Helps High School Students Explore Mechanical Engineering

July 19, 2016

WYSE campers design and build a 3D printer. Many of the 24 high school students who participated in the 2016 Exploring Mechanical Engineering camp held June 26–July 2, are pretty much set on careers in engineering… They’re just trying to figure out in which discipline. And MechSE’s (Mechanical Science and Engineering's) WYSE camp appears to have the potential to assist them in their decision-making process.For one, unlike Illinois' other WYSE (Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering) camps, most of which offer a brief introduction to a variety of engineering disciplines, MechSE’s spends the entire week exposing the campers to some of the fun stuff in mechanical engineering—from building their own 3D printer to designing a prosthetic device—and helping them learn how a career in engineering might allow them to make a difference in other people's lives.

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Lynette StricklandMechSE Grads Milner & Armstrong Trade in Sports Outreach for STEM Via ENVISION

May 20, 2016

Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) graduate students Matt Milner and Ashley Armstrong were both student athletes while getting their undergrad degrees in STEM. And they both cut their teeth on athletics outreach— but back then, they did sports camps, not STEM camps. So when they arrived at Illinois to continue their education, both were sensing an outreach-shaped vacuum in their lives and felt it was important that they share their passion about STEM. But since there didn’t appear to be a vehicle through which they could do STEM outreach, they decided to build one—called ENVISION.
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ME370's Drench-Your-Professor Competition Creates a Splash

June 9, 2015

Mechanical Engineering students who took ME370 in Spring 2015 were tasked with designing a couple of mechanisms that would allow them to dunk their professor. Giving students hands-on, practical experience, the course taught them how to work as a team to design something on CAD, then build that mechanism. Part of the process involved overcoming obstacles—students would design, unsuccessfully test, then have to go back to the drawing board and improve their product. And, oh, yes, as added motivation, they got to vie for the chance to pay their professor back for all of those long hours of study by dunking him or her in the dunking booth set up on the Quad.
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Aadeel & SladeTwo Illinois Students to Make Low-Cost Bionic Prosthetics More Accessible

April 30, 2015

Patrick Slade, a junior in MechSE, and Aadeel Akhtar, a Ph.D. student in Neuroscience, have the same tastes in a lot of things. For one, they both like to play guitar. They listen to the same kind of music. Members of the Bretl Robotics and Neuroscience Research Group, they both research bionic prostheses. And they both decided that someone should build more low-cost prostheses, so even people in third-world countries can have access to the technology. So in their spare time, they've started a company, PSYONIC. And they're on their way: Akhtar and Slade and their fledgling company recently won the Cozad New Venture Competition held on Friday, April 24 at the Illini Union; the prize: $25,000 to begin their company and start building prostheses like the ones they've been designing—only better, and at a lower cost!
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Cliff GulyashGulyash, MechSE Machine Shop Solve Problems, Save Money…and Recruit

January 20, 2015

What I have is a lifetime of solving problems by building anything and everything that’s been given to me.” – Clifford Gulyash

Clifford Gulyash, who heads up MechSE’s Machine Shop, doesn’t have an engineering degree. “What I do have is a basic understanding of how to make things,” he modestly explains. And he’s been making things since he was a six-year-old.

He shares an anecdote about his early proclivity for making things: “I started building as soon as I could pick up a hammer, and when I was five or six, I built my first go-cart, put a sail on it, and ended up getting into trouble going down the street. That’s a true story.”
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Formula SAE: Shaping Engineers Who Think Outside the Box

December 19, 2014

It makes sense that three MechSE upperclassmen, senior Mike Bastanipour and juniors Alex Allmandinger and Keith Harris, some of the leaders of Illinois' Formula SAE racing team, want careers in the automotive industry or motor sports. They've spent the last several years designing and competing a high-performance racing car and interning at companies like Ford and Chrysler. But, they've been infatuated with cars since way before that.
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Dr. Howard students and Benjamin Sohn (left)MechSE's Benjamin Sohn Gives Local Kids a Taste of Engineering

December 2, 2014

Benjamin Sohn, an Illinois Ph.D. student in Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE), devoted his lunch hour several Tuesdays this fall to sharing his love of engineering with local youngsters at Champaign Unit 4’s Dr. Howard School. Working with students in Ellen Elrick’s 3rd grade class, Sohn taught the students some engineering principles while showing them how fun engineering can be.
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Sung Woo NamSungWoo Nam Creates Virtual Lab, Promotes Undergraduate Research

November 19, 2014

SungWoo Nam, an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering, appreciates the little things—the really little things—like on the nanoscale or the atomic level. However, when it comes to STEM education, he likes to work with students across the entire spectrum: graduate students, undergraduates, and even high school students. But his passion is exposing a sometimes overlooked group—college sophomores—to the wonders and the rewards of research, like his own research on nanoscale devices and materials, particularly graphene.
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Rheology Zoo DemoOpen House Showcases MechSE for Prospective and Current Students

October 23, 2014

On Friday, October 17, 2014, Illinois’ Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) held its 3rd MechSE High School Visit Day/Open House so prospective high school students, plus new MechSE students (both freshmen and transfers), and their family members, could discover what Mechanical Engineering at Illinois is all about.

Sort of a mini-EOH (Engineering Open House), the event, held at the Mechanical Engineering Lab (MEL) gave visitors the chance to visit exhibits and lab demonstrations that showcase some of the exciting things that go on in the department, as well as meet some MechSE students, staff, and even some faculty.
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left to right: Gaurav Bahl, Benjamin Sohn, and Uni High School seniorMechSE's Gaurav Bahl Promotes Outreach and Undergrad Research

October 14, 2014

While MechSE Assistant Professor Gaurav Bahl is passionate about his research—opto-mechanics —he also believes university folk should get outside the four walls of their labs and impact the community. Plus, he's passionate about mentoring students, especially undergrads. So when he recently shared his expertise with some seniors at Uni High, he invited a couple of his students to tag along to share what they know and to experience outreach for themselves.
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Randy EwoldtMechSE's Ewoldt Brings Rheology Down to a Level Learners of All Ages Can Grasp

October 6, 2014

"If you really understand something, you can explain it to somebody else in a simple enough way to bring it down to their level, wherever that level might be." – Randy Ewoldt

And what Assistant Professor Randy Ewoldt of Illinois' Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering understands really well is fluid mechanics, particularly rheology. Bringing it down to a level most folks could understand, he defines it as: "the study of how things squish and deform when you push on them."
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MechSE Professor Sameh Tawfick glances up at the water balloons poised in the drenching booth's apparatus above him.ME 370's Unique "Drench Your Professor" Competition Hones Students' Design Skills

May 8, 2014

They came from far and wide that warm and sunny Wednesday afternoon in early May, until a crowd had assembled on Engineering Quad just outside the Mechanical Engineering Lab. They gathered there to experience the pageantry of the ME 370, Mechanical Design course's "Drench Your Professor" Competition, which pitted the course's Mechanical Engineering students and their machines against their professors.
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iRobotics member judges an event during the recent practice robotics competition.iRobotics Engages Kids in the Sport to Pique Interest in Engineering

December 16, 2013

Is robotics a sport? According to the internet, it meets all of the criteria: team building, competition, awards, and the possibility of moving to a higher tournament or competition, and, thus, should be classified as a "sport of the mind." But no matter how it's classified, if a local event has something to do with robotics, it's a pretty sure thing that some students from iRobotics will show up.
While a few of iRobotics' 40 committed core members are from outside engineering, most are from Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. But they all have one thing in common—their love of robotics...
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Nathan DostartMechSE's Dostart Hopes to Influence Local Youngsters to Choose Engineering

December 9, 2013

Nathan Dostart, a senior in Mechanical Science and Engineering, spent some early mornings at Stratton School this fall, showing Zanne Newman's fourth graders "that engineering is really cool."
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.GLAM Seeks to Capture Girls' Imagination About Materials

August 21, 2013

In its third year, the GLAM (Girls Learning About Materials) G.A.M.E.S. camp exposed 18 high school girls to a wide variety of materials, beginning with the perennial favorite of females of any age—chocolate.
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G-BAM camper displays the prototype she and her team designed for the wind turbine project.G-BAM Sends Campers This Message:
Girls Make Awesome Engineers

August 22, 2013

"I've talked to some of our undergraduates, and you hear them say, 'Engineering's not like what I really thought it was. I somehow wound up here, and actually it's really cool now that I'm here.' I always think, 'Oh, if only we could have told them beforehand that it's going to be this fun.'" Matt West

During the first-ever G-BAM (Girls Building Awesome Machines) G.A.M.E.S. camp this summer, Associate Professor Matt West got his wish. He and Assistant Professor Elif Ertekin, who co-directed the camp...got to tell 16 high school girls beforehand how much fun mechanical engineering is.
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During the Next Generation School tour of the Ford Lab, MechSE grad student Kun Hyuck Lee (left) illustrates the type of model that can be manufactured at the lab, while fellow tour guide Matthew Mayer looks on. MechSE Gives Back to the Community

February 19, 2013

When Next Generation School science teacher Bryant Fritz needed a little help with a Project Lead the Way design and modeling unit involving computer-aided drafting (CAD) and printing 3D models, he knew just whom to call. He contacted the school's big brother to the north—the Mechanical Science and Engineering (MechSE) Department on the Engineering campus of the University of Illinois.
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Christine LittrellMechSE Senior Christine Littrell Poised to Change the World

November 5, 2012

"Frankly, she's just a tremendous advocate for the department. She is one heck of a good ambassador for us." Bob Coverdill

What was it that first made Christine Littrell stand out from the crowd as a freshman, besides her stunning, could-have-been-a-model good looks? According to Bob Coverdill, Director of Advancement for Mechanical Science and Engineering, she always wore purple—and had a matching purple laptop to boot.
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Mike Philpott, Paul Hummon, & Katie Birkel with the Baja SAEHands-On Experience With Cars Prepares Students to Problem Solve Down the Road

October 10, 2012

For the last five years at least, Illinois' Mike Philpott has been working double shifts. Most days, the Interim Associate Head for Undergraduate Programs may be found in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering, or teaching ENG 491. Evenings, weekends, and probably part of Christmas break, however, this race car enthusiast can be found supervising students at the Engineering Students Project Lab, watching students navigate cars around cones on Assembly Hall's parking lot, keeping his fingers crossed in downtown Houston in hopes that his team will travel six miles on a miniscule amount of gas, or holding his breath lest the Formula SAE car break down during the main competition in Michigan.
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Val Laguna and Ann ZuzulyFrom WIE Camp to Seniors: Two Future Engineers Credit Illinois' Community of Support

September 5, 2012

Ann Zuzuly and Val Laguna were poster children for Women in Engineering's Freshman Orientation Camp this fall. Their mothers wrote a letter to parents of incoming freshman women, encouraging them to send their daughters to the camp by describing how their own daughters had benefitted from it. The camp could have received no better recommendation.
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BTW students get to operate one of Mechanical Science's hexapod robots.Outreach-Minded Engineering Students Hope to Steer Local Youth into STEM

May 29, 2012

On a handful of Monday afternoons this past spring, a few students left the cloistered confines of Illinois' Engineering campus to initiate nearly 80 local elementary students into the mysteries of mechanical engineering. A love of both kids and engineering prompted these Mechanical Sciences and Engineering (MechSE) students to devote their Monday afternoons volunteering at the newly organized Technology Club of Booker T. Washington STEM Academy.
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