From the Dean April 2014 to June 2014

June

I’ve decided to take a different approach than normal with this month’s column, because I’m pleased to be able to report that I will be representing YSU at the first ever White House Maker’s Faire today, June 18th. What is a maker faire, why was I invited, and what does this mean for YSU?

So the maker faire is an opportunity to celebrate the art of making, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s building stuff. Engineers do that all the time, of course. We design something using computer software and then build the part using manufacturing techniques. Over the past two years, we’ve invested extensively in additive manufacturing equipment, meaning that the maker no longer needs a lot of fancy manufacturing equipment to actually build the part. A simple 3D printer, now available for less than $1000, and free software available over the internet, makes it possible for just about anyone to design a part and produce a prototype. That’s what making is all about—the democratization of manufacturing.

The maker faire is a chance for people from all over the country to showcase how they are bringing the art of making to their community. At YSU, we’re investing in printing technology, we have new software available, we’re developing courses, we’re integrating 3D printing into our capstone projects, and we’re doing research to help bring additive manufacturing to the business community. If you want to experience a maker faire firsthand, look for further information about the mini-maker faire that OH WOW! is bringing to Youngstown on September 20th. In fact, start building your items so you can participate in the event.

The highlight of our effort will be bringing together many of our capabilities, and combining these with new equipment, to create Launch Lab, an interdisciplinary maker space that will provide YSU students access to state-of-the-art equipment in a supportive environment. Launch Lab, being developed in conjunction with faculty from the Art Department, will be a fully equipped maker space with design software, 3D printers, traditional manufacturing tools including cutters and lathes, laser cutter, an electrical circuit breadboard facility, and anything else needed to bring any students creation to life. We already have much of this equipment scattered throughout Moser and Bliss Halls, but you can look for Launch Lab to become reality over the next academic year. If you can imagine it, you will be able to build it.

So that’s why I’ll be at the White House. I’ll be describing how YSU is establishing a leadership position in the new area of making. I’ll be talking about our partnership with America Makes, how the letter that was signed by 145 universities from across the country and 3D printed in downtown Youngstown was designed by a YSU student, and how we’re teaming with business and industry to reinvent the manufacturing industry in our region. YSU will be a leader at this invitation-only event. I’ve stated that our goal is to become the top education destination for additive manufacturing in the nation. Our invitation to participate in this event is one more indication that we’re well on our way to achieving that goal.

June 18th has been designated the National Day of Making. Look for highlights of the event posted on twitter at #NationofMakers and northeast Ohio specific highlights at #NEOmakers. It’s going to be a great day for YSU.

May

May marks the end of the academic year, and thus a time for reflection. It’s been a good year, with our faculty and students recording many successes.

We unveiled our new Center for Innovation in Additive Manufacturing with the purchase of two metal printing units from ExOne Corporation. We have complemented them with several printers that use various plastics, which are more accessible for the students. We installed two MakerBot M-2 printers in the Moser Lobby and made them accessible to the general public. We received funding from multiple sources to support these new purchases; the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Ohio Board of Regents, America Makes, and the Ohio Department of Development have all contributed.

We greatly expanded our co-op and internship programs for our students, with over 200 placements in the past year. Students were placed in companies near and far. We recognized our first outstanding intern, Teresa McKinney who spent the summer working at Nucor Steel in Auburn, NY. We added funding through the Oh-Penn partnership and in cooperation with the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition through the Ohio Means Internship and Co-op program. And in order to meet the needs of the students, we added new staff this year.

Multiple research grants were received by our faculty. Prof. Ruigang Wang received NSF support to study the use of nanoparticles for automotive exhaust catalysts. Prof. Allen Hunter received funding to purchase and install several new X-ray diffractometers and Prof. Virgil Solomon received funding to purchase two new electron microscopes. Prof. Ian Renne received funding from LaFarge North America for wildlife management studies.

Our students had another successful year, based on the placement of our graduates. We have students entering PhD programs in engineering at Texas A&M University, in Physics at Case Western Reserve, in Mathematics at University of Akron. Many companies are hiring our graduates, as well, from small engineering consulting firms to major corporations such as Babcock & Wilcox. We’ll compile overall employment statistics later this year, but the initial returns based on student information is very promising, and shows it to be a good year for our graduates.

Among the incoming students, we have another bumper class of new enrollees. The total number of students in STEM increased for the fourth year in a row last year, and all indications are that we will continue that growth this year. We continue to lead YSU in success-metrics, with the highest retention numbers and six-year graduation rates. Today, at our Scholars luncheon, I counted 22 new STEM students among the 40 new Scholars. And our STEM Leadership Society continues to flourish, with about 25 new students in this category.

Our partnerships continue to expand, with new initiatives in collaboration with Eastern Gateway Community College, YBI, America Makes, and many more. Companies continue to come and work with our faculty and students, providing real-world opportunities and experiences.

In short, the College continues to grow in activity, community support, and recognition. Our faculty are doing great things, and our students continue to excel. I continue to feel blessed to be able to serve as the Dean of such a dynamic college, and thank you for your continued support.

April 

Welcome to Spring in Youngstown. As I was preparing to write my column this month, I decided to again focus on the activities ongoing in the College. Then I saw that I covered a similar topic last year in April, but decided I wanted to cover this again anyway. Why? Because the series of activities we have celebrating our students’ success and recognizing our partnerships with the community is a continuing testament to the strength of our students and faculty.

This week we hosted the STEM Leadership Society senior recognition dinner. We started SLS four years ago at the suggestion of Dan Suchora, who was then chair of the Mechanical Engineering department. The goal, bring more students of a high quality into the STEM College. And what an amazing group of students we got! Four years later, this group of outstanding students is getting ready to graduate. Many double majors, one who completed her degree in only three years. Many of them will be headed to graduate school to begin their PhD study. Others have industrial jobs lined up. All of them will no doubt be highly successful in whatever they choose to pursue. This has been an amazing group of students to watch go through YSU.

Next week is our SWE Dinner with Industry. This year, about 60 students will be meeting with representatives from 10 companies. Organized by the students, this is another example of the strong support that we receive from our industrial partners.

We will also be participating in the annual honors convocation, a University-wide celebration of achievement.

Later in the week we have our Edward W Powers Women in Science and Engineering Career Day, providing hands-on learning activities for students grades 7–12. Getting more young people motivated to study STEM will benefit both the college and the community.

Finally, at the end of the week we will be once again hosting our annual STEM Showcase. This is getting a little bigger every year. This year we will have about 50 different student groups presenting their projects. Some of them are big and impressive, like the concrete canoe and the Baja car. Others are presented as a poster, describing the research that was achieved. We’ll have our new 3-D printing facility in the Moser Lobby running, to show our new connection to this important industrial sector. It’s another opportunity to celebrate the success of our STEM students.

As I look back over my seven years as Dean of the STEM College, I’m continually reminded of the many successes that we’ve had. I have been very fortunate to be blessed with high quality faculty, dedicated and hardworking staff, the best students at the university, and a highly supportive community. Combined with the growth of interest in STEM education, we have been able to succeed with many of our initiatives, creating a college of which I am incredibly proud. We owe our success to so many folks who have contributed.