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Outstanding Service Recognized at Engineers' Day '96

Ten individuals associated with the UW-Madison College of Engineering received Distinguished Service Awards Friday, Oct. 18, at the college's 49th annual Engineers' Day. The awards, which recognize 20 years or more of outstanding service in engineering or related fields, were presented to Surakhuang Asavanich, John R. Dewane, Jeffrey Fang, John H. Linehan, Marty Martin, David G. McAlees, James L. Nemke, Paul D. Thompson, Sidney Williams Jr., and David B. Wittry.

Four additional awards were presented to faculty and staff of the college. The Benjamin Reynolds Smith Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Professor John C. Strikwerda of the Department of Computer Sciences. The Byron Bird Award for Excellence in a Research Publication was presented to Stephen M. Robinson, professor of industrial engineering. Enid R. Simon, senior academic librarian for the Kurt F. Wendt Library, received the Bollinger Academic Staff Achievement Award. The Ragnar E. Onstad Service to Society Award was presented to Professor Willis F. Long of the Departments of Engineering Professional Development and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Boy playing by fountain

"E-Day" began with a series of seminars on recent college projects.

In the opening talk, Dean John G. Bollinger discussed VISION 2000, the college's nine-point strategy to maintain and enhance its high standards well into the 21st Century.

"The future of the college is really exciting," said Bollinger, praising its top-notch faculty, high rankings, high level of student involvement, and new and exciting team efforts. He said he's particularly pleased with the number of industries coming to campus to recruit engineers. "The market for our students looks incredibly good."

But the college also faces many challenges, said the dean. There is a shortage of space for major programs, decreased federal funding, and a changing environment for intellectual property issues.

Bollinger said the key to meeting some of these challenges is the Engineering Centers Building (ECB), a 130,000-square-foot structure that will solve the college's space problems while enabling faculty, graduate students and undergraduates to interact in both research and academic centers. He labeled the ECB "the cornerstone of VISION 2000."

The dean's earlier reference to student involvement was brought to light during the next seminar, in which undergraduates Galadriel Jung, Dena Noble and Scott Pedretti -- the three student chairs of this past summer's National Concrete Canoe Competition -- discussed what it takes to host a competition featuring 26 teams of civil engineering students from throughout the U.S. and Canada. With UW-Madison's own entry, King Kong Crete, on display, the trio detailed the months of hard work and planning this endeavor involved. Representatives of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which conducts the annual event, have noted that this was the most organized group of student volunteers to date.

Another way in which students learn about engineering is through the optional Freshman Design Course (EPD 160). Mechanical Engineering Professor Patrick V. Farrell, one of the course instructors, described to E-Day participants how this class allows new engineering students an opportunity to get hands-on experience early in their studies, making later classwork more relevant. For example, some of the current students are designing a dog harness that will enable its user, a man with multiple sclerosis, to stabilize himself on his dog while climbing stairs. "The hope is that (this course) will help students do even better in engineering," said Farrell. While it's too early to judge the course's success since the first participants have not yet graduated, statistics show a higher retention rate for those who take the class.

In a seminar titled "Community Ergonomics: Applying Engineering to Social Concerns," Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering Chairman Michael J. Smith detailed how he and a group of his students have worked with Milwaukee's inner-city community to improve economic opportunities for its residents. The work was based on two previous surveys done in other communities. Smith stressed that in projects such as these, people must always be at the center.

The morning concluded with an interactive presentation on the college's World Wide Web site, which has been greatly enhanced in the past year and a half. Engineering External Relations Director Karen Walsh and Webmaster Eric Gracyalny outlined the structure and potential uses of the homepage. For some of the E-Day guests, it was their first trip in cyber space.