Bottle rockets, bridge building and bungee drops: K-State Salina hosts Kansas Science Olympiad regional competition, results posted

By: Julee Cobb

Kansas State University Salina has been helping junior high and high school students bring science to life for almost 20 years. The K-State Salina campus acts as one of five regional locations for Kansas Science Olympiad, a competition consisting of 46 events that focus on biology, physics, chemistry, earth science, technology and inquiry. On Jan. 14, the university welcomed nine area junior high schools and 11 senior high schools for the 2015 competition.

The Science Olympiad Salina regional for 2015 was held on the campus of K-State Salina.

Events range from supporting weight on a bridge constructed with the lightest materials possible to launching rockets made from empty plastic bottles. About one-third of the 46 events changed from the previous year to ensure students are learning new skills. One of the categories, called Wright Stuff, challenges students to design and build their own rubber band powered-airplanes judged on how long they can fly. Don Von Bergen, director of the Salina regional Science Olympiad and head of the arts, sciences and business department at K-State Salina, says this event seems to be a favorite among the spectators and represents a growing industry in which the university has expertise.

“I’ve seen students construct planes that can stay in the air for close to three minutes, and those watching are completely fascinated by the mechanics,” Von Bergen said. “This category connects engineering with aviation, specifically unmanned aircraft, and because K-State Salina offers these programs, students are able to learn more just by being on our campus.”

Von Bergen is also a former high school Science Olympiad coach and says this type of competition is essential to a student’s growth both educationally and personally.

“Science Olympiad helps students develop and apply their creative and critical thinking skills. It also exposes them to new ideas and encourages their competitive spirit,” Von Bergen said. “And it puts the fun in science.”

An awards presentation followed the conclusion of the competition. First-, second- and third-place individuals received a medal, while first-, second- and third-place teams got a trophy. Winners in each event are eligible for the state competition in April.

Click here for the high school results: High School Final Results 2015

Click here for the junior high results: Junior High Final Results 2015


K-State Salina professor Greg Stephens is selected for Big 12 Faculty Fellowship award

By: Julee Cobb

Kansas State University Salina arts, sciences and business associate professor, Greg Stephens, has been selected for a Big 12 Faculty Fellowship award in conjunction with his current research project on the stories and history of farmers in Kansas.

Greg Stephens, K-State Salina associate professor in arts, sciences and business, will be traveling to Texas Tech University in January for research after being awarded a Big 12 Faculty Fellowship.

With this honor, Stephens will be traveling to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas in January to work with members of the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library on their campus. The library contains a special collection of oral histories and manuscripts relating to the American Ag Movement, which Stephens will explore and compare them to his research notes, stories and methodologies.

Stephens’ research project is focusing on five Kansas farming organizations in particular – Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Farmers Union, Kansas National Farmers Organization, American Ag Movement and Kansas Grange. Stephens believes that there is a connection between storytelling and leadership, and hopes that the narratives in his research can help the members of each of the five organizations better understand each other and work together.

Stephens grew up in a farming family in northwest Kansas and worked as a farm organizer for three years prior to teaching. He is also a local and regional consultant with agriculture groups and farmers, and says he hopes his research will help farm leaders as the industry changes.

“I have been interviewing farmers and listening to their stories for almost 35 years,” Stephens said. “I want to give a voice to the mission, success and impact of people and organizations in rural life.”

Once Stephens has completed his faculty fellowship at Texas Tech University, he plans on hosting the library’s artist-in-residence in Salina where the artist will give a presentation on the American Ag Movement.

The Big 12 Faculty Fellowship program began in 1997 and allows faculty to connect with each other, increasing their education network. The program also gives faculty the opportunity to use resources at other institutions for their research. The fellowship provides funding for travel expenses and the collaborating university must issue an invitation to the faculty member.

Stephens began his employment with K-State Salina in 1981 when the campus was known as Kansas Technical Institute. During its days as Kansas College of Technology, he was the faculty chair when the school merged with Kansas State University. Stephens is responsible for organizing both the University Distinguished Lecture Series in 2010 and the Civic Luncheon Lecture Series in 2013 and 2014. As a professor, he has received an outstanding service award in distance learning and the University Inspire by Example Outstanding Faculty Member award. He has also won a variety of agriculture, leadership and media awards outside of the classroom.

Stephens holds a Bachelor of Science in education and a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Fort Hays State University. He has also received two master’s degrees from Fort Hays State University in communication and human resource management. In addition to teaching, Stephens is a community development specialist and is currently active in North Salina Community Development, Institute for Rural America as well as other local groups.

K-State Salina professor releases inaugural book chronicling the first all-women’s college in Kansas

By: Julee Cobb

From advocating women’s education in the early 1900s to hosting John F. Kennedy on campus, Kansas State University Salina language arts professor Pat Ackerman writes about the special past of her alma mater in her book “Marymount College of Kansas: A History,” which was released Nov. 18.

Kansas State University Salina language arts professor Pat Ackerman and the cover from her first book, which is about the history of Marymount College, the first all-women's college in Kansas.

Ackerman’s inaugural book is a product of her university sabbatical taken over the course of six months last year. Ackerman not only wanted to pay homage to the institution she graduated from in 1978, but she also wanted to set an example for her own students in research, writing and women’s studies.

Initially, Ackerman, who is also a freelance writer, was interviewing the Marrs family — current Marymount residents who purchased part of the property in 1993 — as part of a story she was working on for Sunflower Living magazine. The Marrs family mentioned to Ackerman that Marymount College is filled with one-of-a-kind stories that belong in a book. Once she began digging deeper into its past, Ackerman realized Marymount College’s story was one she had to tell.

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Flying into the future: K-State Salina Civic Luncheon to focus on emerging trends and technologies of unmanned aircraft systems

By: Julee Cobb

In the state of Kansas alone, the unmanned aircraft systems industry will have an estimated economic impact of $489 million with about 2,500 new jobs created by the year 2017. Because of its rapid growth and yet its somewhat unknown capabilities, Kansas State University Salina will be spotlighting the unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, industry field in its final fall semester installment of the Civic Luncheon Lecture Series.

“Emerging Trends in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Technology” will be at noon Thursday, Nov. 13, in K-State Salina’s College Center Conference Room. Mark Blanks, the university’s UAS program manager, will be the guest speaker.

K-State Salina is one of the first two universities in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems, which started in 2011. Since then, the program has doubled its enrollment, has acquired 24 aircraft and a mobile and ground control station, and has been selected for numerous research projects by many widely-known enterprises such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

“K-State Salina is truly at the forefront of this developing industry, especially in Kansas, and I always enjoy any opportunity to educate the community about unmanned aircraft technologies and applications,” Blanks said. “There is a common misconception that unmanned aircraft are used only in the military, but their value is found in numerous areas such as agriculture, mapping and surveying, wildlife monitoring and emergency management.”

Besides information on the commercial purposes and advancements of UAS, Blanks also will exhibit the latest aircraft and devices being used as well as the university’s contributions to the industry.

The Civic Luncheon Lecture is free and the public is invited. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunches or purchase their lunches at the K-State Cafe and then bring their trays into the conference room.

Greg Stephens, associate professor of arts, sciences and business, created K-State Salina’s Civic Luncheon Lecture Series to provide the campus and the community with an opportunity to learn about and participate in various current events affecting local issues. For more information on the series, contact Stephens at 785-819-6887 or, or visit

K-State Salina’s Taylor named top pilot second year in row while university team places second overall in regional aviation competition

By: Julee Cobb

After winning what’s considered the most elite collegiate aviation award in May, the Kansas State University Salina Flight Team is getting even more recognition for its talent.

Members of the Kansas State University Salina Flight Team pose with their awards at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's SAFECON Region VI. Back row, from left: Zachary Pope, Austin Bally, Chris Van Nostrand, Matt Elston, Cameron Calvert and adviser Bert Hutchison; and front row, from left: Coach Taylor Spangler, Tyler Thull, Ian Barnhart, Tosh Taylor, Shane Richardson and Alex Zinser.

At the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON regional competition Oct. 20-24 in Warrensburg, Missouri, flight team member Tosh Taylor received top pilot honors, beating out more than 70 participants for the award. K-State Salina placed second overall in the team category and each member had at least one top 20 finish in individual events.

SAFECON brings together collegiate aviation students from across the country to compete in nine different events for regional competition, with the top three teams from each regional going on to the national championship in May 2015. K-State Salina participates in Region VI against teams like Oklahoma State University; University of Nebraska, Omaha; University of Oklahoma; and St. Louis University.

Taylor, senior in professional pilot, Riley, also was named top pilot at last year’s regional. The honor is awarded to the participant with the most points after competing in six particular events. The competition even has a category for the top-scoring male contestant as well as overall top-scoring contestant, accolades that Taylor also won.

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Professors’ pumpkin-carving project helps college students learn patience

By Lindsey Elliott

It’s a tradition that dates back to the 19th century — carving jack-o’-lanterns. Now, it’s a teaching tool to help students disconnect from a life of instant gratification and learn patience and problem-solving.

An engineering technology professor and an interior architecture & product design professor at Kansas State University have teamed up to show students how carving pumpkins can teach patience and problem-solving.

William Genereux, associate professor of engineering technology at Kansas State University Salina, and Katrina Lewis, associate professor of interior architecture & product design on the university’s Manhattan campus, developed a pumpkin-carving project designed to improve students’ skills in information gathering, 3-D imagery and problem-solving.

“One way that college educators can help students learn to manage the challenges of living a digital life is by giving assignments that do not have instantly gratifying solutions,” Genereux said. “There is no app for carving an amazing pumpkin; doing it well requires persistence and extended concentration. Students completing this project will often spend three or more hours perfecting their pumpkins.”

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K-State Salina names former US Air Force colonel as new UAS flight operations manager

By: Julee Cobb

The newest addition to the unmanned aircraft systems program at Kansas State University Salina is former U.S. Air Force Col. Kurt Carraway, who will serve as the flight operations manager. Carraway was in the Air Force for 25 years, with much of that time including a focus on UAS.

Former U.S. Air Force Col. Kurt Carraway has been selected as K-State Salina's unmanned aircraft systems flight operations manager and will begin his new position the second week of November.

“K-State Salina is very fortunate to attract someone with Kurt’s background and we are looking forward to having his experience help shape our program,” said Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research and engagement and executive director of the Applied Aviation Research Center.

Carraway was first introduced to unmanned systems when his initial position with the Air Force was becoming obsolete. He was a navigator for a military aerial refueling plane, but aircraft modernization upgrades like GPS eliminated the need for a human to ensure a plane’s positional awareness. With his FAA commercial instrument ratings, Carraway transitioned into an unmanned aircraft pilot.

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K-State Salina social work program offers educational conference on Kansas death penalty

By: Julee Cobb

An educational conference about capital punishment will be offered at Kansas State University Salina to find out more about both sides of the widely debated issue.

The Salina Regional Abolition Conference will be 3:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21. Two sessions, both open to the public, will be offered. Session one, beginning at 3:30 p.m., will feature the daughter of a murder victim and experts on the issue of capital punishment. It will be in rooms 108 and 169 of the Technology Center. Session two, starting at 6:30 p.m., will highlight a Missouri exoneree who spent 24 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This session will be in the College Center conference room.

The conference is sponsored by the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which is a not-for-profit corporation that formed in 1989 by a group opposed to reinstating the death penalty in Kansas, and the social work program at K-State Salina.

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Art of the Science: K-State Salina’s inaugural event mixes taste with technology

By: Julee Cobb

K-State Salina is always eager for opportunities to exhibit its unique education: it has a nationally ranked aviation program, engineering technology degrees that have been around since the campus’s creation and academic offerings that, until recently, were only available in Manhattan. So, on Oct. 9, the university offered the Salina community another look at its programs and facilities, but this time added personalized flair to the event.

A variety of scenes from the inaugural Art of the Science event at K-State Salina.

The inaugural Art of the Science Wine Walk invited attendees to tour specific spots on campus and combined the excursion with food, wine, music and art. Guests, including Salina residents, local industry leaders, K-State Salina alumni and K-State president Kirk Schulz, were treated to four stops on the tour that highlighted the new Welcome Center, the unmanned aircraft systems program, the mechanical engineering technology lab, the digital media technology program, chemistry and personal financial planning. At each destination, a spread of food was offered along with William Cole wine pairings.

“This event was created as another opportunity to connect our campus with the community that continually gives us support,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of K-State Salina. “We want to keep people aware of the exciting things happening at this university and I hope our guests thought this event was both educational and entertaining.”

The night began in the renovated Welcome Center, which serves as a one-stop shop for students providing admissions, financial aid, housing and student support services. Guests listened to classic songs performed by K-State’s all male a cappella group, Cadence, and viewed art displays created by digital media technology students. Willie the Wildcat was also in attendance and posed for pictures with his fans.

Next, the guests walked over to the unmanned aircraft systems lab where they learned about the fleet and latest applications for the budding industry. They were also able to test their skills at flying with the simulators. On stop three, the campus’s mechanical engineering lab showcased the Baja car, a 3D printer, the Cat Cannon and other machinery and technologies used by students.

Finally, guests moved into the technology center lobby where chemistry professor, Jung Oh, performed science experiments in the form of magic tricks and spotlighted different projects her students are undertaking. Personal financial planning was also on hand to inform the group about their program offerings, which was added in 2011.

Because of the success of the first Art of the Science Wine Walk, next year’s event is already in the planning phases.

K-State Salina, Johnson County Community College and Air Associates bring professional pilot degree to Kansas City; learn more at Oct. 18 event

By: Julee Cobb

With industry demand for pilots soaring, Kansas State University Salina is expanding its aviation program to Kansas City. K-State Salina has partnered with Johnson County Community College and Air Associates of Kansas to offer a professional pilot degree in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

Launching in fall 2015, the new program will have an informational event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, at Air Associates, 12901 W. 151st St., Olathe. Featuring the Air Associates’ fleet as well as K-State Salina planes, prospective students and their guests can meet faculty, enjoy lunch and see presentations to learn more about the program.

Students enrolling in the program will receive flight training from Air Associates while taking their core degree courses online from K-State Salina and general education credits from Johnson County Community College. Once they graduate, students will receive a Bachelor of Science in aeronautical technology-professional pilot from Kansas State University.

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