K-State Salina family studies and human services program to host community poverty simulation

SALINA — Kansas State University Salina will offer an educational and interactive workshop about the struggles of living in a low-income family and the realities of poverty within the community and across the nation.

The Poverty Simulation will be 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 28, in the College Center conference room and is open to the public. Each attendee will participate in the demonstration and will assume the role of someone going through financial hardships, from a single parent trying to provide for children to a senior citizen making ends meet on Social Security. Participants will be given real-life scenarios to act out and in a debriefing that follows, can discuss their experiences and observations.

“People in our community have no idea how many families are considered impoverished in Salina,” said Kate Behan, K-State Salina assistant professor of family studies and human services. “At least half of the schoolchildren in USD 305 are part of the free and reduced lunch program. It’s time we start talking about this issue so we can find ways to make a change.”

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K-State Salina’s Civic Luncheon Lecture to look at new ways of effective discipline in criminal justice

By Julee Cobb

As an alternative to incarceration, Kansas State University Salina’s latest Civic Luncheon Lecture will explore the idea of rehabilitating criminal offenders through restorative justice — a process that involves the victim and the community affected.

“Restorative Justice: A New Way to Look at Criminal Justice” will be presented at noon Thursday, March 12, at K-State Salina’s College Center conference room. Lisa Bedinger, a Salina Central High School graduate and coordinator of the South Burlington Community Justice Center in South Burlington, Vermont, will lead the discussion. Ann Zimmerman, a member of the Salina Initiative for Restorative Justice steering committee, will act as the moderator.

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Celebrating Charlie Sojka: K-State Salina campus comes together to honor director of aviation maintenance

By Julee Cobb

Described as a jovial, straight shooter that was fascinated by every part of an airplane, Charlie Sojka, director of maintenance in K-State Salina’s aviation department, was honored on Feb. 27 during a celebration of his life on campus. Dean Verna Fitzsimmons along with faculty members, students both former and current, friends and his family gathered in the university’s College Center conference room to share stories about his time at K-State Salina and his earlier years.

Sojka's daughter, Candice Clark, far left, speaks at his memorial service at K-State Salina. Other photos feature Sojka with one of his favorite things, airplanes, through the years.

Sojka passed away on Nov. 30, 2014 after an aircraft accident while he was visiting family in Missouri. Sojka had been employed at K-State Salina for 11 years, first as an instructor in the aviation maintenance management program and then starting in 2013, as the director of maintenance. Outside of his responsibilities with the university, Sojka was a flight instructor and enjoyed restoring old airplanes.

The gathering began with a presentation of colors from the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1432 Honor Guard since Sojka served in the U.S. Army for two years. Dean Fitzsimmons welcomed the guests and then Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research and engagement, who was Sojka’s supervisor for seven years, spoke about his character and qualities as an educator.

“Charlie always led by example,” said Barnhart. “He wasn’t someone that just sat behind a desk and drank coffee; he was always inside the plane doing all the hard jobs. And he maintained high standards in his classroom. Although the students thought he was being tough at first, they always thanked him later for what they learned.”

One prime example of Sojka’s dedication to his students came when aviation maintenance management senior, Gunner Wiles, took to the podium to express his appreciation for Sojka teaching him how to fly.

“Every time I’m on an approach, I’ll think of him,” said Wiles. “Every time I’m alone up there flying, I’ll think of him. When you can share your passion, what you do, with other people, I don’t think there’s a greater honor in the world.”

All three of Sojka’s children addressed the crowd at the memorial, speaking about their favorite memories with their father. Sojka’s daughter, Candice Clark, reminisced about the time he flew her to K-State in Manhattan for a campus visit; Sojka’s son, Nick Sojka, said he never met anyone as smart as his dad when it came to aviation; and Jesse Sojka, Sojka’s other son, shared with the group how his father’s love of airplanes began.

“Dad grew up in Oklahoma on an airport and his father taught him how to fly,” said Jesse Sojka. “So it was a great source of pride for Dad to teach me to fly.”

Sojka earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial arts education with a teaching certification and a bachelor’s degree in business administration, both from Oklahoma State University. Before his employment with K-State Salina, Sojka worked as a high school teacher and an accountant.

Sojka was also honored from afar, as some that couldn’t attend the gathering sent in messages to be read during the memorial. Brian Aden, ’13, one of Sojka’s students both at K-State Salina in aviation maintenance and independently in flight instruction, said he owed Sojka a great deal.

“If it wasn’t for Charlie, I wouldn’t be a pilot,” Aden said.

Kansas State University Salina becomes first entity in the country to receive statewide access for flight operations of small unmanned aircraft systems

Kansas State University Salina has reached a national milestone in the unmanned aircraft systems industry, becoming the first entity in the country to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, for statewide access during flight operations.

Kurt Carraway, left, is K-State Salina's UAS flight operations manager, and Mark Blanks, right, is K-State Salina's UAS program manager.

The university has received three Certificates of Authorization that will allow its unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, program to conduct research anywhere in the state on public property, or on private property with landowner permission.

“These new authorizations are yet another example of how K-State Salina is truly a leader in unmanned aircraft systems,” said Kurt Carraway, K-State Salina’s UAS flight operations manager. “Our statewide access will allow us to continue to provide practical applications of technology to our students and will further develop our research abilities for the university, the FAA and our industry partners.”

K-State Salina’s UAS program will use the three new Certificates of Authorization, or COAs, primarily to conduct research on unmanned aircraft systems operating requirements for remote sensing in agriculture and emergency response. The certificates are effective for two years, giving the university’s UAS program a flexibility and immediacy in collecting research data, specifically in agriculture remote sensing, when conditions promptly change.

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K-State Salina’s UAS program boosts fleet with special filmmaking aircraft

Kansas State University Salina’s unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, program has grown its fleet to 27 with the recent addition of the DJI Inspire 1 — a vehicle designed primarily for cinematography. The university becomes one of the first entities in the country to have access to this particular aircraft.

K-State Salina's unmanned aircraft systems program manager, Mark Blanks, flies the new DJI Inspire 1 in the Student Life Center.

K-State Salina’s UAS program plans to use the DJI Inspire 1 for indoor demonstrations with prospective students and industry partners and at conventions because of its stability, dual flight control system and a unique computer vision system that allows the aircraft to hold position without GPS. The DJI Inspire 1 is configured with two controllers — one for the aircraft and one for the camera — allowing qualified UAS staff to pilot the vehicle while interested parties operate the camera. And with its dramatic filmmaking quality, the program’s latest addition can also be utilized for special research projects after proper approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This new aircraft gives us the opportunity to show visitors and audiences what a small UAS can do and will help build excitement around the capabilities of UAS technology,” said Mark Blanks, K-State Salina’s UAS program manager. “Two to three years ago, this kind of video from the Inspire wasn’t even possible, at any price. Now we have Hollywood quality imagery.”

Blanks worked with K-State Salina alumnus Bill Badnaruk, ’09, when purchasing the DJI Inspire 1. Badnaruk, a technology management graduate, is employed with Troy Built Models, which builds, customizes, services and distributes small unmanned aircraft systems from Sarasota, Florida.

The DJI Inspire 1 has many unique features that are putting it in high demand. It is an electric quadrotor that can fly for 20 minutes after each charge and only weighs about 6 1/2 pounds. The airframe transforms after takeoff from an A-shape to a V-shape, giving the camera full 360-degree unobstructed views. And the video is filmed in up to 4K resolution at 24 frames per second with full streaming capabilities to tablets mounted on the controllers and optional TV outputs.

K-State Salina is one of the first 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 every year 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 Civic Luncheon to focus on the transparency of sexual assault, campus safety

By Julee Cobb

Sexual assault on college campuses and in personal relationships will be the topic of the latest Civic Luncheon Lecture Series presentation at Kansas State University Salina.

“What Defines Sexual Violence and Rape?” will be presented at noon Thursday, Feb. 12, at K-State Salina’s College Center conference room. The gathering will feature three expert panelists: Amanda Olivier, sexual assault advocate from the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas; Glen Stovall, licensed specialist clinical social worker with Wellspring Psychotherapy; and Shannon Garretson, educational director of the Salina Community Theatre and registered drama therapist. Joel Matthews, a K-State Salina psychology instructor, will serve as the moderator.

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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 gregs@k-state.edu, or visit http://www.salina.k-state.edu/civicluncheon/.