Ready for takeoff: Kansas State Polytechnic launches new flight academy for high school students

For more than 50 years, aviation technology has been an educational cornerstone of the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, and now that tradition is being offered to a new generation of students.

Students enrolled in Fly K-State Academy will complete four missions and earn three and a half hours of flight time while staying overnight on campus and participating in group activities and outings around the city.

Students enrolled in Fly K-State Academy will complete four missions and earn three and a half hours of flight time while staying overnight on campus and participating in group activities and outings around the city.

Kansas State Polytechnic is introducing Fly K-State Academy — a three-day piloting program, June 27-29, for high school students entering their freshman through senior year who dream about a future in aviation. In this immersive experience, students will complete four missions and earn three and a half hours of flight time while staying overnight on campus and participating in group activities and outings around the city.

The Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team — which won the prestigious Loening Trophy in 2014 — will host Fly K-State Academy. The team developed the idea after assisting with other aviation programs on campus that only were offered to youth in elementary and middle school. Team members believe a flight program for high school students is essential to their growth as aviators and is a valuable opportunity to experience a college atmosphere.

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Nanotechnology is explored in April edition of Civic Luncheon Lecture Series

By Julee Cobb

Sometimes big things really do come in small packages.

A microscopic innovation that has the promise of significantly impacting a variety of industries is the subject of Kansas State Polytechnic’s latest Civic Luncheon Lecture of the spring semester.

Dr. Ramazan Asmatulu, from Wichita State University's nanotechnology laboratory in the Center for Innovation and Enterprise Development, will present at this month's Civic Luncheon Lecture Series.

Dr. Ramazan Asmatulu will present at this month’s Civic Luncheon Lecture Series.

Our Nanotechnology Future: Healthcare, Electronics and Manufacturing” will be presented at noon Friday, April 22 in the College Center conference room on campus. Nanotechnology is a process of manufacturing with atoms to produce new structures, materials and devices. This scientific advancement has the ability to be incorporated into sectors such as medicine, consumer products, energy, materials and manufacturing.

The lecture will feature Ramazan Asmatulu from Wichita State University’s nanotechnology laboratory in the Center for Innovation and Enterprise Development. K-State Polytechnic’s Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research, and Saeed Kahn, associate professor of electronic and computer engineering technology, will act as moderators.

The Civic Luncheon Lecture Series is free and the public is invited. Guests may bring their lunch or buy a lunch from the cafeteria to enjoy while listening to the discussion.

The lecture series was established by Greg Stephens, associate professor of arts, sciences and business at Kansas State Polytechnic, to provide the campus and the community with an opportunity to learn about and participate in various current events impacting local issues. For more information, contact Stephens at 785-819-6887 or, or visit

Kate Fraser named Kansas State Polytechnic’s 2016 Alumni Fellow

Kate Fraser, a 2009 graduate of the professional pilot program, is this year’s Alumni Fellow selection from the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus. She is one of 12 distinguished alumni honored throughout the university, representing the College of Technology and Aviation, which is housed on the polytechnic campus.

Kate Fraser, center, enjoys a reception for the Alumni Fellows at President Schulz's home in Manhattan.

Kate Fraser, center, enjoys a reception for the Alumni Fellows at President Schulz’s home in Manhattan.

Currently living in Washington, D.C., Fraser returned to K-State April 6-8 for a variety of events, including a reception at President Schulz’s home in Manhattan and a celebration of her accomplishments with faculty and staff on the polytechnic campus. Fraser even spoke to several aviation classes about current trends in the industry and her professional experiences.

Fraser is an operations research analyst for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention. In this role, she is responsible for safety and accident analysis, and developing tangible solutions to improve safety for both commercial and general aviation.

Prior to joining the FAA, Fraser worked for more than five years as the director of safety with the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, where she represented the world’s leading manufacturers of general aviation aircraft, engines, avionics, components and service providers. A native of McPherson, Kansas, Fraser is also a commercial pilot and certified flight instructor.

Fraser receives a plaque from Dean Verna Fitzsimmons celebrating her Alumni Fellow award.

Fraser receives a plaque from Dean Verna Fitzsimmons celebrating her Alumni Fellow award.

“I am so proud to be an alumna of K-State because I would never have had the opportunity to be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for my education at the university,” said Fraser.

Fraser is the twenty-fourth Alumni Fellow from the Kansas State Polytechnic campus. The requirement of a fellow is that he or she has distinguished him or herself in their respective career field. The purpose of the program is to bring prominent and outstanding alumni back to campus to recognize their efforts and to learn from their expertise and life experiences.

Open House on April 16 to feature food trucks, flight demos, robots and more

Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is giving the community a unique look at its educational programs, student clubs and innovative technologies when it opens its doors April 16 for Open House.

From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., visitors will be able to tour the polytechnic campus and experience a variety of games, activities and live demonstrations. Those interested in the aviation program can sit in the pilot‘s seat of a flight simulator and man the controls, or watch unmanned aircraft systems take to the sky in the newly built flight pavilion. Chemistry students will perform a magic show based on recent class projects; the mechanical engineering technology program will give robot demonstrations; and student club, the K-State Gamers Board, will hold a video game competition.

Willie the Wildcat also will be on hand for photo opportunities from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. K-State’s famous Call Hall ice cream will be served free of charge and three local food trucks will provide lunch for purchase.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s Open House is an opportunity for prospective students to learn more about the campus and its offerings as well. Guided tours will be provided throughout the morning and there will be a financial aid seminar giving insight into how to pay for college. Students and their parents can connect with K-State alumni and even enter drawings for a chance to win a scholarship, football tickets and gift cards.

For more information on Kansas State Polytechnic’s Open House and its events, contact Kirsten Zoller at 785-826-7182 or visit the Open House website HERE. If you are a future student interested in the Open House events focused on enrollment and financial aid, click HERE.

Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center welcomes experts from DuPont, Dow Chemical as part of inaugural short course

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center hosted more than 30 students from 12 different states during its inaugural short course Jan. 26-29, which covered the fundamentals of bulk solids processing and handling.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center hosted more than 30 students from 12 different states during its inaugural short course Jan. 26-29, which covered the fundamentals of bulk solids processing and handling.

By Julee Cobb

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center is introducing new educational offerings for professional development and conducted its first short course Jan. 26-29, covering the fundamentals of bulk solids processing and handling.

With registration at capacity, the inaugural session hosted participants from 12 different states representing such companies as Nutrilite, Nestle, Styrolution, Green Dot and Kice Industries. The course was designed to give both new and existing employees within the particle technology field comprehensive knowledge pertaining to handling, processing, storage and flow behavior.

“Education on the science and safety of bulk solids is imperative because almost every industry has properties of particle technology,” said John Lawrence, the facility’s research director. “And after the excellent response we had to our first course, it’s evident that there is a strong demand among manufacturers to gain a better understanding of bulk solids. We are excited to be able to provide more of these learning opportunities in the near future.”

A variety of renowned experts in the field — such as Timothy Bell, an engineering fellow with DuPont; Karl Jacob, an engineering fellow from the Dow Chemical Co.; and Ben D’Alessio, director of dense phase systems at Coperion K-Tron — were brought in to lead classroom discussions and hands-on demonstrations in the center’s full-scale test laboratory. Along with an overview of pneumatic conveying, the three-and-a-half-day course also further examined challenges within the hopper. Participants were exposed to powder and solid flow problems and were shown how to prevent and mitigate a dust explosion. They also explored programmable logic controller, or PLC, technology.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center plans to offer this foundational course every six months, while courses focused on more specific topics will be given throughout the year. The center’s next class, March 8-10, will specialize in pneumatic conveying of powders and bulk solids. Registration information can be found online at

The 13,000-square-foot facility – officially opened in May 2015 – was created to promote bulk solids materials handling within undergraduate education, professional development and industry research. Two local companies, Coperion K-Tron Salina and Vortex Valves, serve as anchor occupants in the building. The vast amenities and offerings of the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center make it the only one of its kind in North America.

For information regarding upcoming short courses, or inquiries about the center and its capabilities, contact Lawrence at or 785-829-1110.

Kansas State Polytechnic names physics professor Richard Zajac winner of Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence

Physics professor Richard Zajac is the 2015 recipient of the Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence at Kansas State Polytechnic.

Physics professor Richard Zajac is the 2015 recipient of the Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence at Kansas State Polytechnic.

Physics professor Richard Zajac, who has served the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus for 20 years, is the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence. Established more than 30 years ago by the Marchbanks family, the award annually recognizes a Kansas State Polytechnic faculty member’s commitment in the classroom, service to students and overall merit as a teacher.

One of the biggest driving forces behind Zajac’s nomination is his dedicated approach to education – bringing physics to life through fun and relatable hands-on assignments. Zajac serves as both the classroom professor and lab technician on campus, which can be uncommon at other universities. This allows him to create a seamless transition between the two learning spaces, connecting his lecture material with engaging experiments.

“Because I’m a part of every aspect of each lab project – from the design to setup and repair – I can help students identify problems within a project and use that glitch as a guided opportunity,” said Zajac. “This creates a natural learning experience and makes physics real.”

Born in Montréal, Québec, Zajac’s first acquaintance with physics came in secondary school when his family purchased a home computer. Ever the tinkerer, Zajac enjoyed disassembling things and then putting them back together again, which worked out well during a time when technology asked more of the user than it does today.

“Computer programs in this era aren’t something you write; you download them and expect them to work,” said Zajac. “But when I was growing up, if you wanted to program a video game, you had to learn the physics behind it so that you could make the computer do it.”

From that point on, physics became Zajac’s career compass. He received his bachelor’s degree in the field at McGill University in Montréal and decided to continue his education in computational physics. The move from Canada to Kansas came when Kansas State University was the only institution he could find that offered the graduate program he wanted.

Zajac moved to Manhattan, Kansas in 1992 where he became a teaching assistant while researching his doctorate degree. During that time, he also met his wife and the two now have six children: a 19-year-old, 17-year-old triplets and twins that are 15.

In his final year of graduate school at K-State, Zajac discovered an open position in physics at Kansas State Polytechnic. He was excited about the job because a smaller campus meant he could get to know his students and connect with them in all aspects of learning. He was hired in 1996 under the agreement he would complete his doctorate degree, which he did a year later.

Along with providing experiential learning to college students, Zajac enjoys working with the same age group that he was when he first explored physics. For the last five years, he has been a professional mentor to the Salina South Middle School robotics team. He also assists with Science Olympiad every year, which is held on the polytechnic campus, and teaches engineering physics during the summer on the Manhattan campus.

Zajac previously has won another significant Kansas State Polytechnic award – the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow in 2013. He finds the recognition validating and encouraging because that means faculty and students alike acknowledge his teaching methods and ability to inspire in a field that isn’t a core program of the campus.

“A physics degree is not offered on our campus,” said Zajac, “so the fact that I can make students appreciate a course they’re only taking because they have to, that’s gratifying to me.”

Aviation professor Jimmy Splichal receives Kansas State Polytechnic’s prestigious McArthur Award

By Julee Cobb

Aviation professor Jimmy Splichal, who has been a faculty member at Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus for 15 years, has been named the recipient of the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award for the 2015 school year.

Jimmy Splichal, who has served Kansas State Polytechnic for 15 years in the aviation department, has been awarded the campus's McArthur Family Faculty Fellow for 2015.

Jimmy Splichal, who has served Kansas State Polytechnic for 15 years in the aviation department, has been awarded the campus’s McArthur Family Faculty Fellow for 2015.

Splichal was nominated for the award because of his dedication to students – he has been Academic Advisor of the Year three times and was named Kansas State Polytechnic Professor of the Year in 2010. He has a particular connection with students who are former military, assisting with the establishment of the Student Veterans Association on campus and acting as the group’s mentor.

The McArthur distinction is presented each year to a Kansas State Polytechnic faculty member who has demonstrated teaching excellence; a commitment to research; and honorable service to the university, college and community. The McArthur family, longtime residents of the area, established the award to support education in Salina.

Before arriving at Kansas State Polytechnic in 2000, Splichal served in the Army for 23 years as an instructor pilot and then continued his love for aviation flying air ambulance at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. During his eight years in Omaha, Splichal also was a part-time professor at the Embry-Riddle satellite campus located on an Air Force base in the city. In each of his positions, the one common thread has always been helicopters.

“I really enjoy the art of hovering,” said Splichal about his 40-year history with the aircraft. “When I enlisted in the Army, airplanes were boring to me. I was more interested in the complexity of hovering in an helicopter while being sent on important missions.”

During a time when the nation imposed a military lottery on young men, Splichal was in college working toward a degree in physical education and his dream of being a football coach. After deferring from the draft a few times because of his enrollment at a university, Splichal was called up in 1969 to fight in the Vietnam War. He knew he didn’t want to tote a gun, so he found another option in flying. Splichal completed basic training in Fort Polk, Louisiana; began helicopter training in Fort Wolters, Texas; and finished his instruction in Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Once Splichal retired from the Army, he was adamant about passing his skills, knowledge and life experiences along to students. Because he was a Kansas kid – Splichal grew up in the tiny, north central town of Munden – his hope was to become an aviation instructor close to home at Kansas State Polytechnic.

“It was always my goal to teach in the aviation program at K-State,” said Splichal. “Even though I found a job flying air ambulance, I was constantly on the lookout for positions opening up on the Salina campus and I periodically sent in my resume.”

After getting his foot in the door with Embry-Riddle, Splichal was hired by Kansas State Polytechnic at the turn of the 21st century as a professor for junior and senior level aviation science classes. He was a flight instructor in the helicopter program for three years and helped lead the airport management program from its establishment in 2011 to 2015.

“The greatest joy I get from teaching is when a student comes into my office and tells me about their successes – a scholarship they were awarded or an internship or job they were chosen for,” said Splichal. “I’ve recently put in for phased retirement because I know it’s time to do other things, but I will truly miss the opportunity to make a difference in students’ lives.”

Splichal plans to spend more time with his family after he retires from teaching. He and wife Barbara Joyce (Chaloupka) have three children: Amanda, Matthew and Christopher, who is a major in the Army. The couple also has six grandchildren.

Splichal holds a bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics and a master of aeronautical science, both from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The gift of flight: Kansas State Polytechnic offers hobbyists UAS flight safety instruction as holiday drone sales expected to rise

By Julee Cobb

Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program is offering a half-day flight safety instruction course for hobbyists on Jan. 23, 2016.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program is offering a half-day flight safety instruction course for hobbyists on Jan. 23, 2016.

As the estimated number of unmanned aircraft systems owners is expected to dramatically grow this holiday season, the UAS program at Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus is offering a half-day course specifically for hobbyists to ensure proper use and safety.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s inaugural UAS Multirotor Hobby course will be Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, on campus. Content will focus on two areas: classroom education on the Federal Aviation Administration’s rules and regulations for hobby applications of small UAS, and personal flight instruction with the program’s aviation experts in the newly built flying pavilion. The entire course will run three hours and will equip participants with essential knowledge needed to fly judiciously and confidently as hobbyists in the national airspace system.

“We take safe flight operations very seriously and one of the cornerstones of safety is education,” said Kurt Carraway, Kansas State Polytechnic’s acting UAS program manager. “While it’s exciting that interest in unmanned aircraft systems is flourishing, we feel it’s important to help hobbyists understand the regulatory framework associated with UAS and to allow us to provide some safe operating tips. We’re thrilled to be able to offer our experience and the campus’s innovative technology to make a positive impact on hobby operations.”

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Research director joins Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center as its first hire

By Julee Cobb

Following an international search, John Lawrence has joined the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center as its first research director. Lawrence, a doctorate-level agricultural engineer who specializes in food processing, specifically grain storage management, is the facility’s first hire since opening this summer.

Agricultural engineer John Lawrence is the new Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center research director.

Agricultural engineer John Lawrence is the new Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center research director.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center, located in Salina, is a research, testing and educational facility dedicated to the science and understanding of bulk solids materials handling. The center is the only one of its kind in North America, housing six laboratories for university and industry-sponsored research; training, conference and lecture rooms; a material properties test lab; and a full-scale bulk solids test bay.

As a key researcher, Lawrence works to solve the movement challenges bulk solids have while passing through the hoppers, or containers, in which they are stored. Often times particles can become densified and stagnant in various spots in the hopper, preventing all the material from flowing smoothly. Lawrence’s research also will focus on finding and solving problems within particle disintegration and segregation in the pipeline during pneumatic conveying.

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In Memoriam: Kansas State Polytechnic honors former president, professor and campus innovator Tom Creech

By Julee Cobb

Creech-Memorial-squareBe positive. Believe in yourself. Think ahead to get ahead. Don’t look back lest you fall back. People are the reason for progress – love them, encourage them, believe in them. No matter how frail they seem to be or how many faults they have, think of their potential and help them achieve that.

When Rick Zajac started his journey as a professor of physics at Kansas State Polytechnic in 1996, the first lesson of his campus career ironically was taught to him instead of his students. Zajac walked into his new office in the Science Center to find the above message written on a blackboard in the space. The memo was honest and straightforward, almost simplistic in nature, yet contained advice so powerful it has stayed with Zajac to this day.

The counsel was that of Tom Creech ­– one of the founding fathers of the campus, the property’s third president and an engineering technology professor. Creech retired in 1996 and wanted to ensure the intrinsic values that had made the campus so successful were preserved and performed by the next generation. So Creech scribbled his 30 years worth of real life know-how into those six points, hoping his office successor would be inspired. Zajac got the message.

Creech has left many impressions on both past and present members of the Kansas State Polytechnic campus. Ask anyone about his contributions, and there is a consensus among the answers: Creech dedicated his life to education and was committed to investing in people – both students and faculty – to create the best learning experience possible.

“Tom always arranged his priorities to put our college at the top of the list,” said David Delker, a 1973 graduate of then Kansas Technical Institute, professor and associate dean emeritus. “His determination and enthusiasm laid the groundwork for a very successful institution and his influence continues to be with us today.”

On Nov. 15, a little more than 50 years after Creech helped establish the now Kansas State Polytechnic campus, he passed away at 84 years old. News of his death has had a lasting affect across the campus, in alumni circles and on members of the Salina community.

“I appreciate all that Tom accomplished for the stability of the college and the success of the graduates,” said Ken Barnard, a former student in the airframe and powerplant program at KTI and aviation department head during the K-State Salina years. “History is a valuable asset if one will only take the time to recognize who we are is in large part because of where we once were.”

To further understand Creech’s impact, it’s important to travel back to the mid 1960s. Creech, at that time, was a faculty member at Kansas State University in Manhattan. He and his colleague, Hank Neely, had been tasked with designing a degree program for a potential engineering technology college. Creech and Neely met with Col. Mike Scanlan who was commander at Schilling Air Force Base in Salina. The previous year the base had been ordered closed and both Creech and Neely were hoping to use some of their equipment and space for the engineering technology college.

Once the Kansas Legislature approved House Bill 1101, Creech and Neely’s months of hard work, research, dreaming and scheming came to fruition with the establishment of Schilling Institute on April 26, 1965. Creech was appointed as the campus’s inaugural director of academic affairs while Neely became the first president. Before the college even opened, Creech, along with other newly hired faculty and staff, put in sweat equity acting as carpenters, electricians, plumbers and painters to make the buildings and barracks suitable for students.

The campus would see additional transitions throughout its history, changing from Schilling Institute to Kansas Technical Institute in 1969; then to Kansas College of Technology in 1988; K-State Salina in 1991; and finally its current identity, Kansas State Polytechnic, this year. Though those name transformations have been necessary to the livelihood of the campus – staying relevant in an educational world that is always developing and undoubtedly competitive – the principle of providing hands-on learning and professional programs that students will immediately find success with in industry has remained the same. And this is a standard Creech initiated and held during his 30 years of service to the campus.

From Zajac, he tells of an old lab report he found that Tom had written to his students to help them better understand the process of experiments and their results; from Barnard, the explicit message that when Tom was president, he knew just how important active learning is to the aviation program, approving the purchase of essential lab equipment and six flyable TH-55 helicopters to improve the student experience; and from Larry Farmer, a 30-year electronics engineering professor and department head on the campus, a rave about Tom’s commitment to modernity, opening the Technology Center in 1985 – the property’s first new building since its educational inception.

In an interview with Creech last spring during a celebration of the campus’s fiftieth anniversary, Creech was adamant about his admiration for the property and how much content he felt about its trajectory over the years.

“I still think very highly of the campus and I’m interested in watching the process,” said Creech. “What K-State’s Salina campus is today is the vision of what we started with in 1965.”

With Creech’s passing, there is a sadness that comes knowing a pillar of the campus’s foundation is gone. Yet, when a legacy is built as strong, impactful and dynamic as Creech constructed his, the feeling of loss is only temporary, as his footprint will be etched into the success of Kansas State Polytechnic forever.

Reminisce about Tom Creech along with current and former members of the campus: 

About two or three weeks after I started as dean and CEO, Tom showed up in my office because he wanted to personally share the history of the campus with me. He even debunked the story floating around about how the president of Schilling Institute was decided. Even though the rumors said Tom had lost a coin toss to Hank Neely, Tom really didn’t want the foundational presidency. The real story was less “glamorous” than the rumor, so they both let it go!

Verna Fitzsimmons, Kansas State Polytechnic CEO and dean

I was a faculty member from 1982 until the year Tom retired. I will always remember Tom as a person who treated me as if he was my equal, even though he was president of the school. He was always friendly and helpful to those of us who worked at then Kansas Technical Institute and K-State Salina. I will miss his friendly nature.

Dave Ahlvers, former professor of arts, sciences and business

Tom was an integral part of my first experience with an accreditation evaluation team; in fact, I remember that day quite vividly. It was a bitterly cold Monday morning following a huge snowstorm. The Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (later known as ABET) had arrived in Salina the day before to meet with Kansas Technical Institute program coordinators and administrators the next morning. Even though the campus was essentially closed due to inclement weather, Tom insisted that we proceed with the accreditation meeting. Unfortunately, Tom’s car got stuck in the snow less than a block from his house, so I picked him up in my four-wheel drive truck and we plowed through the snow to get to campus. I don’t recall much else about that day, except that Tom was adamant that neither snow nor anything else would get in the way of our engineering technology programs’ successful accreditation!

David Delker, 1973 KTI graduate, professor and associate dean emeritus

Tom was a consummate tinkerer. I have a photo of the carefully crafted platform he built for his students on which to perform optical refraction. For Tom, it wasn’t enough that the platform is functional, he also had to make sure the wood that was used was properly stained and polished. Typical Tom.

Rick Zajac, Kansas State Polytechnic physics professor

Former President Creech was keystone in the effort to save KTI from closing. In his tenure, there was a concerted effort to close the campus. He led the effort and rallied the students and faculty to attend many sessions in the Kansas Legislature, pleading our cause to remain open. We produced top quality graduates to a deficient industry and our placement rate was 100 percent. The entire campus community personally knew each other and worked together to insure students were qualified, and the faculty personally made hiring contacts and recommendations for job placement and follow-ups. Tom Creech dedicated his life to the college and I am convinced he saved it from closing.   

Ken Barnard, KTI student and former aviation professor and department head

View Tom Creech’s obituary here.