Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team advances to nationals, senior Chris Messing wins Top Pilot

By Julee Cobb

Members of the traveling Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team pose with their awards from the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's SAFECON Region VI competition. Back row, from left: Jason Rohlf, Nicholas Terrapin, Scott Agee, faculty adviser Benjamin Jaffee, team captain Austin Bally, Caleb Strahm and Zachariah Smith; and front row, from left: Jacob Mitchell, Matthew Katzke, Maddie Perry, Chris Messing, Mason McMillan and Christopher Pennington.

Members of the traveling Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team pose with their awards from the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON Region VI competition. Back row, from left: Jason Rohlf, Nicholas Terrapin, Scott Agee, faculty adviser Benjamin Jaffee, team captain Austin Bally, Caleb Strahm and Zachariah Smith; and front row, from left: Jacob Mitchell, Matthew Katzke, Maddie Perry, Chris Messing, Mason McMillan and Christopher Pennington.

The Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team has landed the honor of competing on a national stage after qualifying in regional play with a third-place finish as well as winning several individual awards.

Attending the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON competition Oct. 17-20 in Norman, Oklahoma, the flight team — from Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus — battled it out against other colleges in its region for the chance to advance to the national championship. After participating in a variety of events consisting of tests both on the ground and in the air, the Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team placed third overall, securing its spot at nationals in May 2017.

“During the weeks leading up to regionals, the team spent many hours working on the intricacies of each event, and then during the competition, everyone did an excellent job of executing what they had learned,” said Austin Bally, Wichita, a senior in professional pilot and captain of the flight team. “Along with the third-place team finish, we earned several top 10 placings in the ground events and many top five scores in the flight events. Our success was a collaborative effort and proved that practice pays off.”

The Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team faced six other universities during the SAFECON regional: Oklahoma State University, which placed first; University of Nebraska, Omaha, which came in second; Southeastern Oklahoma State University; University of Central Missouri; St. Louis University, Parks College; and University of Oklahoma. Members of each team entered ground and flight events, such as landing a plane accurately in a designated area, recognizing different types of aircraft from ambiguous photos and attempting to hit a target while dropping an item from the air. Participants earned points for each event entered, which were then accumulated to score single event winners as well as the top three teams and the overall top pilot.

Chris Messing, a senior in the professional pilot program at Kansas State Polytechnic, wins the title of Top Pilot and is the Top Scoring Contestant at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association's SAFECON Region VI.

Chris Messing, a senior in the professional pilot program at Kansas State Polytechnic, wins the title of Top Pilot and is the Top Scoring Contestant at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s SAFECON Region VI.

One of the individual standout moments came from Kansas State Polytechnic senior Chris Messing, Wichita, who, because of his placings in seven events, accrued enough points to win both Top Scoring Contestant and the Top Pilot award out of more than 80 total participants from the seven universities. Messing, who enjoys the family atmosphere, networking and the continued opportunity to develop his aviation knowledge, says earning the principal honors was unexpected, but it has given him validation and confidence.

“Going into the competition, I just wanted to do my best so I could give my teammates the opportunity to experience nationals,” Messing said. “I’m proud to win these awards because they demonstrate that my hard work and preparation for the competition have been worth it. They also give me more confidence to know I can accomplish anything as long as I study, stay focused and do what’s right.”

Along with Messing, the following members of the Kansas State Polytechnic Flight Team competed at regionals; included are individual placings:

Nicholas Terrapin, junior, Alma, first in message drop, fifth in navigation, 22nd in aircraft recognition and 22nd in power-off landing; Mason McMillan, senior, Ozawkie, eighth in power-off landing, 10th in aircraft preflight inspection, 22nd in short field landing and 22nd in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation; Caleb Strahm, freshman, Sabetha, 25th in computer accuracy; Austin Bally, senior, Wichita, second in power-off landing, fifth in navigation, 11th in computer accuracy, 14th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and 16th in short field landing; and Maddie Perry, sophomore, Wichita, 15th in short field landing and 34th in computer accuracy.

Jacob Mitchell, junior, Foxfield, Colorado, eighth in navigation,ninth in aircraft preflight inspection, 10th in power-off landing and 22nd in computer accuracy; Jason Rohlf, freshman, Tipton, Iowa, second in aircraft recognition; Scott Agee, senior, Independence, Missouri, first in message drop, sixth in ground trainer, 13th in navigation, 24th in short field landing and 26th in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation; Zachariah Smith, freshman, Hendersonville, North Carolina, 28th in aircraft recognition; Christopher Pennington, senior, El Paso, Texas, first in aircraft recognition; and Matthew Katzke, junior, Waukesha, Wisconsin, eighth in navigation, 21st in simulated comprehensive aircraft navigation and 23rd in computer accuracy.

The flight team has 20 members, with 12 on the travel team after a tryout process. Along with competing annually, flight team members also use their club as way to give back to the community and to connect children with aviation. Throughout the year the team is a part of several events like the All-University Open House and Candy Canes and Airplanes. It also conducts two aviation camps for kids and one for high school students in the summer.

In 2014, the flight team won the Loening Trophy at nationals, which is considered the oldest and most elite of all collegiate aviation awards. It recognized the team as having the most outstanding all-around aviation program in the country.

For more information on the flight team, including sponsorship, contact faculty adviser Benjamin Jaffee at 785-826-2978 or bjaffee@k-state.edu.

Engineering technology professor Raju Dandu receives Kansas State Polytechnic’s prestigious McArthur Award

By Julee Cobb

Raju Dandu, who has served the Polytechnic Campus for nearly 20 years in engineering technology, has been awarded the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award for 2016.

Raju Dandu, who has served the Polytechnic Campus for nearly 20 years in engineering technology, has been awarded the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award for 2016.

Engineering technology professor Raju Dandu, who has been a faculty member on the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus for almost 20 years, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award. 

 

The McArthur distinction, which annually recognizes a Kansas State Polytechnic professor for teaching excellence, a commitment to research and honorable service to the university, college and community, was presented to Dandu during the campus’s Faculty and Professional Staff Showcase in September. Dandu was chosen for the award because of his leadership in several national engineering organizations and his involvement with the local engineering industry; but his selection is primarily because of the experience he provides his students, which is a mixture of professional knowledge and practical life lessons.

 

Dandu came from humble beginnings in Andhra Pradesh, India, a state on the country’s southeastern coast. His parents were only able to achieve a fifth grade level education, so he believed the responsibility of being a successful student fell solely on his shoulders. Dandu became committed to his education and graduated from high school – which stops at 10th grade in India – at the top of his class. While most students then go on to what is called intermediate school, Dandu skipped ahead and entered Andhra Polytechnic, an institute similar to a community college in the United States, for a three-year program in automobile engineering.

 

While the common next step was to land a job as a vehicle inspector in his state, Dandu was ambitious in his pursuits and driven to be different. He applied for a national study abroad competition in India, which gave its winners the opportunity to continue their education in a new country with all expenses paid. Dandu says his friends and classmates made fun of him for believing he had a chance at being chosen, but he proved them wrong.

 

After being selected as one of about 100 students from across the country for an interview, Dandu boarded a train by himself and traveled 36 hours to Delhi to make his case for entrance into the study abroad program. Dandu’s good grades, strong work ethic and enthusiasm impressed the judges and he was awarded a fully paid scholarship to study mechanical engineering in what is now Bratislava, Slovakia. 

 

For five years, Dandu worked on his master’s degree at the Slovak University of Technology, first studying general engineering and then specializing in thermal and nuclear power engineering. He next moved to Tripoli, Libya where, for four years, he was employed at a nuclear research facility. Dandu spent time in reactor maintenance and then was promoted to chief engineer for the radioactive waste management facility.

 

After living on three continents, Dandu was ready for his next adventure. He first went back to Slovakia to marry his wife, Kamila, whom he had met at the university in Bratislava. They applied for immigration to Canada, Australia and on the advice of a friend, the United States too. Dandu and Kamila ended up in Fargo, North Dakota, where he went to work on his doctorate in mechanical engineering. After completing his degree and teaching at North Dakota State University for a year, interestingly enough, Dandu was not finished traveling. 

 

Receiving an opportunity to pass on his passion for engineering, Dandu and his family moved to Puerto Rico where he was tasked, along with four other American professors, with building an engineering program for the University of Turabo. Dandu gave the project four years of his expertise, eventually helping it to become accredited with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, or ABET.

 

Dandu receiving the McArthur Award from Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of the Polytechnic Campus.

Dandu receives the Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Award from Verna Fitzsimmons, CEO and dean of the Polytechnic Campus, during the Faculty and Professional Staff Showcase.

Because of how welcoming the people of Fargo had been to Dandu and his wife, when they moved back to the United States, he wanted to land somewhere in the Midwest. Dandu applied for an open position in the engineering technology department on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus and was hired in 1997. Since that time, he has made it a point to include the lessons he has learned during his travels as part of the industry-relevant curriculum he provides.

 

“In all of my life pursuits and journeys, I have never been fearful of what lies ahead because I know that each new person, place or culture I have encountered is an opportunity for growth, knowledge and understanding,” said Dandu, who, through those world travels learned to speak several languages, including Telugu, English, Slovak, Czech, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi. “One of the messages I want to get across to my students is how important it is to be receptive to all life has to offer. Do not be afraid of the future, go into it with an open mind and embrace it.”

 

Dandu, who teaches mechanical engineering technology courses related to product design and development as well as senior project classes, also gives students the chance to apply their knowledge by working with local companies to solve real industry challenges. And students are able to successfully collaborate with professionals and build their skill level because he first instills in them confidence and drive.

 

“I strive to make learning easy and purposeful,” said Dandu. “Once you see purpose, it awakens your inner desire to learn and you become self-motivated. I want students to be inspired by their own ideas and believe it is possible to make them happen.”

 

Along with teaching bachelor’s level courses, Dandu helped start the campus’s graduate program in 2010 and served as its director for three years, from 2013 to 2016. Dandu is a commissioner for ABET, helping lead the teams that accredit various collegiate programs. He was elected to the board of directors for the American Society of Engineering Education, or ASEE, and is an active member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

 

Dandu provides consulting for area engineering companies, has served on the Salina United Way board of directors in 2014 and actively connects his mechanical engineering technology classes with the local Boy Scouts of America to assist with their programming.

 

Though Dandu is proud of his professional accomplishments and world travels thus far, he also is honored to be part of the long list of winners of the McArthur Award.

 

“I want to thank the Rex McArthur family for their support of this campus and its professors by sponsoring an award like this,” said Dandu. “The value they place on education gives us professors inspiration to be better teachers.”

 

Dandu and wife Kamila make their home in Salina and have three children: Gautama, who graduated from K-State with a degree in civil engineering and currently is pursing his teaching certificate; Maya, who will graduate from Pittsburg State University in December; and Ajay, a senior at Salina High School South.

Kansas State Polytechnic names mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman winner of 2016 Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence

By Julee Cobb

Mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman is the 2016 recipient of Kansas State Polytechnic's Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence.

Mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman is the 2016 recipient of Kansas State Polytechnic’s Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence.

Mathematics instructor Teresa Hartman, who has served the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus for almost 10 years, is the 2016 recipient of the prestigious Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence. The honor, established more than 30 years ago, annually recognizes a Kansas State Polytechnic faculty member’s commitment in the classroom, service to students and overall merit as a teacher. 

 

While becoming an educator wasn’t on her radar until graduate school, Hartman’s natural talent and innovative intuition are evidence the classroom is where she belongs. Hartman has been able to successfully take a subject often dreaded by students and transform it into a comprehensible ally. And knowing that the price of education is of equal concern to students as understanding the material, Hartman has incorporated cost effective measures into her teaching.

 

Hartman is the first faculty member at Kansas State Polytechnic to implement the Open Textbook initiative. She has essentially abandoned traditional textbooks in her College Algebra and General Calculus classes and in their place, created a series of 10 to 15 minute videos that explain the information step by step. Students are able to access the videos online and can pause, rewind and watch them as many times as they like until the math problem is understood.

 

“Math textbooks haven’t always made sense to me, which is disappointing because that is my profession; and if I can’t grasp how the material is laid out in the books, then why should I expect my students to?” said Hartman, who also teaches the courses online. “The purpose of an alternative or open textbook is to provide cost savings for students while improving the quality of the learning process. Because of the videos, students are not required to buy a textbook in College Algebra and General Calculus, and the information is adapted in such a way it can easily be understood.”

 

Hartman, who also teaches Intermediate Algebra and Intro to Statistics, says one of her career goals, once she got into teaching, has been to author her own textbook. Even though she thought at first the ambition might be “crazy and unrealistic,” she continued to dream about composing an instructional tool that actually aids students, not acts as a confusing hindrance.

 

“With the math videos, in a roundabout way, I turned a farfetched idea into reality. I never imagined I would actually be able to create my own alternative textbook, but when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance and other teachers should too. If you strongly believe in doing something, go for it!” Hartman encouraged.

 

That persistent will to succeed was first honed while growing up on a pig farm in small-town Summerfield, Kansas, where Hartman was tasked with completing her older brothers’ chores once they left for college. She cultivated that determined spirit in high school at Axtell Public School where she became competitive with some of her classmates over their math test scores. And it was during this battle for superior student that Hartman realized she had a knack for numbers.

 

Hartman attended Fort Hays State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Unsure how to turn her major into a profession, she continued her education at Kansas State University working toward her master’s in mathematics. While at K-State, Hartman was a graduate teaching assistant and says the process of leading a classroom came natural to her. Hartman’s teaching advisors even complemented her on the way she was able to connect with students.

 

What solidified Hartman’s future in the education world was a chance meeting with one of Kansas State Polytechnic’s faculty members. Hartman just happened to be the only graduate teaching assistant in her office when Don Von Bergen, the director of the Polytechnic Campus’s arts, sciences and business department at the time, came inquiring about appropriate qualifications for a math instructor that he should list on a new job posting. Hartman later applied for the open position of math instructor at Kansas State Polytechnic and was chosen for the job.

 

Since arriving on the Polytechnic Campus in 2007, and along with teaching four math sections and online classes, Hartman holds workshops to assist students who need extra help learning how to use graphing calculators. She also has served as the faculty sponsor for the campus’s dance team, the Spirit Cats; was elected chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of Faculty Senate; and has won several other awards, including a distance learning award and the 2016 Educator of the Year honor from the campus’s Multicultural Student Union.

 

Hartman, now a Salina resident, has been married to her husband Bret since 2009 and the couple currently has two children – daughter, Autumn, who is three years old, and son, Braxton, who turned two in July – and is expecting their third child in February.

Kansas State Polytechnic professor Tim Bower’s robotics education article published in prestigious engineering magazine

By Julee Cobb

Tim Bower, computer systems technology professor at Kansas State Polytechnic for 12 years, holds his published article on robotics programming for beginners in the IEEE Robotics and Automation magazine.

Tim Bower, computer systems technology professor at Kansas State Polytechnic for 12 years, holds his published article on robotics programming for beginners in the IEEE Robotics and Automation magazine.

Tim Bower, a computer systems technology professor at Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, is being recognized for his teaching methods in robotics programming by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE.

Bower composed an article in April last year about his strategies for educating beginning students on the complexities of robotics and it was chosen by IEEE Robotics and Automation magazine for publication in the June 2016 edition. The story, entitled “Teaching Introductory Robotics Programming,” was one of only nine editorials selected out of almost 40 submissions from 15 different countries.

The article is inspired by the robotics programming course Bower created in spring 2014. With a variety of majors enrolled, including unmanned aircraft systems, mechanical engineering technology and electronic and computer engineering technology, he knew many of the students would only have basic knowledge of the technology and may have challenges comprehending the algorithms involved. Bower streamlined the course by highlighting the areas of robotics that are more understandable for beginners and in one case, developed his own algorithm.

“In robotics programming, multiple things are happening at the same time ­– reading sensors, controlling wheels and motors, steering – and it can be a difficult technology to master,” said Bower, who has been with Kansas State Polytechnic for 12 years. “As a professor, the last thing I want is to frustrate and discourage students by forcing them to learn something that isn’t on their educational level. It’s important to create a path where students have an appreciation for the complexities and also leave my class feeling successful.”

Bower’s article, which gives examples of the simplified autonomous algorithms he uses in the course including the wall-following algorithm he invented, was chosen for publication because of the quality of the written document as well as its purpose of helping beginners feel comfortable with robotic programming. This is Bower’s first article that a publication of IEEE has picked up, though he has had a few previous articles appear in other educational journals.

“I’m very honored to see my article selected for such a prestigious publication – it’s a validating feeling when my many hours of research and teaching are recognized,” said Bower. “Most importantly, however, I hope it gives teachers and professors ideas and strategies they can use to help their students feel more confident and accomplished.”

Before arriving on the Kansas State Polytechnic campus in 2004, Bower was a systems administrator in the computer science department on K-State’s Manhattan campus. He also worked for 10 years at Sprint in Kansas City as an electrical engineer. Bower earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from K-State and a master’s in electrical engineering from the University of Kansas.

In 2015, Bower won Kansas State Polytechnic’s Excellence in Innovation Award during the campus Faculty and Professional Staff Awards Showcase.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s Dean Verna Fitzsimmons receives national recognition with Inspiring Women in STEM Award

By Julee Cobb

Verna Fitzsimmons, the CEO and dean of Kansas State University's Polytechnic Campus, has been chosen by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine as one of the recipients of its 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award.

Verna Fitzsimmons, the CEO and dean of Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, has been chosen by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine as one of the recipients of its 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award.

As the first woman to be CEO and dean of Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, Verna Fitzsimmons is receiving national recognition for her continued support and leadership of women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education, has named Fitzsimmons a recipient of its 2016 Inspiring Women in STEM Award. This accomplishment honors women who work to inspire and encourage a new generation of young women to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research and successful programs and initiatives. Fitzsimmons will be featured, along with 65 other recipients, in the September 2016 issue of the magazine.

“I am truly honored to receive this recognition because part of my purpose as a female educator with an engineering background is instilling in young women the belief that there are no boundaries when it comes to their future,” said Fitzsimmons, who has been at the helm of Kansas State Polytechnic since 2012. “Growing up, I had amazing mentors who encouraged and exposed me to STEM fields and I believe it is my responsibility as well as my honor to do the same for the next generation.”

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Kansas State Polytechnic celebrates students’ achievements, campus contributions in 30th annual end-of-the-year awards banquet

By Julee Cobb

Four Kansas State Polytechnic students were awarded the prestigious Wildcat Pride awards at the annual end-of-the-year banquet.

Four Kansas State Polytechnic students are the recipients of the prestigious Wildcat Pride awards given out at the campus’s annual Awards and Recognition Banquet. Pictured, from top left clockwise: Zackary Dahl, Wildcat Pride award for community; Abbas Tayi, Wildcat Pride award for determination; Austin Bally, Wildcat Pride award for dedication; and Joél Mills, Wildcat Pride award for most inspirational.

 

What goes into a college campus running successfully? Though financial contributions might be the first presumption, the majority of a school’s ability to prosper is through its people. At Kansas State Polytechnic, students spend countless hours studying and collaborating on class projects; however, they also engage in student clubs, volunteer at events, work campus jobs and help tutor other students. Likewise, faculty and staff members go beyond the call of duty to ensure the campus runs smoothly and the students have a valuable experience.

Kansas State Polytechnic highlights that energy, effort and loyalty during its annual Awards and Recognition Banquet. Celebrating its 30th year, the banquet, held on April 21, brought together more than 150 students, faculty and staff to be honored for their accomplishments throughout the 2015-2016 school year.

“Each person at K-State Polytechnic touches the campus in a unique way,” said Amy Sellers, student life coordinator and organizer of the event. “This banquet gives the campus an opportunity to shine a light on the magnificent work performed and the dedication that is given day in and day out. Most importantly, it is a night of pride for the amazing students, staff and faculty that keep K-State Polytechnic buzzing with new ideas, innovations and inspirations.”

Close to 30 different accolades were handed out in three categories: Outstanding Academic Student awards, Outstanding Campus awards and Wildcat Pride awards. Within each of those areas, students, faculty and staff were recognized for a variety of reasons, including their program of study or instruction, sportsmanship, involvement on campus, advising and student club performance. Award nominations were open to anyone on campus and then were voted on by an established committee.

One of the most anticipated moments of the night is when the Wildcat Pride awards were announced. These student-only honors contain appreciation in the areas of community service, determination, dedication and most inspirational.

Zackary Dahl, a graduating senior in airport management, Hoyt, Kansas, was announced as the winner of the Wildcat Pride award for community service. According to its nomination description, the award recognizes a student who understands the civic responsibility of serving the community. The student sees the bigger picture and is aware of the community’s needs. Dahl was selected because of his heart for service. He spends time weekly volunteering at the Smoky Valley Nursing Home’s Alzheimer’s unit and at the Marine Corps recruiting station in Salina. Additionally, Dahl has given of his time to Big Brother Big Sisters and the Salina Animal Shelter. According to the nominator, Dahl’s “unselfish acts have touched the lives of this community and those around him.”

Abbas Tayi, a senior in professional pilot, Baghdad, Iraq, was the recipient of the Wildcat Pride award for determination, which suggests its winner shows a quality of firmness in beliefs and actions, doesn’t quit until an answer or decision is reached and pursues life by focusing on achieving a goal with passion. Tayi was selected for his diligent work ethic and integrity, including working toward a goal of graduating early. According to the nominator, Tayi isn’t afraid of any obstacle in front of him and has a “never quit” mentality.

Joél Mills, a senior in technology management, Snellville, Georgia, received the honor of the Wildcat Pride award for most inspirational student. This award recognizes someone who inspires others to achieve the highest level at which they are capable, and epitomizes the qualities of determination, dedication and service. This student must also maintain a GPA of 2.5 or above. Mills was selected because of her influence on the campus through her character and involvement. Mills has been a part of Programming Board, is a member of Women in Aviation, and has worked in the Student Life Center and admissions office, regularly giving tours to children in the StarBase program. According to the nominator, Mills is a loyal Wildcat and her blood runs purple. She is not only inspiring as a student, but also simply as the person she is.

Austin Bally, a senior in professional pilot, Wichita, Kansas, was the recipient of the Wildcat Pride Award for dedication, which states its winner goes above and beyond normal duties and is committed to a particular course of thought or action. Bally was selected because his initiative and leadership has helped launch a new summer aviation program for high school students. He also is committed to assisting his fellow undergraduate professional pilot students through involvement in the flight team. According to the nominator, Bally has gone above and beyond to make certain campus programs run smoothly, and his energy and enthusiasm contribute to the campus’s success.

Below is a list of other winners from K-State Polytechnic’s 30th annual Awards and Recognition Banquet:

Outstanding Academic Student Awards

Outstanding Student Life Graduating Senior – Nick Koch

Phi Kappa Phi – Natasha Gawith

Expository Writing – Mary Ewers, Jacob Rose and Mehnaz Afrin

Unmanned Aircraft Systems – Trevor Witt

Aviation Maintenance – Rachael Luna

Airport Management – Garett Ludlum

Professional Pilot – Chris Messing

Family Studies and Human Services – Lien Hecker

Social Work – Rubi Torres

Personal Financial Planning – Sevda Tasci

Computer Systems Technology – Tyler Kongs

Chemistry – Colton Maxwell

Electronic and Computer Engineering Technology – John Baumfalk-Lee

Mechanical Engineering Technology – Jason Hager

Technology Management – Pamela Barrett

 

Outstanding Campus Awards

Student Employee – Trevor Witt

Larry Caldwell Sportsmanship Award – Cooper Potts

Club Advisor of the Year – Lindsey Dreiling

Academic Advisor/Faculty Mentor of the Year – Alyssha Munt and Jess Simpson

Staff Member of the Year – Kyle Chamberlin

Faculty Member of the Year – Charles Van Gundy

Student Organization of the Year – Social Work Wildcats

Kansas State Polytechnic named number two college in the nation for unmanned aircraft systems

By Julee Cobb

The unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University's polytechnic campus has been named one of the top UAS colleges in the country by Drone Training HQ, ranked number two out of 20 universities in the poll.

The unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University’s polytechnic campus has been named one of the top UAS colleges in the country by Drone Training HQ, ranked number two out of 20 universities in the poll.

The unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, program on Kansas State University’s polytechnic campus continues to add to its national presence with a new top academic ranking.

Kansas State Polytechnic has been named number two in the “Top 20 Unmanned Aerial Systems Colleges in the United States.” The list was compiled by Drone Training HQ, an online resource for unmanned pilots, engineers and technicians, and was based upon a variety of criteria, including reputation, hands-on instruction, accreditation, courses and programs offered, student feedback and job placement.

“This ranking rewards nearly 10 years of persistent hard work on multiple levels, ranging from locally to internationally,” said Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research on the polytechnic campus and executive director of the school’s Applied Aviation Research Center. “At the outset of 2007, there were relatively few who dared to dream about what UAS could become in Salina, but here we are. We are grateful to those who have supported our endeavors and have helped us make the program a success. These achievements, however, are only the beginning.”

The program’s second place ranking comes against universities, such as Indiana State University, University of North Dakota, Oklahoma State University, and Kent State University. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University landed the list’s number one spot.

Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program was launched in response to the devastating EF5 tornado that destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg, Kansas in 2007. The storm prompted state legislators to provide first responders and emergency managers with the necessary tools to effectively locate survivors and assess damage. As part of their plan, they allocated funds to Kansas State University to start an unmanned aircraft systems program that would work to improve disaster response and public safety using that technology.

A few classes related to unmanned aircraft were offered on the polytechnic campus beginning in 2009 and then a UAS certificate was established in 2010. The next year, Kansas State Polytechnic implemented a bachelor’s degree ­– only the second in the nation at that time – and then in 2015, a second bachelor’s degree was added in UAS design and integration, along with a UAS minor. Also, the program’s enrollment has doubled almost every year since its inauguration.

To learn more about Kansas State Polytechnic’s unmanned aircraft systems program, including enrollment, degree options and research, contact Kurt Carraway, acting executive director of UAS, at 785-826-2624 or kcarraway@k-state.edu.

Polytechnic’s Ackerman serving as university Coffman Chair, strives to increase academic discourse about critical thinking

Kansas State University’s 2016-17 Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars, Patricia Ackerman, professor of language arts at K-State Polytechnic, is determined to increase academic discourse about critical thinking at the university.

Ackerman’s goal as Coffman Chair is to facilitate a university-wide discussion about critical thinking, one of the five undergraduate student learning outcomes that the faculty senate adopted in 2004. The other outcomes published in K-State’s undergraduate student handbook include knowledge, communication, diversity awareness, and academic and professional integrity.

Patricia Ackerman, associate professor of language arts at K-State Polytechnic, is determined to increase academic discourse about critical thinking as Kansas State University’s 2016-17 Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars.

Patricia Ackerman, professor of language arts at K-State Polytechnic, is determined to increase academic discourse about critical thinking as Kansas State University’s 2016-17 Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars.

Ackerman will spend the next year meeting with academic leaders in all colleges of the university and in the Office of Planning and Assessment to examine how critical thinking is woven into various degree programs.

“I am interested in exploring how we currently define, teach and assess critical thinking at Kansas State University,” Ackerman said.

She is working with the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and the Faculty Exchange for Teaching Excellence to invite a nationally recognized scholar in the field of critical thinking to Kansas State University campus for the annual university teaching retreat in spring 2017.

The Coffman Chair for Distinguished Teaching Scholars was created in 1995 to highlight Kansas State University’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate teaching and learning. A faculty member acknowledged as a leading teaching scholar is appointed to the chair for one academic year. During that time, the chair conducts research or develops programs to improve educational methods. All who are selected for the honor retain the title of University Distinguished Teaching Scholar throughout their careers.

“Receiving the Coffman Chair for University Distinguished Teaching Professors is a tremendous honor,” Ackerman said. “I look forward to engaging in meaningful dialogue with colleagues across the university during the coming year. It is humbling to be included as a member of the notable K-State scholars who form the University Distinguished Teaching Professors alumni.”

Ackerman joined the K-State faculty in 2000. Her leadership roles at the university have included chairing the Course and Curriculum Committee, co-chairing the Faculty Senate Academic Affairs Committee, founding and directing an interdisciplinary writing center, and advising K-State Polytechnic’s student publication “On the Record.” She also served on the executive board of directors of the Midwest Writing Center Association and was the graduate program director for the professional master of technology degree. In 2014, she established and became the first coordinator of K-State Polytechnic’s Faculty Resource Center. She also served as coordinator of the campus’ first Interdisciplinary Faculty Teaching Exchange.

She currently serves on the board of directors for the Kansas Humanities Council, Faculty Senate Executive Committee, K-State Faculty Exchange for Teaching Excellence and the K-State Commission on the Status of Women. Her book, “Marymount College of Kansas: A History,” was published in 2014 and was a 2015 WILLA Literary Award finalist for scholarly nonfiction.

“Research for my 2014 book ‘Marymount College of Kansas: A History’ increased my awareness of cyclical patterns that recur in academia,” Ackerman said. “Many of the pedagogical issues faced by the Sisters of St. Joseph nearly a century ago remain at the forefront of challenges facing contemporary colleges and universities. Student learning outcomes are critical to defining what it means to be a ‘college-educated’ citizen. Revisiting student learning outcomes, individually and collectively, should be part of ongoing, dynamic discourse across the university.”

Ackerman has received numerous awards during her time at K-State, including a Marchbanks Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence, Big XII Faculty Fellowship Award, Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Professor of the Year Award, and two Rex McArthur Family Faculty Fellow Awards. She has been nominated twice for the Iman Award. Ackerman is a fellow of the National Writing Project, the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching and the International Writing Center Association.

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.

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.”