Terri Gaeddert joins Kansas State Polytechnic as director of academic operations

By Julee Cobb

Terri Gaeddert, former associate dean and director of teacher education at Sterling College, has been named the first-ever director of academic operations for the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

Terri Gaeddert, former associate dean and director of teacher education at Sterling College, has been named the first-ever director of academic operations for the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.

With a continued focus on enhancing the student experience, Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus has hired its first-ever director of academic operations.

Terri Gaeddert, former associate dean and director of teacher education at Sterling College, has been selected for the new role and is charged specifically with strengthening program collaboration under the campus’ recently implemented School of Integrated Studies. She also will streamline course schedules, mentor faculty and improve faculty resourcing. The creation of the position, which Gaeddert began in January, is a part of Kansas State Polytechnic’s vision of providing an environment centered around experiential learning and cost-effective education.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Gaeddert as the inaugural director of academic operations on the Polytechnic Campus. Along with an indisputable passion for higher education, she brings years of valuable expertise and a fresh perspective that will help lead the School of Integrated Studies and our commitment to offering students relevant education with a strong experimental component,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State Polytechnic.

In fall 2016, the campus established the School of Integrated Studies after it was approved by the Kansas Board of Regents the year before. The new academic alignment allows programs and faculty to no longer be separated by department, but to be organized together under the director of academic operations. One of Gaeddert’s primary roles is to help faculty utilize the collective structure to generate synergy among the programs — integrating different disciplines so students will receive additional skills and knowledge relatable to their majors.

Gaeddert also will develop a two-year rotation of courses, ensuring every course in a major is offered at least once within a two-year window. This will provide all students — bachelor’s degree-seeking students, transfer students and students with an associate degree pursing a bachelor’s degree — the opportunity to complete their endeavors in a timely manner, which will bolster cost savings. In addition, Gaeddert will implement scheduling efficiencies for faculty so they can spend more time with students, performing research and connecting with the community.

“My teaching philosophy is based around the three R’s: relationships, relevance and rigor. One of the reasons this position stood out is because the polytechnic, or hands-on, approach this campus values encompasses those elements,” said Gaeddert. “Knowledge and understanding is only the beginning; it’s those that are able to apply, do and create using their knowledge that will be heavily sought after. I look forward to working with the faculty at Kanas State Polytechnic as they continue to cultivate an experience-driven atmosphere for their students.”

A native of Ogallala, Nebraska, Gaeddert has a doctorate in educational leadership from Wichita State University, a master’s in teaching from Friends University in Wichita and a bachelor’s in mathematics and computer science from Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska. Most recently, she served as the associate dean of Sterling College as well as its director of teacher education for four years. Gaeddert also worked in high schools as a teacher and technology specialist, wrote curriculum and problem-solving tests for the Kansas State Education Department, and has served on a number of Kansas teacher education committees.

Partners Kansas State Polytechnic, Westar Energy advance electric utility inspection and maintenance methods with drone technology

By Julee Cobb

The unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University's Polytechnic Campus is working with industry partner Westar Energy to integrate drone technology into the electric utility industry.

The unmanned aircraft systems program on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is working with industry partner Westar Energy on integrating drone technology into the electric utility sector.

Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus and Kansas-based power company Westar Energy are propelling the electric utility industry forward by innovating inspection and maintenance methodologies with drone technology.

With a focus on increasing reliability for customers, improving employee safety and reducing costs, Kansas State Polytechnic’s unmanned aircraft systems program and Westar Energy have been collaborating over the past year to integrate unmanned aircraft into the power company’s services. The partners, whose relationship dates back to 2013, have been working to establish an in-house UAS team at Westar Energy as well as redefine inspection and maintenance techniques using unmanned aircraft — often referred to as drones — for transmission lines, power plant boilers and electrical substations.

“One of our program’s strategic objectives has been to help introduce UAS technology to the commercial market, and we are proud to have Westar Energy as a partner because this collaborative relationship is a win-win for both of our interests,” said Kurt Carraway, executive director of the UAS program on K-State’s Polytechnic Campus. “The opportunity to assist Westar Energy in building an organic UAS program from the ground up has been tremendously rewarding for us — we get to learn about the power industry while helping Westar Energy provide first-class service to its valuable customer base. We look forward to continuing this developmental work.”

Westar Energy has implemented this technology in the day-to-day inspection of thousands of miles of transmission lines and utility towers that run across Kansas. UAS platforms capture imagery of the structures to identify needed replacements and inspect completed repairs. The standard procedure for all power companies has been employees either using binoculars to examine the lines and towers, or riding lifts high into the air —which can be dangerous.

Staff members of Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program fly a drone with a Westar Energy employee practicing new inspection techniques of transmission lines.

Staff members of Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program fly a drone with a Westar Energy employee practicing new inspection techniques of transmission lines.

Westar Energy has a team of employees who have completed multirotor and fixed-wing training at Kansas State Polytechnic and lead the power company’s internal UAS division. Together with Kansas State Polytechnic, 3-D mapping of substations and boiler inspections also have been explored. The Kansas State Polytechnic UAS program has assisted Westar Energy’s UAS program with developing and testing protocols, providing additional flight instruction and creating operational guides for these new areas with UAS technology.

“Our UAS program saves money for customers by making our operations more efficient and our work safer. It also makes our service more reliable,” said Jason Klenklen, supervisor of transmission maintenance for Westar Energy. “We can use UAS or drones to identify struggling equipment before it causes an outage. Drones also make it safer and faster to inspect lines in difficult-to-reach areas when crews are locating the cause of a power outage.”

With photogrammetry, Westar Energy can generate authentic images, 3-D maps and drawings with accurate measurements of their substations so maintenance in a specific area can be outlined ahead of time instead of in the field where space can be compact and precarious. Westar Energy employees have been trained how to set up an autonomous flight plan, which is necessary for the camera on the UAS platform to take photos based on either time or distance, as well as how to execute the mission to ensure quality data.

Kansas State Polytechnic and Westar Energy’s most recent exploration has been focused on using unmanned aircraft to inspect boilers. The use of UAS inside a boiler reduces risks to personnel while allowing assessments to be conducted in an efficient and timely manner.

“Incorporating UAS, or drones, into the inspection process of boilers adds an element of safety. It allows employees to view the internal components of the boiler through real time imagery captured by a drone while securely staying on the outside,” said Sam Sharp, a researcher in the Kansas State Polytechnic UAS Laboratory and Westar Energy’s primary liaison. “Because there are no lights inside the boiler and a GPS signal is not accessible, extensive training is needed to control the aircraft. This is one of the most valuable applications of a drone within the energy sector, so the lengthy training is worth it.”

the Smoky Hills UAS Pavilion

The Smoky Hill UAS Pavilion was built in part by Westar Energy and is housed on the Polytechnic Campus. It measures 300-feet-long by 200-feet-wide and is 50-feet-tall, providing a space for accessible flight training and research.

In October 2015, Westar Energy and Kansas State Polytechnic collaborated on opening one of the largest enclosed unmanned flight facilities in the nation. Built on the Polytechnic Campus, it measures 300-feet-long by 200-feet-wide and 50-feet-tall, and employs 25 wooden poles donated and installed by Westar Energy as well as custom fabricated netting panels on all sides and across the top. The structure, called the Smoky Hill UAS Pavilion, provides a space for accessible flight training and research for students, staff and faculty in addition to outside industries for company instruction and short courses.

Kansas State Polytechnic is recognized as having the No. 2 UAS program in the nation by Drone Training HQ. The program, which began almost 10 years ago, consists of a bachelor’s degree with two focus areas — UAS flight and operations and UAS design and integration — as well as a UAS minor, research and flight operations. Kansas State Polytechnic was the first entity in the United States to be awarded statewide access for unmanned flight operations by the FAA and is a member of the FAA Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Westar Energy provides electricity to about 700,000 homes and businesses in the eastern third of Kansas. In early 2017, Westar will provide about half the electricity needs of its retail customers from emission-free sources.

To inquire about possible research collaborations between Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program and your company, contact Carraway at 785-826-2624 or kcarraway@ksu.edu. To learn more about Westar Energy’s UAS division or its general services, contact Klenklen at 785-575-8187.

Postdoctoral fellow joins staff at Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center

By Julee Cobb

Postdoctoral fellow Amit Gautam, who previously worked in the sugar technology and water purification industries, is now a researcher for the Kanas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center in Salina.

Postdoctoral fellow Amit Gautam, who previously worked in the sugar technology and water purification industries, is now a researcher for the Kanas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center in Salina.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center is growing its staff with the addition of a postdoctoral fellow. Amit Gautam, who has previously worked in the sugar technology and water purification industries, has joined the center as a researcher in the areas of bulk solids storage and handling.

Gautam most recently was a chemical engineer with Aqua ReUse, a manufacturer of industrial wastewater purification equipment and filtration media in Mission, Texas. He was responsible for the design, development, trouble-shooting and debottlenecking of converting a batch system to a continuous system, as well as creating separation and purification strategies that decreased total suspended solids and removed heavy metals from wastewater.

Gautam also was employed by the Audubon Sugar Institute, a part of Louisiana State University in St. Gabriel, Louisiana, as a postdoctoral researcher. His duties included testing the process of milling sugar cane and extracting sugar juice from the cane to find appropriate ways of reducing cost and waste. He also explored using fibrous residue from sugar to create cellulosic ethanol and butanol.

“We are excited to add Dr. Gautam to the K-State bulk solids team,” said Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research and engagement on Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus. “He brings years of experience conducting research in this area and has already presented new ideas and opportunities to consider as we move the center forward and make it a recognized leader in bulk solids technology.”

At the center, Gautam is testing bulk solids — loose, dry commodities like minerals, chemicals, sugars, plastic resin, fillers, pellets or recycled plastics — to help clients understand the best way to store and handle their materials. He examines the physical characteristics of the bulk solids and how they behave under various conditions, such as humidity and hot and cold temperatures. He also puts them through both dense phase and dilute phase pneumatic conveying to determine which process works best as the bulk solids move through hoppers and storage equipment.

An expert in discrete element method, or DEM, Gautam additionally will create modeling of simulations. He plans to study the possible positive utilizations of dust explosions, teach short courses at the center and continue developing collaborations with other bulk solids institutes.

“Often times companies do no realize they are working with bulk solids, but these materials actually make up more than 80 percent of items transported around the world,” Gautam said. “I am proud to continue my research at the Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center because any advancements we discover will have an impact on a multitude of industries.”

A native of Mumbai, India, Gautam received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Mumbai. His master’s degree is focused in bioprocess technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology, also in Mumbai, and he has a doctorate in chemical and biological engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. Gautam’s ultimate goal is to become a professor.

The Kansas State University Bulk Solids Innovation Center, 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. The key tenant of the center is the university, while two local companies, Coperion K-Tron Salina and Vortex Valves, supplement the facility by serving as anchor occupants.

For more information on the facility’s research capabilities, contact John Lawrence, research director, at jlawren@k-state.edu, or Barnhart at 785-826-2972 or kurtb@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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New collaboration takes flight: Kansas State Polytechnic and Kansas Wesleyan University jointly offer unmanned aircraft systems, emergency management minors to students

By Julee Cobb and John Elmore

Kansas State University's Polytechnic Campus and Kansas Wesleyan University sign an agreement July 11 to enable unmanned aircraft systems students at Kansas State Polytechnic and emergency management students at KWU to cross-register and earn a minor in the other institution's program. Front row, from left are: Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State Polytechnic, and Matt Thompson, president of Kansas Wesleyan University. Back row, from left are: Bernie Botson, deputy director of emergency management for Saline County; Kendy Edmonds, junior in Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program; Lonnie Booker, Jr., director of Kansas Wesleyan University's emergency management program; Kurt Carraway, executive director of Kansas State Polytechnic's UAS program; Bill Backlin, Kansas Wesleyan University's interim provost; and Alysia Starkey, associate dean of undergraduate studies at Kansas State Polytechnic.

Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus and Kansas Wesleyan University sign an agreement July 11 to enable unmanned aircraft systems students at Kansas State Polytechnic and emergency management students at KWU to cross-register and earn a minor in the other institution’s program. Front row, from left are: Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State Polytechnic, and Matt Thompson, president of Kansas Wesleyan University. Back row, from left are: Bernie Botson, deputy director of emergency management for Saline County; Kendy Edmonds, junior in Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program; Lonnie Booker, Jr., director of Kansas Wesleyan University’s emergency management program; Kurt Carraway, executive director of Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program; Bill Backlin, Kansas Wesleyan University’s interim provost; and Alysia Starkey, associate dean of undergraduate studies at Kansas State Polytechnic.

It’s a disaster with casualties. An emergency management team and an unmanned aircraft systems support team both arrive on scene — but how do they speak each other’s language and work together?

Two of Salina’s leading higher education institutions are joining forces to tackle that issue in a collaboration that will prepare future emergency managers how to best utilize unmanned aircraft when deploying resources and to understand and analyze the data they collect. In turn, this new collaboration will teach future UAS pilots how to efficiently operate unmanned aircraft, often known as drones, within disaster sites and support the efforts of emergency response teams in crisis situations.
The collaboration was made official at a signing event July 11 at Kansas State Polytechnic. Through this agreement, Kansas Wesleyan University emergency management majors are able to cross-register and earn a minor in unmanned aircraft systems at Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus, while unmanned aircraft systems students at Kansas State Polytechnic now can cross-register and earn a minor in emergency management at Kansas Wesleyan University, or KWU.

“This is the first collaboration of its kind between state and private universities for such programs,” said Matt Thompson, president and CEO of Kansas Wesleyan University. “The graduates of these nationally recognized programs will have cross-over training and knowledge that makes them more prepared and therefore, in higher demand in their career fields.”

“The origin of Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program was influenced by the devastating effects of the EF5 tornado in Greensburg in 2007 and the need to support first responders and emergency managers with relevant technology that locates survivors and evaluates damage,” said Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State Polytechnic. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to reconnect with those roots through this collaboration and provide our students with another applicable avenue in the ever-expanding field of UAS.”

Dean Verna Fitzsimmons speaks during the agreement signing with Kansas Wesleyan University.

Dean Verna Fitzsimmons speaks during the agreement signing with Kansas Wesleyan University.

Students enrolled in Kansas State Polytechnic’s Bachelor of Science program in aeronautical technology with an emphasis in unmanned aircraft systems, which requires a private pilot certificate with instrument rating, will be able to add a minor in emergency management with 18 credit hours in emergency management courses taught at KWU. These hours consist of four required emergency management courses plus two emergency management electives. Required courses are Introduction to Emergency Management, Hazard Mitigation and Preparedness, Disaster Response and Recovery, and National Incident Management Systems. Emergency management elective courses include Damage Assessment, Cyberwarfare, Criminal Law, Sociology of Disaster, and Victimology.

“Many of our UAS students have ambitions of applying their operations skills in a way that is socially beneficial, and offering the emergency management minor allows them to further their career aspirations while making a contribution to those in need,” said Michael Most, Kansas State Polytechnic associate professor and unmanned aircraft systems program lead. “We also are proud to be able to share the multifaceted uses of UAS technology with KWU students to supplement and diversify their field of study by adding another tool to the emergency manager’s toolbox.”

Students enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in emergency management major at KWU will be able to add a minor in unmanned aircraft systems with 15 credit hours in UAS courses taught at Kansas State Polytechnic. These hours consist of three required UAS courses and two additional courses tailored for either licensed pilots or non-aviators. Required UAS courses include Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Processing Techniques for Low Altitude Remotely Sensed (LARS) Data, and Acquisition and Advanced Processing of LARS Data. The LARS courses are designed for environmental and agricultural sensing applications but will be tailored to the needs of KWU emergency management students for the purposes of damage assessment and remote site investigation following a disaster incident. The final two courses in the minor, UAS Design and UAS Mission Planning and Operations, will allow students to build their own unmanned aircraft capable of being remotely piloted. There is an additional cost for the aircraft materials.

“We are excited about the opportunities this new agreement presents,” said Lonnie Booker Jr., KWU assistant professor and director of emergency management. “It will take both fields of study to a whole new level of knowledge and expertise and enhance two programs that produce well-trained graduates for an emerging field.”

Guests of the signing event could view various technologies that are essential to UAS and emergency management.

Guests of the signing event could view various technologies that are essential to UAS and emergency management.

The emergency management major at Kansas Wesleyan University is the only four-year emergency management degree available in Kansas. Students gain the theoretical knowledge, practical skills and sense of duty to step in to save lives and protect property. Program tracks within the emergency management major include homeland security, business continuity and nongovernmental organizations. The major offers courses that can be taken online or on campus. KWU’s expertise in this field is gaining national attention, with Emergency Management Degree Program Guide naming the university among the “20 Top Emergency Management Bachelor’s Degree Programs Under $23,000 Average Net 2014.” Of those 20 top schools named, KWU’s degree was rated No. 8 for its quality, ahead of Arizona State University, Arkansas State University and the University of North Texas.

Booker was invited to be a panelist for the 17th annual Emergency Management Higher Education Symposium in 2015, hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Management Institute. His panel discussed emergency management program development and growth at colleges and universities.

Kansas Wesleyan University is located near Crisis City, operated by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, an unrivaled world-class, multidiscipline, multiagency training environment developed to enhance the state’s capability to defend against terrorism threats and respond to disasters and emergencies. The university enjoys strong partnerships with local, regional and national emergency management experts and organizations.

Kansas State Polytechnic was the second university in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems, launched in 2009. Since that time, the program has nearly doubled its enrollment every year and to meet the demand, added a second bachelor’s degree in UAS design and integration as well as the UAS minor.

The program recently was named No. 2 on Drone Training HQ’s list of the “Top 20 Unmanned Aerial Systems Colleges in the United States” and was chosen as one of the Top 16 “Best Drone Universities” in the country by Dronethusiast.com.

The national recognition is a product of Kansas State Polytechnic’s exclusive accomplishments within the unmanned aircraft systems industry. In February 2015, Kansas State Polytechnic became the first entity in the United States to receive an FAA Certificate of Authorization for statewide access during flight operations. Recently, the program was awarded a nationwide certificate for public research operations.

In May 2015, Kansas State Polytechnic was among 20 universities across the nation, including the University of Kansas and Wichita State University, named by the U.S. Department of Transportation to an elite new group, the Federal Aviation Administration Center of Excellence for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. This alliance, called ASSURE, puts Kansas State Polytechnic at the cutting edge of UAS research in federally funded projects.

In November 2015, Kansas State Polytechnic became the first entity in the United States to receive approval from the FAA to provide UAS commercial flight training to both students and outside companies. The authorization, which is referred to as a Section 333 exemption, allowed Kansas State Polytechnic to create and conduct an extensive flight training program for unmanned aircraft operations.

And in May, it was announced that the Kansas Department of Transportation created a new position to direct UAS industry development in the state, with one of the post’s offices being located at Kansas State Polytechnic.

Kansas State Polytechnic is leading a variety of UAS research projects with outside partners, including the FAA and Westar Energy. The program has the most varied UAS fleet in U.S. academia, with a mix of more than 30 fixed-wing and rotary wing unmanned aircraft, or drones. Kansas State Polytechnic also boasts one of the largest enclosed flight facilities in the nation, allowing students to pilot their unmanned aircraft within steps of the classroom and UAS lab.

For more information on Kansas State Polytechnic’s academic UAS program, including enrollment, class options and the new emergency management minor, contact Most at 785-826-2681 or mtmost@k-state.edu. To inquire about UAS commercial flight training and research collaborations, contact Kurt Carraway, executive director of the UAS program, at 785-826-2624 or kcarraway@k-state.edu. Learn about Kansas Wesleyan University’s emergency management program by contacting Booker at lonnie.booker@kwu.edu or 785-833-4360.

Kansas’ first-ever UAS director to have part-time residency at Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus

By Julee Cobb

The first-ever director of unmanned aircraft systems for the state of Kansas, officially introduced July 5, will be located part time on the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus. From left are: Rep. J.R. Claeys, Kansas House of Representatives; Bob Brock, Kansas Department of Transportation UAS director; Mike King, Kansas transportation secretary; Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State University's Polytechnic Campus; Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research on the Polytechnic Campus and executive director of the school's Applied Aviation Research Center; and Merrill Atwater, Kansas Department of Transportation aviation director.

The first-ever director of unmanned aircraft systems for the state of Kansas, officially introduced July 5, will be located part time on the Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus. From left are: Rep. J.R. Claeys, Kansas House of Representatives; Bob Brock, Kansas Department of Transportation UAS director; Mike King, Kansas transportation secretary; Verna Fitzsimmons, dean and CEO of Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus; Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research on the Polytechnic Campus and executive director of the school’s Applied Aviation Research Center; and Merrill Atwater, Kansas Department of Transportation aviation director.

Kansas State University’s Polytechnic Campus is a part of another pioneering move in the unmanned aircraft systems industry with its contributions to a newly created UAS position for the state.

Kansas State Polytechnic will be a part-time home to Bob Brock, Kansas’ first-ever director of unmanned aircraft. Announced during an event July 5, Brock will maintain offices on the campus as well as at Kansas Department of Transportation headquarters in Topeka.

“It is an honor to host the new UAS director on our campus because it means we are viewed as one of the primary and most influential centers for the advancement of this technology in the state,” said Kurt Barnhart, associate dean of research at Kansas State Polytechnic and executive director of the campus’s Applied Aviation Research Center. “We have been working for many years to bring awareness to the exciting potential and power of unmanned aircraft, and this position validates a commitment to the growth of UAS from a state level.”

Brock, a Pittsburg native who is a 22-year veteran of the Air Force, will oversee the establishment of policy and procedures for the operation of UAS in Kansas. Among his priorities are protecting the privacy and public safety of the state’s residents. The Kansas Department of Transportation also is exploring how to best incorporate the technology into their principle services.

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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