OUS Snags Cash For New Engineering Building (+Blog status update)

Dear reader,

We apologize for the inactivity. Our GetReal staff is hard at work creating special K–12 lesson plans for teachers in Oregon to use. These special lesson plans integrate engineering into regular science lessons, giving young students a chance to learn more about engineering from a younger age. It’s a very exciting project, and we’re giving it our all—as a result, we’ve put the blog on the back burner for a bit. Keep checking for updates!


Enrollment at OSU has risen by over 30% in the last few years, and the College of Engineering is running out of space. In order to address this issue, they plan on constructing a new engineering building that will cost $40,000,000. Forty million bucks.

That’s a lot, even for a university. To help with it, several folks have donated some pretty hefty lumps of cash to help pay for it—and many chose to remain anonymous:

  • $10 million from one anonymous donor.
  • $7 million from OSU engineering graduate Peter Johnson, who now owns a huge company called Tekmax, Inc.
  • $3 million from other anonymous donors.

Oh, and the kicker: the state of Oregon may be matching these donations. If they do, OSU will already have enough money to cover the new building.

The College of Engineering hasn’t named the building yet, but plans on using it to host inter-disciplinary students studying chemical, biological and environmental engineering. The students will work together with faculty to tackle global issues that affect human health, energy, and the environment.

If you’re looking to study engineering—especially if you care about the environment, energy, or human health—this new building means OSU will be even better-prepared to give you a great engineering education.

Read on:

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Where Robotics and Chemistry Come Together For One Oregon Local

Some people love chemistry because it's the science of change. It's really beautiful to watch something turn into something else, right before your eyes.

R

ecently we managed to contact and interview an Oregon resident with a very unique story. It’s really amazing to see where science and engineering can get people, no matter their interests. Walter Hendricks* now works in the US Army doing an exciting job.

How It Started

Walter grew up in Philomath, Oregon and moved to Beaverton after high school. He considers the valley his home, and loves the environment and the people.

But what he really loves is chemistry and technology. He says his interests really started blossoming when, at a young age, he played with a Dr. Dreadful chemistry cooking set…

[It] started with a lot of interesting “sciency” stuff to me, but ended with a large amount of disgusting sugar blobs. It crushed what little desire I was developing for cooking at that time since I was making the realization that cooking is a form of chemistry (for a few years at least) and threw my hard chemistry lust into an overdrive. It’s scared me away from eating most things sugary to this day.

With candy-phobia and an interest in science, he started realizing he was a little different than some other kids: “I was the weird kid that would do math problems for fun. A+B=C always intrigued me.

The TALON is one tool the US Army uses to disarm bombs. EOD technicians use robotics skills, combined with knowledge of chemistry, to make shrewd decisions about how to dispose of dangerous explosives.

Chemistry, Robotics and High School

Actually, mathematics and chemistry are very closely related. Chemistry consists of a lot of math-like equations for chemical reactions, and Walter knew this. He said, “it reminded me of a simple machine, and then I took that thought to the next level when I was old enough to play with fireworks. A+B=boom.

Walter’s interest in explosive chemistry was an unsafe one, but luckily he found an outlet for his interests in high school. Philmoath HS was doing research and development in the biodiesel industry, where he focused his chemistry interests.

But like many people our age, he had a great interest in robotics, too. For that, he joined FIRST Robotics in 2003, being a part of PHS’s Team PHRED (called Team 847 when he joined) and working both as a competitor and mentor until 2008.

EDIT: Here's an image of Walter with his former team, at the 2013 regional tournament.

In The Army

While maybe not for everyone, Walter enjoys his unique and highly-skilled job.

Once he got out of high school, he had a realization: “Everyone has that dream job and place they want to work. Work towards it, and never give up,” he says. And Walter knew what he had to do.

Combining his passions for robotics and chemistry, he joined the US Army and is now working as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician. It’s an exciting and dangerous line of work, where he uses his expertise in explosive chemical engineering and his mastery of robotics to disable explosives all around the world, and protect important people from danger.

I wouldn’t say science and technology skills are sneaking into my life, but more of hitting me in my face. I’ve had to do pressure calculations off the top of my head just to make sure no one would get hurt. Not something I expected to use from high-school. . .  I know a few people who would of listened more in math if they knew it would of helped them with taxes, saving money, or disarming a bomb.

Walter, when he's on leave from the army, loves playing Diablo 3 and other computer games.

Walter’s unique and risky line of work might not suit everyone, but it definitely shows that no matter how different your interests are, the world of engineering has a job for you. He has a few words of advice for everyone: “Settling for what you have can be be great for now, but sitting in one area gets too comfortable, and it’s the complacency that ends dreams.

Don’t be complacent. Find what you love, like Walter did, and do everything you can to pursue it.

*Walter Hendricks is a pseudonym; as his work is often classified, he asked that we don’t use his real name.

Passion for saving: A man blowtorches his hand to prove insulating foam works.

To qualify this, you’ve got to remember that it’s probably a lot safer to do rigorous testing in a safe environment before anything else.


And he eats it too. That’s good for publicity.

Sometimes engineering isn’t always about building tall buildings or designing computer chips. This guy looks like he’s a chemical engineer, assuming he did all the work in inventing this foam. And chemical engineers thrive on finding better materials for all sorts of things. This is often done in a laboratory.

But he’s gone out of the lab and done this work himself, because he’s got a passion. And who knows why: maybe he’s had relatives suffer from burns, needlessly; maybe he himself did; maybe he just cares that much. But the truth is that having passion is what matters, not why. And he’s certainly got passion to help.

And dedication. He knew how many heads would turn if he blowtorched his hand and ate the foam right afterwards.

Those sorts of things can be left to an advertising branch, but a true engineer will take it upon themselves to do that work, if they don’t have an advertising branch. Because engineers don’t invent for the sake of inventing—they invent to make a difference. And sometimes making a difference means getting everyone’s attention.

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream, from UO to Elementary School.

There are a lot of reasons to become a chemical engineer. You get to come up with ways to transform materials into other materials. You could synthesize drugs for doctors, create the latest materials, create proteins or invent new materials.

Oh, and when you’re in grad school, you can make ice cream with liquid nitrogen as an outreach program for elementary school kids. Kind of awesome.

Jeffrey Engle and Ashley Lamm, both University of Oregon chemistry grad students, went to Central Elementary School in Albany to put on a demonstration for some 3rd grade students. In the demo, they mixed milk sugar and vanilla in a bowl, and then doused the mixture with liquid nitrogen.

Normally, you put all the ingredients in a bag, surround it with ice, and churn it until it turns into ice cream. Because of all the ice you can’t see what changes the ice cream is going through.

But because they used liquid nitrogen, the transformation occurred right in front of everyone. And it also made a huge cloud of fog, which is pretty cool.

They did this as part of a program called GK-12, for which they go around to elementary schools to try and get teachers and students to focus on how important (read: awesome) science is.

Think ice cream will get their attention?

U of O gets $2M grant for fuel cell research, showing why their color is green.

Last week, the US Department of Energy announced that the University of Oregon is gonna share a $2 million grant to work on developing hydrogen storage materials. You know, those things that we want to use in electric cars to store energy. Talk about taking their school colors seriously.

UO is sharing the grant with the University of Alabama, a Department of Energy lab and a fuel cell tech company in Massachusetts. The grant will last 3 years and may well be followed up with additional funding.

Shih-Yuan Liu got a PhD from MIT; getting onboard with his research would be a great opportunity in Oregon.

That means if you’re a senior in high school (or even a junior) there’s a good chance you’ll catch this project after it’s well established. The research team who’s going to be doing the work has some undergraduates.

The one who is leading the research is Professor Shih-Yuan Liu, who teaches chemistry at UO’s Materials Science Institute. He’s already done work in the area and is sure to be enthusiastic about this new grant.

Read on: