Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Spotlights

Dave Girouard ’88 Th’89
Dave Girouard ’88 Th’89. Photograph courtesy of Gigaom.com.

Dave Girouard ’88 Th’89 is betting on the payback of a new crowdfunding platform he describes as a “true investment in a person.” The former VP of apps and president of enterprise at Google, Girouard launched Upstart last summer to connect enterprising students with people who want to invest in them. “We aim to make Upstart a network that people are engaged with, not just a place where they receive funding,” Girouard told Forbes. He says he wants to help young people “forgo the traditional job search and pursue what they want to do.” He speaks from experience. “My career was really shaped in the early years by my need to pay back student loans,” he says. “It wasn’t until six years after I left Thayer that I made a career decision based on what I wanted to do, rather than what I felt I needed to do. Younger people have all the energy needed, and are actually in a better position to take on a risky venture. Why not help more grads make the right decision by giving them a bit of economic freedom, coupled with advice and mentorship from those who have done it before.”

Upstart initially launched at five colleges, including Dartmouth, and plans to expand the program across the country this year. Says Girouard, “We’re also going to let backers invest on various affinity lines—things like women in technology, particular genres of arts, pursuing careers in teaching.”

Ariel Diaz ’02 Th’04 organized a hackathon in early November to jumpstart the creation of a free, open physics book. It’s the latest effort of his startup, Boundless.com, which offers students online course materials—a mix of government and nonprofit open-licensed content—intended to replace traditional, and costly, printed textbooks. His team enticed physics professors, researchers, and graduate students to its Boston office with the promise of free food, ping-pong matches, and the chance to work on a textbook for release in spring. “It typically takes two years to write a traditional textbook,” Diaz told BostInno.com. “We’re attempting to write ours in three days.” A former team captain of the Dartmouth Formula Racing Team, Diaz credits Thayer’s M.E.M. program with helping him polish his leadership skills. Fellow B.E. and M.E.M. grad Matt Hodgson Th’06 is VP of engineering at Boundless.

Stina Brock ’01 Th’02
E. Stina Brock ’01 Th’02. Photograph by Kathryn LoConte Lapierre.

E. Stina Brock ’01 Th’02 earned a Young Alumni Distinguished Service Award for her contributions to Dartmouth. Brock, who holds the A.B. and B.E., has been a vice president of the Dartmouth Club of Western Washington, a member of the Alumni Council, and a member of her class’ fifth and 10th reunion committees. She is the director of product management at Sunverge, where she oversees product development and design for the solar system integrator.

Chris Vander Mey Th’04
Chris Vander Mey Th’04. Photograph courtesy of Chris Vander Mey.

Chris Vander Mey Th’04 has distilled the lessons he learned as an engineering manager at Amazon and senior product manager at Google into a step-by-step approach to the entire software life cycle in his book Shipping Greatness (O’Reilly Media). Vander Mey, who completed Thayer’s M.E.M. program, emphasizes the need for technical expertise in the industry. “It doesn’t really matter how good your grasp of strategy or finance is if you can’t write solid code,” he says. Vander Mey, who led teams developing Google Maps, iOS, and Android software, says, “You impact so many users with software launches when your products are as large as Amazon.com and Google Apps. This is thrilling, and it’s also scary because customers find your flaws immediately.” Last year Vander Mey started a new software business, Scaled Recognition, providing text, face, and object recognition services. He says he hopes “to make a real impact on how you interact with the images you acquire with mobile devices.”

Superstorm Sandy revealed a new use—disaster relief—for the BioLite CampStove created by Jonathan Cedar ’03 and Jonathan den Hartog ’03 Th’05. The stove burns twigs and other simple fuels for cooking, heating, and generating electricity to charge mobile devices. After Sandy left hundreds of thousands without power in the Northeast, BioLite teams set up charging stations in Manhattan and dropped off cases of the stoves in Queens. The Daily Beast and The New York Times touted the stove’s versatility. BioLite is gearing up to distribute its larger HomeStove in India, Uganda, and Guatemala.

Nate Brakeley ’12
Nate Brakeley ’12. Photograph courtesy of Cambridge News.

When he’s not working on his M.Phil. in energy technology at Cambridge University, Nate Brakeley ’12 is entering the scrum for the Light Blues rugby team. Calling him “one of the stars,” Cambridge News reports, “Brakeley’s agility round the park has been one of the key features, but that is not isolated in his work at the breakdown—it is also the ball-carrying skills that constantly put the Light Blues on the front foot.” Brakeley, who took up rugby at 15, says, “I had very little idea of the character of the rugby club, but the reason I picked Cambridge was because they had a better option of engineering courses.”

Sproxil, founded by Ph.D. Innovation Program alum Ashifi Gogo Th’10, was honored in December by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices for important and lasting contributions to patient safety. Sproxil collaborated with GlaxoSmithKline in 2011 on a pilot anti-counterfeiting program with the antibiotic Amplicox distributed in Nigeria. To verify drug authenticity, consumers could text a code from the medication package to a central toll-free phone number. By the end of 2012, more than 480,000 patients had texted 600,000 verification requests; 2.5 percent of the messages led to a counterfeit alert.

Chris Polashenski ’07 Th’07 spends his days studying arctic ice at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover before heading home to spend a few hours on a tractor. Polashenski and his business and domestic partner, Norah Lake ’06, bought an 87-acre farm, which stretches across Norwich and Thetford, Vt., from the Vermont Land Trust, with a perpetual conservation easement attached. Polashenski and Lake, who worked together at the College’s organic farm, have big plans for their farm, including a community-supported agricultural program in which customers buy a share and receive a certain amount of produce. They also want to set up community workshops, classes, and a youth agricultural camp. “They’re coming at absolutely the ideal moment to capitalize on rising food awareness,” Scott Stokoe, director of Dartmouth’s organic farm, told the Valley News.

“Many people are looking for a path to reduce or eliminate fossil fuels over the next decade,” says Kimberley Smith Quirk ’82 Th’83, owner of green-energy business Energy Emporium. “I want to help find solutions that can work for them.” Case in point: She converted a 154-year-old house in Enfield, N.H.—her business showroom and home—into a zero-net-energy building that requires no fossil fuels or combustion for heating or hot water. Quirk earned the 2012 Green Building Award from Business NH Magazine for the two-year conversion project. She created a solar heating system that includes a hydro-air system, water storage tanks, pumps, and a solar array, and followed LEED-H guidelines for air quality, water and land use, materials, and energy efficiency.

The Packaging Hall of Fame has inducted Tom Brady ’66 Th’68 in recognition of the contributions he has made to the packaging industry. His R&D work for Owens-Illinois Inc. helped commercialize the earliest PET carbonated soft drink containers. He founded Plastic Technologies Inc. in Holland, Ohio, in 1985 and continues to serve as chairman and CEO. His other recent honors include the Society of the Plastics Industry Hall of Fame Award (2012) and the Society of Plastics Engineers Lifetime Achievement Award (2010).

Expertise

A Bridge Too Narrow: William P. Conway Widens the Long Bridge Over the Mississippi

By Lee Michaelides

William B. Conway ’52 Th’54
William B. Conway ’52 Th’54. Photograph courtesy of Buck Scott ’51.

The Huey P. Long Bridge, which crosses the Mississippi River outside of New Orleans, was an engineering marvel when it opened in 1935. The cantilevered bridge, whose largest clear span measures 790 feet, hovers 200 feet above the river. Modjeski and Masters engineered the project.

Eight decades later Modjeski and Masters, led by CEO William B. Conway ’52 Th’54, has been re-engineering the bridge for 21st-century traffic. Modjeski and Masters is a storied firm in the world of bridge builders and Conway himself is a giant in that arena. A winner of the John A. Roebling Medal for lifetime achievement in bridge engineering, Conway directed the design of numerous bridges, including eight over the Mississippi. Deep-water foundations, long-span trusses, cable-supported bridges, and retrofit strengthening of steel structures are his technical specialties.

The Huey P. Long Bridge had become a bottleneck. Its four traffic lanes straddled a railroad track. Each lane was 9 feet wide and there were no breakdown lanes. Locals referred to it as the Huey P. Narrow Bridge.

The state of Louisiana asked Modjeski and Masters to widen the bridge—without closing it. That meant that the usual method of removing the old road and building a new road with new floor beams, couldn’t be done. Luckily for New Orleans motorists, someone at Modjeski and Masters—Conway says modestly that it might have been him—came up with an out-of-the box idea. “What if we were able to reuse the existing floor beam bracket that stuck out on each side of the bridge?” says Conway, explaining how the plan evolved. “And rather than remove it, we incorporate it into the new extended floor beam?”

Work began in 2006 on the seven-phase, $1.2-billion project. When completed later this year, the overhaul will have taken longer and cost more than building it. The original took three years and cost $13 million—about $204 million in current dollars.

Some might question the wisdom of rebuilding an old bridge rather than starting anew. “If they are reasonably cared for, bridges will last,” Conway says reassuringly. “This bridge has already had 76 years of life, and we have thoroughly analyzed it for strength and fatigue, and it has a long life ahead of it—as in several hundred years from a purely fatigue-cracking point of view.”

Reflecting on his life in bridge-building, Conway says, “I use these words when asked about my career: ‘It fulfills me.’ I think my grandchildren can look at this thing and say, ‘I don’t know quite what, but I think my grandfather had something to do with that.’ That bridge will be there not just one or two but probably three generations from now because these big bridges will last 150 years. It is a matter of some pride.”

Categories: Alumni News, Spotlights

Tags: alumni, award, engineering in medicine, entrepreneurship, history, innovation

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