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

Just One Question

Q: If you could re-experience one moment from your time at Thayer School, what would that be?

Discovering that pure compressive load on the standard test cylinder of concrete causes tension failure. I was just to trying learn about strength of materials and stress analysis (just do the components)! 
—Tom Harriman ’42 Th’43 

When in a mechanical engineering class, I was designing a gear and thinking maybe I didn’t want to be an engineer. I was rushing through my education as a Navy V-12 student. I didn’t become an engineer, but found that I gained analytical skills that served me well throughout life. I am 92 and the go-to guy in my family regarding computer technology. If I had been in a more leisurely educational environment, I think I would have found myself in electrical and finally computer technology. 
—Lawrence Goodman ’47 Th’47

My senior thesis was on ionospheric radio propagation. The fun part of that activity was stringing up a 150- foot rhombic antenna on a nearby mountain with help from my professor and assistants to receive a signal from Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Later, when I was in the U.S. Army, I was assigned to the Signal Corps to work on tropospheric propagation studies. In the Signal Corps, they needed only short-distance communications on the battlefield (tropospheric bounce is fine). I then worked as a business executive with IBM for 35 years, mostly in the United States, but the last five years prior to retiring were in London and Paris. Now, I am just relaxing. 
—Bart Lombardi ’52 Th’54 

I would have prevented Larry Freier ’55 Th’58 from joining the U.S. Marines. If he were with us in 1956, Thayer School would definitely have won the 1956 intramural softball championship game against Beta. (The Brooklyn Dodgers had wanted to sign him out of high school.) I was captain of our softball team, and we had the captain of the varsity football team, Lou Turner ’55 Th’56, as our pitcher. We lost only by one run! Larry Freier could have made the difference. 
—Norman Fine ’55 Th’56

George Taylor’s moot court in his engineering law course. I don’t remember the issue, but Professor Taylor was the judge. I learned how to do case law research, some tort law, and very good contract law. The course was way ahead of others in MBA law class years later. I proofed all the problems in his text, Managerial and Engineering Economy, before it was published. It was the most valuable course of a lifetime. 
—Tom Jester ’63 Th’64 

ENGS 22: Systems in 1963 would be worth re-living. It was the first time I took a mathematical model and turned it into a working artifact—an air-bearing seismograph. Interactions between math, or other abstractions, and working solutions would prove to be a very important part of my career. 
—Mark Samuel Tuttle ’65, Th’66

I would love to re-experience my time making a Stirling engine in the machine shop under the direction of Fred Schleipman and the other machinists. It was fun, I learned something about fabrication, and, most important, I learned that the workers on the shop floor know things that I don’t. 
—L. Scott Magelssen ’75 Th’76 

Working in the machine shop with Roger Howe and Vince Cheney. 
—Glenn Grube ’82 Th’83

Hands down, the career-formative experience that is priceless: First day of ENGS 64: Engineering Electromagnetics with Professor David Stratton. 
—Dave Rausen ’90 Th’92 

The design challenge to build a chair out of polypropylene. The hands-on collaboration with my classmates brought us together in an engaging way. That experience encapsulated what made my time at Thayer so special: the bonds we made over the exchange of ideas and the collaboration with my fellow students and the faculty in pursuit of our common goals. 
—Malik Mamdani Th’92 

The first time I drove the ElecTruck around the Green in 1994. Our BE project team—Peter Barrette ’94 Th’94 Th’95, David Cramer ’93 Th’94, Owen Donnelley ’93 Th’94, and Brian Hannon ’94 Th’94—had worked steadily throughout fall term and most of winter term to design, find parts, and convert an old Chevy S10 pickup truck from gasoline to electric “fuel” for use by the Hanover Police parking enforcement officers. Motor and gas tank out; electric motor and batteries in (plus many other components and details)! The icy day finally came when all systems were a go, and we started it up (noiselessly). After taking five minutes to fix an initial glitch—the accelerator potentiometer was wired in backwards—we drove it onto the streets of Hanover and around the Green. What an exhilarating victory lap!

Electric Truck
Courtesy Laura Iwan.

I currently work with OverDrive Fuel Cell Engineering Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We provide engineering services in the area of fuel cells, helping customers bring their fuel cell products to market. We have a particular focus on fuel cells for vehicles with electric drive trains. My work at Thayer School on both ElecTruck and the solar race car helped get me started in this field! 
—Laura Iwan ’93 Th’94 

I’d go back and re-live my time in the machine shop, working on the lathe or the welding machine, fabricating my Stirling engine. I loved the hands-on work with metal, which put into context how industrial parts were made—either by hand in the early automotive days or by modern computer-aided design. The experience especially resonated because of the two guys in overalls who supervised the shop. They reminded me of NPR’s Car Talk guys “Click and Clack.” They were funny, patient, helpful—and hilarious. It was always fun and collegial to be down in the shop, working with them and laughing. 
—Erica McLoughlin ’96 

One of my favorite moments was the final testing of our water tower project for ENGS 51: Solid Mechanics. Usually people built a bridge out of balsa wood, but the year I took it we built a water tower. I teamed up with one of my best friends, Michael Chong ’97, and together we came up with an excellent design, optimized it analytically, and then built it very carefully. The day of testing came, and we were so excited! Even my history-major girlfriend, Marlene Sheehan ’98, came to witness the test. (We’re married 18 years now, and have three kids.) When our turn came, our tower did really well—and surpassed the capacity of the testing machine! So, we had to continue the test in a lab in the basement, where eventually our water tower did break. It was a great moment, after a lot of work. I would love experiencing that moment again! 
—Andres Dandler ’97 Th’98 Th’99 

I had a fantastic year at Thayer School as an exchange student from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. The most prominent Dartmouth experience was being part of the Formula SAE team and having the honor of being one of the race car drivers. The project forced us all to get theory to work in practice. This was very educational, at least to me, as the Swedish school system in those days was very focused on theory. I remember bringing a mechanical drawing to the workshop, thinking I had come up with the perfect solution. One of the guys in the workshop looked at my drawing and just sighed, then explained why it would never work in practice. It was an eye-opener, and it changed my way of thinking. It taught me to pay much more attention to best practices and to listen to the experience of these “elders” who had pretty much seen it all. 
—Kevin Rebenius Th’99 

Firing up my Stirling engine! The culmination of designing, machining, hand-crafting, and doing performance calculations into a physical form that still sits on my desk brought a tangible feeling of accomplishment. 
—Brian Nickerson ’00 

I would love to go back to the machine shop and build the Stirling engine. It was a nightmare then—but in hindsight, it was fun! 
—Afua Djimi Th’06 

I had hiked up Mount Cardigan on my own in the middle of the night with a laptop and small radio antenna. It was a cold and still night and the stars were extremely clear. At the prearranged time, the rest of my research group launched a high-altitude balloon from Hanover on a test flight into the stratosphere. I was the downrange spotter; my job was to track its descent and see where it landed. Just by pressing a button on my laptop, I was able to turn the balloon’s optical beacon on and off 70,000 feet above me. Standing alone on that peak, it felt and looked like I was turning a star on and off. The project was for a research program called ALTAIR with Professor Yorke Brown in the physics department. [He went on to publish the research paper, “ALTAIR: Precision Calibration via Low-Cost Artificial Light Sources Above the Atmosphere,” at the 2013 American Astronomical Society meeting.] The payload the balloon was carrying was one that I built in Thayer’s machine shop, and I pulled in a lot of Thayer skills from Machine Learning, Fluid Mechanics, and Intermediate Fluid Mechanics to design it.
—Max Fagin Th’11 

We built an autonomous sailboat for Professor Laura Ray in ENGS 147: Mechatronics. We were testing the sailboat on Occom Pond and demonstrating it to Professor Ray. The controls had some bugs and we kept losing control of the sailboat. I spent a few hours in a canoe on Occom Pond chasing after the sailboat, with Professor Ray cheering us from the shore while we worked out the bugs. 
—Peter Ankeny ’12 Th’12 Th’14 

I loved being a Thayer tour guide and I have a fond memory of taking a class of local middle-school boys on a tour, and watching them squirm and delight at the fake poop I handed them. (It was leftovers from my ENGS 89/90: Engineering Design Methodology project! Our 89 was quite the talk of the town for a while, thanks to its unusual nature—we even had cultured dog poop in the cold storage lab at one point!) It would be nice to experience their joy again! We created a few practical stops for them during the tour: A couple of professors ran some activities, another guide ran a little activity, and then I took them to the biotech lab and made them play with the fake poop. (We had to buy 30 pounds of it, as I recall, because that was the smallest quantity we could buy of the good stuff, the real industry-grade fake poop. It had to be shipped in from Canada. We tried making many types of fake poop ourselves, but we couldn’t get the right consistency—google ‘Bristol Stool Scale’!) I always tried to emphasize the liberal arts nature of our engineering education: how we still took a normal courseload outside the major, how the major itself was interdisciplinary, how we all had friends outside Thayer. The students seemed to be really intrigued by that. I remember coining and orating the phrase—“To design for a better humanity, you need to understand the humanities!”—with a grand flourish. 
—Sharang Biswas ’12 Th’13 

May 29, 2012: The ENGS 146 Wiggle Car Race! There’s was so much hard work leading up to it—it felt like such an accomplishment just getting to the start line. It was exciting, it was silly, and it was intense!


—Robert Mercurio (standing, seventh from left) and classmates in “Computer-Aided Mechanical Design” created, built, and relay-raced Wiggle Cars around the halls of Thayer School. Photograph by Douglas Fraser.

Many great relationships were built in that class (Professor Diamond did a wonderful job) and it was such a great Thayer event. The slalom course through the hallways was fun to navigate, and there was an awesome turnout from the rest of the Thayer community. It was a wonderful celebration. 
—Robert Mercurio ’12 Th’13 

It would have to be the final presentation my ENGS 89/90 team gave to our sponsors for their automotive capacitor redesign. We had been working hard for six months and, as we were presenting our work and results, the final test that would validate our work was being completed by one of the company’s senior engineers. He walked back in and stood at the back of the conference room during the middle of our presentation. At the climax of our talk, we invited him to share his results (hoping they weren’t too bad). He stunned us all by saying the capacitor we designed performed significantly better in electrical tests than the one they had been developing and used substantially fewer and less-expensive materials, stirring excitement for his team and a sigh of relief for ours. 
—Drew Wong ’12 Th’14 

Moosilauke! I loved the amazing food (tomato soup and bread), cozy lodge, and gorgeous hike! 
—Gabrielle DaGama Th’15 

It would be when we set up an obstacle course in the Great Hall and raced our RC robots for Professor Sol Diamond’s class. That was cool. 
—Evan Landau ’15 

The day of graduation. That was the best day in my life at Dartmouth. 
—Xiaobai Yu Th’16 

My favorite singular experience was probably going to Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center with Professor Sol Diamond’s ENGS 170: Neuroengineering class to take MRIs of our brains. In that class, I also got to try on an EEG cap and watch my response in real time when another classmate tried to spook me from behind! 
—Mackenzie Carlson ’17 


Courtesy of Karen Uchiyama.

I would go back to the times I spent with my other MEM friends working and hanging out at the MEM space! I currently work as a construction and maintenance coordinator for BP in New York City. 
—Karen Uchiyama Th’17 

My first late night in Couch Lab, which occurred during my sophomore fall. My ENGS 21: Introduction to Engineering group and I were finally starting to make headway on our project, and we were excited about getting our prototype working. Surrounded by hardworking and enthusiastic students, it was the first time I really felt at home in Thayer and part of the engineering community. Our project was to increase the stability of longboard skateboards at high speeds, targeting the trucks that connect the wheels to the board. We initially designed an electro-mechanical solution for our problem that would tighten and loosen the trucks on the go. It was a cool idea, but became increasingly complicated and out of scope for a term-long project. It “clicked” for the team when we created a highly simplified mechanical design that would still solve our problem—allowing users to tighten and loosen the trucks by hand on the go—and could be developed within our timeframe. 
—Katie Flattum ’18 Th’18 

It would be when my ENGS 146: Computer-Aided Mechanical Engineering Design group finished assembling our omni-directional, zero-turn-radius vehicle. It was late at night, and it had been a difficult process with many sleepless and near-sleepless nights, but getting on and riding it when it was finished made every second worth it. 
—John Leahy Th’18 

Omni-diectional vehicle
Photograph by Douglas Fraser.

Categories: Alumni News, Just One Question

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