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Just One Question
Mar 15, 2021 | Dartmouth Engineer
Q: What element of your Thayer School career would you like to experience again?
Perhaps most memorable was the water. Yes, water in the lab. Water in pipes, valves, and flowing through channels and over weirs. This was the hands-on part of courses in Fluid Mechanics, Water Supply, and Sanitary Engineering. These experiments were enjoyed by all—especially the splashing part! Professor Ed Brown’s good nature helped temper the hard study with pleasant hours.
I’m especially reminded of the work we did in that greatest laboratory of all: the out-of-doors. Field trips to visit dams, bridges, and local building sites were memorable. So were the expeditions to measure characteristics of water flow in streams and rivers. And of course there was surveying, which took us all over the Hanover countryside. Dean Bill Kimball headed the surveying program himself, and in his kindly, soft-spoken way moved us well along the path toward becoming professional engineers.
—Sam Florman ’46 Th’73
The knowledge, sincerity, and friendliness expressed by the faculty civil engineers—Ed Brown, John Minnich, and Russ Stearns—were exceptional. Not only did they encourage my study ambitions while I was at Thayer, all were helpful in various ways during my professional career. They are all long since gone, so this can be repeated in memory only (which I enjoy doing).
—Warren Daniell ’48 Th’50
That’s easy: outside the classroom interactions with peers. Getting their perspectives on the curriculum and on life in general was a wonderful way to expand the formal educational experience. The opportunity to rekindle those interactions is, in part, what brings me back to reunions.
—Neil Drobny ’62 Th’64
One of my best memories of Thayer School was the course taught by Professor Jim Browning, who went on to found Thermal Dynamics Corp., developer and manufacturer of plasma jet systems. Jim opened up the wonders of combustion to me, and I can remember him setting up various burner demonstrations for us, showing the effects of air-fuel ratio, incoming air-fuel mix velocity, and resultant combustion products temperature, flame velocity, and temperature profile. This was all a revelation to me. I still remember Jim’s enthusiasm in demonstrating and explaining all of this to us. He was a great teacher.
During my career I spent some time with Surface Combustion, a division of Midland-Ross Co. Jim’s course served me well as I dealt with the various furnaces and heating systems that Surface produced.
—Jerry Allyn ’59 Th’60
My favorite memory of my Thayer School “career” is the time I spent in Hanover during the summer of 1960, after my graduation from Dartmouth. I was newly married and living with my wife, Pat, in an apartment in Hanover. She worked as a nurse at the hospital; I worked on four-cylinder internal combustion engines in the basement of Thayer. It was the only summer I ever spent on campus—a nice change from four years of frozen tundra!
—Bruce Clark ’60 Tu’61 Th’61
Professor Brown’s class on Engineering Economics! I understand that his class went away after he retired. I have sure used his interest calculations and comparative costs of two pieces of machinery more than my Fluid Dynamics classes. Bring back personal finance!
—John Pearse ’62
In the early 1970s Thayer was too academically focused (though at a very high level), which denied some students commercial opportunities for work done in the classrooms. I’d go back and take my modeling program (of a cross-country ski) to a ski manufacturer! The course was on structural analysis of various materials and when we got into looking at layered composites, it struck me that I could model the flexibility patterns of a cross-country ski. At the time I did not have access to data on materials used in downhill skis, but it struck me that a Nordic ski would be much easier to model varying width end to end, thickness end to end, and layer (each of wood or fiberglass) thickness end to end. I also defined a specific characteristic, namely even weight distribution, so essentially a ski, once a length was determined, could be designed that would produce an even weight along the entire length for a specific-weight skier.
The project was confined to using standard materials and shapes, but was specifically tuned to an individual skier’s weight and length ski desired. It never occurred to me that the modeling capability had economic value. It strikes me that this would not be the case in a world where Thayer is better connected to both Tuck and entrepreneurial studies.
—Mark Totman ’71 Th’72
One of my favorite memories of Thayer was ES 21, a sophomore course to introduce us to modern, real engineering problems. It was designed to give us teamwork experience in research, marketing, construction, and testing of a prototype. It has always been popular with students. We had a great team and we really enjoyed the project. Of course, ours was the best project of 1969, hands down! We worked our way through each phase of the project and came up with a solution that may have had some traction, were it not so bulky and potentially dangerous! (We needed to shred garbage and pyrolyze it to make useful energy from off-gasses). Probably not a truly great idea!
—Peter Areson ’72 Th’73
The ES 21 course and using the shop. The ES 21 project that year was about ice elimination on bridges and roadways. We named our team DE-ICE (Dartmouth Engineers for Ice Control & Elimination). Our design approach was to use infrared heaters on a grooved payment. The grooves were designed to capture the infrared rays at an optimal angle and served secondarily as a non-skid surface. As I recall, the design was practical only on bridge surfaces due to the cost of the grooved surface and the cost to operate infrared heaters. As for the shop, I should have taken better advantage of it. I don’t think I ever used it after ES 21 and somehow never elected to take any courses that might have inspired me to use it.
—David von Loesecke ’74 Th’76 Tu’83
I’ll answer with the one thing I would have liked to experience—the machine shop. Somehow I chose to miss the experience. If I had a do-over, I would take advantage of it, even though my entire career has been in information systems consulting.
—Austin Whitehill ’76 Th’77
First choice is the machine shop—building the steam engine was a great experience. Second choice is tensile strength testing.
—Mary McDougall ’77
Far and away the experience I would like to relive would be our ENGS 21 class, Introduction to Engineering. It was the closest Dartmouth had to an entrepreneurial class at the time. We conceived, designed, and presented a proposal for review, including the pricing, funding, and marketing aspects of product rollout. I believe now-defunct American Machine and Foundry was our corporate judge. I wish we had had the knowledge to patent our work, since our swimming goggle redesign subsequently became the industry standard, led by Speedo.
—Lawrence Ryan ’79
One of the courses I found exceedingly valuable over the years is ENGS 22: Systems. Current students are lucky to have other great courses in this area as well, such as System Dynamics in Policy Design and Analysis and Model Based Systems Engineering. Systems thinking is crucial and I’d love to be back to take these courses in whatever guise they have been updated to take into account all the highly distributed systems that make up the fabric of how we all live today.
—Max Rayner ’84
I would like to work on a hands-on design project. While I enjoyed bridge and steam engine building, Thayer has taken the hands-on learning experience to a whole new level as far as I can tell!
—Walter Colsman ’89
The element I would like to experience again is the group collaborations done in the engineering 21/190/290 classes, in which teams of motivated and creative individuals work together to solve some unmet human need. These collaborations are some of my fondest memories of my time at Thayer. As a sophomore in fall 2000 I did ENGS 21, which was the first engineering class I took. My group designed a thermal insulated case for stringed musical instruments (for air travel) using vacuum-insulated panels, and we built the prototype with a guitar case. My 190 project was a senior thesis as well (I took the four-year AB/BE option), titled “rowing shell redesign.”
Both of these experiences, and the projects in other classes at Thayer, have helped inform the materials and speakers I bring into the classroom now as a tenured associate professor at the NYU Stern School of Business. I have taught new product development at NYU Stern, the marketing core class at NYU and at Duke, and am now teaching a new class at NYU on marketing and sustainability. Jonathan Cedar ’03, cofounder of BioLite, was one of my guest speakers this fall.
—Bryan Bollinger ’03 Th’03
Camaraderie with fellow students and professors.
—Ali Pasha Th’04
Short answer: $2 margaritas from Molly’s. Does that count?
—Bobby Heuser Th’07
Midnight Nerf battles. It started with just a couple of us. We purchased some fancy Nerf guns for fun and would prepare elaborate ambushes for each other in the middle of the night when one of us was studying for a big midterm or preparing for a thesis review. It was a good distraction from the stress. A lot of us virtually lived at Thayer, so it was a tight community. Pretty soon there would be enough students kitted out with Nerf weapons that occasionally the halls would erupt in full blown battles at 2 in the morning!
—Donald Zimmanck ’07 Th’08 Th’09
Late nights in the project lab, hard problem sets, innovative designs, cheap pizza, and stretched limits.
—Scott Decker ’09 Th’11
This may sound sappy, but I have distinct memories of waking up early for morning classes, trotting over to the room of Andrew Ceballos ’12 Th’12 to nudge him awake, and then spending a lovely 15 to 20 minutes chatting and laughing as we trudged through the snow (often cutting through the graveyard) to Thayer. It was always a nice way to start the day. Honestly, it’s these small moments of friendship that I’d love to live through again.
—Sharang Biswas ’12 Th’13
I miss constantly learning new things and being exposed to new ideas. It takes more initiative to continue learning outside of a school environment. I would like to experience again the casual interactions when you pass a friend in the Cummings Great Hall and tell them about this cool new thing you’ve just learned and they share something interesting and you build conversations out of this shared excitement for knowledge.
—Sarah Rote ’18 Th’19
—Wanfang Wu Th’19
I would like to experience the late-night project meetings in Thayer again. I loved working with my friends and problem-solving in Couch.
—Tara Greaney ’20 Th’20
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