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NC State engineering alumni return for Homecoming celebration

Alumni of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University returned to campus Friday, Nov. 1, for a Homecoming celebration held in the James B. Hunt Jr. Library and at other locations on NC State’s Centennial Campus.

The College’s Homecoming Celebration, in its second year, provided a first-hand view of a college that has grown by leaps and bounds and has more goals within its reach. The College ranks in the top 15 nationally in several categories, including graduate and undergraduate enrollment and number of degrees awarded. NC State engineering is well represented on prominent rankings from US News and World Report and the Wall Street Journal.

“It’s an important time for the College of Engineering, and it was great to see so many of our alumni reconnect during Homecoming,” said Dr. Louis A. Martin-Vega, dean of the College. “Our goal is to become and be perceived as the leading public college of engineering in the country and one of the premier colleges of engineering in the world. Alumni engagement plays a very significant role in that effort.”

Graduates of the college also brought their children and grandchildren to participate in an Engineering Mini-Camp held in Engineering Building III on Centennial Campus. The camp was a popular attraction last year, and children ages 5 through 18 took advantage of a variety of activities including “Newspaper Chairs,” “Build a Better Bug” and “Self-Folding Shapes.”

The state of things

During an afternoon presentation in the Hunt Library auditorium, some of the College’s faculty and students presented their innovations and ideas that will change the world for the better.

Martin-Vega also provided a thorough look at the College’s achievements, highlighting national award winners and a steady growth of research expenditures.

Additionally, NC State is the only university currently leading two National Science Foundation Engineering Research Centers (ERC); the university is one of only two universities ever to receive three ERCs.

Dr. Warwick Arden, provost and executive vice chancellor at NC State, provided perspective on changes in higher education and the impact on NC State. Arden discussed how the university constantly adapts to keep pace with a changing world and how NC State has dealt with state budget cuts while handling growth.

“This is a great university in a great state,” Arden said. “But we are going to have to think very critically about how we can keep the momentum going.”

Exploring diverse revenue sources instead of reliance on state funding is among the next steps, Arden said.

Faculty and student work on display

Two College of Engineering faculty shared the important work they are doing with 3-D printing at NC State. Additive manufacturing processes like 3-D printing make products by putting down successive layers of material rather than cutting material away using saws or drills.

Dr. Michael Dickey, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, gave a presentation on his research team’s work to create 3-D structures out of liquid metal. Researchers found that a liquid metal alloy of gallium and indium reacts with oxygen in the air at room temperature to form a “skin” that allows the liquid metal structures to retain their shape. Dickey’s team is exploring possible applications for their work.

Dr. Ola Harrysson, associate professor and Fitts Fellow in Biomedical Manufacturing in the Edward P. Fitts Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, explained how NC State engineers are using 3-D printing to make prosthetic limbs and custom orthopedic implants for animals and humans and to develop new materials for direct metal fabrication to benefit the aerospace, medical and technology fields.

The Homecoming presentation then switched gears to focus on NC State engineering students and how they are taking learning outside the classroom.

A team of engineering students has created a buzz with Jar~with~a~Twist, a new kind of container for peanut butter and other condiments that ensures every last ounce of product is used. Even better, consumers can now avoid the dreaded “peanut-butter knuckles” that result as they try to fish around with a knife for what’s left at the bottom of the jar.

Designed to work much like a stick of deodorant or a Push-up Pop, Jar~with~a~Twist pushes the product up to the top without hassle or mess. The team has been featured on the television show Good Morning America and on several news websites. The students are seeking a patent.

Three students in NC State’s Engineers Without Borders student chapter discussed the chapter’s work supporting community-driven development programs overseas that are designed to help meet basic human needs. Initiatives include students traveling to communities in Bolivia and Sierra Leone to help ensure residents have clean drinking water and reliable access to electricity.

The afternoon ended with a barbecue dinner for alumni and their families at several locations around the Engineering Building complex on Centennial Campus.

The NC State Engineering Foundation plans to host another homecoming event in fall 2014.

Woody Smith, a 1966 NC State mechanical engineering graduate, traveled to Raleigh for Homecoming from his home in Greenville, SC with his wife, Theresa.

“Homecoming weekend was an exciting time to be on the new Centennial Campus – one of which to be very proud,” Woody Smith said. “As we were sitting in the newly opened Hunt Library auditorium listening to the dean, provost and others speak, it was so uplifting to hear the emphasis placed on academics in such an exciting way.  Listening to the students talk about their particular projects with such enthusiasm was a ray of sunshine.”


Photo Gallery (Photos: Becky Kirkland)