At the College of Engineering’s annual homecoming program Nov. 2, alumni got a unique — if unscheduled — view of the ongoing construction of Fitts-Woolard Hall, which is expected to be completed in 2020.
Alumni are invited each year during the University’s homecoming weekend for a keynote presentation and updates on the College’s current successes and projects. Due to weather, the BBQ luncheon was moved indoors to Duke Energy Hall in Hunt Library, which overlooks the construction site.
Todd Delk, a Benjamin Franklin Scholar who graduated in 1999 with degrees in civil engineering and multidisciplinary studies, said he attended the College’s homecoming to become more involved with NC State. He was excited to see the new building and changes to Centennial Campus.
“While I love Mann Hall, it’s good to see some new technologies and for everybody to join forces over here on Centennial,” Delk said.
Following the luncheon, Jeff Garwood, founder and CEO of Liberation Capital, kicked off the presentations. Garwood graduated in 1984 with a degree in chemical engineering. In 2010, he founded the Charlotte-based global equity firm, which provides project finance for clean technology infrastructure. Garwood, who is the former president and CEO of GE Water & Process Technologies, has visited places all over the world working on sustainable solutions to improve clean water access, create alternative energy solutions and convert waste to useable products.
“Applied engineering, to me, is the most amazing thing that I’ve come across the last 15 years,” he said. “If you say, ‘I want to figure out how to fix this problem, and there are going to be 100 applications, and we want to minimize the cost, and after we finish it, we don’t want to do new engineering,’ that rocks my world.”
Following Garwood’s presentation, three student entrepreneurs — Chandra Manivannan, Nick Sischo and Ryan Kelley — talked about their startups and shared how NC State supported them through grants and entrepreneurship classes.
Manivannan, a junior majoring in computer science and applied mathematics, developed Math Mundo, a multilingual math education program. Sischo, a senior environmental engineering student, is the CEO of Trashr and is part of a team that created a sensor that collects fill-level data in dumpsters. Kelley graduated in 2018 with a mechanical engineering degree. He talked about Atomo, his spatial intelligence startup.
Senior civil engineering students Hannah Queen and Harrison Dean, president and conference chair of NC State’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, then gave an update on ASCE’s success at the 2018 Carolinas Conference, where the team took home third place overall.
Dean Louis Martin-Vega closed the program, starting with a remembrance of Dr. Nino Masnari, dean emeritus of the College. Masnari was dean from 1996 to 2006, and passed away in May 2018. Martin-Vega credited Masnari for stabilizing the College and helping to move it forward to where it is today.
“The reality is, it doesn’t matter what we may have accomplished in any area — we basically are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us,” Martin-Vega said.
Martin-Vega also noted improvements in the College’s rankings — in the last 10 years it has passed Duke University, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Penn State and University of Florida and went from 34th in U.S. News & World Report rankings of graduate engineering programs to 24th.