The Hobart and William Smith Engineering Club has quickly become a hub for aspiring HWS engineers to take on unique projects, meet renowned experts and guest speakers and discover exciting opportunities for summer research.
In the fall semester, a panel of four engineers from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia delivered a presentation via Skype about their rocket program and NASA career paths for undergraduate students. Montana State University Professor Wataru Nakagawa discussed his research on silicon nanostructures and the graduate and summer research programs at MSU, which led to summer research opportunities for two club members, Elisabeth Moore ’21 and Kemal Turksonmez ’19.
Physics majors, club founders and co-presidents Tyler Hanzlik ’17 and Scott Calnan ’17 wanted to create for fellow students a hands-on learning environment with team-building projects that help other students develop electrical, mechanical, civil and computer/software engineering skills. And for Hanzlik and Calnan, these skillsets — and the experience they have gained in the classroom, on research projects and in the Engineering Club — have led to graduate school placements at top programs.
Hanzlik, who was accepted to electrical, mechanical, and energy systems engineering programs at University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Illinois, discovered his knack for the field during his participation in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition, in which HWS finished in the top 15 percent of more than 1,000 engineering colleges and universities.
Calnan knew early in his first-year at HWS that he wanted to apply to the Colleges’ Joint Degree Program with Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering to receive a second degree in electrical engineering. Through the program, Calnan spent his junior year at the Thayer School and will return after the HWS Commencement to complete his fifth year of undergraduate studies and earn a Bachelor of Engineering Degree from Dartmouth.
The club’s vice president Scott Bordonaro ’17, also a physics major, has been accepted to civil engineering graduate programs at UC-Davis and University of Virginia.
Working with their advisers, Professor of Physics Ileana Dumitriu and Peter Spacher, Ph.D., the club’s members use their classroom learning in an extracurricular setting to establish a foundation for post-graduate success. During the spring semester, members embarked on an ambitious project to develop a fully functioning solar and wind powered weather station. With freely accessible online data, the weather station uses multiple sensors to track everything from temperature, humidity and pressure, to wind speed and wind direction, to precipitation volume, precipitation pH, cloud cover, sound pollution and UV scales. The project also included a live camera feed of the surroundings.
Club members have divided into three teams, each responsible for a different task — designing and building the foundation and frame of the weather station; implanting the power, connections, and circuitry; and programming the sensors to gather and display data.
The club, which has recruited nearly 40 members since its founding in the fall of 2016, holds weekly, hour-long meetings on Sundays at 4:30 p.m. in Eaton Hall during the academic year. Meetings typically combine a small lecture with a hands-on, mini-lab on topics that change weekly and span computer, electrical and mechanical disciplines, as well as résumés, internships and summer research.
At the end of the 2016-2017 academic year, the Engineering Club received “The Best New Student Organization” and the “Professional Development and Member Support” awards. The Engineering Club plans to carry this momentum into the upcoming school year under new leadership. After being involved in the club, some of the first-year members, including Jasper White ’20, James Monaco ’20 and Elizabeth Moore ’20, wanted to be more involved. Club Co-president Jonas Toupal ’19 will return to lead along with Vice President Frank Oplinger ’18, who will take over the software and computer engineering lead from Vice President Erin Condon ’17. Some of the projects the club has proposed for the upcoming academic year include a lake monitoring station, a Trebuchet, an Arduino garden and a biomass digester.