Thanks to Sweet Briar engineering students and alums for another great Explore Engineering event!

The Margaret Jones Wyllie ’45 Engineering Program just hosted our third summer Explore Engineering course for high school girls.   We are all about getting young people to see that engineering is a creative and collaborative activity that is all about making a difference in the world.  The girls seemed to have a great time and as usual, they came up with some amazing designs.

We had 22 students from 9 states.  I’ll write a post about their week soon but first I wanted to thank the Sweet Briar engineering students that helped so much to prepare for the week, to help make it run smoothly, and to clean up the pretty massive mess that our open ended projects necessarily create.  Most importantly, they demonstrated their passion for engineering and were great role models for the high school girls.

Many thanks to…

Lindsay Davis (Engineering major ’13, Explore Engineering  ’09), far right, showing off the Lady Gaga jukebox she made with the PIC microcontroller, it played Beethoven as well.

Amanda Johnson (Engineering and Physics major ’14, Explore Engineering ’10) and Grace Caskey (Engineering major ’14)

Caroline Sorensen (Engineering and Environmental Science major ’12), on the right, helping an Explore Engineering student

Thanks also to alumnae who took part: MaryAnne Haslow-Hall (Engineering ’11, now engineer at Glad manufacturing), Christina Pappas (Engineering and Physics ’08, now graduate student in mechanical and aerospace engineering at UVA)

Engineering class trip to Brazil, post trip recap- clients and devices

In Mr. Milton's home, our client, with Patricia, Kellner, Sarah, and Prof. Pierce, one of the most moving moments of the trip

June 30, 2011

Meeting our clients, their families, and their health care workers in Ilheus was a highlight of the trip and of our semester long project  ENGR 232, Technology and Society: A Global Perspective.  We were all moved by the visits and the possibility that our devices might help increase the quality of life of our clientes.  In the end, we did leave several devices in Brazil.  Several others will continue to be worked on.  A prime example of this is the blink sensor communication device.  The therapists were excited about having several of the devices.  The trip made it even more clear to us that engineers indeed can make a difference in the world.  We look forward to continuing to work on these projects look forward to our next opportunity to travel to Brazil with devices.

Liz Koslow, SBC student, Patricia (faculty member from UESC, all around amazing person) and our client


Christine, with client

Lindsay Davis, SBC student, with writing device (designed by SAU students)

Sarah Lightbody and Kellner Pruett, SBC students

Liz, with client

Brazil update: Tuesday, June 7

We have a great couple of days. Sorry for the lack of pictures here, I’ll post them when I get back. Over the weekend we had a Brazilian barbeque with some engineering faculty members from the university.  It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had at a barbeque.  Lots of fun conversations and an amazing beach view.

On Monday we visited a sustainability development program.  They are up away from the beach in a pretty hilly part of Brazil.  The view from the top of their facility was absolutely amazing.

Today we visited the sloth sanctuary.    The sloths were rescued from the local area.  There were something like 27 sloths there.  We got to pet them.  Yes, they are super cute.

By the way, Prof. Jodi Prosise from St. Ambrose has more continuous internet access and has been posting lots of photos.  Her blog is at :

Brazil update: Friday June 3, 2011

I have not had internet access much, sorry for the lack of updates.  There is lots I want to say though but I don’t have the internet time…  Here is quick update:

Our colleagues from St. Ambrose have joined us.  Dr. Jodi Prosise, the main organizer from St. Ambrose, and general Superwoman is here.  We have learned and experienced even more about Brazilian culture.  Most of us are now staying with host families and are out of the hotel.  Our host families have been very generous.  The food continues to be fantastic.

We visited a Cargill cocoa facility and learned more about cocoa and its economic importance.

We have twice visited a state university in Bahia (Universidad de Estadual de Santa Cruz).  We toured labs and found out about various research projects.  One nice aspect of their research is that their work is generally tied directly to local and regional problems (ex. studying sustainable building materials that can be found in this area).  I wonder if faculty in the US might adopt this model even more.

We met engineering faculty and talked about ways to collaborate with our projects to help disabled folks here in Ilheus for the next year.   We really want to keep this work going.   They were eager to work with us and we really enjoyed the conversation.  It was also very interesting to hear the significant similarities between their issues in education and ours.  They are eager to have an exchange with our students.  I hope we can figure out a way to host their students at Sweet Briar.

Hopefully I’ll be able to provide more updates.  The trip continues to be fantastic.  We’ll meet our clients next week.  We are very excited!





Brazil update: Monday May 30

We all got to brazil, well except for the crew from St Ambrose. More on that later.

We were all pretty tired but I think we have all recovered thanks to good food and 12 plus hours of sleep. We did all find the energy to go for a nice beach walk last night.

Oh, did i mention our hotel is on a beautiful beach?

Keep checking back for updates.

2011 Global Engineering Project- Students Head to Brazil!

As part of our spring 2011 engineering course, ENGR232 Technology and Society: A Global Perspective, Sweet Briar engineering majors and non-engineering majors have been designing devices for an occupational therapy clinic in Brazil.  Students and faculty are extremely excited to be traveling to Brazil to meet and interact with our clients and to experience Brazilian culture!

The project based class has focused on the design of devices that will improve the quality of life of our clients.  Students have also been learning about Brazilian society, as this is an important part of understanding our clients needs.  Some of our designs have been built and will be left in Brazil while others will be tested with our clients and brought back for modifications.   The student work has included an eye-blink communication device, a light weight desk w/communication options, a proprioceptive device, a prosthetic hand (still in early stages of development), and a game that encourages building muscle strength.

Hopefully we’ll get students to blog about their travels and get some photos posted.  Keep an eye out on the blog.

Congratulations 2011 Sweet Briar graduates from engineering and physics

Congratulations to our 10 graduates from the Department of Physics and Engineering!!!!  I challenge anyone to find a college of 600 undergraduates with 10 female physics and engineering majors!

We look forward to hearing about the great things you all do.

2011 Summer Exploring Engineering Design class for high school girls

Students work on their musical instrument

We are getting pretty excited about our upcoming Exploring Engineering Design summer course for high school girls.  The course is built around several hands-on, team-based engineering design projects.  We emphasize engineering as a creative and collaborative activity.

Last summer, students:

  • designed and created robotic musical instruments
  • visited the GLAD manufacturing facility
  • learned about brainstorming by designing an original dog wash facility
  • met with women engineers from area companies
  • learned about sound and circuits through hands-on activities
  • presented and “played” their musical instruments to their family and friends at our end of course Design Exhibition

Students work on their xylophone

This event is always a really rewarding experience for the high school students, the college student mentors, and the engineering faculty.  The event runs from July 24-29, 2011.  The deadline for applications is June 25.  Participants will reside in SBC dorms for the week with oversight from program residence directors.  The cost is $550 which includes food, housing, supplies, and college credit.  Scholarships are also available.

The event is for rising female juniors and seniors, though some sophomores have taken part in the past.

Our Explore Engineering page has more info as well as the application forms.

Let me (Prof. Hank Yochum) know if you have any questions about the course (, 434-381-6357).



senior engineering capstone presentation today

I posted a while back about our engineering capstone project with the good folks at EDISON2.  Today, April 28, our engineering majors will be doing their final presentation, come check it out.   Here is the blurb from Bethany Brinkman, the instructor for the course:

Please join the ENGR 451 Senior Capstone Design class for their final design and prototype presentation tomorrow afternoon at 3:00pm in Heuer auditorium.  Working with Edison2, the class designed the seating layout for the next generation of the X-Prize winning Very Light Car. The seating system had to meet the needs of a family vehicle while still maintaining the constraints imposed by the car’s overall design goals, which included weight, size, orientation, and cost.  The class utilized a systems engineering approach and the Pahl & Beitz evaluation method in order to account for functionality, consumer appeal, structural integrity, federal safety regulation adherence, mass production feasibility, economical practicability, and ergonomical considerations.

By the way, I got a pretty funny photo of them at 3am last night….

Sweet Briar faculty and students at Richmond FIRST event April 8 and 9, 2011

Sweet Briar engineering faculty and students will be at the Richmond FIRST regional event held at VCU April 8 and 9, 2011.  They will have a variety of fun giveaways (ipod speaker kits, pink hats, etc) and they will have some neat student projects there as well. Want to find out more about the Sweet Briar engineering community?  Head to the Siegel Center at VCU.  More info is here.

The Virginia FIRST events are really pretty amazing.  The energy there to support high school students and their hard work with robotics is contagious.  The vibe is like a really energetic high school  pep rally.