College of Engineering Category
Mital Patel always knew he wanted to pursue a career in technology. But the 2005 computer science graduate didn’t know that idea would lead him to a different field of study.
Patel helps local businesses from the ground up at his boutique business law firm in Raleigh. He says he first gained an interest in law while he was on an Alternative Service Break trip to Ecuador during his time at NC State.
“We were doing a reflection on the trip, and I realized I wanted to do something to help other people,” Patel says.
Patel, 30, decided that that “something” was to help small businesses with legal advice, so he attended Elon University School of Law, where he graduated in 2009. Shortly after graduating, he started his law firm, Triangle Business Law, in Raleigh.
Patel jokes that he didn’t want to be too far away from NC State football and basketball. But his main reason for not straying was the technology and startup business he saw growing in Raleigh.
That caused him to want to get involved with the entrepreneurship side of business law. “We always want to be entrepreneurial with the law firm itself,” Patel says. “Providing legal services to growing companies is very different than dealing with companies that aren’t entrepreneurial.”
Some of the areas which Triangle Business Law focuses on are contract review and negotiation, incorporation, and intellectual property law. Having a background in technology has been extremely helpful for Patel when it comes to his clients who are technology or software companies because it allows him to fully understand what they are trying to do with their business.
“We really try to provide the full spectrum for the small companies that just got started yesterday to clients we have that are multinational corporations and have offices all across the world,” Patel says.
Business law is not the only way that Patel is involved in entrepreurship. He is also a leader in Startup North Carolina and many Startup Weekends, seminars that can help new businesses grow, throughout the state. He has traveled all over the world to present at entrepreneurship workshops and even presented on entrepreneurship at the White House in 2013.
“We learned a lot about the way the rest of the world is approaching entrepreneurship,” Patel says, “and we learned a lot of unique points that we took back with us to North Carolina to apply those principles at home and make the best community we can.”
Even if you don’t find math the most engaging topic, it’s hard not to appreciate how NC State alumnus Robert Allison uses math to make interactive maps.
With the recent mystery of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight, many people have taken an interest in airplane disappearances. Allison has been interested in airplanes since he was a child because his father was a pilot in the Navy.
Allison, who earned his undergraduate (1987), masters (1990) and doctoral (1996) degrees at NC State, has worked with visual analytics at SAS for over 20 years. He recently developed an interactive map that shows the major unexplained airplane disappearances since 1948.
“NC State is where I learned how to do the graphics and use the SAS software and mapping techniques,” says Allison, who lives in Cary, N.C.
The interactive map he made was based off of one he found while researching the missing airplane on Bloomberg’s website. By downloading a spreadsheet of data from the Aviation Safety Network and using the SAS programming language, he created a new map that contained much more information than the original.
“My goal was just to find a map that I like and make a better version of it,” Allison says. “It’s easy to understand and easy to use.”
Allison focuses on making simple graphics that maximize efficiency. With the map he has created of missing airplanes, researchers could see if there are any trends of which airports these airplanes took off from or make more detailed data sets related to pilot experience or other factors that could have led to these lost airplanes.
“We could potentially utilize some of SAS’ analytic capabilities to help find the missing plane,” he says. “For example, they found 122 pieces of debris in satellite photos that might be from the missing plane – we could use SAS/OR (Operations Research) to optimize the order in which they investigate these 122 pieces, so that they do that in the shortest distance & time.”
Making maps is not new for Allison, but he still enjoys making them for their interactivity and potential for data analysis. Allison has created hundreds of maps and graphics, including maps that track the flu epidemic in California, show the debris from a space shuttle explosion and track iPhone versus Android phone usage by state.
“I’m currently working on a map to try to show all the known information about the missing Flight 370 on one single map,” Allison says.
These maps have the potential to help solve the mystery behind missing airplanes. Allison hopes that future efforts will be made with SAS technology to further this research and find out why some of these disappearances happen.
Sometimes, it turns out, a baseball field can be too perfect. Or so Kevin Clark found out when he tried to help a group of African-American and Latino students at at an inner-city school in Washington, D.C., learn math and science by playing educational video games.
Clark, director of the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity at George Mason University, had provided the kids with a template for a video game that used baseball to teach math and science. But something was wrong with Clark’s virtual baseball field.
“They asked me who plays baseball in a place like this?” Clark recalls. “The template I provided them was perfect. It was nicely groomed. It was a suburban field. But for them, it wasn’t their reality. They were empowered to change it, to make it their own.”
Clark, who earned an undergraduate degree (1989) and master’s degree (1991) in computer science at NC State, had no problem accepting that his baseball field didn’t make sense to the students. What mattered to Clark was that the students could use the game’s template to change the field to fit their own reality — and hopefully gain some ownership of the technology in the process.
“The primary issue is changing their mind from one of thinking, ‘You have to use what you’re handed,’ to ‘You can create what you need and make it so it solves your problems,’” he says.
That approach, part of Clark’s larger effort to attract a more diverse group of students to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines, was recognized by the White House earlier this month when Clark was named a Champion of Change.
“I was surprised,” Clark says. “I was humbled and appreciative. I like to go quietly about my business. But it has definitely shined the light on the type of work I do, which is good.”
As a professor in George Mason’s College of Education and Human Development, Clark oversees the Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity. Clark describes the center as a virtual organization that connects a half dozen professors at George Mason with faculty around the country involved in efforts to use technology to get more minority children and girls interested in STEM disciplines, areas that have traditionally been dominated by white males.
The center is involved in research and outreach, looking for opportunities to increase access to STEM education. One of the center’s initiatives has been to create a national database of summer camps and after-school programs that focus on science and technology, making it easier for parents to find opportunities to expose their children to such programs.
At the center of much of what the center does is Clark’s belief that students need to become creators of technology, not just consumers of technology.
“I want to have students learn how to make stuff,” he says. “When you teach students how to build technology, they become in control of that technology. It’s a much more powerful approach.”
Getting fresh, local produce can be a hassle in big cities. Ben Greene, who earned a master’s in industrial design at NC State in 2009, is trying to change that with something called the Farmery.
Greene first had the concept when he was studying for a master’s degree in industrial design at NC State that he received in 2009. He wanted to solve the problem of being able to buy local food in an urban area without having to drive to two different places for grocery shopping.
“I wanted to choose a field that hadn’t really been touched, and that was agriculture,” says Greene.
Greene brought together the farm and the retail grocery store to create a unique shopping experience that he calls the Farmery. The Farmery has three main parts: the farm, the grocery and the café. Some of the produce sold at the Farmery is grown within the facility, reducing packaging and transportation costs while providing the freshest possible produce to customers.
“Growing the produce right there in the shipment containers reduces spoilage and allows for more consistent crops,” says Greene.
One of the main crops grown at the Farmery are gourmet mushrooms, which can be expensive in retail stores and have a short shelf-life. Other crops grown at the Farmery include lettuce, strawberries and other greens.
Along with its unique concept, the Farmery had a unique way of raising money to get started. Greene used Kickstarter to raise $25,000 to fund the initial building, called the Mini-Farmery. Originally built in Clayton, N.C., and moved to Durham, N.C., to open in July of 2013, the Mini-Farmery can now be visited at Raleigh City Farm.
“We’re talking to people about getting the full-scale model,” says Greene. “We plan to start construction this fall and finish it in winter 2015.”
Greene’s main goal with the Farmery is to redefine what a grocery store is in urban areas. With an increased focus on local foods in cities, the Farmery provides a new standard for what a grocery store focused on local food should look like.
“Especially in the South, people are moving to bigger cities, and we want to be the retailer that takes advantage of that by providing local food for these urban markets,” says Greene. “The food is healthy, it’s good, and it’s all in one place.”
The Winter Olympics wrap up in Sochi, Russia, on Sunday, but not before some athletes get their last chance to capture a gold medal for another four years. Some of the most popular Olympians left competing are members of the four-man bobsled teams.
Hans DeBot and one of his Olympic sleds in his DeBotech shop. Photo courtesy of DeBotech.
And if you tune in to watch the bobsledding event on Saturday and Sunday, you will see just how much red and white compliment the blue of the American bobsled and skeleton teams. Hans DeBot graduated from NC State in 1993 with a mechanical engineering degree, DeBotech, his carbon fiber and composite parts company in Mooresville, N.C., built the Night Train 2, the bobsled that is trying to defend the gold medal the four-man team won in Vancouver four years ago.
DeBot says this may be his most rewarding project in a career that has included work in aerospace and military technology, NASCAR and the Aviation Racing Series. “It’s hard not to pay notice to the Olympics,” he says. “We’re especially making a difference. But was it a challenge. Sure, it was very risky.”
The risk DeBot refers to came in 2002 when he says an Olympic bobsledding hopeful named Bruce Rosselli came to him wanting DeBot to build a bobsled. “I didn’t know anything about the sport,” DeBot says, adding that he likes to solve any problem given to him. ” I didn’t know if he was a good driver. He didn’t have any money to do it. But I built that bobsled.”
DeBot’s sled showed up at the 2002 Olympics as a lighter ride made with carbon fiber instead of the usual heavier laminated glass and Kevlar. The U.S. team took home the silver and bronze medals that year in Salt Lake City.
Photo courtesy of DeBotech.
His Olympic involvement has led DeBot to partner on projects with former NASCAR driver-turned-bobsled-maker Geoff Bodine and BMW. DeBotech was brought in recently to help build the sleds used for the skeleton events, where athletes ride headfirst at speeds of 80 miles per hour on a sled that loosely resembles one the average Joe might go down on in the snow, and to help build the two-man bobsled.
DeBot’s work has made it to the podium in Sochi. The women’s skeleton team captured a silver, with the men’s team getting a bronze. The two-man men’s bobsled team won a bronze, the first medal won by Americans in the event in 62 years, and the two-man bobsled women’s team took home a silver and a bronze.
This weekend the four-man bobsled team will try to once again capture gold.
While many viewers choose to watch the tape-delayed results on NBC in prime time, DeBot says he and the 20 employees in his shop can’t wait for that and instead watch the events live in their shop.
“I pull it up on the T.V. in the shop so the employees can enjoy,” he says. “They get to sit back and say, ‘We’re sitting and watching our stuff come to life on television.’”
Imagine a ballerina, clad in a white leotard and tutu, gracing the stage of the Durham Performing Arts Center. Now imagine that same ballerina dancing around in the streets of downtown Raleigh. Tim Lytvinenko captured those images and many more in his 15th Anniversary Book for the Carolina Ballet.
Lytvinenko has had a passion for photography since he was a child. He worked as a photo editor for the Technician while he studied computer science at NC State and had a few internships at newspapers after college. He graduated in 2006 with an engineering degree.
“I knew that’s what I was going to pursue for a while,” Lytvinenko says.
One First Friday, Lytvinenko happened to meet some of the dancers from the Carolina Ballet running around downtown Raleigh doing a photo shoot. The dancers wanted to bring a unique marketing strategy to the Ballet, so Lytvinenko thought that taking pictures in urban spaces instead of on stage was one way to do it.
“We tried to go around to familiar places in Raleigh,” Lytvinenko says. “Since they weren’t on stage, it was a lot easier for people to connect with them. They weren’t these icons. They were just normal people.”
Lytvinenko’s 15th Anniversary Book contains much more than just images of ballerinas frolicking through the busy streets of Raleigh. The book features shots of the ballerinas on stage, but also contains glimpses into their lives behind the curtain.
“Every night when I’m shooting backstage, it’s this kind of push-pull because I’m trying to get closer to shoot, but also leave them enough room to get ready for their performance,” Lytvinenko says.
During the 15th season, Lytvinenko took more than 100,000 photos over the course of about 60 shows. He narrowed them down to less than 200 for the book. Lytvinenko’s friend from NC State, Ben McNeely, helped him with the written content and editing of the 15th Anniversary Book.
“I couldn’t have done it without him,” Lytvinenko says.
McNeely, a 2005 NC State grad who works as a producer for News 14 Carolina, and Lytvinenko worked together at Technician and have been close friends ever since. Lytvinenko says they have worked together on projects before and even have some projects in the works this year.
“There aren’t too many people from college that I keep up with like him,” Lytvinenko says.
Lytvinenko (left, in a self portrait) keeps up with a few other friends from his time at Technician, including Ray Black, who helped with the copy editing of the 15th Anniversary Book. Lytvinenko says he still does a lot of photography work with Black as well.
“They aren’t just people from Technician anymore,” Lytvinenko says. “They’re people from my life.”
Lytvinenko plans to continue working with his friends McNeely and Black on future projects as well as with some of the dancers from the Carolina Ballet. He currently shoots for Walter Magazine, and has a residency at Chuck’s in downtown Raleigh, where some of his work is displayed year-round.
The last remnants of Riddick Stadium, as noted in the winter issue of NC State magazine, came down last April when the stadium’s field house was demolished to improve pedestrian access and safety near the railroad tunnel. That means that the only remaining salute to one of the most important figures in NC State’s history is Riddick Hall, which houses the physics department.
And as much as Wallace Carl Riddick did for the university, both as an athletics coach and as an administrator trying to grow NC State, it’s fitting that the campus can’t wholly shake his name.
Riddick first came to NC State in the college’s infancy, joining the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in 1892. He came as a professor of civil engineering after graduating UNC-Chapel Hill and obtaining a graduate degree from Lehigh University (and, according to his obituary in the American Society of Civil Engineers, even being expelled from Wake Forest College for being a member of a fraternity, or as the college saw it, a secret society).
In his years of building a robust civil engineering department at the college, Riddick became known as being the “father of engineering in North Carolina,” as former chancellor J.W. Harrelson once described him. And David Lockmiller, in his History of the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering, credits Riddick’s efforts as being the driving force behind bringing sewer connections and city water to campus in the early 1900s. Riddick also coached the 1898 and 1899 football squads.
Riddick was elected vice-president in 1908 and president in 1916. The college’s name was changed to North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering during his time in office, according to Hardy D. Berry’s Place Names on the Campus of North Carolina State University. Riddick gave up the post in 1923 to become the first dean of the School of Engineering.
When Riddick Engineering Laboratories were dedicated in April 1951, the formal program memorialized Riddick, who had died in 1942, as “the man who has served State College in more capacities and for a longer time than any other person.” It also hailed his leadership for guiding “the college through the turbulent period of the first world war and its aftermath. Under his guidance the college made some of its greatest progress.”
Riddick later in his life.
In Riddick’s file at the Alumni Association, there is a letter from his wife, Lillian Daniel Riddick, in which she outlines her husband’s belief in NC State and the students it serves. She tells a story about a group of Serbian students who were brought over to study at NC State with their first year paid for. But when it became apparent that personnel changes at the college had led to those same students not having a funding source for their remaining three years, Riddick stepped in. As president, he persuaded the Board of Trustees to let the Serbian young men finish their studies with the college giving them their tuition and board.
It was that belief in education that defined Riddick and his commitment to NC State, where his name will never be forgotten.
When you consider all that Carroll Lamb Mann did for NC State during his 47 years as a professor of civil engineering (including 32 years as head of the Department of Civil Engineering), it’s not surprising that he would have a building on campus named for him.
But two buildings?
On this day in 1963, the Technician reported that the new civil engineering building had been completed. The story noted that the four-story building, with more than 76,000 square feet of space, would be named after Mann.
What the story did not note was that it would be the second building at NC State that had been named for Mann. The other building had been incorporated into Daniels Hall in 1956, some seven years earlier.
The new civil engineering building was a 65 percent increase in existing engineering facilities on campus, but it was also designed so that it could be expanded either vertically or horizontally, according to the story.
It was, as noted by NC State’s facilities division, typical of many building constructed in the 19609s. But it included at least one feature not found in most buildings — a five-foot thick concrete slab floor in a lab used for structural testing.
Mann, the building’s namesake, spent much of his life at NC State. He majored in civil engineering at the end of the 19th century, earning his degree in 1899. After working as a surveyor (he was part of an effort to study the feasibility of building a canal across Nicaragua), Mann returned to NC State as a professor of civil engineering and served as head of the Department of Civil Engineering for 32 years. He would teach at NC State for nearly five decades before retiring in 1948.
He also served for 30 years as chairman of the alumni memorial committee that conceived of and constructed the Memorial Bell Tower. The tower was dedicated in 1949, one year after Mann’s retirement from NC State.
“My greatest experience has been the work I have done on that tower,” Mann once said. “When the time comes for me to die, the last think I want to hear are the chimes on Memorial Tower at the College.”
Ken Blackburn was, in 1983, an unknown junior in aerospace engineering at NC State who had but one dream — to own the sky.
And it was on this day 30 years ago that Blackburn’s anonymity died and his dream took off as he set the world record for indoor paper-airplane flight in Reynolds Coliseum with his cutting-edge pulp glider, “Bossy,” that cut through the air for 16.89 seconds.
“‘Bossy,’ the record breaking plane, is constructed from a piece of standard-sized typing paper,” the Technician reported, quoting Blackburn as describing his design as being “highly modified” from a design he saw in a book in elementary school.
That November day had been a long time coming for Blackburn. According to the Technician‘s account, he’d been cradling that dream since the sixth grade. He had broken the record, which had been on the books since 1975, by three seconds a year before the historic flight in Reynolds. Unfortunately, there was no official representative from Guinness World Records to record that initial flight.
Even on the record day in 1983, “Bossy” wouldn’t have joined Blackburn on the unfolded pages of history if not for a simple twist of fate taking down another of his planes. “During warm-up, ‘Old Betsy,’ his previous record-breaking plane, gave her life as she drifted into the speaker system in the rafters of Reynolds Coliseum,” the Technician reported.
Ken Blackburn’s launch was captured by a Technician photographer.
According to the story, only six people were on hand to see history that day. But that, and the wear-and-tear that paper airplanes can inflict on their launchers, didn’t deter Blackburn from enjoying his glory. “Blackburn said that his right arm would be sore for the next few days, but this did not take away from the excitement of his accomplishment.” the Technician‘s account read.
Blackburn, who graduated from NC State in 1985, continued his upward trajectory after college. According to his website, he set another record in 1987 with a 17.2-second flight. He wrote and published The World Record Paper Air Plane Book. And he set another record in 1998 inside of Atlanta’s Georgia Dome with an airplane that whirled and twirled for 27.6 seconds.
According to Guinness World Records’ website, the current record for a paper airplane’s flight stands at 29.2 seconds and was set by someone else in Japan in 2010.
Richard Holcomb loved growing up around his family’s feeder pig farm in Whiteville, N.C. — so much so that he considered going into farming himself. When his family moved to Conway, S.C., he worked on local farms as hired help.
But when Holcomb graduated from high school in 1979, he says the conventional wisdom in farming was “get big or get out.”
“I got out,” he says.
He studied computer science at the University of South Carolina for three years and and then started his master’s in the same field at NC State in 1983. A year later, he left State to work in the software industry for more than two decades, founding and investing in more than 30 local software companies. Along the way, he returned to State and completed his master’s degree in in 1989.
“Software when I started it in my early 20s was really exciting,” Holcomb says. “The IBM PC had just been invented, things like Microsoft Windows had just come out. Everything was new — everything needed to be done. A small company with just a couple people could make a really big difference.”
But by the early 2000s, Holcomb says the industry had changed and the days of garage startups were all but gone. Much of his workdays were spent attending business meetings and watching PowerPoint presentations. Holcomb says it was time for him to change course.
Richard Holcomb tending to the chickens (Photos courtesy of Jamie DeMent, Coon Rock Farm)
In 2004, he moved from his inside-the-Beltline home in Raleigh to the 65-acre Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough, N.C. to get in on the local and organic farming movement.
“It was time for something new, and the organic and local farming movement was just starting to really take off,” Holcomb says. “I decided if I’m still young enough to make that move, I’ll follow what I wanted to do when I was 17. [Organic farming is] almost like being 20 again because it’s so exciting and fun to do. It doesn’t involve a lot of meetings and it never involves a PowerPoint.”
Today, Holcomb and his staff of five full-time employees and five to seven interns grow more than 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. They also raise chickens and grass-fed livestock on the farm and on 300 acres of land in and around Orange County.
On the farm, sheep, pigs and cows are rotated through the gardens to eat weeds and provide natural fertilizer for the crops.
“Although it’s the farming they used to do 1,000 years ago, it’s exciting and fresh,” Holcomb says. “There’s a lot of new, young people getting into it and the market is growing very rapidly.”
With the ramped-up use of pesticides and genetically modified crops in mainstream agriculture, Holcomb says the growing popularity of organic foods is due largely to health concerns.
“You can look at different scientific studies if you want,” he says, “but at the common sense level, if I’m spraying something on a plant that’s going to kill a bug and then I’m going to eat the plant, is it going to kill me?”
Holcomb purchased a farm-to-table restaurant in Durham, N.C. called Piedmont in 2010 and a produce delivery service called Bella Bean Organics in 2012. According to Holcomb, Coon Rock Farm makes an estimated 500-1,000 shipments each week through Bella Bean and Community Supported Agriculture, another delivery service. Coon Rock also sells produce and meats at various Triangle farmers’ markets.
Holcomb says he’s committed to showing that it’s possible to eat local, healthy and organic foods year round, even if it means getting up early on a cold January morning or working through a hot summer afternoon. Although he admits working in extreme heat and cold is one of the hardest parts of his job, Holcomb says days when the weather is just right are by far the best and most rewarding.
“Seventy degrees. The sun’s not too bright, but it’s not cloudy. It’s perfect to be outside planting seed or picking okra or riding the tractor,” Holcomb says. “It’s days like this that make farming worthwhile.”