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3D Printing Fosters Lasting Connection

Wabash Summer Research: In Our Own Words is a multimedia piece that uses the voices of Wabash College students to describe still photographs of their summer research work in the biology, chemistry, physics, and 3D printing laboratories on campus. The piece includes photographs by Grace Vaught with editing done by Austin Myers ’16.

 

A 3D printer helped bring a 1,500-year-old mathematics text to life.

While working on a manuscript of his own, assistant professor of mathematics Colin McKinney was perusing a text written in the late fifth century A.D. by Eutocius that described in great detail how to construct a device that would solve a basic geometry problem.

According to McKinney, Eutocius was very detailed in his descriptions of the mesolabe, right down to its dovetail-shaped groves.

“The text that describes this instrument is very clear in the language of how to construct it,” McKinney said. “For a mathematical text, that is kind of interesting.”

Sufficiently intrigued, McKinney was faced with a choice. He could spend the better part of a weekend carving it out of wood or he could 3D print it, “and that seemed much easier,” he laughed.

Professor McKinney's mesolabe both as a work in progress (top) and completed.

Professor McKinney’s mesolabe both as a work in progress (top) and completed.

Using Eutocius’ descriptions, McKinney designed the piece in an hour or two and used the Wabash 3D Printing and Fabrication Center to pint it. From inspiration to prototype took the better part of an afternoon.

“The advantage of 3D printing is you can try something and make modifications quickly,” McKinney said. “If I’m making this out of wood and discovered it wouldn’t work, that would have been an entire weekend gone. It really accelerates the rate at which you can try different things.”

The extruded plastic output also solidified a connection to the text that was unexpected. McKinney got a qualitative response to a very quantitative problem.

“That’s the awesome part,” he explained. “It’s real math history and to be able to make something that’s described in a text just totally changes that text. To be able to say here is the 21st century version of that fourth century device really brings it to life in a way the text in itself doesn’t.”

What began as work on a research paper soon grew into something bigger.

“To be able to get this thing prototyped quickly meant that I could keep making progress on that paper,” McKinney said. “I knew it would work in a geometric sense because I could prove that, but it’s totally different to put this on a piece of paper and, bam, those are the links right there that I need.”

The success McKinney enjoyed in crafting the mesolabe with the 3D printer has led him to attempt to produce more complicated devices. It’s also spawned a second paper.


The Value of a Mentor

Richard Paige — While the College celebrates the teaching and artistic accomplishments of Doug Calisch this weekend with the opening of 35 Retro in the Eric Dean Gallery, I was interested in the role than a mentor plays in the development of an artist.

So I reached out to Joe Trumpey ’88 via e-mail and asked him this: how important or meaningful is a mentor to a developing artist?

His reply was better than I could have hoped, and captures so many of the qualities that make Doug worth celebrating.

Joe Trumpey '88.

Joe Trumpey ’88.

“Doug Calisch was just the mentor I needed to launch my creative life. He is a calm, patient, and caring man. It was that demeanor that swayed me into a dual major. As a freshman I was a biology major thinking about an art minor. Getting to know Doug in 3-D design as a freshman, I realized that “making stuff” was an important part of who I am. I saw that creative quality in Doug and his work. He gently encouraged me to complete a dual major. He was not high pressure. Just an idea. Just there. Listening to me. Paying attention to me. Talking with me. Caring for me. Holding me accountable. Challenging me. How could I refuse? I valued those qualities then and still today. I learned a lot about being an educator from Doug and still strive to be the calm, attentive mentor that he was to me and countless others.”

Now an associate professor of art at the University of Michigan, Trumpey also relayed a story that brought things full circle for him.

“I was the student representative on Doug’s tenure review committee. Once he successfully achieved the tenure he deserved, he went on sabbatical and began building the home he designed. I spent a good part of that summer working in a bio lab on a research project during the day and spent nights and weekends helping Doug and Laura build their home. Twenty-three years later, after I achieved tenure at the University of Michigan, I began building my own home. Doug and Laura’s son, Sam, contacted me interested in green building. Sam came to Michigan and lived with us for more than a month working hard in building our home. It was a fulfilling and beautiful thing.”

Indeed.


An Arlington Moment Just as Meaningful

Howard W. Hewitt – The weekend football trip to Virginia and Washington D.C. was rewarding in several different ways. For anyone on the trip, it was hard not to take great pride in all of the comments we heard about our students.

I was on the receiving end of one of those situations. As our plane prepared to land in D.C. Friday afternoon, the stewards and stewardesses were making their final trash pick up. I was unlucky enough to be in the very last row of seats but on the aisle. The steward leaned down to whisper something to me.

“I just have to tell you these students are more polite than most of the people we have on this plane every day,” he said.

We heard similar compliments throughout the weekend but Wabash men almost always conduct themselves in a manner which would make an alum or mother and father proud. We regularly cleaned the busses and any area that our 60-some college athletes passed through.

Sometimes it’s left to faculty, staff and administrators to do the right thing. But it’s also not hard to suggest the students also inspire our actions by their thoughtfulness and kindness.

Coach Olmstead places the vase at the RFK quote at the JFK eternal flame.

Coach Olmstead places the vase at the RFK quote at the JFK eternal flame.

Dean of Students Michael Raters shared one such story after our return. The moving photos of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier changing of the guard and our wreath laying ceremony tell a powerful story. But there was a mix-up prior to that ceremony which was just as meaningful.

When Raters and assistant football coach Olmy Olmstead went to the Tomb with four players for instructions, they discovered a vase of flowers had been delivered instead of a wreath. The guards explained that just wouldn’t do. Fortunately, the guards keep a ‘back-up’ wreath on hand which the students used instead.

So what happened to the vase of flowers? The following is Raters’ description of what happened next.

“The guards then asked Olmy to take the other bouquet and place it somewhere else in the cemetery,” Raters wrote. “I joined Olmy as he retrieved the vase and we carried it to another place that had certainly captured the students’ interest – the Kennedy family plots.  As we walked and talked about the exact site we should use, one spot seemed to make the most sense for us to represent our team, its heritage, and that of its members.

“We decided to place the bouquet on a platform next to the inscription from the impromptu speech Robert F. Kennedy gave in Indianapolis the night Martin Luther King was assassinated. We were honored to do this and were taken by how many of the people at the site stopped and stood silently as Olmy laid the vase down. For me, who grew up in an Indianapolis family which idolized the Kennedys and tries to honor the legacy of both RFK and MLK in the way we conduct our lives, it was the perfect ending to a most moving morning at Arlington.”

 

Arlington-Flowers-RFK3“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

“So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King — yeah, it’s true — but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love — a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.”  – Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968, speaking in Indianapolis and announcing the assassination of Martin Luther King.


Bryant ’16: HSC Opportunity for Engagement

Patrick Bryant ’16 – Since it was announced prior to the 2014-2015 school year, the Gentlemen’s Classic has been pitched as being more than just a football game between Wabash and Hampden-Sydney.  It was about the all-male education and how we can draw from one another and learn from one another in the education of young men.  This past weekend, Fabian House ’16, Scott Purucker ’16, and I traveled with the Little Giants football team to engage in a discussion with members of H-SC’s student leadership.  I walk away proud and thankful for all we have by what I witnessed, yet inspired that we can do better.

FBwalkoutFabian, Scott, and I met with Hampden-Sydney’s Student Body President, the chairman of their Student Senate (which is comparable to Fabian’s role), the president of their Inter-Fraternity Council, and the president of their honor court.  The notion of having an honor court has deep roots in the history of Hampden-Sydney.  Although our Gentlemen’s Rule and their Honor Code are very similar, we don’t have that sort of infrastructure here at Wabash.  I admire their student leadership for taking a stand, often times against friends and close classmates, for the sake of upholding that honor code.  That can’t be an easy task.

I spent a good majority of the first half of the game talking with Josh, the chairman of their Student Senate.  Despite having closer to 2,000 students, Josh was surprised that we have the funding dollars that we do to put towards clubs, activities, and student programming.  Some of the events he outlined at Hampden-Sydney were a formal ball that they hold for the student body, faculty, staff, and alumni, and also a large philanthropic event they put on each year.  That was two thought-provoking “gaps” for us as student leaders to consider.  The notion of having a campus-wide formal at Wabash isn’t a new one and it’s something that’s been discussed in my time as Treasurer and now President of the Student Body.

The idea of having a philanthropic event is also very interesting to me.  Our financial policy says that student funds cannot be directed to a charitable organization.  The idea is we want to subsidize costs for groups that want to “do” philanthropy, but we don’t want to allow a free-for-all in allocating funds to various organizations.  That said, I think it would be a great idea that we put our manpower and energy behind an event.  Prior to coming to Wabash, I spent four years on the Executive Committee for our high school’s Dance Marathon, raising $1 million over four years for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.  Philanthropy is an area for growth and I come away inspired that we can do better as a student government in helping students “live humanely.”

HSC-StudentsThe weekend was a great one and the opportunity for me to interact with our D.C.-area alumni and trustees, interact with their student leadership in-person, and participate in the radio broadcast during the second half.  It was a great game day atmosphere at Hampden-Sydney, but to see the apathy of their student body to the game and their failure to wear their school color, showed me that we have a lot to be proud of and thankful for in Crawfordsville.  You can look at any photo from any game day at Wabash and find a full crowd emblazoned in scarlet.  Not so at Hampden-Sydney.  Instead lots of blue blazers with their backs turned to the game.  Wabash cares and proof can be found no further than in the crowd that supported our Little Giants this past Saturday.

Sunday was a day I won’t soon forget.  I’ve traveled twice before to Washington D.C. and twice made the trip to Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown.  Moved to tears doesn’t begin to explain it.  Without discrediting our players in anyway, I think you can ask any of them about what that Tomb means and any football game pales in comparison.

When I look back on the weekend, I was asked a number of questions by members of the H-SC community and it humbles me to think I was an ambassador for our student body.  When I explained our campus, our culture, our way of life, I quickly realized that I could sum it up my pride as a Little Giant by a lot of the actions off the playing field that I witnessed this weekend.  Everywhere we went, whether at a hotel, a restaurant, or on our flights, the behavior of our players was noticed by just about everyone who came into contact with them.  I heard countless times “please” and “thank you” and “bless you” when someone sneezed, I saw doors being held, guys pitching in and grabbing bags for one another, I saw so much of that in anticipation of and return from a 35-3 thrashing of the Tigers.  I can’t tell you if it’s a product of a single-sex education or a small school, but there’s something special here at Wabash.  Although it didn’t take a trip to Hampden-Sydney for me to realize that, it gives me a great deal of pride that the people we came in contact with at H-SC and along the way, may have a sense of what it means to be a Little Giant now too.