1984 Engineering Week

In September of 1984, Iowa State University held a special Engineering Week. Nearly 48 companies set up displays in the Memorial Union throughout the week. These promotions gave ISU Engineering Students opportunities to deepen their understandings of the field in which they had chosen to embark, as well as giving them a chance to network. However, this year’s E-Week was about more than making connections.

Image from the 1985 Bomb pg. 114

Planned and organized by a committee of 20 engineering students, the theme of this year’s event was “touching technology”. Students from all majors were invited to participate in events throughout this week, the most memorable of which being the “Dunk a Professor” event, a design contest, and the E-Week Superstars Competition. In the E-Week Superstars Competition 14 representatives from different disciplines of engineering competed in volleyball and tug-of-war.

This year’s committee was determined to make this a fun week for all, and it sounds like they succeeded!

As always, if you’re interested in reading more about past Iowa State highlights, all copies of the Bomb are available digitally!

Images from the 1985 Bomb pg. 114 – 115.

AAPI History Month: David Teh-Yu Kao, former Dean of the College of Engineering

Note: It is unclear whether Dr. Kao is still alive (I suspect he is), but I have chosen to refer to him and his accomplishments in the past tense, as he seems to have moved on from his position at ISU some time ago. It is therefore this period of affiliation that I am referring to in past tense, and not Dr. Kao himself. 

Even without having met the man personally, I can say it would be difficult to describe Dr. David Teh-Yu Kao as anything less than an absolute credit to Iowa State University, where he served as the Dean of the College of Engineering from 1988 through 1994, and then as the Glenn Murphy Professor of Engineering from 1994 to approximately 1997. He is currently listed as a Professor Emeritus on the department’s website. I have not been able to verify that Dr. Kao was for certain the first Asian American dean of this college, let alone the first first-generation immigrant to hold the position, but the resources I have examined suggest that both are probable. Regardless of these distinctions, his influence left an enduring impact on the College of Engineering, and his leadership style speaks of a visionary with many diverse talents. 

Headshot of Dean Kao, University Photographs, 11/1/A, Box 813
Headshot of Dean Kao, University Photographs, 11/1/A, Box 813

Excerpt from memo entitled "Regents Approve Kao As new ISU Engineering Dean." RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 1. Text reads as follows: "recieved varied grants and contracts and 10 patents and has provided technical consulting services to 15 public and private organizations. A Native of Shanghai, China, kao is a U.S. citizen. He and his wife, the former Theresea S. Yang, have three children. (Editors Note: Kao is pronounced 'gow,' rhyming with 'cow.')."
Excerpt from memo entitled “Regents Approve Kao As new ISU Engineering Dean.” RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 1

Long before his time at ISU, Dr. Kao had distinguished himself as a gifted engineer. He earned his B.S. in civil engineering from National Cheng-Kung University, Tainan, Republic of China, Taiwan, in 1959. He then went on to receive his M.S. in civil engineering from Duke University in 1965, and his Ph.D. in civil engineering from the same institution in 1967. His research specializations included hydraulics and fluid mechanics, hydraulic transport of solids, and hydraulic machinery. For his work in these areas, Science Digest named him one of the Top 100 Innovators of 1985. 


Headline from The Ames Daily Tribune, Thursday, June 16, 1988. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 2. Headline reads as follows: "Dean: At top of his field in US (continued from page one)."
Headline from The Ames Daily Tribune, Thursday, June 16, 1988. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 2

Contrary to stereotypes about folks gifted in STEM fields, however, Dr. Kao also seems to have been naturally out-going, very much a people-oriented person, and consequently a talented and attentive teacher. In his previous positions at University of Kentucky, he won the Outstanding Teacher Award in the Kentucky college of Engineering three times and the R. E. Shaver Award for Excellent Teaching twice, in addition to receiving the Western Electric Fund Award for Excellence in Instruction of Engineering Students and the Great Teacher Award of the University of Kentucky Alumni Association.

Article from Visions journal, published by the ISU Alumni Association. Undated. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 2. Title of the article reads as follows: "Kao Brings 'Inner Strength' To College of Engineering." Photo of Dean Kao. Caption on the photo reads as follows: "Chinese-born David Kao credits Eastern philosophies for his cosmopolitan views of education."
Article from Visions journal, published by the ISU Alumni Association. Undated. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 2

In his position as Dean of the College of Engineering at ISU, Dr. Kao also earned a reputation for having a uniquely philosophical approach to outreach and problem-solving. 

Article from Connections newsletter, vol. 9 no. 1, September 1988. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 1. Title of the article reads as follows: "Philosophy comes to engineering." To read the entire article, please contact ISU Special Collections and University Archives.
Article from Connections newsletter, vol. 9 no. 1, September 1988. RS 11/1/16, Box 1, Folder 1

Among his many accomplishments during his 5 and a half years as dean, Dr. Kao lead the development of the College of Engineering’s first strategic plan, doubled student scholarship funds ($224,000 in 1987 to $430,000 in 1994), quadrupled private donations ($2 million in 1988-89 to $9 million in 1991-92), and advocated for the Women in Science and Engineering program. While it is nowhere explicitly linked to his efforts, it is also interesting to note that SCUA’s Archives of Women in Science and Engineering was established during his final year as dean. He also advocated for more balance in faculty teaching and research development, innovative teaching methodologies (which, at the time, meant an emphasis on collaborative learning), and established outreach programs that reached children as young as kindergarten. 

In short, ISU is a better place for Dr. Kao’s having worked here. We are immensely privileged to have benefited from his talents. 

Headshot of Dean Kao, University Photographs, 11/1/A, Box 813
Headshot of Dean Kao, University Photographs, 11/1/A, Box 813

Rare Book Highlights: Pop Up! The Technical Encyclopedia Edition

Henri Desarces. Nouvelle encyclopédie pratique de mécanique et d’éelectricité. 4 volumes. Paris: Librairie Aristide Quillet, 1924. (TJ163 .D47 1924)

Okay, so it is not technically a pop-up book. But as a non-scientist and non-engineer, I find myself drawn most to the illustrations in scientific works. Plates with moveable layers are just gravy. (Look below for videos!)

And yet, scientific illustrations are more than just pretty pictures. They communicate complex concepts both to other experts in a highly specialized field, and also sometimes to general audiences.

This newly-purchased encyclopedia is clearly speaking to experts, as you can see by examining a few pages from any volume:

Two pages show technical text in French along with several scientific and mathematical diagrams.
Opening in vol. 1 of Nouvelle encyclopedie.

This encyclopedia uses a number of different illustration techniques, including half-tones, blueprints, and chromolithographs.

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And finally, the 4th “Atlas” volume contains chromolithographic plates with several layers of overlays that are just seriously cool:

The Nouvelle ecyclopédie is a comprehensive guide to the state of mechanics and electricity (volume 3 is entirely devoted to electricity) post-World War I. It was compiled by Henri Desarces, an engineer at École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. He first published the work under the title Grande encyclopédie practique de méchanique et d’electricité in 1913. For this second revised and updated edition, Desarces collaborated with many other French engineers who were specialists in various fields. The French publisher Quillet was a well-known publisher of illustrated and accurate technical encyclopedias.

This is a wonderful addition to our engineering books, and I am excited to share it with classes and researchers!

Here’s a bonus video:

#TBT Engineer’s Campfire

Tomorrow is the first day of fall, so let’s look back at an Iowa State fall tradition of days gone by.

Page from the 1927 Bomb

The text on the page reads “One of the most picturesque occasions of the Fall Quarter is the Engineer’s Campfire held in a natural theatre in North Woods.  During the afternoon a regular “Side-show” provides entertainment, while at night two big fires light up a stage for student vaudeville stunts.  The Engineers are knighted by St. Patrick by the light of the two big “torches.”  Norman Brown was St. Patrick this fall, and Margaret Erickson was “Engineer’s Lady.”

The Engineer’s Campfire was suspended in 1929 due to falling revenue and the unpredictability of the fall weather in Iowa.

As the weather gets colder (or at least, will eventually!), take time to learn about other ISU traditions that have been left in the past. After you do that, the entire run of the Bomb has been digitized, and all are encouraged to contribute to helping transcribe the pages in order to make the text search more accurate.

Girl Power in Engineering #TBT

Curtiss-Wright Cadettes welding, circa 1943. University Photographs, RS 13/16/F, Box 1110

In a time when the majority of women at Iowa State studied Home Economics (which, for the record, is a perfectly fine subject to study), there was a group of 100 women working to earn an engineering certificate. The program was the Curtiss-Wright Engineering Cadettes Program, which was established during World War II at several universities in the U.S., sponsored by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. The curriculum included training in drafting, stress analysis, materials lab, aerodynamics, and production liaison. The goal of this was to train women to serve as assistants to engineers, so the engineers could accomplish more in less time. Obviously, there was still a long way to go regarding women’s educational and career opportunities, but they likely helped paved the way for women to become full engineers.

For more examples of women in science and engineering, check out our WISE collections!


CyPix: An Early 20th Century Ag Engineering Class

A professor teaches a class on a piece of machinery, 1906. University Photographs, RS 9/7/F.
A professor teaches a class on a piece of machinery, 1906. University Photographs, RS 9/7/F.

A lot has changed since this photo was taken, perhaps most noticeably agricultural technology (not to mention the fashions). To find out just how much ag technology has changed over the last 100+ years, come in and have a look at our agricultural engineering and technology collections, and our Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering collections, RS 9/7. Photos are also available in our University Photographs collection. Contact us or stop by – we’re happy to help!

CyPix: Concrete Canoes

Scene from the Third Annual Midwest Concrete Canoe Race (1973) (MS 275, box 3, folder 3)
Scene from the Third Annual Midwest Concrete Canoe Race (1973) (Mary Krumboltz Hurd Papers, MS 275, box 3, folder 3)

In 1971 The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Purdue University competed in the first intercollegiate concrete canoe race. “Clyde Kesler of the University of Illinois gets credit for starting the whole thing, by having his civil engineering students build a ferro cement canoe in 1970. Purdue students learned about it, built their own canoe, and challenged Illinois to a race. That’s how it all got started … but spontaneous enthusiasm has caused the idea to mushroom all across the country.” (1973 race report, MS 275, box 3, folder 3). These events continue today as the National Concrete Canoe Championship hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

The concrete canoe race is a way for engineering students to work with concrete, practice fluid analysis, use design software, and work in a team. Iowa State University was not present at the 1973 competition pictured here, but the ASCE Iowa State Student Chapter does have an active concrete canoe team.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of concrete canoe racing, stop by the Special Collections and University Archives Department to examine the other materials in the Mary Krumboltz Hurd Papers (MS 275). Hurd was an Iowa State University alumna (BS Engineering 1947), consultant, writer, and staff engineer for the American Concrete Institute. This collection, part of our Archives of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), documents Hurd’s involvement in setting up the races and has many other photographs of concrete canoe racing in the early 1970s.

Engineering the Home: Domestic Comfort via Science

If the wretched hole which they show in Carnarvon Castle as the birthplace of Edward II be indeed the room in which that unhappy prince first saw the light, I can only say that whatever advantages the men of a former age may have had over us, certainly domestic comfort could not be said to be one of them.

– W. F. Butler. Ventilation of Buildings. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1873, page 9. (Parks Special Collections TH 7653 .B978v)

“Electric Heating and Cooking Apparatus.” The Electrician, December 31, 1897. (TK1 EL266.

Wherever you’re reading this, take a look around. Chances are that you are, or have recently, benefited from some kind of “domestic comfort” – whether that be an air conditioned house, electrical lighting, a metal cooking pot, or a ventilated

room, the products of science have made life a little pleasanter.

An “alarm thermometer” that provide alerts when designated areas became too cold or too hot. The Electrician, November 26, 1897. (TK1 EL266).

The home has benefited greatly from disciplines such as applied physics,1 electrical engineering, thermodynamics, materials science, mechanical engineering, acoustics, and so on. Iowa State scientists have contributed to several domestic comforts: Srinivas Garimella developed technology that can be used for environmentally friendly air conditioners and the Iowa State University Research Foundation, in conjunction with Maytag Corporation, developed an ice dispenser that will work in refrigerators with freezers on the bottom.

Design for a safety lamp. John Davy. The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1839-1840. (QD3 D315c)
Design for a safety lamp. John Davy. The Collected Works of Sir Humphry Davy. London: Smith, Elder, and Co. 1839-1840. (QD3 D315c)

 You can read more about Iowa State University technology developments here. Iowa State University patents from 1959 to present are also viewable via the Iowa State University digital repository.

For more about Iowa State University inventors, see our technology collections subject guide. A few of those collections are listed below:

  • Iowa State University Inventors and Inventions (RS 00/21)
  • John Vincent Atanasoff Papers (RS 13/20/51)
  • Wesley Fischer Buchele Papers (RS 9/7/52)(pdf)
  • George Washington Carver Collection (RS 21/7/2)
  • Charles A. and Sidonia Goetz Papers (RS 13/6/17)

1“Applied Physics is rooted in the fundamental truths and basic concepts of the physical sciences but is concerned with the utilization of scientific principles in practical devices and systems, and in the application of physics in other areas of science.” – Stanford Department of Applied Physics, 2003.

CyPix: a robot beverage service

Iowa State has its own celebrity robot. CyBot, the famous robot in question, once poured Alan Alda a drink on national television.

Cybot pouring water from a Mountain Dew can. (RS 11/1/8 box 10, folder 28)
Cybot pouring water from a Mountain Dew can. (RS 11/1/8 box 10, folder 28)

In 1996, seniors in the Electrical and Computer Engineering program developed Iowa State University’s first interactive robot as part of their Senior Design class. Cybot, at a height of 6 feet and a weight of between 200 and 460 pounds (sources disagree), was a mobile robot equipped with sonar and speech capabilities.

Cybot was programmed to find its way around a room and offer people it met a drink, which it then poured and served. Cybot uses sonar (sound waves) to find obstacles and avoid them and to find potential drink customers. It is fully autonomous, has rudimentary intelligence, and it communicates by voice.

A library of acceptable user commands guides Cybot’s actions, and it answers by voice as well. “If Cybot asks ‘Would you like something to drink?’ and you say ‘No thank you,’ it moves on. If you say ‘Yes, please,’ it will pour you a Coke,” Patterson said.

– “Spotlight Shining on Iowa State’s Cybot,” Iowa State Daily, September 3, 1996.

Two students calibrate CyBot. (Engineering Communications, RS 11/1/8)
Two students calibrate CyBot. (Engineering Communications, RS 11/1/8)

Learn more about CyBot in the Engineering Communications records (RS 11/1/8).

CyPix: Airplanes at Iowa State

“Gayle Carnes, Carl Sandford, and Student with the Ercoupe.” – RS 11/3/1 box 1.

In honor of Aviation History Month (November), here are two CyPix drawn from Iowa State University’s aviation history. The image above depicts Professor and Department Head Carl Sandford (at left), a student, and Aeronautical Engineering and Curtiss-Wright cadette program faculty member Gayle Carnes.

Aviation and aeronautical engineering courses were first offered during the 1928 – 1929 school year but it wasn’t until 1941 that the curriculum was formalized into a full “Aeronautical Engineering” program within the Department of Mechanical Engineering. The new program was announced via the Iowa State Daily newspaper on December 6th, 1941 – one day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Over the next six months interest in the program grew, resulting in the formation of a Department  of Aeronautical Engineering in June of 1942. (McCormick, Newberry, and Jumper. Aerospace Engineering Education During the First Century of Flight, 2004)

These courses, along with the University’s involvement in pilot training for the Civil Aviation Authority, required that the university maintain airplanes for instructional purposes. The plane in the picture above was an Ercoupe. It was in use until 1955 when it was traded in as part of the purchase of a Navion. Following the Navion was a purchase of a Mooney M20 C Mark 21.

“The Mooney” – RS 11/3/1 box 1.

Professor M. L. Millet Jr.’s 1963 letter to College of Engineering Dean George R. Town urging the purchase of a new plane (the Mooney) reveals how much stress these planes were under. Professor Millet writes:

“As a result of the flight test course, the airplane [the Navion] has been flown under high power conditions. There have been performed over 1000 stalls to obtain data. These stalls are deep, full elevator stalls which result in considerable buffeting and shaking of the airplane.”

The department, now called “Aerospace Engineering,” continues to provide flight instruction as part of it’s undergraduate program. You can learn more about aviation history at Iowa State through the records of the Aerospace Engineering Department (RS 11/3/1) and our aviation collections. Barnes McCormick, Conrad Newberry, and Eric Jumper’s Aerospace Engineering Education During the First Century of Flight (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 2004) offers an entire chapter on the history of aerospace engineering education at Iowa State. You can check this book out in the Parks Library general stacks: TL560 A47x 2004.

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