Girl Power in Engineering #TBT

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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

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

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“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.

MooneyMark21-RS11-3-1

“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.


Announcing the Leo C. Peters Papers

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Portrait of Leo Charles Peters, undated. (RS 11/10/51, box 3 folder 10)

We are proud to announce that a large expansion of the Leo Charles Peters Papers (RS 11/10/51) is now available for research. Dr. Peters was a staple of the Iowa State University (ISU) Department of Mechanical Engineering from 1961 until his retirement in 1996.

Born in Kansas, he got his start in engineering at Kansas State University with a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering (1953). Peters worked as an engineer for much of the 1950s at the John Deere Tractorworks in Waterloo, Iowa with the exception of the two years he spent in the 839th engineering battalion of the Special Category Army with Air Force during the Korean War. Peters left John Deere to take up a position as Instructor with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and complete his graduate education, earning both his M.S. (1963) and his Ph.D. (1967) in mechanical engineering and engineering mechanics from ISU. Peters was quickly promoted to Associate Professor, earning full Professor in 1978. He remained with the University until his retirement in 1996. Materials in the collection document Peters’ transition from student to professional to faculty member and provide insight into engineering curriculum development and university-industry partnerships. A significant portion of this collection concerns teaching activities and curriculum for engineering courses.

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ISU SAE entry into the SAE mini baja competition, 1983. ( RS 11/10/51, box 1, folder 49)

Part of Peters’ lasting contribution to ISU was his initiation of an ISU student branch of the Society of Automotive Engineers (ISU SAE) in 1968. The branch’s first year was very successful – earning a personal visit from F. B. Esty, the National President of SAE and culminating in the presentation of a branch charter for formal induction into SAE. Other notable guests of ISU SAE were Phil Myers (former president of the Society of Automotive Engineers), Andy Granatelli (Chief Executive Officer of STP), and Jacques Passino (Director of Ford Motor Company’s Special Products Division). Peters’ love of advising and working with students was recognized multiple times via awards for outstanding teaching and advising.

A sketch of the layout for a Moot Court workshop. RS 11/10/51.

A sketch of the layout for a Moot Court workshop. (RS 11/10/51, box 2 folder 29)

Drawing on both his formal education and experience as an engineer, Peters was an expert in product safety and product liability issues. He published in these areas and taught “moot court” workshops at engineering conferences where participants explored product liability and the law. He also worked as an independent consultant and expert witness specializing in patent infringement, products liability, and failure analysis.

One of the special features of this collection is the series of diaries that Peters kept from 1959 to 1969. Scattered throughout notes on classes, tough mechanic jobs at John Deere, thesis due dates, and class exams are hints of his rich family life – “Mark’s First Communion (May 8, 1966)” and “Sue’s 7th and 8th graders bought and gave her a bassinett for a going away gift (January 17, 1958).” Peters was devoted to his family and, along with wife (and ISU alumna) Suzanne Gordon Peters, raised nine children. This collection gives us a glimpse into the many facets of a scholar’s life.

A portion of Peters' 1959 diary.

A portion of Peters’ 1959 diary. (RS 11/10/51, box 2, folder 55)

Suzanne Peters, a birth announcement, and a newspaper account of family in attendance at Peters' doctoral graduation. RS 11/10/51

Suzanne Peters, a birth announcement, and a newspaper account of family in attendance at Peters’ doctoral graduation. (RS 11/10/51, box 3 folder 10)

This collection adds to our steadily growing body of materials on ISU engineering faculty (see Henry M. Black and Anson Marston). Our other engineering collections include: Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), the records of the College of Engineering, and our materials on agricultural engineering and technology.

The Leo Charles Peters papers are now available for research (RS 11/10/51) at our reading room on the fourth floor of the Parks Library. Please come by and take a look – there’s a lot more than we can include in a single blog post!