Geoffrey Orsak

Faculty in the News: April 13, 2010

Geoffrey Orsak, Dean, Lyle School of Engineering, discussed his involvement with a new project designed to reach promising minority students in local high schools with Cheryl Hall of The Dallas Morning News for a column that appeared April 7, 2010.

Jim Quick, Dean, Research and Graduate Studies and professor in the Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College, discussed the potential threat of volcanic activity to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam for an article that appeared in Defense News April 5, 2010.

Students tackle global problems in Lyle School competition

Engineering studentsStudents will team up to solve problems ranging from hunger and poverty to climate change and disaster preparedness through a new annual design competition established by SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

The Innovation Competition, funded by Dallas-based Carr LLP, will bring together the thinkers, mentors, facilities and processes necessary for dynamic innovation needed to solve humanity’s problems. It will be hosted by the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education‘s Innovation Gymnasium – which is also home to the Lyle School’s Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® Lab in the Lyle School.

“Good ideas come from everywhere,” says Dr. Nathan Huntoon (’06), director of the Innovation Competition. “Each of us has unique experiences and perspectives on the world. These perspectives, more than technical understanding, can often provide the inspiration for ideas that change the world.

“With this competition we are hoping to solicit the good ideas from all our students, and then partner them with people who can help turn that idea into reality.”

Students from all fields of study at SMU are invited to enter the competition. The organizers have future plans to involve students at other colleges and universities.

The deadline for written proposals is April 5, 2010. The teams with the top 5 written proposals will be asked to make oral presentations on April 30, after which two finalists will be announced.

The top two proposals will receive $2,000 each to build a prototype. Engineering students will join each of the two competing teams and will work throughout the summer to build a prototype in the Innovation Gymnasium.

At the end of the summer, a panel of industry and academic judges will evaluate the final prototypes and award the winning team a $1,000 cash prize.

“The Lyle School challenges its students to explore practical innovation, or what we call applied creativity,” says Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “To teach innovation, we must be innovative ourselves, and strive to provide rich, challenging, and interactive experiences that stretch the boundaries of traditional education.”

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Learn more at the Innovation Competition homepage
Visit SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering online

New engineering institute to develop solutions for global poor

Hunt Institute for Engineering and HumanityPairing technological innovation with business collaboration to improve conditions for the global poor is the driving force behind the new Hunter and Stephanie Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity in SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering.

Gifts totaling $5 million from Hunter and Stephanie Hunt, William T. and Gay F. Solomon, Bobby B. Lyle and others will establish the institute and initially create two endowed professorships to support a unique, interdisciplinary approach to delivering basic technology to the impoverished.

Jeffrey Talley, chair of the Lyle School’s Environmental and Civil Engineering Department and a U.S. Army Reserve general, will be the founding director of the institute, which is to be housed in the new Caruth Hall upon its completion in early spring.

“The Institute for Engineering and Humanity will accelerate the ability of the Lyle School of Engineering to serve as a magnet for the kind of students and researchers who seek solutions to societal challenges,” said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “We are very grateful for the generosity of these donors, whose passion for improving the lives of others matches SMU’s commitment to global leadership.”

The institute strategy begins with the understanding that small-scale innovations already exist to solve many problems in poor communities, while others need to be modified to fit specific geographic and cultural needs. Safe, affordable and sustainable housing will top the Institute’s project list, as well as ready access to clean water and sanitation; functional roads and transportation systems, and clean, reliable energy. The institute will create innovative approaches to easing poverty by encouraging markets for its ultra low-cost solutions, based on the principle that sustainable business models are more likely to accelerate global development than traditional approaches.

The institute’s major components will include the following:

  • an easily accessible library of existing technological solutions that are certified and ready for widespread dissemination and use
  • a global database of regional technology gaps that need to be bridged to meet specific needs
  • research and development of new ultra low-cost technologies involving SMU faculty, students and industry partners
  • field testing and scaling of new products to ensure low manufacturing costs, durability, easy maintenance, and minimal impact on the environment
  • assistance to businesses that will manufacture and maintain these technologies

“This will be no easy challenge,” said Engineering Dean Geoffrey Orsak. “To make basic technology globally available at a price the poorest of the poor can afford requires a radical rethinking of centuries of engineering practice. How many solutions have remained on the drawing board because they were too costly for communities that need them? How many have failed because they could not be locally repaired and maintained?”

It’s going to take talented, motivated engineers to identify solutions for alleviating poverty, Orsak said, adding that the success of this new institute can have a profound impact on people who struggle just to survive with dignity.

The Lyle School’s partnership with the renowned Lockheed Martin Skunk Works® will provide proven innovation methodologies to support the institute’s research and development efforts. The institute’s approach to finding affordable solutions also will include national and international competitions and incentives, particularly targeted to students.

Hunter and Stephanie HuntThe engineering school will begin an international search for a scholar who has broad experience in developing technologies and infrastructure for emerging economies to become the William T. and Gay F. Solomon Endowed Professor in Engineering and Global Development. Institute director Talley will hold the Bobby B. Lyle Endowed Professor in Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship.

With three billion people in the world living on $2 a day or less, institute donors Hunter and Stephanie Hunt (left) believe global poverty is one of the most pressing problems of our time. “There has been a great deal of financial and commercial innovation in helping the impoverished, but there has been little technical and engineering innovation; we hope to fill that void,” Stephanie Hunt said. “This new institute will take a creative but pragmatic approach to an immense challenge,” Hunter Hunt added.

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Visit the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering online

Al Armendariz named to Environmental Protection Agency

Al ArmendarizAl Armendariz, SMU associate professor of environmental and civil engineering, is President Barack Obama‘s choice to head the Environmental Protection Agency‘s Region 6, which includes Texas – the nation’s largest producer of industrial air pollution – and four other southwestern states.

“I look forward to working closely with Al Armendariz on the range of urgent environmental issues we face, in region 6 and across the nation,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who announced the appointment. “At this moment of great challenge and even greater opportunity, I’m thrilled that Al will be part of our leadership team at EPA. He will certainly play an instrumental role in our Agency’s mission to protect our health and the environment.”

Regional EPA administrators promote state and local environmental protection efforts and serve as a liaison between Jackson and state and local government officials. Armendariz takes the helm at Region 6 at a time when the EPA has made it clear that Texas pollution enforcement standards are not high enough and must meet federal Clean Air Act requirements followed by other states.

“I think it’s fair to say that the new administration, the President and Lisa Jackson have put EPA on a new course to better protect the environment and I’m happy to be part of the team,” Armendariz said. “I think it’s pretty obvious to the regulated industries and the environmental groups and the politicians that what EPA is doing now is a big departure from what EPA has been doing for a number of years. It’s an exciting time.”

Region 6 includes the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, as well as 66 Indian tribes. While on leave, Armendariz will retain his appointment with SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering.

“We are thrilled that Al Armendariz’ work in improving our living and working environments has been recognized by the President and EPA Administrator,” said Geoffrey Orsak, dean of the Lyle School. “Al is an extraordinarily talented, insightful and balanced engineer who will make a significant contribution to our nation and region.”

“I am very excited and I’m looking forward to joining the administration,” Armendariz said. “I’ve greatly enjoyed being at SMU. It’s been a fantastic place to work and I’ve had the support of Dean Orsak and Dr. (R. Gerald) Turner for all my activities. It’s been a great place to teach and do research, and I look forward to continuing my association with SMU for years to come.”

Armendariz joined SMU in 2002 after receiving his Ph.D in environmental engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. He worked as a research assistant at the MIT Center for Global Change Science at their Atmospheric Chemistry Laboratory in Massachusetts, and at the Radian Corporation in North Carolina as a chemical engineer, before joining the SMU faculty. He also spent a summer on special assignment to EPA’s Dallas office as an environmental scientist.

Learn more from SMU News

Faculty in the News: Aug. 25, 2009

Geoff Orsak on KERA's 'Think'Nathan Cortez, Dedman School of Law, discussed the legal implications of insurers offering overseas networks for cheaper health and dental care with USA Today Aug. 24, 2009.

Matt Wilson, Political Science, took part in an online discussion of the mutual engagement between science and religion in the Dallas Morning News‘ Texas Faith blog Aug. 24, 2009. He also participated in a Texas Faith conversation on the connection between religion and politics with Theology Dean William Lawrence and Maguire Professor of Ethics Robin Lovin Aug. 18, 2009.

Louis Jacobs, Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College, talked about how the end of the Angolan civil war has affected the search for dinosaur fossils in that country with Yahoo! News Aug. 21, 2009.

Geoffrey Orsak (above), Dean, Lyle School of Engineering, took part in a discussion about whether the design controversy around the Trinity toll road project can be solved by good engineering on KERA Channel 13’s “Think” Aug. 14, 2009.

Cal Jillson, Political Science, Dedman College, moderated a town hall debate on health care that included Texas Congressional representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) and Pete Sessions (R-Dallas) at Cityplace Conference Center Aug. 17, 2009. It was one of the few meetings nationwide where a Democrat and Republican have appeared together. Coverage appeared in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Aug. 18, 2009.

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