Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the National Institutes of Health who may be best known for leading the Human Genome Project (HGP), was the featured speaker during SMU’s 102nd all-University Commencement ceremony, May 20, in Moody Coliseum.
“You need to be prepared for dramatic change,” Collins told the graduates. “Whatever the field, you can’t imagine what it will look like in 10 or 20 years. Your path will not always be smooth. Doors you were counting on may not open. Do you have the strength and foundation to deal with that?”
Collins concluded his Commencement address with a song.
Dr. Collins – whose own personal research efforts led to the isolation of the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis, Huntington’s disease and Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome – received the Doctor of Science degree, honoris causa, from SMU during the ceremony.
From Perunapalooza to Pony Preview, from Meadows Museum Family Day to the Luck of the Loydians Residential Commons celebration, and from the Red-Blue Scrimmage to Mustang Fan Fair, SMU Founders’ Day Weekend was packed with activities for the entire community. Take a look back with these photos by Kim Leeson and Guy Rogers III.
Follow SMU senior economics major and student athlete Jeremy White as he networks and explores job opportunities at the SMU Spring Career and Internship Fair in this Mustang Minute! video from SMU News’ Myles Taylor.
While many of their fellow students were sleeping in over winter break, 17 SMU students came back to school in January before classes resumed for a “no grades” design project that delivered a design solution they called “ModPod” for sponsoring partners at Better Block Foundation and Good Faith Energy.
The challenge was to design a flat-pack (think about what comes in an assemble-it-yourself box from IKEA) solar charging station that urban dwellers can use for mobile devices like cell phones and laptops. Better Block Foundation uses a human-centered approach to offer consulting, tools and support for the prototyping of initiatives that can help develop more livable neighborhoods, so designing for them means coming up with simple designs that can work on sidewalks and in parks. Good Faith Energy is a North Texas solar energy provider, and the company donated $500 to help cover students’ costs.
As the clock begins to tick, students in these Immersive Design Challenges start brainstorming, designing, building small models and learning to “fail forward.” No worries, though, because learning and adapting from mistakes is part of the process where participants quickly adjust and repeat rapid prototypes to overcome obstacles and drive toward better solutions.
Students self-sort into teams that focus on what they can best contribute – from computer-aided design, to physical construction with traditional power tools, to operation of a 3-D printer, to making the final presentations that “sell” the design to the sponsors. It is this divide-and-conquer approach that draws SMU students from programs and majors all over campus.
The final design that emerged from the January competition is a curvy plywood design that can be snapped together and function as a vertical piece, or a horizontal unit that can be used as a bench. Modular additions can be snapped on to allow the mounting of solar panels, a battery pack, power outlet, even a method for locking your bike and phone. You can watch a time-lapse video of the students assembling the prototype.
ModPod now becomes part of Better Block Foundation’s wikiblock, an open-source toolkit of designs for urban furniture-like benches, planters and bus stops that are available for free download. The common denominator for all of the wikiblock designs is that parts are crafted out of plywood cut with a computer-assisted router, and most can be assembled without glue or nails “to make a block better.”
“Dream it. Print it. Build it. Live it.” That’s the wikiblock mantra.
Immersive Design Challenges are hosted throughout the year in the Deason Innovation Gym, nicknamed “the DIG,” in SMU’s Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering. These competitions are a big draw for engineering students, of course, but are open to students from all majors and minors, resulting in the kind of inter-disciplinary teams that successful businesses have learned are the best incubators for good ideas.
Students have to apply for a spot on the team. They don’t earn any class credit, and the participants have to be willing to give up a holiday or between-semesters break to get uninterrupted access to the DIG. They work round-the-clock (sleeping bags, junk food, lots of Red Bull) to design, prototype and build solutions to design challenges that come to the University from real-world businesses and non-profits.
So, you have to ask, why do it? For SMU first-year computer engineering student Sunjoli Aggarwal, getting to spend more time in the DIG was the big draw. She’d taken a class in fall 2016 that allowed her to spend a little time working in the big makerspace on the ground level of Caruth Hall, but not nearly enough.
“I felt that everyone in the DIG was extraordinarily skilled and always seemed to know exactly what they were working on, and so I wanted to reach a point where I felt comfortable going to the DIG,” Sunjoli explained. The application form for the Immersive Design Competition emphasized that no previous experience with DIG tools was necessary, so she took a leap of faith and signed up to participate.
“The experience was amazing! The most fun times were when some of us would stay at the DIG until midnight, blasting music, working hard, and having fun out of our excitement about the project,” Sunjoli said. Getting to meet and work with their business partners from Good Faith Energy and Better Block Foundation made the whole experience even better, she said, because they were working for a purpose.
Sunjoli found that her presentation skills were valuable to the team, and you can see how she explained part of the project to an audience that included sponsors Better Block Foundation and Good Faith Energy on the last day of the competition.
What happens next?
Better Block Foundation will upload the cutting guides and assembly instructions for the plywood pieces to its wikiblock to make the plans available, open-source, for communities to use for streetscape improvement projects. Some of the students who are interested in the solar component of the design will move forward with its development with Good Faith Energy, and hopefully a manufacturing partner, to make a marketable and publicly accessible, plug-and-play solar generator.
The next Immersive Design Challenge in the Deason Innovation Gym is expected at the end of the spring 2017 semester.
Mustang Band members are practicing Big Band tunes for Pigskin Revue, construction is underway on parade floats, and Mustang football players are aiming for a victory over Memphis. Time to load up the car and come home to SMU Nov. 3-6 for Homecoming 2016.
Plans include concerts, walking tours, exhibits, open houses, events for graduates of individual schools, mini-reunions and worship services. Visit smu.edu/homecoming for details; below are some highlights.
SMU dedicated the new Dr. Bob Smith Health Center for students in September. In this new video, student Raven Harding tours the 33,000-square-foot facility located in the heart of campus and speaks to the professionals who provide medical and counseling services and health education.
SMU welcomed new students to the Hilltop in August with five days of learning, bonding and exploring their new home. Throughout the week, University reporters and photographers captured the Class of 2020 at Mustang Corral and in the Discover Dallas program.
Now their photos, social media posts, and a new video by SMU News’ Myles Taylor are gathered at one link. Visit SMU News for many more dispatches from Move-in Day, Camp Corral, the 2016 Opening Convocation, the making of the class photo and more.