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Course explores engineering, with non-engineers

Posted on Nov 30, 2006

Brett Huntley '09 explains his StarWars-inspired toy to students at Craig School.

There's a thing about engineers: they tend to think that every solution should involve a motor.

So, Bill Keat, who taught a sophomore seminar, “Impossible Missions,” this fall was thrilled to see the ingenious (and non-motorized) solutions that came from the minds of the non-engineers who made up the majority of the class.

In one challenge during the term, students were asked to produce a design that would deliver golf balls into the top of a five-foot plastic pipe. One non-engineering member of a group came up with the simplest approach of all – helium balloons. “I never anticipated that they would use anything but standard engineering solutions,” Keat said.

“This was the first time I'd taught outside of engineering,” said Keat, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “But it really showed how engineers – and everyone else – can benefit from a multi-disciplinary team.”

Keat admits to high stress levels several times during the term, particularly when the students had to face the roadblocks that are de rigueur to those in Steinmetz Hall. “Engineers are more used to their designs not working on the first try, and so I thought I might have a rebellion on my hands,” he said. But the non-engineers invariably rose to the occasion.

“They always reminded us that even though it's a technological world, it always needs creative thinking.”

At the end of the term, the Union students presented their final design projects to a most discerning group: Chrissy Harper's third graders from Craig School in Niskayuna. It was the third time the groups had met. Previously – at Craig – the Union students quizzed the third graders about the kinds of toys they like. Star Wars, Pokemon, Harry Potter and the Ipod figured heavily in many designs. The youngsters fired questions at the Union students and rated their work, which would figure in their grade for the class.

Keat said the exercise gave the Union students a chance to interact with customers and learn to meet their needs. For the Union students, the day was as much about presentation as about design. Many wore masks from the students' favorite shows to keep the students' attention. Fidgeting was at a minimum, and questions were spirited.

For Brett Huntley '09, a psychology major, Keat's class offered a valuable look at engineering. “You have students here who have never been exposed to engineers.”

Recalling the helium balloon solution to the golf ball challenge, Lane Caffaro '07, a mechanical engineering major, said the class opened him to new possibilities. “I never would have thought of that.”

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Dr. Fildes named COT Chair

Posted on Nov 30, 2006

John Fildes, Alumni, Class of 1977

John Fildes, MD, FACS, of Las Vegas, NV, has been appointed the new Chair of the ACS Committee on Trauma (COT). Dr. Fildes' term will run from 2006 through 2010.

Dr. Fildes earned his bachelor of science degree in biomedical engineering at Union College in Schenectady, NY,in 1977. He graduated from the University of Santo Tomas Medical School in Manila, Philippines, in 1982. Dr. Fildes was an intern (1982-1983), resident (1983-1986), chief resident (1986-1987), and fellow (1987-1988) in general surgery at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in Bronx, NY. Following his work at Bronx-Lebanon, Dr. Fildes received fellowship training in surgical critical care and trauma (1988-1989) at Cook County Hospital, Chicago, IL.

Dr. Fildes began his academic career as an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine (1989-1995), at which time he was also a lecturer (1990-1992) and visiting assistant professor in general surgery (1992-1995) at Rush Medical College in Chicago.

Among the awards and honors Dr. Fildes has received are the White House Medical Unit Certificate of Appreciation (1998), and the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce's Community Achievement Award (1998).

He has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching. Dr. Fildes was named the 2006 Physician of the Year by the Nevada State Medical Association.

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College hosts film festival Saturday

Posted on Nov 28, 2006

State Street bridge over the Erie Canal, Schenectady

Union College hosts the first documentary film festival sponsored by Schenectady Access Cable Council, Inc. (SACC-TV 16) Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Reamer Campus Center Auditorium.

This year's theme, “Why Schenectady,” inspired filmmakers to explore historical, timely and trendy topics related to the Electric City and surrounding communities in Schenectady County. Finalists produced films about Schenectady's Underground Railroad, Thomas Edison, the Nott Memorial, the Stockade area and the Erie Canal. Filmmakers will compete for prize money in two categories: long films (20+ minutes) and shorts (5-20 minutes).

Nott Memorial

The volunteer judging panel includes filmmaker and Siena College Professor Mahmood Karimi-Hakak; former Channel 13 News Director and College of Saint Rose Communications Professor Paul Conti; Branda Miller, professor of Media Arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and composer/producers Tim Luby and David Bourgeois.

Founded in 1974, SACC is one of the oldest public access channels in the country. All submitted films will be aired on Channel 16.

Tickets will be sold at the door for $5 per person. For more information visit: http://www.sacctv.org/index.html or call (518) 346-3181.

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The Boston Camerata presents: A Mediterranean Christmas

Posted on Nov 21, 2006

The Boston Camerata, which has charmed world-wide audiences for the last half-century, teams up with the Sharq Arabic Music Ensemble to bring A Mediterranean Christmas to Memorial Chapel Sunday, Dec. 3 at 3 p.m.

The Boston Camerata, directed by Joel Cohen

Under the direction of Joel Cohen, a leader in medieval and Renaissance musical performance, the program infuses musical scholarship and energy with the unique musical style of the Mediterranean basin.

Said Cohen, “The mark of the Mediterranean is still present in our beliefs and values. Bethlehem is the last exit from the Southeast Expressway.”

Selections feature the languages and cultures of the Latinized areas of southern Europe, blended with the more recent folksongs from oral tradition, offering a rich mix of melodic styles. Narration and storytelling are central to these cultures and their music combines theatrical gestures, dramatic dialogue and rapid, melismatic, vocal notes to express emotion.

“Similar to the Cantigas of King Alfonse the Wise in the thirteenth century,” Cohen continued, “a simple melody, a good story and a choral refrain bring this narrative tradition to a summit of excellence.”

A Mediterranean Christmas features director Joel Cohen, lauta, guitar and voice, assisted by Karim Nagi Mohammed, founding member and director of Sharq on percussion (riqq, tar, darabuka and duff) as well as chifonie. Additional performers include Anne Azéma, Equidad Barès and Anne Harley voice; Hazel Brooks, vielle; Steven Lundahl, recorders, shawm and slide trumpet; Boujemaa Razgui on percussion (tar and darabuka), nay, raita and voice; Kareem Roustom, oud and guitar; and Mehmet Sanlikol, voice, saz and zurna.

Director Joel Cohen practices A Mediterranean Christmas with The Boston Camerata

The collaboration of The Boston Camerata and Sharq produced the Warner Classics CD, A Mediterranean Christmas, released in November, 2005.

Cohen has appeared with numerous European ensembles and festivals, has recorded more than 30 CDs under his direction and his arrangements of Early American tunes inspired the score to the film Geronimo (1994). A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard, he's well known in Europe as a radio commentator and has received several prestigious awards including the Howard Mayer Brown Award for lifetime achievement in early music.

Concert tickets are free for the Union community, $20 for the general public and $10 for area students. For more information, call 388-6080 or 372-3651; or visit http://www.union.edu/concertseries/.

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Memorial service a warm tribute to Richard E. Roberts ’50

Posted on Nov 20, 2006

The memorial service for former Union Trustee Richard E. Roberts '50 embodied the way he lived his life: with kindness and humor.

Family, friends, colleagues, Trustees, faculty, alumni and students who gathered to honor Roberts' life overflowed the balconies of Memorial Chapel as they reminisced above the somber opening strains of Pachelbel.

Richard E. Roberts '50, alumni, trustee, Roberts

The stage was adorned in garnet and white floral sprays, and Roberts' folded, military flag as a World War II Air Force vet was displayed prominently on a brass stand beside the podium. The hymns and scripture readings played out as meticulously as Roberts led his life, for he had given memorial service instructions to Union President Stephen C. Ainlay just months before he became ill.

One by one, reflections encapsulated the man who served as husband, father, grandfather, friend, concerned citizen, accomplished lawyer, senior partner of Higgins, Roberts, Beyerl & Coan P.C., and loyal son of Union College – a man who strove to help and touch every life he encountered.

“What a loss, what a gift,” said Ainlay of the passing of his friend and their short time together. “He was an inspiration to us all and was dedicated to his family, his community and his country.”

Ainlay expressed comfort in the thought that “length is not a measure of depth” and noted that their friendship held depth.

Roberts served as a member of the College's Board of Trustees from 1978 through 1993. He also served as president of the Alumni Council, class agent, a leader of the College's Annual Business Campaign, and a member of a presidential search committee. A former basketball and lacrosse player at Union, he was an avid fan who cheered his alma mater at many games and was a strong supporter of Friends of Union Athletics. He was inducted this fall in the College's Athletic Hall of Fame.

Classmate and lifelong friend Charles Abba '50 recalled Roberts' good sense of humor, including a love of the Three Stooges and monkey antics; pride in his British immigrant heritage; and his one departure from his ethnicity, his love for Italian food.

Michael R. Suprunowicz, president of Higgins, Roberts, spoke of his “friend, teacher and the benevolent partner who considered it an honor to serve his clients, and never differentiated whether they were widowed, prominent or indigent.” The firm was founded in 1837. Suprunowicz drew appreciative laughter from the audience when he noted that his devoted colleague probably worked there the entire 170-year span.

“He was a pit bull of a lawyer,” Suprunowicz said. “If he latched onto you, you couldn't shake him off. He was a master of working a room and loved being a lawyer. I believe he represents three to four Apostles now…”

Roberts felt his job wasn't completed unless a client left happier than when he or she came in. Roberts retired in 1976, but still came to the office daily and believed hard work and commitment were the path to achievement.

“His legacy to us,” continued Suprunowicz, “is understanding where his tireless energy comes from. When you give to others, and give of yourself, the well never runs dry.”

The Rev. Victoria J. Brooks-McDonald, Union's interfaith chaplain, echoed those thoughts in her choice of scripture from Thessalonians II. “Give thanks because it is right,” she read. “Dick operated from a deep sense of gratitude, and he gave of himself from that gratitude.”

The service closed with President Ainlay reading tributes from  Roberts' three children, Allison, Bradley '82 and Christopher. Their words evoked fond memories of their father, and they promised to look after their mother, Barbara. They also vowed that Roberts' grandchildren would come to know him through watching the video “Hats Off to Dick Roberts.” Roberts' son, Jeffrey, predeceased him.

“Education was how he rose from modest beginnings,” Ainlay read from Bradley's memorial, “and my father's only goal in life was for us to go to college and make something of ourselves. If we can strive to be one-tenth the person he was, then we'd have done something with our lives.”

Following the service, mourners filed out of Memorial Chapel to the sounds of Auld Lang Syne, shaking hands with one another and recalling happier days from Roberts' alma mater. Outside, a lone bagpipe played a selection of tunes that would surely have made Roberts smile. A reception followed in Old Chapel.

Memorial contributions may be made to Friends of Union Athletics, c/o College Relations, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, N.Y. 12308.

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