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Summer camp again gives girls the EDGE in engineering careers

Posted on Jul 22, 2010

On a recent weekday morning, a group of high school girls gathered in the robotics design studio in the F.W. Olin Center, where they began working on a project for children with special needs.

EDGE 2010 Right one. Linda Almstead

What they were really learning was how to apply engineering principles to real-world applications.

For some, the experience will inspire a career in engineering. As the gender gap persists for women pursuing engineering careers, that’s the goal of EDGE (EDucating Girls for Engineering). Union has hosted the two-week residential camp since 2002.

In 2009, the percentage of women enrolled in undergraduate engineering programs at schools in the U.S. and Canada was only 18.2 percent. The numbers are even more sobering in the engineering workforce, where women comprise just over 11 percent.

There have been numerous studies and much debate trying to explain why women continue to lag far behind men in engineering, but little improvement. That’s why camps like EDGE are so important, said Cherrice Traver, dean of engineering at Union.

“Showing young women how their creativity can be combined with their quantitative skills to prepare them for a career that benefits humanity is what the EDGE program is all about,” said Traver. “It is a powerful experience that has been continuously improved over several years by some exceptional staff.”

The camp, which began July 18, runs through July 30. During the two weeks, 20 girls from across the country will learn about basic engineering principles, attend communication and public speaking workshops, and go on field trips to places like GE Healthcare and Jiminy Peak, where they will tour the wind turbine. They will also present the toys adapted for the children at Northwoods at Hilltop in nearby Niskayuna.

EDGE 2010 Right one.

Sue Gestwick ’05 is the resident teacher, with help from several faculty members. Counselors include Katie Sophia ’10, Elizabeth Bocchino ’11, Vadim Yerokhin ’11 and Gina Riggins ’13. The program is coordinated by Jenny Moon Lippman ’03.

Sponsors include the Northrop Grumman Foundation, Jerome A. Schiff Charitable Trust and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

Union has a rich tradition with engineering. In 1845, Union became the first liberal arts college to offer engineering. For the last three years, the College has hosted academic leaders from more than a dozen top colleges and universities for a national symposium, “Engineering and Liberal Education.”

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Exercising a theory: Union professor leads study on impact of cybercycling on seniors

Posted on Jul 21, 2010

As a little girl, Althea Nelson loved to ride her bicycle around the neighborhood. So when the opportunity to volunteer for a national study examining the physiological and neuropsychological impact of cybercycling on seniors, Nelson climbed on board.

cybercycling Cay Anderson-Hanley Harry Steven Glen Eddy

“I enjoy the challenge of pedaling again,” said the 89-year-old Nelson recently while riding a stationary bike featuring a colorful 3-D monitor in the exercise room at the Glen Eddy, a retirement community in Niskayuna, N.Y. “It’s also great exercise.”

Nelson, who logged 381 miles over the past year on the bike, was among more than 100 seniors who participated in a study led by Cay Anderson-Hanley, assistant professor of psychology at Union. She is collaborating with Paul Arciero, an associate professor of exercise science at Skidmore College.

The two-year study, which wrapped up this week, was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to explore how interactive digital gaming can improve the health behaviors and outcomes for people age 50 and older.

The College was among 11 other research teams that received up to $200,000 each from the foundation’s Health Games Research program to measure the effects of video games on the health of the young and old.

Hanley’s team of researchers, which included students from Union and Skidmore, monitored the cognitive function, heart rate, body composition, social relationships and other measures of the riders while they raced against a virtual cycling partner three to five times a week.

The specially designed bikes were placed at eight sites around the region, including the Glen Eddy.

The idea was to make exercise more fun and competitive for a group not prone to participate by capitalizing on the popularity of video games.

Hanley hopes to publish the findings of the study this fall.

“Preliminary analyses indicate some cognitive benefits,” to cybercycling, said Hanley.

The chance to compete against others also motivated participants. Jeannette Gerlaugh would wait until the end of the day to ride the bike, so she could see what her neighbors at the Glen Eddy had done.

“I’m a competitive person, I guess,” said the 84-year-old Gerlaugh, who racked up 473 miles, nearly 100 more than Nelson. Then she noticed Nelson beat her at another number.

“You burned more calories than I did,” said Gerlaugh, laughing. “How did you do that?”

cybercycling Cay Anderson-Hanley Glen Eddy

The undisputed king of the Glen Eddy, though, was Harry Steven. At 88, Steven still rides the region’s bike trails. On the cybercycle, he collected more than 725 miles, mainly while playing “Dragon Chase,” one of at least a dozen gaming options.

“It’s fun to see what you can accomplish,” said Steven, sporting a racing shirt emblazoned with “Cycling the Erie Canal.”

That spirit is what Hanley thinks could push more seniors to exercise through digital gaming, providing critical health benefits.

“Games like this make them want to bike harder and more often,” Hanley said. “It’s truly impressive.”

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Deborah Ludke mourned, services Saturday

Posted on Jul 16, 2010

Deborah J. Ludke

Friends in the Union College community are mourning the loss of Deborah J. Ludke, a 16-year employee whose career spanned three College departments.

Deb died Wednesday, July 14, 2010, after a long battle with cancer. She was 64.

She served as administrative assistant for the Academic Opportunity Program (1989-1990); Public Relations, now Communications (1990-2000); and the Anthropology department (2000-2005).

Organized and outgoing, she eagerly kept tabs on the professional and personal doings of her colleagues. Her trademark humor had a steadying influence during heavy workloads such as Commencements and the celebration of the College’s Bicentennial in 1995. She often volunteered to babysit for colleagues’ children. She lent her talents for cooking and photography, providing dessert for colleagues and photos for various publications.

She is survived by her husband, Siegwalt; sons, David and Christopher; and grandchildren, Nathaniel, Maxwell and Sara.

Funeral services are Saturday, July 17, at 11:30 a.m. at Faith Baptist Church of Rexford, Glenridge and Bradt roads. Calling hours are 10 to 11 a.m. at Townley and Wheeler Funeral Home, 21 Midline Road (Rte. 146A), Ballston Spa.

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New chief named for pharmaceutical lobby

Posted on Jul 16, 2010

John J. Castellani, who received his bachelor’s in biology from Union in 1972, was recently named president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Castellani, who has appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” PBS’ “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” Fox News Channel’s “Special Report” and CNBC’s “Street Signs,” is a member of the College's Board of Trustees.

To read about his new position in Prescriptions, a New York Times blog focusing on the health care industry, click here.

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Teen celebrates high school graduation with Union College cake

Posted on Jul 16, 2010

Table Hopping, a blog by Times Union senior writer Steve Barnes, included an item about a high school graduation cake resembling the Nott Memorial made by Villa Italia, a bakery in Schenectady.

The cake was for Caitlyn Collins, who will come to Union in September as a member of the Class of 2014.

To learn more about this unique cake, click here.


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