Category Archives: Dunwoody in the News

Robotics & Manufacturing students compete, help out teams at Autonomous Snowplow Competition

Dunwoody students receive sportsmanship award for fourth year in a row.

While most don’t necessarily relish the idea of snowstorms and clearing driveways…there are some folks who do. And you’ll likely find them at the annual Autonomous Snowplow Competition.

Dunwoody Robotics & Manufacturing students have competed in the Institute of Navigation (ION’s) Autonomous Snowplow Competition, since its inauguration in 2011. Held during the St. Paul Winter Carnival, the event serves as an opportunity for universities, colleges, and the general public to showcase hand-built machines that can independently clear piles of snow without any manual control.

It’s one of the Robotics & Manufacturing student’s favorite and most successful competitions, and the teams have the record to prove it.

Last year, Dunwoody placed 3rd and 5th in the competition.

And this year, Dunwoody earned its highest place to date when Team Wendigo brought home 2nd place and a $4,000 prize.

Dunwoody’s Snow Devils Team closely followed with 5th place and a $700 prize.

But for Dunwoody students, the annual event is about more than just winning. It’s also about sharing their love and knowledge of technology with the judges and spectators—and even the competition itself.

Snowplow Competition about more than just winning

“All that knowledge and experience doesn’t count for much if you don’t find ways to use it,” Automated Systems & Robotics student and Wendigo Team member Jeremy Berg said.

“This event isn’t just about who can take first place—it’s about seeing different ideas for autonomous thinking in action,” Berg added. “These people are our future coworkers and friends, and we want to be the go-to people to lend a hand or solve any issue.”

That mentality has contributed to the College earning the sportsmanship award in 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, and again this year, 2018.

Sportsmanship Award has meaningful history

Created by ION in 2012, the sportsmanship award honors the team that exhibited the best sportspersonship throughout the competition.

The award was renamed the Dr. Nattu Natarajan Golden Smile Award just a few years later after University of Michigan-Dearborn professor and competition leader Dr. Narasimhamurthi (Nattu) Natarajan, who passed away from a lung illness on the Saturday morning of the 2016 competition.

The award and its significance means a great deal to Dunwoody.

“I worked with Professor Natu at the competition those first few years,” Robotics & Manufacturing Dean E.J. Daigle said. “And he loved the Dunwoody students and teamwork.

“Many of these teams are traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to compete. As a local team, it is easy for us to pack up extra tools and supplies to help teams make repairs to their vehicles.

“We have made it our mission each year to ensure that every team competes.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

The value of teamwork

Daigle shared that one of the reasons Dunwoody received the award this year is because his students were able to help out Case Western’s Sno-Joke robot, which had completely dead batteries on the last day of the competition.

With no safe or easy way to charge it at the event, the team thought they might be out of luck.

But by using personal jumper cables from Dunwoody students’ cars, “We were able to find a way to parallel their batteries with ours and maintain running the battery chargers at full capacity,” Daigle explained. “This allowed us to charge their machines and our machines at the same time.”

Thanks to the students’ quick thinking, the team, which had originally missed their scheduled run time, was able to compete at the end of the day Sunday—even beating out Dunwoody for fourth place.

The students helped another team in a similar scenario back in 2016.

Daigle recalls that at one point during that competition, a school announced they were going to quit due to technical difficulties when another team suggested they, “find Dunwoody–they can fix anything.”

“To me, that is far more valuable than whatever place you come in,” Daigle said. “I couldn’t be any prouder.”

Learn more about Dunwoody Robotics & Manufacturing.

Designs for Steger Wilderness Center forge ahead

New class of Architecture students help bring previous design proposals to life

A new group of Architecture students visited the Steger Wilderness Center in August 2017 to prepare for their semester project

In August of 2016, third-year Architecture students were challenged with one of the program’s largest and most innovative projects yet: to design a brand new dining hall for the Steger Wilderness Center.

The venture inspired the program’s first studio course, Dining Wild, led by Architecture Senior Instructor Molly Reichert and wilderness adventurer and Center founder Will Steger.

Dining Wild

Throughout the studio, students spent their semester touring the site, working with local businesses in the culinary industry, and creating design proposals. And in December of 2016, students pitched three different design ideas to Steger.

But, the project didn’t end there. Instead, those three designs were saved for the next class of Architecture students, who were charged with turning their predecessors’ proposals into one final building design.

Same project, new students

“The second semester of Dining Wild was very interesting in that we were not starting from scratch,” Reichert said. “Typically architecture studios start with a clean slate and students can let their ideas run wild over the course of the semester. This semester required a much more rigorous and focused approach to move the design forward and respond to the client’s needs.”

Students meet with Will Steger to flesh out building plans

With help from Steger, the new group of students spent their fall semester combining and refining last year’s schematic designs.

“It was good to have a starting point,” Architecture Student Jacob Larson said. “And working with Will is really interesting.

“You know what he likes and you can incorporate that into the design,” he said. “Working with your client is really helpful because you get that clear feedback.”

The process

To ensure their final design would remain environmentally friendly as well as respond to the chilly site conditions of northern Minnesota, students spent several days visiting and exploring the build site. They also received helpful information and building tips from industry professionals.

Architecture students learn from a SIPA representative in class lecture

Last semester, Marvin Windows and the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) presented on sustainable methods of building and how windows and Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) can contribute to a more efficient construction schedule.

Mechanical Engineer Craig Tarr—who specializes in alternative energy—also shared what mechanical systems and appliances were most efficient and ecologically sound.

Students even enlisted help from Dunwoody’s Surveying & Civil Engineering Technology program. Last spring, Surveying students surveyed the Center grounds to provide the Architecture students with necessary site information to help move the project forward.

The result

Using this information, students worked in separate groups, each tackling different pieces of the final building documents. Groups included a Drawing and Renderings team, a Material and Product Specifications team, and a Physical Model team.

Students present final proposal to Steger and his team

Students then combined their findings and suggestions into one ideal construction plan. This plan was then proposed to—and immediately approved by—Steger and his team late last month.

The Center is expected to break ground later this year.

“It was fun working on a project that is actually going to be built,” Larson said. “It’s an experience I won’t forget!”

Read more about the students’ semester experience by visiting their class news blog.

See the final design proposal.

Dunwoody College Names Vice President of Institutional Advancement

Dunwoody hires Brian Nelson to lead College’s
strategic advancement efforts

Brian NelsonFor more than 30 years, Brian Nelson has helped non-profit organizations grow and donors support organizational missions. And now, he brings his skills and passion for fundraising to Dunwoody.

Serving as the Vice President of Institutional Advancement, Nelson will lead advancement efforts for the College, including fundraising, alumni engagement, and industry partnerships.

“Dunwoody is a Midwest landmark for high quality technical education with a rich tradition and bright future,” Nelson said. “I look forward to being a part of a forward thinking, goal-driven team, and I am excited to work with industry leaders who are passionate about the impact Dunwoody has had on the community and their lives.”

Nelson comes to Dunwoody from the Pinky Swear Foundation, where he served as the organization’s President/CEO. During his time there, he grew the Foundation’s annual revenue from $900,000 to $2.8 million and expanded service to families in all 50 states. His portfolio includes working for William Mitchell College of Law, Children’s Cancer Research Fund, Allina Hospice Foundation, Memorial Blood Centers, and the American Cancer Society.

“I truly enjoy the interaction with donors,” Nelson shared. “It is amazing to learn about their lives, their connections to the institution, and how philanthropy can help shape their dreams and visions.”

During his spare time, Nelson enjoys playing golf, fishing, reading, remodeling and fixing things, and spending time with his family.

“I hope to provide value in building on Dunwoody’s culture of philanthropy and alumni engagement,” Nelson said. “And I look forward to helping further the mission of this institution.”

Nelson will replace current Vice President of Institutional Advancement Stuart Lang, who will retire later this year. Lang has been with the College for five years.

Nelson can be reached at bnelson@dunwoody.edu or at 612-381-3042.

Women in Technical Careers (WITC) scholarship recipient Jessica Hertel testifies in Minnesota State Legislature to help student parents

Hertel joins MN Representative Ilhan Omar, author of both bills, to advocate for additional support services to parents pursuing postsecondary education.

Jessica Hertel

Dunwoody College Student Jessica Hertel

Dunwoody College of Technology student Jessica Hertel testified before the Minnesota House of Representatives Higher Education Committee earlier last month, encouraging the passing of two new bills that would provide additional support services to pregnant students or student parents.

The first bill, House File 2257, which would increase the amount of the child care grant for college students from $2,800/per child, per semester to $3,000/per child, per semester as well as increase the eligibility to students who attend college from 8 semesters or less to 10 semesters or less.

The second bill, House File 1577, would fund grants to colleges for student parent support programs. Grants could be used for campus childcare services, Student Parent Programs such as support groups of other student parents, and additional assistance with childcare, housing, and transportation.

Childcare stipends help makes postsecondary education for parents possible
Hertel testifying in Minnesota State Legislature with MN Representative and Bill Author Ilhan Omar 

Hertel testifying in Minnesota State Legislature with MN Representative and Bill Author Ilhan Omar

Hertel shared that her reason for testifying was to advocate for other student parents, like herself, who need and have benefited from extra support. Hertel has received the existing child-care grant for the last two years.

“This bill hits home for me,” Hertel said. “I don’t know if I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for that grant. That’s what it comes down to.”

Dunwoody’s WITC scholarship program provides additional support services to women

Hertel applied to Dunwoody’s HVACR Systems Servicing associate’s degree program in May of 2015. Shortly after being accepted to Dunwoody, she was accepted into the College’s Women In Technical Careers (WITC) scholarship program. Led by Program Manager of Women in Technical Careers Maggie Whitman, the program was created to help women students succeed in degrees often defined as “non-traditional” for women. The program also serves as a strong peer support network for women, approximately 1/3 of whom are also parents.

Hertel measuring conduit at Dunwoody College

Hertel measuring conduit at Dunwoody College

Program participants receive up to $20,000 in scholarships, $1,500 of which can be put towards a childcare stipend.

Hertel said that this level of support not only sold her on Dunwoody but college in general.

“After talking with Maggie about WITC and all of the support [we’d receive]—that was exactly what I needed,” Hertel said. “I was so nervous. I was so on the line about even going to college, but, after talking to her I was like, ‘I’m in. Let’s do it. This is my place. This is where I belong.’”

Hertel is set to graduate this May.

Learn more

A video of Omar and Hertel at the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee can be found on the Minnesota House of Representative’s website.

Learn more about Women in Technical Careers (WITC).

Dunwoody Surveying takes 2nd in 2017 NSPS Student Competition

Dunwoody students place in competition for second year in a row.

Second-year students and soon-to-be-graduates Patrick Kowal, Francis Maranga, and Curtis Meriam took home a 2nd place trophy in the associate’s degree category at the 2017 NSPS Student Competition earlier this month.

Photo of Dunwoody Surveying students at the 2017 NSPS CompetitionThe annual event is organized by the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) and is held in various locations across the country each year. This year the competition was held in Silver Spring, Maryland. This is the second time Dunwoody College has participated. 

Competition, critique from judges helps students prepare for their career

Nine teams of students enrolled in surveying and geometrics associate and bachelor degree programs participated in the 2017 event.

In order to participate, student teams were required to complete a project on the topic of “high-precision vertical control applications” prior to the competition. At the event, the students presented their project and findings to a general audience and a panel of four judges. They also took questions and received project feedback from the panel.

“Dunwoody students chose to study the effect of moisture and frost on the vertical position of surveying monuments,” said Kelly Ness, Surveying & Civil Engineering Technology Principal Instructor and Team Leader.

“The group concluded that survey points could move up to an inch and a half vertically between pre-frost and post-frost. This phenomenon could have large impacts on surveying projects that span through the Minnesota winters.”

A press release by NSPS said that event judges and audience members were impressed by the poise and organization of the student teams. Professional surveyors in the audience also commented on the great promise shown by all of the students.

An interview with the Dunwoody student team at the competition can be found on the NSPS YouTube channel.

Kowal, Maranga, and Meriam are set to graduate in May.

Learn more about Dunwoody Surveying.

Kate and William Hood Dunwoody honored with Legacy Award

Kate and William Hood Dunwoody founded the region’s only nonprofit polytechnic college over a century ago, which to date has produced more than 250,000 graduates.

December 14 is always a special day at Dunwoody College of Technology. It marks the anniversary of its beginning.

Over a century ago today, Kate and William Hood Dunwoody bequeathed $4.5 million (or $108 million in today’s dollars) to found Dunwoody College of Technology — the region’s only nonprofit, polytechnic college.

And every day since then, we have been working to change lives by building opportunities for graduates to have successful careers, to develop into leaders and entrepreneurs, and to engage in “the better performance of life’s duties.
(Quote is from the Last Will and Testament of William Hood Dunwoody.)

The Dunwoody’s were recently recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals with The Legacy Award — an award reserved for givers who are no longer living.

Architecture students place 2nd, 3rd in 2016 Skills USA State Competition

Photo of Eli Abnet

Eli Abnet at 2016 SkillsUSA Minnesota

Architecture students Eli Abnet and Charles Evans Bille placed 2nd and 3rd respectively at the 2016 SkillsUSA Minnesota Competition, which was held earlier this month at various locations throughout the Twin Cities including Dunwoody campus.

SkillsUSA—a national organization made of students, educators and industry representatives working to provide America with skilled workers—regulates the competitions, which are held annually at the local/state, national and global level.

Photo of Charles Evans

Charles Evans Bille at 2016 SkillsUSA Minnesota

During the contest, Abnet and Bille participated in a short written exam, a hand drafting exercise, and a computer-drafting project. The competition aims to test students’ problem-solving abilities as well as their drafting techniques.

Get involved

The College has been participating and placing in SkillsUSA competitions for many years, with students earning gold in 2015 and 2013.

If you are interested in joining the 2017 SkillsUSA team, please contact Associate Director of Career Services Rob Borchardt at 612.381.3322 or rborchardt@dunwoody.edu.

About SkillsUSA

According to mnskillsusa.org: SkillsUSA Minnesota is part of a national organization that serves over a quarter million student members annually, organized into more than 14,700 chapters and 54 state and territorial associations (including Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands). The Minnesota Association has offered leadership opportunities to over 200,000 student members since 1967, with a current annual membership of over 3,000. There are chapters in 29 technical colleges and 50 high schools or cooperative centers, with potential to serve many more. SkillsUSA is governed by a Board of Directors, elected from teachers that advise local chapters, and representing both the high school and college divisions and industry representatives. All programs are offered as integral to the curriculum.

Two Interior Design students design show sets for Northwest Community Television

Photo of Angelica Sedano and Alyx Paschke

L to R: Angelica Sedano and Alyx Paschke

Late last year, Northwest Community Television (NWCT)—a non-profit organization that offers free production classes, equipment use, and channel time to those in the northwestern suburbs of the Twin Cities—realized they needed a change.

“Our current TV sets were outdated, falling apart, and overdue for an overhaul,” Studio Manager Nikki Jackett said.

And as the 2015 fiscal year was coming to a close, Jackett realized they had some dollars left in their budget. So, she chose to put that money towards set renovation.

A perfect match

“We only had six weeks to get ideas together and the money spent,” Jackett said.

Photo of existing NWCT set

NWCT set prior to remodel.

“Knowing design is not in my wheelhouse and having a limited budget, I asked my boss if I could reach out to students to work with. I’ve had good experiences working with students in the past. I love their energy and eagerness.”

When searching for the students, Jackett said she “never looked beyond Dunwoody.”

“I’ve always heard good things about the school, so it was the first and only one I emailed,” she said.

And when senior Interior Design students Alyx Paschke and Angelica Sedano learned of the project, they knew they had to be involved.

“Set design is something that has always interested me,” Paschke said. “I’m going to grad school for themed entertainment design so this project was very closely aligned with what I am hoping to do.”

The design process

Due to the wide variety of shows offered by NWCT—which includes talk shows, sports shows, children shows, cooking lessons and craft demonstrations—Paschke said, “versatility was a major aspect in the design concept.”

Photo of existing NWCT sets and photo of what they would like after the remodel.

Paschke and Sedano used SketchUp—3D modeling software they use for class projects at Dunwoody— to generate ideas for the new sets.

“We decided it would give us the most for our budget to repurpose and reuse many of the existing sets and set elements,” she said.

And while the students did have complete design freedom, there were some limitations.

“The sets had to be mobile, lightweight, and easily assembled and deconstructed for transportation to and from the set storage warehouse,” Paschke said. “We also had an extremely small budget for all of the sets, construction supplies, finishes, furniture and décor, which allowed us to get creative.”

Paschke and Sedano used SketchUp—3D modeling software they use for class projects at Dunwoody—to design the sets. Here they finalized the set colors, furniture pieces and design budget. Then, they set out to purchase the supplies.

“It felt a little bit like an HGTV show,” Paschke laughed as she described their overflowing carts at Ikea.

In an effort to keep the costs down, the students also approached several industry partners for help—and were successful in doing so.

Example of what a set would look like after the remodelSherwin-Williams agreed to donate the paint for the sets, and representatives from Shakopee Lowes Home Improvement provided budget guidance. Prime General Contractors also helped with transportation.

Thanks to their generosity, the two students were able to stay under-budget and upgrade six existing sets and the station’s kitchen.

The final product

Photo of one of the final sets

One of the final sets designed by Paschke and Sedano.

For Paschke and Sedano, however, the best part of the process was actually seeing the project come to life.

Paschke explained: “As students, a lot of the time we design and we do the 3D renderings—but that’s as far as we get. So it was really fun to see our work actually constructed.”

“It was our first real project like this so it was a little intimidating,” Sedano said. “But we worked together with everyone really well. It was nice to have our first project be with great people.”

Photo of Paschke and Sedano

Paschke and Sedano at the NWCT Open House.

Jackett agreed: “Throughout the entire process, Alyx and Angelica demonstrated an unbelievable passion for design and a keen understanding of what it means to meet the expectations laid forth while also looking outside of the box in exuding their own creativity. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to work with them and recommend them to others.”

According to NWCT’s latest newsletter, this is the Station’s first remodel since the media center opened in 1998. NWCT displayed the newly renovated sets at an Open House event late last month.

Paschke and Sedano will graduate this May with a bachelor’s degree in Interior Design.

Learn more about Dunwoody’s Interior Design program.