News & Features

Valparaiso University Robotics Team Qualifies for World Championship in First Season

Valparaiso University Robotics Team Qualifies for World Championship in First Season

  While Valpo Robotics continues to find success in the Midwest Robotics Design Competition (MRDC) and the Collegiate Robotic Football Conference, the team wanted to provide opportunities for newer members to immediately contribute. David Chandler ’21, project manager of Valpo VEX U, approached the Valpo Robotics Executive Board about expanding its programming into the VEX Robotics Competition. VEX holds yearly competitions for elementary through university students where they must design, build, program, and drive a robot to complete an objective. The organization boasts more than 20,000 teams from more than 60 countries. The Executive Board approved the notion and presented it to the College of Engineering to secure funding. David had previously competed in VEX EDR (the high school division) and thought VEX U (the university division) would not only allow more current students to join Valpo Robotics, but would encourage prospective students to continue their love of robotics in…

Valpo Professors Create and Deliver Face Shields to the Community

Valpo Professors Create and Deliver Face Shields to the Community

Giving back to the community is at the heart of what makes us Valpo. Led by Professor Daniel Blood ’10, Ph.D., a team of Valparaiso University faculty are working hard to 3D print and assemble face shields for health care professionals in need of additional personal protective equipment. Professor Adam Gibson-Even ’00, Ph.D., and lab technician Paul Nord ’91 from the physics and astronomy department, and Professor Liz Wuerffel ’00, MFA, from the art department, have assisted in printing, assembling, and delivering the shields to organizations in the area. So far, the team has produced more than 800 shields and delivered approximately 700 to local health care organizations in need. Valpo’s College of Engineering labs offer students critical hands-on learning opportunities throughout the year. With students continuing their studies through remote delivery of classes, Professor Blood saw a chance to re-purpose this valuable equipment to serve the community.

Experiencing Magic: Disney Partnership Promotes Creativity, Leadership, and Innovation

Experiencing Magic: Disney Partnership Promotes Creativity, Leadership, and Innovation

For nearly a decade, Valpo engineering students have traveled to Disney Resorts in Orlando and Anaheim to participate in tours, lectures, and workshops as part of their course curriculum. Led by Mark Budnik, Ph.D., associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and the Paul H. Brandt Professor in Engineering, this partnership provides students with exclusive access to the Disney operation, where they gain unique insight and invaluable hands-on experience. “I have been taking students on class trips to Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland Resort for several years,” Professor Budnik says. “The program began as an opportunity for students to experience engineering outside of a standard field trip and has progressed into a unique partnership between Valpo and Disney. Most importantly, it allows our students to learn firsthand about Disney’s approach to creativity, leadership, and innovation.” Electrical engineering students were the first to participate. Since then, it has been expanded…

A Journey Home: Professor Reva Johnson ’09 Spurs Student Research in Bioengineering Field

A Journey Home: Professor Reva Johnson ’09 Spurs Student Research in Bioengineering Field

In fall 2017, Reva Johnson ’09, Ph.D., assistant professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering, began her third year with the College of Engineering faculty. A passionate teacher and innovative researcher, she has embraced her role, joining the ranks of accomplished faculty who inspired her as a student less than a decade ago and propelling the College of Engineering into the future. “With the emergence of bioengineering at Valpo, it was the perfect time to return to Valpo and be involved in shaping a program,” Professor Johnson says. “I have the opportunity to teach at a place that not only values teaching, but excels at it — and I get to do research. This is the ideal situation for me, teaching and doing research in topics that I love.” Embracing the Valpo experience, Professor Johnson has granted her students unique opportunities to engage in undergraduate research. She has involved several students…

A Solid Foundation: Valpo Alumna Primed to Build a World of Difference

A Solid Foundation: Valpo Alumna Primed to Build a World of Difference

Travel the world one day and build it the next. The architecture across Europe inspired Rebecca Otte ’95 to work to preserve historic structures in the United States after earning her civil engineering degree from Valparaiso University. Rebecca has led many projects as an environmental planner for the Regional Planning Commission’s (RPC) Brownfield Redevelopment Program (BRP) in New Orleans. Through grants provided by the Environmental Protection Agency, the BRP assists developers, property owners, and prospective purchasers to navigate the environmental obstacles of redeveloping abandoned and underutilized properties. “The purpose of the BRP is to promote economic development and create jobs in urban environments,” Rebecca says. After starting her career as an environmental consultant in California, she moved to New Orleans and began overseeing the environmental aspects of the BRP at RPC, quickly transitioning to handling all aspects of the role, including overall project and grant management. One recent project was…

Endless Opportunity: Valpo STEM Students Pursue Multiple Passions

Endless Opportunity: Valpo STEM Students Pursue Multiple Passions

Thanks to the tenacity of Alison Norris ’17, Valpo is home to a chamber music ensemble nicknamed the “STEM-quintet,” enabling a group of five individuals with varying interests to incorporate their love for music into their arduous academic schedules. “I chose to attend Valparaiso University for countless reasons — my mother’s alma matter, premier engineering program, and endless opportunity,” Alison says. “At Valpo, I have not only been able to explore my interests, I have been encouraged and inspired to do so.” Alison, who recently graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, was a member of the Symphony Orchestra throughout her four years on campus. While Valpo’s music department offers an array of options for non-majors, when Alison sought to expand her musical involvement by joining a woodwind quintet, there were no openings for a flautist. Thus, with the approval of the music department, Alison took initiative to create an…

Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Distinguished Faculty Spur Innovation

Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Distinguished Faculty Spur Innovation

At Valpo, academic disciplines are blended together across campus, facilitating new pursuits and discoveries. Elizabeth Wuerffel ’00, MFA, associate professor of art, and Jeff Will, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering, have enjoyed an enduring, collaborative relationship, embracing Valpo’s commitment to multidisciplinary innovation. “I value the size of the University as well as its nature as a comprehensive university,” Professor Will says. “Liz and I can get together and interact, and if other possibilities arise, we can get in touch with other faculty, like music, dance, or theatre. There are no barriers. I truly believe my university values this kind of working across disciplinary boundaries.” Professors Wuerffel and Will began their collaborative relationship more than six years ago when Professor Wuerffel and her art students sought the expertise of the College of Engineering in the area of aerial photography. Professor Will answered the call, engaging his senior design students…


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Valparaiso University Robotics Team Qualifies for World Championship in First Season

  While Valpo Robotics continues to find success in the Midwest Robotics Design Competition (MRDC) and the Collegiate Robotic Football Conference, the team wanted to provide opportunities for newer members to immediately contribute. David Chandler ’21, project manager of Valpo VEX U, approached the Valpo Robotics Executive Board about expanding its programming into the VEX Robotics Competition. VEX holds yearly competitions for elementary through university students where they must design, build, program, and drive a robot to complete an objective. The organization boasts more than 20,000 teams from more than 60 countries. The Executive Board approved the notion and presented it to the College of Engineering to secure funding. David had previously competed in VEX EDR (the high school division) and thought VEX U (the university division) would not only allow more current students to join Valpo Robotics, but would encourage prospective students to continue their love of robotics in…

Valpo Professors Create and Deliver Face Shields to the Community

Giving back to the community is at the heart of what makes us Valpo. Led by Professor Daniel Blood ’10, Ph.D., a team of Valparaiso University faculty are working hard to 3D print and assemble face shields for health care professionals in need of additional personal protective equipment. Professor Adam Gibson-Even ’00, Ph.D., and lab technician Paul Nord ’91 from the physics and astronomy department, and Professor Liz Wuerffel ’00, MFA, from the art department, have assisted in printing, assembling, and delivering the shields to organizations in the area. So far, the team has produced more than 800 shields and delivered approximately 700 to local health care organizations in need. Valpo’s College of Engineering labs offer students critical hands-on learning opportunities throughout the year. With students continuing their studies through remote delivery of classes, Professor Blood saw a chance to re-purpose this valuable equipment to serve the community.

Professor Marley Shares Passion and Curiosity

Jennifer Marley, Ph.D., joined the College of Engineering in 2017 and has embraced the Valpo way of preparing students to lead fulfilling and successful careers while making the world a better place. Professor Marley is an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and each level of undergraduates holds a special place in her heart. “In the first-year courses, I get the experience of helping students explore various engineering disciplines and fostering their curiosity,” Professor Marley says. “In my upper-level electives (taken in the junior/senior year), I then have the opportunity to share my chosen field of power and control engineering with students. Both are equally rewarding.” Outside of her teaching load, Professor Marley is involved in a few different research projects at Valpo. Her main research focus is on applying optimization methods to power systems. She has developed tools to schedule generation resources, such as wind energy, to optimally…

Engineering PLUS Provides Flexibility in Coursework

The Engineering PLUS program provides students the opportunity to customize their degrees to match their interests and career aspirations. Students in the program can graduate in four years, earning a Bachelor of Science in bioengineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, environmental engineering, or mechanical engineering and a compatible major or minor. “Some students will add a complementary major or minor to make themselves more marketable to potential employers, while others will use the flexibility to spend a semester abroad or to lighten their academic load during semesters when their sport is in season,” says Doug Tougaw, Ph.D., P.E., Leitha and Willard Richardson Professor of Engineering and interim associate dean of engineering. Students who participate in the Engineering PLUS program complete nine credit hours in approved courses in the summer between their freshman and sophomore years. Students are then able to adapt their coursework to adhere to their long-term interests…

New Opportunities for Valpo Bioengineering Students

The Valparaiso University Bioengineering Club has officially become a student chapter of the American Society of Biomechanics (ASB). The ASB encourages and fosters the exchange of information and ideas among biomechanists working in different disciplines and facilitates the development of biomechanics as a basic and applied science. Valpo is one of only three schools, along with the University of Florida and Montana State University, selected to be the first student chapters in the ASB. In the chapter, students will be able to become student members of the national organization. This will open opportunities to attend regional meetings and international conferences with other students and professionals in the field. Students will also participate in National Biomechanics Day initiatives each spring, and they will pursue personal design projects and chapter-wide local outreach activities, and explore the relationships between personal projects and outreach.

Introducing Mechatronics

Beginning in fall 2020, the College of Engineering will offer a minor in mechatronics, a rapidly growing field that includes strong influences from mechanical and electrical systems. Mechatronics is an exciting, versatile field, with a wide variety of career paths. With the increasing worldwide dependence on household, workplace, and industry robotics and automation, Valpo’s minor in mechatronics will build upon the foundations of students’ passions and open doors to new opportunities that are appearing every day. “The mechatronics minor will provide mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering majors a great opportunity to develop skills at the intersection of these disciplines,” says Scott Duncan, Ph.D., professor and chair of mechanical engineering and bioengineering. “Imagine how valuable an engineer would be who can combine a knowledge of mechanical systems with electrical systems and programming skills. Students who complete the mechatronics minor will have this knowledge and will be prepared for exciting careers in…

Engineering Students Join the IPC Education Foundation

IPC — Association Connecting Electronics Industries is a global standards and trade organization dedicated to furthering the competitive excellence and financial success of its members, who are participants in the electronics industry. Through the IPC Education Foundation’s new student chapters, Valpo students gain access to industry scholarships, employment, and professional training opportunities. Students can earn certifications and develop relationships with IPC members in Chicago and the Midwest, providing mentorship and job-shadowing opportunities. Two Valpo students have received $1,000 scholarships and one was nominated to represent national student members within the IPC Board of Directors.

Valpo Students and Alumni Fulfill Aspirations with NASA

Nick Skytland ’02 didn’t wait for graduation to start living his dream. He began working for NASA in 2000 as a mechanical engineer in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory and never looked back. Nick has continually advanced within the federal agency and was recently promoted to deputy chair of the Exploration Technology Office. During his time at NASA, Nick has led more than 500 training sessions to prepare astronauts for extravehicular activity and founded the 1958 Coworking Space at Johnson Space Center. Like Nick, Sarah Kuchel ’20 landed her perfect internship with NASA while attending Valpo, but she didn’t stop there. Sarah completed three internships and co-ops with NASA while a student and has accepted a post-graduation position at ERC Inc. to support the Test Operations and Support Contract at the Kennedy Space Center. “This is a dream come true, and I am looking forward to being a part of the…

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Comes to Valparaiso University

The College of Engineering at Valpo has a new inclusive and professional development opportunity for students, thanks to a student-led push to create a space for Latinx/Hispanic students in engineering. Valpo’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) will work to fulfill the goals of the national organization: change lives by empowering the Hispanic community to realize its fullest potential and to impact the world through STEM awareness, access, support, and development. The organization is recognized by the Student Senate. “SHPE is a place that members can call home within the College of Engineering,” says Krystal Peña ’21, current president of the organization. “With SHPE, I am now able to relate to others who understand the academic environment that we are in and still be able to relate to other topics that pertain to our Latinx/Hispanic communities and be able to freely speak in Spanish.” SHPE at Valpo…

Alumna Q&A with Suzanne Slade ’86, engineer turned children’s book author

Q: What made you choose Valparaiso University? A: I grew up in a little town called Goshen, Indiana. I knew I wanted to go into engineering, so I went to Purdue for a summer camp. But when I got there, I found the campus to be a bit overwhelming. I had also applied to Valpo and visited campus, and I really liked Valpo’s campus. I always enjoyed the size and small classrooms, and the fact that all the professors knew you by name. They were also always available and ready to help. Q: What engineering jobs did you have after your graduation from Valpo? A: I was looking for a meaningful job in engineering where I could contribute. I held several engineering jobs and had different reasons or personal circumstances for moving each time. One of my notable careers was at McDonnell Douglas Space Systems in California, and I was…

Professor Venstrom ’07 continues research in Germany

When Luke Venstrom ’07, Ph.D., started his undergraduate education at Valparaiso University, he had no idea he would later become an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at his alma mater. In fact, he never saw himself returning to academia at all. Professor Venstrom completed both his master’s degree and Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota. He was a teaching assistant during his time at Minnesota, and that was his first experience in teaching and working closely with students. “When I was at Minnesota, my research lab had an undergraduate student join, and while I was working closely with him, I realized how much fun I was having,” Professor Venstrom says. “So, I was really looking for something that Valpo offered when I was looking for a teaching position: focused teaching with high-quality research woven into it.” While teaching at Valpo, Professor Venstrom has been instrumental with solar energy research, more…

Dedication of Environmental Engineering Lab

During Homecoming Weekend 2019, the Richard E. Beumer, P.E., Environmental Engineering Lab was dedicated in front of a crowd of alumni, students, College of Engineering faculty and staff, and other members of the Valpo community. President Heckler thanked Judith “Judy” Rockett ’60 Beumer and Richard “Dick” Beumer ’59 for their generosity in providing funds for this new lab, which will allow students to study how to “take care of God’s creations.” The lab will support Valpo’s new environmental engineering program, which began in fall 2019. The Beumers are longtime supporters of Valpo. The Judith L. Beumer Writing Center, located in the Christopher Center for Library and Information Resources, was named in Judy’s honor in 2017. Dick is an emeritus member of the Valparaiso University Board of Directors, having served for more than 25 years, from 1990 to 2016. Their gifts support Forever Valpo: The Campaign for Our Future, a $250…

A Flight Above: Valpo Alum Soars in Success

Chris Nehls ‘85 has wanted to fly forever. The dream has been planted since his father took him to the skies with a fixed-wing pilot’s license around the age of five. “We happened to fly out of a small grass strip when a Hughes 269 flew in. I was just absolutely captivated,” Chris recalls in an article from Rotorcraft Pro magazine. “Growing up, I decided that if I didn’t become a helicopter pilot, then I would become an engineer who was involved with helicopters.” Time has passed, but the dream of flying and engineering helicopters has never faded. Chris navigated his passion and was fueled through collegiate studies to a mechanical engineering degree from Valparaiso University. After visiting campus, he knew immediately this was where he needed to go. Chris has come a long way thanks to the start of that bachelor’s degree. “I have often said that if I…

Valpo Engineering Students Host Regional Conference

Valpo’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers hosted the organization’s annual Great Lakes Student Conference this year, welcoming students from 19 universities to come together to compete in a set of civil engineering-based competitions. The three-day event, held in April, was expected to draw nearly 550 participants. Students put their skills to the test through a variety of competitions, from constructing concrete cornhole boards, a steel bridge competition, geotech and environmental labs, and a materials competition utilizing the College of Engineering’s strong wall facility. An annual highlight, the concrete canoe competition was held at Stone Lake in La Porte, Indiana. Each team was challenged to prove that their canoe could be filled with water, pushed below the surface, and resurface within a designated amount of time. Although high winds prohibited the teams from racing, the day was still considered a success, with students having fun and seeing the…

Faculty Member to Receive National Outstanding Teaching Award

Mark Budnik, Ph.D., the Paul H. Brandt Professor of Engineering and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, has been selected to receive the ASEE National Outstanding Teaching Medal. He was selected from among an extremely competitive field of 12 candidates this year. Budnik joined the Valpo College of Engineering's faculty in 2006 after a 16-year career in the semiconductor field, which culminated with his service as a principal engineer at Hitachi Semiconductor. He was named to the Brandt Professorship in 2013, the same year that he received the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award in recognition of the outstanding faculty-student relationships he has established. “Professor Budnik is a talented and dedicated educator, and we are deeply grateful for the many incredible ways that he works with our students at Valparaiso University,” said Mark L. Biermann, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “This wonderful recognition is certainly well…