Nathan Stark, P.E., MBA, ‘07, grew up in Wirt County, West Virginia, and it was among the sawdust and gear grease of a log processing mill that he first discovered his love for engineering and project management.
Stark’s father made his living building log homes, and when the opportunity presented itself, he purchased the mill that produced the materials he used in his business. He spent his time rebuilding the mill and the machinery within it.
It was in this setting that a young Nathan Stark found himself learning how machines work.
“I observed these processes and became interested in machine components: gears, transmissions, bearings, shafts and bolts. Essentially, moving parts what is important to a mechanical engineer,” he said.
Following his fascination with machinery, Stark enrolled in the mechanical engineering program at WVU Tech and graduated in 2008. Since then, he has served in a variety of engineering roles, holding positions such as Maintenance Engineer, Store Engineer (where he managed procurement activities in a plant), Maintenance Project Manager, Piping Engineer and Project Engineer.
Stark quickly began to demonstrate a talent in project management, and rounded out his education with a Master of Business Administration degree at Marshall University. He now works as a Project Engineer assigned to projects for Dow Chemical at plants that produce everything from chemicals used in the oil and gas industry to the lubricating strips found on razor blades.
“I’m a project manager. I plan and execute engineering design projects from their initiation to completion. This entails managing the scope, schedule and budget of the project, as well as working collectively with design engineers,” he said.
Stark said that he’s able to find success in his field because his engineering education not only taught him the fundamental principles that govern how things works, but how to be a self-learner.
“As a project engineer, I manage the work of all the engineering disciplines on a project. In order to be successful, I must proactively learn new technical materials. One minute I am talking to a chemical engineer about process flow rates and velocities, the next minute I am talking to a civil engineer about the best way to repair a containment area,” he said.
Stark’s position requires him to put these skills to the test on a variety of projects, and he likes to take on projects that offer a challenge. He said that one of his most recent projects a fire suppression system update at a local plant is a prime example of the kind of work he enjoys doing.
The system uses water from a nearby river to fight instances of fire, but the system required an operator to manually start up a diesel engine that would have to pump water into the system to pressurize it before it could be used.
Stark and his team were charged with eliminating that lag time in the system by installing a nearby pump that would keep the system pressurized and ready to use at all times.
“This was a neat project,” said Stark. “We installed a pump that stands 45-feet tall and draws water from the bottom of the river. We had to work with divers who would go down and do some excavation where the pump sits. The system leaks, so we installed a control valve and flow meter that monitors leakage. This will throttle different amounts of water into the system to keep it pressurized, returning unused water back to the river.”
Stark said the project required nine months of oversight in planning, design, purchasing and installation. The team had to factor in everything from the lead time associated with ordering the pump to how to keep sediment from going into the system (and how to flush it out when it does).
“We’re excited now because the system is installed and ready. Once some maintenance work is completed, the fire water system will be active at all points in time. If a fire were to happen, the facility will have immediate water to the trouble area, which can save assets and potentially lives,” he said.
For Stark, that feeling of seeing a project through from start to finish is what keeps him so excited about his work.
“When we started that project, it was a few sentences about what the plant wanted. That was our starting point. So to go from that very high-level scope to all the complex details, plans and coordination that went into this project and to be able to stand on the dock and watch this come together is an unbelievably rewarding experience.”
Looking at his industry as a whole, Stark said the grand challenge project engineers face is lean project management, which challenges engineers to design projects in ways that generate less waste, are more efficient and produce more value.
“With the state of our economy, everybody is working very hard to do more with less resources. We currently have a goal to execute our project ten percent better than our peers by 2020. To do that, we will have to look very closely at our work processes and only use the tools that add value. Every project is unique, so doing this is not as easy as you would think. I believe this will be one of the big differentiators in project management in the coming years,” he said.
This tendency toward lean project management is something students going into the mechanical engineering or project engineering fields will need to understand, but Stark said that communication skills are just as important for emerging engineers.
“Learn what it takes to work with and motivate others. Whether you plan to be in a very technical career, such as research and development, or on the management side like I am, the ability to work in teams and to convey your thoughts and ideas will be extremely valuable to you,” he said.
Stark also suggested that students seriously consider their professional licensure path, and that they start planning for it while they are still in school.
“It’s something you’ll want to take seriously as you go into your career. If I had it to do again, I’d have taken my FE right out of school and my PE as soon as I could four years after that,” he said. “I think there’s definite value in having your PE working as an engineer in industry. It means something. You never have to take these exams, but they make a big difference in the types of positions you can get and the type of work you can oversee.”
Stark resides in Charleston with his wife, WVU Tech graduate Andrea Ard, ‘08. When he’s not overseeing plant projects, he’s an avid hunter and gunsmith. He’s also a WVU football and basketball fan.
He and Andrea are both active in the WVU Tech community, where Stark is a lifetime member of the Tech Golden Bear Alumni Association. Stark also serves on the mechanical engineering department’s advisory board for ABET accreditation and the Phi Kappa Tau Board of Governors.
He says that connection to the school and its alumni have played an important role in his life, and encourages students to stay in touch with those who helped them make it to graduation day.
“Networking is very important. Join the alumni association. There are many opportunities to meet other alumni who may be established in your industry. You’ll be surprised at how meaningful it is to build these relationships. Not only have I received many job opportunities via networking, I have met many friends along the way,” he said.
Tavon Johnson grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and it’s in Charm City where he first discovered his passion for mechanical engineering.
As a high school student considering his career options, Johnson participated in a handful of STEM and robotics programs. He credits them with sparking his interest in the field of engineering.
“Through those programs, I was able to learn a lot about STEM and what engineering encompassed. I learned about mechanical engineering and how engineering drives the everyday things that impact society and the quality of life we have come to expect,” he said.
After deciding on a career in mechanical engineering, Johnson said he spent months researching and visiting college campuses. He was attracted to WVU Tech because of the small campus and the fact that he felt an immediate connection to the faculty and administration that met with him on his first visit.
Now a senior in the mechanical engineering program, Johnson is in the final phase of his education: he’s learning how to apply the fundamentals of engineering to real-world problems.
“At first, as an engineering student, you’re learning principles and basic laws that are the foundations of engineering. The structure of materials. Statics and dynamics. Then you’re trying to master those laws to figure out how things are operating in the world. Finally, you start performing research to prove those laws and to see how you can apply what you’ve learned to real-life situations,” he said.
In addition to his coursework and research, Johnson serves as president emeritus of the WVU Tech student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and is an active member of the Pi Tau Sigma mechanical engineering honors society. He is involved in the WVU Tech Student Government Association and the Student Activities Board. He also works in WVU Tech’s Student Support Services program as a peer mentor and tutor.
Johnson is known on campus for his leadership in organizing a campus-wide student design exposition. The expo highlights the research and design work of WVU Tech engineering students and invites attendees from regional business and industry to network with these students and discuss their work. Johnson launched the first expo in 2015 and is now working on the second exposition to be held in late April.
Johnson graduates in May, and he’s currently studying for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, the first of two required exams graduates must take if they wish to become a licensed professional engineer. As he looks beyond graduation, he said that he faces two career paths: defense and robotics technology or construction and project management.
The first path is driven largely by Johnson’s interest in robotics and the summer he spent working as an intern for a cybersecurity firm in Maryland.
“In my internship, I learned a lot about how engineering products help the men and women who are serving overseas. I can’t go out there and do what they do, but if I can aid them with the engineering knowledge and ability I do have, I think that would be very beneficial,” he said.
The construction and project management career course stems from Johnson’s experience working summers with a crew that performed line striping on state roads, highways, crosswalks and shopping centers. He said the experience allowed him to cross paths with the many types of professionals involved in construction projects.
“That has always amazed me, seeing how a project is built from nothing from an empty field, for instance into something beautiful and functional where people will be shopping, educating their children or curing diseases. That’s why I’m drawn to the field of project management,” he said.
For Johnson, the most exciting aspect of mechanical engineering is the way innovation within the field can impact someone’s life.
“I think that’s one of the most fascinating things, not only about mechanical engineering, but about engineering in general being able to make people’s lives so much easier just because you’re able to see complex problems in a way that they don’t,” he said. “That’s not to say engineers are smarter, but because they’ve gained that background knowledge and they understand those fundamentals, they can see how things are working and how to make them work in a better way.”
Johnson said that he and his fellow mechanical engineering students have a lot to look forward to in terms of cutting-edge work in the field, including autonomous vehicles and drone technology.
“Drones are breaking ground every day. There are drones in development that can lift and transport human beings. They are delivering packages. They are being used in filmmaking and in land surveying,” Johnson said.
“There is a lot of mechanical engineering that goes into this technology. We’re looking at blades in flight, and how air and friction is impacting the wings. We’re examining things like material strength, weight and mechanics. Mechanical engineers are involved in the testing process and their work ensures that the structures and components of these machines are sound. That they’ll actually work the way they were designed to work,” he said.
For students following Johnson’s path into mechanical engineering, he paints a picture of an industry where there is a great range of work to be done.
“Mechanical engineering is one of the widest fields in engineering. We can go into so many areas of specialization or industries that you might not associate with engineering. If you’re building an engineering team, there’s almost always a space for a mechanical,” he said.
“Just make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Don’t enroll in any degree program because you think it will be easy or because you’ll make money. Do it because it’s something you love. If this field is what you want and you’re willing to fight for it, it’s completely worth it,” he said.
WVU Tech graduate Hank Wright, P.E., ‘68, grew up in St. Albans, West Virginia, and now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. In the years between the two, his nearly five decades of work has impacted projects around the world.
Wright uncovered his skills in electrical engineering with the help of his high school math teacher, who immediately tied his mathematical talents and interests to the field.
“My math supervisor said I should go into electrical engineering. I didn’t know anything about electricity. All I knew was that you plug stuff in and it works. That was the extent of my understanding. I don’t know what she knew, but she was right. It was the field for me,” he said.
Wright went on to study the discipline at WVU Tech and graduated from the University in 1968. During his time at Tech, Wright worked summers at Appalachian Power. After graduation, he began his career with an engineering position at Union Carbide (now Dow Chemical).
His independent spirit, however, led him to seek various types of work throughout his career, including the launch of a first-of-its-kind process control computer systems group within an engineering consulting firm.
“A client of ours was struggling with a control system and asked us to help, so we went on site and lived with the system for six weeks. We fixed it, and off of that experience, we decided to start a process control group,” said Wright.
“We were doing all kinds of fascinating work. Programmable controllers. Human machine interface we just called it computer graphics back then. I was able to guide this group for a dozen years and worked with just about every industry on the planet,” he said.
One of those industries was aluminum production, which provided Wright an opportunity to work on one of the most memorable projects of his career.
In the 1970s, a metals manufacturer was constructing two massive smelter facilities at an aluminum refinery in Venezuela. The $1.3 billion project required a process control system that would allow operators to monitor activity along seven “potlines,” or series of massive vats that use electricity and carbon to extract aluminum from aluminum oxide.
“These things were huge. There were 180 in series at four volts apiece and the potline operated at a load of 176,000 amps. That’s a little bigger than the socket in the wall,” he said. [For reference, the average American home is serviced at between 100 and 200 amps].
“We did the computer control system that optimized those potlines. It was a lot of energy in one place, and we had seven of them. That’s over a million amps of energy. We hadn’t done much of anything in that industry, but we didn’t have reason to believe we couldn’t. We designed the system, built it, sent it to Venezuela, started it up and it worked,” he said.
Wright said the Venezuela project stands out to him because of the size and complexity of the endeavor, and because he was able to work on aspects of the project that were unique at the time.
“The potlines were a high electric field environment, so you couldn’t use most electronics out there because they wouldn’t work very well. To overcome this, we used the PA system and broadcast announcements using synthesized speech as a way to communicate which of the pots in the series was acting up. The system shined light through Mylar film that was etched with a speech pattern barcode. It had a female voice. I’d never seen that before, but we did it, and it worked,” he said.
Wright said that features like synthesized speech pale in comparison to the technological advances in the modern electrical engineering scene. He thinks this technological integration is something students going into electrical engineering will be looking forward to as their biggest opportunity and their biggest challenge.
“Smart grid, plugin vehicles, self-driving vehicles. Those are some of the things on the cutting-edge that engineers will have an opportunity to work with in the future,” he said.
“The real challenge in the industry is how to overcome the problems you’re creating by advancing technology. More and more computers are doing more and more things, but sometimes at the expense of security. New engineers are going to have to find that balance between making things more advanced and protecting those advancements from new threats,” he said.
In addition to working within the movement to integrate computers into electrical systems, Wright said the next generation of electrical engineers will need to understand that engineering is about more than research and design.
“You’ll need people skills in this path. If you’re really successful, there’s a good chance you’re going to have to manage people, projects, time and money. You’ll need to be able to communicate, so prepare for that as you go into this. As a successful engineer, you’re not going to spend your days at the same desk every day,” he said.
Engineering graduates heading into the working world will also need to be lifelong learners, Wright said. They’ll need to take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Principles of Practice and Engineering exam to become a professional engineer (PE). They will also need to take continuing courses on the various codes that govern fields such as mechanical and electrical engineering.
It’s a long road, but for Wright, it’s a proven path that produces quality engineers. He said it also makes for some interesting career experiences.
“There’s this thing about experience you can’t get it until you get it. There are no shortcuts, so you need to find a career that can offer you a variety of opportunities. Engineering is a career that can do that,” he said. “I’ve got 47 years of experience, not one year of experience 47 times.”
These days, Wright is in a state of what he calls “semi-retirement,” where he takes on projects with an engineering firm in the Raleigh area. He’s also an active member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the American Solar Energy Society (ASES).
A lifelong athlete, Wright spent some years as a middle-distance runner and coach, a United States Volleyball Association volleyball player and a Sports Car Club of America road rally driver. He’s also a member of the United States Golf Association (USGA). Wright is an accomplished drummer as well, and spends a few nights a month with his band playing gigs in the Raleigh area where he lives with his wife, Paulette.
He was recently elected president of the board of directors of the Tech Golden Bear Alumni Association and is advising a philanthropic group that takes on energy, water, healthcare and education projects in developing nations. He also likes to maintain relationships with those he has mentored throughout the years.
“I like mentoring. It’s one of the most rewarding things about what I do in my profession. Challenging them. Showing them that there might be a better way to do something. I still get calls all the time asking ‘what do I need to do here, Hank?’ It’s very rewarding to keep them moving toward the goal,” he said.
Wright credits his desire to give back to his unique career path and his time at Tech.
“Tech is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. Tech gave me the tools to live well, have a lot of fun, do some rewarding work and to be successful,” he said.
Meet Felipe Sozinho, WVU Tech electrical engineering student and future smart grid master.
Sozinho comes to WVU Tech from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, where he first discovered his interest in electrical engineering after enrolling in a technician training program.
“I got into a course to become an electrical technician in Brazil, which would be equivalent to obtaining an associate’s degree here, and I loved the course. After I was done, I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree,” he said. “So I came to Tech for the good engineering program along with the opportunity to play soccer.”
As an electrical engineering student, Sozinho said he spends his days pouring over senior-level coursework and conducting research that tests the fundamentals he’s been learning for the last few years. He is currently applying his skills as he researches his senior project implementing an improved controller for micro-grid voltage stabilization and helps the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) student chapter with the electrical circuits for a vehicle the group plans to enter into competition.
He is also an active member of the WVU Tech student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and will compete in a number of competitions with the group throughout the spring.
Sozinho is president of the University’s chapter of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, works as a resident assistant in WVU Tech’s Maclin residence hall, serves as a student ambassador and works as a peer tutor in the Student Success Center (SSC), where he helps students in math and electrical engineering courses. He also played for four years on WVU Tech’s varsity men’s soccer team, which won back-to-back USCAA National Championships in 2013 and 2014.
In the fall semester, Sozinho worked with other Brazilian students to found the student-run Brazilian Community Organization on campus, of which he serves as president. The group plans regular cultural events and community service activities.
“The goal of the organization is to bring more diversity to our campus, provide more knowledge of the Brazilian culture to all of the Tech community and provide an opportunity for the Tech community to learn some basic Portuguese,” he said.
Now in his senior year, Sozinho is looking forward to beginning his career. He said that his love for electrical engineering is driven by a passion for powering the world and that he ultimately wants to end up in the renewable energy field. He is also intrigued by emerging “smart grid” technology, which uses computer systems to make power generation, transmission and use more efficient.
“A great technology that is already in place in a few locations in the United States is what we call the Smart Grid. Smart grid is a combination of several technologies that will completely change the consumer experience with power companies. Some of the great benefits it will offer to society are that it gives you control over your power bill; it decreases brownouts, blackouts, and surges; and it makes renewable power feasible,” he said.
Sozinho said this type of excitement about energy and electrical engineering is important for drawing students into the field, but that new recruits have to be willing to work at it.
“You have to like math, as there is a lot of math involved. It is also a demanding course like any other engineering discipline. However, I believe it is well worth it as an electrical engineering degree will provide a great number of career possibilities to go into later on,” he said.
“It is such a broad field. Before, when I thought about electrical engineering I would think about power transmission and the electrical grid. But there is so much more to it. Electrical engineers can work with communications, control systems, automation, optics and much more. It’s amazing the amount of fields a person with an electrical engineering degree can go into,” he said.
Looking forward to graduation and his own choice to pursue electrical engineering, Sozinho has no qualms about the path ahead.
“Engineers are responsible for putting in place great advances we have in technology. I’m excited about electrical engineering because of the fact that it is always evolving, that there is always new technology being developed and that one day I might be part of something great,” he said.
In a month packed with outreach events, the students and faculty of WVU Tech’s Leonard C. Nelson College of Engineering and Sciences are showing young students their potential in STEM fields and celebrating National Engineers Week (February 21-27).
On Tuesday, February 9, members of WVU Tech’s Association for Women Engineers, Scientists, or Mathematicians Empowerment (AWESOME), visited the Culture Center in Charleston for Girls’ Day at the Legislature.
AWESOME members taught students from Cabell Midland High School about computer coding and robotics. They also worked with the students on action plans addressing education concerns and ways female students could better explore the career options available to them.
On Saturday, February 20, dozens of Tech students and faculty members will participate in Discover Engineering Day at the Clay Center in Charleston. Attendees will learn about electrocardiograms, how studying aquatic insects can help determine the health of a stream and how binary and hexadecimal code is used in computing. They’ll also pilot robots using Wii Fit balance boards, build circuits, construct bridges, learn about chromatography, generate electricity with Gatorade, explore how engines work and check out WVU Tech’s popular Baja racing buggy.
Discover Engineering Day runs from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 20. Girl Scout groups will have early access to the event from 9 11 a.m.
The Thursday of National Engineers Week is designated as Girl Day, and to celebrate, BridgeValley Community and Technical College will host its annual Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day on February 25 at the Columbia Pipeline Group building in Charleston. The event brings in eighth-grade girls from throughout Southern West Virginia to work on engineering projects and connect with women who are currently studying or working in engineering fields.
Dr. Kimberlyn Gray, assistant professor of chemical engineering, coordinates the University’s STEM and engineering outreach programs. She said that WVU Tech students and faculty are always excited to be a part of Girl Day because attendees often discover opportunities they never knew existed.
“We want to introduce them to engineering as a career, but this is also a chance for these girls to meet women in engineering who come from a variety of backgrounds and hold a tremendous range of interests outside of engineering. They’ll see that you don’t have to be a particular type of person to be an engineer,” she said.
Gray said that WVU Tech’s celebration of STEM and career outreach will continue in the days following National Engineers Week.
On February 29, fifth-graders from Chesapeake Elementary in Kanawha County will visit the Montgomery campus for a day of career exploration. They’ll meet with engineering, nursing, biology, computer science, political science and athletics faculty to discover career paths, conduct experiments and learn how the upcoming presidential election works.
“A lot of the research that covers driving interest in STEM fields particularly in engineering shows that if you don’t capture their attention by the fifth grade, you lose students. They lose interest. That seems very early to us, but having a spark of interest catch at that age can help these students figure out what they really want to do later,” she said.
The following week, Gray will visit Tolsia High School in Wayne County. There, Gray and her group will teach biology students about gel electrophoresis (a method of separating DNA fragments using electricity), conduct experiments in the chemistry class and discuss the wide range of career options open to physics students.
“High school students are in a different situation. They know they’re good at math or science, but they don’t necessarily know what engineers do. They don’t know what the different disciplines within engineering involve,” said Gray. “We all know what doctors, police officers and teachers do because we see it every day, but engineering is often a very behind-the-scenes field. Events like this give them an opportunity to interact with college students in these fields and find out how their interests connect to these different disciplines.”
For WVU Tech mechanical engineering student Kaylah Bovard, this type of outreach reinforces the fundamentals college students learn in the classroom.
“When students are placed into an environment where they have to explain relatively complex ideas to younger minds, their knowledge of a subject is tested. Teaching opens up a whole new perspective on what you think you already know,” she said.
Gray said that WVU Tech’s STEM outreach is not limited to the spring semester, and that educators interested in bringing programs to their classrooms can contact her at email@example.com.
Those interested in more information on National Engineers Week can visit the Discover Engineers Week website. To mark this year’s celebration, WVU Tech will be featuring the stories of students and alumni from various engineering disciplines throughout the week on the WVU Tech News Archive.
On Sunday, February 21, WVU Tech financial aid experts will meet with high school and college students, their parents and anyone else who would like assistance completing the FAFSA on College Goal Sunday.
The event runs from 1 4 p.m. on the first floor of WVU Tech’s Vining Library and is open to public.
“Anyone that needs assistance with the FAFSA or has general financial aid questions is welcome, including high school students, adults who are thinking about going back to school and returning college students. This is a free event designed to encourage completion of the FAFSA and get people up to speed on financial aid,” said Scott Robertson, director of WVU Tech’s Student Support Services program.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a required step for all students seeking financial aid, and College Goal Sunday is built to help attendees navigate the application, including sections that require financial and tax information.
The event is also a well-timed opportunity for students seeking scholarships. Many scholarship programs, including the state’s PROMISE scholarship, operate on a March 1 deadline.
Participants in College Goal Sunday at WVU Tech will be registered to win a Samsung tablet provided by WV TRiO and other door prizes donated by various departments within WVU Tech. Tech student volunteers will also host a kid’s zone during the event to entertain children while students and parents work with financial aid counselors to complete their FAFSA.
“We wanted to create an environment where everyone is welcome,” said Robertson. “A place where they can come regardless of where they plan to attend college. We don’t care where they’re going we just want to make sure they have that assistance.”
Robertson said that information shared in the workshop is kept strictly confidential. In the event of a weather cancellation, Tech’s College Goal Sunday makeup day will be February 28.
For more information, including what to bring to College Goal Sunday, visit collegegoalsundaywv.org. For college planning tips and state scholarship requirements, visit the College Foundation of West Virginia (CFWV) website.
WVU Tech’s faculty members are dedicated to the advancement of the fields they teach. Outside of the classroom, they’re researchers, writers, presenters, go-to experts and road warriors who share their passion for learning with the world.
Here’s what our faculty members have been up to:
Dr. David M. Yost (Career and Technical Education) published an article entitled “Adapting LEAN Principles to Career and Technical Education” in the February, 2016 edition of Techniques, the national journal for career and technical educators. Dr. Yost also serves on the Executive Board of the Association for Career and Technical Education Research (ACTER).
Dr. Farshid Zabihian (Mechanical Engineering) served in a Fellowship for Visiting Scientists sponsored by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK). Dr. Zabihian traveled to Turkey, the Netherlands and Germany between December 7, 2015 and January 9, 2016. During this trip, Dr. Zabihian attended three conferences, presented three papers and delivered an invited speech at Dokuz Eylül Üniversitesi in Izmir, Turkey.
Dr. Paul Rakes (History) was featured in the PBS American Experience documentary “The Mine Wars.” Dr. Rakes worked with the show during production to provide guidance in historical research, help separate legends from historical facts and connect the show with other scholars.
Dr. Houbing Song (Electrical and Computer Engineering) was recognized as a finalist for the 2015 Innovator of the Year Award by TechConnect West Virginia on November 16, 2015.
Dr. Song also gave an invited talk entitled “Standardization Efforts for Green Metrics under Data Explosion” in the IEEE Green ICT initiative rapid reaction standardization workshop (RRSW) on November 24, 2015, in Heathrow, United Kingdom; served as the chair of the technical program committee of 4th IEEE International Workshop on Cloud Computing Systems, Networks, and Applications (CCSNA), December 6-10, 2015, in San Diego, California; and participated in a NSF Workshop on Applications and Services in the Year 2021 on January 27-28, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Song has also recently collaborated on eight peer-reviewed journal papers in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, IEEE Access, Sensors (MDPI), PLOS ONE, and Smart Computing Review.
On Thursday, February 11, students and members of the WVU Tech community will meet in Old Main for “From Hate to Hope,” a presentation on the destructive nature of harboring hatred for someone based on their gender, race, sexuality or religion.
Scott Robertson, director of WVU Tech’s Student Support Services program, is leading the presentation.
“It deals with how people have used, and still use, hate or ignorance about others to justify their actions, and how that creates a negative legacy that they leave behind,” he said.
The workshop will discuss victims of hatred and the devastating violence it can breed victims such as James Byrd Jr., Matthew Shepard, Emmett Till, and others. It will also cover modern hate groups and racially motivated police violence.
“A lot of people don’t know these stories, but they all have impacted how we live now and, in some ways, how we have progressed as a country. Things are still volatile for certain people because of their religion, who they are or who they love, but we’re going to continue to progress and be a more diverse population. This is designed to get attendees to understand that reality and to think about their actions,” said Robertson.
Robertson said the open-ended presentation is half lecture, half discussion panel. The event starts with a short pre-presentation test designed to find out what attendees already know, then the discussion will move through the stories of how people have used concepts such as skin color or sexual orientation to justify hate.
“It’s not going to be an easy discussion because it’s very honest, but the mission of this workshop is not to incite anger. The mission is to incite understanding and compassion,” he said.
At the end of the discussion, Robertson will ask attendees to reflect on what they’ve learned and to critically think about the kind of legacy they want to leave behind.
“We have students from all over the country and from all over the world. We have a lot of diversity at Tech for a school this size. I want them to think about what they want their legacy to be; to think about the positive impact they can have on the world” said Robertson. “They also have to understand that we are in a global setting where information is available at our fingertips and can be uploaded instantly. Their legacy could be a ten-second clip on YouTube.”
“From Hate to Hope” is open to anyone within the WVU Tech community. The presentation begins at 5 p.m. on Thursday, February 11, in Old Main 310.
Throughout the spring semester, students of WVU Tech’s World Religions course will meet with featured speakers from a wide range of religions for a series of lectures and discussions covering Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Unitarian Universalism.
During the convocations, attendees will discuss topics ranging from a specific religion’s practices and sacred texts to principal beliefs about birth, death and the afterlife.
“The world religions course is meant to bring education and awareness about the diversity in religion. Many students, and people in general, are not exposed to this diversity,” said WVU Tech sociology professor and World Religions course instructor Dr. Janis Rezek. “It promotes acceptance of this diversity.”
The convocation are designed for World Religions students, but are open to members of the WVU Tech community interested in attending the lectures.
The convocation series begins on Monday, February 1, with speaker Dr. Ravi Isaiah, Director of the Pastoral Care Department at CAMC. Born in India, Dr. Isaiah moved to the United States in 1973. He holds a degree in psychology, a masters in divinity and a Ph.D. in counseling. Isaiah will be discussing Christianity.
The following Monday, February 8, WVU Tech’s chair of the Computer Science and Information Systems department, Dr. Ranjith Munasinghe, will discuss Buddhism. Munasinghe earned his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wyoming, has worked internationally as an engineering and has been a professor at WVU Tech since 1992.
The February 15 convocation will feature Dr. Sameh Asal, who will discuss Islam. Lead of the Islamic Association of West Virginia, Asal earned his Ph.D. in Islamic studies at an international Islamic university in Cairo, Egypt. Prior to coming to West Virginia, Asal served as Imam of the Islamic Association of Raleigh in North Carolina, where he participated in community outreach and promoted interfaith relationships with Christian and Jewish faith leaders.
Speakers are chosen for their unique experience and educational perspective on their religion.
“I take care to always have professional, educated speakers who come at the religion from an academic viewpoint,” said Rezek. “They offer a perspective that I could not offer and that a text book could not offer.”
All convocations begin at 6 p.m. in COBE 117.
More speakers will be announced in the coming weeks. WVU Tech students and community members interested in attending the convocations should keep an eye on the WVU Tech calendar.
WVU Tech history professor Dr. Paul Rakes was recently featured in “The Mine Wars,” a PBS American Experience documentary covering labor wars in the coalfields of West Virginia. Dr. Rakes worked with the show during production to provide guidance in historical research, help separate legends from historical facts and connect the show with other scholars.
Check out the “Fighting Strikebreakers” chapter below:
Read Dr. Rakes’ take on violence and political expression during the period in a supplemental interview.
Watch the full documentary and explore more of “The Mine Wars” on the PBS website.