How Things Get Made: Everyday Engineering

‌Course Description: Often working in the background, engineers profoundly affect our daily lives. From the use of plastics and designing user-friendly computers to figuring out how to keep buildings from falling down, engineers are ingenious problem solvers. The St. Thomas School of Engineering is filled with some of the most interesting, creative people on campus. This course will introduce Selim Center students to six of these instructors and the very interesting work they do. Participants can expect to gain a deeper understanding of the technical side of engineering, along with applications and societal context, all without the need for advanced math or a science background.

Course Information: Thursdays, 9:30-11:30 a.m., starting Sept. 21, 2017, O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium, University of St. Thomas St. Paul Campus

Fee for the series:  $90 per person

To register on-line with a credit card on our secure page, click on this link:

To print out a form to complete and then mail in with a check or cash payment, click on this link: ‌Printable Registration Form Fall 2017

Link to campus mapSt. Paul Campus Map

Detailed Course Syllabus & Instructor Information:

Sept. 21 

A World of Ubiquitous Plastic: 1 through 7 and Beyond with Don Weinkauf, Ph.D., Professor & Dean, School of Engineering

We have marked history by the materials that societies were able to harness to improve their lives. One of the more significant technological and societal developments of the 20th century has been the advent of plastic materials, which pervasively entered into the daily lives of humans. This technical, experiential lecture will explore the history, business drivers, and materials physics behind a relatively new class of materials that we simply couldn't live without.

Since 2008, Dr. Don Weinkauf has served as the Dean of Engineering at the University of St. Thomas. From 1996-2008, Dr. Weinkauf was Professor of Chemical Engineering at New Mexico Tech in Socorro, New Mexico. He has been honored nationally for his teaching and research as a Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Weinkauf worked for Shell Oil Company as a Research Engineer. He has also worked as a Foreign Scholar for the Mexican government CONACYT. He is the author of over forty papers and book chapters. His research in polymer materials and plastics processing has been cited over 800 times in the literature. He is the inventor on 3 U.S. Patents and has been the Principal Investigator on over 5 million dollars in federal, state and corporate research grants. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas in Austin and a B.S. from Iowa State University, both in Chemical Engineering. Dr. Weinkauf is a native of Wisconsin, and lives with his wife and three children in St. Paul.

Sept. 28

If You Can Visualize It You can Make It: The New Frontiers of 3D Printing with John Wentz, Ph.D., Associate Professor & Chair, Mechanical Engineering

3D printing is revolutionizing our thinking on what is possible to manufacture in areas ranging from medical implants to life in space. This lecture explains how additive manufacturing works and how it transforms everything from plastics to metals to food into shapes that belonged only in our imaginations a couple of decades ago.

Dr. John Wentz joined the University of St. Thomas in 2009 with the goal of developing engineering graduates that have a global perspective of engineering as well as being technically excellent.  Before joining St. Thomas, John was a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois where he worked on various projects related to fluid dynamics and sustainable manufacturing such as the development of a 2nd generation atomization-based cutting fluid application system for micro-machining and the development of a three dimensional fluid dynamic model of membrane fouling of ceramic microfiltration membranes in metalworking fluid purification.  His work has led to multiple journal papers and conference presentations and the writing of funded grant proposals from the National Science Foundation and the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. While at the University of Illinois, John taught Introduction to Manufacturing Systems and Eco-Design and Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing, a course he developed.  Prior to earning his doctorate John worked as a Transportation Design Engineer for the City of Tulsa.

Oct. 5

Digital Technology Demystified: From 0 to 1 in a Single Session with Andrew Tubesing, MSEE, Instructor & Laboratory Manager, Electrical Engineering

We know that digital electronics drive our modern world, but how do those ones and zeros actually enable the technology we use every day? Participants need only the basic ability to count, and will leave with an understanding of how digital electronics use this binary system to control things, store data, and communicate information. "If you can count from 1 to 10, I can teach you to count from 0 to 1."

Andrew Tubesing joined the UST engineering department in the summer of 2011. Previously he spent ten years at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology where he managed the electrical engineering laboratories and taught courses in circuit theory and engineering design. With particular interest in student team project work, he focused closely on equipping and coordinating capstone design experiences. For the past decade he has also been heavily involved in Science Olympiad at the state and regional levels as an event supervisor, arbitrator, and competition coordinator. Andrew began his career in broadcast engineering at an NPR member station, gaining a diverse background in electronic and electrical systems.  Switching gears, he spent two years working as a peace educator, during which he traveled the entire U.S. and beyond, presenting workshops and other programs on peacemaking and environmental topics. The project culminated in a book of peace messages addressed to the United Nations from children and adults worldwide. Returning to the technical realm, Andrew started a low-voltage electrical contracting business, working on a variety of commercial projects for educational/institutional campuses, specializing in custom integration of communications technologies, including large scale telephone and data infrastructure, satellite downlink and CATV systems, security monitoring, and audio/video/broadcast studios. Andrew moved on to earn a M.S. in electrical engineering from New Mexico Tech in Socorro NM, and directed his career into education.

Oct. 12 

Form and Forces: Graphical Solutions for Structure Analysis with Sarah Baxter, Ph.D., Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Drawing and graphical methods have been used to solve engineering problems since the days of Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo, and before. In this class, if you can draw a straight line with a ruler, I can show you how to understand forces in structures using methods that harness your intuitive understanding and visualization skills, rather than your math.

Dr. Sarah Baxter earned her Ph.D. University of Virginia, Applied Mathematics, and her M.S. University of Minnesota, Duluth, Applied and Computation Mathematics.  Prior to coming to St. Thomas, she was a Professor, University of South Carolina, Department of Mechanical Engineering, 2013-2014; Associate Professor, USC, Department of Mechanical Engineering, USC, 2003-2013; Assistant Professor, USC, Department of Mechanical Engineering, USC, 1997-2003; Postdoctoral Research, University of Virginia, Applied Mechanics, 1995-1997; Scientist, National Institute of Standards and Technology, MD, 1993; Member of the Technical Staff, The Aerospace Corporation, CA, 1991. Dr. Baxter’s  research has focused on developing novel applications of mathematical and mechanics models. The majority of these models have focused on understanding the mechanics of heterogeneous materials through probabilistic/stochastic approaches. These include (1) an approach for predicting the properties of heterogeneous materials that merges homogenization schemes, which provide effective properties of a material with a random microstructure medium, and probabilistic methods, which describe variations in properties as a result of this randomness, and most recently, (2) an approach to modeling the effective properties of nanoscale composites that includes capturing the effects of scale including nondeterministic effects such as percolation and clustering.  New work is in exploring probabilistic models of dynamic control systems for structural control. She has also developed several significant interdisciplinary collaborations, most notably modeling binding site affinity distributions in molecularly imprinted polymers and developing a novel approach to tracking mechanical activity of cells in soft tissue using light scattered from gold nano-rods as a tracking pattern.

Oct. 19

No Session.

Oct. 26 

Geometry and Mechanics of Architecture with Michael Hennessey, Ph.D., Professor, Mechanical Engineering

Prominent European architectural sites often feature awe-inspiring feats of engineering and mathematics throughout the ages. With the help of CAD software and visualization technology, we will study the fundamental architectural elements common at these sites from the perspective of both geometry and mechanics, including: use of symmetric patterns, roofs & ceilings, columns, arches & buttresses, stability of structures, and ruled surfaces. The session will explore La Sagrada Familia and La Alhambra in Spain, the Parthenon in Athens, the Colosseum in Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Florence dome in Italy, Vatican City, and more. This lecture is based on a popular study-abroad course co-taught by the presenter and Dr. Cheri Shakiban from the Department of Mathematics.

Dr. Michael P. Hennessey (Mike) joined the full-time faculty as an assistant professor in the fall of 2000. Mike gained 10 years of industrial and academic laboratory experience at 3M, FMC, and the University of Minnesota prior to embarking on an academic career at Rochester Institute of Technology (3 years) and Minnesota State University, Mankato (2 years). He has taught over 20 courses in mechanical engineering at the undergraduate and graduate level, advised 11 MSME graduates, and has written (or co-written) 48 technical papers (published or accepted), in either journals (11), conference proceedings (36), or in magazines (1). He also actively consults with industry and is a member of ASME, SIAM and ASEE. 

Nov. 2 

Secrets to the Engineered Materials that has Shaped History with Dr. Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering

History has looked kindly upon civilizations that pushed the cutting edge of materials for their weapons, structures, and transportation. In particular, the development of Copper, Bronze, Iron and Steel were all instrumental in ushering in new world orders. By visualizing the arrangement of atomic microstructures, we will learn how and why each of these pivotal materials acquire their beneficial properties, and understand why each advancement was even more successful than the last.

Dr. Brittany Nelson-Cheeseman earned her Ph.D. 2009, Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley; D.E. (Designated Emphasis) 2009, Nanoscale Science and Engineering;
M.S. 2007 Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley; B.S. 2003, Materials Science and Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her interests include Complex oxide thin films and heterostructures, Nanoscale science and engineering, Next generation energy materials, Materials by design, Engineering education, International education, and Cross-disciplinary education.  Brittany has spent much of her career focused on creating and investigating novel nanoscale materials for energy. In addition to extensive national and international collaborations, she has utilized a number of national laboratory facilities across the US to complete this research, with a particular focus on characterizing materials by powerful synchrotron (high energy x-ray) radiation techniques. As a postdoctoral researcher at Argonne National Laboratory (US Department of Energy) she utilized oxide molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) in the Center for Nanoscale Materials to craft new materials using the single atomic layer control of MBE. Brittany also carried out work at the Institut de Ciencia de Materials at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, while living in Barcelona, Spain, and has circumnavigated the globe with Semester at Sea, Institute for Shipboard Education. Brittany is a native of the Twin Cities, having grown up in Southwest Minneapolis.