In its attempt to douse a fire, “Card-Bot 1.0” is blazing a trail for a new STEM-oriented student organization at Saginaw Valley State University.
At least that’s the hope of Rajani Muraleedharan, SVSU assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, and the 30 students — and counting — she advises on the SVSU Robotics Club.
The first-year organization is gearing up to compete in the Trinity College International Robot Contest April 1-2 in Hartford, Connecticut. The team is building a 1-foot-tall robot — tabbed “Card-Bot 1.0” in honor of SVSU’s mascot — designed to douse a candle’s flame, which will be hidden within an obstacle course. The group will compete against other university students with the same goal in mind.
SVSU students aren’t new to the annual competition, but previous entries involved classroom-centric projects. Muraleedharan’s team won’t earn course credits for its work, and its members largely have constructed Card-Bot during long weekend sessions in SVSU’s Pioneer Hall.
“These are students with an open mind and a passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),” Muraleedharan said. “That’s all that’s needed.”
Muraleedharan began organizing the group in fall 2016, intent on creating a space where students with a variety of interests in the sciences could find a creative spark together.
Students majoring in a number of STEM-based academic programs are involved in the club: mechanical and electrical engineering, computer science, health sciences, and chemistry. For a while, a health sciences major was involved, but the club interested her so much that she switched to a mechanical engineering major, Muraleedharan said.
“It’s a place where students can challenge themselves and be creative,” she said. “I wanted the students to be able to leave their footprint on something they built together.”
For the most part, Muraleedharan tries to let the students dictate the group’s direction. Her involvement as adviser largely is to support them and help them find funding for their projects. For instance, she helped secure the SVSU Foundation Resource Grant that paid for Card-Bot’s machinery, which includes a 3-D-printed husk and wheels, computer circuitry, and a motion sensor that will allow the robot to navigate the obstacle course. A built-in fan will douse the candle’s flame.
Muraleedharan’s empowering approach has worked, the SVSU Robotics Club’s members say. Club President Waqas Qureshi, a computer science major from Saginaw, said working with the group has allowed him to thrive in new ways.
“I’ve never had this kind of responsibility before, and I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said. “I’ve never been part of something like this, where a group of people are this excited about working this hard. We’re doing it all for fun.”
Qureshi said the club hopes to enter a number of other contests, including a NASA competition that tasks teams with building machines that can mine on other planets.
Muraleedharan also hopes to recruit more SVSU students to join the club, and use their enthusiasm to encourage even younger students to pursue STEM-based studies. The SVSU Robotics Club plans to introduce Card-Bot 1.0 to the nearly 5,000 high school students expected to visit SVSU as part of the statewide FIRST Robotics competition April 12-15.
“That’s an opportunity to put our club’s work front and center, and to show them how much fun we are having here at SVSU,” she said. “The Robotics Club was meant to bring people together. That’s what we are doing here.”
Saginaw Valley State University will welcome jazz pianist Bob James for a concert performance Friday, April 28 in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts. Doors will open at 7 p.m. and the concert will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person.
James has been in the music industry for more than 50 years in the role of pianist, composer, arranger and producer, continually captivating audiences around the world. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree in music from the University of Michigan. James was also the winner of the competition at Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival in 1962.
James also produced all the music for the popular television show “Taxi,” including the theme song for the show, which aired in the 1970s and 1980s; it is among his most recognized works. His music continues to have contemporary appeal, as well. Recognized as a progenitor of smooth jazz, James appeals to fans of R&B, funk, and even hip-hop. In fact, three of his recordings are among the five most-sampled tracks in hip-hop.
In his career, James has recorded 58 albums while working as a solo artist; he also was a founding member of the band Fourplay and collaborates with other musicians.
In 2014, James was inducted into the University of Michigan School of Music Hall of Fame. His other honors include receiving a first-ever Traverse City Opera House Ambassador for the Arts Award in 2017, and a State of Michigan Guvvy Award for International Achievement in 2008.
James’ visit to SVSU is supported through the Dow Visiting Scholars and Artists series, a program at SVSU established through an endowment from The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation to enrich our region’s cultural and intellectual opportunities.
For more information, please visit svsu.edu/bobjames or call (989) 964-4052.
The Saginaw Valley State University Theatre Department will stage its production of the Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman musical “Assassins,” beginning on Wednesday, April 5 in SVSU's Malcolm Field Theatre of Performing Arts.
A multiple Tony Award-winning musical, Assassins combines Sondheim's signature blend of intelligently stunning lyrics and beautiful music with a panoramic story of our nation's culture of celebrity and the violent means some – from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald – will use to obtain it. Bold, original, disturbing, and alarmingly funny, the dark musical comedy will explore the dark side of the American Dream, where assassins and would-be assassins meet, interact and inspire each other.
“The controversy certainly stems for the fact that we get to have an inside look at what the U.S presidential assassins were thinking,” said Ric Roberts, SVSU professor of theatre, who is directing the play.
“Even though we know they are completely wrong in their execution, people might have empathy for a few of them,” he said.
This play has been on Roberts' radar for years.
“I wanted to select a show that was musically challenging for our actors and our students designers,” he said.
The show takes place over many historical periods where the audience can expect a musical tour with many eclectic styles and voices.
Roberts insisted on live music for the show to enhance students’ learning.
“It is important that we train our students to work with a live orchestra since they will be dealing with it in the professional world,” he said. “The relationship between our theatre and music departments has been very strong over the past eight years, and this helps solidify our relationship.”
Brandon Haskett, SVSU associate professor of music, and Kevin Simons, SVSU assistant professor of music, will provide musical direction for the play. The orchestra will consist of SVSU students, through a course introduced two years ago as part of the academic minor in musical theatre, as well as SVSU faculty and professional musicians from the region.
Performances for “Assassins” are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 5 through Saturday, April 8; on Sunday, April 9, there will be a matinee performance at 3 p.m. Tickets are $16 for general admission, $14 for senior citizens and $12 for students. For more information please contact the SVSU box office at (989) 964-4261.
Saginaw Valley State University's Flute Choir will perform in concert Thursday, March 30 at 7:30 p.m. in SVSU's Founders Hall.
Townes Osborn Miller, an adjunct instructor of music, will direct the choir, which includes SVSU students and community members.
The concert will feature selections such as William Byrd's "Sellenger's Round," J.S. Bach's "Aria from Cantata," and Ludwig von Beethoven's "Four Bagatelles."
The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Townes Osborn Miller at email@example.com or the SVSU Department of Music at 989-964-4159.
Saginaw Valley State University's Cardinal Singers and Concert Choir will perform in the concert “Mozart and More” Saturday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall.
The program features both sacred and secular music, including renditions of Wallace Willis' "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," Caroline Shaw's "Fly Away," and various selections of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Kevin Simons, SVSU assistant professor of music, will direct the vocal groups. Amanda Stamper will serve as the pianist alongside 49 SVSU student vocalists.
Simons also serves the director of music and organist at St. John's Episcopal Church in Saginaw. He is a board member for the Michigan chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and a director for the Sewanee Church Music Conference.
Stamper is the accompanist for SVSU's Cardinal Singers and Concert Choir. After completing her degree in music at SVSU in 2013, Stamper went on to earn a Master of Music in collaborative piano from Illinois State University.
The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the SVSU Department of Music at 989-964-4159.
The Saginaw Valley State University forensics team captured multiple awards at the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League State Forensics Tournament on March 18 at Eastern Michigan University.
The top performer was Gina Kearly, a communication and theatre double major from Midland, who was named Top Novice in both the Impromptu Speaking and Rhetorical Criticism categories, as well as runner up overall in Rhetorical Criticism. She credited the team’s empowering advisor, Amy Pierce, SVSU associate professor of communication.
“Without Dr. Pierce's love for speech and dedication to this team, we would not have the opportunity to compete,” said Kearly. “She encourages risk-taking, provides innumerable resources, and supports us with honest feedback.”
Teammate Gylian Castle, a communication major from Standish, won the overall Top Novice award and also placed fifth in Oratory. Erik Breidinger, a communication major from Auburn, also placed fourth in After Dinner Speaking.
Kearly has a high regard for what she has learned through forensics competition.
“Being able to present oneself in a professional manner, handle constructive critique, and represent a larger team in individual events are the extra benefits,” she said, “to the research, writing and analysis required to assemble an effective 10 minute presentation. It's a chance to meet new people, gain valuable speaking experience, and challenge yourself to higher standards."
For more information regarding the Michigan Intercollegiate Speech League State Forensics Tournament, please visit michiganspeech.wordpress.com/events.
A group of Saginaw Valley State University students will collaborate with a local bicycle-riding organization for a community-minded cause.
After coordinating with SVSU students, members of Saginaw’s Counter Cruise, a group that hosts leisurely rides largely in the City of Saginaw, will switch venues to SVSU’s Kochville Township-based campus during an 8-mile, 1-hour trek Sunday, April 9, beginning at 2 p.m.
In addition to navigating SVSU and its surrounding neighborhoods, participants are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items that will be donated to Hidden Harvest, a Saginaw-based non-profit that helps to feed the hungry in the Great Lakes Bay Region.
“This was a great way to connect SVSU with two charities in Saginaw,” said Natalie Schneider, a Saginaw Township native and one of the students helping to organize the effort. “We want to give back to the community.”
Schneider, a business management major, is a member of The Roberts Fellowship Program, a student leadership development initiative at SVSU. Schneider and four other members of the group — as part of their participation in the program — are helping to organize the charity-driven bike ride with Counter Cruise. Participation is free of charge.
Schneider is familiar with both Counter Cruise and Hidden Harvest. Last summer, she participated in several Counter Cruise bike rides across Saginaw. A few of the rides involved picking up trash across the city.
“They do a lot of great things in the community,” Schneider said of Counter Cruise. “I wanted to find a way to get them involved with the university in some way.”
Last fall, Schneider was also involved in SVSU’s Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition with Grand Valley State University. The effort led to the university raising $26,000 for Hidden Harvest. The nonprofit’s organizers planned to use the funds to support their mission of supplying Great Lakes Bay food pantries while also developing a partnership with the Diaper Alliance, a Midland-based nonprofit that provides diapers to families in need.
Schneider said the April 9 bicycle trek will launch from SVSU’s Lot K parking lot, adjacent to the Ryder Center. There, students will collect the food donations before or after the bicycle ride.
In the event of bad weather, participants can meet at the same time and place on Saturday, April 23.
Saginaw Valley State University will host more than 150 employers during its spring university-wide employment fair Friday, March 31. The event, which will run from noon to 3 p.m., will be in the Curtiss Hall banquet and seminar rooms.
The employment fair provides an opportunity for SVSU students, alumni and others to meet with a large number of regional and national companies to demonstrate all of the qualities that the employers are looking for. Furthermore, attendees get to experience and practice for job interviews as they are evaluated in their communication skills.
“Employers like how SVSU students rise to challenges,” said Mike Major, SVSU's director of Career Services.
“SVSU students are seen as hard-working and dedicated, highlighted by the fact that many work multiple jobs to fund their education,” he said.
Major added that his year's employment fair might break last year's record number of 155 employers attending.
Sponsoring the event are Aerotek, Birch Run Premium Outlets, Chemical Bank, Independent Bank, Magline, Morley Companies, Nexteer Automotive, Saginaw Bay Underwriters, and Walmart. A complete list of employers is available online through the SVSU Career Services website at www.svsu.edu/careers.
All job seekers should wear professional attire. Those who attend can have a free professional photo taken for their use, courtesy of Dynamic Focus.
The event is open to the public. Advanced registration for SVSU students is available on Cardinal Career Network.
John Baesler was a boy in Bensheim, West Germany in the 1980s when his family — watching a crime drama on TV — heard a knock at the front door one evening. On the other side were two members of his family he met for the first time that night: His father’s niece and her daughter, who had arrived there after a daring escape from then-Communist-occupied East Germany.
“That was an amazing experience,” said Baesler, now an associate professor of history at Saginaw Valley State University. “They had escaped through Hungary and showed up at our door.”
Not long after that, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 and the Cold War’s grip slipped loose. The two German nations reconciled. Families reunited without fear. The anxiety of those divided days went the way of history.
It’s that distancing history that Baesler chases today. With the help of his students, he is leading a research effort aimed at capturing the experience of living in West Germany during a Cold War that spanned four decades, including the 28-year existence of the Berlin Wall. For now, the project involves interviewing United States military veterans stationed near communities such as his hometown in Bensheim, just south of Frankfurt with a population of 40,000, although he may expand the work’s scope depending on his findings.
“I want to answer the question, ‘How did that everyday interaction with each other influence Germans and Americans, and how did that influence the Americans when they came back to America?,’” he said.
“There was an everyday diplomacy between Germans citizens and American soldiers. Especially in small German cities, that represented a major change in daily life.”
Baesler was witness to much of that cultural interplay. He remembers the weddings between American soldiers and German daughters. He listened to the U.S. Armed Forces’ radio stations. He saw their military vehicles traveling the streets. He enjoyed their food.
“Once a year, the Americans in our town had an open-door event, where they invited us in,” Baesler said. “They played really good music, and I remember eating marshmallows for the first time there. Germans didn’t have marshmallows.”
More than 20 million U.S. military veterans have served inside Germany's borders. A U.S. military presence remains there today, albeit at a much smaller scale than before the wall was leveled in 1989.
Baesler hopes to interview at least 25 U.S. veterans before beginning to write a scholarly paper and, eventually, a book about his findings. He also aims to create an oral history repository that the campus can store in its library archives for future academic use.
Already, Baesler and his students have heard stories from 14 veterans — recording their accounts on video, audio and paper — and he continues to search for more witnesses of that history.
“There are so many stories to tell, and I’m interested to hear them,” he said. “This is a labor of love for me.”
Veterans once stationed in Germany who are interested in contributing to the oral history project can reach Baesler at (989) 964-4381 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saginaw Valley State University will host a Human Library event Tuesday, March 21 from 5 p.m. 8 p.m. on the first floor of the Zahnow Library.
The Human Library will be a one-time, three-hour event where people can check out “books.” These “books,” in reality, are human beings, community members who have volunteered to share their stories, experiences and life choices. The “readers” — in fact, the attendees — and the “books” then have one-on-one conversations for anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.
Sherrin Frances, SVSU associate professor of English, helped transplant the concept to SVSU from Denmark, where the Human Library Organization conceived the idea more than a decade ago.
Frances told The Valley Vanguard, SVSU’s student newspaper, that the event will provide audiences with an opportunity to speak in-depth with people who have dramatically different life experiences, histories, and perspectives.
“Based on the heated, divisive rhetoric generated during the presidential campaigning in the fall of 2016, it seems clear that creating safe, facilitated spaces for meaningful conversation among people with different beliefs, experiences, and histories is more valuable than ever,” she told The Vanguard.
Every Human Library's specific catalog varies depending on community needs and specific volunteers. SVSU’s version will feature people who tell stories about single-parenting an autistic child, maneuvering through the U.S. citizenship process, surviving brain cancer, recovering from drug addiction, and rebuilding one's life after homelessness.
Frances received a resource grant from the SVSU Foundation to put together the event. SVSU students, faculty, and staff are helping to organize, including Victoria Phelps, an English literature major from Rochester Hills.
“We hope the event leads community members to have conversations with other community members who are more outside their typical social circles in order to expand their understanding and empathy for people who are often stereotyped,” Phelps told The Vanguard.
The event will take place in the lower corner "Reference Collection" area of the library’s first floor. Due to ongoing construction, those interested in attending can reach the first floor through a temporary first-floor entrance adjacent to parking lot D or by entering through the second floor.
The event is free and open to the public. For more information on Human Libraries, visit http://humanlibrary.org/.