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April 1, 2017

FIRST Robotics, Cardinal Formula Racing provide foundation for business started by SVSU mechanical engineering alum

As the founder and president of a design and engineering company, Nevin Steinbrink appreciates the opportunity to build things. 

He also appreciates the things that built him.

Two important building blocks for the Bloomfield Hills native were FIRST Robotics, a competition for high school students to create robots, and Saginaw Valley State University’s Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Cardinal Formula Racing team, which builds Indy-style vehicles to race against international competition.

His involvement with both organizations — and the lessons learned along the way — helped him succeed when he created his Old Town Saginaw-based company, Steinbrink Engineering LLC, in 2008.

“The transition — going from FIRST Robotics, to SAE, to starting a company — was so critical to my success,” said Steinbrink, who graduated from SVSU with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2015.

“Being part of FIRST Robotics and SAE helped me learn to become independent and yet still dependent on my teammates. That really helped me to balance myself out so I could feel confident and comfortable starting my own company.”

Soon, reminders of Steinbrink’s past will be on display nearby.

SVSU will host this year’s statewide FIRST Robotics contest April 12-15, when about 5,000 high school student competitors from across Michigan will visit the campus.

A few weeks after that, this year’s SVSU Cardinal Formula Racing team will finish assembling its latest vehicle for the Formula SAE Collegiate Competition Series in May.

Steinbrink plans to visit the FIRST Robotics competition. As an SVSU adjunct instructor who teaches mechanical engineering courses, he is never far from the on-campus body shop where the racing team builds its vehicles.

“Those were great times,” he said of both experiences.

His involvement with FIRST Robotics began in 2001 when he was a student at Andover High School. Organizers created a FIRST Robotics team for interested students from his school and another nearby institution. One of that team's advisors, Gail Alpert, now serves as president of FIRST in Michigan.

 “I learned so much,” Stenibrink said of his work with the group, known as Team 469.

Steinbrink and his teammates rotated responsibilities involving everything from design conception to building the final product. That wide-ranging exposure to creating technology gave him a big-picture sense of both how to assemble a machine and work with others in achieving goals.

“I was learning all this knowledge at 15; not only the design, but also how parts are made,” he said. “That was huge. These aren’t things you can learn in a class. You have to get your hands dirty.”

In 2003, Steinbrink and his team bested the competition — about 1,500 teams in total — at the FIRST Robotics’ national championship competition in Orlando, Florida.

The lessons learned from that experience provided a foundation for accomplishing similar tasks when he worked as a member of the SVSU Cardinal Formula Racing team from 2008-11.

“SAE was basically the same thing as FIRST Robotics, except your parents aren’t as involved,” Steinbrink said. “It’s a higher level, but you’re doing a lot of the same things.”

And the lessons learned from both experiences provided a foundation of knowledge that gave Steinbrink the confidence and wherewithal to create Steinbrink Engineering LLC, which provides services to clients in need of help with design and engineering work.

The organization has worked with clients on technology that supports physical therapy-aiding devices, Bluetooth-connected electric toothbrushes, football helmet facemasks, and HVAC air flow systems.

While he largely manages the company’s workload now, Steinbrink occasionally has the opportunity to take the sort of hands-on approach that allowed him to excel in FIRST Robotics and Cardinal Formula Racing once upon a time.

“I still love getting my hands dirty,” he said. “That hasn’t changed.”

March 30, 2017

SVSU students hope their firefighting robot douses competition at international contest

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.”

March 30, 2017

Renowned jazz artist Bob James to perform in concert at SVSU

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 or call (989) 964-4052. 

March 30, 2017

SVSU Theatre presents Tony-winning musical ‘Assassins’

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.

March 29, 2017

SVSU Flute Choir to perform in concert Thursday

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 or the SVSU Department of Music at 989-964-4159. 

March 29, 2017

SVSU Concert Choir and Cardinal Singers to perform together in concert

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. 

March 28, 2017

‘Love for Speech’ leads to honors for SVSU Forensics team at state tournament

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

March 28, 2017

SVSU and Saginaw's Counter Cruise team up for food drive doubling as bicycle ride

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.

March 28, 2017

SVSU to host sold-out employment fair Friday

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 
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.

March 20, 2017

SVSU history professor researches Cold War-era U.S. military experience in his native Germany

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

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