Alumni Q+A: Sean Eisler

Sean O’Neill Eisler
Vice President, Henderson Engineers, Inc.
Class of 1993
Current City: Parkville, Missouri  Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
Find me on Twitter! @seaneisler

What is something that you wish was available to you as a student that current students at UMKC have access to?  

The access to technology and the information it unlocks was not available when I was at UMKC.  No email, no google searches, and the computer we had access to was a mainframe that ran on UNIX.  I didn’t see my first personal computer until my junior year, and it was running DOS.  Email and the world wide web didn’t become available until a couple of years after I graduated.

What project have you worked on that you are the most proud of?  

The projects that I am most proud of are the ones we undertake after natural disasters have struck.  It’s amazing to watch Mother Nature take a big, stout, commercial building and do the damage it’s capable of doing.  It’s also amazingly sad to see the toll that is taken on the human element of the aftermath.

We were involved with quite a bit of work in the gulf coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as several retail and education projects in the after the Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011.  Watching the commercial construction community come together in a time of crisis and rebuild what once was is inspiring and gives me a lot of pride in my work and our industry.

How has the field of engineering changed since you started working?

AutoCAD was in the process of being adopted when I graduated from UMKC.  I interviewed at five consulting firms around Kansas City and two of them were still using manual drafting. Part of the reason I joined Henderson Engineers was because every engineer had their own PC and they were designing 100% in a CAD environment. Now our industry is moving from designing in a 2D environment in AutoCAD to the 3D BIM environment of Revit.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?  

My dad once told me that the only thing college does is teach you how to learn.  What is in your head the day you graduate is a foundation. It’s not everything you will need to know to pursue the career you have in front of you.  In fact, you will discover how much more you don’t know about engineering once you are out of school.  My dad also told me that it’s not what you know that’s important.  What’s important is knowing where to go to find the correct answer.  College prepares you to be able to learn without the structure of a classroom and a teacher.  You have to teach yourself once you get your diploma.

What had you choose UMKC?

I knew I was going have to work my way through college, and I didn’t like the idea of going away to school.  My Dad went to UMKC in the 50’s, so I was already familiar with the school.  As it turned out, not only did my Dad and I get degrees at UMKC, my wife, my brother and his wife,  mother in-law and father in-law, and my wife’s brother and his wife, all went to UMKC.  There’s 9 of us total.

UMKC Baja Racing Team Placed 11th In The World At Recent Championship

UMKC’s Baja Buggy Team recently returned from Baja SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) in California as champions! This event was the first of three international competitions hosted in the United States by SAE. UMKC Baja Vice President, project design lead and senior in mechanical engineering, Alex Eckhoff, shared more about the team’s experience at this year’s competition.

This year we went into the competition with our biggest rival being ourselves. The previous school record for the Baja competition was placing 21st overall (typically out of 100-120 teams). With that in mind, we were determined to be within the top twenty.

As a team, we faced many challenges. From failing technical inspection for various parts to being audited for the first time in UMKC history, we didn’t let any obstacle keep us from pursuing our goal.

As far as the results, we broke several school records! We placed 13th in Cost, 11th in Acceleration, and 14th in Suspension. We also placed 8th in design, 29th in Maneuverability, and 25th in Hill Climb. We placed 11th overall, just three points shy from being in the top ten.

We are very proud of our team this year and have set our goals even higher for the following competitions. Our goal now is to get in the top 10 and push for top 5 in the world.

To do this, we will focus on fixing any damage to the car caused by the competition, streamlining our design presentations, perfecting our sales presentation and performing CVT tuning which will benefit performance as well as design.

We have made more friends with other teams and have gained a positive reputation with judges at competition. All in all, we couldn’t be more thrilled to compete again at Pittsburg State University later this month.

Story by Alex Eckhoff and Molly Gilstrap.

Baja SAE® consists of competitions that simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. Engineering students are tasked to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive incredibly rough terrain. Each team’s goal is to design and build a single-seat, all-terrain, sporting vehicle. The vehicle is to be a prototype for a reliable, maintainable, ergonomic, and economic production vehicle which serves a recreational user market.

UMKC Steel Bridge Team Heads to Nationals!

Recently, in partnership with MacGillivray Freeman Films, and presented by the Bechtel Corporation, ASCE held a screening of Dream Big: Engineering Our World. The purpose of the film is to inform the public about the important work engineers do, inspire young people to consider pursuing careers in the engineering field, and answer the demand for K-12 engineering education resources. UMKC’s Steel Bridge Team was able to participate in this incredible outreach event. Read on to hear from the team’s fabrication captain, Jon Daldalian, who shared his experience from the event and being a part of steel bridge.

Tell us more about your recent event.

The event was held at Cinetopia and Prairiefire Museum. The over 1,500 students in attendance viewed the film, MacGillivray Freeman’s Dream Big: Engineering Our World, which highlights engineering as a viable and necessary career option by showcasing some of the most impressive projects engineers work on. The Steele Bridge Team supported the event by bringing our new competition bridge as a display for the students to observe. We also brought several versions of bridges from past years to highlight the different ways teams have completed the same project.

What value has the steel bridge team added to your education?

The Steel Bridge Team has given me the opportunity to apply problem solving skills I’ve learned in the classroom. Each and every day spent fabricating the bridge has been filled with problem after problem. Learning to work around these inevitable issues makes seeing the completed bridge very satisfying. It’s easy for engineers to draw designs that look and behave in a way that make sense to them. However, in many cases fabrication is nearly impossible. Working through daily issues has taught me to improvise, adapt, and overcome no matter the circumstances. As a member of the team’s leadership, I’ve also learned to better manage my own time as well as the time of my team members.

Why are you involved?

I’ve found that being involved provides many educational opportunities that aren’t available in the classroom. For civil engineers in particular, the opportunity to volunteer provides a wonderful way to interact with the community. My role as fabrication captain has also provided me with the opportunity to improve my leadership, time management, and interpersonal communication skills.

How do you hope to impact young people through this kind of outreach?

I was never exposed to the engineering field as a child. Engineering didn’t seem like a viable career option to me until I was already in my mid-20’s. I hope to impact children in the community by teaching them how broad, flexible, and rewarding a STEM degree can be.

 

At the end of April, the Steel Bridge Team traveled to the University of Arkansas to compete in the 2017 Mid-Continent Regional ASCE Student Competition. UMKC won 5 out of the 7 awards including stiffest, fastest build, economy, display, and 2nd overall.

Qualifying for nationals was no easy feat considering the skill level of the teams this year and the fact that only the top two teams qualify! UMKC’s Steel Bridge Team will now have the chance to showcase their bridge design and craftsmanship to the rest of the nation!

Click here to donate to support their trip to nationals

 

Alumni Q+A: Srinivas Chilakalapudi

Srinivas Chilakalapudi
Chief Strategy Officer, Green Gold Animation
Class of 1994
Current City: Hyderabad, India Hometown: Hyderabad, India
Twitter Handle: @srini_cc

What initially attracted you to UMKC?
UMKC was working on the current hot technologies at the time I was applying. The application of Computer Science in the fields of Telecommunications and Networking was an emerging area and a lot of research was being done by many companies. UMKC was one of the few universities that was offering courses and programs in these fields.

Tell me about an average day at your job.
I am a member of the leadership team and most of my day involves solving critical issues. We have to check on our production schedules and stay in touch with all of our customers and partners. Making sure that everything is progressing smoothly is the main part of my regular day.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
At UMKC, as a foreign student, I had to juggle both my education and livelihood. I was a Teaching Assistant. Apart from teaching, attending all my classes, and following the research going on in my field, I had to take care of myself in a new country, understand its people and a different culture. This made me a tough and hardworking individual. I used to plan my day very meticulously in order to get everything done, which has served me in good stead even now.

What drew you to Computer Science?
I loved to solve problems and I was pretty good at math, so I was drawn towards programming and computing. New technologies like the internet, networking, switching, and mobile communications fascinated me and I wanted to contribute towards these cutting edge technologies.

How did you decide what area you wanted to work in?
I wanted to make a contribution in the area that I studied and that was an emerging technology field. During the early 90’s, networking was a hot field and companies like Cisco were still startups. I enjoyed being part and parcel of the teams that were making the internet and inter-connecting possible and we were constantly working on innovative technologies.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
It is very important to learn the subjects, understand them in depth, and not be superficial. Though grades are important, learning and understanding the basics is even more important. You need to work hard and in a methodical way. Plan your schedules well and execute your plans well. That is the key to success.

Alumni Q+A: Ryan Fowler

Ryan William Fowler
Mechanical Facility Engineer and Energy Coordinator, Orbital ATK Lake City AAP
Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering, Class of 2012
Current City: Blue Springs, MO Hometown: Blue Springs, MO

 
Tell us about your job.
At my job I get involved with managing the plants integrated building management control system, HVAC systems, boiler/steam systems, and all aspects of energy management. I often have construction projects I am responsible for deterring technical requirements and in some cases supervise field work.

One project I particularly enjoyed was the design and implementation of a reverse osmosis treatment system at the Lake City Boiler Plant. I am part of the plant’s master planning process which determines the needs and requirements which will keep the facility in working order for many years to come.

I worked at my company throughout college and interned in facilities engineering. They kept me on once I graduated. I fit very well in this type of engineering and would recommend it to anyone.

How do you balance your work life with your personal life?
I work when I am scheduled to work and I’m home when I’m scheduled to be home. Keeping the two separate and staying focused on what’s important at the time allows me to manage my time well and keep a healthy balance between the two.
Sure there are overlaps every now and then, but they are few and far between. Family comes first, and if you’re working somewhere that doesn’t respect that then it might be time to seek other opportunities.

What advice do you have for students entering the field?
One step at a time. Listen to the experienced engineers in your group and ask a ton of questions, they will be your greatest ally in conquering this new and exciting world. You will make mistakes and you will learn from them. It’s all part of becoming a good engineer. Hang in there; this is where all the fun happens!

Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Max Schoettger

Transferring to UMKC

Name: Max Schoettger
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Major: Information Technology, Business
Year: Senior
Favorite class: IT 222 – Multimedia Design
Favorite place to study: Miller Nichols Library, 2nd floor
Why you chose UMKC: Kansas City is my home city, plus UMKC was close and there are job opportunities with tech companies.

My college journey started at a different four-year university. In the two years I was there, I made a lot of mistakes, both personally and academically, at a place I didn’t feel welcome at. Transferring universities and changing degrees in the middle of my undergraduate experience was a tough decision, but one that I felt I needed to take for my own personal benefit. As I returned home to the Kansas City area, I was also interested in changing my area of study from engineering to information technology. UMKC’s School of Computing and Engineering ended up being the perfect fit for me during a very challenging period of time. The school offered a bachelor’s program in information technology that I was able to get into right away. UMKC advisors worked with me to match existing engineering credits to degree requirements in the IT program to make the most of the hours I had already earned.
 
During my first semester at UMKC, the computer science classes I took caught my interest in a way no other subject had before. Learning all about computers, what they can do, and how they make the world work was something I truly became passionate about. UMKC’s relationships with some of the top tech companies in Kansas City will ensure that the skills that I acquire in the classroom can turn into a great internship or entry-level job to start my career. Aside from the academic pros of changing degrees and universities, the change in campus environment has been my favorite part about transferring to UMKC. Right in the middle of the city I have lived in my whole life is a diverse university with many different opportunities full of interesting people from all walks of life. It’s a place where I feel like I belong. 

Enhancing Infrastructure For Cuba

Team UMKC, composed of graduate students Andy Roberts, AJ Ramsey, and Ryan Holmes, are finalists in the 2017 Cuban Infrastructure Scholarship Competition! The Cuba Infrastructure Challenge is a student design competition organized and sponsored by the Association of Cuban-American Engineers (ACAE) and the Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers (C-AACE). It entails that university student teams formulate and present a project of their choice on Cuba’s public infrastructure that relates to the engineering field in transportation, water resources, power/ telecommunications or healthcare. This competition aims to improve the quality of life for Cubans and establish meaningful relationships between Cuban-Americans and students. The ACAE has organized this competition for engineering students from around the United States to propose, investigate, and engineer solutions that enhance infrastructure in Cuba.
 
Team UMKC was accepted on February 13, 2017 as a top 6 team in the nation to present and discuss their proposal entitled: Feasibility Study of Baracoa, Cuba as “Sponge City.” The competition is to be held at the University of Miami in Miami, FL on March 4 (TODAY!) between 8:00AM to 2:00PM and will be live streamed on Youtube.com. A potential $12,000 in award money is available for top-ranked presentations in addition to national esteem.
 
This will provide an excellent opportunity for the participating graduate students to meet and develop relationships with civil engineering professionals across the world. Because of the high visibility of the live stream and importance of Cuban relations, this competition will also advance UMKC’s prominence as an international research institution and cultivator of globally influential leaders.
 
Tune in to the live stream on Saturday, March 4, 2017 at 7:00am.
(Update):

Team UMKC composed of Ryan Holmes, AJ Ramsey, and Andrew Roberts returned home on March 5th from Miami as third place winners in a national competition for the Cuba Infrastructure Scholarship Competition.

A total of $12,000 in scholarships was up for grabs through this support of The Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers and The Association of Cuban-American Engineers. The event was hosted by the University of Miami at the beautiful Casa Bacardi. The intent of the scholarship and the goal of the organization is to promote infrastructure and technology that could benefit a future free-enterprise Cuba. Team UMKC submitted a rigorously judged proposal entitled “Feasibility Study of Baracoa, Cuba As a Sponge City” and was one of 6 teams across the nation invited to present. Each team had 15 minutes to describe their proposals to the 5 esteemed judges, each with over 40 years of experience in their respective fields. This was followed by 10 minutes of question and answer to evaluate some of the more detailed and technical aspects of the proposal.

It is the hope of Team UMKC that participation in this competition results in sown seeds towards international cooperation especially with the Hispanic community. As a team, they also desire to set a precedence and a challenge to other engineering students for similar competitions to demonstrate how Roos engage as national and international members of society.

Team UMKC would like to thank the School of Graduate Studies and the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering for their generous support in providing the travel funds necessary to attend this competition. A special thanks to Dean Truman for originally circulating this opportunity.

Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Mazen Mansour

Egypt to UMKC

Name: Mazen Mansour
Hometown: Alexandria, Egypt
Major: Mechanical Engineering
Year: Senior
Clubs: Pi Tau Sigma, Research Assistant, Thermodynamics T.A., Math Tutor
Favorite class: Thermodynamics
Favorite place to study: Miller Nichols Library, 4th floor
Why you chose UMKC: I love Kansas City and UMKC’s class sizes. There are also lots of industry partners in Kansas City.

In the summer of 2012 I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I left my home country Egypt, and started applying to colleges in the United States. Although I am a dual citizen, I had never lived in the U.S before. In the fall of 2013, I started as an Aerospace Engineering student at Wichita State University. My first couple of weeks here in the U.S by myself were very tough. I had to adapt to a new language, a new culture, and a new lifestyle, but I knew I came to U.S to succeed and success doesn’t come easy. I visited Kansas City during Thanksgiving break and instantly fell in love with the city. I transferred to UMKC after my freshman year and I am so thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had here.

When I moved to KC, my English wasn’t as good as it is today. I had difficulties understanding people at first. The first job I had in Kansas City was working at a McDonald’s. While I was only earning minimum wage, it was probably one of the most valuable experiences I’ve ever had. I was speaking to around 500 customers every day which helped me improve my English skills. Through my sophomore, junior and currently my senior year, there is one very important thing that I’ve learned; “The impossible is possible unless you say no.”

Since coming to UMKC, I’ve had the opportunity to work in various positions on campus. I’ve worked as a math tutor, campus host, teacher assistant, research assistant, and SCE student ambassador. This might sound normal for some people, but for me as an 18 year old kid coming from Egypt, to live in a totally new country was a big deal. And getting my first ever name tag or having my name on a syllabus of a class with my own “office hours” was an even bigger deal! My proudest moment was when I saw my name on a 4 by 3 feet poster for my research that I was working on this past summer. Besides working on campus, I was also blessed to get an internship at PAS Technologies, a manufacturing plant for small aeroplane parts.

I think to succeed in college and life in general, one needs to be optimistic. I wake up every day at 5:30 a.m. and say “Good morning, Mazen! Let’s go out and get it before the day gets you.”

Alumni Q+A: Riddhiman Das

Riddhiman Das
Product Architect, EyeVerify, Inc.
Bachelors of Science in Computer Science, Class of 2012
Current City: Kansas City, MO  Hometown: Guwahati, India
Twitter Handle: @rdasxy

What drew you to Computer Science?
I was lucky that I figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was still young. When I was 7 years old, my family got our first computer; I was so fascinated by it that I decided that I was going to become a computer scientist when I grew up.

I was exposed to computing concepts early– my parents would get me undergraduate level programming books while I was still in elementary school. They tried to get me the best resources possible to help me learn as much as possible.

I knew in my early teens that computing was going to bring about tremendous change in our lives, and that I wanted to play a part in the “Information Revolution” that was going to have an immense impact into the 21st century human civilization.

How do you keep up with the rapidly changing field of technology?
I often joke that Hacker News (https://news.ycombinator.com) flows through my veins. I am plugged into several online communities through social networking sites, as well as regularly reading numerous technical journals, blogs, websites, etc.

I have also started taking several MOOCs (massive open online course) lately through Udacity and Coursera, which has really helped me pick up newer technologies.

How did UMKC prepare you for your career?
The School of Computing and Engineering has a very thorough Computer Science program. The content I learned as an undergraduate was comparable, or sometimes even better than top Computer Science schools around the world. What was even better about the school was that because it is smaller, I had easy access to all my teachers and faculty. They all knew me personally and made several opportunities available to me that would not have happened at a bigger school.

I was part of several research projects that really helped me refine my skills as a computer scientist. It was also fun because I got to present my research at several conferences, where I met folks from universities around the world. When I graduated with my undergraduate degree, the research I was involved with was nearing commercialization so it ended up being my full time job.

Ambassador Highlight of the Week: Kacey Henik

The Stem Career Fair

Name: Kacey Henik
Hometown: Independence, MO
Major: Electrical Computer Engineering (ECE)
Year: Senior
Clubs: SWE, Alpha Sigma Alpha, Mortar Board
Favorite class: Embedded Systems
Favorite place to study: Computer labs or my apartment
Why you chose UMKC: I wanted to major in ECE, which is a program offered at very few universities.

 

My name is Kacey Henik, and I am a senior in the Electrical Computer Engineering (ECE) degree program. ECE is unique because not very many colleges offer the combined electrical and computer engineering focuses in a single program. . This provides more career options for after graduation, even though most engineering degrees are fairly versatile in their career applications.

One of the events that UMKC holds every semester is the STEM Career Fair. My sophomore year, I went to the career fair in the spring where I secured an internship with Kansas City Power and Light. This internship was a great entry point for me and let me see what it was like to work at a utility. I loved how the company revolved around the customers and the way that we could best serve them through providing reliable and efficient power. However, I was still was not 100% sure what I wanted to do after graduation.

My junior year of school, I went to the fall career fair, after which I was offered an internship with Burns & McDonnell, a large engineering consulting firm headquartered in Kansas City. My first summer had shown me the utility side of things and this past summer showed me something new – consulting. On the consulting side, the project scope varies greatly, as we serve clients all over the country, and in some cases, across the world.. I really enjoyed the environment of the company and the variety in projects I was able to work on.

Seeing both the utility side and the consulting side proved to be great experiences for me and helped me to make a more informed decision on where I wanted to work for my career. I recently accepted an offer with Burns & McDonnell to work full-time after graduation (nine months before I graduate!), and I am thankful to be able to continue working there part-time while I am still in school! I attribute much of my success to the School of Computing and Engineering and the dedication they show us students. I am thankful to be at a university that is located in a place where I even get to start on my career a little earlier!