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Posts from the ‘engaged learning’ Category

"We’re the only ones who gave ourselves a chance."

During a recent conversation with RMU men’s basketball coach Andy Toole, I learned that the RMU Gameday Exclusive videos, available at our YouTube channel, have been a hit on the recruiting trail. One of Andy’s most recently landed recuits and the recruit’s father were particularly impressed by the emotionally raw videos that documented the Colonials’ up-and-down 2010-11 season. The season ended with an overtime loss in the NEC championship game, which was chronicled in the final Gameday Exclusive installment:

According to Andy, coaches of rival teams have praised the videos, and few offer anything similar. Kudos go to the talent behind Gameday Exclusive, 2010 RMU graduate Nazari Dorosh and senior RMU student Justin Downs.

— Jonathan Potts

RMU Holds Annual SEMS Summer Day Camps

From July 19 through August 6, Robert Morris University held its annual Summer Day Camps, hosted by the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science (SEMS).

The SEMS Summer Day Camps give local middle-grade and high school students hands-on learning experiences in animatronics, forensics, and a variety of science-related topics.

In the CSI-Forensics camp, students were exposed to many areas that real crime-scene investigators use in their line of work, such as trace analysis; digital, DNA, and mathematical forensics, and forgery detection.

Animatronics is the art and science of designing and building animated sculptures and puppetry. In this camp, led by Arif Sirinterlikci, Ph.D., director of the Engineering Laboratories, students designed, built, and integrated components that gave them the background to create their own animatronic model.

“Spark Your Imagination” gave middle school students many opportunities to engage in a variety science topics including biology, environmental science, chemistry, and physics, as they explored science through an inter-disciplinary approach, combining art and science with hands-on activities.

Mr. Morris goes to Washington

On May 2-4, six RMU students travelled to Washington, D.C., with Philip Harold, assistant professor of political science, for “insider’s tour” of our nation’s capital.

The group got to see a number of interesting things in Washington, including three Smithsonian art museums and the Air and Space Museum. But they also had a number of unique experiences. They witnessed President Obama’s helicopter land on the White House lawn. They got an insider’s perspective on Washington politics with Brian Dautch, the senior political action associate for the National Association of Social Workers. They received a special tour of the Department of Justice with Nathanial Pollock, a lawyer with the Civil Rights Division. They were briefed by Anna Platt from Sen. Arlen Specter’s office, and took a VIP tour of the Capitol Building with an aide to Sen. Specter.

There were two highlights of the trip which stood out in particular. First, the students had a private half-hour meeting with Sen. Robert Casey (pictured above) on a number of issues of concern to them, including health care, immigration, LGBT issues, and the environment. The senator outlined his stances on the issues and what was being done about them in the Senate. He described what it is like to be a senator, how the Senate works, and issued a heartfelt call for the students to take public and community service seriously throughout their life. At the end of the meeting Sen. Casey quizzed the students on the life history of Robert Morris, who was the first U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania.

The other particularly notable highlight of the trip was a behind-the-scenes tour of the U.S. Supreme Court. The students visited the court on the morning of May 3, walked up the court’s 44 marble steps under the famous “Equal Justice Under Law” inscription. They were literally the last citizens to do so, ever – the Court permanently closed its iconic front entrance to the public the next day (all visitors now have to enter the building through a new entrance on the plaza level). The students attended the announcement of decisions on two cases by the Supreme Court in the courtroom, and then took a tour of the inner chambers of the court from two current Supreme Court law clerks, Marah Stith and Brian Morrissey. They were briefed on the inner workings of the Court, and given advice on going to law school and making a career in the law. The tour also included shooting some hoops on the basketball court in the building, the “highest court in the land.”

What’s So Civil About War Anyway?

I first became fascinated with the Civil War after reading Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, the 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that chronicles the Battle of Gettysburg. From the first page, this remarkable work of historical fiction grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Shaara’s writing made history come alive, and it debunked the myth that history is inherently boring.

From then on I was hooked, and I began devouring books on the subject. I even managed to drag my wife to Gettysburg one cold and rainy spring day to tour the hallowed grounds.

Then I read Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic, in which Horwitz recounts a year he spent touring many of the war’s sites and battlefields, and, in the process discovers that, in many parts of the South, the Civil War never really ended. Horwitz’s tale inspired me to go on my own Civil War tour one day. And now I’m finally going to get that chance.

Next spring, students in RMU’s Civil War Study Tour course, taught by Daniel Barr, Ph.D., will be spending the first week of May visiting some of the war’s most influential sites and battlefields. This totally online course will take students to sites like Harper’s Ferry, Mechanicsville, Richmond, Cold Harbor, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, Antietam, and Gettysburg. I’ll be tagging along to document the trip and get some video of our students as they get a close-up look at American history.

I’m really looking forward to this trip. In fact, I’ve already started filling my haversack with salt pork and hardtack! (Actually it’s just my backpack, and I’ll probably just bring Slim Jims and stale crackers.)

Online threaded discussions throughout the course will allow students to discuss what they have learned about the sites and what they hope to gain from the tour. After the tour, students will evaluate the tour as an engaged-learning experience and compare how being at the sites differed from or enhanced traditional methods of instruction. (Registration will begin in early November. Interested students can contact Prof. Barr for more information at

I’m really looking forward to next May. Once I finish the tour, I think I can finally refer to myself an official Civil War buff. Fortunately, I’m already married.

– Valentine J. Brkich

Topping Obama

No doubt it was President Obama’s recent ill-advised remarks, and not the fearsome Robert Morris University public relations machine, that sparked coverage over the weekend of the local Special Olympics bowling competitions. (See here and here.)

Nonetheless, we’re happy that these athletes got the positive attention they deserve. And we have selfish reasons as well — dozens of RMU students volunteered to help bring the event together, and we’re grateful their efforts were recognized.

I’m sure the president would be proud.