Skip to content

Posts from the ‘school of engineering mathematics and science’ Category

Finding a Life-Changing Purpose for Her Engineering Education


Recent Robert Morris University graduate Sarah Robb was awarded a $100,000 fellowship through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

The award will enable Sarah to enter Carnegie Mellon University’s Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. program this fall, where she will focus on the medical applications of single-walled carbon nanotubes. It will also help to fund travel to various conferences, where she’ll have the opportunity to network, present her research, and become more involved with professional engineering societies.

“It’s pretty exciting,” says Sarah, who recently completed RMU’s integrated B.S. in Engineering/M.S. in Engineering Management program. “I am so happy and grateful for all the knowledge and opportunities RMU has provided me.”

This past year Sarah collaborated with other members or RMU’s Engineering World Health (EWH) chapter (which she helped to organize) in order to design and build a low-cost, non-battery-powered otoscope that could be used in environments where electricity or batteries are unavailable. The idea for the otoscope was spawned after her trips to Nicaragua with Dr. Carl Ross’s nursing students.

The RMU EWH's otoscope prototype

The RMU EWH’s otoscope prototype

“RMU engineering has great resources for students – CAD modeling programs, 3D imaging scanners and cameras, 3D printers, robots, rapid prototyping devices – ” she says, “so it was kind of my dream to see our students using their knowledge and the resources we have here to help out the nursing program, which benefits so many needy people in the Managua barrios.”

Sarah and the RMU EWH chapter decided to build the otoscope after surveying and gathering input from Dr. Ross and nursing students over a two-year period. The data they gathered from the survey will also allow the chapter to design and manufacture other projects for the future, based on the needs identified by the traveling nursing students.

Sarah first traveled to Nicaragua with RMU’s nursing program in the spring of 2013. This past March, thanks to her receiving the 20-Year Club scholarship and support from the American Association of University Women, Pittsburgh Chapter, she was able to the impoverished country along with Dr. Ross and his students.

“The first trip opened my eyes to how easy it was to make a positive difference in someone else’s life,” she says. “People shouldn’t be dying for things we throw away in more developed countries. This trip fueled my excitement to get involved and make a difference.”

Sarah is set to begin her studies at CMU this fall. In the meantime she’s working as an intern at Mine Safety Appliances in Cranberry, where she has gotten the chance to speak to schools about engineering through the company’s outreach program. “Eventually I’d love to teach engineering classes and continue to share my engineering knowledge and experiences with others.” ~

Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Visits RMU


Maria V. Kalevitch, Ph.D., dean of Robert Morris University’s School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, poses for a photo with Silicon Valley icon, philanthropist, and Apple Computer Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak, on Wednesday, January 29 in RMU’s Charles L. Sewall Center.

Wozniak stopped at Robert Morris to speak with students, faculty, administrators and guests before speaking at Heinz Hall that evening as part of the RMU Pittsburgh Speakers Series.

Life lessons

Len Asimow, head of the Department of Mathematics at RMU, learned valuable life lessons from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who died June 4 at the age of 99. At an early age, Asimow was a devoted fan and admirer of the championship-winning Bruins; little did he know how much interaction he would have with his favorite coach.

Asimow attended UCLA from 1957 to 1961. During his sophomore year, he wanted to get involved in activities outside of the classroom, so he became the Bruins’ assistant manager. In this role, he was responsible for everyday duties that included sweeping the floors before and after practice, retrieving basketballs and dispensing towels. Asimow says, “I got to sit on the bench at all of the home games and be in the locker room when the coach addressed the team before games and at halftime.”

However, his most coveted task was bringing Wooden his daily glass of orange juice. “I was pleased on those occasions when he recognized me outside the context of the locker room and gave me a warm smile and friendly greeting,” says Asimow. “I knew he was a gentleman who was a stickler for details and getting the best from his team, including managers.”

Back in those days, the Bruins did not have a permanent home court. Games were played at a variety of venues, most of which had so many pillars that only a handful of seats had unimpeded views of the court. That is why being on the bench was such a benefit to Asimow.

Wooden maintained a very stern and intense demeanor during practices, and he expected the same from his players. His practices were highly structured, filled with precision-style drills. UCLA had one game plan – play your best; play the UCLA style, which was laboriously taught during the long practices. The players were taught not to worry about what the opponent may or may not do. Without question, Wooden wanted to win.

“I always had the highest respect for Coach Wooden and I am grateful for having the opportunity to observe him in action. I learned to appreciate his intense focus and precision,” Asimow says. “‘Coach’ was a person of immense integrity who possessed exact views of correct and incorrect behavior.” As an incredible coach on the court and an amazing person off, he taught Asimow several fundamental life lessons that he stresses to his students at Robert Morris University today.

* Treat everyone with dignity and respect. Wooden was a very tough, critical and demanding taskmaster. However, his actions never got personal; most of his former players revere him.

* Discipline pays dividends. This may seem old-fashioned today, but Wooden believed the value of hard work and practice extended beyond athletic endeavors to the classroom and life pursuits as well. Specifically, Wooden prohibited any form of pre-game celebration; no one talked and music was not played. He believed in a quiet, solemn locker room where the players could think about the game, without distraction.

* Use the “Pyramid of Success” for guidance. It consisted of simple maxims including duty, responsibility and integrity. It set ideals and models that everyone could aspire to and benefit from. Wooden did not have a specific game strategy per opponent; however, he wanted his players to play their best at all times. As a result, he created several “Woodenisms” that still hold true today: “Be quick, but do not hurry,” and “It is not how tall you are, it is how tall you play.”

Wooden was best known for bringing exciting, fast-break and defensive basketball to the West Coast, in direct contrast to the slow-paced and dull control-style norm. This was years before the invention of the shot clock, and slam dunks were illegal. Wooden’s teams were quick and aggressive, never walking the ball up the court; they ran at every opportunity. He emphasized quickness and a highly disciplined approach to out-pacing and out-conditioning the opposition. In essence, he created a revolutionary style of the game.

“I vividly remember him sitting on the bench during games, his jaw clenched, face in a frown, and program rolled up in his hand,” says Asimow. “This picture of Wooden was to become almost a cliché in later years, but it really personified him and his ‘game face.’” Wooden never roamed the sidelines, raging at the officials and yelling at his players. He stayed seated on the bench, occasionally making intense remarks to the referees.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Wooden created a dynasty in college basketball history that remains unparalleled. His teams won 10 NCAA titles in his last 12 seasons. From 1967 to 1973, the “Wizard of Westwood” guided the Bruins to 88 consecutive victories and seven straight national championships; both records still exist. Furthermore, he is the first of only three men to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach; he also mentored countless NBA stars, including Bill Walton, Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (nee Lew Alcindor).
Wooden is revered as much now for what he accomplished off the court as he is for what his teams achieved. He authored several books, including a children’s story called Inch and Miles, and his Pyramid of Success has become a model for coaches and teachers all over the world. In 2003, Wooden was invited to the White House, where President George W. Bush awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon a United States civilian.

“He is remembered not only as an exceptional coach and builder of a dynasty, but also as a molder of men,” says Asimow. “Furthermore, he taught us how to focus on one primary objective: Be the best in whatever endeavor you undertake. Do not worry about the score, image or the opponent.”

Lots of bots

(The following was provided courtesy of BotsIQ.)

It was local manufacturer F Squared who came to Highlands High School in search of a BotsIQ partner. And they found mechanical engineer‑turned‑teacher John Malobicky ready for the challenge.

John had written a curriculum for an entry‑level course in engineering, which Robert Morris University had approved for three college credits. John was teaching it at Highlands. “BotsIQ requirements were an ideal match for the capstone project for the course,” John realized. “What’s more, it offered students hands‑on application of the principles critical in meeting the course requirements: teamwork, scheduling, project management, budgeting and production control, among other engineering concepts.

Team Axiom produced its bot design with CAD at the school and then worked in RMU labs alongside college professors like Dr. Sushil Acharya and Dr. Arif Sirinterlikci to do the rapid prototype work.

John is an advocate for originality. While both Highlands teams are able to salvage parts from year to year, he wants students to gain as much engineering experience as possible. So they start from scratch each year. “It takes a lot more time, “ he concedes. And students agree. “It is the most challenging thing we have ever done,” they write in their project evaluations. But in the end, they share a collective sense of pride: “We never thought we’d get it done!” And they did – for the second year in a row!

His Name is My Name Too

Not long after I started working at Robert Morris University, I had a meeting in John Jay Center. John Jay? That’s a strange name for a building, I thought. Actually, in my head, which always has a song queued up like some mental jukebox, I began singing “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” a song that had been pounded into my brain back in elementary school. This is just how my mind works. It’s exhausting.

Originally built in 1965 as an athletic facility, John Jay Center was RMU’s primary indoor athletic venue until the Charles L. Sewall Center opened in 1985. Today, the gymnasium is used solely for intramural sports. The rest of the building is home to the SchoolEngineering, Mathematics, and Science of , and the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, and includes several high-tech classrooms and laboratories. Pete Pezzin, director of construction and maintenance for RMU’s Office of Facilities Planning, told me that the building was renovated in 2005, and included the addition of a new wing and laboratory.

The building’s namesake, John Jay (1745-1829), was the eighth of 10 children (and the sixth son) born to pious Calvinists Peter Jay and Mary Van Cortlandt. At just 15 years old, Jay entered New York’s King’s College (Columbia University), where he studied law and graduated with honors in 1764. After that, he became a law clerk for Benjamin Kissam and was admitted to the Bar of New York in 1768.

Jay’s storied political career spanned 27 years. In 1774, he served as a member of the New York Committee of Correspondence, and also as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In 1777, he became a member of the New York Constitutional Convention and the state’s first Chief Justice. The following year he was elected as president of the Continental Congress, and over the next several years, he served as Minister to Spain (1779), one of the peace commissioners for the Treaty of Paris (1782-83), Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1784), a contributor to The Federalist Papers (1788), and negotiator of the Jay Treaty (1794). Jay is probably most known as the First Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1789-1795). And as governor of New York (1795-1801), he signed a law in 1799 that emancipated all slaves in the state. That’s quite a resume, by any standards.

So there you have it: the second stop on RMU’s “Tour de Names.” Stay tuned as we continue to reveal the people behind the names of the university’s many buildings and facilities. Now that I know more about John Jay the man, I understand why they chose his name for this important building. Besides, “The John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt Center” would be too wordy.

Now I just have to figure out how to get that blasted song out of my mind.

—Valentine J. Brkich

John Jay Links

What’s in a Name?

One of the first things you notice on the Robert Morris University campus is that every building is named for someone. Some of these names are easily recognizable: Jefferson, Franklin, Revere, Adams, Hancock, etc. Other ones, however, may not be as familiar: John Jay, Braddock, Benjamin Rush, Wayne, Sewall, Gallatin, Washington…oh wait, scratch that last one.

So who are these people, and what did they do to get a building named after them? More important, how can I get a building named after me?? That’s what I wanted to know. Since I thought you might want to know, too, I decided to do a little research to find out.

Our first stop on the “Tour de Names” is Massey Hall – home to RMU President Dr. Gregory Dell’Omo, the School of Business, and many of the institution’s full-time professors. In addition, the building is also the home of RMU’s Colonial Theatre. Massey Hall is named for Harris B. Massey.

According to the Pittsburgh Business Times, the late Massey and his wife, Doris, were leaders in the Pittsburgh business community. They were also the owners of the Massey Buick Co., which at one time was the largest Buick volume dealer in the country. During his life, Massey initiated and led several other successful businesses, while donating much of his time to serve in active roles for various civic organizations.

The Masseys established a trust fund in 1968 which, since their passing in 1984, has been active in supporting community programs in the city of Pittsburgh and throughout Allegheny County. The trust now provides support in the areas of education, health, arts and culture, conservation, religion, and human services. In 2003, the trust gave $500,000 for RMU’s Partners for Progress campaign to enhance the School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Science, which used the gift to create two new laboratories in John Jay Center.

The Massey Charitable Trust also supports programs for at-risk children, as well as the Pittsburgh Promise. In 2007, The Pittsburgh Foundation established the Pittsburgh Promise program with a $100 million commitment from UPMC, $10 million of which went to support the 2008 graduates of Pittsburgh Public Schools. The remaining $90 million was meant to stimulate support and contributions, with a goal to raise an additional $135 million. In June 2008, the Massey Charitable Trust provided a $1 million grant to the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship fund to help the program fulfill its important mission.

As we’ve mentioned before, 33 Pittsburgh Promise students enrolled at RMU in fall 2008—more than any other private school available to them. These students now have an average GPA of 3.0, right around the university average for all students and freshman students. They are active in campus activities and have become some of our most enthusiastic boosters. (If you’d like to meet some of them, click here.)

So there you have it. The story behind the name of Massey Hall. Quite an inspiring story of generosity, if I do say so myself.

Stay tuned for more on the RMU Tour de Names, coming soon…

– Valentine J. Brkich