Competing and succeeding
Purdue Calumet students distinguish themselves while learning by competing ‘with the best of them’ in national, international academic contests
By MEGAN SUMMERS
Megan Summers is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to
Purdue Calumet INSIGHT magazine.
What happens in the classroom at Purdue Calumet doesn’t necessarily stay in the classroom – in fact, it’s all over the world, thanks to a growing number of opportunities for students to participate in academic competitions.
“During the 1970s and 1980s, students in the so called ‘hard sciences’ and engineering had senior design project competitions,” Purdue Calumet Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Ralph Rogers said. “Today, students in all disciplines are able to compete for academic recognition.” Rogers went on to say, “These types of events help prepare our students for the real world. One of the most important takeaways they will get is the understanding of what it takes to work with a team and learning how to compromise for the sake of the team.”
On the Purdue Calumet campus, students have embraced the spirit of competition and have taken full advantage of opportunities to showcase their knowledge, talents and know-how on a world stage.
Doing it the write way
Since 2002, Purdue Calumet students have won 11 awards in the Broadcast Education Association’s (BEA) annual Script Writing Competition. “In my 23 years of teaching, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of talented students,” Associate Professor of Communication Mary Beth O’Connor said. “In 2010, a team of five students in my script writing class entered the BEA competition in the Television Spec category and won a first place award.
For this semester-long project, the students were tasked with creating a one-hour episodic script for an episode of the SHOWTIME television series “Dexter.” The award-winner was written by the team of Karina Gonzales Estrada of Crown Point, Anthony Hirschenberger of St. John, Alan McCafferty of Hammond, Daniel Reid of Schererville and group leader Justyna Syska of Schererville.
“This is the culmination of their degree,” O’Connor explained. “These students were competing against other undergraduates and graduate students—teams from some very big schools who have full creative writing programs. This was quite a feat.”
Since 1989, O’Connor has taught students who have earned 46 television production-related awards and honors. Of note are the EMPixx Awards, gained by a team of four students in 2011.
One of the team members, alumnus Joe Wielosinski, said, “When I was an undergrad at Purdue Calumet, I wanted extra experience and participated in an independent study project. I was supervised by Professor O’Connor, and I worked with the team for three years producing and directing a documentary (“Checkmate”) about the potential dark side of the Internet.”
Competing against more than 1,100 entries across the United States and Canada, including those submitted from client brand firms such as AT&T, Disney-Pixar and Coca-Cola among others, “Checkmate” earned four professional awards: a Gold AVA, two Gold Empixx Awards in categories of Education and Documentary, and the Award of Distinction for Videography.
“What I gained at Purdue Calumet was invaluable to me,” Wielosinski said. “It’s a very nurturing environment, and taking the independent study course and creating my own film helped me better understand the business of film making.”
Now pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Independent Film at Governors State (Ill.) University, Wielosinski said he believes the extra experience helped prepare him for his graduate studies.
Over the Moon
At last spring’s 19th annual Great Moon buggy Race, sponsored by NASA, a team of Purdue Calumet engineering students placed third out of 39 teams in the college division. Under the direction of Professor of Mechanical Engineering Harvey Abramowitz, the team traveled to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. to participate in the competition. In 2011, a Purdue Calumet team took fifth place in the competition.
“The team was challenged to design, build and race a moonbuggy –a lightweight, human-powered vehicle similar to the Apollo lunar rovers,” Abramowitz said. “Teams were there from as far away as India, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.”
Photo by Emmett L. Given of Dynetics
Driving the third place moon buggy were Hart, Mich. resident Ben Moul, who graduated last spring with a degree in mechanical engineering, and Maria Frebis of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Moul and classmate Philip Mann of Burr Ridge, Ill. spearheaded modification efforts of a 2011 buggy, designed by graduates Mark Bauman of Goshen and Kudjo Achem of Chicago, that placed fifth.
What’s more, another Purdue Calumet moonbuggy won the Featherweight Award among lightweight buggies. That buggy was based on a design by 2011 mechanical engineering alumni Justin Stengel of Lowell and Sasho Cubrinoski of Crown Point.
“I do think this helped me get my current position,” said Moul, employed by agricultural machinery employer John Deere and its drive train group. “When I was interviewed, we talked a lot about the moonbuggy. They liked that my interests went beyond the classroom and that I worked on a real project.”
As Moul explained, the project was very hands-on and required the team to plan, set and meet deadlines, execute, secure funding and get their vehicle operational. “For me it was a great way to learn and have fun doing it,” he said.
Abramowitz, assisted by Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering Donald Gray, emphasized that learning to work together is good, finishing a project by the deadline is better, and winning or placing in an event is icing on the cake.
“We were competing against some top schools and some very large institutions with prestigious engineering departments,” Abramowitz said. “Our students brought positive recognition to our program here at Purdue Calumet and showed that they can compete with the best of them.”
Competing with the best of them is a theme that runs through all academic competitions in which Purdue Calumet students participate. “We have some very motivated students here,” Vice Chancellor Rogers said. “They don’t shrink back or stand on the sidelines because they’re from a regional campus. They are not intimidated and are definitely strong players in whatever competition they’re in. Our faculty plays a big role in championing student involvement in events of this type.”
#1 in the world
The capstone project for senior level students enrolled in Assistant Professors of Entrepreneurship Derek Ruth’s and Arifin Angriawan’ s Strategic Management 4500 course is McGraw-Hill/Irwin’s The Business Strategy Game. The game is an online, simulated business competition in which student teams from colleges and universities globally manage a virtual, athletic footwear company.
As Ruth explained it, the students are required to make rational, best business practices decisions about every aspect of their company under circumstances that mirror real world competitive conditions. “Some 4,250 student teams from 288 colleges and universities world-wide participated in this activity, and I am very proud that in the fall of 2011, one of our Purdue Calumet teams was ranked number one in the world,” Ruth said.
Ruth believes the greatest value of participation in The Business Strategy Game is the fact that students apply what they have learned in the classroom to the project.
“They have to think about business as a sum of the parts, a cohesive whole,” he said. “It requires understanding finance, accounting, purchasing, marketing, human resources and more. The students also learn that the decisions they make have certain consequences. If one change is made to the process, it has a ripple effect on every other decision that has been or will be made.”
Typically, students spend three times as long on the one-semester course than on other courses they have taken, according to Ruth. “Although they spent very long hours on the project, their enthusiasm was palpable.”
Oh, so close
The same can be said for another team of management and communication students. However, despite nine months of preparation, they fell just three-tenths point shy of qualifying a third straight year for the finals of the National Student Advertising Competition this summer.
The competition called for student teams to develop a $100 million integrated marketing campaign for Nissan, targeting a market of 18-to-29-year-old Hispanic, African-American and Chinese-American consumers. During their nine months of prep work, the students analyzed industry and customer trends, conceived and developed all creative executions and performed extensive media analysis.
“This is the third year in a row that (Purdue Calumet) finished either first or second at the district level,” Marketing/Communication Instructor and Agency 429 Advisor Matthew Hanson said. “In 2010 and 2011, we placed among the top 15 nationally. Our students never cease to amaze me and have consistently proven that they are ready to walk into an agency setting and get to work.”
One could make the same case about numerous other Purdue Calumet students, such as engineering graduate enrollee Md Taifur Rahman of Dhaka, Bangladesh, whose poster for his research project, “Development and Application of Burden Distribution Model and Shaft Simulation Model for Blast Furnace,” placed first among international student peers in a contest at last spring’s Association for Iron and Steel Technology Conference at Atlanta, Ga.
Closer to home, Department of Management Information Systems seniors Joe Kelley and Tim Richardson of Hobart and Griffith’s Josh McFadden earned Overall Champion and Best Case Solution Awards in the Information Systems Project and Case Competition at Ball State University last spring.
Topping a field of 12 Midwestern college and university teams, the Purdue Calumet trio showcased their project, “Developing a mobile application for the Department of Information System,” and presented to a panel of judges.
In addition to the showcasing opportunity, Faculty Advisor, Professor and Information Systems Department Head Kuan-Chou Chen said the competition enabled his students to “utilize business analysis skills previously learned to solve a case study.”
But, competitively speaking, McFadden put the recognition he and his teammates earned in perspective when he said, “These awards are not just about winning a championship trophy, but also about building confidence that we as Purdue Calumet students can compete favorably with larger institutions.”
‘. . . by honoring intellectual achievement through academic competition, we are celebrating scholarship at Purdue Calumet.’
— Ralph Rogers
Similar to athletic contests, according to Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Rogers, Purdue Calumet academic competitors attract plenty of campus support.
“When our students get involved in these things, the whole campus gets behind them,” he said. “Their energy spreads to other departments and to other students, and the whole campus shares in their successes.”
Concluding, Rogers, a former college basketball player, said, “Students have been competing in athletics for years, and now, by honoring intellectual achievement through academic competition, we are celebrating scholarship at Purdue Calumet.”
Recent Purdue Calumet Academic Competition Honors
Business Strategy Game
#1 (tie) World Ranking
- Mary A. Gross, Valparaiso
- Sarah Moen, Hobart
- David Ramsey, Hammond
- Aaron Shultz, St. John
- Aladdin Abdulghani, Glendale Heights, Ill.
International Great Moonbuggy Race
- Benjamin Moul, Hart, Mich.
- Maria Frebis, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
- Philip Mann, Burr Ridge, Ill.
- Philip Mann, Burr Ridge, Ill.
- Haosen Guo, China
- Drego Mendez, Chicago
- Cody Eitzen, Munster
- Mark Bauman, Goshen
- Kudjo Achem, Chicago/Ghana
- Margaret Knutsen, St. John
- Benjamin Moul, Hart, Mich.
Indiana Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
Graduate Student Research Award
- Francisco Limon, Hammond
Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute Packaging Solutions Contest
- Trevor Fishback, Schererville
- Adam Morris, Hobart
- Hamza Kadir, Dhaka, Bangladesh
- Tanima Zaman, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Association for Iron and Steel Technology Poster Contest
- Md Taifur Rahman, Dhaka, Bangladesh
Information Systems Project and Case Competition
Overall Champion Award
Best Case Solution Award
- Joe Kelley, Hobart
- Josh McFadden, Griffith
- Tim Richardson, Hobart
American Advertising Federation Local Competition
Gold ADDY Non-Traditional
Gold ADDY Direct Marketing
Gold ADDY Mobile App
- Jen Muha, Gary
- Lori Korda, Schererville
- Samantha Bartucci, Steger, Ill.
Best in Show Student Choice
National Student Advertising Competition
Finalists (top 15 placement)– 2 teams of Management & Communication students
Broadcast Education Association International Student Script Writing Competition
First Place Television Spec
- Karina Gonzalez Estrada, Crown Point
- Anthony Hirschenberger, St. John
- Alan McCafferty, Hammond
- Daniel Reid, Schererville
- Justyna Syska, Schererville
The American Pixel Academy EMPixx Awards
Gold EMPixx Documentary
Gold EMPixx Education
- Kaitlin Craig, Highland
- Donald P. Gadberry, Griffith
- Kimberly Lindsey, Highland
- Joe Wielosinski, Burnham, Ill.
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