From One to Ten
McFarland-Johnson Scholarship"Corey Juliano is making me rethink my view of students today," says James Pitarresi, chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department. "She's showing me that there are students out there who are willing to get involved, to put the time in to make a difference. A student like this comes by maybe twice in a decade."
Pitarresi first noticed the mechanical engineering student while passing back a test. She earned the highest score but hadn't stood out in class, which was unusual as the brightest students often dominate classroom discussions.
After two semesters, her ability to assess a problem, develop a strategy and execute it without much supervision ("a rare gift for a student") impressed the professor so much he recommended her for a summer internship at the Magic Paintbrush Project, which creates innovative activities that enable special-needs individuals to engage with their goals and include their friends and family. Over the summer, Juliano listened carefully to Project clients to create several custom objects, like a catapult to throw paint, which she is converting to help a 7-year-old with cerebral palsy and Treacher Collins syndrome throw a baseball.
"He uses his eyes to communicate," says Jennifer O'Brien, Magic Paintbrush's executive director. "Corey worked with him to design the catapult, which she then built. The idea of supporting his ability to reciprocally play
with a friend is just absolutely tremendous and gives his family hope and examples that he can."
Juliano, who received the McFarland-Johnson Scholarship (awarded each year to two rising mechanical engineering seniors), relished the opportunity to use her engineering skills to help people.
"I wanted to help out as much as possible," the senior says. "Most people don't have any idea what it's like for a family with a physically disabled individual to try to do any fun activities. Jen taught me how to look at what I was designing and picture any possible way someone could injure them- selves on it. You can learn all about factors of safety in the classroom, but until you physically see how these individuals move and interact, you have no idea what they are capable of."
After her internship, Juliano identified additional areas of need with the Magic Paintbrush Project and developed these needs into Watson School senior projects, including a suspension-and-harness system allowing people confined to wheelchairs to jump around a room and float through the air.
"She inspires me. Plain and simple," Pitarresi says. "By organizing three senior projects, she brought in 11 more people. From one student to 10. Now they can contribute in their own unique way. She makes me want to make a difference."
A Small Sum, a Big Impact
Educational Opportunity Program Books
When Randall Edouard came to Binghamton University to direct the Educational Opportunity Program, he was shocked by what students told him.
"I heard, 'we don't have books,'" he recalls. "'We don't have money for books. We're just hustling, sharing with each other, trying to go to the library, but we simply cannot afford to buy all of our books.'"
EOP students come from financially disadvantaged families and are admitted to Binghamton University because they show promise for mastering college-level work. For these students and their families, the $400 required for books each semester can be an insurmountable financial hurdle.
As an English major, EOP student Raymond Valentin says he has to buy about 50 books a year, which he and his South Bronx family just can't afford as his mother struggles to make ends meet while supporting his sister who just had a baby.
"I know my mother has enough on her plate," says Valentin, who sometimes has to copy out of other students' books. "But it's good to have your own because you can take notes in them. If you look at my books, they have a lot of notes in them. Studying is the great equalizer."
Every semester, EOP tries to provide as big a book stipend as it can, but with budget cuts, that stipend is shrinking. Last semester it was $210. This semester it's $100. However, last spring an anonymous Binghamton alumnus made a gift that gave an extra $100 book stipend to several EOP students who had high grade-point averages, were involved in campus life and were leaders in student organizations. (EOP encourages its students to give back to the University as best they can.)
Valentin says $100 may seem like a small amount to many people, yet to EOP students it makes a big difference.
"A little $100 is $100 more than what I had," he says. "And I'm using it toward my books because I realize the importance of an education, and because of that, it motivates me to continue on with my education. And having people help us out, that's just great."
After graduation, Valentin plans on going to law school at Fordham University.
Incredibly Motivated, Deeply Committed
Binghamton University Athletic Club Women's Scholarship
"I always liked running," cross-country team captain Ashley Horton says. "I even liked running the mile in elementary school that no other kid liked to run."
She likes how long runs make her feel and knowing that she's pushing her abilities, working to better past accomplishments — a work ethic that car- ries over to her studies as a biology major, where her 3.5 grade-point average regularly lands her on the dean's list.
"It has been challenging," the senior says. "You definitely have to stay focused on each — the athletics and the academics — if you are going to make both of them work. You have to manage your time."
Cross-country coach Annette Acuff, who recruited Horton with a Binghamton University Athletic Club Women's Scholarship, says people generally don't appreciate the depth of student-athletes' commitment to their sport and the classroom.
"It's not just the time commitment, which is 20 hours a week, and that's just for practice and doesn't include travel, injury treatment or stretching," she says. "But there's also the mental commitment of being dedicated to excelling at two things at the same time. I think excelling at both is very admirable, especially at a great academic school like Binghamton."
But perhaps most impressive is that Horton isn't just competing in one sport. In the fall she runs cross country, in the winter the indoor 5K and in the spring the outdoor steeplechase.
"It's hard to fit in all of the schoolwork and the studying, plus the long practices that are required at this level," she says. "Plus I've always liked being involved in other stuff like community service, and so I guess the hardest part has been fitting that extra bit in."
Each semester Horton participates in BU Science, which has her teaching science lessons to grade-schoolers.
"They really appreciate it," she says. "We teach them all kinds of science, like animal prints, and we try to get in a little bit of chemistry without telling them it's chemistry. Basically we make science fun for them, so hopefully they'll like it later on."
After graduation, Horton plans to go to graduate school for occupational therapy.
The Greatest Engineers Are Explorers
Watson Equipment Endowment
Patrick Madden, associate professor in computer science, needs his students to know where computer programming jobs are trending.
"For people to have successful engineering careers in the future, they'll have to be able to do both the hardware and the software," he says. "Look at some of the latest interesting devices: the iPad, all the smartphones, even laptops. There is a very significant hardware component, but they become really interesting when you write good software."
He says Steve Wozniak was able to create Apple computers because he knew both the hardware and the software. Same with the creators of the Palm Pilot.
"You look at these revolutionary products, these game changers, and very often they are created by people who get both sides of the picture and who can move back and forth easily," he says. "That's the kind of computer scientists we are producing."
Recently, the department redesigned a course to introduce hardware and engineering principles to computer science students earlier in their college careers. In CS 120, students gain hardware experience using a standard electronics kit, wire strippers, logic testers, power supplies and breadboards, which builds hardware knowledge that will stay with them as they take their programming classes.
The class lab is equipped not only with state-of-the-art workstations purchased with the help of BAE Systems, but with a big bucket of miscellaneous electronic parts meant to fire imaginations.
"This is where private funding is helpful because we not only get labs outfitted, we can also keep a supply of inexpensive parts that the energetic, interested students can pick through to find something they want to play with," Madden says. "The greatest engineers are the ones who can't resist pulling stuff apart and rewiring it, and this lab is where that happens. Students get their hands dirty. They plug wires in. They burn up chips. They make smoke. And they do the software at the same time. In no other room do we get everything happening at once."
BAE president Dan Gobel says the company funded the lab "because skills in hardware and software integration are key for new engineering graduates. Virtually every product we design and develop today relies on both hardware and software elements to accomplish its mission."
To keep its labs cutting-edge, the Watson School established an equipment endowment, which is sustained with gifts from alumni and friends.