Monday, April 29, 2013

Incredible Students: African Rugby

In August of 2010, LETU students started their first-ever Rugby club. This year, the club played against some huge schools including Midwestern State University, the University of Texas at Dallas, and others. In March, the entire team hit the road to San Antonio and the Lone Star Rugby Conference Playoffs. Only a few weeks later, Daniel de Villiers was half a world away playing rugby on an entirely different field, with an entirely different team.

Anywhere else in the world, the idea of a student at a techie engineering school who loves the sport of rugby so much that he carries his love with him on a mission trip to Africa where he teaches young kids how to play it... that might be a strange combination of interests. Here at LETU, it's just the story of one student. Every LETU student is a complex mix of loves, of passions, of interests.

Incredibly humble about his life, Daniel will be the first to downplay any attention given to him. He emphatically states, "May God be praised for the work He is doing; it's certainly nothing of me that will endure!" Some might argue that the things that God is doing through Daniel absolutely should and will endure in the lives of those that he has touched as he has lived out his faith.

This Spring, Daniel traveled to Malawi, in Africa. He remembers stepping off the bus outside of the local hospital and hearing the unsettling scream of a woman who'd just lost her loved one. In his words, "It was a very sobering moment, even as we continued in the halls strewn with family and friends, tears streaming down each of their faces. One doctor to 40,000 patients in Malawi, as well as a hope of salvation which many of these people lack."

Daniel utilized much of his time in Malawi to work with kids. While there, he taught Bible studies, played games and activities, and generally spent as much time as possible loving them. The love of Christ isn't the only thing that Daniel brought with him to Africa, though. He also brought his love of rugby and spent time teaching the kids how to pass the ball and other key rugby skills.

This simple story is an incredible example of how interconnected our world is today. A decidedly British sport that was the passion of a small group of LETU students became a tool to reach out to kids in the heart of Africa and provide for them a week of fun, of diversion, of love, and of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Incredible Athletics On A Beautiful Day

It's a gorgeous day outside in Longview, Texas, and summer is definitely on its way! For many kids, summertime means summer camps, and sports camps are always a popular option. We even host a few on campus at LETU each year! For the kids of Bramlette Elementary here in Longview, they didn't have to wait for the official camp season to begin this year.

This morning, 150 student from the local elementary school visited the LETU campus to participate in a day of sunshine, smiles and sports instruction. Members of LETU Yellow Jacket athletic teams took time out of their busy pre-finals week to conduct free workshops for the kids. Workshops included instruction in basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, and football.

For the Yellow Jacket team members, conducting these workshops meant forgetting schoolwork for a morning. For the kids, it meant an opportunity to participate in a fun summer activity at the end of their own school year. So, we say thanks to our awesome Yellow Jacket athletes for taking time to train up Longview's future athletes. What better way is there to spend a sunny Thursday morning than blessing kids from the local community?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Incredible Aviators: Modern Amelia Earharts

The word "pioneer" exists to define those who plow fearlessly into new territory. It is the title owned by all in history who have trod a path of discovery, of new frontiers, of rare new lands and altitudes. It is a title that Amelia Earhart earned. Today, only 7% of the aviation industry's pilot seats are filled by women. Amelia got into the pilot's seat at a time when women had only had the right to vote in the United States for two years. She was the 16th woman in the world to be issued a pilot's license. Amelia was a brilliant woman and had been accepted to numerous college opportunities when she decided that she could not live her life out of the pilot's seat. She will forever be known as the first woman to make a transatlantic flight. In 1935, she joined Purdue University as a visiting faculty member in their aviation department in an effort to help counsel women and inspire all with her love of aviation.

LeTourneau University was founded by a similar pioneer. R.G. LeTourneau never saw a mountain that he couldn't build a machine to conquer. Like Amelia Earhart, LeTourneau was driven powerfully by his passion, his creativity, and his brilliance. A few minutes this past week with three LETU female aviation students and one female faculty member (who is an LETU alumna) brought forth those exact qualities. There is a unique spark among the women aviation majors at LeTourneau University. It's not a huge number, but the stats indicate that we exceed the national average in our program for percentage of females. 

If you spend a little time with them, you can't help but see the same drive that you read about in Amelia. It isn't a desire to prove themselves for the sake of being women. It is far bigger than that. It is completely independent of gender. It is based on no less than a radical passion and love for this unique industry. Betsy Bane dreams of managing the whole of DFW airport. Joy Cooper wants to be an air traffic controller and manage the traffic of our skies. Grace Peterson will combine her love of flight with missions work in the dream of becoming a missionary pilot. 

These three Amelia Earharts committed their lives to something they love. But they are not alone. They are mentored by an amazing coach who, like Amelia's later work, inspires through educating both men and women in the art and science of aviation. Becky Teerink is an LETU alumna who teaches in our aviation programs. She was awarded the 2012 Teacher of the Year award from the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM). Her three students speak of her with incredible admiration and respect. It is hard not to be in the presence of these women without leaving energized and excited. They just can't stop talking about airplanes, about flying, about tinkering with cowlings and ailerons, about the excitement of controlling the skies, of managing the complex workings of a machine and of an entire industry. 

There is no limitation to the dreams of LETU students. A short trip out to LeTourneau University's Abbott Aviation Center yields the next generation of Charles Lindberghs and Amelia Earharts. The Glaske Center for Engineering, Science and Technology is bursting at the seams with young aspiring R.G. LeTourneaus, Thomas Edisons, Marie Curies, and so many more. LeTourneau University is an incredible place. It is the rarified turf of pioneers. 

(Note: To read more about the dreams of these three LETU aviation students, click on their names in this story and you will be taken to a profile page on each one where they talk about their goals in the aviation industry.) 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Incredible Traditions: Hootenanny

Sometimes, our students just need a break and a chance to demonstrate their amazing creativity. With finals looming, they had that chance this weekend to kick back, forget about homework and tests, and have a few laughs at Hootenanny, LETU's annual pre-finals variety show.

A prized LETU tradition for over forty-five years, Hootenanny started as the finale of Frontier Week, which celebrated the old west. And even though we've since ditched the Frontier Week tradition, Hootenanny remains a major event and a favorite among students. In fact, some say you can tell a student's class ranking by which Hootenanny t-shirts he or she has won.

We're amazed every year by the the incredible amount of creativity students put into their Hootenanny acts. Student Ben Hanson won first place for his solo singing act entitled "Me, Myself, and I," in which he sang a harmony with nine other recorded versions of himself he had playing split-screen on the overhead projectors.

Students Brice Royer, Carly Robinson, Grace Peterson, and Joshua-Luke O'Conner took home the second place prize for their skit "Getting Ready for a Date," which poked fun of the ways male and female LETU students prepare (or don't prepare) for a date.

The LETU Rugby Club won third place for their traditional New Zealand Haka routine with a twist. They also managed to work ballet dancing, the Harlem Shake, and Gangnam Style into their routine.

We're extremely proud of our students for working so hard to make this year's Hootenanny one of the best yet!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Incredible Competition: World-Class Programming

From left: Daniel Rothfus, Terry Penner, Micah Shennum
Most people probably wouldn't consider programming a competitive sport, but for three LeTourneau students who were invited to the University of Chicago's 2013 Invitational Programming Contest over this past weekend, it is. This contest was open only to teams who already qualified for the 2013 ICPC world finals, which the LETU team qualified for last year when they took first place in the 2012 South Central USA Regional ICPC

Since the ICPC doesn't distinguish between universities with undergraduate and graduate programs, our team of only undergraduates faces the extra challenge of taking on teams which include graduate student members.

“LETU is the only undergraduate school in our region that has sent teams to the World Finals since 1993, when a team from Abilene Christian University was invited,” said Dr. Brent Baas, the team's faculty sponsor.

Even up against stiff competition from universities like Stanford, MIT, and Columbia, the LETU team still managed to earn themselves an honorable mention. They won't be resting anytime soon, though. The team is already planning for their next competition: the ICPC World Finals, which will be held from June 30 - July 4 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

These LETU students prove that competition happens in arenas outside of the basketball court or soccer field. When a group comes together with a common passion, a little creativity, crazy brilliant minds, hard work and tons of determination, they're bound to be a winning team.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Incredible Ingenuity: Rube Goldberg

Photobombing spiders, Batman, and a homemade Tesla coil... Who says school projects have to be boring? Dozens of students, faculty and media representatives packed out the Solheim gym today to watch the annual Rube Goldberg competition, an old LETU favorite.

Three teams of students were charged with constructing a complex contraption designed to perform a simple task. Team Photobomb paid tribute to long-time LETU professor Dr. Bill Graff by using LED lights to recreate the signature spider he draws on homework assignments, while team Jokers are Wild's construction played the Batman theme song. Team Jiggawatt ended the show with a bang (or should we say spark?) when their Rube Goldberg shot a pint-sized bolt of lightning out of a home-built Tesla coil.

It's the unique combination of technical excellence and remarkable creativity that really makes LETU students shine in projects like these. They force students to adapt, think outside the box, and come up with ingenious solutions in the face of technical problems. It's projects like these that make LETU the wacky, innovative and academically excellent place that it is.  And if you've got a good thing going, why mess with it?