Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Incredible Academics: Rocket Science

What's the old adage? "It's not rocket science." Regardless of whether you mean it figuratively or literally, as it turns out, there are a few things around here that actually ARE rocket science. LeTourneau University has some interesting new connections to NASA that have formed this Spring and Summer.

The Parrott Reflection Room

Earlier this year, we dedicated the Parrott Reflection Room, shown at left, out at LeTourneau University's Abbott Aviation Center. This room now houses Bob Parrott's significant collection of NASA memorabilia,  including Bibles that have been to the moon and back. Parrott, known as the "minister to astronauts," was the senior pastor of Seabrook Methodist Church, located close to NASA Mission Control on the outskirts of Houston. Church members included many of the Apollo astronauts and mission control specialists. LETU's Abbott Center is now home to more than just students destined for aviation greatness.

Dr. Jonathan Demko's Cold Work

As much as the Parrott Reflection Room honors NASA's past, current work being done with NASA by our engineering faculty and students continues this unique connection. LETU's Dr. Jonathan Demko, shown at right, is working with LETU students this summer on cryogenic research for NASA. In conjunction with the Cryogenics Test Laboratory of NASA's Kennedy Space Center (equipment shown below), the Thermal Energy Laboratory of LeTourneau University will be conducting independent research to validate NASA's measurements and methodologies in testing of thermal insulators. 

Extensive testing on thermal insulators hasn't been done in the past in regard to extreme cold, and Dr. Demko and his students will work this summer to help NASA complete this important science. 

Dr. Demko came to LETU this past fall after spending years working for both Sandia and Oak Ridge National Laboratories as well as working on the Superconducting Supercollider project. He is extremely respected in his field and has received a ton of recognition for his work. We are proud to have him on our team at LETU

Welcome to LeTourneau, Dr. Byron Lichtenberg

And speaking of faculty, we have yet another rocket scientist joining us this fall as a visiting scholar who has actually orbited the earth on more than one occasion. Dr. Byron Lichtenberg is an engineer and decorated U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who flew 238 combat missions in Vietnam before his time aboard two NASA Space Shuttle missions as a payload specialist, STS-9 in 1983 and STS-45 in 1992. He spent a portion of his career working as a researcher for M.I.T. as well as having owned several of his own companies and as a captain for Southwest Airlines. 

See a brief video highlighting Dr. Lichtenberg's 1992 Space Shuttle Atlantis mission below.

We at LeTourneau University are prone to looking toward the heavens for many reasons. We often say that our students at LETU "don't see borders." That may just be an incredible understatement. It seems that the LETU dreamers and doers don't let anything stop them. Not extreme cold. Nor the constant pull of gravity that holds our feet to the ground. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Incredible Research: Welch Grant

From tracking stars to modeling molecules, summertime doesn't slow our students down. While many are scattered across the globe studying and working in places like Australia, Kenya, Mongolia and Spain, thanks to the Welch Grant, others are keeping themselves busy right here in Longview.

The whole process begins with a letter. Every year, the Welch Foundation picks through hundreds of Texas colleges and universities conducting chemical research and sends grant proposal invitations to a select few. And for the past eighteen years, LeTourneau has been among those select few.

After receiving the invitation, LETU profs go to work on their research proposals (even our professors can't escape a little homework every now and then). Once their proposals are finished and approved and the funds roll in, they and their students can get to work.

The grant provides special scholarships to select students, making it financially possible for them to spend a few weeks working with faculty on new and existing research projects during the summer.

Among this summer's projects, our teams are preparing a radio telescope to track celestial bodies by measuring radio waves emitted during hydrogen transitions, researching the applications of bleach in organic synthesis and plotting the trajectories of molecules.

At LETU, we know hands-on learning experiences are the key to producing skilled and innovative professionals, and we're proud to see our students working on research projects alongside our faculty all over campus... even on rooftops.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Incredible Students: Missions in Ireland

For most LETU students, the word impossible isn't a roadblock, it's a challenge. That is certainly the case for nineteen year old LETU junior Michael Bonilla, who, come August, will be spending the following year in Ireland training for and then running a youth center in New Ross.

Michael first connected with the youth center last summer when he and a group of LETU students spent two weeks working with New Ross teens through Adventures in Missions. When he first traveled to Ireland, Michael never planned to go back, but God soon showed him He had other plans. When Michael was asked by three separate and unrelated individuals about his plans to return to the youth center, he knew God was leading him in that direction.

The center provides a much-needed hangout for local teens who otherwise spend their afternoons with friends on the streets of New Ross with little more to do than drink and smoke. The youth often don't have hope for anything except to leave New Ross, says Michael, and he hopes through sharing the love of Christ with them, he will bring them something greater to hope for.

Currently, the youth center is only open during the summer months, but Michael plans to help establish a year-round program. Following three months of training in a more established youth center in Kilkenny, Michael will head back to New Ross to run the youth center himself as well as recruit volunteers.

While in Ireland, Michael intends to keep up with his studies by taking LETU classes online.

We're constantly amazed by the incredible bravery and faith of our students. We're thankful that technology allow our students to continue their LETU classes even half a world away. And we're cheering on Michael as he seeks to reach the youth of New Ross and Kilkenny. God does amazing things through our students every day, and we're sure Michael will be no exception.

To learn more about Michael or to help support his upcoming trip, visit his blog, PerfectInterruptions.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Incredible Fizz of Graduation

The weeks leading up to graduation are a bit like a bottle of Coke that is getting shaken. Pressure builds and builds to a point where it's almost indescribable if you aren't here. 

Our graduates know exactly what we're referring to here. The experience of putting on that cap and gown for the first time to be handed a college degree is a bit surreal. It's not like high school where you did little more than simply work to survive for four years. No. This represents the culmination of more work than any graduate has ever probably put into any one thing in their entire life.

So it's no surprise that the energy level outside of LETU's Belcher Center on graduation day is electric. Just brushing through the line of graduates before they process into the auditorium, there isn't a frown in the bunch. Just the collective sigh of a job well done combined with the anticipation of all that tomorrow will hold. For many of our residential student graduates, this means new jobs, new cities to call home, new friends, new lives. For our graduates who have come back to school after years of already working and raising families, it often means lifelong dreams coming true and finally being recognized for decades of hard work.

Both of our types of graduates have incredible reasons to be proud. LeTourneau University is hard work. Our professors expect a lot. Degrees here are hard-earned, not simply received. This past weekend, we watched as hundreds of LETU students moved their tassels from one side of their cap to the other. In another 24 hours, we will have a second group of graduates in Houston do the same thing. This symbolic gesture represents so much more than merely which side of your face that your tassel flops on. It is the historic honor that allows the graduate to consider himself in the company of equals with the brilliant men and women who have taught him.

This year, our graduates are heading out into some seriously impressive jobs. For some of them, it means going back to their jobs, but finally being recognized for the brilliance that they bring to their workplaces. For the rest of our student body (including some of our graduates,) this time of year means travel.

Every May, LeTourneau University becomes a spring board for launching students literally all over the globe. As this is being typed, we have students walking in the footsteps of the apostles in the Holy Lands. Our students are on their way to Kenya to fit children into wheelchairs. Our students are on their way to explore Dr. Steve Ayers' homeland of Australia with him. We have a couple of engineering students headed to Mongolia. Our computer science team will be traveling to Russia for the world computer programming championships in June. We have a group of students heading to Spain too.

LeTourneau University has set a goal of reaching every workplace and every nation with the Good News of Jesus Christ and the ingenuity of our incredible students and graduates. At this time of year, as we pop open the Coke bottle that's been shaken all year, we celebrate the awesome blessing that it is to be a part of this incredible university. For moving our tassels from one side to the other is not the end. We've only just popped the lid!