Friday, April 25, 2014

Of Cardboard and Duct Tape

As we all know, LeTourneau University isn't your typical tail-gating, football-throwing, cheerleading university. Case in point: we do things like build boats out of cardboard and duct tape* and then race them.  

In honor of our recreational originality, we’d like to take a look at the past few years of one of the newer LETU traditions: the annual Cardboard Boat Races. For those unaware, the only rule each year at this fun Homecoming Weekend event is that each boat has to be created with two things, and two things only: cardboard and duct tape. Yes, some sink pretty quickly, but it’s shocking how well-constructed many of the boats are. (Well, not so shocking, if you're familiar with our students!)

Take a look:

In 2011, we watched this Viking-esque vessel make its way across the pond, carrying six men. Six – supported by cardboard and duct tape. LETU students know how to construct.

In 2012, in honor of the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic, T3's ship took a more cinematic theme, but still maintained its sound composition. The guys of T3 built a complete and accurate Titanic replica, and put the icing on the cake with a reenactment (I’m flying, Jack!) of the movie (including the dramatic sinking of their beautiful creation).

Check out LETU student Brandon Williams' video on Youtube here of the amazing T3 Titanic.

Homecoming 2013 brought us the U.S.S. Thor’s 'Hammer,' a sleek aircraft-carrier reproduction that took 12 LETU men to transport.

In 2014, T3 was back with a cardboard and duct tape version of The Black Pearl so realistic we were expecting Captain Jack Sparrow to show up at any second to take the helm.

(Video courtesy of LETU student Joshua Kucera.)

Sink or swim, here's to the not so "typical." 
We'll see you at the pond in 2015!

(*Yes, we know that 50% of you will argue that the product is actually "duck tape" due to its history of being used to apply to duck cloth in WW2 long before it was used to fix ducting. As best we can tell, both names are technically correct. And because "duck tape" was so commonly used, it eventually was branded as such. In the end, we used "duct" since it seems like a more generic term to use, but we'll stand by our favorite brand of it! )

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Incredible Legacy: George H.W. Bush and R.G. LeTourneau

"Ingenuity" is a trademark of LeTourneau University and our students. That underappreciated word is so deeply woven into the fabric of LETU culture that sometimes it is far too easy to take it for granted just how rare it is. But it is nothing new to LeTourneau. Genius-level innovation was the daily work of our founder--work so brilliant that more than 50 years later, it is still being recognized by a former president of the United States. There was no challenge or problem that R.G. LeTourneau couldn't find practical solutions to in the humble office of his Longview, Texas, plant. 

R.G. LeTourneau, George Bush, and Dick LeTourneau look over contracts.

History-making Collaboration

Recognized as an industry leader in earthmoving equipment, R.G.'s relationship to George H.W. Bush involved a very different project. George H.W. Bush was pushing his oil company, Zapata Oil, into the ocean to drill for oil reserves to meet the demand of an increasingly industrialized world. Construction of platforms to drill from in the ocean was a monumental task, but R.G. and the engineers of R.G. LeTourneau, Inc. had a unique solution to it: float the entire rig out into the ocean and jack down the supports that hold it in place. 

The "Scorpion" Jack-up Rig
Not only did this invention make transporting the rig out to sea easier, it also meant that the entire rig could be moved to a different drilling location without the need to completely demolish and rebuild an entire drilling platform. R.G. LeTourneau, Inc. would utilize some of its already existing technologies, like the electric drives from their heavy-duty earth-moving machines, to raise and lower the platform supports. The result was a mobile drilling platform that could revolutionize the offshore  oil industry in both efficiency of time and money. 

R.G. brought the idea to Bush's company and they made a deal for the sale of this innovative new design, and on November 11, 1954, the delivery contract was signed. About 18 months later, on March 20, 1956, the platform was officially handed over to Zapata Oil Company and christened the "Scorpion." The Scorpion was a major success for Zapata Oil and set a world relocation record for a drilling platform. Soon after, R.G. LeTourneau, Inc. began work on the second platform for Zapata Oil, dubbed the "Vinegaroon." This second platform was delivered from the LeTourneau plant to Zapata in early 1957. 

The Dedication Event

Fast forward many years. George Bush served as our nation's 41st President, and 25 years ago, a library was built and dedicated in his honor at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. On March 31, a new exhibit in his library museum opened to showcase the work and innovation that Bush brought to the oil industry. Both R.G. LeTourneau and LeTourneau University were honored at a reception event this past week that was attended in person by George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. 

As part of this special exhibit, a model of the Vinegaroon was moved from the LeTourneau University campus where it has been showcased in the R.G. LeTourneau Memorial Museum. The model was built by LETU alumnus Frank Olson during his time as a student. Mr. Olson helped to oversee the disassembly and transport of the model to the Bush Library in January of this year. 

The reception event took place this past Thursday, April 10, 2014, at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The Museum website states, "George Bush was a successful and pioneering Texas oilman, first on land and then offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. As a tribute to his role in the development and use of the innovative independent leg offshore jack-up rig Scorpion launched by LeTourneau in 1956, the exhibit tells the story of offshore drilling.…the exhibit covers all aspects of the search for oil offshore, with a special look at the geology of finding oil, focusing on exploration of the Gulf of Mexico." 

This exhibit will be on display at the Bush Library and Museum from now until February 1, 2015. For more information, click here to be taken to the Bush Library and Museum website

In attendance at the dedication this past week were: LETU alumnus and model-builder Frank Olson; LETU history professor Dr. Bobby Johnson; two of R.G. LeTourneau's sons, Ben and Roy LeTourneau; and Dale Hardy, employee of LeTourneau, Inc. (now Joy Global) and one of the most respected historians of R.G. LeTourneau.

We are very proud to be a part of this amazing record of history and honored to see R.G. LeTourneau credited for incredibly ingenuity that he brought to the world.

Left photo: Model-builder Frank Olson shakes the hand of former U.S. President, George H.W. Bush at the dedication event. Right photo: pictured from left Ben LeTourneau (seated), Dale Hardy, Dr. Bobby Johnson,
and Roy LeTourneau (seated)

For more information on this amazing story:

In 2005, Triad Business Marketing created a 2 part video documentary for the LeTourneau Marine Group (Now LTI Offshore Products). These two award-winning videos give an excellent overview of the creation of the Scorpion and LeTourneau's unique relationship with Bush and Zapata Oil. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Incredible Engineers: Guinness World Record

Update 4/17/14: After submission of detailed evidence last week, the official word came from Guinness World Records on Thursday, April 17, that our engineering students indeed set the world record for 'Most 3D printers operating simultaneously.' Congratulations LETU students on your incredible work!

As of this past Friday, April 4, LeTourneau University is in the running to set a Guinness World Record for most 3D printers operating in one room. For anyone not in-the-know about this amazing technology, a 3D printer is a state-of-the-art machine that prints three-dimensional objects. At most universities, freshman students would never get to use such awesome equipment their very first semester in college.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg on this story. Forget world records and incredible technology, and let’s focus for a minute on our students. These LETU freshmen didn’t simply get to use 3D printers. They made their own. Every printer (with the exception of one commercial printer) used in attempting to set the Guinness record was the product of the hands of LETU freshman engineering students as a requirement of their class. They will continue to use their printers over the course of their LETU education.

Let’s hit that point one more time: A group of 18-19-year-olds built their own 3D printers. These students were in high school this time last year.

Even if we don’t get the Guinness, we had 102 3D printers, a relatively new technology, printing simultaneously—and all the printers were self-built by our freshman students. We couldn’t be more proud.