Talking robot cuts ribbon at opening of SIUE engineering building

News-DemocratFebruary 19, 2014 

A talking robot, a solar car, a traffic signal the size of a person and the launch of a weather balloon highlighted Southern Illinois University Edwardsville's official opening of the expanded engineering building Tuesday.

The $14.2 million, 32,000-square-foot expansion and renovation came 14 years after the engineering building opened. Dean Hasan Sevim said that at that time, they didn't have any idea that talks about expanding the building would begin a several years after its opening -- until the engineering program grew by 40 percent between 2008 and 2013.

The program was timed to coincide with National Engineering Month, Sevim said. "As usual, SIUE has much to celebrate," he said.

Attendees walked past a solar-powered car displayed in the lobby and visited a giant traffic signal and driving simulator, intended to allow traffic engineering students like Robert Seitzinger to try out traffic designs and road conditions without the risks inherent in practical experiments.

"What this building means to us is that we are attending a school that is as dynamic as we are," said freshman mechanical engineering student Alex Anderson. "We are not constrained by the resources of our campus."

Freshmen students launched a weather balloon equipped with cameras at the end of the ceremony. It should rise 100,000 feet to film earth from a different perspective.

The ribbon that was cut was held by Nao, a talking robot designed by senior computer science engineering student Cathy Casey. When not holding ribbons at ceremonies, Casey programs Nao to work with kids who have social anxiety issues.

"This building allows our students much-needed space, up-to-date technology and a state-of-the-art learning environment," said Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe. "To the rest of our community, this addition adds another treasure to our already-breathtaking campus."

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Southwestern Illinois College will offer upcoming programs for everyone from aspiring entrepreneurs to stargazers.

The SWIC Astronomy Club is getting ready to take advantage of soon-to-arrive warming weather to get outside and see the stars.

The club will hold meetings on a variety of space-oriented topics followed by an outdoor viewing session, weather permitting.

Topics on the agenda are:

* Decoding the Universe Using Spectroscopy at 4 p.m. Feb. 26 in Room 1361.

* The Life of an Astronomer at 4 p.m. March 26 in Room 1361.

* Lunar Eclipse, Seeing the Beauty in the Dark at 7 p.m. April 15 in Room 2103.

* Hey, Look Up! Astronomy is for All is at 7 p.m. May 2 in Room 2103.

The sessions, all held at SWIC's Belleville campus, are free and open to the public.

For more information contact Club Adviser Kyle Stumbaugh at kyle.stumbaugh@swic.edu or College Activities at 618-235-2700, ext. 5561.

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If you've ever wanted to be your own boss, SWIC might have just the program for you.

On the first two Saturdays in March the school will offer a pair of three-hour-long classes that will teach the basics in starting your business.

The Sam Wolf Granite City Campus, 4950 Maryville Road, will offer a workshops at 9 a.m. March 1 and 8.

Topics that will be covered include:

* Business resources

* Writing a business plan

* How to fund your business

* Effective advertising

* Finding and marketing to repeat customers

* What organizations are available to help

The fee for the program is $54 and must be paid before the first day of class.

For more information or to register, call 618-235-2700, ext. 5393, or 866-942-SWIC (7942), ext. 5393.

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Take a tour through prehistoric Australia March 8 when Erth's "Dinosaur Zoo Live" invades McKendree University's Hettenhausen Center for the Arts. From cute baby dinos to teeth-gnashing giants, the extraordinarily lifelike creatures of Dinosaur Zoo capture the imagination of children ages 5 and older.

Tickets cost $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $5 for children or students with an ID. A 6 p.m. show was added, after the 3 p.m. show sold out.

A $25 VIP children's ticket is available for the 6 p.m. show. It includes a 5 p.m. pre-show meet-and-greet with the dinosaurs and their handlers, preferred seating close to the action, and an official Dinosaur Zoo hat.

Australia-based Erth develops its large-scale puppets in consultation with paleontologists, based on current science and interpretations of fossil evidence. Using sophisticated design and electronics, skilled performers and puppeteers bring the dinosaurs, prehistoric mammals and insects to life.

For tickets or more information, call the Hett box office during weekday business hours at 618-537-6863 or visit www.theHett.com.

News-Democrat reporter Elizabeth Donald contributed to this column. Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 618-239-2626.

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