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Archive for the tag “Solar Decathlon Project”

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri University of Science and Technology (visited 2/23-25)

MST civil engo student

A student working in the Civil Engineering lab

Missouri S&T is perfect for dedicated students who want hands-on experience at a medium-sized school and a job at graduation. In 2015-16, 1158 employers recruited on campus. “Students get the outcomes they want,” shown in top rankings for return on investment.


As one of 4 state universities (and the Land Grant school), MST is a top public research university and ranked #3 Best Engineering university after Colorado Mines and Georgia Tech beating out RPI, WPI, and MIT! Students are problem solvers; most students complete a Freeform lab where they have to figure out how to do the labs! “Math and science are our tools. You need to be capable. That doesn’t mean you love it or use it every day.” Non-engineering students take Business Calculus (except bio and chem majors who take engineering calc).

MST wave machine

Wave Machine lab

“Engineers know this is a top-notch school – but we’re hidden because we’re in Missouri,” said a student. Located about 1.5 hours from St. Louis, Rolla is a small city but there’s still plenty to do. One of the counselors asked about racial issues and the general climate in town. “This can be a difficult sell,” said a rep. “I understand the fear. It’s rural Missouri, but in a liberal bubble. That being said, it’s also a STEM school which makes it heavily male.” However, the women graduate at an 8% higher rate and can say why they’re doing what they’re doing … this was evident through multiple conversations with students over 3 days on campus. The gender ratio is going up. “You get used to it. It’s less pronounced at the beginning, but is more so as you get further into the major. The professors definitely know who the girls are!”


MST design center 2

The Design Center for Design Teams

“Students are excited to be here. These are serious students. College is on purpose. They’re not doing it to get away from home,” said a professor. A rep echoed that: “It’s a point of pride to have the highest GPA in the fraternity.” Everyone loves what they do. That goes for athletics, too: “There are lots of athletics, but no one is going pro. They know that. We don’t have the winningest football team, but we do have the smartest!”


Another rep said, “Our kids come from the top of their classes. They’ve been the ones helping others. The big challenge is getting them to ask for help when they need it.” A professor said something similar. “Most of them have never needed help before.” Student success is a high priority. If grades drop “beyond a percentage of the student’s normal grades,” the system alerts the faculty who talk to the students. They think this is partly responsible for retention rising to the high 80s.

MST civil engo int

The Civil and Architectural Engineering building

With 15 engineering programs, the College of Engineering and Computing draws the most students. In addition to the more common types of engineering, they offer:


  • Ceramic: One of the students wants to work on shuttle tiles for NASA
  • Petroleum: this is one of the highest paid degrees
  • Geological: Students are helping to develop grasses that absorb specific elements to help determine where mines are in minefields.
  • Mining
    • The experimental mine is about 10 minutes off campus.
    • Undergrads can earn a certificate in Explosives (Explosive Engineering is a graduate program)
  • Nuclear: There’s a working nuclear reactor on campus, 1 of 9 available to undergrads in the US.
  • Architectural: 1 of less than 25 in the country
  • Metallurgical
  • There are several engineering minors including Biomedical, Mineral Process, Automation, and Humanitarian Engineering and Science. These pair well with a major directly related to what they want to do.
MST mine 6

The experimental mine

Regardless of which engineering degree they choose (or being undecided), freshmen spend 3 semesters taking pre-req coursework and career exploration. The students we spoke to found this invaluable. One student didn’t change his mind, “but it confirmed what I thought I wanted.” Another student changed her major, and a third said that it helped her figure out what was out there.


Students tend to be well rounded. They want STEM but don’t want to give up on the other interests they have. This shows up in the minors and extra-curriculars they participate in. One engineering major we spoke to is double-minoring in 2 theater areas.

MST student hammockMST also offers liberal arts degrees (ranked in the top 10% for LA salaries) and looking to grow these. They’re starting a BS in History in addition to the existing BA. This includes the same Gen Ed courses as the sciences and without the BA language requirement. Students can get certified to teach (they have the #1 Secondary Teacher Education Program in MO) including a STEM Elementary Ed program and Program Lead the Way certification.

MST solar house 9

One of the solar houses

All students are required to complete an experiential learning experience. Almost 1000 students completed a co-op (semester+summer/8-9 months) or internship (summer OR semester/3-4 months) in 43 states and 3 international locations earning over $3200/month on average.


MST solar house design team

The 2017 Solar House team

Design teams (18 to choose from) count as Experiential Learning. “You need everyone on the team, and there are lots of ways to participate. It opens doors they haven’t considered. It builds a culture of research that’s infectious.” All teams do their own marketing and some fundraising, but there’s lots of corporate and alumni donations. Options include:


  • DrillBotics
  • Solar Car
  • Solar House
  • Mars Rover: won a national championship and competed in Poland.
  • Engineers without Borders: There are 4 Teams and 4-5 trips offered every year for ongoing water and sanitation projects.
  • MST steel bridge team 2

    The steel bridge team putting together their project

    Concrete canoe: this has to be filled with water and hold 3 people and still float/perform in races

  • Steel Bridge = 1/10 size
  • Solar House
    • First they submit a design. About 18 are selected to move on.
    • Second, a student-led team builds it on campus and ship it to the contest and without breaking. All must be 0-Net but often produce more energy than they use. Part of the contest is marketability. One house was made out of shipping containers with carpet made from recycled fishing nets. Students now live in the houses!
MST dorm room 1

One of the triple rooms in University Commons

Students must live in university housing until they complete 60 credits. This includes Greek housing (mostly off campus; 22% go Greek but not all live in housing) and the Christian Campus Houses (run by an off-campus entity). Thomas Jefferson Hall offers traditional dorm-style living with a dining hall attached. University Commons offers suite styles with an option for a triple room. These are cheaper and never required. “We found that lots of students came to us in trios from high school and wanted to room together. It’s just another option.” The Student Center is directly across the road with several food options.


MST frat house

One of the smaller frat houses sitting right next to campus; the large new ones are off campus

Safety is good. Students said they frequently walk around alone at night and never had an issue. Things are well lit, and no one ever heard of a blue light being used. Parking is available – but not always where they want it! Spots/lots are assigned based on seniority. One student we talked to just parked in town and found it as convenient. “I got 4 parking tickets over 3 years. At $10 a pop, it was cheaper than 1 year of paying to park on campus.” Parking stickers are $135.80 per year.


MST quad 1Admissions will take a risk on some kids who have low GPAs with high test scores (“they’re not following through with the work,” said a rep). They’ll bring 160 students into the Success Program and assign them a mentor to get them on track. For scholarship purposes, they only look at GPA through the end of junior year, but students can take the standardized tests through December if they need to increase the score. MST won’t superscore either exam but do not penalize for multiple testing. The Priority deadline is 12/1; based on available funds, they’ll look at apps through 2/1.

MST chem eng bldg

The Chemistry and Chemical Engineering building

New students attend 2 orientations: first, “Preview, Registration, and Orientation (PRO)” starting in February where students take their math placement, get academic advising, Financial Aid and parent info sessions, etc. Then they complete a full-week orientation where they’re assigned to a group of 20 to complete social and team projects. They have Reconnection 1 a few weeks into the year and Reconnection 2 right after midterms. They also have one of the best transfer programs in the country and are known as a model for this.

MST arch engo 1

Some of the Architectural Engineering projects

The big tradition revolves around St. Patrick’s Day; MST gives students 2 days off for “spring recess.” For weeks in advance, they have countdowns, chants on Fridays, etc. In the middle of the night, they’ll paint the street green “using some eco-friendly paint.” On the day, they carve shillelagh and act out mock killings of rubber snakes. They hold contests such as wearing the most green or who can put on the most St Pat’s sweatshirts. There’s a formal ball held that weekend. The official school colors are gold and silver – “it is a mining school!” – but the unofficial color is green because of St. Patrick, the patron saint of miners.

© 2017


Santa Clara University

SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY, Santa Clara, CA (visited on 7/20/12)

Santa Clara view from balcony

View from the balcony

Santa Clara MissionI was hugely impressed with SCU (which, incidentally, used to be the University of Santa Clara, but since they were getting confused with the University of Southern California – same initials AND same colors! – they switched around their name to SCU). This is a beautiful campus located about 45 minutes from San Francisco and Oakland. It’s very close to both San Jose State and Stanford, giving this southern tip of the San Francisco Bay area a real college-town feel, although being in the Bay area, you’re never far from a college. The Santa Clara Mission is still on campus, and the entire place has a very Southern California feel – stucco, red tiled roofs, etc. We got a great view from the 3rd floor balcony of the Union where we had breakfast with the admissions staff.

Santa Clara winning houseOne of the coolest things about the college is the chance to take a class called SLURP: Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Project. The campus has a bit of a “crunchy” feel; one of the admissions reps said that SCU is “more of a longboard campus than a biking campus like Davis is” – and it’s true. We saw lots of people riding around. One of the most interesting, and certainly the most unique, activities offered on campus is the chance to participate in the Solar Decathlon Project in which teams of students design sustainable eco-friendly housing. SC was the smallest campus participating in this national competition and the only one west of the Rockies. They took 3rd in the competition in DC, beating out Ivies and those schools with grad students working on the project; SC only had underclassmen working on the house, which is now displayed right on campus (those winning 1st, 2nd, and 3rd get to keep their houses as part of their bragging rights).

Santa Clara tree and quadSC has slightly over 5,200 undergrads, and 3,000 grad students but none of them are TAs who teach classes. Most work with professors doing research (although some will grade). This campus is highly focused on undergraduates, keeping true to its Jesuit roots in which education is highly esteemed. Their dedication to students shows in their 94% freshman to sophomore retention and 85% 4-year graduation rate. Just over half of the undergrads are from California. It’s very much a residential campus. They guarantee housing for freshman and 95% live on campus. About 75% of sophomores stay on campus, and many students take advantage of the Residential Learning Communities.

Santa Clara quad60% of students are in the liberal arts division, 25% in business, and 15% in engineering. They have several particularly strong departments, including communications (including a mass media focus), psychology (including graduate work), pre-health, engineering (incluidng biological engineering), theater/dance/art (and do not require auditions except for scholarships), and business. As an illustration of the strength of the program and the school, last year, 194 of the 197 graduates from the business program had a job at the time of graduation. Students who think they want to be in the Business or Egineering programs should apply directly to those programs. It’s easier to switch out than get in once starting at SC since they have to spend a year in the program to which they were accepted before they’re able to switch to a different one. However, there are 3 interdisciplinary minors in the business school that students don’t need to be in the Business program to take: Retail, Entrepreneurship, and International Business. Our tour guide was in the Retail program and loved that she got a taste of a lot of different subjects in business.

Santa Clara acad bldg

SC offers acceptance under both the ED and EA programs (both with 11/1 deadlines) and RD (1/7). They accept about 50% of applicants with an average of 3.65 GPA, 28 ACT, 1280 SAT (they don’t look at the writing). There is no separate app for scholarships, but they do require both the FAFSA and CSS. There is limited merit aid for international students.

There are 19 D1 sports, and they were up-front about the fact that if a student hasn’t been recruited by the beginning of senior year, they probably aren’t going to play for SC. Just under 1/5 of the students participate in Greek Life, but they’re “off campus Greek.” They are not allowed to advertise, put tables out, etc. The tour guide said that people will wear t-shirts that say “Ask me about ___” to get the word out about events or rushing. Study abroad is popular amongst the students, and the school even has a study-abroad program in Cuba.

Students seemed very happy on campus, and raved about their professors, the classes, and the overall atmosphere. The problems that the students mentioned were that there wasn’t AC in the Western dorms, students were not very politically active, and that there wasn’t any discount on public transportation. Even though CalTrain and busses run right past campus and it’s really easy to get to wherever they want, there is no agreement with the public transportation systems like there are at other colleges.

(c) 2012

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