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And The ‘Viterbi’ Goes To…

Viterbi School’s Freshman Academies host a night at the Academy Awards

April 21, 2006 —
Freshman engineering students in the Viterbi School’s Freshman Academies held their own version of the Academy Awards April 13, voting on the best of eight student film projects designed to educate eighth and ninth grade students about engineering and all of its career possibilities.
The winners say a few words.

The challenge was to present engineering in ways that would engage and inform a younger audience of students who might be interested in pursuing the field, said Michael Crowley, a senior lecturer in computer science and one of the Academy instructors.

“Each of the eight Academies was divided into smaller groups, which set out to create their own multimedia presentations of engineering, Crowley said.  “The audience is 14-to-15-year-olds. Most of the projects turned out to be video productions.”   

Approximately 320 freshmen engineering students gathered in the multimedia auditorium in Seeley G. Mudd for the “2006 Viterbis.” After the films were shown, they voted and broke for a pizza party in the lobby.  Awards were presented during the second half of the program by Stephen Bucher, director of the USC Engineering Writing Program, and Louise Yates, associate dean of Admission and Student Affairs.   

Taking first place was ”Engineers with Attitude — 99 Problems,” a rap and music video designed to explore the fields of civil engineering, mechanical engineering and chemical engineering.  The winning team included Andrew Bondor, Abe Kislevitz, Sayre Peralta, Steven Schwartz and Jeremy Wustman, all second semester freshmen, and was led by Freshman Academy instructor Ted Lee, an assistant professor of chemical engineering.

Second place went to ”The Real Engineering World: Magic Mountain,” a look at some of the rides at Magic Mountain and how they work. The video presentation was produced by Artak Arakelian, Julian Bactaclan, Jeremiah Givens, Patrick Juarez, and John Montes De Oca, and was led by Academy instructor Erik Johnson, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Third place for technical merit and best educational value went to “Rollercoaster: Engineering the World’s #1 Ride,” created by freshmen students Farzana Ansari, Chase Femrite, David Reese and Sasha Sookhoo, and also led by Erik Johnson.

Other student videos included:

-- “The Electrical Interpretation of Thought,” a parody on the X-Men focusing instead on the recently discovered phenomena of scientists who are able to convert the thoughts of rats into electrical signals, using those signals to perform motor functions.  The team consisted of Francesco Dandekar, Daniel DeMoss, Elea Grotter, Ann Jun, and Ning Zhou, and was led by Academy instructor Mark Redekopp, a senior lecturer of electrical engineering systems.

Rows were reserved for each of the eight Freshman Academy classes and their instructors.

-- “Engineering A Thrill,” an adventure into aerobatics, bunge-jumping and thrill rides to illustrate “g” forces and how they act on the body in motion.  “Engineering amplifies, reduces or alters the excitement we cannot attain in our everyday lives,” the students explained in their summary of the video.  Team members were Zach Bass, Yi Ta Chen, Caitlyn Fahey, Jeff Rodgers and Tanner Yaberg, led by instructor Najmedin Meshkati, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.   

-- “Mission Impossible: Retrieve Tommy Trojan.”  In this action-packed film, Tommy Trojan has been stolen from USC by terrorists from UCLA.  A team of engineers from the Viterbi School must band together and use their talents to retrieve him.  The team included Ali Bhagat, Mario Endo, Sherwin Gao, Eric Henderson, Jimmy Kerr and Shen Soh, and was led by Academy instructor Ted Lee.   

-- “Engineers Gone Wild,” a humorous infomercial addressing some misconceptions about the engineering profession.  Students use wit and different locations around campus to illustrate that some of the most exciting and fun jobs are found in engineering. David Arbanas, Ryan Green, Ben Hartard, Ryan Moran and David Schauer-West comprised the team, and Michael Crowley served as leader.

-- “Revenge,” a film depicting the 10 steps of the engineering process as it relates to a confrontation between a bully and a nerd. The film uses humor to show that engineers are entering a more lucrative field than their peers and that the process of becoming an engineer is a small price to pay for a lifetime of satisfaction. Produced by Torin Kampa, Courtney Marshall, Kelly Phillips, Justin Reyes, Julian Soro, and Kai Stephan, and led by instructor Michael Crowley  

A Night at the Academies — Students filled a Seeley Mudd auditorium for the awards night and pizza party.

The Freshman Academies are designed to introduce entering freshmen to the social, political and ethical impact of engineering on society. Launched in 2003, the program sponsors special cross-disciplinary lectures throughout the year, and occasionally arranges for tours of campus laboratories and field trips to engineering companies in Los Angeles.