March 14, 2014

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Happy Pi Day!

The holiday might not show up on your smart phone calendar, but today is 3.14, and that means it's Pi Day! At Missouri S&T, pi is a pretty big deal. It's not uncommon to see the Greek symbol on T-shirts around campus, and many of our students and faculty work with it regularly. Some can even recite the irrational number into the hundreds.

Pi Day at Missouri S&TTo celebrate Pi Day, we recently held a pi-reciting contest and invited students to see how many digits they could remember. The contest was officiated by one of our on-campus pi experts, Stephen Clark, who is chair of the math department.

To reward our top students, we awarded a Raspberry Pi computer, courtesy of the Missouri S&T Bookstore, pizza pie certificates and even some gift certificates to Slice of Pie. Check out the video, which includes a cameo by my daughter, Ella.

Emergency response team
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The Pi Day video almost didn't happen this year as the day that we planned to film it was turned upside down by a gas leak. On Feb. 26, a gas line break was detected in Straunamis-James Hall that led to a temporary closure of campus. All students, faculty and staff members were instructed to gather at the Gale-Bullman Building until the all-clear was given in the early afternoon.

Ordinarily, such emergency messages are distributed through a combination of text messages, automated phone calls and email — depending on what preferences individuals have selected through the emergency alert system. However, this particular event was made more complicated because the leak occurred where our university's computing servers are located, and power was cut in response to the leak.

Although messages were not interrupted, individuals were not able to check online for further information during a short time. The event has led us to assess our mass notification system and see what we can do differently in the future. As part of this process, we surveyed those on campus that day and are analyzing the results.

If you haven't done so recently, please update your contact information at, and thank you for your responsiveness during our most recent event. Although we can and will improve, the evacuation went smoothly and we were able to get back to normal shortly.

The future of manufacturing
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Additive manufacturing at Missouri S&TIn my January newsletter, I shared that we had named two of our best-in-class, signature areas: advanced manufacturing and advanced materials for sustainable infrastructure. A few weeks ago, we got word that our investment is already paying off. We are one of 23 universities joining with industry, governmental agencies and other organizations to form a new national institute for advanced digital manufacturing and design: The Digital Lab for Manufacturing, a Chicago-based research center created through a $70 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense. Read more here.

New home for diverse student programs
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As our student population continues to grow and become more diverse, it's important that we make services to our students as accessible and convenient as possible. We recently took an important step in this direction with the acquisition of the Powell house, which will soon be the new home for the office of student diversity, outreach and women's programs (SDOWP). Located across the street from Bertelsmeyer Hall, the home is the former residence of the late John D. Powell, a prominent Rolla business leader. The new location will bring diversity, outreach and women's programs under one roof. Currently, the programs are housed in two different locations on campus – in Centennial Hall and the Engineering Research Laboratory. Read more here.

The best ever
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Best Ever St. Pat'sOf course, Pi Day isn’t the only holiday we’re celebrating around here. This week we’ve been taking part in the 106th St. Pat’s Celebration on this campus. The theme for this year’s celebration is “St. Pat’s Before Time.” The campus celebration began in 1908, when a group of Rolla students declared that St. Patrick was the patron saint of engineers. (There are reasons for this declaration that I encourage you to explore.) I was especially honored to learn this year I’ll become an honorary knight. I’ll be in the good company of U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse and several others. I hope to see you at tomorrow’s St. Pat’s parade; I’ll be the one in green!

Missouri University of Science and Technology