Anderson Wins Prestigious Student-Athlete Honor

Rob Anderson, a junior on the Caltech men's basketball team, has been named to the 2015 Allstate National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team. The community service award "honors student-athletes for their off-the-court achievements and commitment to giving back to their communities and positively impacting the lives of those around them," according to the NABC.

"I learned that I was named to the team at 8:30 a.m. after pulling an all-nighter, so it didn't really hit me at first," Anderson says. "I feel extremely honored to represent Caltech and our team on a national scale."

Anderson, who is studying mechanical engineering and business economics and management, was selected for his extensive work researching and designing sustainable energy projects. During his senior year of high school, he designed a 17-foot solar-powered boat for the 2012 Solar Splash Competition. Upon his arrival at Caltech in the fall of 2012, he joined both the basketball team and the Institute's 2013 Department of Energy Solar Decathlon team, which collaborated with architectural design students from the Southern California Institute of Architecture to design, build, and operate a solar-powered house.

During the summer of 2013, Anderson returned to his home state to conduct research at the University of Minnesota, where he designed and coded a tool to calculate the economic feasibility of growing crops that could be converted to fuel in the form of cellulosic ethanol.

"After the Solar Decathlon ended in autumn of 2013, I began looking for another engineering sustainability project," Anderson says. "I noticed there were a few empty gas-engine go-karts in Fleming [one of Caltech's eight undergraduate houses] and I realized I could re-engineer them to use electric power."

Anderson reached out to Caltech and the Resnick Sustainability Institute, and proposed repairing the vehicles, one using battery power and another using a hydrogen fuel cell. He also reached out to the undergraduate population to gauge interest in a sustainable vehicle club. Eventually, more than 100 students signed up for the club's mailing list.

"That's basically how the Sustainable Vehicle Club was born," Anderson says. "The people at the Resnick Institute were excited that a student wanted to lead an engineering project around sustainability. They have played a key role in advising the club, connecting us with the right people around campus and in the corporate world, and have been our main source of funding for purchasing the parts we need."

"Now we're using the old go-kart shells to experiment with drivetrains—the components that deliver power to the driving wheels—and battery systems. We're working with local companies to gather most of the parts." Anderson and his team aim to enter the 2016 Society of Automotive Engineers Formula One Electric Race, an electric vehicle design competition for college engineers.

In addition to design and engineering, Anderson and his group conduct research into the feasibility and efficiency of fuel cells.

"In general, sustainable energy can go either the electric route or the fuel cell route. We're analyzing both systems with respect to these go-karts to figure out their overall energy efficiency."

Engineering the go-karts to run on sustainable energy is still a long-term process. In the more immediate future, Anderson will soon be traveling to attend the NCAA Division I "Final Four" college basketball playoffs with other student-athletes on the NABC's Good Works team. Later in the year, the team will also participate in a community works project and hold a basketball camp for younger players.

"Rob epitomizes the term student-athlete," says head basketball coach Oliver Eslinger. "His character and commitment, both as an academic standout and teammate, are highly valued in our program. He is a perfect representative for athletics and our university, in that he brings efficiency, creativity, and focus to his daily activities. We are so proud of this honor and what it means for Caltech. I know that the folks he meets during Final Four weekend will be impressed with his efforts and abilities to balance basketball with all of his research and academic pursuits."

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Caltech Athlete Wins Prestigious Community Service Award
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Contest Unleashes Aquamania in Millikan Pond

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Contest Unleashes Aquamania in Millikan Pond
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Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications

A robot enters the water during the first round of the competition. During the first 30 seconds of each round, the robots had to operate completely autonomously—meaning they had to be able to enter the water without any human intervention. Once the 30 seconds were over, the students were able to direct the robots through the water via remote control.

Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications

Teammates Joaquin Gabaldon and Melissa Chang prepare to send their robot into the water. Because the students had to build their robots within a limited budget, many teams came up with inventive and affordable solutions—such as the duct tape and chicken wire seen on the front of the team KOOPAS robot here—to help resolve design and engineering challenges.

Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications

Joaquin Gabaldon (in blue) from team KOOPAS drives his team's robot using a remote control while Dan Chui, Jalani Williams, and Margaret Lee from team T.O.A.D. look on. In the first two rounds of the Aquamania, teams paired up to compete against other pairs of teams for the most points.

Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications

Rob Anderson, Anup Kishore, and Naveen Tadepalli celebrate a victory for their team's robot.

Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications

Basith Fahumy uses a remote control to guide team AXOLOTL's robot toward a small red ball. In the competition, teams scored points by moving balls their color past a gate.

Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications

The audience, including students from several local elementary and middle schools, watches as two robots enter the water and begin their battle.

Credit: Lance Hayashida/Caltech Office of Strategic Communications

KATS, the winning team, poses with their trophy in Millikan Pond. (Left to right: Tammer Eweis-Labolle, Kristin Eliason, Sheila Lo, and Auggie Nanz)

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Amphibious robots took to Millikan Pond on Tuesday, March 10, each one hoping to come away with the title "Aquamania champion." At the event, teams of students tested their robotic athletes in the 30th annual Mechanical Engineering 72 (ME72) competition—a campus tradition that also serves as a final exam for mechanical engineering students enrolled in the two-term ME72 design lab in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. In this year's competition, the student teams were tasked with designing and building robots that could successfully drive down a ramp into Millikan Pond and then navigate through the water to move inflatable balls of various sizes past a series of gates. At the end of each round, points were tallied based on how many balls each robot successfully moved past each gate. Eight teams competed for this year's title, and after three intense (and very wet) rounds, team KATS—named for teammates and Caltech juniors Kristin Eliason, Auggie Nanz, Tammer Eweis-Labolle, and Sheila Lo—walked away with the trophy.

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Senior Connie Hsueh Wins Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Senior Connie Hsueh, a physics major, has been awarded a 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholarship that will fund graduate studies at the University of Cambridge. She is the seventh Caltech undergraduate student to receive this award. 

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program, established in 2000 through a donation to Cambridge University from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recognizes young people from around the world who not only excel academically, but also display a commitment to social issues and bettering the world. Hsueh and the 39 other American recipients were selected from a pool of 755 applicants competing for this year's U.S. award. In April, 55 international scholars, selected from a pool of around 3,000 applicants, will join Hsueh and her U.S. colleagues as Gates Cambridge Scholars.

A native Californian, and the only student in this year's U.S. applicant pool to win a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to study physics, Hsueh will use her scholarship to pursue an MPhil in physics. She will use computational and theoretical techniques to investigate novel battery materials—an interest that began for her while doing experimental work with batteries at Caltech in the laboratory of Brent Fultz, Barbara and Stanley R. Rawn, Jr., Professor of Materials Science and Applied Physics.

"The summer after my sophomore year, I investigated the electronic properties of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in Professor Fultz's lab," Hsueh says. "I think it's incredible that through a variety of spectroscopic techniques, we can explain how materials behave at the atomic level. That we have the ability to probe materials on these scales—so many orders of magnitude smaller than what we physically deal with—is what astounds and interests me about physics. In addition," she adds, "Professor Fultz has been an incredibly supportive advisor and friend to me as I have tried to figure out what I want to do with my life."

A student with varied research interests, Hsueh spent her first summer at Caltech investigating novel HIV diagnostics as part of a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) project in the laboratory of Jim Heath, the Elizabeth W. Gilloon Professor and professor of chemistry. In 2014, she completed a summer internship at Lockheed Martin, where she gained experience in computer modeling and experimental research for defense-related technologies.

While at Caltech, Hsueh also kept a busy schedule outside of the laboratory and the classroom, serving two terms as the director of operations of the Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology (ASCIT) board of directors, four seasons on the Caltech volleyball team, and three seasons on the water polo team. Surprised that there was no physics club for students, Hsueh co-founded the Caltech Physics Club to give interested students a place to explore physics topics outside of the classroom.

Hsueh, who is currently studying abroad at Cambridge as a participant in Caltech's undergraduate exchange, the Cambridge Scholars Program, "is an outstanding student and human being," says Lauren Stolper, director of the Fellowships Advising and Study Abroad Office and the Career Development Center. "Connie has invested herself in her Caltech education and always considers how she can help her peers academically or by bettering extracurricular opportunities for them. She will be an excellent representative for Caltech as a Gates Cambridge Scholar," Stolper adds.

After Cambridge, Hsueh would like to continue to pursue an academic career and, one day, become a professor. However, this pursuit is not her only goal.

"It's always been my ambition to improve society and do good in the world. What that means exactly is still up in the air—maybe it will mean encouraging and mentoring future generations, or maybe it will mean inventing a life-changing device that completely revolutionizes the world," she says. "I'm honored to join the community of Gates Cambridge Scholars because I believe that they share this passion for improving the world, and I hope that we will support one another in this mission."

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Men's and Women's B-ball Teams Score Wins

The Caltech women's basketball team broke a 5-year, 64-game conference losing streak with a 59–58 win over the University of La Verne on Wednesday, February 18.

The win caps a banner week for Caltech basketball, as the men's team notched its third straight home SCIAC win with a 70–69 victory over La Verne on February 17. The men's three SCIAC wins are the most in a single season since 1960–61, when the Beavers topped four conference foes, and equal the total number of SCIAC wins over the previous 42 years.

Read more about the women's game and the men's game.

Both teams face off against Occidental College on Saturday, February 21, at Braun Gym, in their last home games of the season. The women tip-off at 5 p.m. and the men at 7 p.m.

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Men's Basketball Makes it Two Wins in a Row

Just days after shaking off a 55-game conference losing streak, the Caltech men's basketball team accomplished something it had not in 44 years—two Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) wins in one season—with a 92–77 victory over Whittier College on Saturday, February 7.

Their first win of the season—and first conference victory since February 22, 2011, when the team broke a 310-game conference losing streak—came Tuesday, February 3, against the University of Redlands, after a game-winning basket at the buzzer.

"It was an amazing, unprecedented week for basketball and Caltech athletics. Our team continues to progress and the effort each player and coach puts into our program translated into two huge wins," says head basketball coach Oliver Eslinger. "We thank our fans and community for the energy they brought to Braun. There's more to come!"

The men's team last won two conference games in the 1970–71 season. The last set of back-to-back conference wins occurred 61 years ago, in the 1953–54 season, when the team won three straight conference games to claim the SCIAC Championship. Caltech also recorded consecutive SCIAC victories during the 1960–61, 1959–60, and 1958–59 seasons, although in each case there was a nonconference loss between the two winning conference games.

The team will next face off against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Thursday, February 12, at the Rains Center on the Pomona College campus. Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.

Learn more about Caltech athletics at http://www.gocaltech.com/.

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Men's Basketball Snaps Losing Streak

With a game-winning basket at the buzzer, the Caltech men's basketball team snapped a 55-game, four-year SCIAC losing streak with a 49-47 victory over the University of Redlands on February 3.

Read the full story on the Caltech Athletics' site.

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Learning While Leading

Caltech's student leaders have full plates. In addition to splitting their time among responsibilities in academics, research, athletics, internships, social causes, and many other activities, they have also been elected to serve as representatives of and advocates for their peers.

However, these students say the juggling act can be a gratifying challenge. We recently spoke with Catherine Jamshidi, Connor Rosen, and Sunita Darbe about their experiences in student leadership, their goals for their organizations, and their time-management strategies.

 

What are your main leadership responsibilities?

Darbe: As chair of the Graduate Student Council (GSC), my job is to be the face of the graduate student body when interacting with all of the other parts of Caltech—for example, in working with the undergrads and with all of the various administrative offices and staff offices. I also try to keep an eye on what graduate students are bringing up and try to make sure that those concerns are heard by the appropriate people.

Rosen: I'm the chair of the Interhouse Committee (IHC), and the ASCIT vice president for nonacademic affairs. I deal mainly with housing, dining, issues related to how housing placements happen, and any other issues related to where people are living. IHC is also involved in the policies related to those issues, so I also serve as the intermediary between the administration and the students on these policies.

Jamshidi: As ASCIT (Associated Students of the California Institute of Technology) president, my first job is to oversee the ASCIT board of directors, which is the student government of the undergraduates. I try to be in touch with what's going on around campus, what the student body is currently concerned about, and how I can bring those concerns to the relevant administrators or members of the faculty board.

 

Since you are all student leaders, can you tell us what year you are and what you're studying?

Jamshidi: I'm a junior, studying computer science and business, economics, and management.

Rosen: I'm a senior majoring in chemistry. I do work on protein degradation in the biology lab of professor Alex Varshavsky.

Darbe: I'm a fourth year graduate student in materials science. I work with Harry Atwater on optics for ultrahigh-efficiency solar cells.

 

What were your goals when you began your term at the end of the last school year?

Darbe: Obviously the technical training at Caltech is awesome, bar none. But we also want to make sure that some of the nontechnical skills—ones that are important for professional development, but don't necessarily come through the graduate curriculum—are supported by GSC efforts. This year another one of our goals is to support and recruit a diverse student body, and we've been very pleased to see support for this at all levels in the administration.

Jamshidi: My main goal is to learn about and address what the students care about. I also went into my term expecting to be able to give good direction to the individuals on the board of directors, helping them figure out what they need to be doing in their roles.

Rosen: A lot of what the IHC works on are yearly needs that relate to the way the house system functions. The biggest of these is rotation, which is the process by which first years are assigned to a house. When I came in as IHC chair, I set goals for how efficient and effective I wanted the process to be. In the end, I wanted the students to be pleased with both with the process itself and with the outcomes. Rotation was all over and done at the beginning of the school year, and it went very well—I think we improved on the things we wanted to improve on from previous years.

 

How did you get involved in this leadership role, and what made you want to be a leader?

Rosen: I ended up in student government almost by accident. I love the houses, and I was very involved in my house socially, and when someone said that our house needed a president, I said, "I want to do it." As president of my house, I served on the Interhouse committee for a year before becoming chair. I like being involved because I care about the people, I care about the house, and I want to be here to help students solve their problems, so they can go back to focusing on everything else that life—and Caltech's coursework—is throwing at them.

Jamshidi: I started in student government during the third term of my freshman year. For the first two terms I was here I saw the upperclassmen who were involved, and they seemed to know everything—I wanted to be like them. And my involvement was also partially driven by boredom. I play volleyball during the fall term, and then during winter I had my first break from volleyball in a long time and I was like, "I have so much free time! What do I do now?" So I became the ASCIT secretary and I really enjoyed it.

Darbe: I was involved in GSC last year, in the capacity of organizing a professional development conference. When I see something happening and I have opinions about it, I don't like to let things sit. I like to do something about it. And fortunately, because of its small size, Caltech is an easy place to make things happen.

 

It sounds like these roles are time-consuming. How do you fit in time for all of the other things in your lives, like classes, research, athletics, and so on?

Jamshidi: I balance it by staying extremely organized. I schedule everything that I do, pretty much always. And if I notice that I'm spending more time on homework, I'll reschedule everything. I don't know how else I'd be able to do it.

Darbe: I can only do this role by virtue of it being a one-year commitment. It's a lot of time, but it's really rewarding, and it's really cool to see the academic institution from the other side—to sort of peek behind the curtain.

Rosen: I've always made my position in the IHC a priority. I took this on because I felt it was important, and I had a lot of things I wanted to get done in the position—things that I cared about accomplishing. It is a priority, not only in terms of when I am in class, but also when I sign up for classes. If I know I could be spending 60 hours a week on IHC commitments during a particular term, I'm not going to sign up for 60 hours of classes. For example, during rotation there was one day where I woke up at 8 a.m., went to bed at 1 a.m. the next morning, and only had a lunch break in between.

 

How will these leadership skills be applicable to your after-graduation plans?

Darbe: I'm interested in being a research scientist. It's not yet clear to me where the most exciting opportunity is going to be, but I think that a lot of these GSC skills are going to be very helpful. Being able to corral people, and motivate people, and run an effective meeting. And, among other things, learning how not to promise too much. So many of these skills will be very, very useful, in years to come.

Rosen: I'm applying to biology programs for graduate school right now; I definitely know that I want to stay in research. Just as Sunita said, these roles allow us to peek behind the academic curtain, and if I end up being a professor, I'll be on the inside. To know how an institution like Caltech runs at more than just the teaching level will be useful.

Jamshidi: I think the people skills I've gained as a leader will help in the future. My classes have prepared me with scientific and technical knowledge, and my leadership role has helped me develop skills like being able to work with lots of different people and learn how they're thinking. Those are important skills.

 

What do you think is unique about being a leader at Caltech?

Jamshidi: Caltech is so small that I feel like everyone knows me. At a larger school, people wouldn't know who I am or what I do. Often, administrators will email me random questions like, "Who do I talk to about XYZ?" and I'll redirect them. That interaction wouldn't happen at a larger school.

Rosen: It also goes the other way. Because Caltech is so small, we are able to have weekly and biweekly meetings with the vice president for student affairs. That just doesn't happen at other places. Also, I know that my job doesn't exist elsewhere because the house system is unique. That has its pros and its cons. I love the house system; it's great to be a part of. But when I'm trying to troubleshoot something, I can't ask, for example, "What did they do at MIT when something similar to this happened?" because there's no comparison to be drawn.

 

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015
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