Ditch Day? It’s Today, Frosh!

Today we celebrate Ditch Day, one of Caltech's oldest traditions. During this annual spring rite—the timing of which is kept secret until the last minute—seniors ditch their classes and vanish from campus. Before they go, however, they leave behind complex, carefully planned out puzzles and challenges—known as "stacks"—designed to occupy the underclassmen and prevent them from wreaking havoc on the seniors' unoccupied rooms.

Follow the action on Caltech's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages as the undergraduates tackle the puzzles left for them to solve around campus. Join the conversation by sharing your favorite Ditch Day memories and using #CaltechDitchDay in your tweets and postings.

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Caltech Students Named Goldwater Scholars

Two Caltech students, Saaket Agrawal and Paul Dieterle, have been awarded Barry M. Goldwater scholarships for the 2015–16 academic year.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to award scholarships to college students who intend to pursue research careers in science, mathematics, and engineering.

Saaket Agrawal is a sophomore from El Dorado Hills, California, majoring in chemistry. Under Greg Fu, the Altair Professor of Chemistry, Agrawal works on nickel-catalyzed cross coupling, a powerful method for making carbon-carbon bonds. Specifically, Agrawal conducts mechanistic studies on these reactions, which involves elucidating the pathway through which they occur. After Caltech, he plans to pursue a PhD research program in organometallic chemistry—the combination of organic (carbon-based) and inorganic chemistry—and ultimately hopes teach at the university level.

"Caltech is one of the best places in the world to study chemistry. The faculty were so willing to take me on, even as an undergrad, and treat me like a capable scientist," Agrawal says. "That respect, and the ability to do meaningful work, has motivated me."

Paul Dieterle is a junior from Madison, Wisconsin, majoring in applied physics. He works with Oskar Painter, the John G. Braun Professor of Applied Physics, studying quantum information science.

"The quantum behavior of atoms has been studied for decades. We are researching the way macroscopic objects behave in a quantum mechanical way in order to manipulate them into specific quantum states," Dieterle says. Painter's group is studying how to use macroscopic mechanical objects to transform quantized electrical signals into quantized optical signals as part of the larger field of quantum computing, a potential next generation development in the field.

"The power of quantum computing would be immense," says Dieterle, who would like to attend graduate school to study quantum information science. "We could simulate incredibly complex things, like particles at the edge of a black hole. Participating in this physics revolution is so exciting."

Agrawal and Dieterle bring the number of Caltech Goldwater Scholars to 22 in the last decade.

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Six Alumni Athletes, Pioneering Team Inducted into Hall of Honor

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Credit: Courtesy of Caltech Athletics

Manny Bass (BS '49 chemistry, MS '51 geology) was a three-sport athlete at Caltech, playing on the football, basketball, and track and field teams. Considered one of the best football players in Caltech history, Bass, a tackle, was named twice to the All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) First Team, and was awarded All-America honors. After graduation, Bass returned to Caltech to coach the freshman football team.

Credit: Courtesy of Caltech Athletics

Bruce Chesebro (BS '63 chemistry) earned three varsity letters in both swimming & diving and water polo, and captained both teams twice. The leading scorer on the water polo team all four years, Chesebro earned a conference swimming title for the 50-yard freestyle, and set a conference record. He was the anchor for two conference-title-winning 400-yard freestyle-relay squads. A winner of Caltech swimming's Campbell Award for sportsmanship, improvement, and ability, Chesebro was named the 1961-62 Outstanding Caltech Athlete, and received one of 12 national awards from Chemical and Engineering News for achievements in scholastics and extracurricular activities.

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Karen Close (Tanaka) (BS '83 engineering and applied science) won National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Championship titles in the 400-meter dash and 400-meter hurdles, earning All-America status with a sixth-place finish at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championships. She is one of just two conference champions in the women's track & field program's history, winning the 400-meter hurdles in 1983. Close, who graduated with three Caltech records, still holds the 400-meter mark (59.07) by more than one second and the 400-meter low hurdles record (1:04.50) by nearly four seconds.

Credit: Courtesy of Caltech Athletics

Henry DeWitt (BS '68 mathematics) is the most decorated swimmer in Caltech history. While at Caltech, he won seven individual conference titles, including the 50- and 100-yard freestyle three times each, and set five conference records. He claimed back-to-back NAIA titles and set meet records in both the 50 and 100 freestyle. He also placed second in both events at the NCAA Championships, earning All-America status from both the NCAA and NAIA. He competed in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1968 Olympic Trials in Long Beach, California. DeWitt was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1977, and remains Caltech's only inductee.

Credit: Courtesy of Caltech Athletics

Alan Kleinsasser (BS '74 applied physics) won three conference titles in the 880-yard and mile runs, twice earned second place in the 800-yard run at the NAIA District championships, and placed fifth in the 880-yard at the NCAA Championships to earn All-America honors. He graduated with program records in the 400-meter dash and marathon. His marks, even when converted to meters to allow for comparison with the current era, for the 800-meter (1:50.74) and 1500-meter (3:52.44) remain program records.

Credit: Courtesy of Caltech Athletics

Howell Tyson (BS '50 mechanical engineering), who played on Caltech's football, basketball, and track & field teams, holds one of the longest-standing records in all of Caltech athletics: a shot put mark of 49 feet, 4 1/2 inches that hasn't been approached in more than six decades. Tyson was a three-time SCIAC champion between the shot put and the discus throw. Tyson's father, the late Howell N. Tyson, Sr., was a member of Caltech's mechanical engineering faculty from 1936 to 1950 and his younger brother, Thomas Tyson (BS '54 mechanical engineering, PhD '67 aeronautics), is also an alumnus. 

Credit: Courtesy of Caltech Athletics

1971–72 Women's Fencing Team

The first class of women were admitted to the Institute in 1970, and the following year marked the advent of women's intercollegiate sports, with freshmen Marie H. Beall (BS '75 biology), Katherine E. Delfosse, Debra L. Mielke, and Mary B. Ogilvie (BS '75 engineering and applied science), and sophomores Ann E. Clemmens (BS '75 mathematics) and Janet C. Wainwright (BS '74 biology) forming the first Caltech women's fencing team. The squad competed in 12 matches that season, including the Intercollegiate Fencing Conference of Southern California (IFCSC) Championships. Caltech Athletics now fields eight women's teams.

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On Sunday, May 17, the Caltech Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation inducted its second class of honorees into the Caltech Athletics Hall of Honor. Six individual athletes and one pioneering team, representing more than three decades of Caltech history, were enshrined during the campus event.

Established in 2014, the Hall of Honor celebrates significant athletic achievements by members of the Caltech community, commemorates Caltech's athletic tradition and commitment to competitive excellence, and recognizes the important role that athletic participation plays in students' overall development.

"The Caltech Athletics Hall of Honor is a marvelous vehicle to share and showcase the value of participation and athletic excellence to all different types of athletes who have competed for Caltech," says Betsy Mitchell, director of athletics, physical education, and recreation at Caltech. "We are proud of each student-athlete and all of our athletic alumni, and the Hall of Honor induction gives us an opportunity to highlight the best of the best. These alumni contributed to the Institute, their teams, and themselves in a variety of meaningful ways that have carried on into their careers and lives."

To learn more about this year's inductees, view the slideshow below and read the full announcement of the honorees on athletic's website.

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Pennies for Ditch Day

Just inside the Caltech Store stands a manually operated penny press. If not for its distinctive orange color scheme and the Millikan Library panorama across its lower half, it might have come from any tourist-trap gift shop. But it is here for a very specific reason: to fund a single Caltech tradition that dates back nearly a century—Ditch Day.

One morning each spring, the majority of the senior class disappears from campus, leaving behind materials and instructions for a day of challenge-filled adventures for the underclass students. Some activities, like unlocking a custom-made puzzle box, demand uninterrupted concentration; others, like laser tag, are more physical. But nearly all of them are funded by the seniors themselves.

"Every year, our seniors have been putting up their own money to create all these awesome challenges for the underclassmen," says class of 2014 copresident Samantha "Pixie" Piszkiewicz (BS '14). "They're footing the bill for things like bounce houses, high-tech remote-controlled robots, even skydiving. It can get expensive."

When her class chose to donate the penny press as their senior class gift, they added a stipulation that addresses the problem directly: profits from the press can only be used to help offset Ditch Day costs. In its first year of operation, the press has provided more than $2,000 of Ditch Day assistance to the class of 2015.

Piszkiewicz and class copresident Jesse Salomon (BS '14) shepherded the project through, although Piszkiewicz gives credit where it is due. "The idea originated with Nerissa Hoglen [BS '13], but her class didn't have time to tackle all the approvals and fund-raising," Salomon says. "After considering a few other suggestions, our senior reps unanimously decided to adopt it."

The concept evidently appealed to the Caltech community, with contributions coming in from seniors, staffers, faculty, alumni, other donors, dozens of underclass students, and even one prefrosh. Perry Radford of the Caltech Fund, who coordinates philanthropy among recent alumni and students, says she understands why: "A penny press provides an engaging way to generate ongoing funds, in a way that a bench or a plaque just can't."

Manufactured by the Penny Machine Company of Boulder, Colorado, the press became operational shortly after last year's commencement. Fifty-one cents—two quarters and a penny—plus a bit of torque on the foot-long crank produces a souvenir medallion with one of four images: Beckman Auditorium, the Caltech Athletics logo featuring Bucky Beaver, the Institute's wordmark (a stylized rendition of the word Caltech), or the Curiosity rover with JPL's logo.

"The people of Facilities have been superhero partners since the design and installation phases," says Jannah Maresh, director of the Caltech Fund, which is still accepting donations for the press. "So have the staff of the Caltech Store. For one thing, they've learned to keep plenty of spare change in the till."

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Caltech Dining Recognized for Midnight Madness Breakfast

Caltech's Dining Services team was recently honored with a 2015 Loyal E. Horton Dining Award from the National Association of College and University Food Services, taking home a bronze award for its Midnight Madness event.

Held three times a year during finals week, Midnight Madness is a special event that Dining Services created to provide undergraduate students with an opportunity to relax and refuel with a late-night (or early morning) breakfast during these important academic periods. Leaders from Caltech's administration and student affairs teams are often called upon to help dish up the fun and the food.

"Seven years ago, we noticed that students were often in zombie mode during finals—staying up way too late, not eating, and definitely not having any fun, so we decided to organize our own study break for them," says Jon Webster, the senior director of Dining Services. "We have gotten more and more extreme with the event every year; this year, we turned off all the overhead lights and used strobe lights, desk lamps, and glow sticks to light the meal. We also had a disco ball and music…and it seemed, at least for a little while, the stress of finals was an afterthought for the students."

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Two Caltech Seniors Win Watson Fellowships

Janani Mandayam Comar and Aaron Krupp join the 47th class of Watson fellows

Caltech seniors Janani Mandayam Comar and Aaron Krupp have been named 2015 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship winners. Each fellowship is a grant of $30,000 awarded to seniors graduating from a selected group of colleges. According to the Watson Foundation's website, "Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States for one year and embrace the ensuing journey. They decide where to go, who to meet and when to change course." Fifty fellows were selected from a pool of nearly 700 candidates.

 

Janani Mandayam Comar is a biology major from Downers Grove, Illinois. During her Watson year abroad, she will be using Bharatanatyam, a classic dance form from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, to reflect the experiences of various "outsider" communities. "Bharatanatyam was originally an exclusively female way of connecting with God," Comar says. "It was revived in the early 1900s as a way to tell stories through movement, and it is now danced by both men and women, and is no longer confined to Indian communities."

In Australia, Comar will be working with the transgender community, whose situation is in some ways mirrored by traditional Indian culture. "Hindu mythology has a lot of transgender elements although the subject is taboo in modern Indian society," she explains. In South Africa, home of the oldest expatriate Indian community in the world, Comar will investigate the role that Indian women played during apartheid, and in Malaysia, a country where human trafficking is still common, she will work with nongovernmental organizations that assist trafficked women in order to tell their stories. Finally, in Buenos Aires, she plans to join a studio teaching Bharatanatyam. "They're working in a foreign culture where it had not previously been appreciated," she says. "The situation has parallels to women's efforts to break into STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields, especially in male-dominated societies like Argentina."

Comar will be entering an MD/PhD program on her return to the United States and plans to become a physician-scientist, eventually as a professor at a medical school. 

 

Aaron Krupp of Needham, Massachusetts, is a mechanical engineering major. Over the next year, he will be working on low-tech projects to improve the quality of life on the most basic level at sites in India, Southeast Asia, and Nepal. In India, he plans to help manufacture durable roofing tiles out of recycled cardboard. He also will be working near refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border to help develop charcoal-based drinking-water filtration systems, and in Nepal, he will be assembling used bicycle parts into lever-driven, variable-torque all-terrain wheelchairs.

"I am getting involved in small components of projects that are already underway," says Krupp, who currently has no post-Watson plans. For example, the water filters are the product of a lab at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where Krupp worked last summer, and the off-roading wheelchairs are an MIT project that he first encountered in 2013 while working at a hospital in rural Haiti after the magnitude-7.0 earthquake. 

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Caltech Students and Alumni Receive NSF Graduate Research Fellowships

This year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected 31 current Caltech students and 12 alumni to receive its Graduate Research Fellowships. The awards support three years of graduate study within a five-year fellowship period in research-based master's or doctoral programs in science or engineering.

The NSF notes that the Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) "is a critical program in NSF's overall strategy to develop the globally-engaged workforce necessary to ensure the nation's leadership in advancing science and engineering research and innovation."

Caltech's awardees for 2015 are seniors Bridget Connor, Boyu Fan, Mark Greenfield, Bryan He, Adam Jermyn, Robert F. Johnson, Ellen Price, Charles Tschirhart, Max Wang, Benjamin Wang, Caroline Werlang, Patrick Yiu, and Andy J. Zhou; and graduate students Louisa Avellar, Dawna Bagherian, Kevin Cherry, Rebecca Glaudell, Elizabeth Goldstein, Denise Grunenfelder, Nina Gu, Elizabeth Holman, Erik Jue, Kyle Metcalfe, Kelsey Poremba, Denise Schmitz, Rebekah Silva, Chanel Valiente, Grigor Varuzhanyan, Ryan Witkosky (also an alumnus), Emily Wyatt, and Nicole Xu. Caltech alumni in the 2015 class of Graduate Fellows are Karen Dowling, Melissa Hubisz, Pawel Latawiec, Laura Lindzey, Katja Luxem, Rocio Mercado, Bertrand Ottino-Loffler, David Sell, Benjamin Suslick, Jordan Theriot, Ryan Thorngren, and Matthew Voss.

In total this year, the NSF selected 2,000 GRFP recipients from a pool of 16,500 applicants. Caltech's Fellowships Advising & Study Abroad Office works with current students and recent Caltech graduates interested in applying for an NSF fellowship, sponsoring a panel discussion of previous winners each fall and offering one-on-one advising. 

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Two Caltech Seniors Win Hertz Fellowships

Adam Jermyn and Charles Tschirhart join the 51st class of Hertz fellows

Caltech seniors Adam Jermyn and Charles Tschirhart have been named 2015 Hertz Fellowship winners. Selected from a pool of approximately 800 applicants, the awardees will receive up to five years of support for their graduate studies. According to the Hertz Foundation, fellows are chosen for their intellect, their ingenuity, and their potential to bring meaningful improvement to society. Jermyn and Tschirhart bring the number of Caltech undergraduate Hertz fellows to 60.

Adam Jermyn, a physics major from Longmeadow, Massachusetts, works with so-called "emergent phenomena," which "is a broad term referring to situations where we know all of the laws on a fundamental level but where there are so many pieces working together that the consequences aren't known," he says. For example, the basic laws governing fluid mechanics are simple equations that relate such easily measured quantities as density, velocity, and temperature to one another, but simulating the behavior of two gases as they mix in a turbulent flow can tax the capacity of a supercomputer.

Jermyn's senior thesis models how a pulsar—a type of celestial radio source that flashes as fast as a thousand times per second—disrupts the atmosphere of a companion star. Pulsars are neutron stars—supernova cinders that pack the mass of a couple of suns into a sphere roughly the size of Manhattan. The spin imparted by the supernova's explosion and equally violent collapse creates a beam of tightly focused radio waves. If a neutron star were "aimed" at Earth, the beam's fleeting illumination would register as a flash in our radio telescopes every time it swept across us. Meanwhile, the pulsar's intense gravity distorts the companion star, creating a bulge on its surface. Like Earth's moon, the star's rotation is tidally locked, always presenting the same side to its dominant neighbor. The companion star's atmosphere gets siphoned away, layer by layer, forming a turbulent tendril of gas that winds in an ever-tightening spiral around the pulsar as the stolen material accretes onto its surface.

Charles Tschirhart of Naperville, Illinois, is a double major in applied physics and chemistry. His interests lie at the opposite end of the scale—in the world of nanotechnology, where lengths are measured in nanometers, or billionths of a meter. In the summer of 2012, he was part of a team that built nanoelectrodes—tiny silicon needles that penetrate a cell wall without damaging the cell to monitor the electrical activity within.

Tschirhart and Jermyn share an interest in fluid mechanics. "I think the biggest difference between what Adam and I do is that he is a theorist, and I am an experimentalist," Tschirhart says. "Physicists pretend that a fluid is a continuum of infinitely divisible matter and thus doesn't have any 'graininess' to it." But because atoms and molecules do have finite sizes, "once you get down to small enough scales," he says, "even water becomes 'grainy.'" The fluid becomes more viscous, as it takes effort to force the grains past one another. For his senior thesis, Tschirhart determined the nanoviscosity of silicone oil by measuring the thickness of a thin film of oil, smearing it even thinner with a stream of air and measuring its thickness again. The thickness should decrease in a linear manner, but this doesn't happen when the layer gets thin enough. "These films aren't much thicker than the size of a molecule," he says. "This is where noncontinuum effects show up." These effects could affect how engineers approach tasks as diverse as lubricating hard drives and extracting crude oil from porous rocks.

Both students took Physics 11, a course taught by the late Professor Thomas Tombrello. Tombrello launched this class in 1989 to teach encourage freshman to think creatively, and taught it annually until his death in September 2014. This year, Jermyn and Tschirhart are helping teach it. "Physics 11 really shaped the way I ask questions, and I have Tom Tombrello to thank for that," says Jermyn. "He pushed us to think about things obliquely," Tschirhart concurs. "After I got over my initial nerves, I found myself enjoying [the two rounds of Hertz interviews], which made it much easier to answer the questions creatively."

Both plan to defer their Hertz doctoral fellowships while they take advanced degrees in England. Tschirhart will be attending the University of Nottingham as a Fulbright Scholar for one year, where he plans to develop new applications for atomic force microscopy, a powerful technique for "photographing" nanoscale objects. Jermyn will be at the University of Cambridge for two years as a Marshall Scholar investigating the processes by which planets form around binary star systems.

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Caltech Space Challenge: Mission to an Asteroid in Lunar Orbit

For one week at the end of March, 32 students from 20 universities and 14 countries came to Caltech for an intensive training experience in space mission design: the Caltech Space Challenge. Organizers hand-selected the undergraduate and graduate students from a pool of 220 applicants and created two "dream teams" of engineers, scientists, and designers to face off in a competition to see who could design the best mission.

This year, the teams—Team Explorer and Team Voyager—were tasked with designing a manned mission to an asteroid placed in orbit around the moon. Aside from determining details such as the best type of vehicle to use, the optimal launch date, and how to keep the astronauts safe, each team was asked to explain how its mission would explore and make use of the asteroid to enable future missions to more distant locales, such as Mars.

The Space Challenge takes place at Caltech every two years. For the inaugural challenge in 2011, participants designed a manned mission to a near-Earth asteroid. Two years later, the challenge involved planning a mission to one of Mars's moons.

This year, organizers based the challenge on NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), proposed for launch in 2020. The concept of that mission is to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid, have it remove a large boulder from the asteroid's surface, and then move it into a lunar orbit. A version of a mission originally considered by the Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) at Caltech, NASA's ARM is part of a larger strategy to use asteroids as a stepping-stone to manned missions to Mars and beyond.

"KISS came up with this idea to redirect an asteroid and bring it here as a way to fulfill President Obama's vision of people going to an asteroid by 2025," explains Hayden Burgoyne, a graduate student in space engineering at Caltech and one of two student lead organizers for this year's challenge. "Basically, they said, 'It's hard to send people to an asteroid; it's easier to bring an asteroid to us.' But people are looking toward the end goal of Mars, and they want to know how the Asteroid Redirect Mission will help us get there. So we framed this challenge as a resource utilization challenge to show how this resource that they bring back—this asteroid—can be used to benefit future human exploration."

Throughout the week, the students attended lectures delivered by scientists and engineers from JPL and the aerospace industry on topics related to the challenge, such as mission formulation, human space exploration, asteroid mining, and chemical propulsion. They were also able to consult with mentors working in related fields who were available to help the teams troubleshoot.

"Basically, we brought together the best of the best," says Niccolo Cymbalist, a graduate student in aeronautics at Caltech and the event's other student lead organizer. "But one of the neat things is that the students had the opportunity to interact with sort of their future selves. The speakers and mentors who came in from JPL and from industry are also at the top of their fields, and many participants from previous years have gone on to work in space-related fields."

This year, the teams also had the opportunity to complete a half-day formalized study with a group in the Innovation Foundry at JPL, known as the A-Team. These JPL scientists and engineers help explore, develop, and evaluate early mission concepts and were able to advise the students on science, implementation, and programmatic elements of their respective missions.

At the end of the week, both teams turned in written reports and presented their mission concepts to an audience that included jurors from Caltech, JPL, the Planetary Society, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, and Millennium Space Systems.

In their mission plans, both groups opted to use two rockets—one to launch scientific cargo and another at a later date to deliver the crew. They also both decided that three astronauts would be optimal for this mission.

Beyond those similarities, though, the two teams had quite different approaches to the challenge. Team Explorer had the idea to use an autonomous swarm of robots to characterize the topology of the asteroid and to collect samples both at the surface and at depth, using a specially designed chamber to extract volatiles. They planned to purify water found on the asteroid, demonstrating that it could be used in a variety of ways, including to water a lettuce garden—something that might capture the attention of the general public. The mission would also determine whether the asteroid could be used as a resource depot for other missions, or as part of the Deep Space Network to help facilitate communication between Earth and operating spacecraft.

In contrast, Team Voyager planned to join their mission's cargo and crew vehicles with an inflatable habitat brought along as cargo once their astronauts reached the asteroid. The astronauts would then spend five days using a robotic arm to drill and to conduct seismic surveys as they determined whether it was safe to explore the asteroid further. They also would bring a suite of scientific instruments with them, including a device to extract oxygen, hydrogen, and methanol from the asteroid, and they would collect and return samples to Earth from the asteroid's subsurface core. Team Voyager's plan for engaging the public included social media and a live feed from a 3-D HD 360-degree camera mounted on an astronaut's helmet.

The organizers say both teams presented outstanding missions. "I was blown away by the quality of the work that the students produced," says Burgoyne.

The final results were presented at a closing reception and banquet at the Athenaeum on March 27. In the end, Team Voyager came out slightly ahead of Team Explorer. According to the jury, the deciding factor was Team Voyager's presentation and success in turning their technically detailed report into a compelling story for the audience.

Alicia Lanz, a member of Team Voyager and a graduate student in physics at Caltech, says the best part of the experience was meeting and working with people from various parts of the world and with different scientific training. "It was so interesting to learn from people with different backgrounds and to see everyone work together to create a viable mission that was greater than anything a single individual could have contributed," she says. "The Caltech Space Challenge was an amazing opportunity."

The student technical lead for this year's Space Challenge was Jay Qi, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Caltech. The faculty advisor was Beverley McKeon, professor of aeronautics at Caltech and associate director of the Graduate Aerospace Laboratories of the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT). Leon Alkalai of JPL was the program mentor. The Space Challenge is organized by GALCIT and supported by Caltech and its Division of Engineering and Applied Science, JPL, KISS, and corporate sponsors including Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Millennium Space Systems, and AGI.

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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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