Creativity, scholarship, research reign at Steinmetz Day

Publication Date

As a middle blocker on Union’s volleyball team, Alaina Thaxter ’19 has seen her share of questionable calls by referees. While many of those calls involve whether the ball hit the line, a fair number occur when an official is trying to determine if a player’s hand illegally touched the net.

It’s a judgment call, so players have little recourse to overturn an official’s decision.

“I’ve been called for touching the net when I haven’t,” said Thaxter, who has been playing volleyball since she was 12. “I’ve also not been called when I have touched the net. It’s definitely an issue. There’s instant replay in most other sports, but no accuracy system for volleyball.”

Combining her love of the sport with her background as an electrical engineering major, Thaxter, under the direction of her adviser, Takashi Buma, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, designed a low-cost battery-powered monitoring system that can detect whether a ball or hand comes in contact with the net.

Emily Coello '20 was one of hundreds of students who presented at Steinmetz Day Friday.

Emily Coello '20 was one of hundreds of students who presented at Steinmetz Day Friday.

A resident of Cobleskill, N.Y., Thaxter was one of nearly 500 students who showcased their academic interests and talents during the 29th annual Steinmetz Symposium Friday.

The activities began with a corporate breakfast in Old Chapel featuring remarks by Anne M. McEntee, CEO of GE’s Renewable Energy Digital Services.

Following tradition, classes were canceled to allow faculty, staff, students and visiting parents to sample projects in all fields – the arts, humanities, social sciences, sciences and engineering.

Organized by Chad Orzel, the R. Gordon Gould Associate Professor of Physics and director of undergraduate research, the all-day event included a diverse lineup of oral presentations, poster sessions and exhibits highlighting student research as well as a dance performance, musical concerts, an art exhibit and other activities.

Derek Khnaizir ’19 was among a group of students who highlighted their projects during a poster session in Schaffer Library. An economics major from Randolph, Mass, Khnaizir explained the global impact of the U.S. economy.

“I wanted to do something involving the stock market and macroeconomic trends,” said Khnaizir. His adviser was K. Jeeten Giri, visiting assistant professor of economics.

Ninety student performers participated in the annual Lothridge Festival of Dance in the packed Nott Memorial. Featured were works by Dance Program Director Miryam Moutillet, faculty members Laurie Zabele Cawley and Eric Hatch, local guest artist Joan Kilgore Anderson and Dewi Aryani of Bali.

In addition, students from Bhangra Union, the Dance Team and the African Dance, Hip Hop, In-Unison Step and Latinx clubs performed.

At the end of the show, the Edward Villella Fellowship, which allows exceptional students to expand their dance studies, was awarded to dance minors China Campagnuolo ’20 and Rebekah Lindsey ’21. Campagnuolo, who is majoring in Spanish and Hispanic Studies, will pursue her passion for tap by attending classes at the American Tap Dance Foundation and the Broadway Dance Center in New York City. Lindsey, a psychology major with an interest in the aerialist dance form, will take private and group classes at the Aerial Arts in New York City.

Also, visitors checked out the annual Visual Arts Student Art Exhibition, a display of 165 works by students from a wide variety of majors and all class years, fills the Crowell and West Galleries in the Feigenbaum Center for Visual Arts.

Curated by Visual Arts faculty, the exhibit includes works created in classes in digital art, design, drawing, painting, photography, sculpture and video.

This year, a special event for Steinmetz Day brought back to campus James Loree ’80, president and CEO of Stanley Black & Decker; Richard Templeton ’80, chairman, president and CEO of Texas Instruments; and Devin Wenig ’88, president and CEO of eBay. The three discussed “Developing Leaders for an Uncertain Tomorrow.” President David R. Harris moderated the conversation, which was held in the Stanley O’Brien ’74 Center for Collaboration and Engagement.

Union was recently included among the top 30 schools that graduated the most current CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. The College was the smallest school to make the list.

The day wrapped up with a concert in Memorial Chapel featuring the Union College Chorale and the Union College and Community Orchestra, under the direction of Conrad Chu, lecturer in choral and orchestra music and director of performance in the Department of Music. Special tribute was paid to Hilary Tann, the John Howard Payne Professor of Music, who is retiring after nearly 40 years at Union. Both groups performed one of her choral works, "Psalm 104."

The Steinmetz Symposium is named for Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923), who taught electrical engineering and applied physics at Union. Also chief consulting engineer for the General Electric Company, he was widely regarded as America’s leading electrical engineer.

For a complete list of all presentations, visit the Steinmetz website.

A photo gallery of the weekend's event is available on Facebook.

The symposium coincides with Prize Day, which was Saturday in Memorial Chapel, followed immediately by a reception on the Reamer Campus Center patio. Students were honored for achievement in academics, research, service and governance.

Among the top awards given were the Josephine Daggett Prize to the senior for conduct and character (Emmanuela Oppong) and the Frank Bailey (1885) Prize, to the senior who has rendered the greatest service to the College in any field (Alexander Ellenthal).

A complete list of winners is available here.