Crews Respond to Fires in Two Frat. Houses

Kevin Shields woke up to a blaring noise overhead. It was 4:20 a.m., and the sound was not the alarm clock he had set.

Still tired, he walked downstairs, where he smelled smoke. When he got to the basement, he saw several small fires in the laundry room and at the back door. Sprinklers were showering the flames, so he ran back upstairs to call 9-1-1.

This was the scene at Beta Theta Pi on Friday morning at the second of two fires started in separate U fraternity houses. The first fire began in Pi Kappa Alpha around 4:13 a.m. All occupants were evacuated at both houses.

No one was injured in either incident, but the Salt Lake City Fire Department is investigating the fires as “intentionally set” arson attacks, according to Jasen Asay, the department’s spokesperson. Crews determined that an accelerant, such as gasoline, was used to start both fires.

There are currently no suspects, but crews are looking at neighborhood surveillance videos for evidence. Investigators are unsure whether the two incidents are connected, but they are looking into that possibility.

Asay said whoever started the fires entered the houses. In Pi Kappa Alpha, the arsonist likely entered the structure through an unlocked door near the fire escape. Crews were able to contain the flames to a third-floor game room, but there was “heavy damage.” Fraternity members will not be able to stay in the house overnight.

In the Beta Theta Pi house, Asay said the arsonist probably came in through an unlocked door leading to the basement. There was mostly water damage from the sprinklers in the room, which Utah Disaster Clean-Up helped clear later in the day.

Shields, president of the Beta fraternity, said the basement fire was about six inches away from the water heater and gas line, which could have caused more damage, had they caught.

“If the sprinklers didn’t get to it, we wouldn’t have much of a house left,” he said.

Shields considers the fraternity lucky because all of the residents who typically sleep in the basement rooms at Beta Theta Pi were out on vacation. Now he’s feeling a mix of emotions, but mainly “shock that somebody would do that,” referring to the arson suspicion.

Chase Fratto, president of Pi Kappa Alpha, could not be reached for comment. A cost estimate to the damage is unknown at this time.

If you have any information, the fire department is asking that you call (801) 799-3000.

The Utah Chronicle will update this story when more information is available.


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U Faculty Get Involved in Clean Water Project in Pakistan

The U is partnering with Mehran University of Engineering and Technology in Pakistan to provide clean water solutions for one of the most water-stressed countries in the world.

Water is one of the most treasured resources on this planet, and clean water is even more valuable. The U.S. Agency for International Development is funding this five-year project to improve water security and quality, while also teaching Pakistani engineers about sustainable development.

Mike Hardman, chief global officer at the U, said that the venture is both a research project and a teaching project.

“Improving the quality of life in Pakistan is the ultimate goal,” Hardman said.

USAID sent out a call to universities for proposals on how to improve access to water, energy and food. Tariq Banuri, professor of Economics and Associate Director of the USAID Partner Center for Advanced Studies in Water, is from Pakistan and helped provide cultural knowledge. U professors provided the skills and the U was chosen to receive the grant. The U will be helping with the water aspect of the three-part program to improve Pakistan.

Water-borne diseases account for about 60 percent of child deaths in Pakistan and 15.9 million people do not have access to safe water. Banuri said climate change has worsened the problem with increased frequency and length of droughts and more recurrent floods. These effects have made it difficult to find clean water in a low-cost way.

To combat these problems, professors will improve flood forecasting methods and groundwater retrieval while keeping energy use and costs low. Professors from various disciplines are involved in the project and the U is also collaborating with professors from Colorado State University, City College of New York, Stockholm Environment Institute and the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, Netherlands.

Climate change will eventually affect Utah as well, so any techniques learned in the desert climate of Pakistan can later be applied here, Banuri said.

The project will not only benefit Utah, but benefit the entire globe. This is part of the reason U President David Pershing has put emphasis on creating more international ties, Hardman said.

Students and professors from Mehran University will be working side-by-side with U professors in Pakistan as well as coming to Utah to continue their education. While the U hopes to send students to Pakistan, Banuri said current security standards limit this possibility. As the political state of Pakistan improves, the U will be sending students over as well.

While the primary goal is to provide cheaper, cleaner and more reliable water, USAID is also hoping to increase gender equality in Pakistan by working with high school students and hiring more female faculty in the area.

Female engineer numbers are low around the world and are especially low in Pakistan. USAID wants to increase the percentage of female engineer students at Mehran University to 50 percent.



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Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage but the fight’s not over yet

Social media erupted in rainbows and the hashtag #LoveWins after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees same-sex marriage as a right in all states.

The nation’s reaction varied from excited to critical after Friday’s decision brought same-sex marriage to the remaining 14 states where it was illegal. Although there has been some resistance from lawmakers, U professor of law Clifford Rosky said marriages will soon proceed throughout the U.S. unimpeded, as states have no authority to invalidate a federal Supreme Court ruling.

While some Supreme Court rulings, like Brown v. Education, were difficult to enforce, marriage licenses require only a photocopier and a county clerk willing to comply with the law, Rosky said.

“County clerks that don’t want to administer marriage licenses to same-sex couples have an easy decision to make. They can either go to jail or they can resign their job, but there’s not some third option where they get to stay county clerks and discriminate against same-sex couples,” Rosky said.

Same-sex marriage suits reach as far back as the 1970s. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority’s decision celebrating the achievement.

“No longer may this liberty be denied,” Kennedy wrote. “The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.”

Not everyone was happy with the ruling, however.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in a dissent to the decision, “The court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the states and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia…Who do we think we are?”

Beyond redefining marriage, the court’s dissenting judges listed concerns over the protection of religious liberties and a violation of people’s rights to democratically decide the legality of same-sex marriage.

“It’s true that most things are decided by the democratic process, but we also know that some things aren’t,” Rosky said. “The Supreme Court has always said that marriage is a fundamental right and it’s always said that fundamental rights are not subject to a vote.”

Conservative members of society are not the only ones concerned over the ruling, however. Individuals who identify as bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual voiced their concerns online that allies and more mainstream gay and lesbian may think the fight for equality is over.

Alex Vermillion, a senior in English, said there are still other concerns, such as transgender rights, healthcare, availability of gender-neutral bathrooms, poverty and the higher rates of rape and sexual abuse that non-heterosexual and cisgender people face.

“We are not even close to done. Not even close. If you consider yourself an ally,” Vermillion said. “Marriage does not solve everything. Don’t stand down yet. We are still angry.”

Rosky said there is now a need to improve the state’s hate crime laws to protect LGBTQIA* citizens, which he refers to as “broken” and written in a way “no one could be prosecuted under.” Rosky also said there is a need for legislation directed at public accommodations, where businesses can refuse to serve customers based on things like race and sexual orientation.

According to a report done by FOX13, in response to the decision, a Utah lawmaker drafted a bill that may appear in the next legislative session that would remove the state’s involvement in marriage entirely. The sponsor and wording are unconfirmed.

“It’s not exactly a coincidence that the proposal is coming up now that gay marriage is legal,” Rosky said. “It’s like heterosexual people got all of these benefits but all of a sudden when gay people get to have them, well we’re going to take them away from everyone.”

Rosky said it’s unlikely the motion will pass.

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U Professor Wins Mayor’s Artist Award for Literary Arts

Jeff Metcalf, a U professor, playwright and cancer survivor, is now an award-winning author.

Metcalf was the recipient of the Mayor’s Artist Award for Literary Arts for his memoir, Requiem for the Living. In mediums from PBS to NPR, Metcalf has gained national attention for his book, which is a series of essays about his struggle with cancer and his outlook on life during that time.

Eleven years ago, Metcalf was diagnosed with cancer and was told he would have two years to live. After struggling with the disease for years, Metcalf challenged himself to write one essay a week, every week for a year.

Metcalf admitted the task was difficult. He would wake up at 4:30 AM every day for the sole purpose of writing. He began the project believing he would focus on cancer, but soon, he found his project turning into something else.

“When I got down to it, it was really a celebration of life and not a pity party about my diagnoses,” Metcalf said.

Michael McLane,a former student, said it was because of Metcalf’s dedication to teaching and helping others that McLane nominated the memoir for the Mayor’s Artist Award.

“He’s somebody who has worked tirelessly on behalf of other writers and teachers of literature for over 40 years now and hasn’t received that much credit for what he’s done,” McLane said.

In addition, McLane also nominated Metcalf for the career he has spent teaching literature, as well as for the work he has done and is currently doing.

Prior to the publication of his memoir, Metcalf wrote a one-man play, entitled “A Slight Discomfort”, that he described as a “comedy about cancer.” The play has been performed in theaters and at medical conferences for seven years. In addition, Metcalf has plans for future publications and said Requiem for the Living is only the beginning.







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Examining the Need for Gender Neutral Bathrooms on Campus


(photo from ‘


For many students at the U, using a bathroom on campus is only as hard as finding a relatively clean one.

For others, it’s more complicated than that. There are few restrooms accessible for families, people with disabilities and individuals who are gender nonconforming. Although there have been steps taken to address this issue, such as last year’s inclusion of a gender-neutral restroom in the library, these single stalls can be difficult to locate or have restricted access.

While it may seem strange to place such importance on bathrooms, a lack of accessible space can have severe consequences for these individuals. According to a 2011 survey of over 6,000 transgender people from the National Center for Trans Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, over half the participants reported being harassed and 10 percent were attacked in public spaces like restrooms.

Additionally, not having accessible bathrooms for all people can deter someone from going somewhere that doesn’t have proper accommodations. This goes beyond needing a wheelchair accessible stall, which is required by law. According to American Restroom Association, people who need extra privacy due to things like shy-bladder or an ostomy pouch – a medical device that collects waste from a surgically diverted system – benefit from unisex restrooms. And for families, single-stall bathrooms can allow for greater mobility for parents to care for their children while maintaining their family’s safety and privacy.

Shireen Ghorbani, a communications specialist in Facilities Management, said it’s important to have different voices weighing in to analyze these new projects. Organizations like the U’s access committee, which include members from Disability Services, look over new projects and potential renovations to highlight areas on campus that could be more accessible. For example, Ghorbani said lactation rooms were added to some buildings for women who are breastfeeding so that they can do so privately if they wish.

Ghorbani said the lack of a variety of restrooms comes from two main issues, the first being a historical precedent.

“For a very long time even ADA accessible or wheelchair accessible bathrooms were sort of just wedged into existing buildings because they were built before that code even ever existed,” Ghorbani said.

Plumbing also acts as a roadblock to constructing new bathrooms. While pricing varies on size, age of the building and extent of the project, a new or remodeled bathroom can cost thousands of dollars.

“Any time that we have the opportunity to remodel a space, looking at putting in another stall next to existing bathrooms or even in areas where there isn’t one can be a pretty expensive rework,” Ghorbani said. “That certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing it or aren’t looking at it because we are, but I would say that’s the biggest challenge.”

Ghorbani said students can also help to create a more safe and inviting space for everyone on campus by “raising awareness about the vast diversity on our campus and having a little bit of awareness and sensibility.”

“For example, if you don’t really need that single-stall bathroom, make sure that space stays open as much as possible for the people who really do need it,” Ghorbani said.

Ghorbani said that Facilities Management hopes to integrate a list of spaces like unisex bathrooms and lactation rooms onto the campus map in order to make them more accessible to more students soon.

For a complete map of campus lactation rooms and family friendly restrooms, visit For a complete list with directions and additional information on unisex restrooms, visit

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The Top 10 Gen-Ed Classes

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Incoming students can practically taste the freedom that comes with picking your own classes in college. However, choosing the right courses that fill your general education requirements can sometimes be a struggle.

By looking at course and professor feedback, we’ve done the hard part for you. Here are the top 10 best general education courses at the U.

1. International Requirement: Language of Color

While it might sound trivial, Kelly Keddington, an academic advisor at the U, said this class fill up fast.

“Everyone loves that class,” she said.

Language of Color can be taken online or in a face-to-face classroom setting, and it fills your international requirement. The class description promises that “cultural identity is addressed through a review of color as a function of global marketing strategies and Internet communications.”

2. Humanities Exploration: Business 1050 with Alan Sandomir

Business 1050 sounds boring and dry, but the reason it scored so highly in feedback was because of the professor. Alan Sandomir is one of the highest rated professors at the U on

One student evaluation described his class as “the best the U of U has to offer in terms of teaching and helping you intellectually grow.”

This class also serves as a pre-requisite for most other business classes, if that’s what you’re planning to study.

3. Humanities Exploration: Classical Mythology

This class fills up quickly because of the subject matter. Students get to learn about Athena and Zeus, and so much more for a some humanities fun.

4. Behavioral Sciences Exploration: Human Sexuality with Andrew Montgomery

This class also ranks highly because of the professor. In course feedback, one student wrote: “I barely cracked the textbook [because] he was the best teacher I have had. He explains everything thoroughly.”

This will easily knock out a behavioral science credit for your general education requirements.

5. Fine Arts Exploration: Acting 1 for Non-Majors with Robert Smith

Acting 1 for non-majors gives students a chance to learn about theater performance without having previous experience. You can learn to get onstage and improv with no pressure.

In course feedback, 81.5 percent of students said they “learned a great deal in the course,” and 90 percent said the “teacher demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the subject.”

6. Fine Arts Exploration: History of Rock and Roll

History of Rock and Roll has a fun and intriguing name, and it has the course material to match it.

The average grade in this class is an A, ranking it in the top three courses at the U on

7. Fine Arts Exploration: Survey of Jazz

Not into rock and roll? Try some jazz with this easy fine arts credit. Most students call this course an easy A, with assignments and exams that reflect the material taught by the professors.

8. Applied Sciences: Nutrition

Finding an applied science credit that is fairly easy, but still educational can be challenging, but this class does just that.

Without being too difficult to pass, students are pushed to learn. One of the assignments is to create your own nutrition bar as a group project.

9. Quantitative Reasoning + Humanities Exploration: Analysis of Argument

This is a popular course because it knocks out two general education requirements with one class, which can save students time and money.

The class has a mixture of ratings based on the professor. According to, Kevin Coe is the instructor of choice.

One student who posted on the site said: “Kevin was one of my favorite professors. I didn’t care or understand politics before his class, but he made the class so interesting that I learned beyond what I thought I could.”

10. International Requirement + Science Exploration: Rain Forest Ecology

This class also fills two required courses, but is still at an introductory level, so it’s not too difficult.

For science and biology majors this can also count toward your major. But note that Biology 1210 is a prerequisite for the course.


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All Roads Lead to the U

You’ve bought all your books and have your first day outfit picked out, but there’s one thing you’re forgetting: how are you planning to get to school?

The U is a large commuter school and offers a wide variety of modes to get to campus. Regardless of the direction you are coming from, there is a fast and easy way to get to class.


The TRAX Red line makes a stop at the Rice Eccles Stadium station, Tuesday, May 19th, 2015.

Driving to campus is an attractive option for many, especially those who live far away; however, due to the high price of parking passes and the limited availability of stalls because of construction, this is not always the best option. Instead, the U has partnered with UTA to provide students free access to riding the FrontRunner train, TRAX trains and buses. All you have to do is tap on with your student ID card — also known as a UCard.

Sandra Kimmy, an incoming freshman, plans to commute to the U from Provo everyday.

“Growing up in Provo I was scared that I would have ended up at BYU, but thankfully the new FrontRunner station opened and now I can bleed red,” she said.

Kimmy has visited the U several times using this mode of transit and has it all mapped out. Her ride — which includes a transfer to a bus — takes about an hour and a half one-way.

“I could drive to Salt Lake everyday, but using the train saves me stress [and] gas money, and I don’t have to deal with any traffic,” she said.

Madison Klarke, a junior in engineering, switched from driving daily to using the trains and buses to help the environment.

“I suffer from asthma and cannot stand to be in Salt Lake half the time,” she said. “I stopped driving because I want to be able to enjoy the city without having to suffer through a potential attack on my lungs. TRAX is super easy to use, and there are buses that connect everywhere.”

The U also offers separate bike paths for students to ride on. These are clearly marked and cross all over campus. There is also a repair shop located nearby — across from the Utah Museum of Fine Arts — if you need a quick fix on your bike.


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Making the Most of Your UCard

There are only so many Friday nights you can stay in to watch Netflix before getting restless. But with book prices, tuition and student fees draining funds from your wallet, it is difficult to find cheap and new ways to spend your free time.

But it’s not impossible. Students can take advantage of free on-campus events and venues with their university student ID, known as a UCard.

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A U Card

Kimberlee Briggs, a junior in sociology and theater, said she thinks students under-utilize free services at the U. She encourages freshmen to capitalize on the opportunities.

“It’s going to be more of a memory than staying in and watching Netflix is going to be,” she said. “If it sucks — no loss. The risk and reward ratio is completely in your favor.”

Briggs said she enjoys going to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, located on lower campus, and Red Butte Garden, the botanical garden in Research Park — both of which are free for students with a valid UCard. Students can also explore a world of dinosaurs and science at the Natural History Museum of Utah, located by Red Butte, which is free as well.

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UCards also count as an ArtsPass, meaning students can access most Film Department screenings, School of Music performances and ballet and modern dance recitals. Free tickets are available for musicals and plays in the U’s Babcock Theater, Studio 115 and the Pioneer Theater Company.

“Plays around the community can cost around $10-15,” Briggs said. “I saw ‘Avenue Q’ for free when they did it at Babcock, and it’s now one of my favorite plays.”

If plays and musicals aren’t for you, the U also hosts two free concerts: Redfest in the fall and the Grand Kerfuffle in the spring. The Union Programming Council also hosts ‘Crimson Nights,’ which is a free party for students with dancing and giveaways held a few times a semester.

ASUU, the student government on campus, and other organizations, such as the Hinckley Institute of Politics, host guest speakers, panels and discussions open for students.

“One of the most memorable free events I went to was a dialogue on police wearing body [cameras],” Briggs said. “Don’t just focus on the fun free parties — go to events that are about wanting to make a change. Plays and shows and museums are great but be sure to expand past yourself as well.”

You can catch free movies at the Post Theater by the dorms, with films ranging from My Neighbor Totoro” to “Silence of the Lambs.” Unlike the other events, you do not need to show your UCard to enter, and you can get candy and soda on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Each student pays fees that go towards funding these events and memberships. To find out about these free events, Briggs said first-year students should pay attention to posters and signs around them.

“Talk to people,” she said. “’Like’ pages [for student organizations] on Facebook. Be in the loop — then you decide what sounds fun.”


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Hidden Treasures Abound on the U’s Campus

The U’s campus is a treasure map dotted with small monuments, pieces of artwork and spaces tucked away from plain sight. These objects and places offer a glimpse into local and international history, which students can access for little or no cost.

One of these pieces is at the Fort Douglas Museum on upper campus. Behind the facility lies Memorial Park, site of the Utah Fallen Warrior Memorial, which includes a piece of the World Trade Center’s foundation recovered after 9/11.

Robert Voyles, the museum’s director, said the project began in 2013 when Utahn “gold star mothers” — women who have lost a child in the military — asked for a space to honor their fallen loved ones. He said the monument is “very important because it keeps that memory alive.”

The park also includes the Women’s Service Memorial. Voyles said this monument was created because “women in the military have been neglected in the way of memorials or honoring them.”

The memorial doesn’t receive many U student visitors, he said, and those who do come are typically international.

“Most students don’t even know we’re here,” Voyles said.

The museum does not charge an admission fee. Funding comes from the Utah National Guard state budget, the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington D.C. and a non-profit organization. Donations from several companies and the community provided all the money for the park’s completion.

Fort Douglas is not the only place on campus to hold internationally important objects — the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA) holds a small Egyptian sarcophagus that Luke Kelly, curator of antiquities, said is one of their most unique pieces. Visitors used to speculate that the small coffin holds a bird or an infant mummy, but Kelly said it’s actually a mud and grain effigy offered by a family to Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld, to curry favor for a deceased loved one.

“Museums throughout the world do have these coffins,” Kelly said. “Most times what would happen was as soon as someone found these and they would unwrap it and find out that it’s just mud and throw that away.”

The piece was donated by Natacha Rambova, an Egyptologist, and was one of the first pieces on display when the museum opened in the Park Building in 1951. It has been on display ever since.

UMFA also houses a statue from Thailand that casts the shadow of an elephant, an important symbol in Buddhism.

Kelly thinks the U’s museums are a wonderful opportunity for students that “never realize it’s there until [they] walk through the doors.”

Iris Moulton, the campus outreach director for UMFA, said they offer one of the broadest selections of fine art in the Intermountain West.

“It’s an important part of our mission to provide access for the community to the whole world without having to get on an airplane,” Moulton said. “We want people to feel an ownership of this museum and maybe see a reflection of themselves, or to at least learn to appreciate everything we have.”

The U also has a time capsule located outside the Union’s plaza. The capsule was lost for a period of time because no one marked where it was located after its dedication in 1959. A plaque now marks the place where it was found using sonar equipment in 2006.

The U’s history isn’t just inside museums or time capsules. Students may have noticed the bronze and acrylic book statues around the library. Chinese artist Zhao Suikang created these sculptures, in addition to the large and colorful installation on the third floor inside. The pieces reflect his experiences with the U’s book arts and special collections, including an early 9th to 11th century Arabic poetry anthology and an ancient Hebrew scroll.

The library’s grand staircase has an art glass installation by Paul Housberg that incorporates passages from pioneer diaries when the piece changes colors.

Ian Godfrey, director of facilities and operations at the Marriott Library, said funding for the projects came from Utah’s Percent for Art, which gives one percent of the cost of state buildings to commission public art.

“It’s really wonderful to see two artists who are not from Utah,” Godfrey said, “Who do not necessarily have an affiliation to the university coming and having this very strong and emotional response to collections that the library holds.”




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U Students’ Robot Takes Third Place at NASA Competition


The Utah Robotic Mining Project went into a national competition without high expectations. They left with a third place medal and $1,000.

Last month, NASA held its annual Robotic Mining Competition, to which the U brought a team for the first time. Forty-nine schools participated in the competition held at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

George Chapin, a senior in mining engineering, led the 14-member team as project manager this year.

“We thought a lot of the other teams would have a head start on us, so we went out with no expectations. We were really just excited that we built and had a functioning robot for the competition,” he said. “To be so successful really exceeded our expectations.”

He believes the team’s success came down to careful planning. Last summer the team began to fundraise for the $10,000 in necessary fees to create the robot and travel to the competition. Rio Tinto sponsored the group, with the Utah Mining Association, BIG-D Construction and Wheeler Machinery also contributing.

Chapin said companies are willing to sponsor projects and competitions like these because of the real-world experience they offer.

“It’s an investment in future engineering talent, as well as a great way to promote the mining industry,” he said.

One of the purposes behind the robot projects is to mine for water, in the form of ice, buried on the surface of Mars. In the competition, the robots must traverse the “Martian” terrain, excavate regolith (loose superficial material covering solid rock) and deposit it into a collector bin.

The qualifying goal was to get 10 kg of regolith into the bin in 10 minutes. The U’s team mined a total of 119 kg in the two 10 minute rounds of the competition.

Their team mined the second highest amount, but because they did not have an autonomous robot, they lost points. Next year, the team plans to modify and create a robot that can function with computer-automated control.

John Robe, a junior in computer engineering, was on the team this year and will be project manager for next year’s team. He was surprised to place so high in the competition and was excited to be at NASA.

“One of the biggest benefits of this competition is that everyone involved in it really gets hands-on building experience and hands-on engineering experience,” he said.

The team will bring their robot to next year’s competition in May and are looking for students from all disciplines to join. If interested, email John Robe at



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