After 13 years as dean of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, Robert Dryden is stepping down. As a tribute to his years of work for Portland State, a 90-foot-tall tower, which will help the engineering school examine how objects fall in low gravity, will be built in his honor. Engineering students, along with help from professor Mark Weislogel, will be in charge of the overall design and construction of the “Dryden Drop Tower,” which will be used for NASA-funded research. Weislogel hopes that construction on the state-of-the-art tower will start sometime winter term, with a projected completion date of spring 2009.
After 13 years as dean of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, Robert Dryden is stepping down.
As a tribute to his years of work for Portland State, a 90-foot-tall tower, which will help the engineering school examine how objects fall in low gravity, will be built in his honor.
Engineering students, along with help from professor Mark Weislogel, will be in charge of the overall design and construction of the “Dryden Drop Tower,” which will be used for NASA-funded research. Weislogel hopes that construction on the state-of-the-art tower will start sometime winter term, with a projected completion date of spring 2009.
When Dryden leaves his position after summer, Dick Knight, who has worked within the Oregon high-tech industry for 23 years, will serve as interim dean until a search committee replaces Dryden. After a short time away, Dryden is set to return to the university as a professor.
“He’s always been about improving and shaping Portland State into a world-class facility,” Weislogel said about the work Dryden has done to advance higher education.
Visible to allDryden, who from 1997 to 2003 also served as vice chancellor of the Oregon University System for Engineering and Computer Science, said he knew nothing about the future drop tower until it was sprung on him at a meeting. He said he is gracious and excited about what the drop tower could mean for the future of PSU academics.
One aspect of the drop tower that Dryden said he is extremely excited about is that it will be visible to anyone on the street. The tower will be built just inside the engineering building, and the large glass windows will let anyone view the experiments.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing to do for me,” Dryden said. “It is particularly special because of the opportunity to create knowledge. In addition to that it’s going to be a very visible device, not just for PSU, but also for students at all levels of education.”
Before his arrival in 1995, Dryden was the department head of the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department at Virginia Tech.
Attracting interest During his 10 years working with the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, Weislogel spent the majority of his time working directly on and with various drop towers.
According to Weislogel, the PSU drop tower will be used for NASA-funded research on the behavior of fluids in microgravity. He said that, traditionally, drop towers study how objects fall in low gravity such as space.
The drop tower will extend up all five floors of the engineering building. Weislogel said it will only take two seconds for various items to fall the total 90-foot distance.
The $140,000 project was funded by donations made to the Northwest Center for Engineering, Science and Technology.
“Not only do we want the tower to be multi-functional and super safe, but it has to look cool,” Weislogel said. “We don’t want to detract from the look of the engineering building, but add-on.”
Weislogel, along with other university officials said they hope to attract interest from across the state, using the drop tower as an outreach tool for younger students.
“We have already connected with interested schools and hope to work closely with OMSI,” Weislogel said.
Debbie Hutchins, associate director of external relations for the Maseeh College, said an idea for a drop tower was discussed during construction of the engineering building
“In constructing the new engineering building we had the tower in mind,” Hutchins said. “The drop tower was not an afterthought, we built the atrium to include the drop tower.”
Over 1,000 experiment ideasEven though construction of the drop tower is months away, Weislogel and a team of engineering students are already brainstorming possibilities of what could be done with the tower.
Weislogel said that on paper they literally have 1,000 possible tests that could be done inside the drop tower.
One of the ways Weislogel feels the Dryden drop tower could separate itself from others, would be to make the tower “manrated” compatible.
“Manrated,” means the drop tower would allow an actual human to ride alongside their experiment in low gravity, letting them travel with the test in real time.
“Liability alone might kill the idea,” Weislogel said. “But that example just shows how open we are to new ideas and ways to become more interactive with our experiments.”