sealPurdue Story Ideas

JOURNALISTS: Here are story ideas and a list of selected Purdue events during the next two weeks.

July 29, 2002

Purdue mechanical engineering students
roll out entertainment vehicle for handicapped

On Tuesday (7/30), Purdue University senior mechanical engineering students will roll out a device that would allow wheelchair-bound people better access to amusement park rides.

Journalists are invited to attend a presentation of the "assisted entertainment vehicle" beginning at 9 a.m. on the mall outside the Mechanical Engineering Building. Students who designed, developed and built the prototype will conduct a trial run demonstration on a simulated ride following the presentation.

Twenty-five students in senior design class 463 designed, built and tested the vehicle and a docking device interface during their eight-week summer class in anticipation of changes in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Changes in the law will require theme parks to make 20 percent of their rides handicap accessible.

Initial test runs on the prototype have all been successful.

John Nolfi, manager of the university's Product Engineering and Realization Laboratory in the School of Mechanical Engineering, said he selected the project for the class based on an idea submitted by Chuck Flueck of Lexington, Ky. Flueck had just finished an internship with Imagineering, a division of the Walt Disney Co. that designs and develops amusement and theme park rides. Aware of pending ADA changes, Flueck proposed creating a docking device that would allow people in wheelchairs to lock into high-motion rides that are either retrofitted or newly developed with the Purdue-designed interface, Nolfi said.

"Our goal was to create a method that allows the user to access rides by themselves with maximum dignity," Nolfi said. "It is absolutely amazing to me our students designed this device and it worked the first time. Prototypes almost never work the first time out. I'm continually amazed by our students."

CONTACT: John Nolfi, (765) 765-496-7869 or (765) 474-0078,

More than 1,000 students to graduate in August

Commencement ceremonies at Purdue's West Lafayette campus will begin at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, in the Elliott Hall of Music. Approximately 1,200 students will receive degrees.

Purdue President Martin C. Jischke will be the commencement speaker. Purdue Alumni Association President Phillip A. Waid also will speak. Emily M. Cline of West Lafayette, Ind., will provide the student response. She will earn a bachelor's degree from the School of Agriculture.

This will be the 187th commencement ceremony at Purdue. The university has recognized summer graduates at the West Lafayette campus every year since 1984.

Journalists who wish to cover commencement will need a ticket and are asked to reserve camera space. Contact Jesica Webb, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2079,

Purdue Civil Engineering recruits record number of women grad students for next fall

Purdue University's incoming crop of civil engineering graduate students next fall will contain an unusually high percentage of women.

Out of 98 students enrolled for master's and doctoral programs in the School of Civil Engineering, 30 are women – nearly 31 percent. That compares with 15 women out of 88 incoming students last fall, said Marcie Duffin, administrative assistant for graduate programs in the school.

Duffin credits the increase in next year's female enrollment to recruiting efforts geared specifically toward women applicants, who might otherwise feel intimidated or alienated when entering a field traditionally dominated by men. Duffin said she provides women applicants with information about housing and other information and introduces them to women civil engineering students, who can talk about issues of special interest to women, such as campus security.

Last year's graduating class of 106 master's and doctoral civil engineering students included 16 women, or 15 percent. In 2000 the ratio was 85 to 14, or 16 percent. Out of Purdue's total current enrollment of 273 civil engineering graduate students, 32, or about 12 percent, are women.

Increasing the percentage of women students in civil engineering dovetails with other efforts to improve the level of diversity at Purdue.

CONTACT: Marcie Duffin, (765) 494-2156,

WBAA joins 'Tools for Schools' campaign

The costs of sending children back to school can be prohibitive for many low-income families. To ease the financial burden, WBAA Radio is helping to organize the "Tools for Schools" campaign to gather school supplies and clothing for low-income children in Greater Lafayette.

Organizers are available to talk about the campaign and the need within the community. There also are video and photo opportunities during the collection and distribution of supplies.

The supplies and new or gently used clothing for the "Tools for Schools" campaign will be distributed on Saturday, Aug. 10, from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Salvation Army, 1110 Union St., Lafayette, and from 1-3 p.m. at the Community and Family Resource Center, 330 Fountain St., Lafayette.

Boxes have been placed at several drop-off sites throughout Greater Lafayette and on the Purdue campus.

CONTACT: Dan Skinner, WBAA director, (765) 494-3960,; Tracie Hughes, WBAA development coordinator, (765) 496-7794,; Natalie Kubat, emergency services director at the Community and Family Resource Center, (765) 742-5046,; and Dege Coutee, Salvation Army director of social services, (765) 742-0006.

Purdue Day at the Indiana State Fair

Purdue University is packing up for Purdue Day at the Indiana State Fair on Wednesday, Aug. 14. While the School of Agriculture has been a well-known presence at the State Fair, this will mark the first time in Purdue history that a majority of the various schools and departments will be represented at the fair to showcase new research and technology.

Purdue President Martin C. Jischke will join more than 300 university staff and students, who also will be participating in the event. Purdue personalities and special alums – such as astronaut Jerry Ross, and Miss Indiana Tangra Riggle (a Purdue student) also are expected to attend. Sights and sounds will include Purdue cheerleaders, the "All-American" Marching Band and the Boilermaker Special.

Guests staying from 5-6:30 p.m. can join the "rally on Main Street Stage," with remarks by Jischke and Purdue dignitaries. Guests will have the opportunity to enter drawings and win free tickets to a Purdue football game, which will be announced at the rally.

Journalists needing assistance during Purdue Day at the Indiana State Fair can contact Beth Forbes, Purdue Agricultural Communications, (765) 427-5179 (cell); or Jesica Webb, Purdue News Service, (765) 491-1460 (cell).

CONTACT: Dana Neary, Purdue Day co-organizer, (765) 494-1113,; Beth Forbes, (765) 494-2722,; Jesica Webb, (765) 494-2079,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page