Adventures in Engineering Outreach—From Morocco to Afghanistan

Colonel Stephen Ressler, P.E., Ph.D., U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Friday, February 8, 2008

Spanos Auditorium

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MP3 (30 MB)

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

In 2004, Colonel Ressler traveled to Morocco to participate in the Discovery Channel documentary, "Superweapons of the Ancient World." He led a seven-person team of engineers and craftsmen charged with designing, building, and testing a full-scale working replica of a 1st-century Roman battering ram. Ressler will describe how his team researched and designed the machine and then overcame daunting challenges to construct it under austere conditions on location in Morocco. He will also provide some reflections on the role that engineering can play in informing our understanding of history. Three years later, Ressler deployed to Afghanistan to establish a civil engineering program at the newly created National Military Academy of Afghanistan in Kabul. This project involved recruiting, hiring, and training Afghan faculty; designing a relevant curriculum; developing the associated coursework; and establishing laboratories. Ressler will describe the challenges and rewards of engineering capacity-building in a country that has been devastated by nearly three decades of war and repressive governments. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of the common themes that emerge from these disparate projects - most notably the critical importance of cultural awareness, creativity, and adaptability in the conduct of engineering in the developing world.

About the Speaker

Colonel Stephen Ressler, is Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point. He holds a B.S. from USMA and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from Lehigh University. As a commissioned officer in the Army, Colonel Ressler has served in a variety of military engineering assignments. He is a master parachutist and a registered professional engineer in Virginia. During his 16 years as a member of the West Point faculty, he has taught courses in engineering mechanics, structural engineering, and professional practice. He also served as the Academy's Vice Dean for Education for one year. In his current position as Department Head, he supervises 40 faculty members, two ABET-accredited engineering programs, and two research centers. Colonel Ressler is active in engineering education. He has served on six national-level committees of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), with responsibilities in the areas of educational policy, accreditation, and faculty development. He serves as an ABET program evaluator and as Program Coordinator for ASCE's ExCEEd (Excellence in Civil Engineering Education) Teaching Workshop. He is the developer and director of the West Point Bridge Design Contest, a nationwide Internet-based engineering competition that has engaged over 50,000 middle school and high school students since 2001. He has published over sixty articles on engineering accreditation, curriculum assessment, faculty development, teaching techniques, K-12 engineering outreach, and information technology. COL Ressler is a winner of the ASCE President's Medal, the ASCE ExCEEd Leadership Award, the Society of American Military Engineers Bliss Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Engineering Education, the American Association of Engineering Societies Norman Augustine Award for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Communications, the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Distinguished Educator Award, the Premier Award for Excellence in Engineering Education Courseware, the ASEE Dow Outstanding New Faculty Award, the EDUCOM Medal for application of information technology in education, and five ASEE division-level best paper awards. He was one of Engineering News Record's "Top 25 Newsmakers Who Served Construction" in 2000 and was named an Honorary Member of ASCE in 2005.