Campus Notes for Dec. 19

SDSU students unveil products at national conference

Ten South Dakota State University students unveiled student-designed products at the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s annual conference in Washington, D.C., Nov. 16.

The conference was the first opportunity for the students to showcase the “Konnectors” and “Connextion Box,” which student teams designed during the past two academic semesters. They shared the products with educators from around the United States to gain perspectives of how they could be used in different educational settings with children. Elisabeth Gordon, a junior mechanical engineering from Marshall, was part of the Konnectors team.

“It was a great experience to show off the product we have been working on for the past year to other educators. I got to see firsthand how many people were actually interested in buying our product,” said early childhood education major Tyana Gottsleben, who is from Philip, S.D.

“Seeing people play with our product and create new designs is always a fun experience because everyone approaches building with it differently. It shows what a versatile product it is for people of all ages,” said interior design major and Connextion Box co-designer Kelly Blick. Blick is a senior from Sleepy Eye.

Through a faculty initiative at SDSU called the Rich Normality Design Collaborative, students pursuing vastly different majors come together to solve real-world problems. The teams include students enrolled in advertising, early childhood education, entrepreneurship, interior design and mechanical engineering courses.

“Watching students discover their strengths and each others strengths was the most rewarding part as a faculty member in this process,” said Kay Cutler, professor of early childhood education and director of SDSU’s Fishback Center for Early Childhood Education.

These products are the result of faculty collaboration and a challenge by industry partner KODO Kids, a company based in Broomfield, Colorado, that specializes in open-ended, STEM-related products for early childhood development. South Dakota State and KODO have worked together since 2015. In this iteration, students were tasked with developing product designs that could enhance relationships between elders and young children through play.

“This project was a great experience as it opened my mind to the various perspectives that can come about when creating an interdisciplinary product. It just shows how important teamwork actually is,” said mechanical engineering student Makiah Stukel, who is a junior from Sioux Falls.

“We got to experience things as undergraduates that many people do not get to experience in their entire career,” added interior design major Abigail Vaz, who is from Homer, Alaska.

Upon returning from the NAEYC Conference, the students participated in South Dakota State University’s Experiential Learning Expo Nov. 27. They designed a poster detailing their learning process, along with showcasing the products to fellow students, faculty and guests. The students won “Best in Show.”

The students have the opportunity to continue researching and developing their products through site testing, as well as marketing, manufacturing and distribution strategies during the upcoming spring semester.

Mike Dierks chosen as Minnesota West representative for Statewide Award for Excellence in Teaching

Minnesota West Community & Technical College — The Minnesota State Board of Trustees will honor a faculty member with the Award for Excellence in Teaching. This honor acknowledges and rewards exceptional individual professional accomplishment and encourages ongoing excellence in teaching.

Minnesota West Community & Technical College has recently undergone an extensive process (using input from faculty and students from each campus) to identify candidates to serve as the Minnesota West nominee for the Award for Excellence in Teaching. Mike Dierks, Farm Business Management instructor has been chosen to represent for the Statewide Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Dierks will now compete with approximately 40 other nominees from fellow Minnesota State institutions from across the state. Nominations were based on criteria such as innovative program delivery, cooperation and partnerships within and outside of the college, campus involvement/leadership, and community involvement/leadership.

“Mike is an asset to our students, Farm Business Management program, and college. He has a genuine passion for helping his farmer students achieve their farm and personal goals. His students are able to utilize their own businesses as a case study for reflection of key concepts that Mike instructs. Mike’s farmers are given high quality and accurate tools to assess the effectiveness of their own business and work to become better managers. Mike’s students know that he will always be there to guide them in their learning journey and that they have a true advocate and friend,” said Paul Lanoue, dean of Agriculture and Business.

Honorable mention to the other Minnesota West Community & Technical College instructors whom were also nominated for the award:

Jay Vargas — Social Sciences

Leah Gossom — Humanities

Douglas Schuett — Trades

Kim Leherke — Allied Health

Paul Seifert — Math and Sciences

Mark Temple — Transportation

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