It Takes a Team to Pedal Fast

This afternoon, Missouri University of Science & Technology’s chancellor, John F. Carney III, delivered his fifth semi-annual State of the University speech. A high point was Tom Shipley‘s brief documentary on Missouri S&T’s entry in last summer’s human-powered vehicle contest. The vehicle was designed and built by UMR — pardon me — Missouri S&T’s Human-Powered Vehicle Team, a part of the campus’s Student Design and Experiential Learning Center. Shipley’s film is tight and clean and the source of the title of this entry: it takes a team and a lot of effort for someone to pedal a little over 59 mph.

Yes, I jumped the gun on the name-change from University of Missouri – Rolla to Missouri University of Science & Technology. But that particular gun is being jumped more and more often. Why not me?

Wait a minute! Why am I writing about student design teams? I’m chair of English and Technical Communication, not an engineer.

  • First, I admire the student design teams, having known students in them in my own classes.
  • Second, our department is a vital part of the campus and its endeavors, as Chancellor Carney noted early in his state of the university talk. The chancellor reminded the audience forcefully that, while he would talk mostly about scientific and technological matters, he did not want to overlook the humanities, the social sciences, or the business program.
  • Third, there are numerous ways, many yet to be discovered, in which the scholars, teachers and students of our department can relate to the campus’s major thrust. One important way is to pursue our own research and teaching interests with energy and imagination. Our efforts do contribute to the overall accomplishments of the campus. Another way is participation of our students and faculty in projects of other departments and organizations.

Enough with metaphor and analogy! The university is not a bicycle in an aerodynamic cocoon, with its power-source, a student, concealed inside: the university is a complex enterprise, dependent on everyone, everything, every place that make it up. Ending his talk, the chancellor called on the university to focus on our world’s needs for energy and environmental renewal. Those of us who work with words and images can contribute our knowledge, skills, wit, and wisdom to that project.