(Editor’s Note: As Commencement nears, WVU Today is featuring some of the University’s most dedicated graduates. Here is the story of one of those outstanding students.)
West Virginia University senior Steven Rhodes looked at college as a test of what he could do.
He likes solving problems, so he helped create water filtration systems for a village in Nicaragua.
He likes figuring out language, so he spent two months in Japan mastering Japanese.
He likes being a percussionist, so his honors thesis is on enhancing the production of steel drums.
Rhodes, a mechanical engineering major from Parkersburg, W.Va., has always been curious about the way the world works. But during his time at WVU he’s had many chances to dismantle aspects of the world around him and put them back together. And he’s taken every chance he got.
“I love figuring out how anything works,” Rhodes said. “That’s why I love engineering. It’s really what I love about music, too, because like most people I love to listen to music, but I think playing it and taking classes helps me to better appreciate what goes into making good music.
“And I’m interested in language because I’m interested in how culture works in different areas around the world.”
To see live webcasts of each commencement ceremony, go to http://commencement.wvu.edu/webcasts
To read about other outstanding students who are graduating this May, go to Meet the Graduates.
His interest in solving problems is only beginning.
As he approaches graduation, Rhodes is eager to tackle an issue he’s learned a lot about in the past four years: the need for alternative energy sources. His major has given him tools to be able to tackle the challenges ahead in energy and transportation.
“Whatever I get involved in, I do want it to be something that’s positive for the world and for people as a whole,” he said. “I think part of the reason I’m interested in alternative energy is that I see that as a way to improve long-term conditions for everyone in the world.”
A recipient of the Bucklew Scholarship, Rhodes immediately entered WVU’s Honors College and College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. He began playing in WVU’s Steel Drum Band as a freshman, and has served as project coordinator for WVU’s chapter of Engineers Without Border and team captain for the Baja Project.
In Engineers Without Borders, Rhodes and the group have developed water filtration systems in Nicaragua where contaminated water reaches villagers after traveling down hillsides. He also took part in creating a feasibility study for sewage treatment in McDowell County where such treatment wasn’t being done at the time.
Click to hear Steven Rhodes describe the diverse education he received at WVU.
In the Baja project, Rhodes and the team members constructed an off-road vehicle for competitions in the senior design project sponsored by the Society of Automotive Engineers.
His honors thesis is combining his love of engineering with his love of music.
“I decided that I’d like to do my thesis on something that combines engineering and music,” he said. “I’d always been involved in each, but I really wanted to see if I could combine them.”
He’s making a computer model of steel drums and analyzing it to discover ways that could later be used to improve manufacturing to avoid dead or harsh notes.
One of the highlights of his WVU career has been playing in a 70-person steel drum ensemble to commemorate the retirement of Ellie Mannette, founder of Mannette Steel Drums in Morgantown and developer of the modern steel drum.
From here, he intends to pursue a master’s degree and a professional engineer’s license.
“The diversity of my education in every respect is what made it valuable,” he said. “I got an education in engineering, of course that’s first and foremost, but I also got an education in Japanese and music and even aside from those, I think I got a really good social education, so I think it’s the whole package that makes it so important.”
By Diana Mazzella
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