They took the same walk taken by Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon; Andrew Viterbi, whose Viterbi Algorithm makes their cell phone calls possible; aerospace pioneer Wanda Austin; Apple co-founder Mike Markkula; and NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
But what makes the walk of the engineering graduating class of 2018 distinct can perhaps be summed up in one engineering concept: buoyancy, a.k.a. Archimedes’ principle.
An object partially immersed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object. It explains why a steel supertanker can float as easily as a wooden rowboat or a bathtub. As legend has it, it’s what prompted Archimedes to run out of the bathhouse naked in the streets shouting: “Eureka! Eureka!” It also explains how this class of super-doers managed to stay afloat sailing thorough mind-twisting assignments in the “most rigorous program on campus,” through sleepless hackathons and makeathons to solve the woes of the world, build robots, invent new diagnostic tools and win competition after competition.
How? The upward force they needed to stay afloat was strong with them and it came in the form parents, teachers, friends and mentors. More importantly, it came from within, hooked on a feeling that is the signature of their generation. Buoyancy also means lightness or resilience of spirit; cheerfulness.
“We started out making simple engineering projects in Freshman Academy,” said valedictorian Natalie Ramsy, “and we have now gone on to create impressive capstone projects, such as biofeedback devices and smart home alarm systems, using the knowledge and experience we’ve gained along the way. We’ve found that ‘Eureka’ is not just a moment, it’s a process. We’ve learned that creativity and success come from the persistent iteration of ideas.”
Ramsy, who graduates with a dual B.S. in biomedical and electrical engineering, has been active in surface electromyography research as well as radiation therapy decision support systems and has also worked with faculty on fetal pacemakers and informatics research for Crohn’s disease patients.
In her freshman year, she joined the Women in Engineering advisory board, Engineering for Kids and served as co-chair of the USC Coptic Club, spreading awareness of the persecution facing Coptic Christians in Egypt. She now sets sail for Stanford University in the fall to pursue a graduate degree in bioengineering.
This graduating class is also the most representative in USC Viterbi’s history: 35 percent of the graduates are women. Forty four seniors have been recognized as NAE Grand Challenge Scholars, a national program spearheaded by USC Viterbi’s own Dean Yannis Yortsos that builds multicultural, entrepreneurship and social consciousness competencies for students to pursue the vision of what engineering needs to deliver to all people on the planet in the 21st century: continuation of life on the planet, making our world more sustainable, secure, healthy, and joyful.”
Trojan engineers were also commissioned by commencement speaker and Apple co-founder, Mike Markkula to “create value; don’t just re-arrange it; be an engineer!” – echoing the words of his friend, Robert “Bob” Noyce, who was among the first to realize the silicon-based microchip that gave Silicon Valley it’s name.
“I’ve been accused of being an entrepreneur, a marketer, an investor, a manager, a programmer and an engineer,” Markkula said. “The truth is, in my heart, I’m an engineer.”
“Tomorrow’s heroic engineers will be found right here in this graduating class,” said Dean Yortsos in his closing remarks. “With the technological skills, mindsets of interdisciplinary, innovation and entrepreneurship, and cultural awareness and with societal impact as their guides.”
They may not be buoyant enough to walk on water, but the graduating engineering class of 2018 will not sink.
Here are the 2018 winners of distinguished awards:
The Archimedes Circle Award for outstanding achievement in scholarship:
The Albert Dorman Future Leader Award, recognizing leadership and academics:
The Viterbi Award for outstanding achievement in leadership:
The Alumni Advisory Board Award for outstanding student organization:
Associated Students of Biomedical Engineering
The Viterbi Community Impact Award for outstanding service:
The Neighborhood Service Award for outstanding contributions to community service:
The Women in Engineering Award recognizing achievement in academics and leadership:
Industrial and Systems Engineering
The Center for Engineering Diversity Service Award recognizing commitment to service, academics and leadership:
Civil Engineering (Building Science)
The Viterbi Award for Outstanding Achievement by a Transfer Student:
The Viterbi Award for Outstanding Research
The Gary Norris Promise Award: