The Student Engineers’ Council (SEC) has been named the most philanthropic organization of its kind in the nation for the second time in five years.

The Virginia Tech Student Engineers’ Council (SEC) has been named the most philanthropic organization of its kind in the nation for the second time in five years.

The National Association of Engineering Student Councils (NAESC) named Virginia Tech’s SEC its “Most Philanthropic Council” at its 2006 spring meeting near Washington, D.C.

Virginia Tech’s SEC has contributed about $300,000 over the past eight years in support of the College of Engineering’s undergraduate programs. In addition to these gifts, the SEC also confers three endowed scholarships annually, each having a principal value of $25,000. Other philanthropic efforts of the SEC include sponsoring a Penny War to benefit a local charity, allocating funds to individual student societies for projects and conferences, and providing each entering engineering student with a free organizer complete with helpful information to ease the transition between high school and college.

The SEC earns the money it donates to the college by hosting the Engineering Expo career fair each year. The next expo is set for Sept. 19-20 at Virginia Tech. Companies interested in participating can visit the expo web site. This year’s SEC chair is Michael Chappel, a senior in mechanical engineering, of Blacksburg, Va.. Other executive board members are: Christine Toole, vice-chair, of Alexandria, Va.,; Diane Fields, director of administration, of North Tonawanda, N.Y.; Ben Andrews, director of relations; and Ragyi Sinha , director of finance, of Herndon, Va..

Toole is a civil and environmental engineering student; Fields is a materials science and engineering major; Andrews is an electrical and computer engineering senior; and Sinha is also an ECE student.

Each year the SEC requests proposals from members of the College of Engineering community that identify ways in which money may best be spent for the improvement of the college and to benefit the greatest number of students. The nature of the proposed projects is virtually unlimited, ranging from physically improving facilities on campus to the establishment of a new scholarship. The magnitude of these projects is substantial, as up to $50,000 has been set aside by the SEC in a single year. At the discretion of the SEC, the funding may be divided among several proposed projects.

Generally, engineering faculty members submit these proposals, and an executive review committee narrows the number of proposals to three to five. The authors then present their proposals to the larger SEC assembly who makes the final decisions on how to allocate the resources.

This year, SEC members voted to contribute $7,386 to the Mechatronics Experiment in Engineering Exploration and $12,615 to the Joseph F. Ware, Jr. Advanced Engineering Laboratory.

The Mechatronics Experiment, led by associate professors Vinod Lohani of engineering education and Pushkin Kachroo of electrical and computer engineering, is designed to give all engineering freshman hands-on experience in mechanical construction, electrical and electronic circuits, and digital circuits from computer engineering. The ultimate goal of the course is for freshmen to use the engineering principles they learn to build a two-wheel mobile robot. The SEC grant will help pay for the materials needed for this project.

The Ware Lab, founded in 1998 through the generosity of alumnus Joseph F. Ware, Jr. and his wife, Jenna, is one of the first and most successful undergraduate design-and-build facilities in the world. It hosts a number of international competition winners, including the Autonomous Vehicle Team, Hybrid Electric Vehicle Team, Human Powered Submarine Team and the Mini-Baja Team. The SEC grant will enable the Ware Lab’s new manager, mechanical engineering alumna Susan Cortes to “spruce up” the facility and its promotional materials in anticipation of an industrial affiliates program.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,500 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 1,800 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.