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Department of Technology students remember fallen Redbirds

Larry Lyons '86, director of Athletics, stands in the middle of junior technology and engineering education majors Andrew Wiercinski (left) and Philip Tschammer. Wiercinski and Tschammer hold the emblems that honor the Redbird seven.

Some students spend a whole semester on a research project. Some might spend a whole semester on a paper, while others might spend a semester at an internship location. And then there are students that spend a whole semester working on a special project that’s not for a class, not for a grade, but just because it is the right thing to do.

Junior technology and engineering education majors Philip Tschammer and Andrew Wiercinski and graduate student Alexandra Dunfee are three students who know what it means to do a little extra. At the suggestion of their professor, Chris Merrill, this team took on the project of constructing two, 23” inch emblems featuring the uniform patch that honors the seven men who lost their lives in a plane crash outside of Bloomington-Normal on April 7, 2015.

This season, Redbird student athletes have been wearing or displaying the uniform patch in memory of the seven community members and Redbird fans. Some teams wear the patch on their jerseys; others display it on their clothes or gear. It serves to remind Illinois State student-athletes that they are playing for something beyond just wins and losses. “Our student-athletes understand the significance of the patch and what it symbolizes,” said Athletics Director Larry Lyons ’86. “We asked them to honor the seven with their competitive spirit throughout the year.”

“When I read about the emblem this summer, I thought it was an excellent graphic of remembrance,” said Merrill. “While I did not personally know the seven individuals who perished, I did know that they meant a lot to Illinois State University and the ISU community.”

Philip Tschammer took the graphic of the emblem, digitized the graphic using computer-aided drafting (CAD) software, produced the machining toolpaths, and made a prototype. From the prototype, the students constructed the two emblems–one solid oak and one from medium density fiberboard–which took almost an entire semester. “The most time-consuming part was sanding everything down,” explained Tschammer. Many working hours were spent in the technology labs at night, after classes had cleared out and other students were home for the day.

“I knew my students would enjoy using our ShopBot (our CNC wood router), and would enjoy the challenge of creating the emblems to present to Athletics,” said Merrill.

“It is emotional to see these,” said Lyons. “Knowing that these emblems were crafted by hand by the students outside of class will certainly add to the tribute of the seven men that we lost.” Athletics plans to hang the oak version in the Legends Room in Redbird Arena, and the painted one in either the men’s basketball locker room or the basketball offices.

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