To Infinity and Beyond

Launching into Real-World-Ready Education

Southeastern physics and engineering technology students are blasting into unique real-world-ready experiences thanks to a couple of grants totaling almost $16,000 from LaSPACE—(the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium), LaACES (Louisiana Aerospace Catalyst Experiences for Students), and Senior Design Programs.

Dubbed ROOMIE-4 (Remote Observer Of Many Interesting Events), the first year-long project is a simulated NASA mission taken on by two student teams—one composed of undergraduate physics students and the other engineering technology students. Throughout the course of the year, the students design a balloon payload (scientific instrument) that utilizes sensors for taking temperature, light, pressure and humidity readings at the edge of the atmosphere—around 100,000 feet. The goal is to develop a system that interprets input from multiple sensors and stores the data for analysis upon return of the payload.


Grant Principal Investigator and Professor of Physics Gerard Blanchard said the physics students are measuring the effect of the atmosphere on sunlight and explaining physically the changes that they see, while the engineering technology students are measuring the response of the instruments to physical stresses.

“We are currently in the middle of the project,” Blanchard said. “The students have gone through the design phase and are having that reviewed. Now they are in the building phase, which will be followed by the testing phase, and then operation. We have been doing this in physics for about four years now.”

Starting from scratch with no prior knowledge, Blanchard said the students are first trained in electronics, data acquisition using a microcontroller, data analysis, project management, and reporting. “That takes up the fall semester,” he explained. “In the spring, they first design their experiment. This results in the preliminary design review report, which is reviewed by the LaACES program management that makes suggestions for improvement. Then they build a prototype of their experiment that results in the critical design review report.

As part of the project, the team needed to design a suitable housing for the payload that can withstand the extreme temperature and pressure of space, as well as the rigorous turbulence of flight.

“Next up they build and test their actual instrument, which includes a one-day trip to LSU to undergo a mission simulation in a thermal/vacuum chamber,” Blanchard continued. “This results in the flight readiness review that is a go/no go decision for including the team’s experiment on the balloon. The experiments are then launched by balloon from NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and returned by parachute, which means they have to track and recover the experiment somewhere in East Texas. Finally, they present the results of their experiment.”


Consisting of members Justin Woodring, Joshua Davies, and Luc Allain from physics, and Bryce Henry, Ethan McMullan, and William Lamonte from engineering technology, the teams have been working collaboratively since August, and they went through training and hands-on practice activities to prepare them to design, fabricate, and program the payload and launch it in May. The engineering technology team presented
their work virtually at the University of Louisiana System’s Academic Summit in April.

“In the process of completing this project, team members have developed many useful skills, such as soldering, electronics, SolidWorks, programming, and 3D printing,” explained Assistant Professor of Industrial and Engineering Technology Ahmad Fayed. “The project provides students with experience in working on a team, which they will be able to utilize in their engineering careers.”

“This project has given me a lot of opportunities to implement some of the things I’ve been learning throughout my four years at Southeastern. It is also exciting to be challenged to complete tasks and solve problems using what I’ve learned,” Lamonte said. “This project has taught me to be confident in the things I know and rely on that to solve problems and learn the things I don’t. There have been challenging moments, but overall it has been enjoyable to have the opportunity. This project has helped me learn things that hopefully will be beneficial for life after college.”

Blanchard said this is essentially a senior design experience that is standard for engineering programs but that it is an addition to the physics program, and a needed one for 21st-century physics education. “The students also must apply the physics theory that they learned to this experience,” he explained. “It is definitely a real-world-ready experience.”

The project will enhance the education of physics and engineering technology majors, Blanchard explained.  Physics majors will gain valuable experience not provided otherwise in the curricula, such as in electronics, CAD, Earth science, and the engineering design process.

“This project is expected to have wider benefits for the Department of Chemistry and Physics by serving as a spotlight project for recruiting and retention of students in the physics major,” he explained. “Engineering technology students will benefit by being provided with an interesting design project with scientific applications.”


The students, he said, will use the data to calculate the atmospheric transmittance spectrum as a function of altitude. The solar spectrometer will also be suitable for re-use for experiments during the upcoming North American solar eclipses, he explained.

The second project involves testing 3D materials for space applications and is supervised by Fayed. The team, including student Brandon Cannella, learned the skills of 3D printing and customization using the MakerBot Replicator + printer, as well as applied the American Society of Testing of Materials standards to test the specimens in both tension and impact settings. The work currently being done was started by former student and now Southeastern graduate Zacharie Day, currently a Crane Systems Engineer at TechCrane International, LLC.

Cannella recently presented his work at the 96th Louisiana Academy of Science in March and was awarded the best oral presentation for his work. He additionally presented his work at the National Council on Undergraduate Research conference virtually in April.

“During this project, I learned how to utilize testing equipment and apply the engineering standards to measure material properties. I also got experience with professional presentations in which my work was reviewed by others,” Cannella said. “I have more confidence in performing professional testing procedures and presenting my results at professional venues.”

In the past decade, 3D printing has been improving significantly, and the use of 3D printed parts has been extending to more crucial industrial and scientific applications, including space applications, Fayed said. Investigations of mechanical properties of different 3D printed materials have been done, but they were limited to some aspects and configurations, he explained.

La-ACES_ET_Team_Bryce_Henry_working on coding_the_MegaSat

“There are two types of experiments being used to determine the properties of 3D printed materials. The first is tensile testing, which is accomplished by a machine with two jaws that attempt to pull a specimen apart. Based on the force and elongation, we can determine tensile strength and ductility of the material,” Fayed explained. “The second is impact testing, which uses a large hammer pendulum that breaks notched specimens. The potential energy left after the first swing minus the initial potential energy reveals how much energy was required for breaking, which is an indication of material toughness.”

Cannella said high tensile strength indicates that a material will have higher resistance to pulling forces.

“High impact strength means a material can withstand quick applications of force, or impulse in physics language,” Canella said. “If the materials meet a certain requirement, then they can replace metals.

Tensile Testing_Zacharie_Day_01

“In the aerospace industry, weight reduction is a key factor because it allows for lower fuel consumption. Small items, such as springs, screws, buckles, containers, and clamps, can be manufactured out of the PLA (Polylactic acid) materials being tested instead of metal,” Cannella added. “This will reduce costs and production time, which will allow us to launch more spacecraft and, therefore, conduct more research opportunities in our solar system and beyond.”

Acknowledgment: This research was supported in part by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Grant and Cooperative Agreement Number 80NSSC20M0110 through Subaward Agreement PO-0000172372 with the Louisiana Space Grant Consortium (LaSPACE).

By Tonya Lowentritt

Ranked a Top Occupational Health and Safety Program

Southeastern has been recognized nationally as one of the top 25 programs in occupational health and safety. ranked Southeastern No. 15 according to cost of attendance, accreditation, reputation, and salary potential, using data from IPEDS and Niche, U.S. News and World Report, and other higher education rating publications.

The programs in the ranking are all accredited by independent agencies, such as the Higher Learning Commission, and other Department of Education recognized agencies. Southeastern was listed among higher education institutions such as Purdue University, University of Arizona, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Brigham Young University.

Best Health Degrees provides current information that aspiring healthcare professionals need to explore health care career options; to learn what skills and training are required; to discover what salary can be expected; and to get an edge in landing the best jobs. BHD also ranks traditional and online programs that prepare students for in-demand jobs like nursing, health informatics, health care administration, and more.

“There are many great programs within Southeastern, and OSHE in particular is a unique one. Only a few safety programs are as comprehensive as our program. It is supported through a network of professionals and alumni and through a strong industrial advisory board,” said Industrial and Engineering Technology Department Head Mohammad Saadeh. “All majors within the department are workforce oriented; we maintain open channels with stakeholders and share data on enrollment, graduation and employment. Current and potential students, as well as their parents, find this data invaluable.”

Southeastern’s Occupational, Safety, Health and Environment program was recognized for its bachelor’s degree, which is an ABET-accredited program and is recognized by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals. Students who graduate from the program receive the Graduate Safety Practitioner certificate, which meets the credential requirement for the Certified Safety Professional certification, allowing those who hold it to apply directly for the CSP once all requirements are met.

Additionally, the program has been approved by the Institute of Hazardous Materials Management to issue the Associate Safety and Health Manager designation to the graduates. Graduates of the program are exempt from the exam required to become an ASHM, and if they apply within six months of graduation, they are exempt from the application fee as well.

The curriculum covers a wide range of classes, including fire protection and prevention, safety and environmental laws and regulations, construction safety, safety and health program management and administration, safety system methodologies, ergonomics, and an internship.

The ranking can be found online here.

Named a Military Spouse Friendly School

Southeastern has been named a Military Spouse Friendly® School for 2022-2023.

Viqtory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs, states the listing honors the top colleges, universities and trade schools for their leading practices, outcomes and effective programs for military spouses.

“Southeastern has made a concerted effort in the past several years to focus on military service members, veterans and their families,” said Director of Military and Veteran Success Matt Watkins, a U.S. Air Force Veteran. “Southeastern has created innovative programming, services, events and resources for our veterans, dependents and military population. All of our staff members feel there is no greater calling than serving those who have served us.”

Southeastern enrolls 591 veterans, dependents and military service members. The university maintains a Veterans Upward Bound program; provides academic and other counseling services; offers scholarships specifically for military students and veterans; and maintains a wide range of online and distance learning programs that provide students with flexibility in scheduling.

Southeastern’s ROTC program, which is a sub-unit of the Southern University Army ROTC program, returned to Hammond in 2016 after more than a 20-year hiatus. Fifty-five students now participate in the program.

Southeastern also serves as a resource center for thousands of Louisiana veterans in an effort to help active-duty military service men and women successfully transition to college through a new program called LaVetCorps.

Additionally, Southeastern now has an Office of Military and Veteran Success. The new office includes two college employees, a LaVetCorps employee and 10 veteran ambassadors and student workers. The office offers help with academic advising related to VA education benefits, processing VA education benefits, counseling on VA education benefits, programs, events, and priority registration.

“Military Friendly® is committed to transparency and providing consistent data-driven standards in our designation process. This creates a competitive atmosphere that encourages colleges to evolve and invest in their programs consistently and with purpose,” said National Director of Military Partnerships for Military Friendly® Kayla Lopez. “Schools who achieve designation show true commitment and dedication in their efforts. Our standards assist schools by providing a benchmark that promotes positive educational outcomes, resources, and support services that focuses on the betterment of the educational landscape and provides positive outcomes and economic opportunity for the military community.”

Viqtory Media is a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business founded in 2001. In addition to G.I. Jobs, the company also publishes the magazine Military Spouse.

Lions Connected

Providing an Inclusive College Experience for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Tucked away within Southeastern’s Cate Teacher Education Center lies one of Southeastern’s hidden gems: Lions Connected. The program helps those who might not otherwise be able to attend college due to certain disabilities break down barriers and thrive in a university setting.

Lions Connected is designed to accommodate students who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury, and/or cognitive disabilities. Currently, there are only six programs like it in the state of Louisiana. Lions Connected is now in its fifth year and is truly blossoming.

Lions Connected

This program gives these students the opportunity to have the full college experience, with an emphasis on social and life skills. Each participant has their own schedule that is based on personal interests. This encourages students to grow and maximize their abilities in order to engage in their adult lives.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities are typically underemployed resources. “Being able to have our students engage in employment [not only] gives meaning to their lives, but it also benefits the community,” said Jim Zimlich, former interim coordinator of the Lions Connected program. “They are demonstrating their abilities and not just their disability. They are being productive in their community in ways that are beyond the income they would earn.”

All Lions Connected students are able to fully engage across the University community. They have access to the Counseling Center, Career Services, Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic, and much more. All of these Southeastern resources are readily available to them as part of the program.

Lions Connected

Equally important, not only do the individuals who participate in Lions Connected benefit, but traditional students are also able to gain from it. ”We have a lot of collaborative relationships too,” Zimlich said. “We work with the adaptive physical education (PE) courses. Students who are taking the adaptive PE courses can work with our [Lions Connected] students so that they can learn how to effectively adapt the exercises and games that they play to maximize the abilities of those in Lions Connected.”

Also, many Lions Connected participants utilize Southeastern’s Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic in Campbell Hall. In addition to serving members of the community with communication disorders, including members of Lions Connected, this resource serves communication sciences and disorders students as a teaching facility for the application of clinical methodology based upon sound theoretical principles. The clinic also affords students the opportunity to employ scientific methodology of research to the clinical and supervisory processes. This brings forth interaction between traditional Southeastern students and Lions Connected students for the benefit of both parties. “Being able to communicate effectively helps [Lions Connected students] in adult life to be more productive and engaged in our community and their lives,” Zimlich added.

The support of traditional Southeastern students is indeed one major component of what helps make this program so successful. Lions Connected would not work without mentors, who are the “heart and soul of our program,” Zimlich said.


Mentors are students at Southeastern who have expressed an interest in working with the program. They work directly with Lions Connected participants, with an average mentor-to-student ratio of 1:2. Mentors accompany Lions Connected students throughout their time on campus, attending class, going to lunch, and engaging fully in peer-mentoring life and social skills.

“Mentors provide authentic and engaging social experiences. They also offer support to those who may become overwhelmed to help and motivate the students to be active and engaged in their courses to the maximum extent of their abilities,” said Zimlich.

In addition to being a powerful academic institution and center for learning, Southeastern seeks to serve all within the community, and through Lions Connected, it is able to fill one more niche in doing so. The program helps facilitate more opportunities for participants to have meaningful, productive lives.

“These students are being given such a unique opportunity to gain real-life experience in an academic and social setting that will help them exponentially in the future,” said Lions Connected mentor Caroline Garrett. “Society in general does not expect them to succeed and be productive members of society, but this program is helping to prove that wrong. It can be exhausting, but it’s important work that is changing lives.”

For more information, contact Dr. Gerlinde Beckers, director of Lions Connected, at 985.549.2217 or

By Mindy Gremillion

Storytelling Through Art at the Contemporary Art Gallery

The Department of Visual Art + Design is currently hosting a summer exhibit by four artists – Orly Anan, Basqo Bim, Phlegm, and Ryn Wilson – titled Disguises at the University’s Contemporary Art Gallery, located at 100 East Strawberry Stadium.

The exhibition is free and open to the public until Aug. 25. Contemporary Art Gallery hours are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, and Friday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. A closing reception with some of the artists is scheduled Aug. 25., at 5 p.m., in the gallery.

Works in the exhibition feature contemporary artists working with garment design, masking, and make-up as a form of world-building and story-telling, said Gallery Director Cristina Molina.

“From Colombia, Israel, and New Orleans, the exhibiting artists share a commitment to creating characters that transcend the mundane and propose alternate realities,” Molina explained. “Orly Anan and Ryn Wilson create elaborate scenes to implicate how mysticism might trickle from the unconscious and become folded into everyday life. Basqo Bim and Phlegm engage in ritual acts of mask-making that reshape ancestral and mythical narratives. Set within miles of Louisiana Carnival capitals, these artists offer us a glimpse into the transformative possibilities of costuming.” 

Anan is a Colombian/Israeli visual artist and art director interested in the mysticism implicated in everyday life, Molina said. She is currently experimenting with the intersection of ritual and popular culture, as well as Anthropocosmic Surrealism. Anan’s client list includes Nike, VH1, Spotify, and Netflix, to name a few, and her artwork has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the world, including Miami, London, Mexico City and Toronto. Her immersive installation “Salon Delicatessen” is currently on view at the Museum of Museums in Seattle. Currently a resident of Mexico City, Anan’s artistic research has led her to explore the traditions of various countries, from Asia to Latin America, and these cultures are her main inspiration.

Originally from a rural town in South Carolina, Bim has been living in New Orleans for the past three years and is of Colombian origin. Bim is self-taught and has been making art for seven years.

Jamais Vu by Basqo Bim

“Basque began with drawing, quickly moved to illustration, and then began learning embroidery and large-scale sculpture,” Molina said. “After landing in New Orleans, Basque’s focus and passion quickly turned to masking and costuming, utilizing both old and new skill sets to build new worlds and shift consensus reality.”

Phlegm is a New Orleans-born and based multidisciplinary artist who also penned the mantra “Everything You Love About New Orleans is Because of Black People.”

“At this current point, my work serves to exist as a ritual drama of my personal Black universe. It serves to more firmly connect my Black spiritual concept of time,” he explained, “connecting the past to the present and the present to the future – communally sacred and personally precious. It attempts to tie all the loose ends of the Black ethos, influence, and inspiration into one braid. It is, at its core, an affirmation of life – my life, the life of my ancestors, and the life of my community.

“My work, and by extension my life, makes a production about the necessity and value of Black spiritual presence – a meditation in duality. It is serious and irreverent, heavy and heavenly, calculated and casual. It is dual consciousness.”

Wilson is a photography and video artist working in New Orleans. She creates cinematic narratives with an emphasis on feminism, mythology, and the environment. Before moving to New Orleans, Wilson lived in Tokyo, Bangkok, Hamburg, and Shanghai, where she assisted the Chinese photographer Maleonn. She was a member of the artist-run gallery The Front, from 2014-2019, where she exhibited, curated, and organized an annual short film festival.

In 2018, Wilson co-founded the Crystal Efemmes, a quartet of interdisciplinary artists that create immersive installations retelling myths and histories from a perspective that honors marginalized populations. Her work has been featured at the Ford Foundation Gallery in New York City, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, Kunsthall Stavanger in Norway, and the Oslo International Video Art Festival. She also works as a costume designer and seamstress for film, performance, and fashion.

For more information, contact Molina at or 985.549.508.