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Orton tapped for Excellence In Education award

Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Sarah Orton, received a 2009 Excellence in Education Award for her interaction with students on educational projects outside the classroom.

In recognition of her contributions to the out-of-class learning experiences of her students, Sarah Orton, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering was one of 10 faculty, staff and administrators presented with a 2009 Excellence in Education award from the University of Missouri’s Division of Student Affairs on April 21.

The 13-year-old award was developed in acknowledgement that student interaction with faculty and staff outside the classroom is critical to student learning and success, and to honor those who do it well.  Orton was nominated by Mark Virkler, C.W. LaPierre professor and chairman of civil and environmental engineering, for her work as academic advisor to two new student teams, and for her work with the undergraduate honors research program.

“It’s why I went into teaching — to work with energetic young minds,” said Orton. “My students are excited about the projects they are working on, so it’s fun.”

Orton advised both the Seismic Bridge Team and the Seismic Design Team, the first during the 2007-2008 academic year, and the latter for this year’s competition.

The bridge team took top honors in the contest sponsored by the Sixth National Conference on Bridges and Highways. Their bridge, built of K’nex, was designed to have the lowest deflection and acceleration in a simulated earthquake situation. Economical design was also a key criterion.

The Seismic Design Team ranked 14th in the 2009 national competition, sponsored by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute. MU Engineering’s team was one of the few representatives from the Midwest, and unlike most other competitors, was not affiliated with an Earthquake Research Center.

Student team members have been appreciative of Orton’s leadership.

“I am consistently amazed at Dr. Orton’s enthusiasm and dedication,” said Seismic Design Team Captain Matt Wheeler, a civil engineering sophomore. “On many occasions she contacted us with new ideas, opportunities, and suggestions. She stayed late and came in on weekends just to help us with projects. Her good spirits and positive attitude towards unexpected challenges are contagious, and her efforts with the seismic team have contributed enormously to our successes.”

“Our team was mostly sophomores with little background in structural dynamics, but I think we did really well, considering. It’s not easy to go in and do well the first year. There is a lot of computation involved. But you learn a lot,” said Orton. “We should do better next year.”

Orton’s undergraduate research assistants are constructing concrete beams as part of a study evaluating effect of impact damage on FRP (fiber reinforced polymers) used to strengthen reinforced concrete beams.

“It is exciting to watch a young and energetic faculty member make such strong contributions to our students’ educations both inside an outside the classroom,” said Virkler.

“I truly feel privileged to work with Dr. Orton; I can’t imagine the seismic Team without her guidance and support,” said Wheeler.