History of Electronics Engineering Technology Program, 1984-2010
After hours of telephone conversations and emails, retired chair (1998-2010) Professor Dr. Bill Clapp gives us another piece of the puzzle as to why the WSU’s Electronic Engineering Technology Program was remarkably successful. In his comments below, you will notice that Bill uses every opportunity to teach us something we may not know. Bill would love to hear from anyone who is interested in the EET program between 1984 to 2010, so please feel free to call him at 801-866-3802.
Early History (1972 -1984)
The success of transitioning from an Aircraft Instrument Certificate program to an Electrical Engineering (EE) Degree depended on a handful of incredibly energetic and talented leaders and faculty who were not hindered by the naysayers like the University of Utah and Utah State’s EE Departments. Weber has had a long history of groups of people who would consider us no better than a “Harrison High.” Growing up in a community will always have the challenges of the past.
The leadership of Electronics Engineering Technology (EET) professor Newel Cutler and College of Applied Science and Technology (COAST) Dean Kent Randall led the way for significant growth in the 1980’s. The EET enrollment was exploding due to a growing demand for electronic technicians. Newel’s EET program was a rival to Provo Technical College’s phenomenally successful Electronics Technology. Newel was instrumental in getting approval to start a 4-year Electronics Engineering Technology Program. That happened because the ET program was tailored to the needs of Hill Air Force Base. The program had evolved from a 1960’s Hill AFB shortage of aircraft instrument technicians, and that led to the creation of the AAS degree in Electronics Technology degree (See Hershel Urie’s “EET Department History up to 1984”)
1984 to 2010
Bill Clapp was hired by EET Department Chair Newel Cutler in 1984, along with two additional EET faculty. He was hired to take over the department’s Senior Project program from Professor Robert Twiggs, so Bob could be released full-time to start the college’s Center for Aerospace Technology (CAST). The key reason for the college’s success has been the long-time incorporation of a rigorous one-year Senior Projects requirement for all EET graduates. When Bill took over the Senior Projects program, Newel told him how terrifying it was to go for a Senior Project test ride in a student’s clunker car to demonstrate his partial success of designing a cruise control.
In the 1980’s, the need for electronic technicians was so great that the EET program grew to an astonishing eight hundred students, which was equal to MIT’s EET program. Newel expanded the EET program to include evening upper-division courses at Provo/Orem Technical College (now Utah Valley University) and Salt Lake Technical College (now Salt Lake Community College). Students at these two colleges could be admitted into our distance learning 4-year program after completing their 2-year AAS ET degree at their college and receive their bachelor’s degree in EET.
Bill volunteered to be the department’s representative to the two remote locations and travel south to help students find a company-sponsored Senior Project and be their program counselor. With over one hundred students at the two campuses, he was able to establish a good relationship with many Wasatch Front companies. One project he remembers well is when two students volunteered to bring back on-line the University of Utah’s nuclear reactor. It was a thrill for him to be present when U of U’s reactor came on-line. One of those students accepted direct entry into U of U’s Master of Physics degree program. That student graduated with a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and became a nuclear engineer for the US Air Force. EET Professors Dr. Robert Summers and Verne Hansen had joined our faculty and were both working for EG & G, a company specializing in nuclear power plant design and implementation. It was Newel Cutler who hired both Bob and Verne. Do you think that this had something to do with motivating those students? Yes, it did.
Bob and Verne made a remarkable team, both at EG & G and WSU. Bob was the band leader and Verne was the finisher for many projects including CAST satellites and Bill’s Hovercraft Target Vehicle (HATV). Bob was also the WSU Billiards Coach. He provided a pool table for our students to use, and they set it up in the parts room. That did not last long because Dean Warren Hill brought something to their attention. The loud crack of the balls could be heard all the way down the hall and gave passerbyers the impression that EET students had other things on their mind. The pool table was returned. Bob could fascinate anyone with the mathematical relationship between electronics and pool.
Bill describes one story that sheds a little light as to what he was like. In an introductory digital circuits course (EET 124), he was conducting a full laboratory of 24-students when one of them became frustrated in trying to get his lab circuit working, the student blurted aloud enough for all to hear, “bull Crap.” Bill was on the other side of the room, and he worked his way over to him and quietly said to him, “you called me, Bill Clapp.” It took a few seconds, but he finally made the connection. The student was so embarrassed, that he fell off the stool. The two of them were laughing about the incident after he got his circuit working
During Bill’s 26 years, he managed over four hundred Senior Projects. Most of the projects were sponsored by local and national companies like Auto-Liv, L-3, Hill AFB, WSU CAST, Northrup-Grumman, and Lockheed-Martin. Some of the faculty sponsored and advised projects that fit their own interest and skill. The in-house sponsors included Physics Professor Dr. John Sohl, WSU KWCR-FM Radio Communications Professor Ty Sanders, EET Professors in alphabetical order were Verne Hanson, Ed Price, Dr. Jay Smith, Dr. Bob Summers, and Bob Twiggs.
The EET department tailored their program to fit the needs of Hill AFB to a point where many EET graduates were hired as electronic technicians, and many worked their way up to electrical engineers on a GS-7 to GS-12 4-year track. The EET graduates were so successful at getting into engineering positions that it eventually backfired. The Air Force initiated a study to find out why so many (98) EET graduates were hired into EE positions at Hill AFB. The EE community was against hiring EET graduates because many EEs consider EET graduates to be no more than “technicians.” Hill AFB created a new Engineering Director’s position and hired a new out of state engineer at the pay level of Senior Executive Service (SES-1, same as a Brigadier General). He was brought in to specifically stop the hiring of EET, Physics, and Computer Science majors into EE positions. The regulations require that all hires must be graduates from an EE ABET accredited degree program. Shortly after his arrival, all EET, Physics, and Computer Science majors were no longer hired into EE positions.
In the 1990s, the demand for electronic technicians was rapidly declining nation-wide. Electronic programs around the country were shutting down. Manufacturing companies were designing throw away products and well-trained employees were no longer needed to troubleshoot circuits. Most educational programs around the country started “dumbing down” their programs to maintain enrollments and still meet the needs of employers. Industry, on the other hand, concluded that they could take people off the street and teach them what they needed to know to run the automated testing stations. Industry no longer needed 2 and 4-year educated technicians. The EET department decided to shift the program towards electronic engineering. Bill remembers when the President of Utah Valley College (now Utah Valley University) came to see Bill in his office to ask him why their own electronics program was rapidly declining, and Weber’s program was still flourishing. Our program was still strong because Hill AFB still needed technicians because they had to maintain and repair their older military electronic systems longer than commercially available products.
A fond farewell to Building 4
The faculty were told for Bill’s thirty years at Weber that it would be the next building to be replaced, but that did not happen until after Bill retired. In the meantime, the building was renovated many times. In one renovation of the campus’s largest classroom in the fifties, they mysteriously found a cot and a string of ancient Christmas lights under a hatch that led to a crawl space under the tiered floor right next to an old, abandoned window air conditioner that was used to cool the room. A decades old mystery was solved. There was an age-old story that there was a janitor who would be at work but could never be found until the shift ended.
Building 4 held many other fascinating clues to its history. One of its laboratories had a dumb waiter to transport heavy supplies to the second floor that was used until an elevator was installed. That same room had visible glass drainpipes that were once used by the chemistry department to collect toxic chemicals. Bill remembers his extended stay in his first office that was no bigger than a closet and had a round eighteen-inch concrete pillar that prevented him from fully opening the file folder drawer in his half-desk. He wanted to add rocket fins near the floor of the pillar and have a large fuse coming out near the bottom. Professors Dr. Bob Salmond and Ron Harris had equally small offices next to his. There were three irritating vending machines within ten feet of their offices. Not only were the machines noisy, but the students using them were also occasionally vocal when they did not work. Bill remembers coming out of his office to stop a student from tilting one machine far enough to free up a stuck candy bar. He had had enough one day when the ice cream machine’s compressor quit working and the ice cream began to spoil. Days of phone calls to get the machine fixed did not bring any relief from the smell. Bill used the department dolly and moved the machine outside. He was reprimanded by a campus administrator. That is not all, these machines would trip a breaker every few days and that would shut down the computers in all three offices.
The EET students had unauthorized access to the long dark tunnels that connected Buildings 1-4 but were never given permission to open a seasonal Halloween spook alley. They did, although, know how to get to the secure hidden ladder that led to the roof hatch, which allowed students access to the roof for mounting and testing antennas. The best feature of the building was the numerous windows that could be opened when everyone else on campus was dying from the heat when the campus air conditioning went down.
Building 4 offered opportunities to entertain students and visitors alike. The work-study students helped Bill convert the original cashiers window into a 1950’s electronic parts room. Bill brought in his old ancient supply of vacuum tubes, old radios, and posters. Instructor Steve Green displayed his father’s WWII Army dress jacket (with name tag and ribbons), which he hung on the hook on the back of the door. The room was accented with a mannequin, named Bob, dressed in 1950’s clothing. Bob would answer your questions and offer advice because Bill had a camera that could see who was at the window and a microphone in his office with a speaker near Bob. At Halloween, student Mike Wilden was into seasonal spook alleys, and he brought in his electric chair with a mannequin-inmate in striped pajamas. The visitor at the window could press a button and watch the inmate shake and rattle while a Jacob’s ladder was hissing and arcing behind the inmate Bob.
EET to EE
Bill was EET department chair for twelve-years leading up to the approval of the EE degree in 2009. In the 1990’s, the program took an anticipated turn toward the incorporation of computer chips in most electronic systems. They added a new Computer Engineering Technology (CET) degree, and the department name was changed to Computer and Electronics Engineering Technology (CEET). The CET degree included a number of courses from the Computer Science Department. The new program only lasted a few years because it was a composite program of EET and CS courses which created a debate as to which department should host it. Dean Warren Hill shut down the CET degree and the debate ended. A good solution emerged years later when COAST started a Master of Science Degree in Computer Engineering.
The EET Program continued to add engineering type courses to its program but maintained a significant hands-on laboratory and Senior Project emphasis. The use of an active advisory council that insisted that we maintain the hands-on problem-solving aspect was what made EET graduates so successful. They reviewed other leading EE programs around the country and utilized certain aspects that fit their particular need. During this time, Bill was assigned to Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, as an Air Force senior reserve scientist and was very familiar with the relationship between Wright-Patterson AFB and the nearby Wright State University EE program. His goal was to create the same kind of relationship.
Dean Warren Hill strongly encouraged active advisory councils and often attended Bill’s meetings. The council provided community visibility that led to the transition to the EE degree. Warren commented once to Bill asking why he had so many agreeable friends on his council. Would it be more helpful to have some members with differing opinions? That comment could also be an indication that he was well-known and liked in the community because of his continuing industry related Senior Projects along the Wasatch front. It also helped that he was a Utah Air National Guard Chief of Maintenance for the USAF 106th Tactical Mobile Radar Squadron.
The EET department was repeatedly told by outsiders and some at WSU to give up the impossible effort of transitioning an EET program into an ABET accredited EE program. Some faculty and administrators believed that the Physics department should be the new home for an EE program. The EET department put together an EE curriculum and made it public for review. They presented it to the department chair and faculty at Utah State University. Dr. Bob Summers, Verne Hansen, Dr. Justin Jackson, and Dr. Bill Clapp made a two-hour presentation that ended with congratulations on developing a great curriculum, but Utah State University’s EE department would “not” support our effort.
Weber State University administrators also wanted an engineering degree program, so they went to work to help make that happen. President Ann Millner and her staff masterfully added the approval to other popular bills during Utah congressional sessions. Twice, the naysayers found it and had it removed. One last attempt just before the end of one session succeeded and was passed. In 2009, Weber State University was authorized to offer the university’s first engineering degree, Electronics Engineering (now Electrical Engineering). When Bill retired, he was replaced by Dr. Kirk Hagen who came over from the Mechanical Engineering Technology department. He went through the daunting rigor of accrediting a new EE degree, which he accomplished in two years. Hill AFB now hires most of their new EE graduates from WSU, which brought to pass Bill’s ten-year goal.
There were four EET involved Senior Projects that are worth mentioning because of the magnitude of the project and the number of students who participated. In no particular order: they are: The EET Hovercraft Autonomous Target Vehicle (HATV), COAST’s Center for Aerospace Technology (CAST), Ford’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle Competition, and WSU’s KWCR FM Radio Station.
Hovercraft Autonomous Target Vehicle (HATV)
The USAF Hovercraft Autonomous Target Vehicle (HATV) originated with a request for proposals to design a next generation target vehicle for the testing of air to ground missiles. The Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) at Hill AFB was using surplus Army tanks that were remotely driven around an arena towing a target sled. Bill met with the UTTR commander, which led to a three-year Senior Project that involved twenty-five EET and five Manufacturing students over a three-year period from 2008 to 2010. The US Navy eventually won the contract with Hill AFB to produce unmanned wheeled vehicles that were equipped with expensive laser ring gyros that could traverse a four-mile dirt road at 50 mph. The WSU Signpost article below nicely summarizes the project.
Hovercraft tested on salt flats
Friday’s performance impresses WSU team, craft reaches 54 mph
By John Caple
Published: Sunday, September 12, 2010
Updated: Sunday, September 12, 2010 13:09
The sky was clear, winds calm as the Computer and Electronics Engineering Technology (CEET) team made final preparations for the initial high-speed run of the prototype Hovercraft Autonomous Target Vehicle (HVAT) at the Bonneville Salt Flats last Friday. Electronics engineering technology student Larry Lusk is the team leader and pilot. At 11 a.m., Lusk and co-pilot John Carbine manned the remote controls of the hovercraft for the beginning of what was to be a very successful day.
This project began when Hill Air Force Base (HAFB) requested a low-cost craft to be designed for the use of target practice for air-to-ground missile tests. The target vehicle needed to be able to travel across a graded surface at 60 mph. The key issue was that it needed to be remote-controlled. Weber State University students of the CEET department designed a unique system that appears to have fulfilled those requirements.
The autonomous control system developed by the CEET students started the 9-horsepower lift motor, which allows the craft to hover. The 23-horsepower motor that drives the thrust propeller was started next. The prototype began to move along the smooth salt runway. The designed safety system stopped the craft, as the guidance system needed slight adjustments. According to Lusk, “there was a frequency interference problem because of the salt surface.” After a few minutes, the team had the craft running straight across the flats on a 40-mph trial run.
“Our guidance system is unique because we can maneuver more quickly than a conventional hovercraft,” Lusk said. “We have also designed a system that can go from point to point using an electronic compass and a GPS.”
On the second run, the HVAT was clocked at 54 mph and was completely under control. There were cheers of enthusiasm from observers standing on the pure white salt.
HAFB had agreed to provide aircraft and observers for the trial run. Bill Clapp, department chair of CEET at WSU, spearheaded the project since May of 2008 and was present at the event.
“The run went really well,” Clapp said. “We had three F-16s coming at us. They conducted about 10-runs, doing lock-ons on all their different weapons systems. We put 35 miles on the hovercraft, top speed about 54 mph; we had no trouble with the device.”
The Air Force currently uses an expensive remote-controlled tow vehicle, which pulls a trailer with the target attached. The HVAT is designed to be fast, maneuverable, autonomous and cost-effective.
“We are developing it for the Air Force as a low-cost, disposable target,” Clapp said, “one that they can chase, keeping the cost way down.”
Al Walker, director of Technology Outreach for Utah Science and Research Initiative, observed the hovercraft in its trial run.
“Very successful project today,” Walker said. “Several flights from the United States Air Force F-16 aircraft verified that they could acquire the target that Clapp and his team put together. They produced a cost-effective, environmentally safe target for the U.S. Air Force to utilize.”
A grant of $31,000 had been previously awarded to CEET for the HVAT prototype by the organization that Walker represents.
“The preliminary test is above and beyond the military expectations,” said Lusk, who was in radio contact with one of the F-16 pilots. “He was very excited about flying sorties over our target and left only because the aircraft was running low on fuel.”
Lusk said he was thrilled at the team effort.
“It is the best team that you could expect,” he said.
Lusk acknowledged the extraordinary efforts and voluntary time of all the seniors and other team members as well. Ron Lofthouse was the initial team leader and was very supportive of Lusk throughout the completion of the project.
Testing the HATV involved traveling to many locations, which required the use of a specially designed trailer with a ramp to float it on and off. Before going off-campus, the students ran the HATV around Building 4. Bill remembers one test outside Building 4 when the propellor’s drive belt came off, broke the propellor and the belt was thrown to the top of a nearby tree. The drive belt was probably still in the tree when Building 4 was demolished. For safety reasons, the testing moved to the soccer field and then the football stadium. The football coach gave them permission to run it on his stadium field “as long as you do not mow the grass.” They ran it again, this time the field had six inches of snow on it. They proved it would effectively hover on snow as well, which the Air Force liked.
The testing later moved off-campus, which gave the students visibility and recognition. The first off-campus testing was conducted at the Ogden R/C Club facility out 12th Street near Little Mountain. Mingling with R/C pilots was fun for the students. Students took turns driving the HATV. Bill recalls when the students were yelling at him to “run.” One of the students lost control of the HATV, which was traveling about 35 mph and it was coming toward him as he was standing next to a WSU truck. You must be more descriptive when trying to warn a blind person. Shouting “run” did not tell him which way to move. The student eventually figured out how to use the emergency shut down and the HATV came to a stop at his feet. The student was either an excellent pilot or he really did lose control. Agreeing with what Newel Cutler told Bill years earlier when he took over the Senior Project program, “it can be scary.”
Hill AFB shut down their runway for 3 hours for HATV testing, which was the second time that ever happened. The first time was when a golfer wanted to set a world record for the longest drive. It did not work because runways are heavily sloped to the edge for water drainage. The students ran the HATV up and down the runway while some of them observed from the control tower. With the student designed instrumentation, they reported something that the runway manager did not know. The Hill AFB runway is fifty feet lower at the south end. The students later found out that Hill AFB cleared the adjacent flight line of their jets in-case the HATV did not stay on the runway. Hill AFB was impressed enough to ask the HATV team to display their HATV at the upcoming annual air show. The team was provided with an ideal display location where they started and hovered the HATV every hour. Thirty thousand attendees walked past the display, and many stopped to have a conversation with the students. This was a good day for WSU.
Bill’s son, Andrew, and student AJ Frederickson were on the HATV Senior Project team, and they designed and tested the autonomous guidance system. They started by making a wheeled vehicle to try out the magnetic assisted GPS design. Their test vehicle could be programmed to stay on the sidewalks around Building 4. The electronic compass was included in the design to give the HATV onboard computer an initial direction until it traveled far enough to gather the needed GPS location data points to then flip the rudder for a more accurate path. At the upper parking lot near the football stadium, their car kept mysteriously screwing up at the same spot and it took quite a while to figure out what was causing the car to veer off course. The electrical power line that provided electricity to the whole campus was under their feet in that spot, which was generating a powerful magnetic field that was much greater than the Earth’s magnetic field. Their guidance system was installed in the HATV and tested up until the last runs on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
The HATV outgrew a confining runway and needed to be demonstrated on the open desert. The HATV could not be run on the UTTR salt flats because of the danger of un-exploded ordinance. The Bonneville Salt Flats became the perfect compromise. Bill took thirteen students on a two-day field trip to Wendover, Nevada. The HATV was targeted by F-16’s while two (WSU and Hill AFB UTTR) chase vehicles followed. One of the students in the chase vehicle was talking to the F-16 lead pilot during the test. Can you imagine the excitement shown by the students when the F-16 pilot rocked his wings at low altitude just before returning to Hill AFB? Bill was later investigated by WSU for taking students to Wendover and staying at the Red Garter Hotel. A simple explanation got Bill off the hook.
The HATV project provided students with wonderful career opportunities and Bill is still in contact with a few of the graduates. Ron Lofthouse is a test engineer at L3 in Salt Lake City, AJ Fredrickson is an electrical engineer for Northrup Grumman, and Bill’s son Andrew, graduated from Weber’s EET program and later returned to get Weber’s new EE degree. Hill AFB released him to return to get Weber’s new M.S. degree in computer engineering. One-year later he accepted a promotion to join Space Force at Cape Canaveral, Florida. He loves his new position on a development team of ten engineers who are upgrading the space launch infrastructure.
Students, instructor Steve Green, and Dr. Bill Clapp at the Bonneville Salt Flats
Instructor Steve Green was Bill’s sidekick and was present for all on- and off-campus HATV testing. The students loved Steve. He added additional support, security, and supervision for the testing and running of the HATV. He visited UTTR’s tank arena where they ran a radio-controlled surplus army tank around a one-mile oval as a target vehicle for weapons calibration. Steve heard the story about one tank that went out of control and headed for Interstate 80, which was ten miles away. Fortunately, the tank ran out of fuel before crossing the interstate. Steve was always there to help Bill see and do things that he could not do as a blind person, like driving. Thank you, Steve.
The HATV project came to a stop when Bill retired in 2010. WSU administration made it clear that Bill could no longer be involved because it belonged to the university. The Hovercraft Target Vehicle patent (US Patent 8, 8,051,935 Dated 8 Nov 2011) was paid for by WSU and they wanted to develop it further by themselves. The HATV sat in storage for years before it was auctioned off for scrap. Bill is OK with that conclusion because the students were the winners, and he knows that the students found great jobs after graduation.
Center for Aerospace Technology (CAST)
1988 to 2000
Bill joined the EET department to free up Bob Twiggs so he could devote full-time to creating a center for designing and building spacecraft. Bob was a visionary and a friend who knew the value of having a strong Senior Projects program. It was not hard to get students motivated and involved in building satellites that would go into orbit. The Center for Aerospace Technology (CAST) was officially formed with grants from the State of Utah with Bob as the first director.
Summary of WSU CAST Satellites
NUSAT 1 (Northern Utah Satellite)
1982 to 1986
NUSA 1 (Northern Utah Satellite) was designed and built to calibrate Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic control radar antennas. FAA radar antennas must be aligned in the vertical axis to accurately reference the Earth’s horizon. Gil Moore (Thiokol Public Affairs) and Charles Bonsall (Federal Aviation Administration) took their idea to Utah State University with the idea of using a small satellite that could carry the necessary equipment to orbit and help align the antennas as the satellite comes up over the horizon. Gill reserved a ride in one of the Shuttle’s Get-Away-Special (GAS) canisters and would be NASA’s first payload to jettison out of the cannister. Utah State University was backlogged with more important projects and could not drum up the interest to take on the project. Gil and Charlie tried contacting WSU and found a willing professor, Bob Twiggs, to take on the project.
NUSAT 1 was launched from the Shuttle Columbia six-months before it was involved in the first Shuttle disaster in April of 1986. The WSU Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering Technology students designed the NUSAT 1 pyro-technic ejection system that worked perfectly. Bob Twiggs’s Senior Project students also built the satellite tracking ground station, and you should have heard the cheers when they made their first contact.
1985 to 1987
NUSAT 2 development began before NUSAT 1 was launched. Bill easily recruited twenty-five students into ten EET Senior Project teams. Projects included electronic and electrical systems such as the transmitter, receiver, computer, camera, magnetometer, battery charging circuit, and solar cells. Bill recalls taking one of his Senior Project students to NASA’s deep space solar cell manufacturer in Long Beach, California for three-days to use their solar cell glass processing line. He and the student were the only people running a fifty-foot automated line that deposited the epoxy, placing the glass cover, and then vacuuming out the air bubbles. Unfortunately, NUSAT 2 development was discontinued after the Shuttle disaster in April of 1986 when the Get-Away Special Program was discontinued. Bill moved to Cocoa in 2019 and met one of those students. Bill and retired EET graduate Mike Butler are now best friends.
1987 to 1990
WeberSat was the next significant project for CAST. It was launched from French Guiana, South America in January of 1990. The goal was to launch it in 1989 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of WSU, but there were too many variables out of their control. WeberSat was a joint project with the Amateur Radio Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) and was designated as AMSAT-17 along with three other look-alike satellites named AMSAT 18-20. It was nearly impossible to get frequency authorization to communicate from space while orbiting over every other nation in the world. Teaming up with AMSAT allowed CAST to use amateur radio frequency bands.
The AMSAT satellites were 12” cubes with surface mounted solar panels that could generate enough power to maintain a 2-watt transmitter, receiver, and a store and forward texting computer. This was long before texting became common. Since there were no internet or cell phone links, users of the system had to own their own tracking high-gain antenna and electronic equipment to send a message packet to one of the satellites and the end user had to know when that satellite would be overhead to download the message. Each satellite was named by a sponsoring organization, so CAST’s satellite was named WeberSat.
WeberSat (16” x 12” x 12”)
The CAST and AMSAT relationship started with Bill attending annual AMSAT conferences. Bill remembers when everyone at the conference was introducing themselves by stating their Amateur Radio call signs. He was the only one in the auditorium that did not have one. Bill immediately realized that he should get his license, which he did. At one of those conferences, he presented the NUSAT 1 story and that was when AMSAT leadership decided to give them a call. At the next annual conference, he made a presentation to the AMSAT Board of Directors of what CAST could provide if they would be allowed to join AMSAT’s team. Bill left that meeting with a contract to build all four satellite structures with one of the four to be designated as WeberSat. He remembers a tense moment when one of the board members publicly commented “remove the middle letter “m” from Mormon and that is what you are.” Bill did not skip a beat and proceeded with his presentation.
Bob Twiggs sent Bill to the University of Surrey in England to work with Dr. Martin Sweeting. Martin also had two Surrey Satellites scheduled to ride along with the four AMSAT satellites on a European Space Agency’s (ESA) Ariane 4 missile. All six satellites were mounted on a ring at the base of the payload under a large European imaging satellite headed for a polar orbit. Martin and Bill flew to Ariane Space Headquarters in Paris, France for an integration meeting with their engineering management team. Bill was surprised to hear that the French team knew all about the success of NUSAT 1.
CAST did make all four satellite structures, which included system module boxes that were intricately machined on the Manufacturing Departments 4-axis mill. That miraculous task was completed by Senior Project students under Manufacturing faculty member and friend Mark Crookston. Mark was Bill’s go-to person in the Manufacturing Department. He added excitement to an Engineering Week activity that Bill headed up by arranging the arrival of a Utah Army National Guard Apache helicopter gunship to land outside the EET building. Mark made the twenty-foot-high pedestal for displaying a historic F-86 fighter jet in front of the Utah National Guard Headquarters on Interstate 15 near 90th South. Mark continued to help Bill with the ADSAT satellite and WSU KWCT-FM Radio projects. Thank you, Mark.
No one at AMSAT wanted to order all the electronic components for all four satellites, so Bill agreed to procure and distribute all components for all twenty-one modules. WeberSat had an extra module for the camera which they called the “penthouse.” The AMSAT board member who made that rude comment got all of the parts he needed for his one common module for all four satellites. That was a difficult task because he needed fifty transistors that had been out of production for ten years. Bill found forty-nine of them at North Dakota Surplus Sales. That was not an easy task before the implementation of the internet.
WeberSat was extensively modified by adding a module on top that included a camera and a magnetometer that were managed by EET professors Dr. Robert Summers and Verne Hansen with the help of many Senior Project students. The WeberSat camera module successfully transmitted down hundreds of photographs. Bill found and obtained a donated camera from the manufacturer with a disclaimer it would not survive a picture looking at the sun without the Earth’s atmosphere to block ultraviolet light. Imagine their surprise when the first picture sent down was looking directly at the sun.
Bob and Verne also supervised another Senior Project team designing and building a magnetometer that measured WeberSat’s altitude in relationship to the Earth’s magnetic field. Bob had previous experience designing underwater magnetometers for a well-known treasure hunter. Unfortunately, WeberSat’s magnetometer did not work because the magnets used for attitude control were installed upside down by AMSAT during a last-minute unexpected disassembly just before launch. The satellites used 12” long permanent magnets for attitude control. The magnets were mounted on the corners from top to bottom. The magnets aligned the satellites with the Earth’s magnetic field and caused WeberSat to tumble as it passed over the poles. This allowed the antennas that were protruding out of the top and bottom to have a clear view of the ground stations below. Bob and Verne’s Senior Project team had calibrated the magnetometer to zero out the influence of the powerful magnets.
The WeberSat satellite functioned successfully for many years and students had a blast running the onboard instruments. Hundreds of pictures were taken with the challenge of identifying what they were looking at. On board was a particle impact sensor that was built by instructor John Baranca and his students at Skyline High School in Salt Lake. Their sensor recorded hundreds of mysterious impacts that no one could explain. They eventually concluded that they were recording creaking sounds from the satellite expanding and contracting as it passed in and out of the sun’s shadow. Bob and Verne’s student teams designed and built the sensor data collection and transfer to Weber’s ground station. Later, Bill remembers giving to John a full-size USAF F-4 flight simulator that had been modified by one of Bill’s Senior Project teams. Bill wanted to keep the simulator, but Dean Warren Hill said it was taking up valuable lab space.
Bob Twiggs left Weber to take a position at Stanford University to start a satellite program that expanded on the small “CubeSat” design. Bill met with Bob at the Stanford campus once to see his facility and meet with his students. Dr. Jay Smith took over as the CAST director. Bill and Jay attended conferences all over the world trying to drum up business. As the excitement of WeberSat wore off, their interest shifted to finding new projects.
The 1990s were a challenge for CAST because there were no satellite projects that solidified until the launch of JAWSAT in 2000. Jay and Bill went on the road to drum up business. They attended small satellite conferences in France, Australia, Russia, and the United States. Lots of seeds were planted, but they understood that it commonly took years for them to blossom, and only about ten percent ever do. A few of the trips were accentuated with peculiar events. For example, on their trip to the west coast of France Jay and Bill included a new CAST engineering employee, Mike Wood, who was an instructor for the EET department. Everything was going fine until they got off the Paris subway to catch the high-speed train to the west coast. The subway was so crowded that Jay was separated from Bill and Mike by 50 feet. Mike, the travel guide, was unable to signal to Jay to get off at the next stop. Bill and Mike waived to Jay as he sped away. Panic set in when they realized the once-a-day train to the west coast would depart in less than an hour. They waited for a few minutes until Jay appeared on the other side of the loading dock. They yelled to him to meet us at the train station. Fortunately, they made their train connection. That was not the end of their challenges. Near their destination, Mike being more assertive, saw a sign he thought was the place where they were to get off. As the train sped away, they realized they were standing on an abandoned depot, which happened to be five-miles short of their destination.
On another trip, this one to St. Petersburg, Russia, for an international navigation conference, Bill was there representing the USAF War College and Weber State University. Jay met up with Bill in Austria on the last leg of the trip. Bill was the opening American speaker and he presented 25 new technologies needed by the USAF. He remembers meeting many Russian engineers. At an evening social event at the Marble Palace, a Russian individual came up to Bill dressed in a dark suit and said, “Your technology in America scares me.” He paused and said, “Do you have a job for me?” The conference went well, until Jay and Bill tried to leave the country. At 5 a.m., on the way to the airport, Bill’s suitcase fell out of the back hatch onto the asphalt while they were briskly moving through town. Fortunately, his suitcase did not spring open, and the driver scrambled to fetch it with apologies. Later at the airport, Jay made it through the passport and visa check, but Bill was stopped. The formally dressed agent said in broken English, “I am sorry, you can not leave. Your visa expired yesterday.” They both froze while staring at each other while Jay was starting to panic. Bill told me that he was clueless as to what to say next. He did not realize that a money bribe would have been the ticket home. After a long pause, the agent also realized that Bill was clueless. The agent found a way out of this predicament. The agent said, “Ah, I have a solution. I will ask the pilot to clear you.” The agent ran outside toward the airplane, climbed the portable stairs, and disappeared inside while the jet engines were idling. He returned with the pilot in tow. After the pilot agreed to take Bill, they boarded without further incidents.
Not all CAST projects ended up in space. NUSAT 2 was the first, but that was followed by three others: (1) Solar Sail Race to the Moon, (2) Astronaut Deployable Satellite, and (3) Boeing’s Sea Launch.
1. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) initiated an international solar sail race to the moon in celebration of the 500-year centennial of Columbus discovering America 1492-1992. Bill remembers calling JPL and volunteering Weber to provide the cameras for monitoring the deployment and tracking of the sail of the JPL entry. Two JPL project leaders came to our campus to evaluate the seriousness of the offer. CAST became a JPL team member. Bill believes it helped to take the JPL evaluators on a trip on the Alpine Loop in his convertible. The project had five countries willing to participate, but the task of building a football field size sail that could fold up into the nose of a Delta 2 missile became the reality check. It would take that large of a sail to generate one pound of thrust. Once in low-Earth orbit, it would take another 500 years to get to the moon. Photons do not have enough mass to move objects.
2. The Astronaut Deployable Satellite (ADSAT) became another failure. Bill came up with the whacky idea of a Shuttle astronaut tossing a satellite into space. The Shuttle had over 100 storage lockers for supplies and paraphernalia for the astronauts, such as flags and pins to hand out later. The idea was to make the ADSAT small enough to fit into one of those lockers. Bill remembers the bewilderment of his son and his son’s new date being introduced while Bill was building a wood prototype of the ADSAT in the basement. “Dad, what are you building?” The concept was to put into orbit a satellite the school children around the world could tune in with a low-cost Radio Shack receiver. For example, the audio voice would announce how long the ADSAT was in the Earth’s shadow during the last orbit. That information could then be used to help analyze the orbital path.
Dr. Bob Summers, Verne Hansen, and Mark Crookston were convinced this project had merit and they succeeded in making a flyable ADSAT. With satellite in hand, Bill first went to Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston to meet with NASA engineers. The only negative thing they said was the ADSAT needed a spring-loaded handle to jettison it at a known velocity because they did not trust the astronauts. The fear was it may collide with the Shuttle on subsequent orbits. Back to the drawing board for a re-design. The new handle was approved by Utah Astronaut Don Lind while wearing a space suit glove.
Bill wanted to find a commercial sponsor to help fund the needed ground receivers and science experiment workbooks. Since the ADSAT looked like a pizza box, he thought of the catch phrase, “Domino’s delivers anywhere in the World” while the astronaut jettisons the ADSAT while floating in space. The owner of twenty-five Domino’s Pizza franchises in Utah loved the idea and recommended that he call Domino’s national marketing headquarters. When Bill called the national VP of marketing, the VP thought he had a looney on the phone trying to launch pizzas from space and dismissed him as a prank call. Oh well, he tried. An in-person meeting might have worked. Bill dragged the ADSAT to NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. and met with the person over NASA educational programs. NASA did not catch the vision and they told Bill, “We will launch ADSAT if you give us one million dollars. Bill was looking for a “free launch,” so he flew home to report his unsuccessful attempt to fly ADSAT. The NASA education director told him that he would have to find a large educational organization like the National Science Foundation (NSF)
Bill did not give up. Dr. Jay Smith knew the science outreach director at the University of Utah (U of U), and he agreed to arrange a meeting at the NSF headquarters in Washington D.C. That resulted in the U of U paying for all three of us to go to D.C. and return within 24-hours. Sounds simple enough, but it turned out to have a few kinks in the plan. Jay and Bill were to meet the U of U director at the boarding gate. They did not see him there and he did not answer his cell phone. They could not make the trip without him because he had made all of the arrangements and contacts for the meeting. They waited for his arrival and the plane was about to close the cabin door. They went up to the ticket counter and asked if he was on the plane. The agent said, “I am sorry, but I cannot share that information with you.” Bill explained the situation and asked a different question, “Should we board?” She looked at the manifest and said, “Yes.” They found out that he had walked right by us and nodded thinking we saw him. They arrived after midnight and found out that the reserved hotel had been given away to someone else. So, at 2 a.m. they found the only available room in D.C., which was a scary. run-down dirty hotel in the wrong part of town. The whole time, Bill was dragging the 60-pound ADSAT. And to top it off, Bill and Jay returned to SLC airport the next night after 1 am. Jay parked his vehicle at Diamond long-term parking to find out they had closed for the night. Bill and Jay slept a few hours at the SLC airport until Diamond opened at 5 am. Of course, Bill had a 7:30 am class. To top it off, the MSF was not interested in supporting a satellite that looked like a pizza box that would be hand thrown by an astronaut.
3. Boeing’s Sea Launch program was an attempt to compete with Ariane’s dominance in launching satellites into geo-stationary orbits. Their first launch was a 10,000-pound empty metal frame that simulated a large Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) satellite to prove they could do it. Boeing’s concept was to launch a low-cost Russian missile from a floating barge near the equator where they could easily compete with Ariane’s cost. Ariane beat out America’s launch vehicles because the U.S.A. launched from Cape Canaveral’s twenty-two-degree latitude which required considerably more fuel to move the payloads toward the equator. Bill contacted VP of Boeing’s Space Launch Division and convinced him CAST and the Naval Academy could design and build a free payload for their first launch that what measure the spin and roll rate of the metal frame to ensure future customers’ satellites were in the desired attitude after separation.
The EET Senior Project team included a lower-division student named Justin Jackson who is now Dr. Jackson and is the chair of Weber’s EE Department. Justin was in Bill’s EET 1024 Digital Electronics class, and he was not the typical student. Justin was recruited to be on the team even though he was not a senior. Bill met a representative from the Naval Academy at one of those “drumming up business conferences” and later went to the Navel Academy for a meeting with faculty and students. The student team and Bill were two-weeks away from driving to Long Beach, California, to install the payload on the Boeing’s metal frame, which was mounted on the nose of a Russian missile that was being readied to ship out to the equator aboard the Boeing Sea Launch Command and Control Ship when Bill got a call from Boeing’s VP of the Space Launch Division. The VP said, “I am sorry, but the Federal Office of Technology Transfer unexpectedly prohibited the installation of your payload because Russian engineers will be present during the installation and the USA will not take the risk of them stealing your payload’s technology.” Oh well, another project that did not fly. Ask Dr. Justin Jackson if that was worth his time.
With the success of all four AMSAT satellites, AMSAT started on what they called Phase 4, which are satellites that go out further than low-Earth orbit. AMSAT needed a cone shaped satellite structure with a bottom diameter of seven feet and narrowing to a diameter of four feet with a total height of three feet. It needed to be light, but strong enough to support and eject a 10,000-pound satellite after experiencing a 4G lift off. AMSAT came to Weber and asked for help. CAST recruited the faculty and students in the Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology Department and the spaceframe design and on-campus construction began. Bill was not involved with details of this project, but he did host the AMSAT engineering director Dick Jansen in his home during his many visits. Phase IV flew on the first flight of a much larger Ariane 5 and successfully jettisoned a satellite before it jettisoned itself and ignited an on-board rocket motor to go to a much higher orbit. The concept of becoming a critical component of the launch vehicle to get a free ride to space was observed and utilized in the design and success of CAST’s last satellite, JAWSAT.
JAWSAT (Joint Air Force and Weber Satellite)
1995 to 2000
Bill made a couple of trips to the Air Force Academy to encourage them to team up with CAST. Dr. Bob Summers and Bill made presentations to the Dean of the Aerospace Department and faculty. The CAST Director Dr. Jay Smith wanted a larger satellite so he could include his design for high-speed momentum wheels for attitude control. That would be a tremendous step forward if it could be done on a shoe-string budget. Jay found surplus F-4 gyro compass motors and he went to work modifying them for space use. In the meantime, the Air Force Academy decided to build their own satellite instead of a joint satellite with Weber. The CAST concept grew to a much larger satellite that was a one-meter cube that could carry and eject smaller satellites. Their satellite was named Joint Air Force and Weber State University Satellite (JAWSAT). The Air Force Academy (AFA) secured a ride to space on the first launch of a new vehicle called Minitaur. This new low-cost launch vehicle was developed to put small experimental USAF payloads into orbit.
Dr. Bill Clapp standing next to the JAWSAT Satellite
Bill left Weber for two-years (1996 to 1998) to accept a Visiting Professor position at Air War College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Alabama to teach space technology to senior military officers. Representing WSU, he continued working with the AFA and keeping JAWSAT from being removed as the first payload on the Minitaur. Jay and Bill recruited three more payload customers while he was there. The AFA FalconSat had the highest priority and the payload capacity maxed out with the following manifest. four payload customers: (1) Air Force Academy, (2) Stanford University, (3) Arizona state University, and (4) Air Force Research Laboratory,
1. FalconSat was the Air Force Academy’s first satellite and that was made possible because they hired Jan King who was a friend of Bill’s from the AMSAT satellite projects. Jan was hired as an AFA Visiting Professor to help academy students design and build the academy’s first satellite. Bill loved his trips to the academy and meeting with their students who were developing FalconSat. Guess what? The AFA now had a Senior Project program.
2. Stanford University was added to the manifest because the previous CAST Director Bob Twiggs was now at Stanford repeating what he had started at Weber. Bob needed a ride for his first Stanford student-built satellite.
3. Arizona State University was invited to join the manifest because Jay and Bill met their team at one of the many Small Satellite Conferences held at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.
4. Air Force Research Laboratory was invited to launch an inflatable six-foot mylar sphere that was to be used to calibrate their adaptive optics telescope used to remove atmospheric distortion when imaging objects in space. Bill had previously invited their director, Dr. Bob Fugate, to Air War College as a guest speaker and that event revealed his need of a calibration sphere in space
JAWSAT -OS3 engineers with Michael Wood (Right, CAST/OS3 engineer and EET instructor)
The CAST Director, Dr. Jay Smith, proceeded to complete JAWSAT and integrate the payloads using student help. It was an exciting time for WSU. When Bill returned to Weber after his two-years at Air War College, he was recruited into the Air Force Reserves as a scientist for Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicle Directorate. You would not believe what happened when Bill reported to his new commander. His new boss said, “Bill, I am going to do my best to get your JAWSAT removed as the first Minitaur payload and replace it with our MightySat Satellite.” They eventually became good friends even though JAWSAT launched first. Bill somehow became the Air Force Payload Manager for the Minitaur launch in 2000. It was a thrill for Lt. Col. Bill Clapp to meet so many friends at Vandenberg AFB for the launch of JAWSAT.
CAST was going through a gradual transition when EET professor Dr. Jay Smith became director. Jay wanted to develop CAST into another Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, which originally started at Utah State University. Bob Twiggs, on the other hand, was more interested in providing wonderful experiences for students. That gradually changed everything. Weber is not a research university and large aerospace contracts come with a lot of deliverables that have significant consequences if not completed. Teaching universities are comfortable receiving risk-free grants. CAST got into a $1M contract with the University of New Hampshire to design and build the flight computer for a NASA contract. This contract was for a backup satellite that might not fly. The two-year contract got stretched to four years and the University of New Hampshire Principal Investigator wanted CAST to continue making upgrades after the initial contract had been met. They threatened to sue CAST and that scared Weber’s administration and they wanted CAST to go off campus. Bill remembers meeting with administrators to get permission to keep CAST alive by returning it back to Bob Twiggs’ initial philosophy of a program around simpler low-cost and low-risk Senior Projects. Bill was told “you will not be allowed to resuscitate a terminally ill patient (CAST).”
CAST Director Dr. Jay Smith started One Stop Satellite Solutions (OSSS or OS3) to keep CAST’s successes alive. The Air Force supported JAWSAT as a launch platform for jettisoning other smaller satellites, but there was no support for turning JAWSAT into a full-fledged satellite with an active attitude control system. Jay wanted to go all out and convince the small satellite community that OS3 could do just that. Before launch, JAWSAT was marketed as an OS3 satellite to help get the additional funding he needed to upgrade it to a “next generation” satellite. Bill wanted to fly a student-made beacon but Jay would not allow it. JAWSAT successfully jettisoned its payloads, but JAWSAT satellite, unfortunately, did not respond, and the news said “JAWSAT is lost in space. Jay moved OS3 off-campus and it may have survived to become another Space Dynamics Lab if not for the 9-11 attack where two significant prospective investors perished.
CAST had a great twenty-five year run and many students flourished because of their Senior Project experiences. It was a pleasure for Bill to be a volunteer assistant to Bob Twiggs and Dr. Jay Smith. He especially enjoyed watching students grow and succeed using the Senior Projects method that had been the backbone of success for students in Weber’s College of Applied Science, Engineering, and Technology.
Ford’s Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) Competition
1990 to 1992
Ford Motor Company was investigating the transition to electric vehicles and they decided to see what the nation’s universities could come up-with. They donated thirty-five new Ford Escort station wagons to leading colleges and universities throughout the nation. Ford Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) competition was held for two-years at the Ford Proving Grounds in Detroit, Michigan. Weber’s HEV took second place the first year and first place the final year.
The Weber State HEV project was spear-headed by Manufacturing Professor Dave Urb. He assembled four teams of three students each from automotive, electronics, manufacturing, and mechanical engineering departments. The team was recognized by WSU and received the Best Team Project of the Year Award at the end-of-year recognition banquet.
Weber’s Hybrid-Electric Car won 1st place nationally
The EET department provided three Senior Projects students under the supervision of EET Professor Ron Harris and Dr. Bill Clapp. Ron Harris was the department’s expert on all things electrical while the rest of the department faculty were primarily electronic specialists. Bill met with the team each week to set goals and monitor their progress while Ron was the go-to-person for technical advice. Ron was an electrical genius. Bill remembers inviting Ron to an Air Force sponsored Senior Project held at a remote hilltop radar site for the Hill AFB Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR). The final design review for Felix Lam went well, but an unrelated problem was brought to their attention. The remote radar site would trip its large main circuit breaker within two days of leaving the site. The UTTR struggled to find a solution for months until Ron showed up and diagnosed the problem in five minutes. Problem solved.
Ron came through with a winning assortment of electrical parts that gave the HEV a significant advantage. Bill believes the one idea that stole the show was the automotive idea to run the electric motor into the original Escort 5-speed manual transmission, which allowed the electric motor to run using four gear ranges. This allowed their car to burn rubber for 100 feet during acceleration. All of the other competitors kept the gasoline engine as-is and added two electric motors, one on each rear wheel.
After the competition ended, Bill used the HEV to recruit students to come to Weber by taking it to two-year colleges in Cody and Evanston, Wyoming and Rexburg, Idaho. He even accepted an invitation to take it to an elementary school and speak to a full auditorium of grades 1 to 6. He thought twice, he may have made a bad decision. The night before returning home from Cody, Wyoming, a storm dumped a foot of snow and he drove 100 miles on solid ice-covered roads in a vehicle that was entirely rear-end heavy because all of the batteries were in the back. That would make any vehicle unsafe on icy roads. Newer hybrids have the batteries mounted in collision resistant cases tucked under the vehicle. On the next recruiting trip, he towed the HEV with a van full of surplus electronic equipment to Rexburg, Idaho. On the trip up, he was driving slowly (30 mph) because there was snow blowing across the dry road. All went well until the sand truck in front of him took an off ramp before an overpass. With his wife in the van, it immediately hit ice and the HEV became the lead vehicle as they slid under the overpass and off into a shallow ditch. The priceless HEV made it through a farmer’s barbed-wire fence. The highway patrol took him to the farmer’s house to ask permission to drive the HEV through his pasture. That night he learned to listen to his wife and that the HEV could go off-road.
A few years later, Dean Warren Hill said it was time to get rid of the HEV. Why? It was painted like a race car, but it still looked like a Ford Escort. Bill went looking for a buyer until Kent Singleton and his son came into his office looking for a technical program for his son. Two years later, his fourteen-year-old son set a world record of 98 mph for hybrid electric vehicles at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Bill and Kent became good friends and they ended up working together on two Bonneville Salt Flats racing teams.
Weber’s KWCR-FM Radio Station
1985 to 2000
The KWCR FM 88.1 radio station started in 1972 by the Humanities Communications Department to give students experience managing a broadcast station and working behind the microphone as disk-jockeys. The small 10-watt transmitter allowed the signal to be heard in the neighborhood. Tuition scholarships were awarded to students selected to run the station 24-hours a day. Bill found out that they had trouble maintaining the equipment, which turned out to be another opportunity to give electronics students realistic training. Bill volunteered to manage the maintenance side of the operation and became the KWCR chief engineer for twenty-five years. From that day on, an EET student was given a tuition scholarship to work 10-hours a week as the KWCR student engineer. Many Senior Projects student teams were needed to update the station. The projects included researching, purchasing, and installing new broadcast equipment that met FCC rules and regulations. Students re-designed and moved the on-air and recording studio three times to new locations. The transmitter was moved to the top of the eleven-story Promontory Tower, and the transmitter power was increased to 1,000 watts.
The task of designing and constructing a new transmitter site was a challenge for the students. For example, they had to refurbish and tune a used 30-foot 3-bay antenna that had been hit by lightning. Constructing a sixty-foot tower on top of a 130-foot-high building required hoisting the 10-foot tower sections up the side using ropes. Completing the transmitter room included building two 6-foot-high equipment racks with new and used equipment. Manufacturing Professor Mark Crookston came through again when he made an adapter plate that connected two different 30-foot sections of tower. Bill trusted Mark enough to be the first to climb 30 feet above his adapter plate. The amazing thing about the endeavor was that the campus let him extensively modify Promontory Tower without contractor or campus support, which was unusual. Bill allowed one student to climb to the top of the tower to mount red flashing lights. Later, when Bill was losing his vision, the campus prohibited him from climbing the tower. He claimed it was easier because he could no longer see the ground. The transmitter worked well until the building was demolished twenty years later. That ended KWCR’s 88.1 FM signal but they can still be found online.
In Memory of
Three EET faculty members are mentioned here because they passed away before retiring. All three were excellent instructors and they are missed. Professor Wayne Andrews was one of the original instructors when the electronic instrumentation program started in the 1970’s. He frequently stated that he would never retire, and he would eventually be carried out horizontally. Few people knew that Wayne had a National Science Foundation grant to develop early computers. His sense of humor was on the edge. Bill remembers when an upset student came into his office and said, “You would not believe what Professor Andrews said the first day of class. If half of you would drop the course, my job would be easier.”
Professor Francis Webster was hired the same time Bill was hired in 1984. Francis certainly helped develop the department’s great relationship with Hill AFB. He took sabbatical to work at Hill AFB as an F-16 software engineer to enhance his already exceptional knowledge and teaching skills. He was always very cheerful and fun to be around. Francis was a loving and gentle person.
Professor Dr. Bob Summers had an outstanding electronics career and that added so much to the EET department. The best thing about Bob was his relationship with students. He always received the department’s highest scores on student evaluations. Some accused him of being successful because he gave such high grades, but he was so clear on course requirements and motivating them to excel in completing his assignments. Bob started and was the faculty advisor to a phenomenally successful IEEE student chapter. Bob died while doing what he enjoyed doing the most. He was coaching Weber’s Billiards Team at a tournament with the University of Utah on a Saturday. Bill was the department chair, and he went into Bob’s classes on Monday and shared the bad news. Not long after, Bill had to meet Wayne Andrew’s classes and also share the awful news of Wayne’s passing.
A tribute to
The unsung heroes in the EET department were the front-line secretaries who were the first contact students had with the department. Bill recalls three that were marvelous. They all cared deeply for the students, and they would not be shy to reprimand us if we overlooked student concerns. When Bill started in 1984, he remembers the wonderful attitude and proficiency of Ramona Sessions. Linda Thornock first started at CAST and then the EET department convinced her to join them. She was marvelous at mothering the students and watch out for their needs. One early morning, Linda noticed a student who came in with soaking wet socks from a middle of the night storm. He remembers her stating “take off those socks, I will dry them.” She then proceeded to put them in the microwave. We were all surprised to see those socks melt into a puddle and create enough smoke to have to clear the room. That incident, and many other in our laboratories, got Bill to coin the phrase, “If you are not burning, you are not learning.” The last secretary that Bill remembers well is still in the department. Susan Foss was there for everyone, and she certainly succeeded in getting us through the politics, while keeping everyone’s spirits high.
“The last person I want to recognize is my dear wife, Carol. During my years as department chair, I was losing my vision and Carol volunteered to spend even more time with me in my office helping a blind person perform tasks that were now impossible for me to do. Her delightful attitude added so much to the atmosphere in the department. After a year and a half, I asked Dean Hill if he could compensate her for her effort. He said, “I will gladly hire her, but she will have to work for me, not you.” From that point on, she was empowered, when I asked her to do something stupid, to say, “I don’t work for you, I work for the dean.” When I stepped out of the office, she could make better decisions than I could when it came to student concerns. With her help, I was able to stay on long enough to retire at 30 years.”
“I now want to thank all of you who helped make the department a wonderful place for students, faculty, and staff. I vividly remember asking a graduate named Joe why he came from Cody, Wyoming to further his education at Weber. He said “As soon as I entered your building, I felt something special, and I wanted to be a part of it.” We used to have physics students come down to use our laboratory facilities because they liked the atmosphere and Bob Boyce’s willingness to issue equipment and parts for their laboratory assignments.”
“One last story. I had a student in my office inquiring about our program. After an hour, he left seemingly satisfied with what I told him. After he left my office, my wife told me that he had pierced ears, nose and lip, wore a star-studded black leather jacket, and spiked orange hair. I forgot about the visit until years later when I asked my wife. She told me that he dropped that image and was our son’s lab partner in a couple of his EET courses. He later told us that he felt no bias toward him for what he looked like in our department. See, it does matter that we are blind to some things.”
“If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at 801-866-3802. I would also like to hear from you about stories I did not include or any comments I have made that are incorrect.”
EET Faculty that Bill remembers (in relative order of employment)
Dr. Lee Dickson
Dr. Robert Salmond
Dr. Bill Clapp
Dr. Max Steadman
Dr. Jay/Jennifer Smith
Dr. Bob Summers
Dr. Jeff Ward
Dr. Justin Jackson
Dr. Fon Brown
Part-time and full-time instructors (relative order of employment)
After hours of telephone conversations and emails, retired chair (1998-2010) Professor Dr. Bill Clapp gives us another piece of the puzzle as to why the WSU’s Electronic Engineering Technology Program was remarkably successful. In his comments below, you will notice that Bill uses every opportunity to teach us something we may not know. Bill would love to hear from anyone who is interested in the EET program between 1984 to 2010, so please feel free to call him at 801-866-3802.