David Rhinehart

David Rhinehart has written 9 posts for The Digital Bullpen

‘Body Stories’ play brings something new, ends its run this weekend

Stagehand Justin Terzo prepares the minimalist stage

Body Stories is a play unlike anything the USF students involved have ever experienced.

The play was produced together with USF and the Filter Theatre as part of the British International Theatre Program. Unlike most plays, Body Stories was cast before the script was ever written. Over the course of six weeks, Ollie Dimsdale, artistic director of the Filter Theatre, Stephen Brown, writer of Body Stories, and the cast sat down and crafted the story.

“This was the first time I’ve ever felt this close with the members of the production,” said Alexis Cruz, cast member. “We were allowed to be free with each other. We shared very intimate stories that became the script for the show.”

Christopher Hough, cast member, was worried in the early stages that the show wasn’t going to come together. Instead it became an experience that he will never forget.

“I took away so much,” Hough said. “There’s so much more you can do as an actor and a cast member than just perform your lines and perfect scenes. We did a lot of exercises that promoted friendliness and kindness between the production members, it sounds kind of lame but something as simple as giving a compliment a day really strengthens the group.”

Laydelis Piloto, cast member, said that the directors had the cast work through impulses, green-lighting what worked and nixing what didn’t.

“It was a f*cking awesome, life changing experience,” Piloto said. “Body Stories tells very personal stories very realistically, but the lighting and sound give it an unrealistic vibe. It’s incredible.”

Body Stories has shows tonight (Mar. 2) and Friday (Mar. 3) at 8 p.m., and at 3 p.m. on Mar. 4. Tickets can be purchased online or through the College of the Arts Box Office.

Squeezing stones, students file their taxes

Tax return forms can seem intimidating to people who have never filed before. Photo Credit: David Rhinehart

April 17 is a date that some students have to be well aware of, and file their tax return by, or they will face the wrath of the IRS.

Mason Chilmonczyk, a sophomore at USF, filed his tax return at the start of February. His filing status is an independent, something most students don’t have to deal with. Independents are people who are financially responsible for themselves and cannot be claimed on anyone else’s taxes.

“My taxes are easy because I make so little money,” Chilmonczyk said. “I like taxes though, because without them I wouldn’t be going to school. I would actually like higher taxes, but that’s because I’m a godless liberal.”

Nicole Alese, a senior at USF, had her parents file her tax return for her. She doesn’t know how to file and said she’ll learn when she makes more money. Alese also said that taxes are necessary. She just wants all of the taxes to make sense.

“I don’t file my own taxes,” said Chris Thompson, a sophomore at USF. “I called my mom the other day to ask her to do it, and she already had. I’ll learn how to do it, eventually.”

Thompson sees the importance of taxes but doesn’t want to care about them until he has to.

Nathan Tracy, a junior at USF, hasn’t bothered to learn how to file his tax return, either.

“I didn’t learn how to do my taxes,” Tracy said. “I learned the hours of H&R block.”

Chilmonczyk doesn’t remember how he learned to file his tax return and recommends just using Google to find out how. He said that the tax system isn’t that complicated, just read the instructions and put the numbers in the corresponding boxes.

“I love taxes,” Chilmonczyk said. “I’m poor, so when I went to college the government made it rain on me. I live better now than when I lived with my family.”

Student and professor perform on equal footing

Lauren Allison experienced a moment of panic during the Jan. 27 performance of Cold Storage. The lights went out in the middle of her line. Unsure of what to do, Allison stopped until the lights turned back on. During intermission, professor and co-performer C. David Frankel told her she did the right thing.

Frankel is a professor and the assistant director for the USF theatre program, and Allison is one of his students. Frankel suggested that Allison audition for the role after the previous performer dropped out of the Tampa Repertory Theatre’s production of Cold Storage

“Lauren is very accomplished for her age,” Frankel said. “I’m usually reluctant to involve students because of the time commitment, but I thought that Lauren was capable of bringing certain qualities to the role.”

Allison said that working with Frankel and co-performer Jim Wicker was an interesting experience. As they practiced and performed she could see that, as her teacher, Frankel wanted to offer her direction but had to stop himself because, in this situation, they were cast members and not teacher and student.

“It was fun to be on the same level as the other cast members,” Allison said. “Frankel is such a seasoned actor and watching him work with Jim Wicker was such a learning experience.”

This wasn’t the first time Frankel or Allison stepped out of their school roles while performing. Allison performed with Daniel Bonnett, her then high school drama teacher, in the Broward Center of the Performing Arts production of The Jungle Book.

“It was the same sensation as in Cold Storage,” Allison said. “I had to keep reminding myself that I was an equal in that setting.”

When Frankel taught at Saint Leo University, he also had worked with students in two instances where actors dropped out at the last moment and in another instance where the students requested it.

“The students wanted to do Moliere’s The Miser and they wanted me to play the main character Harpagon,” Frankel said. “The theatre department was closing and it was a last, fun thing to do. I saw it as a way for the students to work with someone of a different age and experience level.”

Dynamics course challenges, and prepares, USF’s mechanical engineering students

Dynamics is the class that drives dread deep into the hearts of would-be mechanical engineers.

At the University of South Florida, it is listed as EGN 3321 Dynamics, a three-credit-hour course taught by professor Karim Nohra. Described as the dynamics of discrete particles, kinematics and kinetics for rigid bodies, dynamics is a required course for all mechanical engineering students.

“Dynamics sounded fun, but it’s not what you would expect,” said Mason Chilmonczyk, a sophomore who took the course last semester. “Dynamics is hard. You take statistics with Nohra and he just tells you how hard dynamics is going to be.”

The class average for one of the tests in Chilmonczyk’s dynamics class was 39 percent.

“Dynamics isn’t hell,” Nohra said. “It’s very demanding of students’ time, effort and previous knowledge. My tests are a smorgasbord of material I’ve covered in class and they’re not used to that.”

Nohra requires all of his students to follow specific guidelines for their homework. All figures must be drawn with straight edges and templates and every answer must be boxed in, or students will be severely marked down. Nohra believes that by demanding so much of his students, he is preparing them for the real world. Several other teachers have asked to use his homework guidelines.

“People don’t like being pushed,” Nohra said. “Humans are lazy and you have to squeeze the energy out of them. We secretly want to be pushed, that’s why you get a personal trainer at the gym. Engineers communicate through numbers and figures and that needs to be clear. People won’t buy slop, and I won’t accept slop.”

None of the complaints about dynamics are about Nohra. Anthony Pilato, a junior in the College of Engineering, said that the class is a lot of hard work and on a tough subject, but recommended that students take it with Nohra.

“Nohra knows his stuff,” Pilato said. “He knows all the ins and outs, front, back and upside down of dynamics. It was hell to go through, but I came out knowing it with general competency.”

Daniel Davis, a junior who really enjoyed dynamics, received an “A” in the class and thanks Nohra for it.

“Nohra teaches the weed-out classes for engineers,” Davis said. “If they can’t take it then they don’t need to be here. I think it’s funny that mechanical engineers would say dynamics is the class they despised since it’s the basis of what we do. It’s what separates us from civil engineers.”

Two broke guys: USF students take the DIY approach

It’s a cool November day in Tampa. Anthony Pilato and Mason Chilmonczyk relax on the couch in their back porch enjoying the kiwi shisha they packed into the bowl of a hookah they built from a pickle jar.

Rising tuition costs and a tough job market have left Pilato and Chilmonczyk with little money to spend on luxuries. Even though they enjoy hookah, buying one that is large enough that their home of four  could enjoy wasn’t possible on their budget. An empty one gallon pickle jar plus a few components and their mechanical engineering skills allowed them to enjoy hookah without letting money stand in their way.

“We wanted to save money and it was cool,” Chilmonczyk said. “No one has a homemade like this. You look at it and wonder if it actually works and it does, really well.”

The pair began constructing the ancient tobacco smoking device by drilling two holes in the lid of the pickle jar, filling the first hole with a copper pipe and a rubber stopper at the top to hold the bowl. The second hole they filled with a PVC T pipe and two halves of a 10-foot clear rubber tube emerging from either side. After sealing it with tape and glue to create the vacuum seal, it was ready for use.

“It was fun,” Chilmonczyk said. “We got to do something without instructions and put our minds into it a little bit because we had to make sure it had a vacuum seal and that we selected the right materials.”

A hookah is not the only project Pilato has completed to avoid buying more expensive, premade products. When he moved into his home he wanted to make another bedroom to fit another person. With his father’s help, they turned the entry way and part of the living room into the bedroom that Pilato claimed for his own.

“It was a pain in the ass to work with doors,” Pilato said. “I found out that they’re hollow so if you sand them down too much you just bust open a hole.”

Pilato also designed and installed a magazine rack for his bathroom.

“There was this old heater in the bathroom that we removed and it left this hole in the wall,” Pilato said. “The only logical choice was to build something and put it in there and who loves reading on the toilet? Everybody.”

USF graduate student builds physical therapy machines, combat robots

Sam McAmis went from building machines in his dad’s barn to developing a device that will allow stroke victims to go through physical therapy at home.

In his spare time, he builds fighting robots.

This is nothing out of the ordinary for the inventor and mechanical engineer.

When he found his field of study and personal interests so intertwined, McAmis knew he was working in that field that felt right.

“I’ve always been interested in machines,” he said. “It started before grade school, I was always building machines in my dad’s barn.”

McAmis works at a lab in the Interdisciplinary Sciences building under Kyle Reed, a mechanical engineering professor.  Along with other students, McAmis works on various rehabilitation projects for injured patients.

“Sam’s ability to work independently has allowed him to make significant progress in a short time,” Reed said. “His diverse research experiences demonstrates his skills in researching. He also has a passion for learning that encourages future researches and stimulates related project ideas.”

McAmis is working on a bimanual rehabilitation machine that will allow stroke patients to use their healthy arm to perform physical therapy on their affected limbs.The machine will provide patients with necessary therapy, without requiring them to visit a clinic or pay workers to visit their home.

He also created a robot named Gruff.

Gruff is a side project for McAmis, president of the Robotics Interest Group at USF.  Gruff, whose weapon is a belt powered arm to flip other robots, recently had its batteries replaced with lighter lithium polymer batteries.

The 14-pound weight difference from the batteries will be recovered with additional armor, but will still remain under the 220-pound limit for the heavyweight class in competitions.

Gruff participated in Combots, a robot combat tournament, which we be held from Oct. 28-30 in San Mateo, California this year.

“The Robotics Interest Group has several robots that were in RoboGames in April,” McAmis said. “We were even on ‘Killer Robots’ on the Science Channel.”

McAmis, who works as Reed’s teaching assistant, said he is interested in teaching. Reed said he believes that McAmis would make an excellent professor after observing the way he interacts with visiting tour groups from the local middle and high schools as well as his fellow lab mates.

But teaching is not his only dream.

“A side project I’ve always been interested in is wall climbing surveillance robots,” McAmis said. “They transition from horizontal to vertical and go around corners and rough terrain. There are a lot of designs but none of them work really well.”

McAmis participated in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) robotics program throughout his high school career. He chose to attend USF because it was close to his Tarpon Spring home, where he commutes from.

Upon graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering in Spring 2010, McAmis was accepted into the Mechanical Engineering PhD Program. After speaking to Reed, McAmis decided he liked his area of research and began working under him.

“I would recommend that students get into research as early as possible,” McAmis said. “I wish I would have started earlier. You can start as an undergrad and it will really help you know what to expect.”

Early Studying


A group of students intensely study for their microbiology lab in the library.

Mechanical engineering students struggle for advising appointments

The mechanical engineering department is trying to find time for its 470 students to see just two advisers this semester before registration begins.

Dr. Daniel Hess is responsible for teaching his classes, continuing his research and advising undergraduates. Dr. Muhammad Rahman is the graduate coordinator in addition to teaching, researching and advising.

“We don’t have a staff adviser,” Michelle Kobus, the academic services administrator said. “From a student’s perspective, advising can be difficult. There are only two hours a week when they can walk in for advising.”

Mechanical engineering undergraduate students are required to visit their adviser before they register. A hold is placed on their account that only an adviser can remove, which prevents them from registering for any mechanical engineering classes.

Anthony Pilato, a junior in the mechanical engineering department, and Mason Chilmonczyk, a sophomore in the mechanical engineering department, both dread having to see their adviser.

“Every time I go it’s either right when they open or in the middle of lunch when no one wants to be there,” Pilato said. “I go at weird times.”

Chilmonczyk said there is always a line for advising.

“It’s hell,” Chilmonczyk said. “I hate going to see my adviser.”

As a way to help undergraduate students, Hess extended his office hours during the weeks immediately preceding and following the registration period. Kobus believes this will help on one side of the equation, but students have to register for classes in the mechanical engineering office.

Kobus and office assistant Shirley Tervort have to register every student.

The problem has just gotten worse as the mechanical engineering department has grown in recent years. Dr. Rajiv Dubey, department chair of mechanical engineering, said ten years ago the department graduated 50 undergraduate students. This spring, however, it increased to 120 undergraduates, 31 master’s and four doctoral students graduated.

Tervort has been working as the office assistant in the mechanical engineering department since 1975. She has noticed the increase in students and handles it the only way she knows how, one at a time.

“It’s the only way you can do it,” Tervort said. “I like seeing the students and being busy helping them.”

There are roughly 900 engineering students who have yet to pick a field such as mechanical or civil, among others. Twenty-five percent of them have stated that they will pick mechanical engineering in fall 2012. Kobus and Tervort are not looking forward to next fall.

The buzz about USF Botanical Gardens’ beekeeping class is sweet as honey

Bees buzzed through the air as a group of people gathered recently to watch Gary Van Cleef, master beekeeper, tend to the bees at USF’s botanical gardens.

Van Cleef has been at USF and teaching a beekeeping class the third Saturday of every month for three years. The class size is small, with only about 15 to 20 people attentively listening to him describe the proper methods for tending to bees to ensure they are healthy and produce quality honey.

“I started interacting with bees in 1969 for a Boy Scout badge.” Van Cleef said. “They’re not what you would expect, they’re gentle not vicious. I just wanted to exist with them.”

Van Cleef started beekeeping when his grandfather bought him a hive in exchange for honey. One hive can produce between 60 and 100 pounds of honey a year. He expanded his hives as time progressed, receiving several from Orlando and Orange county for free as long as he took care of them.

Becky Bradbury is a beekeeper who helps Van Cleef take care of the bees every class. Bradbury and her husband started beekeeping in January 2010. Bees were attracted to the pearl vine they had in their backyard and after they read about and attended the class USF offered, they began beekeeping.

“We learn more at every class; Gary is an excellent teacher.” Bradbury said, “The classes are well worth the time and if you don’t have space at home you can rent space at the botanical gardens.”

Bees have to be checked on only every three weeks and it takes about 20 minutes. Bradbury and her husband build their own hives, but hives and the necessary equipment can be purchased from the botanical gardens. It is illegal to keep bees in Hillsborough County except at certain locations, although the county is working on an ordinance to make it legal countywide.

Jabari Lee is a sophomore majoring in civil and environmental engineering at USF who attended the class. Lee was interested in plants and butterflies and through that became interested in bees. After attending the class, he wants to start his own beehive and would definitely recommend Van Cleef’s course.

“Being around people who are confident and not afraid of bees really helps take away the fear,” Lee said.

Van Cleef doesn’t see too many USF students at the classes because he thinks they aren’t aware of it. He believes it would make a nice biology class.

The next beekeeping class is on October 22 from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Attendance costs $10 for the public or $8 for USF botanical gardens members. Hives and the necessary equipment (smoker, veil, and hive tool) can be purchased from the botanical gardens for $100. Space for keeping hives can be rented at the botanical gardens for $50 a year. For more information visit Van Cleef’s and the Tampa Bay Beekeepers Association

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