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UWYO Magazine|January 2014 | Vol. 15 No. 2

UWYO MAGAZINE

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University of Wyoming
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Email: uwyomag@uwyo.edu    

Remember That Some Things Aren’t for Sale

Some things are priceless. David Walrath, professor of mechanical engineering, not only helps students succeed in school, he helps small businesses thrive as part of his role at UW.

Originally from Gering, Neb., Walrath received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UW, went away for his Ph.D., and then joined the UW faculty in 1984. His work through the Wyoming Small Business Development Center resulted in two patents, and his students continually honor him with accolades.

Walrath’s specialty is manufacturing with composite materials. “A lot of the companies I’ve worked with around the state are composite related,” he says. “There is a company out of Sheridan called Big Horn Valve, and they came here wanting to do a valve design, and I helped them with that. They actually patented part of what we were doing. … There’s a company or two every year that I work with. I really like interacting with people around the state.”

Walrath’s latest project through the Wind Energy Research Center involves using composite materials for wind turbine blades. “We’re actually setting ourselves up to manufacture residential-scale wind turbine blades,” he explains.

While Walrath plans on retiring from teaching in spring of 2014, you’ll still find him at Cowboys football games, where he helps run the clock. He will also continue to work on the wind turbine project and keep in touch with students. As a teacher, he’s always considered himself the one to help the underdog—the struggling student—succeed.

He recalls one such story: “When I was first starting out, I had a student in mechanics of materials. He was doing OK, and then he just totally bombed the third exam and stopped coming to class. I wrote him a little note that said something to the effect of ‘don’t quit on me and, more importantly, don’t quit on yourself.’ The guy actually pulled it out and stayed in school. Four years later he walked back and handed me the note. He said, ‘I don’t need this anymore.’ I still have the note. Those are the kinds of things that mean something to me.”

Walrath’s 30 years of teaching at UW have also garnered him many accolades, including the Tau Beta Pi Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award twice, Mortar Board Top Prof award three times and UW-ASME Outstanding Faculty Member twice.

He’s happy to see more jobs for mechanical engineering students in Wyoming: “There are now opportunities for mechanical engineers beyond heating, ventilation and air conditioning. There are small manufacturing companies, and there are small high-tech companies that are now hiring mechanical engineers. Those are positive steps.”

Walrath has a made a difference to both—the small businesses that are hiring and the students ready to take those jobs.

IMPACT: Teaching future engineers and helping small businesses succeed.

> Know Where to Draw the Line

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David Walrath

Professor David Walrath and students
Professor David Walrath works with students to develop better residential-scale wind turbine blades.

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