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Less green for grads You think tuition is expensive? Nearly 31 percent of Americans spend about $90 each on graduation gifts each year—but fewer are giving cash. The number and amount of individual cash gifts recently reached a five-year low, perhaps reflecting the state of the economy, the National Retail Federation reports. More popular? Presents that can be bought on credit, such as gift cards, apparel and electronics.
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No more mystery meat Interview Michael Carroll Graduate student, electrical & computer engineering THE 4-1-1 A decade of building robots brought
Michael Carroll ’10 to the cutting edge of engineering. In June, the Decatur native, along with his two roommates, placed second in a national competition and won a $10,000 prize for creating a robotic lawnmower—dubbed “Moe”—able to cut grass while dodging flower beds, fences and even a car. CUTTING CORNERS The contest, sponsored by
the Institute of Navigation’s Satellite Division and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, annually pits college teams and their unmanned lawnmowers against each other. Carroll and his teammates equipped Moe with light radar sensors to detect obstacles. “You just press one button and let it go,” Carroll says. Moe had to maneuver around the obstacles, including a remote-controlled poodle, to score points. “There are two classes to the competition, static and dynamic,” Carroll explains. “The static competition features a rectangular playing field with a single standing obstacle. The dynamic competition is more complicated, because it is a non-square playing field and has two static obstacles—a fence and a flower bed—as well as a dynamic obstacle, a remote-control car. We focused on software development and controlling the robot instead of the mechanical and electrical aspects.” First place went to Case Western Reserve University. SPARE TIME “Are graduate students allowed to have
free time?” jokes Carroll, who is pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering. Although he started designing Moe as an undergraduate project, it’s now just a hobby. He also does volunteer work for Auburn’s annual Boosting Energy and Science Technology robotics competition for high school students.
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Auburn Magazine a u a l u m . o r g
Auburn alumni are apt to wax nostalgic about campus traditions ranging from Tiger Walk to Toomer’s Drugs lemonade, but a battered-and-browned poultry cutlet oddly named “Maryland fried turkey”— served regularly in the old War Eagle Cafeteria during the ’70s and ’80s—rarely makes the list. “I mean, who has ever heard of Maryland fried turkey? The first quarter, I didn’t even eat it,” Kathleen Saal ’83 recalls with a chuckle. “It was just a joke.” These days, food is serious business on campuses nationwide, where administrators must juggle competing priorities—including nutrition, waste management and pricing—while also offering dining venues that spur both eating and socializing. Today’s students—who spend upwards of $3,800 annually on food, according to University Business magazine—want made-to-order meals, broad operating hours and lots of food choices. To meet the demand, Auburn boasts 29 eating venues in eight locations. Breakfast and coffee stops open at 7 a.m., and a Denny’s restaurant outpost in The Village residence complex serves late-night customers until 1 a.m. Students who live on campus must purchase a $995 meal plan
each semester to cover their meals, while students living off campus pay $300. Communication disorders major Laura Howard lives in an apartment off campus but typically eats lunch with her classmates twice a week in Auburn’s Student Center, which opened in 2008. “It’s a fun time to not think about school, and hang out and laugh,” she says. Auburn students can now treat themselves to sushi, grilled shrimp quesadillas and turkey sandwiches topped with cranberries and Brie. Popular chains, including Chick-fil-A, Starbucks and Au Bon Pain, are represented in the Student Center food court. And what about that culinary classic served during the disco era? Maryland fried turkey is no longer offered, but you can make it yourself, if you must. Kaki Tucker Barto ’78, whose mother, Inez, ran the old War Eagle Cafeteria in those days, recently posted the recipe for Maryland fried turkey on the Auburn Alumni Association’s Facebook page: Dip slices of baked turkey into a batter made of beaten egg whites (from one or two eggs), two cups of flour, one cup of milk, egg yolks, black pepper and salt, then fry in deep fat until golden brown.—Morgan McKean
Room to move Just as they were 50 years ago, dormitory rooms on Auburn’s Quad and Hill are roughly 135 square feet and haven’t expanded with age. But that doesn’t stop students from cramming enough belongings into their living quarters to qualify for an episode of the TV show “Hoarders.” College students around the country this fall will pack up their clothes, iPods, laptops and bed linens, and relocate to dorm rooms that might measure half the size of the bedroom they have at home and also contain a roommate. “Today you see students bringing in more and more stuff,” says Kim Trupp ’79, Auburn’s director of housing and residence life. “Everybody has all of the electronics now. Back in the earlier days, everyone didn’t have a TV or stereo.” Auburn’s Quad and Hill rooms, which are designed for two students to share, come equipped with a pair of beds, dressers, desks and study chairs. Living spaces in the university’s newest residence complex, The Village, also include furnished living rooms and kitchens.
“I usually tell parents it’s OK to bring a lot of stuff, because they can take it back home if it doesn’t fit,” says communication disorders major Lauren Thomas, who conducts housing tours for incoming Auburn freshmen and their parents. The start of a new school year is the second-largest consumer event on the calendar, with back-to-college merchandise alone accounting for $33.77 billion in spending last year, according to the National Retail Federation. “I think my biggest expense was adding up all of the little things that you take for granted when you live at home, like an iron and sheets and things like that,” says Sterett Seckman, an economics major from Franklin, Tenn., who lived in Glenn Hall during his freshman year. “That summer, I got the dimensions of my room and then figured out where our bed and desks were going to go. And we were bringing a futon, so I wanted to make sure it would fit.” Seckman’s priority—function over beauty—mirrors the mindset of most college men, says Trupp. Female students,
Auburn’s fall classes began Aug. 17. Need dorm decorating ideas? See a list of do’s and don’ts, plus a cool online slide show complete with floor plans, at: https://fp.auburn. edu/housing/.
though, often get significantly more creative in terms of interior design. “The decorating just blows my mind on how they do some of these rooms,” Trupp says. “They look like they are right out of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. It’s just amazing.” Margaret Anne Hendry, who’ll move from Birmingham to Auburn to begin her freshman year this fall, spent the summer gathering things meant brighten up her space. “My roommate and I went to T.J. Maxx and Stein Mart, because they have cute stuff that’s not expensive,” she says. Meanwhile, accounting major Sarah Oliver was searching for a bedroom set and sofa for her place in Two21 Armstrong, a newer off-campus complex with its own Internet café, swimming pool and fitness center located off Thach Avenue. “I did a lot of asking around, talking to people who just graduated who may have extra stuff they didn’t need,” Oliver says. “I also went to antique stores and thrift stores.”—Morgan McKean
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