University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of EngineeringOnline: Autumn 2012
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  Biological Systems Engineering - 100 Years of Engineering, Education and Research  


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  • College of Industrial Arts 1877
  • –Teaching in Engineering and Agriculture
  • 1904 Farm Machinery Hall
  • 1907 Farm Mechanics Department
  • 1909 Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture
  • 1910 Agricultural Engineering Department
  • 1919 Chase Hall completed

Leon W. Chase circa 1904First Agricultural Engineers

  • Oscar Van Pelt Stout (1895 School of Agriculture)
  • J. Brownlee Davidson (ME 1904)
  • Leon W. Chase (ME 1904)
  • C.K. Shedd (1919 1st Engineer-in Charge of Tractor Testing)
  • Jacob Waggoner (held first degree in Agricultural Engineering in U.S., from Iowa State College in 1910)

Ivan D. Woods circa 19121912 First Neb. Graduates with degree in Agricultural Engineering

  • Ivan D. Wood
  • Eber B. Lewis
  • Claude D. Kinsman

1914 First M.S.

  • Ivan Wood
    –First Extension Agricultural Engineer

Oscar Van Pelt Stout circa 1888Oscar Van Pelt (O.V.P.) Stout

  • 1888 Civil Engineer degree
  • 1890-91 Instructor in Civil Engineering
  • 1893 In Charge of Civil Engineering Department
  • 1895 Agricultural Engineer in AG School
  • 1895 Irrigation Engineer in Experiment Station
  • 1907 P.E. First year of Engineering licensure in U.S.
  • 1912 Dean of the College of Engineering
  • 1918-19 Major of Engineers, U.S. Army
  • 1920 Irrigation Engineer, USDA
  • 1928 Honorary Membership in ASAE
  • 1932 Honorary Doctorate by University of Nebraska
  • 1932 First Recipient of the Cyrus Hall McCormick Gold Medal from ASAE
    –Declared "Father of Agricultural Engineering"

J.B. Davidson circa 1903L.W. Chase and J.B. Davidson

  • 1903 L.W. Chase was Instructor in Mechanical Engineering
  • 1904 J.B. Davidson was Instructor in Forge and Farm Machinery
  • 1904 Davidson taught Farm Machinery and Chase taught Foundry and Forge
  • 1905 Davidson went to Iowa State College
  • 1907 Chase led Farm Mechanics Department
  • 1904 senior thesis by Chase and Davidson—designed, cast, and assembled a 2-cylinder engine and tested using home-made prony brake.
  • 1907 were founding members of ASAE
  • Were founding members of Sigma Tau Engineering Honorary (now Tau Beta Pi)
  • 1908 Published two texts: Farm Machinery and Farm Motors
    First texts in new profession of Agricultural Engineering
  • 1914 J.B. Davidson received first professional degree in Agricultural Engineering from University of Nebraska
  • 1914 L.W. Chase received reciprocal professional degree in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State College
  • J.B. Davidson was first president of ASAE
  • L.W. Chase was 6th president of ASAE
  • Both were judges from 1908-1913 for the Winnipeg Plowing contests
  • Chase tested 90 tractors near Fremont, Neb. in 1917 using three dynamometers
  • Chase provided technical input to Nebraska Tractor Test Law in 1919 while in the Army in Washington, D.C.

C.K. Shedd

  • Taught Farm Machinery at University of Nebraska
  • 1919 First Engineer-in-Charge of new Tractor Testing program at University of Nebraska
  • USDA Engineer at Kansas State, Missouri, and Iowa State
    –Best known for developing design loads for grain bins

BSE's new leader for a new century

Mark Riley photo As the department celebrates 100 years since its first graduate in 1912, new BSE department chair Mark Riley—who began work October 15—looks forward to leading its programs.

A Michigan native with degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Michigan and Rutgers, Riley spent the past 15 years at the University of Arizona, where he became department head of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 2009.

Finding himself at home among bio-engineers, Riley advanced the field as founding editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed Journal of Biological Engineering (

His favorite part of teaching is engaging students in learning—leading classes with "not just equations but trying to help young engineers understand what matters and why engineering is so important to our economy and our environment."

Riley values his skills as a "matchmaker": bridging academia and industry, and even different disciplines within engineering and life sciences. "The engineer and the life scientist don't always speak the same language and often have different goals," Riley said, "but I enjoy finding ways to help them communicate and work together."

From growing up in Detroit, he learned early on that new visions are necessary. For example, "we've got to rethink manufacturing," Riley said. "Any new products can't have wastes that contribute to landfills; we need to use all the energy and byproducts available. It is exciting to come to Nebraska to continue the development of smart machinery, biomedical devices, renewable energy and agricultural products. We need to explore more deeply the human-machine interface by using our expertise in machinery testing integrated with our biomedical applications."

The Albuquerque-based company Riley co-formed with his business partner Dr. Robert Klein, RediRipe, grew from his research involving sensors—in this case, labels indicating fruit ripeness. Nebraska Innovation Campus intrigues Riley, and he's eager to learn more and help BSE faculty and students be involved.

"Our diverse department has phenomenal people—faculty, staff and students—and it's a great time to be doing this kind work," Riley said. "There's a wonderful blend here of the traditional and the futuristic, but at the end of the day the key is how well our work helps people lead healthier and more prosperous lives."

bse history field photoTesting agricultural methods
Mechanical Engineering history photoA machining lab for agricultural equipment
Chase Hall history photoChase Hall in 1925


Source: UNL BSE Dept.

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