Jeff Bolton, a statics and dynamics teaching instructor with the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech, received the university's 2010 Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Engineering Subjects.
Sponsored by Virginia Tech's Student Engineers' Council, the Sporn Award for Teaching Undergraduate Engineering Subjects is presented annually to a Virginia Tech faculty member to recognize excellence in teaching engineering course work. Nominations are received from engineering students and finalists are selected by an executive committee of the Student Engineers' Council. Presentations on each finalist are made to the larger General Assembly of the Student Engineers' Council to determine the winner. Recipients are awarded $2,000 and are inducted into the university's Academy of Teaching Excellence.
The award was established in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Philip J. Sporn. Dr. Sporn was a Virginia Tech alumnus and president and chief executive officer of American Electric Power Company.
A native of Princeton, W.Va., Bolton is a lifelong Hokie, the son of a Virginia Tech College of Engineering alumnus. Bolton himself earned a bachelor’s of science and master’s degree in ESM (http://www.esm.vt.edu/) from Virginia Tech in 2004 and 2006, respectively. He now is working on his ESM doctorate degree.
His original choice of an engineering college was simple. "I'd be crazy not to drive just 45 minutes to one of the best engineering schools in the country," Bolton said.
Bolton said his popularity among his students is because of his high demands. He regularly creates his own challenging inquiries to student rather than relying on textbook-based example problems. In particular, he is demanding about exact detailed drawings, the basis for mechanical engineering design. "By strengthening their geometry in my class, I better prepare them for their later courses," he said.
"It's good to be tough on them, but you have to be fair," Bolton said. "You have to show respect. Every student learns differently and you have to respect those differences." He added that former students have visited him, to thank him for challenging them in class.
"Jeff has been the best thing to happen to both the engineering science and mechanics department and the College of Engineering in decades and I can say with complete confidence that anyone who succeeds in his class will succeed as an engineer and in life," said Johnathan Case, a member of the Student Engineers’ Council at Virginia Tech and sophomore from Hawthorne, N.J., majoring in mechanical engineering. "My goal in life is to become a professor and I'd consider it the highest compliment I could get to be equated to Jeff Bolton."