CMU Reunion, 2005

© Douglas A. Bauman

Some background: This was my 25th reunion, of course. The campus does seem a bit nicer, but more crowded, because there are gobs of new buildings. The alumni must contribute a lot! A new stadium as well.

The autonomous vehicle (they also call it a robot), is from the Robotics Institute. I used to work with a Professor Mark Fox from that department in the early 1980's on an Artificial Intelligence/Expert System developed at Westinghouse. The department is now run by William Red L. Whittaker. The team of folks demonstrating the robot, and also who were part of the Red Team competition, where this vehicle, called Sandstorm, took second place in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, included:

Alex Gutierrez and Andrew Mellinger

The unofficial upshot I gleaned from other alumni (not from members of the Red Team) is as follows: the first place winners from Stanford included two individuals who were originally from CMU, and perhaps reused some of the 'know-how' from there.

The Darwin books were on display in an underground archival building which is underneath the number sculpture from some of the other shots. The number sculpture is a sculpture in the shape of a French curve (looks like a palette).

I think the Fence is a new fence, to replace the old one. Someone told me that they think the original fence was the location of a bridge, which used to go over a small creek at one time. On the Margaret Morrison side was the girls college, and on the other Carnegie Tech side was the boys college. They would meet at the fence. Is this story correct? who knows. In my day, and it continues today with this new fence, students from various fraternities and sororities would advertise their parties on the fence. Back then, if I fail to miss my guess, it was somewhat frowned upon, but tolerated, for them to repaint this fence every single night with a different message (a different frat). I'm not sure what would happen if more than one group wanted to paint the same night. Maybe that's how paintball originated :)

Google IPO, no; no regrets. I gave up gambling during the bust of 2000. I only showed the rut taken out through the Google symbol because it somehow seems fitting, since google is always placing nifty picturesque accouterments to their logo on holidays. This just seemed like a good variation, so I sent it to Alex G. of Red Team, in case he thought so as well. Just in fun.

I was sent the following by the ECE Principal Multimedia Designer concerning the fence:

This account was prepared by the CMU University Archivist on the history of the fence. According to what she found in the archives when I last heard about it, there was no bridge prior to the fence, although I've heard that story, too.

The Bridge

Student publications from the pre-WWI era of Carnegie Tech make frequent reference to a bridge that student had to cross in order to get to campus. The bridge in question is the Schenley Park Bridge that spans the gap between the Carnegie Library and the CMU campus. Students used this bridge as a large ravine cut off the campus from Forbes Avenue.:

In 1908 making ones way from Forbes Street to the existing campus across what is now a level lawn (the Cut) would have meant a scramble down one side of a step, brush-covered slope and another scramble up the other side. No wonder that students got off their street cars before the Carnegie Library and then walked across the bridge spanning Junction Hollow to arrive at Industries Hall via Frew Street. (Fenton, Carnegie Mellon 1900-2000; A Centennial History, p 37)

While there is evidence that CIT architect, Henry Hornbostel, had planned to build a bridge over the ravine, no such bridge was ever constructed. Instead, the ravine was filled in 1917, creating what is known today as “The Cut.”

The Fence

The Senior Fence, better known just as “the Fence,” was erected by the class of 1923. In a letter to the June 1953 edition of the Carnegie Alumnus, Hugh Sprinkle (EE ’23) explained the thought process behind erecting the fence:

I had become intrigued by the stories of certain customs of various schools
Identifying distinctions between the different classes... We talked it over
In the Dragons and decided that we would build such a fence. The building
Of traditions at Carnegie would get a shot in the arm. (Sprinkle, 1953)

Sprinkle goes on to say that Dr. Baker and Dean Tarbell assisted in the selection of a site for the fence, thus endowing the project was their official backing.

The fence originally had a rather rustic look, constructed of locust posts and fir rails. The Fence acted as a meeting place for students, specifically a place for seniors to loiter while they thought up ridiculous errands for hapless plebes who walked by.

The tradition of painting the fence does not seem to have taken hold until the 1940s, with the first photographic evidence of fencepainting dating to around 1945-6. The painting of the fence has its own set of rules. The fence must be painted in its entirety, must not be painted in daylight, and the painters must guard their fresh work to ensure that other painters don’t take it over before dawn. The 60+ years of such tradition have swollen the posts and rails with several inches of paint. While staff and faculty have painted the occasional message, by and far the fence is a student phenomenon.

A reunion brings together an eclectic mix of old and new friends for an ad-hock Breakfast Club.