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Professor Eric Thacher Receives Distinguished Teaching Award
Eric Thacher of Potsdam, associate professor and executive officer in the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, was awarded the Clarkson University Distinguished Teaching Award during the 110th commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 11.
Created in 1960 as the Excellent Teaching Award and renewed a decade later under a new name, the Distinguished Teaching Award and its $1,500 prize recognize "the importance of superior teaching." Clarkson University alumni nominate candidates with the recipient chosen by a faculty committee.
Thacher joined the faculty of Clarkson in 1980. Throughout his career, he has been a leader in pedagogical initiatives that have had a lasting impact on educational policies and priorities, as well as students, at Clarkson.
Thacher was an early proponent of experiential learning, an approach to education that enables students to acquire skills to solve real-life, complex problems. He was instrumental in designing "project-based learning communities" at Clarkson that brought faculty and students together to work in a collaborative environment.
He is the co-founder and chair of the Clarkson Invention Institute, an interdisciplinary committee that selects design projects from proposals submitted from the community.
Thacher was a founder of the Solar Car Project in 1988, and served as its lead mentor for 13 years. He led five Clarkson student teams into Sunrayce competitions, which was a biannual national race for university-constructed solar-powered racing cars. The solar car project is part of Clarkson's award-winning SPEED (Students Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program that promotes multidisciplinary project based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduates annually. SPEED was recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award and the 2002 Corporate and Foundation Alliance Award for its exceptional contributions to improving undergraduate engineering education.
Thacher's research interests revolve around alternative energy, including wind energy conversion, photovoltaic energy conversion applications, thermoelectric energy conversion and passive and active solar heating. He has done work on solar-powered vehicles, supervising the development of an integrated method for managing their energy supply, investigating their aerodynamic drag and using meteorological data to predict their solar radiation supply. He has also conducted research on heating buildings by solar energy, and on a method to measure the temperature inside a solar energy cavity receiver with a scanning radiometer.
In 1991 and 2002 he received the Clarkson Commendable Leadership Award, and in 1981 he received the Clarkson Distinguished Adviser Award.