Classes may be canceled for the summer, but there was still a bit of buzz on the San Jose State campus this week. 35 students from across the Bay Area attended the Mineta Summer Transportation Institute, a three-week program designed to get them interested in a variety of transportation careers.
One of the first lessons this week was about drones – how to fly them and use them for aerial mapping. Bo Yang, assistant professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, showed the students how to control a large and a small drone. And then the controls were handed over to student pairs, who chased the flying machines through the area near the Boccardo Business Complex.
Charlotte Ho, a student at Evergreen Valley High School in San Jose, said she had a great time piloting the drone. “The only experience I’ve had flying RC vehicles was in a tiny helicopter,” said Ho, who is interested in technology. “It was a much better experience.”
Karen Philbrick, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, said drones are being used to address first and last mile deliveries, get medicine to people in hard-to-reach areas, conduct bridge inspections and even warn people entering unauthorized level crossings.
“Drones are increasingly being used in transportation as one of the tools to combat congestion,” said Philbrick.
They’re also fun to use, she stressed. Ensuring that students are engaged is an important part of the programme, which includes lectures on environmental science but also hands-on activities and field trips. On Friday, the students drove to the Central Valley to tour the high-speed construction site. Next on the agenda is a visit from Mountain View-based Nuro – a start-up company that will give students a chance to see its autonomous vehicles up close. The aim is to open the eyes of high school students to the continuum of job opportunities in the transport sector.
“One of the biggest crises we face in transportation is the shortage of skilled workers, and how are we going to recruit students to fill those opportunities?” she said. “We’re here to show kids what’s possible, and you can’t just lecture them for three weeks.”
And when it comes to transportation and the environment, something beyond a lecture is valuable, like a visit to Henry Cowell State Park. “We want the kids to see the big, beautiful trees,” Philbrick said. “And we want them to understand why transport and the impact on greenhouse gas emissions matter and how we need to change that with more innovative transport solutions in the future.”
A HUGE GREETING: The San Jose Giants did something extraordinary last Saturday by retiring the number of someone who has never worn one of their jerseys. But that was more than fitting for Mark Wilson, the team’s longtime general manager, who was honored with an on-court retirement ceremony at Excite Ballpark. He truly is one of the greatest people to be a part of any sport in the city of San Jose.
Current General Manager Ben Taylor presented Wilson with a number 38 jersey during the ceremony, representing the number of years Wilson has served as an intern with the organization since 1984. Wilson officially retired in December 2020 but was eventually honored for his service this season (thanks, COVID).
“In minor league baseball, the general manager is the clean-up helper of a team’s front office staff,” said Chris Lampe, California League historian and minority owner of the San Jose Giants. “Mark Wilson was a general manager with five tools. He did everything.”
It’s also true. Advertisers loved him, and fans might not know his name, but they should have loved him too. Aside from the team winning four California League championships and a fifth as GM, Wilson also did much to beautify the site formerly known as Municipal Stadium. Wilson’s tenure saw improved food and drink options, beautification of the aging stadium with murals and courtyards, and the addition of the popular “beer batter”. He earned his retirement number for that alone. Wilson estimated that about half a million free or half-price brewed beers were served at the stadium as a result of the promotion.
“Time flies, folks, so enjoy it while you have it. I have so many great memories here at this stadium,” said Wilson, who added that he was proud to join former manager Lenn Sakata as the only other retiree. “Every single day from the time I wake up to the time I put my head on the pillow it’s been about the fan experience and how we can improve it.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FAIR?: It’s true that there’s a version of the Santa Clara County Fair this week, but it’s not the carnival ride-and-funnel-cake extravaganza of years past. Instead, it’s mostly a livestock showcase for 4-H and Future Farmers of America, who have worked hard all year.
Events began with a horse show in San Martin on July 10th and continued with a cattle and dog show on July 23rd, with other events taking place throughout the week leading up to the Junior Livestock Auction on July 30th. Visit www.thefair.org for the schedule. I’ve been told there will be another full fair at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in 2023. Of course, if you go on July 27th – not only will you see sheep and rabbits, you can also stay on Wednesday night’s music series featuring classic Morgan Hill rock band The Usual Suspects at 4:30pm
HISTORICAL PLAYERS The San Mateo County Historical Association will honor the legendary high school senior San Francisco 49ers at their annual History Markers Dinner on September 29th. In 1981, Safety Dwight Hicks led a trio of then-rookies Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright in what became known as “Dwight Hicks and His Hot Licks” on the team’s trek to the Super Bowl title.
Now Candlestick Park was fairly close to San Mateo County, but the association found an even better way to tie the team to the Peninsula: Between 1956 and 1988, the 49ers’ headquarters and practice facility were in Redwood City, and many players lived and raised families in the area. It might be a bit of a stretch, but we’re going to let it happen because these guys deserve every honor they get. And, hey, it gives the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame a good case for honoring all the legends who made their names at Levi’s Stadium. For more information about dining at the Grand Bay Hotel in Redwood Shores, visit historysmc.org/history-makers.