Classes may be out for the summer, but there still was a bit of buzz on the San Jose State campus this week. Thirty-five students from around the Bay Area were taking part in the Mineta Summer Transportation Institute, a three-week program aimed at interesting them in a variety of jobs in the transportation sector.
One of the early lessons this week was about drones — how to fly them and use them for aerial mapping. Bo Yang, an assistant professor in the department of urban and regional planning, showed the students how the controls work on both a large and small drone. And then the controls were handed over to pairs of students who zipped the flying machines around 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 remote control vehicles was a tiny helicopter,” said Ho, who has an interest in engineering. “This was a lot better experience.”
Karen Philbrick, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, said drones are being used to address first- and last-mile deliveries, get medications to people in hard to reach areas, conduct bridge inspections and even warn people who are trespassing on train crossings.
“Drones are becoming more prevalent in transportation as one of the tools to combat congestion,” Philbrick said.
They are also fun to use, she pointed out. Making sure the students are engaged is a key part of the program, which includes lectures on environmental science but also has hands-on activities and field trips. On Friday, the students went to the Central Valley to visit the high-speed rail construction site. Next on the agenda is a visit from the Mountain View-based Nuro — a startup company that will give students the opportunity to get a close-up of its autonomous vehicles. The goal is to open high school students’ eyes to the continuum of job opportunities in the transportation sector.
“One of the biggest crises we’re facing in transportation is the lack of a skilled workforce and how are we going to recruit students to fill in these opportunities?” she said. “We’re here to show kids what’s possible, and you can’t just lecture at them for three weeks straight.”
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 transportation and the impact on greenhouse gas emissions is important and how we need to change that going forward with more innovative transportation solutions.”
A GIANT SALUTE: The San Jose Giants did something extraordinary last Saturday by retiring the number of someone who never even wore one of their jerseys. But that was more than appropriate for Mark Wilson, the team’s longtime general manager who was honored with an on-field retirement ceremony at Excite Ballpark. He truly is one of the great people to be part of any sport in the city of San Jose.
Current General Manager Ben Taylor presented Wilson with a jersey emblazoned with the number 38 during the ceremony, representing the number of years that Wilson spent with the organization, starting as an intern in 1984. Wilson officially retired in December 2020, but he was finally honored for his service this season (thanks, COVID).
“In Minor League Baseball, the general manager is the cleanup hitter of a team’s front office staff,” said Chris Lampe, the California League’s historian and a minority owner in the San Jose Giants. “Mark Wilson was a five-tool general manager. I did it all.”
It’s true, too. Advertisers loved him, and fans may not have known his name, but they should have loved him, too. In addition to the team winning four California League championships and tying for a fifth while he was GM, Wilson also did a lot to spruce up the venue formerly known as Municipal Stadium. Wilson’s tenure saw improved food and beverage options, the beautification of the aging stadium with murals and patios and the addition of the beloved “Beer Batter.” For that alone, I have deserved the retired number. Wilson estimated that about a half-million free or half-priced brews have been served at the ballpark 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 ballpark,” said Wilson, who added that he was proud to join former Manager Lenn Sakata as the only other retired number. “Each and every day from the time I woke up until the time I rested my head on the pillow, it was all about the fan experience and how we could improve that.”
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FAIR?: It’s true, a version of the Santa Clara County Fair is taking place 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 been working hard all year.
Events started July 10 with a horse show in San Martin and continued July 23 with a cattle and dog show, with more events all week leading up to the Junior Livestock Auction on July 30. You can check out the schedule at www.thefair.org . I’m told a full fair is expected to be back at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in 2023. Of course, if you go July 27 — not only will you get to see sheep and rabbits, you can also stick around for the Wednesday Night Music Series with Morgan Hill-based classic rock band The Usual Suspects at 4:30 pm
HISTORIC PLAYERS The San Mateo County Historical Association will honor the San Francisco 49ers’ legendary secondary at its annual History Markers dinner on Sept. 29. In 1981, Safety Dwight Hicks led a trio of then-rookies Ronnie Lott, Carlton Williamson and Eric Wright who became famous as “Dwight Hicks and his Hot Licks” on the team’s way to a Super Bowl championship.
Now, Candlestick Park was pretty close to San Mateo County, but the association found an even better way to connect the team to the Peninsula: Between 1956 and 1988, the 49ers’ headquarters and practice facility was in Redwood City, and many players lived and raised families in the area. It may be a stretch, but we’ll allow it because those guys deserve every honor they get. And, hey, it gives the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame a good argument to honor any legends that make their name at Levi’s Stadium. You can get more information on the dinner at the Grand Bay Hotel in Redwood Shores at historysmc.org/history-makers.