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By The Book

May 8, 2011

By Jon Cooper
Sting Daily

A key move in Georgia Tech’s success this season came when head coach Danny Hall switched junior Jacob Esch and freshman Mott Hyde, moving Hyde from shortstop to second and Esch second to short.

The move was predicated on getting Hyde better adapted to the college game. Hall never considered the possibility that the move would rattle Esch. He knew better.

Considering what the St. Paul, Minn., native was doing in the classroom, moving to shortstop, with all it entails as captain of the infield, was virtually a stroll in the park.

On Friday, Esch was one of 11 players selected by CoSIDA (College Sports Information Directors of America) to the Capital One Academic All-District Team for District Three.

Being named would be impressive enough. Doing so with a 3.65 GPA in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech makes it more impressive. But that’s not the most impressive part of Esch’s accomplishment.

He did all this while carrying 19 credits. Nineteen!

Normally students are not allowed to carry such a load that heavy. Esch had to get special permission granted from the Dean.

“I’m trying to finish my degree in four years and I’m three hours behind and I wanted to make my senior year a little easier,” said Esch, who got behind by not declaring his major in Civil Engineering until after his freshman year. “I needed 33 more hours if I do it that way. I decided that’s the route I want to do and I’ll work hard this semester.”

His senior year now shapes up as an 18-credit semester in the fall and 15 next spring.

The workload he took on this past semester is mind-boggling to someone who did not attend Georgia Tech, and possibly to some that did and still do.

“I took ES 1371, which is the bear of all bears in engineering courses and I took EAS 2600, which was just a general lab time, a fairly easy course,” he said. “I took thermodynamics, infrastructure rehab, which is a 4000-level course in the civil department. Engineering statistics, and then I took three hours of undergraduate research for the professor on ultrasonic continuation in cement paste.”

Esch did the majority of his work with Drs. Laurence Jacobs, a professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs for the College of Engineering, and Dr. Jin-Yeon Kim of the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Dr. Jacobs was much better at explaining the course of work Esch performed.

“Jake is testing the feasibility of a device our lab has developed to use ultrasonic waves to measure the air content in fresh concrete,” said Dr. Jacobs. “He is continuing on the work of a recent Master’s student (she received her MS last year), doing some proof of principle tests. He is then using the results of these tests to make refinements in the device’s design.”

Regardless of whether you comprehend the scope of what Esch’s study, his ability to balance everything spoke volumes about his versatility and problem-solving.

“He is very bright and mastered the essentials to a complicated problem very quickly,” said Dr. Jacobs. “He helped build a modified version of the actual device, and then learned how to use an ultrasonic pulser and an oscilloscope to make the actual ultrasound measurements. He needed to understand civil engineering concepts (the concrete), electrical engineering (the instrumentation and signal processing) and then do the actual measurements.”

Esch’s ability to manage his time may be the most impressive part of what he did. It certainly impressed Dr. Jacobs.

“What is most impressive is that he did most of the work on his own in the lab,” he said. “I recall he had a Saturday afternoon game and he arranged to meet me in the lab immediately after the game so we could review his latest results and discuss what changes he should do next.”

That would explain why Esch never took a bad game — or a good one, for that matter — home with him. But that’s just the way he is. He’s completely invested in whatever project he’s involved in at that moment.

“I’m the kind of person who just works hard at something until I’m done with it,” he said. “I work hard at school, which is important to me. Baseball is important to me, too. When things are important it’s easy to put your time in.”

The recognition earned from CoSIDA may not be the last for Esch.

“If his latest measurements work, we will file a second invention disclosure as the next step to applying for a patent,” said Dr. Jacobs. “He will be one of the names on the patent if it happens.”

“It’s nice to be recognized when you work hard in class. It’s definitely where people overlook college athletics,” he said. “Even as a regular student it would be nice to acknowledged at Georgia Tech, especially as an engineer.”

Esch’s next step is to contribute to Yellow Jackets baseball being acknowledged nationally.

“On (Friday’s) plane trip to Chicago, [Sports Information Assistant Director Mike] Huff told me I was recognized and I kind of laughed at him,” Esch said. “I said, ‘That’s cool. I’ve got to play better baseball now.'”

That should be easier now.

“The last two weeks have been stressful, preparing for finals and finishing up the semester,” he said. “I know it weighs on the baseball side of things. You can see it with the younger guys on the team. But now that that’s over, it’s just baseball time. Now it’s time for fun. Now it’s time to focus on just one thing, rather than baseball, the one thing and then five other classes.”

As the Yellow Jackets finish the year up then head to postseason, Esch will have a fan in Dr. Jacobs.

“I am a Tech baseball fan, and Jake has made me more interested,” he said. “I can see similar characteristics in his research where he is very dedicated, clearly a team-player and likes to win – for us that means getting a device that works.”

For Georgia Tech, that hopefully means an ACC title and a berth in the College World Series.


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