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K-State Today

July 14, 2017

Hands-on learning: Sophomore to research, excavate at anthropological site in South Africa

Submitted by Tiffany K Roney

On-site anthropological work with early human remains is a dream of many anthropology students, and it's one that is about to be fulfilled for a sophomore at Kansas State University.

Ethan Copple, sophomore in anthropology and industrial engineering and manufacturing systems, Manhattan, is one of 14 Eagle Scouts nationwide to be selected for the National Eagle Scout Association's World Explorers Program, which assigns scouts to research projects at six sites around the world.

Copple will be one of two Eagle Scouts to participate in excavation and research alongside Lee Rogers Berger, a paleoanthropologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence, in South Africa. Copple leaves July 16 for his educational adventure, which includes 10 days in South Africa.

"I'm excited to immerse myself in the cutting edge of anthropology field work," Copple said. "This will be an amazing opportunity to work with the distinguished and renowned Dr. Lee Rogers Berger and his team."

Because he is studying industrial engineering and anthropology, Copple brings a unique perspective to the archeological site.

From Lauren Ritterbush, professor of sociology, anthropology and social work, Copple said he has gained an understanding of humankind's history and how industrial engineering techniques could improve archaeological methods. From Meng "Peter" Zhang, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, Copple said he has learned process simplification methods that he is eager to apply to excavation site logistics.

"One of my goals for this trip is to utilize the skills sets I have developed at K-State to create more efficient methods for research and excavation processes and operations," Copple said. "I hope this experience will help me start developing simple solutions to save researchers time and money."

Copple started with the Scouts as a Tiger Cub in 2004 and achieved his Eagle Scout status in 2012 after raising more than $4,000 for the Douglas County Korean War Memorial. He earned a National Medal of Outdoor Achievement 2015, was named American Legion's National Scout of the Year in 2015 and has received five Eagle Palms, which are awarded to Eagle Scouts who extend their commitment to scouting by continuing to serve their troops and earn additional merit badges.

At K-State, Copple is the international team leader in Engineers Without Borders, and he is a member of the university's anthropology club.

"I see the World Explorers Program as an invaluable chance to interact with the content I have studied in my anthropology courses at a real archeological site," Copple said. "I look forward to bringing that hands-on knowledge back to my coursework and classroom discussions at K-State."