Straw House at University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

University of Michigan in Ann Arbor continues its dedication to sustainability and green architecture through the building of a second straw building-the first on main campus in Ann Arbor.

With work being completed mostly by students under the direction of associate professor Joe Trumpey, from the Stamps School of Art and Design, the work has an educational as well as functional purpose.

Their enthusiasm is invigorating as well-“Just knowing you can do things for yourself-I can build my own house after this, you know,” says Kristen Hayden.

The work will be an anchor to the UM farms which provides food for the dining halls and should be an inspiration to those interested in sustainability.

For Morgan Sherburne’s full article, please click here.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Besides the straw, what other features make this a sustainable design?
  2. Where did the materials for this building come from?
  3. What are some of the goals that Joe Trumpey has for this building?
  4. What other products could you use in creating a “sustainable” building?

Solving Poverty in Africa with Drones-Research from Oakland University

snow-and-treewaiting

Regular readers of this blog know that I am in deep admiration for those researchers who are using their skills to tackle the seemingly intractable problems that plague so many-especially poverty and extreme poverty.

I am in awe of researchers such as Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug who was widely considered the father of the “green revolution,” the wonderful work at MSU helping to tackle  food scarcity in Flint with the Flint Eats app and other creative uses of technology such as the Michigan State University research teaching farmers in East Africa using video technology.  

Now we can add Oakland University researcher, Jon Carroll to the list of researchers using technology to solve the problem of poverty in Africa. Dr. Carroll is using drones to create very precise images of water and chlorophyll in the plants which can then lead to precise, hyper-localized solutions for crop  yield leading to a very sustainable agricultural model.

In the excellent article by OU News, Dr. Carroll talks about the impact that this research experience had on him.

He states, “This was a very different kind of project because I was surrounded by the people who were going to be affected by this research.”

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why is sustainable agriculture important to Jon Carroll?
  2. How did he use the drone technology to improve crop yields?
  3. What are some of the solutions he might recommend to farmers?
  4. Why was this experience so memorable for him?
  5. How else could you imagine using the drone technology to help the farmers in Africa?

Fashion and Function at Central Michigan University

What does it mean to be beautiful?

This is a question humans throughout history and across cultures grapple. So often, our traditions present images of a certain type of ideals of beauty that rarely have relevance for the vast majority of people.

tree-and-rock

These stereotypes and ideals often leave individuals with disabilities out of the narrative completely.

That is changing and being challenged more frequently as witnessed by an exhibit by Central Michigan University audiology professor, Stacey Lim, called, “(dis)ABLED BEAUTY: the evolution of beauty, disability, and beauty,” which is running through August at CMU’s Clarke Historical Library.

Professor Lim, was born with profound hearing loss as well as a keen interest in fashion.

“I think being able to express yourself physically help breaks down the negative stereotypes of people with disabilities.” — Stacey Lim

If you and your students are looking for hope and inspiration on the power of creativity and technology to make a difference in people’s lives, in short, the best of what we as educators are aspiring to, please read Gary Piatek’s article and check out the exhibit next time you are on Central Michigan University’s Campus.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What was professor Lim’s motivation for this exhibit?
  2. What was professor Lim and her collaborator, Tameka Ellington’s first research project?
  3. What university has the largest collection of hearing aids?
  4. What is professor Lim’s hope for this exhibit?
  5. What  other research questions can you generate that would extend this research?

75 Years of the Nuclear Age- University of Chicago

On December, 2 1942, in a lab at the University of Chicago, scientists created the first self-sustained controlled nuclear chain reaction.

Seventy five years later, the university is engaging in a thought-provoking reflection and examination of this event with events throughout the community and via excellent resources posted on their website.

One of the most compelling is the public art installation of Nuclear Thresholds which is integrated into Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy.

The seventy five foot long black cords lay in a messy heap next to Moore’s well contained forms, leaving the viewer uneasy, unsure of what to make of the thin black materials.

For sure, this piece will generate conversation and hopefully a deeper reflection on the role this technological advancement has played in our society.

If you missed the actual anniversary last month, I believe a well thought out thematic unit can still explore the numerous questions evoked by this anniversary. A great video resource produced by UChicago Creative is a must see for all secondary educators interested in using this topic for critical reasoning and discussion-Nuclear Reactions-a Complex Legacy. 

How are you teaching about this significant historical event?

It seems like following the inspiration of University of Chicago and approaching it with a multidisciplinary perspective might be a wonderful way to engage your students and discuss a topic whose relevance is as timely as ever. The video concludes with a call for interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle the world’s biggest problems and asks, “What is your contribution going to be?”

A great question to reflect upon as we begin this new year.

Questions for Discussion following the video:

  1. What is your reaction to the quote by University of Chicago president, George Wells Beadle in 1967?
  2. What was the initial reaction to the development of the atomic bomb?
  3. How did the University of Chicago faculty respond to the development of the atomic bomb?
  4. How was nuclear technology used to benefit people?
  5. The video asks,” How do we get to a world without nuclear weapons?”

 

Parkinson’s Research at Michigan State University

What is the relationship between our sense of smell and Parkinson’s disease?

That is the question being investigated by Michigan State University researcher Honglei Chen.

Chen’s work was inspired by the established research suggesting that loss of sense of smell is an early marker for Parkinson’s disease. Apparently, over 90% of people with the disease have had issues with their sense of smell years before the onset of the disease.

Chen is trying to find out what exactly is the pathway by which our nerve cells stop working -is it inflammation caused possibly by air pollution?

Understanding this correlation is an important aspect of developing both treatment and prevention for this devastating neurological disorder.

For the full article in MSU Today by Sarina Gleason, please click here. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is Chen’s research hypothesis?
  2. What percentage of people with Parkinson’s have issues with their sense of smell?
  3. Does the article say that a poor sense of smell is ONLY related to Parkinson’s?
  4. What is Chen’s research population?
  5. What role is it believed pollution plays in inflammation?
  6. How could Chen’s research be used to both prevent and treat this disease?

Transparent Solar Cells- Innovation at Michigan State University

When you think of solar panels, do you think of the large dark panels sitting on rooftops or in fields?

Think again, thanks to Michigan State University researcher, Richard Lunt, who developed transparent solar cells. These cells, which are see-through and could be placed on existing windows could eventually ensure all of U.S. energy demands are met through solar power.

Although not as efficient as the traditional solar panel, the ubiquity of glass windows help make them transparent solar cell a compelling option.

For more information, please check out Andy Henion’s article in MSU today.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. According to the article where can transparent solar cells be added?
  2. What type of light does the transparent solar cell convert to energy? How is this accomplished?
  3. Currently, what percentage of energy demand globally is met by solar power?
  4. Why is professor Lunt optimistic about the transparent solar cells?

Job Crafting Improves Employee Satisfaction- Central Michigan University

How happy would you be if you got to write your own job description?

According to Central Michigan University graduate student Minseo Kim and her adviser Terry Beehr, you’d be pretty darn happy.

For so long, employees have simply been parts to plug into the organizational machine, but that is beginning to shift.  Now many employers are realizing that their employees are actually human individuals with the desire for purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in their work and personal lives.

Kim’s research realizes this shift and notes that not only does an employee who is able to help “job craft” their work roles become  happier, they actually become more productive, which benefits the company.

The research also notes that for this to work, there must be an organizational culture that promotes this, starting with management.

The research which studies over 300 employees over two months was published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies and was featured in Dan Digmann’s article in CMU News.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why would creating one’s own job description lead to greater job satisfaction?
  2. Is “job crafting” an accurate phrase for this process?
  3. How do you think this could impact the hiring process for employers?
  4. Was the number of employees studied sufficient for Kim and Beehr to reach their conclusions?
  5. How did they measure job satisfaction?
  6. What would you change to extend this research?