Rust Belt America-Flint in Perspective

Those of us who live in Michigan, are well versed with the challenges facing the Flint community over the last several decades (and longer.)

Beginning with the hit by Michael Moore- Roger and Me which explored the devastating impact that the decline on the auto industry had on the community, through the Water Crisis, the emergency manager, and so on, a multi-disciplinary course called “Rust Belt America-Flint in Perspective,” could be an important addition to a university curriculum or upper level high school thematic unit.

An important element to the Flint story would be the work the many glimmers of hope-including the Flint Institute of Arts, currently undergoing a major expansion. They are putting on an important exhibit through the end of March, curated by the Smithsonian Anacostia, called Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence, which I also wrote about here.

I would encourage anyone who is able to visit the Flint Institute of Arts to catch this moving, challenging, and ultimately hopeful exhibit.

To add to the inspiring work to improve the lives of the citizens of Flint, I would like to point out the work of Michigan State University researcher Joshua Introne, assistant professor in the Department of Media and Information. Introne’s work is an app that would help turn Flint from a food desert into a food oasis.

A food desert is an area with limited access to healthy, fresh food options. Through this app, “Flint Eats” Introne hopes to provide a flow of information to consumers and retailers to improve access to healthy food.

As reported in the MSU Today article by Kristen Parker,”The key is that we have to build some trust back into the community,” We have to give residents a sense of ownership over the food system. The project is not an app. The project is trying to address some fundamental social and economic problems. The app is really the visible part of this much larger effort.”

Here’s hoping Introne’s work succeeds and is one of many bright spots to emerge from Flint.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is the a food desert?
  2. What factors contribute to a food desert?
  3. How does the Flint Eats app address a root cause of the food desert in Flint-identify the root cause.
  4. What other solutions to address this issue might you consider?
  5. Below is a sample list of topics/questions  for a course called, “Rust Belt America: Flint in Perspective”-what would you add or change?

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RUST BELT AMERICA: FLINT IN PERSPECTIVE TOPICS

  1. Naming the Rust Belt- What is the Rust Belt?  How is it named? Who is able to name a region?
  2. Why is Flint, a city with a current population of about 97,000 important to study? What are the historical trends and demographics of Flint? In what ways do demographics define a city/region? How can you examine Flint from the lens of human geography?
  3. Boom and Bust Cycles in Flint- Examining the Economic History of Flint.
  4. Flint and the World: Macroeconomic backdrop to the Crisis
  5. Timeline of Crisis: What actually happened and when did it happen? An urban studies/journalism perspective.
  6. The Crisis and Citizens-how did the crisis impact citizens and how did they respond? How were self-governance and representative democracy impacted? A political science perspective.
  7. The Crisis and Children-how did this affect the most vulnerable and what are the long term impacts of lead on brain development-a neuropsychological and mental health perspective.
  8. Flint and Culture: How did artists respond to the crisis? An MFA perspective.
  9. Flint in the Media: How has Flint been portrayed in the media? A media studies perspective.
  10. Flint and Opportunity: What are some promising developments in Flint- a business/entrepreneur perspective.
  11. What does Flint mean to the region, the country, the world? Is the “Rust Belt” still a meaningful name? A summation and next steps.

I would love to hear what you think about the questions posed above and to hear about other good news coming from Flint.  Please plan a visit to check out the Flint Institute of Arts and best of luck to the Flint Eats team!

 

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?

Paper Thin Speakers at Michigan State University

Paper Thin SpeakersMichigan State University Research

In an amazing research development, scientists at the Michigan State University, have created a transducer that is paper thin.

From the Michigan State University website posted by Andy Henlon, MSU associate professor Nelson Sepulveda states:

“This is the first transducer that is ultrathin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy.”

This team created the FENG, the Ferroelectret Nanogenerator, and this research extends that development so that the energy conversion can be bi-directional, thus increasing its functionality.

In a really impressive video, they show how they converted a Michigan State University green and white Spartan flag into a speaker.

Fascinating work. A great way to show your students some cutting edge research that has huge societal implications.

Questions for Discussions

  1. What is FENG?
  2. Describe the difference between mechanical energy and electrical energy.
  3. What was the process by which they created the device?
  4. How are the ions added to each layer?
  5. What uses can your class brainstorm for this technology?
  6. Are there any negative implications they can imagine?

 

Helping Farmers in East Africa- Michigan State University Researchers

Michigan State University Research

It is so exciting when researchers are able to take concepts and ideas from the classroom and apply them in a real world setting.

It is especially exciting when it means that this can make a difference in people’s lives.

That is exactly what a team of researchers from Michigan State University did when they travelled to Tanzania and Kenya to help improve agricultural practices.

MSU doctoral candidate in media and information studies, Tian Cai, and a research team, created a research project-creating low-budget videos of videos that communicated farmers perspectives for not using drought resistant maize.

Then, they  showed a group of villagers the videos followed by a discussion. The control group did not receive the videos. An additional treatment group received the videos and a text message.

This group indicated they were most likely to use drought resistant maize, which would benefit their likelihood of success, and help the environment.

This is a great example of applied research and the significant impact that researchers can have in helping those that might not have access to the necessary information and support to make lasting changes. Teachers of media studies, environmental science will especially want to share this research with their students.

For a link to the MSU news article by Nicole O’Meara, please click here. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. Who was involved in providing input at the initial one day workshop?
  2. What government agency provided funding?
  3. What is the local language of the region studied?
  4. Which condition had the most impact?
  5. What additional data would you want to review to determine the efficacy of this research?
  6. What changes might you make to this research to potentially improve its outcomes?
  7. Why did professor Steinfield say this research was aligned to the philosophy of the media and information department at Michigan State University?

Re-Discovering Ancient Greece Using Modern Tools

Rediscovering Ancient Greece

For an enthusiastic look at ancient Greece read the brief account of Michigan State University professors Jim Peck and Jon Frey’s work on archaeological sites in Greece.

This is an engaging, brief reflection by video and communications professor Jim Peck who worked with archaeologist Jon Frey to use drones and software imagining techniques to create 3-d images of ancient sites such as the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia.

Peck’s writing helps bring alive the sense of history at being at these ancient sites and illuminates how Jon Frey became interested in archaeology and Frey’s enthusiasm for digital archaeology.

This brief read with the questions below could be a great “quick-read” for any secondary English/History course.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why was Ishtmia important to ancient Greek culture?
  2. Besides athletics, what other qualities did ancient Greeks value?
  3. Why did the ancient Greeks build a wall?
  4. What career was Frey considering before becoming an archaeologist? What changed his mind?
  5. What are the tools of digital archaeology?
  6. What is Frey’s attitude towards digital archaeology?
  7. What does Peck mean regarding Jon Frey’s attitude when he writes, “He says with that kind of openness, the potential for discovery is greater than ever.”

 

 

Paper Thin Speakers and Microphones

Paper Thin SpeakersMichigan State University Research

In an amazing research development, scientists at the Michigan State University, have created a transducer that is paper thin.

From the Michigan State University website posted by Andy Henlon, MSU associate professor Nelson Sepulveda states:

“This is the first transducer that is ultrathin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy.”

This team created the FENG, the Ferroelectret Nanogenerator, and this research extends that development so that the energy conversion can be bi-directional, thus increasing its functionality.

In a really impressive video, they show how they converted a Michigan State University green and white Spartan flag into a speaker.

Fascinating work. A great way to show your students some cutting edge research that has huge societal implications.

Questions for Discussions

  1. What is FENG?
  2. Describe the difference between mechanical energy and electrical energy.
  3. What was the process by which they created the device?
  4. How are the ions added to each layer?
  5. What uses can your class brainstorm for this technology?
  6. Are there any negative implications they can imagine?