Research

By Adriana Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences

Christenson-Peter
Christenson

RICHLAND, Wash. – Peter Christenson, assistant professor of fine arts at Washington State University Tri-Cities, has received the Governor’s Arts & Heritage Young Arts Leader Award from the Washington State Arts Commission.

Christenson is a multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker. He co-founded Left of Centre, an artist collective and guerrilla-marketing firm, and has been the catalyst behind Null Set, a locally produced interventionist magazine and collaborative organization in the Tri-Cities.

He also initiated the Guest House Cultural Capital Residency, a short-term residency program that invites scholars and creatives from across the globe to Richland.

At WSU, Christenson teaches in support of the fine arts and digital technology and culture programs with a pedagogy and research agenda focused on multidisciplinary, new media and social art practices.

Peter Christenson, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of fine arts, helps artist Joe Batt set up his art exhibition in the WSU Tri-Cities Art Center.

Peter Christenson, WSU Tri-Cities assistant professor of fine arts, helps artist Joe Batt set up his art exhibition in the WSU Tri-Cities Art Center.

“This award is particularly meaningful for me as an artist and scholar committed to culture-building and community-based development across the state,” Christenson said. “I’m very honored and grateful to the Arts Commission and Governor Inslee, and feel so indebted to the communities whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with here in Washington.”

Christenson is a recent recipient of a US–UK Fulbright Scholar Award in Art & Design. His current practice is rooted in new media and video, collective campaigning and protest, performance, psychosocial and interventionist art, and site-specific installation. His research is significantly informed by his previous experiences as a social worker and licensed psychotherapist.

“Peter continues to build a reputation as a practicing artist in the Northwest, across the country and around the world,” said Squeak Meisel, chair of fine arts at WSU. “It is nice to know that the state of Washington values his contribution to the cultural landscape. His research is a model for how all students can choose to be innovative in their approaches to making and having a career as an artist.  I look forward to what he does next!”

Originally from Metro Detroit, Christenson holds bachelor of arts and master of social work degrees from the University of Michigan and a master of fine arts degree in intermedia from Arizona State University.

Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) is a state government agency established in 1961. Among its various activities is advocating for the public value of the arts; building leadership in and for the arts; strengthening arts education in Washington public schools; documenting the impact of and building community participation in the arts; and acquiring and caring for artwork in the State Art Collection at K-12 public schools, colleges, universities, and state agencies.

Other ArtsWA programs include Art in Public Places, Arts in Education, Poetry Out Loud, and Washington Poet Laureate.

 

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By Adrian Aumen, WSU College of Arts & Sciences

In a cold, dimly blue-lit room, a strange human–animal hybrid paces before the entrance to a fiery red cave. When the “Huminal” senses a viewer approaching, it stops, turns its head to stare at the visitor and emits its own red-hot glow. The viewer must then decide how to respond to the apparent challenge: continue toward the creature or retreat.

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric work on the "Huminal," an interactive robot that responds to its environment.

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric work on the “Huminal,” an interactive robot that responds to its environment.

The Huminal is an interactive, kinetic sculptural installation featuring an autonomous, mobile robot that senses and responds to changes in its environment. Created by an interdisciplinary team at Washington State University Tri-Cities, it incorporates research and techniques in fine arts, design, electrical and mechanical engineering and robotics to provide a unique platform for exploring the relationship between humans and machines—and, it turns out, between artists and engineers, too.

Two years in the making and nearing completion this month, The Huminal is the third and most complex art-machine designed and built in as many years by fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston in collaboration with WSU engineering students and faculty. It debuted recently to rave reviews at a robotics exposition for employees of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, where Gordan Gavric, a key member of the Huminal development team, is an electrical engineering intern.

“The feedback we’ve gotten so far is really great,” said Gavric, a senior in engineering and president of the WSU Tri-Cities Robotics Club. “People recognize it’s a robot, but at the same time they’re a little creeped out. How do people want to interact with a creepy robot?”

Designed to pique curiosity along with uneasiness, the Huminal is about the size and shape of a large dog and covered with white plastic discs resembling scales or fur. Its four jointed legs give the appearance of walking as it rolls in an elliptical path outside its apparent den.

Multiple internal sensors, a camera and a small Raspberry Pi computer communicate with microcontrollers across two electronic systems to direct the robot’s movements and trigger the pulsing red LED lights in its chest. The steady hum of its heart—two 8.6 volt motors—is interrupted only when a sensor detects nearby movement. At that point, the Huminal is programmed to stop in its tracks, turn its head to face the approaching object and transmit its warning glow.

“I look forward to seeing how more people react to it,” Gavric said. “Is it alive? Is it human? The mystery is unnerving and it’s this uneasiness that Sena is trying to exploit.”

A corporeal experience

new media artist, Creston builds interactive art-machines to create a corporeal experience for viewers. Her artworks invite people to engage with machines and familiar materials in unfamiliar settings and ways. Environmental impact and social consciousness are frequent themes.

Sena Clara Creston and Gordan Gavric work on the Huminal

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric work on the “Huminal” at WSU Tri-Cities.

“Some people get really aggressive with the work and some are really careful with it,” she said.

By enabling viewers to choose their response to her art, she hopes to help them understand other ways they affect the wider world.

From the haunting Huminal to the satirical Machinescape—an immersive environment of post-consumer electronics—to the dreamlike Umbrellaship—a land-roving, steampunk-style sailboat—much of Creston’s art employs fantasy while exploring intersections between the natural and the man-made.

“Part of it is movement, part of it is response, part of it is material and part of it is social engagement,” she said.

She will talk about her innovative artwork at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16, as part of TEDxRichland events at Uptown Theatre in Richland, Washington.

To create the Huminal’s skin, Creston cut up dozens of discarded plastic water bottles—familiar and somewhat controversial objects that connect the organic and inorganic.

“Many people across the world live with an unsafe water supply, yet we think of water as the source of life and the source of health and wellbeing, and water bottles deliver that,” Creston said. “However, the water bottle itself is not biological or biodegradable—it’s inorganic and it’s not going away. So the material itself becomes this questionable component.

“How do we actually feel for the inorganic and how do these things elicit responses?”

Collaborating in uncommon opportunities

Giving form to Creston’s layered ideas and complex inventions often requires more technical skills than she possesses. So for the past 10 years, she has been learning and implementing modest means of physical computing and mechanical engineering.

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric observe the Huminal as it interacts with its environment.

WSU Tri-Cities fine arts professor Sena Clara Creston and engineering student Gordan Gavric observe the “Huminal” as it interacts with its environment.

“But, as my mentor explained, I didn’t need to learn how to do everything—I needed to learn how to collaborate,” she said.

Fortunately, interdisciplinary collaborations are strongly encouraged and available at WSU. Engineering professors Changki Mo at WSU Tri-Cities and Charles Pezeshki and Jacob Leachman at WSU Pullman recognized the uncommon opportunities Creston’s projects offered their students and wove them into their coursework.

“Her projects presented the perfect combination of an interesting customer, an achievable design and the monetary scope to take some risks in a shared learning experience,” Pezeshki said.

Students in Pezeshki and Leachman’s junior-level design classes worked remotely with Creston to create The Umbrellaship and Machinescape. The installations were designed, like The Huminal, to question the relationship between humans and their perceived environment.

Eric Loeffler, a May graduate in engineering who constructed the Huminal’s aluminum frame, said he and other students on the project gained a variety of valuable hands-on experiences not usually available to undergraduates.

For example, Loeffler learned new design software applications that he can use in his master’s degree program, and he expanded his welding skills to include aluminum materials.

“There were a lot of new things to work with from an engineering standpoint, and getting the chance to interact with Sena as a client was huge, too,” he said. “There’s really not a class that teaches you how to interact with a person who has their own particular wants, ideas and capabilities. That experience will definitely be useful in the future.”

Shared purposes, different approaches

“Some people might think engineering and arts are very different, but artists and engineers kind of have a shared purpose,” Gavric said. “They create things. They bring things into existence, and have ideas and concepts that they want to make. The difference lies in medium and motive. An engineer might design a circuit board to save a life, while an artist might paint a picture to change a life.”

“Working with Sena, I kind of opened up to ‘why are we doing this this?’ Oh, it’s for the aesthetic, or it’s for trying to get the point across.”

Gavric admits, “There’s no way I ever thought I’d be working on a robot for an art project.” But even before Creston finished presenting her concept sketches to the Robotics Club, he was hooked.

“It intrigued me immediately as an interesting concept and totally something new. There was a lot of back and forth on what we could do with the given technology and funding, and a lot of compromises, abstractions and problems that were solved. It was a rare opportunity. I’m glad I did it.”

Loeffler especially appreciated the chance to think outside the box.

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate and come up with different ways to solve a problem,” he said. “I think we’re fairly close to what Sena originally envisioned, with the aesthetic and the function she was looking for, and that’s very satisfying.”

The interactive art machine projects encouraged the engineering students to consider their role as engineer, inventor, creator and artist, Creston said. As they grew comfortable working on art projects and expressing their own creative ideas, they sought new collaborations with artists and invited them to participate with the Robotics Club.

Some of the rising engineers began working with fine art students on interactive media projects and even created an interactive art installation of their own, called Lux Flux. The large-scale ceiling installation was designed to sense when a viewer entered a darkened hallway and to send a river of light shooting along the ceiling.

“The project was completely collaborative with a fluid crossover between artists and engineers filling in the rolls of conceptualizers, designers and technicians as needed,” Creston said. “It was beautiful to see.”

Creston is now working with a team of mechanical engineering design students to develop their collective senior year project. Her creative and scholarly work has received financial support from the WSU Office of Academic Affairs, the Department of Fine Arts and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, as well as a chancellor’s seed grant to provide tools and materials and a project grant from Artist Trust.

The interdisciplinary projects align with the WSU Grand Challenges goal of improving education. They further the University’s Drive to 25 efforts by delivering innovative teaching, community outreach and transformative student experience.

Photos and video by Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities marketing and communications

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Citiies

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities has joined forces with a local youth-operated program to grow its home-based extracurricular learning opportunities in a community in east Pasco.

The organization, Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS), originated several years ago when Lakeview community youth wanted to improve their neighborhood through offering child friendly activities, leadership building opportunities and additional academic resources right in their home area.

ALAS camps“We started a program because there were a lot of kids running around, and it used to be a place known for drugs and alcohol,” said Brenda Yepez, ALAS mentor, resident of the Lakeview community and a WSU Tri-Cities student. “We didn’t want to see that anymore, so we started offering activities for the kids, and then started doing these summer camps.”

They since have partnered with multiple WSU Tri-Cities education faculty to grow their academic offerings, including building annual summer camps to offer lessons in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

WSU students teach classes

“Two years ago, they (ALAS) asked if WSU would be willing to help, and we came up with a plan to have our introduction to education class teach daily at the camps,” said Jonah Firestone, assistant professor of education at WSU Tri-Cities. “I told my students to create all the curriculum for Monday through Friday classes every morning. It’s been a great opportunity, both for the kids in the community and for our WSU students.”

This year, Firestone also partnered with associate education professor Eric Johnson, and they split the camp days into English and Spanish offerings to create an academic bilingual component for the camps. Johnson has taken his education students to work in Pasco schools and with the ALAS program for the past eight years.

“My class did the Spanish lessons on Monday and Wednesday and Jonah did the lessons on Tuesday and Thursday in English,” Johnson said of the new structure for the camps. “It worked out really well and the feedback from my students is that they really enjoyed it.”

English, Spanish classes

Firestone said by offering the instruction in both languages, it allows the students to learn the material first in many of the community youth’s native language, and then the lesson is reinforced through the English language, which provides them a greater grasps of the concepts.ALAS camps

Maite Cruz, president of the ALAS program and resident of the Lakeview community, said they are glad to partner with WSU Tri-Cities for the camps, as it provides both parties with learning opportunities.

“Our first year of the camps was a little difficult because we didn’t have the experience on what to teach them,” she said. “But since we partnered with WSU, we’ve been able to expand our academic offerings to be a true benefit to the kids in our community.”

Aligning curriculum with culture

In addition to the academic offerings for the children in the community, Firestone said the partnership has presented an opportunity to educate their WSU students about the value of creating curriculum that aligns with the culture and environment of the students they’re educating.

“We wanted to get these pre-service teachers out into the community to engage in these kids’ culture and create curriculum based on where they are,” he said. “No kid has all the experiences

ALAS camps

as other kids, but there are areas where we can introduce concepts and curriculum based on the similar experiences of these kids. They then get to see that put into practice and how

successful it makes the kids’ learning. It’s been a real benefit to my students.”

Working in Pasco schools

Johnson said WSU Tri-Cities sends many of its pre-service teachers into Pasco schools to work with students as part of their educational experience.

“So for the students who have the chance with the Lakeview community in these camps or in our classes, they have a better appreciation for the resources that Lakeview offers,” he said. “They also see a lot of the students in the schools in their practicum.”

“For the students who get jobs in Kennewick or Richland, they are also more open to doing community visits because they have had that training and can apply what they’ve learned in the community to the classroom,” he said.

 

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By Maegan Murray

Martin Klotz, the new Washington State University Tri-Cities vice chancellor of academic affairs, hopes to focus on the university’s unique strengths to meet the needs of not only the Tri-Cities regional community, but also the state and nation.

A microbiologist and academic by profession, Klotz said what he likes most about WSU Tri-Cities is that it has its own unique focal points within the WSU system that serve to meet a greater need in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields – all while maintaining a base in the liberal arts.

“We have many focus points that are unique to WSU Tri-Cities, from our Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory, to our world-class wine science center, to what we offer through our nursing and medical programs,” he said. “Environmental health is big in this area because of the Hanford Site and other related areas, and agriculture and food processing continue to grow. There is a need for managing the business aspects of those fields and there is also an engineering application that is crucial for many of these areas. Educators provide training at all levels of their profession, ranging from teaching in public schools to leadership in higher education, public officiating and industry.”

Klotz comes to WSU Tri-Cities from Queens College, City University of New York, in Flushing, New York, where he was dean of faculty for the division of mathematics and natural sciences and professor of biology. Prior to that, Klotz held academic positions at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where he served as professor and chair of the department of biological sciences, the University of Louisville in the departments of biology and microbiology and immunology and the University of Colorado Denver in the department of biology.

For most of his career, Klotz directed his evolutionary and genomic microbiology laboratory to study the molecular underpinnings of ammonia- and methane-oxidizing bacteria, with an interest in the metabolic reconstruction of key catabolic pathways, the evolutionary history of involved inventory and how this inventory is being regulated. His research has been funded by federal and state grants agencies in excess of $4 million. He also contributed to the editing of three books on nitrogen cycle research and is an author and co-author of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles.

Klotz said one of the greatest needs in the world today is to secure global health, which extends to a number of academic areas at WSU Tri-Cities. He said this is not only due to the need for more scientists, physicians and health professionals, but also out of a need for academic study, research development and product development for all areas of the field.

“We have a system-wide nursing program and our new medical school, but the question is what are the additional opportunities in allied health professions for this campus and how do we get there?” he said. “Our health is not only determined by what happens on the inside of our bodies, but also what happens on the outside in the environment. One of the main industries of Washington state is agriculture, but it is also a major polluter and extractor of resources. It is an opportunity, responsibility and a challenge at the same time. It is really an opportunity that waits to be harnessed.”

Klotz said WSU Tri-Cities needs to identify basic areas that will feed into all of these opportunities.

“One of these basic areas is in the biological sciences, and particularly, microbiology, because it will feed into existing strength in bioengineering, agriculture and wine science, and it is a foundational discipline for academic programs and training with a focus on human and environmental health,” he said.

Klotz said he also intends to focus on growing needs for mathematics, statistics and data science at WSU Tri-Cities, as it also feeds into nearly all areas. He said a strong academic focus on algorithmic approach not only sets a foundation for a range of other academic areas – it is also a crucial component of complex thinking.

Klotz said he is excited to join the team at WSU Tri-Cities and looks to build on many initiatives already taking place on campus while building coalitions for seizing new opportunities.

“We have a highly motivated faculty and staff and everyone is engaged and really trying to make sure that everything works across the board,” he said. “I hope to facilitate paths to reach these goals and contribute also to translating the strategic plan that exists for WSU as a system into tasks and sub goals on our campus.”

Klotz said the mission of four-year higher education institutions is to not only graduate more students with a career-informed degree in time, but it is also to afford faculty and students with opportunities for scholarship and creative activity.

“Every academic direction and college represented here is important,” he said. “They all have their specific roles to play in forming a career-prepared graduate and they contribute to and build on a sound liberal arts education. Even though this is a STEM-focused campus, this is not just rooted in science and engineering. There are many opportunities for scholarship in the fine and liberal arts, in business, education and the health sciences.”

By Maegan Murray

An immersive experience at Washington State University Tri-Cities has Amy Verderber, a biology teacher at Kamiakin High School, performing research that has tie-ins to medicine.

Verderber studied biology in college before certifying to become a teacher, but she never got the opportunity to explore the field’s full research potential. Within the last two summers through the Partners in Science program, however, Verderber found herself working directly beside university biology faculty, completing research that has potential to improve what is known about human skull deformities and diseases.

Amy Verderber

Amy Verderber, a teacher at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, Wash., got the opportunity to complete biological sciences research at Washington State University Tri-Cities through the Partners in Science program.

Through the Partners in Science program, which is supported by a $15,000 grant from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, high school teachers are paired with a university professor in their field and the pair spends two consecutive summers completing research. During the end of each summer experience, the teachers prepare a presentation on their research and how they plan to implement what they learn into their classroom setting. The university professors also get the value of an additional hand in the lab and in the high school teacher’s second summer, an experienced lab researcher to help with their studies.

Verderber is working with Jim Cooper, assistant professor of biological sciences, and Elly Sweet, clinical assistant professor of biology, in researching the impact of thyroid hormone on the development of jaw shape and jaw biomechanics in the zebrafish. The researchers hope their research will shed light on how the abnormal thyroid hormone levels during development can lead to human skull deformities.

Verderber continues to use the experience to provide her students with real-world opportunities and outlooks in science. She has applied what she’s learned to her lessons and often brings discussion of her experience into her labs and instruction.

Elly Sweet (left) talks with Amy Verderber about their research on the thyroid hormone in zebrafish.

WSU Tri-Cities professor Elly Sweet (left) talks with Amy Verderber about their research on the thyroid hormone in zebrafish.

“It’s been a great experience,” Verderber said. “To my students, it is more than just reading out of a textbook. I’m able to bring what is happening all around them into a practical classroom experience. It provides them with a look into the lab setting. I am not just a teacher who went to school and studied the subject. I now can say I’ve worked in a real lab and am doing scientific research with real-world applications.”

Throughout the two summers, Verderber recorded zebrafish feeding mechanics using a high-speed video camera, determined the effects of both an overabundance and a deficiency of thyroid hormone on jaw mechanics and performed research on the genetic controls of fish skull development.

“We’re trying to identify how thyroid hormone activates or deactivate genes in the fish’s head to determine whether they develop really moveable or jaws or jaws capable of only limited motion,” Cooper said. “There are also a large number of human birth defects associated with abnormal thyroid hormone production that causes malformation of the skull. The research can therefore answer both evolutionary questions and medical questions.”

Verderber said her students were very receptive to both what she learned in the lab, as well as what she brought in to the classroom through her teaching. She said she hopes to raise zebrafish in her classroom this year so the students receive that additional hands-on, real-world application.

WSU Tri-Cities professor Jim Cooper (left) chats with Amy Verderber about their research on the impact on varying amounts of thyroid hormone in zebrafish

WSU Tri-Cities professor Jim Cooper (left) chats with Amy Verderber about their research on the impact on varying amounts of thyroid hormone in zebrafish. The research could lead to advancements in medicine.

“My students are learning something outside of a textbook,” she said. “It’s been really rewarding seeing not only how I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned for their benefit, but in seeing how they’ve reacted to that material.”

Sweet said she is excited about how Verderber’s experience in the WSU Tri-Cities lab will open the eyes of students to the possibilities of careers in the biological sciences, as well as project upward what high school students are learning today.

“Not only will it help with the research aspect of things, it will also be helpful to know what students are currently learning about in high school, be able to have some input into the possibilities of projects they could work on, as well as have the opportunity for us to come into the high school classrooms to give presentations,” she said. “Even though many students majoring in the biological sciences are interested in pre-health, there are many other career options out there. This provides a great partnership on that end.”

Included in the Partners in Science program is the option of applying for a supplemental grant, of which the funds go toward classroom equipment like microscopes, pipettes and other supplies. Verderber said she plans on applying and that it will provide a great resource for her students if she receives the grant.

“I hope other professors see the value of this program and the many benefits that come out of it,” she said.

Cooper and Sweet agreed.

“The amount of time that we have invested in collaborating with Amy we have gotten back many times,” Cooper said. “It’s a gain in resources and a huge win for both the lab at the university.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Washington State University is leading the online implementation of a program aimed at reducing school truancy that could positively impact schools not only across the state, but also across the nation.

WARNS logoThe Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students program, also known as WARNS, uses data-driven procedures to track and improve interventions with students. As indicated in the Becca Bill, which requires children from the age of 8 to 17 to attend a public, private or home-based school, unexcused absences may be an early warning sign for unaddressed problems with school failure and dropout rates.

Paul Strand, WSU Tri-Cities professor of psychology, Nick Lovrich, WSU Regents professor emeritus, Brian French, professor and director of WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center and Psychometric Laboratory, and Bruce Austin, research associate in educational psychology and the LPRC, have worked since 2014 to evaluate and refine the Washington Assessment of the Risks and Needs of Students program, also known as WARNS.

WSU psychology professor Paul Strand

WSU psychology professor Paul Strand

The program was developed in 2008 to assess students on a scale of six needs that have been linked to truancy, delinquency and/or dropping out of school: aggression-defiance, depression-anxiety, substance abuse, peer deviance, family environment and school engagement. Within the program, schools can use the data to develop and implement a plan for at-risk students through school community truancy boards to help prevent and/or correct student behavior.

WSU’s recent evaluation of the program supports using the WARNS as a global screening assessment of risks and needs, citing its reliability and validity. The evaluation was published in SAGE Publications this spring.

“A critical component to the use of scores for decisions about youth is building this line of evidence,” French said.

When children stop going to school, Strand said it can have a substantial effect on their attitude and success in school.

“What happens is kids fell behind in their credit accumulation and when they get to be a sophomore or junior, it starts to feel like a lost cause,” he said. “We want to try to identify truancy problems as early as possible because the less days that kids go to school, the less well they do. It is true that kids that go to school regularly may still struggle, but they struggle less than kids that don’t go.”

WARNS program now available online to schools

WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center houses the online implementation of the assessment, which is offered to individual high schools and middle schools for $275 per year plus a $1 charge for each student assessed. Districts can also sign up for a subscription for $500 for both middle school and high school WARNS plus a $1 charge for each student assessed. The costs of the program are to ensure the technical integrity and continued development of the assessments.

Strand said he and his colleagues are excited to be in the stage of online implementation because the resource is invaluable for schools across the state.

School buses

Photo of school buses, courtesy of Alex Starr on Flickr

“We are in a position now where schools can use this,” he said. “We want to get the word out about how to use this system. We think the cost is minimal compared to the benefit that both schools and students could experience.

For more information on the assessment, including how to get started using WARNS, visit warns.wsu.edu.

The WSU researchers are also developing programs for elementary schools, as signs of delinquent behavior can begin at early as fifth-grade, Strand said.

“Where truancy really begins to show a problem is about seventh-grade, but even in the fifth- and sixth-grade, you can start to predict who the kids are who will have problems,” he said.

The team’s research for the WARNS program was supported by $150,000 and $98,000 grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a $21,400 grant from the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts, a $25,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Priority Spokane and a high-risk, high-reward grant from the WSU College of Education.

“These funds help support the development of the Platform for Supporting Successful Outcomes, on which WARNS resides,” French said.

Use across the state and nation

Currently, approximately 80 schools across the state are using the platform, in addition to a school district in the state of Georgia. Schools in California, Ohio and Connecticut have also expressed interest, Strand said.

“Schools in Spokane County, for example, experienced increased graduation rates, of those that were using it,” Strand said. “Now, we’re working with a group that is part of WSU’s Learning and Performance Research Center to put the whole program into an online platform, with the help of WSU’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center. Students can take the assessment and get immediate feedback. We’re also making it very affordable so schools have the means to access this resource.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – A recent study conducted by a Washington State University Tri-Cities faculty member indicates that holding at least one internationally-recognized wine credential could have a positive correlation on the number of social media followers a wine blogger may have.

Bottles of WSU Blended Learning wine

Bottles of Blended Learning wine made by students in WSU’s viticulture and enology program.

The results of the survey were published recently in the International Journal of Hospitality Beverage Management.

Byron Marlowe, a clinical assistant professor of hospitality and wine business management in WSU Tri-Cities’ Carson College of Business, surveyed 30 prominent wine bloggers with Twitter accounts. During a 45-day period, he tracked the number of Twitter followers they had, whether they posted about and recommended international wine destinations on their account and the wine credentials they listed. The bloggers selected for the survey had a minimum requirement of 500 Twitter followers.

The analysis indicated that wine bloggers with at least one credential from the nationally or globally-respected certifying bodies for wine credentialing had an average of 75 percent more followers than those without certifications. Those certifying bodies included: The Court of Master Sommeliers, Wine and Spirits Education Trust, Society of Wine Educators, Culinary Institute of America, International Sommelier Guiled, Sommelier Society of America and the International Wine Guild.

“The wine bloggers who went through the certification process received knowledge and expertise that make their recommendations inherently more meaningful, even if their followers did not know of their certifications,” Marlowe said.

The survey also showed that bloggers with higher credentials were more likely to recommend an international destination for wine consumption or purchase. Marlowe said bloggers that didn’t have certifications may simply not have had the international experience to review those types of wine or the regions from which those wines were created.

“A wine blogger without a certification may not have visited or studied in Burgundy, France, for example, because they didn’t have knowledge of the region or the need to be there to pass an exam for their certification,” he said. “So they wouldn’t have the background or motivation to recommend that destination or wine region.”

Grapes being crushed at the WSU wine science center

Grapes are pressed for winemaking at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities.

As a result of the survey, Marlowe recommends wine bloggers consider obtaining established certifications to heighten their credibility, and as a result, help potentially increase their number of followers on social media platforms and increase their brand reach.

WSU conducts a one-year wine business management certificate program for those looking to expand their knowledge of the industry. The certificate consists of six modules offered in an online format and requires two weekend experiences in Washington wine country. These weekend experiences provide students with an opportunity to network and learn with wine industry professionals, faculty and fellow students about the business of wine.

For more information on WSU’s wine business management certificate program, visit https://business.wsu.edu/departments/hospitality/wbm-certificate-program.

Marlowe’s research is in line with WSU’s Grand Challenges, a suite of research initiatives aimed at large societal issues. It is particularly relevant to the challenge of sustaining resources with respect to food production and related business.

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation will donate $1 million to the Washington State University Viticulture & Enology Program, the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Announced at the annual Auction of Washington Wines Gala on Aug. 19 in Woodinville, Wash., the donation will be dedicated to teaching labs and facilities as well as scholarships for viticulture and enology students. 

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center

Half of the $1 million donation will support the build-out of the Life Science Teaching Laboratory at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, http://wine.wsu.edu/wine-center — a state-of-the-art facility that is one of the most technologically advanced wine science centers in the world and attracts exceptional researchers and students — on the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland, Wash. The remainder will fund viticulture and enology student scholarships, $100,000 every year for five years. In recognition of the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation’s gift, the atrium of the Wine Science Center will be named in their honor: The Wine Spectator Atrium.

Wine Spectator, http://www.winespectator.com, is a print and online publication, with approximately 3 million readers worldwide. It examines the world of wine from the vineyard to the table, exploring wine’s role in contemporary culture and providing expert reviews.

“We are elated to have the support of such a pre-eminent authority on wine,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation’s generous donation is an investment in the WSU viticulture and enology program and showcases the caliber of research work that is at the forefront of our Drive to 25,”

“Washington State University has demonstrated a leadership position in wine education in the United States, and we are therefore proud to recognize the university’s high achievement with our commitment,” said Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher, Wine Spectator.

Washington wines are recognized for their quality and value, evident through data published by Wine Spectator magazine. For the past six years, Wine Spectator has rated more Washington wines 90 points or higher and at a lower average price than any other wine-producing region in the world.

WSU’s viticulture and enology program, http://wine.wsu.edu/wine-center,  is a comprehensive education and research program that prepares students for successful careers in the wine industry and supports the needs of the region’s winemakers and grape growers. Multidisciplinary, science-based, and hands-on, the viticulture and enology program offers students technical, scientific, and practical experience in every aspect of the grape-growing and winemaking process.

 

Media contact:

Marta Coursey, director, WSU CAHNRS Communications, 509-335-2806 marta.coursey@wsu.edu

Kaury Balcom, WSU Viticulture & Enology, 509-572-5540, kaury.balcom@wsu.edu

Lori Rosen, Wine Spectator, 212-255-8910, lori@rosengrouppr.com

RICHLAND, Wash. – Five local freshman at Washington State University Tri-Cities are among the university’s latest class of STEM Scholars.

As part of earning the distinction, where STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the students are honored with a $8,400 per year scholarship and will join the university’s STEM Learning Community. The community consists of a cohort of students that pursue a range of extracurricular opportunities and activities in the STEM fields.

WSU Tri-Cities STEM Scholars – (from left) Louis Theriault, Aaron Engebretson, Jared Johnson, Destiny Ledesma and Diamond Madden

The students awarded include:

  • Aaron Engebretson – Liberty Christian High School
  • Jared Johnson – Richland High School
  • Destiny Ledesma – Hanford High School
  • Diamond Madden – Southridge High School
  • Louis Theriault – Mid-Columbia Partnership

In order to be eligible for the program, students must have a minimum high school grade-point average of 3.75 based on a 4.0-scale, officially pursue a STEM-based major available at WSU Tri-Cities, be enrolled as a full-time student at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as actively participate in STEM Learning Community activities offered through the campus. Undergraduate majors eligible include: civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, environmental sciences, general biological science, general mathematics and general physical sciences.

“The students selected display an incredible work-ethic and strong potential for careers in the STEM fields,” WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Keith Moo-Young said. “We’re excited to offer them a variety of resources to propel them into their respective STEM majors, which will encourage them to lead their fellow students within those majors, pursue prominent research at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as inspire future students to follow in their footsteps.”

Kate McAteer, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs, said the research component of the experience will provide the students with a solid foundation for their academic futures.

“These STEM Scholars have the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research right from the beginning of their academic careers,” she said. “It provides them with an early start on building a solid foundation of skills required to be successful scientists and engineers.”

Aaron Engebretson

Aaron Engebretson

Engebretson

Engebretson plans to major in engineering. In high school, he served as class president during his senior year and was his class valedictorian. He was a member of Key Club where he served as the vice president of the club. He received the Northwest Nazarene Bridge Academy Scholar Award for taking 15 or more college credits while in high school and maintaining a 3.5 or higher GPA. He also received the Essence of Liberty Scholarship from Liberty Christian School. He hopes to one-day join Engineers Without Borders, which works with developing countries to find solutions for water supply, sanitation, agriculture and civil works. He also hopes to explore research in nuclear science while attending WSU Tri-Cities.

“The STEM Scholars program is very important to me,” he said. “It will surround me with fellow students that are driven, intelligent and interested in STEM … STEM careers are on the forefront of modern-day advancements and research. From the future of cars, to the future of modern medicine, STEM Careers provide solutions to a variety of different problems and challenges.”

Johnson

Jared Johnson

Jared Johnson

Johnson plans to major in electrical engineering. He is currently finishing his associate’s degree through Columbia Basin College’s running start program where he continues to receive high honors and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. At Richland High School, he earned Summa Cum Laude. Additionally, Johnson gives back to the community through his role with the National Honor Society, as well as helping with Second Harvest food distribution, tutoring high school math and assisting with various elementary school functions. He said he is looking forward to exploring the variety of research opportunities at WSU Tri-Cities.

“With a STEM education, there will be many job opportunities and career advancements,” he said. “STEM subjects have always been interesting to me in school. WSU Tri-Cities provides a wonderful university experience, while still having small classrooms for personalized education. WSU Tri-Cities is also a high-ranking STEM university.”

Destiny Ledesma

Destiny Ledesma

Ledesma

Ledesma plans to major in biology. In high school, she participated in the running start program at WSU Tri-Cities, in addition to serving as her class senator during her junior and senior years. It is with that role that she and her fellow peers brought back the “Every 15 Minutes Program,” a two-day event that sheds light on drinking and driving. Ledesma also gives back to the community by volunteering every year with the Tri-Cities Union Gospel Mission where she makes dinner boxes for the homeless with her family. She also volunteers at the Tri-Cities Water Follies, where she has served in various roles throughout the last few years. She hopes to attend medical school and pursue either a career as a reconstructive surgeon or dermatologist. She looks forward to pursuing research opportunities at WSU Tri-Cities, as well as getting involved with campus student government.

“It’s been such an honor and a blessing to have been able to receive such a prestigious scholarship,” she said. “I have been truly blessed with this opportunity to further my education … It will help prepare me to take on professional life after college and into the workforce. This program has truly changed my life.”

Madden

Diamond Madden

Diamond Madden

Madden plans to major in the physical sciences, with possibly an emphasis in chemistry. She earned 38 credits from Central Washington University’s running start program while she played softball, basketball and track and field for Southridge High School. Additionally, she played cello, violin and piano with the school’s orchestra, served in the school debate club, worked part-time for Tropical Sno and participated in the school’s Ignite program, which helps incoming freshmen transition to high school. She also volunteers occasionally with a local food bank. She hopes to pursue a career as a research scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which has been a dream of hers for years.

“Words can’t even describe how much the STEM Scholars program means to me and my family,” she said. “Being the second youngest of seven children in a single-income family, this gives me the assurance that I can continue and complete my education for a degree in the sciences … I believe WSU is a remarkable college, with Tri-Cities being the perfect location for me and given the fact that the university partners with PNNL.”

Louis Theriault

Louis Theriault

Theriault

Theriault plans to major in civil engineering. In high school, as a home-schooled student, he participated in the WSU Tri-Cities running start program, which is what helped him decide on attending WSU Tri-Cities for his undergraduate degree. Over the years, he volunteered to help the Academy of Children’s theater put on its summer camps, helped at his home school program’s “Camp Invention” and continues to serve as a camp counselor for numerous camps, including for the upcoming STEM Camps at WSU Tri-Cities this July. He hopes to participate in WSU’s engineering study abroad opportunity at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences while earning his undergraduate degree at WSU Tri-Cities. After graduation, he hopes to serve as a civil engineer, working possibly around the United States or for an international engineering firm.

“The STEM Scholars Award means the world to me,” he said. “I didn’t believe that I would be one of the chosen people when I signed up. It is going to help me pay for almost all of my college and help me save money for my future … I want to pursue a career in the STEM fields because I want to be able to make a difference in the world.”

By Maegan Murray

RICHLAND, Wash. – Jonah Firestone, an education professor at Washington State University Tri-Cities, knows that technology is the future of education, which is why he is researching the use of virtual and augmented reality as tools for not only the general classroom, but specifically with special education in the kindergarten through 12th-grade setting.

Virtual reality in the classroom

A student tries out a virtual reality headset as part of research being completed by Jonah Firestone, a professor of education at WSU Tri-Cities. Firestone will complete a study on how the technology may be used in special education.

“With regular video games, you’re looking at a flat screen,” he said. “But with virtual reality, you wear a head set and you can look all around. It’s a 360-degree view up and down and you can see this complete world around you. As kids get more used to using this type of technology and as the price goes down, schools are going to start adopting these because you can now send an entire classroom on a field trip to The Louvre without leaving the classroom.”

Firestone said for subjects like science and history, teachers rely on textbook and stationary images to give students a picture of what they’re talking about as it is expensive to take students to laboratories and settings that are referenced in those lessons. With virtual and augmented reality, however, teachers can bring those settings and projects to the students in the virtual sphere.

“We can use this technology to put children and adults into complete virtual worlds where they can be a cell in the human body, or students can do experiments in physics and chemistry that they couldn’t normally safely do in the classroom setting,” he said. “You can then repeat those over and over again.”

Overcoming learning disabilities

Firestone said virtual and augmented reality have different purposes, but both can be applied as additional tools in the classroom, which could help students who struggle with traditional learning methods.

“We used to talk about this thing called learning theories where certain people were characterized as different types of learners, but that’s not really true,” he said. “We all learn in a variety of different ways. But with the more modes in which we learn, whether it be oral, visual or tactile, the more we’re readily going to learn.”

Virtual reality controllers

Controllers for the HTC Vive virtual reality technology.

Some students may have problems processing information that is given to them orally, or students may have visual disabilities where they have difficulty processing static information like documents with lots of text, he said. Students also may have issues holding their attention for an extended period of time.

“So what virtual and augmented reality do is reinforce learning in ways that helps from a variety of different vectors,” he said. “And realistically, strategies used in special education are good practices for any education setting. We can translate what we learn about these tools into the general classroom setting, as well.”

With virtual reality, students wear a head set where it provides them with a complete 360-degree view of a setting or project that the students can interact with. With augmented reality, students use a device like a tablet or a headset where the device projects an image into the real-world setting. Firestone said a good example of augmented reality is Pokemon Go, where the image of a Pokemon is projected through a screen into the real world.

“We’ve all taken classes where we’ve aced the class, but we have no idea what we’ve learned,” he said. “What we want to accomplish with virtual and augmented reality is a more organic method of learning. This organic method of learning is accomplished through learning by doing.”

Research results so far

Firestone worked with Don McMahon on the WSU Pullman campus to run a study with special education students at the college level who studied bones and skeletons using augmented reality with the help of iPad Minis. They compared what the students learned and absorbed with augmented reality to what they learned and observed from textbooks and the team got great results.

Firestone is now taking that research a step further by applying the same tools to kindergarten through 12th-grade classrooms.

Students test out virtual reality

A group of students test out virtual reality headsets. WSU Tri-Cities professor Jonah Firestone will complete a study on how the technology may be used in special education.

“College kids are great, but I am very much interested in how these technologies can be applied to the k-12 setting,” he said. “What we’re currently doing is taking this same process and we’re modifying it for fifth-graders. Then, we’re going to modify it for middle school and high school.”

Firestone said he is using augmented reality to supplement different school lessons, including science where students observe and learn about the human body.

“Imagine looking at a picture of a femur, but with augmented reality, not only do you see a picture of a femur, but it has a voice that defines it for you and then shows you where it is on the human body,” he said.

Firestone is also looking into using virtual reality to immerse the kindergarten through 12th-grade students in an underwater experience called “The Blue.”

“It’s an underwater application where you see whales and you’re in a reef,” he said. “I’m then comparing that to the same information that the students glean from a text.”

Firestone said he’s had great results with the technology so far and that blending the virtual experiences with what students are presented with in a textbook is a winning combination.

“There is no one magic solution for learning, but the more things we can put together, the more kids are going to end up learning,” he said.