Washington State University Tri-Cities Tag

By Maegan Murray

Wine is a $2 billion industry in Washington state, but many students will not be exposed to the science behind the field as a possible career option until they reach college. Thanks to the Partners in Science program, however, one high school teacher had the opportunity to shadow and complete research alongside a renowned wine science researcher and professor at Washington State University Tri-Cities – the science behind the experience, of which, he is now introducing to his high school students.

Fred Burke, science teacher at Chiawana High School, sets up equipment for a smoke taint trial at the WSU Prosser Research Extension vineyards. He was paired with Tom Collins, assistant professor of wine science at WSU Tri-Cities, to complete wine research the last two summers at WSU Tri-Cities as part of the Partners in Science program.

Fred Burke, a teacher at Chiawana High School, had the opportunity to shadow and complete research with Tom Collins, wine science researcher and assistant professor of wine science at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

“This experience has allowed me to show my students how the nature of science is more than what they experience through a text book and allow them to experience the techniques and capabilities of it in a real-world setting,” Burke said. “It has not only allowed me to participate in research that will have an impact in the wine industry today, but it also it makes doing science a lot more fun for my students.”

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.

As part of his research experience, Burke worked with Collins to characterize wine grape varieties using sophisticated research techniques known as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. For the techniques, the researchers use devices that allow researchers to look into the intricate chemical and other properties of each type of grape for classification and categorization. Burke also had the chance to work with Collins to start a study analyzing the impact of wildfire smoke on wine grapes, which could hinder the taste and overall quality of the wine.

Tom Collins, assistant professor of wine science at WSU Tri-Cities, prepares smoking equipment for a smoke taint trial to evaluate the effect of smoke on wine grapes at the WSU Prosser Research Extension vineyards.

“Both projects are relevant to the classes we’re teaching,” Burke said. “In environmental science, we’re able to look at how the smoke impacts not only the wine grapes, but also the chemical components and properties of the wine.”

The study of the impact of wildfire smoke on wine captured the interest of the Washington wine industry, with Collins stating that since they announced they were completing the research, he gets calls throughout the year on updates for the research, results they’ve tabulated and generally how they can protect wine grapes from the exposure. The interest grows each year as the summer wildfire seasons commence.

“We got three calls today, alone, regarding smoke taint,” Collins said. “The fact that Fred has been able to be a part of this project provides him with a great in-depth look at how lab and field research have a substantial impact on industry. The Washington wine industry increases exponentially year, with the mid-Columbia region being a hub for the industry. So this research is crucial for our area’s winemakers.”

Last summer during Burke’s first of two summers working with Collins in the lab, the duo set up experiments at the WSU Prosser Research Extension to test different amounts of smoke on grape vines. They are now in the process of analyzing samples collected from that experiment. Collins plans on continuing the study for at least the next several years.

“Just being able to look at all the parts that go into a real-life field of scientific study has been immensely beneficial,” Burke said. “I get to share that with my students and they benefit from that real-world application. Within their science classes, our students have to conduct procedures, collect data and analyze that data through labs and lessons. This real-world experience allows me to show them that what they’re practicing in class can be applied out into the field, as well as provide them with concrete examples of stuff we’re actively doing in the labs.”

Burke also had the opportunity to bring some of his classes out to the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center to see how the research is conducted and get an idea of how a research lab operates.

“Science in agriculture is kind of one of those unknowns for many of my students,” he said. “They see people planting and watering, but they don’t know the science behind it. This provides them with an in-depth look. It’s a career option that most of my students probably have never even considered.”

Burke plans to apply for a supplemental grant from the Partners in Science program, which would extend his research partnership time frame with Collins and provide Burke with dollars for science equipment for his classroom.

“It would provide us with more money for use in the classroom, which would allow my students to conduct some research of their own,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – A method of converting a biofuel waste product into a usable and valuable commodity has been discovered by researchers at Washington State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Converting algae to biofuels is a two-step process. The first, developed by PNNL, applies high pressure and high temperature to algae to create bio oil. The second converts that bio oil into biofuel, which can replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

It’s that first step, called hydrothermal liquefaction, that produces waste — approximately 25 to 40 percent of carbon and 80 percent of nutrients from the algae are left behind in wastewater streams.

Bionatural gas and fertilizer

The wastewater is generally hard to process because it contains a variety of different chemicals in small concentrations, said Birgitte K. Ahring, professor at WSU Tri-Cities’ Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory. But Ahring and her team have found that adapting anaerobic microbes — microbes that live without oxygen — to break down the remaining residue is a viable option. Through this process, the material becomes degradable and gets transformed into a bionatural gas without the use of harsh chemicals. The solid material that remains can also be applied as a fertilizer or recycled back into the hydrothermal liquefaction process for further use.

Birgitte Ahring, left, with his research team
WSU Professor Birgitte Ahring, center, points to test sample, with her research team

The results of the team’s research are published this month in Bioresource Technology. The team also consists of:

  • Keerthi Srinivas, WSU postdoctoral research associate
  • Sebastian Fernandez, WSU research assistant
  • Andrew Schmidt, of PNNL’s chemical and biological processes development group
  • Marie Swita, of PNNL’s chemical and biological processes development group

Don’t waste waste

“It has always been my mantra that we shouldn’t waste waste,” Ahring said. “We had an idea that we could turn this waste product into something useful, such as a fertilizer. Our findings revealed that we could use this waste product as something much more.”

The ability to convert a waste product into a usable commodity provides algal biorefineries with a solution to a large problem, Ahring said.

“After removing the solids, about 10 percent of the output is bio oil, with the remaining 90 percent being a waste byproduct,” Schmidt said. “The fact that we’ve developed an alternative method to recycle or treat the leftover material means it’s more economical to produce the bio oil, making the potential for commercial use of the process more likely.”

Sewage sludge and wastewater

Ahring said the team’s results were so promising that they are now partnering with PNNL on its conversion of sewage sludge to fuel using a similar strategy for the wastewater.

“Today, sewage sludge is found throughout the world,” Ahring said. “Creating a process to produce biofuels, bio-natural gas, and nutrients from this material would be of major importance. The current study has demonstrated that nothing should ever be regarded as a waste, but instead as a resource.”

Schmidt said PNNL’s partnership with WSU allowed each team to focus on different aspects of the biomass conversion.  The collaboration is further enhanced by the Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory, a facility PNNL and WSU built together on the WSU Tri-Cities campus nearly a decade ago.

“PNNL and WSU researchers interacted frequently on the project,” said Schmidt.   “While PNNL engineers focused on converting the algae to bio oil, the WSU team was able to delve deeply into fundamental research of wastewater conversion with microbes, which included taking advantage of unique analytical capabilities on the PNNL campus.”

A WSU alumnus himself, receiving both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WSU, Schmidt said he’s excited to team on additional programs and projects aligned with goals to grow the collaboration between PNNL and WSU.

 

Contacts:

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities, in partnership with the Pasco School District, was awarded a $500,000 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program grant to enhance before and after school programming at several elementary schools in Pasco.

The purpose of the federal grant is to support the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during nonschool hours. The program also provides support to families to increase family literacy and involvement within the school.

“This award is especially exciting because there were only nine grants awarded within the entire state, and this grant had one of the highest dollar amounts awarded,” said Jay Scott, director of 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Funds will support enhancing before and after school programming at Emerson Elementary School, Longfellow Elementary School, Rowena Chess Elementary School and Virgie Robinson Elementary School, all of which are in the Pasco School District.

Some examples of topics that could be implemented in the after school programs include: drama, chess, homework help, LEGO Robotics, archery, Minecraft, field trips, fire safety, rocketry and English language learning programs. The schools also will provide a four-week summer program focusing on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
“All of these programs would provide additional extracurricular and supplemental support for current classroom curriculum focuses,” Scott said.

WSU Tri-Cities will provide the space for summer programming for all four sites, in addition to providing general oversight of the programming and grant funding use and allocation.
For more information on the grant program, visit http://www.k12.wa.us/21stCenturyLearning/.

Contacts:
Jay Scott, director, WSU 21st Century Community Learning Centers, jscott@earlyoutreach.wsu.edu
Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities public relations specialist, 509-372-7333, Maegan.murray@tricity.wsu.edu

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

African American historic photoRICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities was recently awarded a $73,000 grant in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service to research and document the African American migration, segregation and overall civil rights history at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Hanford.

Michael Mays, WSU Tri-Cities director of the Hanford History Project, said the African American story and perspective remains largely undocumented and untold at the Hanford nuclear site, which is one of three locations of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The other locations of the national park include Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Mays said Hanford in the 1940s, like much of the rest of the country, was an extremely segregated place.“The history of the science of the Manhattan Project is well known, but the social history, especially with regard to questions of race, class and gender, is much less clearly understood,” he said. “We want to look at and document the settlement and demographic patterns of African Americans who were recruited to work at Hanford, and then track when and where they migrated to once their employment ended.”

“This is an important story to tell and an important part of our history that needs to be made known,” he said.

The plan for the project, Mays said, is to examine existing documentation, conduct new research and interview African American community members throughout the Pacific Northwest in order to better understand the African American experience at Hanford.

“The Hanford area went from a handful of small farming communities comprising a few hundred residents in the early 1940s to a peak population of nearly 50,000 at Camp Hanford in the course of 15 months,” he said. “There are many stories of the African American experience at the Manhattan Project, and we want to be able to share those stories from these individuals’ perspectives.”

The completed interviews will be included with the WSU Tri-Cities oral history collection of the Hanford Site, as well as displayed and made available through the National Park Service and at the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Hanford.

Mays said they are looking for African American individuals or their family members who had a role in the Manhattan Project at Hanford and with the site before, during and after the Cold War, or who were related to the site in any way during those times. Those who are interested should contact Jillian Gardner-Andrews at 509-372-7447 or j.gardner-andrews@wsu.edu.

“We are actively trying to identify people who experienced this remarkable history, either first- or second-hand,” he said. “We would love to hear from these individuals and document their stories.”

Mays said the project will be completed over the course of two years. Interviewees will be identified and scheduled by the end of the year, with interviews wrapped up by the end of spring. He and his team will then perform a review of documents and literature available on the subject and write up and publish their findings by the end of their second year.

 

Media Contacts:

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

Paul Skilton is the first professor from Washington State University Tri-Cities to participate in a teaching abroad experience with a prestigious business school in Brig, Switzerland.

WSU partners with the César Ritz Colleges in Switzerland to offer a dual degree program in hospitality business where students receive a degree from both César Ritz and WSU upon completion of the program. Through the years, professors from WSU have rotated to teach at the Swiss institution each semester. Since the hospitality business management program is fairly new to WSU Tri-Cities, the opportunity was not available for Tri-Cities professors until this year. The hospitality business management program began at WSU Tri-Cities in 2015.

Stockalper Palace in Brig, Switzerland

Stockalper Palace in Brig, Switzerland / Photo by Hansueli Krapf

César Ritz is a renowned school in the hospitality business management sector, ranking 24th in the world for hospitality and hotel management schools in 2016-16 by CEOWORLD Magazine and falling closely behind WSU, who ranked 21st in the world the same year by the publication.

“César Ritz prepares students who want to go into the hotel industry and all the fields that encompass that industry, from hospitality to restaurant and food service,” Skilton said. “Students from all over the world come to this school to study. The WSU Carson College of Business sends one faculty member each semester. I’m going this fall and Dr. Donna Paul will go in the spring.”

Skilton said the experience benefits both students abroad and students from WSU, in addition to allowing WSU professors to establish international connections with students and faculty from all over the world. WSU students, he said, may choose to study abroad for a semester at the Swiss school, broadening their scope of the hospitality industry and giving them that international experience that is crucial to their credentials in the field. The experience also opens doors for students overseas to come and study on campus at WSU, in addition to their experience on campus in Switzerland.

“The idea is that students will get a look at international contexts, contacts and points of view within the hospitality business world,” Skilton said. “If you are going to go into the hospitality business sector, you should be able to understand people who are different from you so that you can accommodate them accordingly. That international experience is very important.”

This semester, Skilton will teach a course focusing on management of innovation and change, as well as a principles of management course. He said he is most excited about learning as much from the faculty and students at the school as he is able to teach them.

“The faculty at César Ritz have a very different mindset,” Skilton said. “WSU is a research-based school whereas the faculty at César Ritz mostly consist of hotel professionals. It’s also a European college, so it’s going to be very different. I’m excited to learn about how they structure their programs and I hope they’ll teach me as much as I am able to teach them.”

Skilton leaves for Switzerland this month and will begin teaching at César Ritz in early October. He will return to WSU Tri-Cities in time for the spring semester this academic year.

The partnership program is one of WSU Carson College of Business’ longest-standing global partnerships and is in line with WSU’s Drive to 25.

For more information about the program and how WSU students can spend a semester abroad at with Cesar Ritz, visit https://business.wsu.edu/research-faculty/centers/switzerland/.

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

tricities_career_fair_RICHLAND, Wash. – A career fair will be hosted by Washington State University Tri-Cities, 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, in the Consolidated Information Center and Student Union Building.

The career fair is free and open to WSU Tri-Cities students, alumni and the public. The event allows organizations to discuss employment opportunities with potential employees. WSU Tri-Cities students are encouraged to connect with industry representatives to learn more about prospective employment and internships.

tricities_career_fair
WSU Tri-Cities Career Development panel discussion begins at 8 a.m., with career fair to follow at 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

Beginning at 8 a.m., the WSU Tri-Cities Career Development will host the “State of the Tri-Cities Workforce” panel discussion, a new program to the career fair. The forum enables panelists to provide a strategic and professional analysis of the local workforce. Panelists will present their understanding of the behaviors and resources that help maintain and strengthen the Tri-Cities area economy. Those interested in attending should RSVP at careers@tricity.wsu.edu

The event also will feature a career development student spotlight program that allows students to practice and deliver their one-minute resume pitches to on-site recruiters.

For more information about the WSU Tri-Cities career fair, visit http://tricities.wsu.edu/careerdev/careerfair.

 

Media Contacts:

By Maegan Murray, WSU Tri-Cities

 

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University Tri-Cities experienced another record enrollment this fall, celebrating a 5.1 percent increase in undergraduate students, which brings the campus to a total of 1,937 students.

The overall enrollment increased by 3.7 percent and the growth this fall contributes to a 49 percent increase in enrollment since 2013 for the WSU Tri-Cities campus.

Fall orientation 2017

Students at the 2017 WSU Tri-Cities fall orientation

“We attribute this to so many factors,” said Mika McAskill, WSU Tri-Cities director of admissions. “We are growing because our excellent academic programs and student-focused approach, being able to provide access to research opportunities and internships at both the undergraduate and graduate level, and of course, our enthusiasm for meeting the higher education needs of our region and state.”

New freshman enrollment numbers reflect a 42.9 percent increase over last year. WSU Tri-Cities remains the most diverse campus in the WSU system, with 38.9 percent of students identifying as minority. Enrollment figures also indicate that 95.4 percent of students are Washington residents, highlighting WSU Tri-Cities’ on-going commitment as a land-grant institution that prepares the state’s future professionals to continue to grow Washington’s economy.

McAskill said Tri-Cities Cougs are able to thrive in a small, private-school education setting, with low student-to-instructor ratios, all at a public school cost. She said WSU Tri-Cities students have the opportunity to graduate career-ready as a result of pairing their coursework with internships and other real-world experiences by leveraging resources and WSU partnerships locally, nationally and internationally.

“Our students understand the value of hands-on project opportunities, and so many of our new students come to us already knowing about the connections we have and the kind of support that comes with joining the Cougar family,” she said.

In addition to the academic programming and overall support students experience at WSU Tri-Cities, the students also saw the opening of their new Student Union Building this month. The $5.73 million facility provides students with their own space to relax, study, grab a bite to eat and socialize between and after classes. The university also has campus housing coming to students in the near future.

“There are many great things happening at WSU Tri-Cities, and it is all out of a commitment to providing our students with the resources and infrastructure to be successful,” McAskill said. “We aim to continue to grow these opportunities for our students because when they win, our state wins.”

Learn more about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experiences and dynamic community engagement at tricities.wsu.edu.

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.

 

Contacts:

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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