Science, Technology, Environment, Innovation Reporting


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The horse barn at Shelburne Farms welcomed local inventors Sept. 26 to 27, who came to show the Champlain area how their inventions will “make” for a better future.

This year’s Champlain Mini Maker Faire, partially sponsored by the UVM, was comprised of over 40 innovators of all ages from across New England.

Maker faires are part of an international movement aimed at providing awareness and exposure for local makers, crafters, inventors, scientists and  artists, according to the Champlain Maker Faire’s website.

Howard Drukerman, Champlain chapter president of the National Association of Rocketry, shows off his hat at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire on Sept. 27

Cole Wangsness — The Vermont Cynic: Howard Drukerman, Champlain chapter president of the National Association of Rocketry, shows off his hat at the Champlain Mini Maker Faire on Sept. 27

“A maker faire brings together families and individuals to celebrate the do-it-yourself mindset and showcase all kinds of incredible projects,” according to the website.

Students in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences exhibited their recent innovations such as an inexpensive prosthetic limb made from a 3D printing machine called the Fab Lab.

Since these limbs are cheap to make, they are  well-suited for a growing child that may need different sizes throughout childhood, senior Aaron Brunet said.

The prosthetic limb imitates a human limb in various ways including the tendons, Brunet said.

“The idea is we give them to local kids at the University of Vermont Medical Center,” he said.

It takes about 48 hours to print the prosthetics, Brunet said.

The creation of the prosthetics are part of a global network of volunteers, called E-Nable,  who use 3D printing to make cheap, accessible prosthetics, he said.

Just outside the barn, a rocket shooter launched dozens of homemade rockets, individualized in decor by children of all ages.

This rocket launcher was created by 11-year old, sixth grade inventor and entrepreneur Noah Schwartz.

Schwartz said he built the rocket launcher three years ago after seeing his friend build one.

Cole Wangsness — The Vermont Cynic: Model rockets on display at the fair.

Cole Wangsness — The Vermont Cynic: Model rockets on display at the fair.

Together, they built three, he said.

“The rocket will launch up 100 to 200 feet depending upon the air pressure,” Schwartz said.

In addition to this invention, Schwartz said he has started his own business.

Schwartz’s  company, called Noah’s Fizzy’s,  sells fizzy maple lemonade, he said.

He won the faire’s “Road Pitch Competition,” – a competition for the best business pitch, he said.

Along the edges of the faire, various rockets were displayed as part of the National Association of Rocketry booth.

Howard Drukerman, president of the Champlain Model Rocket Club said the interesting part about the rockets is the size of their engines.

“There are a variety of rockets, from very small ones all the way up very large in diameter and height,” he said.

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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on April 21, 2016.

UVM’s newest research facility, the renovated Miller Farm, broke ground April 14  according to an April 13 UVM communications press release.

The renovations will better equip students for future careers including students in the CREAM program, the press release stated. CREAM, which stands for Cooperative for Real Education in Agricultural Management, is a one-year program that offers students the opportunity to manage farms and animals, according to their UVM website.

About a dozen students, including CREAM teaching assistant, sophomore animal science major Carolyne Ricardo, joined in the ground-breaking ceremony.

“The new facility will allow us to gain the modern knowledge to help us better compete in the industry,” Ricardo said.

“It will also be so exciting to have more cows,” she said. “We will be going from 34 to 56.”  The three-phase, $10 million upgrade of the farm is the first in 50 years and will be completed in mid-September, according to the UVM communications website release from February 2015.

“This is a great day for animal and veterinary sciences,” said David Kerr, the interim chair of the department of animal and veterinary sciences.

The renovations will create space to educate  students on modern milking techniques, UVM communications stated.

Ricardo said that this project has been long awaited. “CREAM is a self-funded program, so our work with the cows funds the entire program,” she said.

Kerr said that the research barn will enhance the portfolio of research for students.

Sophomore CREAM student, Eleni Casseri said that UVM’s animal science program has been recognized all over the country. Casseri said that the barn has become more than just a tool for education; it is “sanctuary” for many of the students involved in CREAM. “There is nothing like dodging a big slobbery tongue when you go to give a good neck rub,” Casseri said.

DEW Construction will complete the project, according to the DEW Construction Corp website. Don Wells, the president of DEW Construction, said that he is looking to be a part of something that will better “the great state of Vermont.” “The work we do here will affect so many students for many, many years to come,” Wells said.

“It is education and research that produces success,” said Chuck Ross, the secretary of the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. “This farm will be economically viable, environmentally responsible and socially responsible,” he said.

Tom Vogelmann, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences said that the grand opening of the research center will be Oct. 2 through Oct. 4,  2015 during Homecoming and Family Weekend.


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High school students from all over Vermont came to UVM for the second annual Vermont Youth Climate Summit in the Davis Center Nov. 20.

The summit’s goal was to increase climate awareness and education and to aid students in action and implementation, sophomore Gina Fiorile, who presented at the event said.

Fiorile has discussed climate at the White House twice and is attending the Global Climate Summit in Paris, which started Nov. 30 and ends Dec. 11.

“I am speaking about our involvement with the White House, and what the Global Climate Summit is going to be like,” she said.

The day began with a session in which students learned about climate science and included a video message from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Gov. Peter Shumlin attended lunch with the students and spoke about the importance of having a commitment to climate change beyond their immediate situations.

Shumlin asked students to think about what they can do for their school.

“Not only what you could do for your school and for your community now, but how can you harness your commitment to climate and turn it into green, clean future for you,” Shumlin said.

Vermont illustrates how a true dedication to climate can work, Shumlin said.

The day also included workshops on energy conservation and renewable energy, Fiorile said.

A large portion of the event was planned by the students of professor Jon D. Erickson’s ecological economics course, she said.

Sophomore Roxie Daims said she enjoyed planning the event.

“We knew we were doing something important and that we were going to have an impact, so the experience was really gratifying,” Daims said. Her group presented on food systems. They also taught 72 students about farm-to- school programs and community gardens, she said.

This event was a great learning experience for UVM students as well as high schoolers, she said.

“They say you learn the best when you are teaching someone else,” Daims said. “This event has allowed me to grasp the full entirety of what I have been studying.”

Students were able to create their own solutions to climate change based on what they had learned that day, Fiorile said.


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Children in grades k-12 and their families were able to observe and share a variety of engineering projects and exhibits at the Aiken K-12 Maker Faire.

More than 750 people attended the Nov. 21 fair, which was held in the Davis Center according to  UVM communications.

The fair, which is Vermont’s first for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, was hosted by the creators of the Champlain Mini Maker Faire in conjunction with the University, according the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences’ website.

The Champlain Mini Maker Faire is an event where people of all ages can display homemade projects  to other engineers and community members, according to the organization’s website.

The fair featured CEMS’ annual Technology and Science Connection challenge, where students compete to build a device to meet an engineering challenge, according the college’s website.

In this year’s challenge, contestants had to create a device to tilt a flat surface in order to move tennis, lacrosse and golf balls into different zones to score points, according to the official TASC rules.

Contestants had to design the device, or “robot,” to move the balls into position and may be adapted from already commercially available products, such as remote control cars, according to TASC rules.
Teams were made up of two to six students in academic standing ranging from middle school to high school, according to TASC rules.


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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Sept. 15, 2015

An environmental justice film premiered at Merrill’s Roxy theater this week.

“REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle the Planet,” directed by  Alex Eaves, made its Burlington premier at the local theater Sept. 10.

The screening was hosted by Eaves and the Peace and Justice Center.

The Peace and Justice Center of Vermont has been a leader in working with businesses, nonprofit organizations, activists and volunteers for the cause of  social justice for more than 35 years, according to their website.

The film focuses on the necessity of reusing products.

“One of the most important things about the reuse message is that recycling is not going to do it for us, it is not enough,” Eaves said.

Eaves searched the country for people who find innovative ways to reuse, according to the film.

Sophomore Claire Charde, an environmental science major and Greenhouse resident, said the film is a great way to engage the public on social and environmental issues facing the world today.

“Good documentaries will help [expose people to public issues],” Charde said. “Think about the impact of the documentary about the Seaworld whale, Blackfish … Seaworld became a huge topic of moral concern for a lot of people” she said.

Eaves said that his documentary is unique in how it presents issues such as global climate change.

“This documentary is not about problems, it is about solutions,” he said.

Sophomore Charlotte Goodrich said UVM has allowed on-campus students to live a greener life.

“It is so much easier to live more mindful here, as opposed to at home, because of all the propaganda surrounding living green, “ she said.


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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Feb. 24, 2015. 

UVM’s educational horizons span beyond the classroom and are about to get even wider.

The University began a $2.5 million dollar, 13,176 square foot project to improve the Paul R. Miller Farm and create a modern teaching barn for students Feb. 3, according to a Feb.4  press release from Assistant Director of Communications Jeff Wakefield.

The farm’s mission is to “emphasize dairy research, equine sciences, mammary biology, milk quality, biosecurity and safety,” according to their website.

The winter renovations mark the first of three phases of the farm renovations, the press release stated. These include a new instructional barn and milking area used for research for students in their junior and senior years, the press release stated.

UVM President Tom Sullivan said in the press release that he was very excited for the new renovations to begin.

“To fulfill our land grant mission and maintain our position as a university of choice for top faculty and students, it’s crucial for UVM to have a 21st century teaching and research complex in animal science,” Sullivan said.

The new barn will require the deconstruction of a 1960s cow barn, according to the press release.

First-year Hailey Moll said that safe, hands-on, modern and professional experience is crucial in setting UVM students apart in the workforce.

“All my life, I loved animals, but it was not until I got in the field that I realized I want to work in the field. I want to do field research; I went from just liking animals to wanting to do field research,” Moll said.

The research that the new farm will offer will provide students with even better ways of exploring their field, said Tom Vogelmann, dean of UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“The new instructional barn will be a first-class facility and a great learning laboratory for our students. We’re thrilled that both the barn and the larger Miller Farm renovation are finally under way,” Vogelmann said.

This is absolutely true, Moll said.

“Hands-on educational opportunities narrow down your focus on your career and your life path so much more dramatically than if you were to read about something in a textbook,” Moll said.


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Author’s note: This story was originally printed in the Vermont Cynic on Feb. 10, 2015.

Science and communication don’t generally mix — one actor is trying to change that.

Six-time Emmy Award-winning actor Alan Alda was at UVM Feb. 2  to speak to students and faculty about the University’s upcoming involvement with the Communicating Science Program and what it will bring to UVM.

“We need new understanding of how nature works,” Alda said. “Think about it: 100 years later, we are walking around with Einstein in our pockets. Science is our future,” he said.

Inspired by exciting conversations with scientists , the former host of PBS’ “Scientific Frontiers” felt it necessary to somehow bring the “understanding and acceptance of science to the public through communication.”

In 2009, he established the Center for Communicating Science at SUNY Stony Brook in New York.

Alda said that he hopes UVM joins SUNY Stony Brook as the second in a nationwide chain of schools involved in this program.

By changing the way students approach the public while explaining science, Alda said UVM students will be ahead of the competition when applying for jobs.

“Not only will they be great scientists, but they will have a leg up when communicating with their peers,” Alda said.

Elizabeth Bass, director of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, said the relationship between UVM and the program began when Dr. Richard Galbraith, vice president of research at UVM, reached out to her with interest in beginning the program at UVM.

Students such as Alison Denn, who is studying to be a geomorphologist, are particularly interested in the idea of communication within research.

“People develop a stigma against research, so it is easy for there to be a disconnect between scientist and the public,” Denn said.

The big ideas in science need to be put into ‘real talk’ so that everyone, scientists and non-scientists can understand, She said.

“We really need to press the idea of the elevator talk in order to get the public to understand the importance of science” she said.

Some UVM students said they hope that the increase in communication in science will aid in closing the gender gap within STEM subjects.

Senior Lydia Milliken, a mechanical engineer major, said  that there are sometimes as few as five girls in some of her classes, and she believes this can be attributed to the lack of communication to girls about what STEM subjects are and what they do for the world.

“There is a lot of research that says that women learn best through storytelling, and you do not find a whole lot of that in STEM subjects,” Milliken said.

“Better communication will change the way women look at the STEM subjects, and as a result, their place in modern society,” he said.


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