UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower Show

March 4, 2014 under CANR News

UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower ShowThanks to an interdisciplinary class and a new registered student organization (RSO), the University of Delaware again has an exhibit at this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs through March 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This year’s educational exhibit takes on an ecological theme, specifically the key role of American shad, a fish that once held a prominent place in the Brandywine River but has seen a drastic population decline in recent years.

The project aims to raise public awareness of the issue by helping educate those in attendance on the importance of shad and the ecosystem services they provide to the Brandywine, which supplies the city of Wilmington’s drinking water. The UD group received a “Special Achievement: Best Achievement in Social Change Messaging” award for the display.

The class is called Design Process Practicum and is taught by Jules Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration; and Jon Cox, assistant professor in UD’s Department of Art.

The newly formed RSO is called Design and Articulture (DART) and its members — many of whom are also in the class — helped with the creation of this year’s display.

The exhibit examines the Brandywine River and features flowers native to the Brandywine Valley that would naturally grow along its banks in the spring, as well as showing how shad once populated the river in large numbers. “Prior to settlement along the Brandywine we’ve read accounts of the water ‘boiling black’ with shad,” said Bruck, who explained that a lot of the dams along the Brandywine have prevented the shad from swimming upstream.

Some of these dams are historical treasures that can’t be removed — such as the dam at Hagley Museum — and part of the exhibit displays an alternative to dam removal known as a fish ladder. Bruck explained that a fish ladder is one of several techniques that can be used when there is a dam impeding fish trying to upstream.

“A fish ladder has short steps that the fish can flop up and over and get through them pretty easily, and depending on how high the water is, it’s easier at some times than others,” said Bruck, who explained that the group’s version of a fish ladder was a very contemporary version, not a realistic one. “It’s an idea that we just want people to be aware of,” she said.

The reason the group chose to focus on shad is that the fish is important culturally, historically and as indicator species to the relative health of the Brandywine.

Culturally, the shad were once linked to the Brandywine much like blue crab are linked to Baltimore. Middlebrooks explained that Gerald Kauffman, project director for the Water Resources Agency, was a guest speaker at a class session and explained the historical significance of the shad. Kauffman related to the class a story about how Washington’s troops were starving at Valley Forge and the shad migrated north just in time to provide a food supply.

Shad are also a very important indicator species. “Of course we’re interested in the species and their success but as many experts have now told us, shad are very indicative of water quality in the Brandywine watershed, which, of course, supplies all of Wilmington’s drinking water,” said Middlebrooks.

UD class presents award-winning display at Philadelphia Flower ShowDART

DART is a relatively new RSO and Weber Stibolt, a sophomore in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and club president, said that its members wanted to form a group to get more recognition for the project. “It’s been kind of an underground project these past couple of years; not a lot of people have known about it.”

Stibolt said that the club has 12 members right now and that his favorite part of working on the project has been learning about aspects of agriculture that he doesn’t get exposed to in his major.

Sydney Bruck, freshman in CANR and member of DART, said the RSO offers students who are in the class now and want to help out with the exhibit next year — but might not have room in their schedule to take the class again — a chance to participate. “If you don’t want to take the class again next year to be involved, you can still be part of the RSO and be involved,” said Bruck.

Bruck also said she enjoyed the interdisciplinary aspect of the project. “I think when you get a bunch of landscape designers together for a flower show, it’s missing something. It’s not complete. Or if you have a bunch of designers or art majors for an art project, it’s still very one sided. But I think we have a very well-rounded exhibit because of all the people, and I think the students really enjoy learning from each other, too.”

Future benefits

Another reason the professors enjoy having the students work on the flower show is that it looks great on their resumes when they apply for future jobs or internships.

Jules Bruck said that a student who worked on the show in the past came to her and said he applied for an internship and the Philadelphia Flower Show project was on his resume. “There’s no doubt in my mind that I got my internship because of the Philadelphia Flower Show. When I got my interview, that’s all they wanted to talk about,” Bruck said the student told her.

Middlebrooks said that the project is “really much more consequential for students long term. It provides yet another opportunity for them to get engaged with professors, get engaged outside the University. They make a variety of connections and I know a number of students have explicitly credited the flower show being on their resume with landing internships, even a Disney internship.”

Middlebrooks also noted that the interdisciplinary and creative aspects of the class help the students in the long run because, in his experience, when people apply for jobs, companies are looking for two main things: creativity and collaboration. “So we’re always looking for ways to really maximize that. And that’s really limited if you just do that in your own discipline, or in a single class, so the flower show has always and continues to serve as an opportunity to cross disciplines,” said Middlebrooks.

Hometown roots

The project is particularly important for Cox who grew up along the Brandywine and said that he remembers playing in the river as a child.

“Some of my earliest memories are actually going down the Brandywine in this little inflatable Sevylor two-person boat with my sister,” said Cox. “So the Brandywine has always been special to me and we go canoeing a couple times a year and we started taking my son there now and he is two and a half now and so he’ll be able to grow up and have some of the same experiences.”

Group effort

Of course, the flower show couldn’t happen without the flowers, and getting the native plants to bloom and look like they would in the spring was no easy feat, especially during such a rough winter.

Bruck was in charge of growing the plants and the students helped out as well. Bruck also thanked Rodney Dempsey, Bill Barts and Joyce Zayakosky, members of the UD Greenhouse staff, for all that they did to get the flowers blooming on time.

The group also thanked the Center for Teaching and Effectiveness and Learning (CTAL), the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society for help funding the project, and Kauffman and Sherri Evans-Stanton, director of the Brandywine Conservancy, for speaking to the class about the shad.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Jon Cox

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Share

Interdisciplinary team uses OEIP Spin In program to create iPhone app

October 23, 2013 under CANR News

students turn professors' iDEA Fan Deck into an iPhone appIn 2012, University of Delaware faculty members Jules Bruck and Anthony Middlebrooks created the iDEA Fan Deck, a handheld design-based tool that provides prompts for people needing problem-solving help in any field.

The tool was a success but those who used it all had the same observation – that it would make a great iPhone app.

To make that suggestion a reality, Bruck and Middlebrooks, in partnership with the University’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP) Spin In program, teamed with three UD students.

Through Spin In, OEIP matches entrepreneurs who are developing innovative early stage technology with a team of UD undergraduate students to further develop both the technology and the marketing strategy.

The student team is mentored by UD faculty and works side-by-side with entrepreneurs to provide solutions to challenges that need to be overcome on the path to commercialization.

After a project has been completed, the technology is spun back out of the University, and the entrepreneur moves forward with plans for product development.

“Spin In arose out of part of our mission, to provide a unique experiential learning opportunity to undergraduate students in the areas of innovation, entrepreneurship and product development,” said David Weir, director of OEIP.

“Working with Spin In is a really amazing opportunity for a business,” said Bruck, associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, explaining that while their product is a useful tool as a physical fan deck, “it could be more accessible as an app, and more iterative, so we can make updates and be more fluid with it.”

The iDEA Fan Deck is color-coded and icon based, dividing the problem-solving process into three major phases: understand, imagine, and iterate. The tool can be used to address problems from pre-start to implementation, or as a prompt to spark a stalled process.

The graphic design of the original fan desk was created by Keefer Charneau, a visual communication major who graduated from UD in 2012 and has since moved on to work at a design firm in New York City.

“We thought if we could prompt people to pay attention to all the phases of the problem-solving process, then that would be a more effective way of helping them innovate,” said Middlebrooks, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration in the College of Arts and Sciences, who explained that the fan deck went through 17 iterations before the final version was created.

“The fun part about working with Spin In is that it prompted us to really advance the tool itself,” said Middlebrooks. “The app has two or three major features that are above and beyond the physical fan deck. It has a decision tree, a brand new design thinking development facet that is a major feature, and the Spark Me random question generator. The app allows us to do some things that we couldn’t do with the physical fan deck.”

Interdisciplinary student team 

The students assigned to work on the project included Candace Galentine, Sarah Minnich and Jacob Nachman.

They all agreed that working in an interdisciplinary team — something Middlebrooks and Bruck stress in their combined leadership classes — was greatly beneficial to their educational experience.

“It’s something that you don’t get in the classroom,” said Galentine, an Honors Program junior double majoring in finance and management information systems. “When you work in groups in classes, you’re working with people who are in a similar major. When I’m in a finance class working with a group, they’re finance students, but for this I’m working with a graphic designer and a computer engineer, so it’s completely different.”

Minnich echoed these sentiments, saying, “Working in a multidisciplinary team was probably the most beneficial aspect of the project. I learned a lot about Jake’s discipline and Candace’s discipline, I learned a lot more about their fields, and I’m sure they learned about my field and my background as well.”

Galentine said she started working part-time on the project in February. As the project manager, she worked on many aspects ranging from facilitating meetings and communication between IT, design and entrepreneurs to working on market assessment, developing potential business models, finding business opportunities, forming a project plan, and helping create a wireframe for the project.

Galentine also focused the project on the end user by performing research and testing — both with people who had heard of and used the iDEA Fan Deck and those that had not. It was through this research that Galentine decided to make the app available as a “freemium.”

“The app is free to download, with limited content, and then the rest you have to purchase for $2.99,” said Galentine. “We felt that this would eliminate the barrier for people who don’t know what the iDEA Fan Deck is so they can download the free version, see if they like it, and then be able to purchase it.”

Summer project

Nachman, an Honors Program sophomore majoring in computer engineering, came aboard a month after Galentine. By summer, Minnich joined the team and they were able to work full time on the project.

As the programmer, Nachman was in charge of writing the code and adding functionality to the app, something that he said took anywhere from 200 to 300 hours of work.

Not only did he have to invent the code for the app, something that he had never done before, but he also had to get that code approved by Apple.

“That was a little bit difficult — it got rejected once and then it took a several updates to get it up to date with everything they wanted,” he said. “But learning how to do the work was great because I had no idea how to do it when I went in to the project; I just had to figure it all out.”

Spin In students conducting a presentation for President Harker about an "iDea Fan Deck" app for the iPhone that they helped develop and market.Nachman also said that working with a problem-solving tool came in handy when the group encountered problems of their own on the project. “The iDEA Fan Deck was helpful during the process because when we got stuck, we were already looking at information that could help guide us through the process. I think it’s a very useful tool. I’ve used it for a few projects that I’ve worked on during the school year to get my thoughts started.”

Minnich, who received a bachelor’s degree from UD in 2010 and a master’s in plant and soil sciences this year, and who and now works for OEIP, served as the project’s graphic designer. Having worked with Bruck and Middlebrooks in the past to create one of the first fan deck prototypes, Minnich was familiar with the product from the outset.

“In past courses they’ve taught, they have structured the curriculum to be design challenged-based and the fan deck is a really helpful tool in guiding the students along the way in their design process,” said Minnich.

As a previous teaching assistant for some of those courses, Minnich said that it is interesting to see how students from non-design backgrounds utilize the iDEA Fan Deck. “I think that it is most helpful for them because it pushes them to think in a different way then they’re used to in their regular curriculum.”

As for this project, Minnich said that it was great to work with Bruck and Middlebrooks, who gave the three students the autonomy to make the project their own. “They trusted us and we felt very responsible for what we were creating and we had a real handle on it,” said Minnich.

As designer, Minnich worked closely with Nachman, who would input the code. “Our jobs were pretty intertwined,” she said. “I would design some of the graphics and then he would import them, including things like the buttons, the layouts, fonts, and the backgrounds.”

Minnich said the students agreed that they benefited greatly from working on the project, getting real-world, hands on-experience and learning how to work as part of an interdisciplinary team.

“The whole process started out really rough and there was this level of uncomfortability because none of us had ever worked on designing an app before and we weren’t really sure what it was going to entail,” said Minnich. “But we sat down and made timelines and benchmarks, and the whole process of seeing it come together was really satisfying.”

Click here to download the app.

Article by Adam Thomas

Video by Adam Thomas and Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Share