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NSF awards UT $1.8 million grant to engage high school students with cybersecurity

The University of Toledo will teach more than 2,000 local high school students and teachers how to use mathematics and computational thinking to solve cybersecurity problems in smart vehicles as part of a new $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The three-year federal grant for the INITIATE program, which is officially titled Understanding How Integrated Computational Thinking, Engineering Design, and Mathematics Can Help Students Solve Scientific and Technical Problems in Career Technical Education, funds the partnership between UT, NSF and Toledo Public Schools.

Oluoch

At the end of each year, students compete in a “modern pinewood derby” where each team races a smart vehicle through an obstacle course without another team hacking the vehicle to crash or disable it.

“This grant is a great step toward preparing a workforce in the United States that focuses on cybersecurity and smart vehicle technology,” said Dr. Jared Oluoch, UT assistant professor of computer science and engineering technology, and principal investigator of the project. “The concept of smart vehicles is appealing to high school students because it is a new, intriguing idea. Our goal is to improve algebra and geometry standards among the students and prepare them to pursue STEM disciplines in college.”

The program engages local high school students in how to design secure technologies and helps science teachers in grades nine through 12 integrate computational thinking into their curriculum. The project also investigates whether focusing on a specific problem is an effective way to make mathematics more engaging and relevant to students.

The program includes a two-week summer institute for 12 teachers and ongoing academic year meetings designed to assist those teachers in implementing the project into their classrooms with 2,217 students.

Oluoch oversaw the development of the INITIATE program along with Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UT College of Engineering, and Dr. Ahmad Javaid, assistant professor of computer science in the UT College of Engineering.

German physicist to speak at Lake Erie Center on measuring freshwater toxicity using algae, water fleas

A physicist from Germany who invented a water quality instrument used by University of Toledo scientists for Lake Erie algal bloom research is giving a lecture at UT titled “Measuring Toxicity in Freshwater Using Algae and Water Fleas.”

The free, public event will be Thursday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. at the UT Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.

Moldaenke

Dr. Christian Moldaenke, researcher and founder of the German company bbe Moldaenke, has been in Toledo since mid-July using a new device in western Lake Erie to determine how well the instrument can measure the condition of harmful algal blooms and how blooms react to water treatment chemicals.

“Christian Moldaenke’s company produces some of the best water quality instruments in the world,” said Dr. Tom Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology. “Its fluoroprobe, which is capable of quantifying algae in the water and distinguishing between different types of algae, is the Cadillac of algal probes.”

Moldaenke is working with Bridgeman to advance research into how to protect the water supply.

“My presentation will be about measuring and understanding the water and its creatures,” Moldaenke said. “I will demonstrate how water fleas react to toxins and how we can use their movement to determine blue-green algae in order to achieve better treatment for cyanotoxins.”

Bridgeman said the new devices Moldaenke is testing this algal bloom season in Lake Erie may be capable of easily detecting when algal cells are starting to rupture, which would be a powerful tool for water utility managers to minimize toxin release.

Physicists compare drop in power output from UT solar panels during eclipse to cloudy day

While The University of Toledo experienced a solar eclipse last month, the solar panels on Main Campus and Scott Park Campus lost an “effectively inconsequential” amount of power production as the moon obscured as much as 84 percent of sunlight in the middle of the day.

“Much larger deviations result from daily or seasonal weather events,” according to a team from the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy that modeled and analyzed power output during the eclipse Aug. 21.

The solar photovoltaic array on Scott Park Campus lost an “inconsequential” amount of electrical energy generation due to the solar eclipse Aug. 21, according to UT researchers.

The solar photovoltaic array at the R1 Building along Dorr Street lost 33.5 kilowatt-hour (kWh), approximately as much electricity as the average single home in the U.S. consumes in one day.

“This is the typical production for a partly to mostly cloudy day,” Dr. Randy Ellingson, UT professor of physics, said.

The solar photovoltaic array on Scott Park Campus, which is 35 times larger than the R1 array on Main Campus and generates approximately 1,300,000 kWh of electrical energy during a typical year, lost approximately 1,170 kWh of electrical energy generation due to the eclipse.

“The eclipse resulted in the loss of less than 0.1 percent of annual production,” Ellingson said.

The UT team, which includes graduate student David Raker, will share its monitoring data with MDA Information Systems LLC, a Maryland company working to provide forecasts to predict the temporary shortfall from solar arrays up to three days in advance to help grid operators make changes to meet electricity needs for customers.

Toledo is in the path of totality for the solar eclipse in 2024.

Canaday Center preserves Toledo’s first city charter

A small envelope tucked away in a safe in the attic of Toledo’s Safety Building downtown was labeled with a handwritten note reading, “Charter of the City of Toledo Year 1837.”

The fragile pieces of paper inside, which had been carefully folded and stored by city employees at some point in history, document the original charter and bylaws of the city of Toledo printed in 1837, the year the city was founded.

The “Charter of the City of Toledo Year 1837” was discovered in a safe in the attic of Toledo’s Safety Building. The document from the year the city was founded is now preserved in the Canaday Center for Special Collections.

“It is unusual for such historically significant documents as the city’s first charter to be squirreled away like that in the attic of a city building,” said Barbara Floyd, director of the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections at The University of Toledo. “But the fact that they still exist 180 years later indicates that storing them in the attic ensured their survival.”

The charter document that includes numerous amendments — some written directly on the charter, another written out in longhand and attached to the back of the document — is now permanently preserved in the Canaday Center in UT’s Carlson Library, where it will be housed in a temperature and humidity controlled environment and available for public viewing.

The University will present these historic documents to the public at an event Tuesday, Sept. 19, at 10 a.m. in the Canaday Center with UT President Sharon L. Gaber, Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson and elected city officials.

In addition to the original charter that features the signature of Toledo’s first mayor John Berdan, the safe contained a poll book for the year 1836 with a handwritten list of the 226 individuals living in the township of Port Lawrence who were eligible to vote in the city’s first election. It was dated Oct. 11, 1836, and contains the names of many of the most important people in the history of the city, including Benjamin Stickney and Stickney’s son, Two Stickney.

“These would have been the individuals who voted in the election for Toledo’s first mayor,” Floyd said.

The collection of historic city records also includes several other iterations of the charter from the 19th century — folders of handwritten amendments from 1845 and 1851, and a complete charter from 1846 that bears the certifying signature of Ohio Secretary of State Samuel Galloway from back when city charters had to be approved by the state legislature.

A 1928 ballot for the UT bond issue was among documents discovered in the attic of the Toledo Safety Building. Voters approved the bond, which raised $2.8 million to build on what is now UT’s Main Campus.

The city records also document some details of the history of The University of Toledo. One handwritten piece dated 1874 concerns an effort by the trustees of the Toledo University of Arts and Trades, which had been founded by Jesup W. Scott two years before, to give the assets of the University to the city of Toledo after Scott’s death. That did not happen, and the University closed four years later. In 1884, what remained of the University’s assets was turned over to Toledo, and the school reopened as a municipal school that year, which it would remain until 1967.

The collection also contains a ballot and certified election results for the bond issue approved by voters in November 1928 that raised $2.8 million to build UT’s Bancroft Street campus.

The newest records found earlier this year in the Safety Building were added to existing local historical documents the Canaday Center acquired two years ago; these include the first minute book of Toledo City Council from 1837, records of Toledo’s city manager dating from 1947, and a large collection of annual reports from city departments, dating from the 1890s.

“I have been an archivist for 35 years and have helped to preserve some great collections,” said Floyd, who will retire from her position as director of the Canaday Center and university archivist at the end of September. “But these materials that document the city of Toledo are some of the most important materials I have ever come across. Ensuring they are preserved and accessible to the public is a highlight of my career.”

Some of the city documents will be on public display in the Canaday Center’s next exhibit, “Preserving Yesterday for Tomorrow: The Best of the Ward M. Canaday Center,” that is slated to open in early November.

Nearly $2.4 million federal grant awarded to help UT researcher turn algae into fuel source

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded The University of Toledo a nearly $2.4 million grant to find a faster, cleaner process to produce fuel using algae without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide.

Dr. Sridhar Viamajala, UT associate professor of chemical engineering, said this three-year project to help algal fuels replace fossil fuels is a continuation of his previous work in partnership with Montana State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Arizona State University.

Viamajala

“We are trying to speed up the growth of algae by providing a very high pH environment that allows algae to take up carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere more efficiently and prevent unwanted contamination,” Viamajala said. “Since it grows in water, algae doesn’t have as much carbon dioxide available. We are trying to improve the cleaner fuel potential.”

The project to create a comprehensive strategy for stable, high-productivity cultivation of microalgae with controllable biomass composition also includes genetic testing.

“This funding puts northwest Ohio at the forefront of a national effort to create new technologies and methods for biofuels,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. “These types of programs can lead to breakthroughs that will create American jobs and enhance our energy security, which is why I remain committed to renewable energy and advanced research from my role overseeing Department of Energy funding on the Appropriations Committee. Congratulations to the researchers at The University of Toledo for receiving this award.”

The research is funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and Office of Bioenergy Technology.

UT’s grant is part of about $8.8 million recently announced by the U.S. Department of Energy for projects that will deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms in order to reduce the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. 

Ribbon cutting Sept. 5 to celebrate new Drinking Water Research Lab

A new Drinking Water Research Laboratory at The University of Toledo will allow local municipalities to quickly and easily test the safety of the public water supply.

A $500,000 grant from the state of Ohio Community Capital Program provided the state-of-the-art technology and renovations for the laboratory in the UT College of Engineering.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held Tuesday, Sept. 5, at 10 a.m. in North Engineering Building Room 1600 with UT researchers joined by elected officials and community partners.

The lab’s new liquid chromatography mass spectrometer system and new flow cytometer will be used to detect various cyanotoxins, such as microcystin from the toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie, and assimilable organic carbon, which is used by harmful microorganisms, to ensure the contaminants are not present in drinking water.

The dedicated lab focused exclusively on drinking water research eliminates concerns of cross contamination from other samples to allow very low detection limits for improved testing accuracy.

“Water treatment plants in Ohio face new challenges from a host of emerging algal toxins, as well as contaminants from other emerging micropollutants, such as pharmaceutical products or microplastics, in their source waters,” said Dr. Youngwoo Seo, associate professor in UT’s Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemical Engineering departments. “By engaging with the lab, the municipalities can get early warning signs of new and emerging algal toxins, as well as quantification of existing toxins during cases of concern.”

“Many water utilities have difficulties in continuously analyzing samples due to high costs and limited time. They will now have access to the lab on a regular basis for monitoring contaminants in treated water, as well as samples from different points in the treatment process,” said Dr. Joseph G. Lawrence, UT research professor and director of the Center for Materials and Sensor Characterization. “A water utility could, for example, send water samples every week during the algal bloom to track the concentration of toxins in source water and treated water so that they can make informed decisions on the type of treatment.”

Water quality is a major research focus at UT. With $12.5 million in active grants underway, UT experts are studying algal blooms, invasive species such as Asian carp, and pollutants. Researchers are looking for pathways to restore our greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.

UT to participate in multi-agency action targeting grass carp in Sandusky River

A team from The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center will participate in a multi-agency project this week to assess the ability to target and capture grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp reproducing in the Sandusky River, a Great Lakes tributary that flows into Lake Erie.

Crews will use electrofishing boats and a variety of nets during the two-day sampling expedition, which is led by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

In 2015, UT graduate student Holly Embke collected eight grass carp eggs in the Sandusky River, which flows into Lake Erie.

The UT crew includes Nicole King, aquatic ecology research technician working with faculty at the Lake Erie Center and UT Department of Environmental Sciences.

In addition to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and UT, participating agencies include the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Geological Survey and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

This action will occur in conjunction with aquatic invasive species sampling in Lake Erie’s Sandusky Bay by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The goal of the project is to work with cooperating agencies to develop best practices to capture grass carp. It is in preparation for a large-scale, planned response in 2018.

A UT graduate student was the first researcher to find direct proof of grass carp spawning in a Great Lakes tributary. Holly Embke collected grass carp eggs in summer 2015 in the Sandusky River between Fremont, Ohio, and Lake Erie’s Sandusky Bay after a period of heavy rains.

NSF awards UT nearly $1 million grant to continue early childhood science education program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded The University of Toledo a nearly $1 million federal grant to continue, expand and further evaluate its successful, innovative program that engages teachers and parents in supporting a young child’s natural curiosity through interactive, inquiry-based science lessons.

The University’s NURTURES Early Childhood Science program, which aims to improve the science readiness scores of preschool through third-grade students in the Toledo area, was originally supported with a $10 million, five-year NSF grant. The new $991,081 grant is part of a total of $2.25 million in federal funding for the second phase of the program that extends it through 2021.

NURTURES, which stands for Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science, is a professional development program and collaboration between UT, local daycare centers and nursery schools, Toledo Public Schools, informal science centers and other community resources to create a complementary, integrated system of science education.

Project participants in the second phase of the project will include 120 teachers, 2,400 preschool through third-grade children, and more than 7,200 family members in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

“We are pleased to receive additional funding from the National Science Foundation for the NURTURES program,” said Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UT College of Engineering. “Building on our previous success, we will simultaneously target early childhood teachers, families and children to create a broad support system for powerful and effective science teaching and learning. This program will help close the gaps in science, mathematics, reading and literacy for young children.”

During the first phase of the NURTURES program, 330 teachers of preschool through third grade and administrators participated in a total of 544 hours of professional development in the teaching of science inquiry and engineering design for early childhood classrooms.

According to research published recently in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, every year that a student has a NURTURES program teacher adds on average 8.6 points to a student’s early literacy standardized test score compared to control students, 17 points to a student’s mathematics score, and 41.4 points to a student’s reading score.

The program includes five primary components:

• A two-week summer institute for preschool through third-grade teachers in which they have access to both scientists and instructional coaches;

• Academic year professional development, including monthly professional learning community meetings and one-on-one coaching;

• Family science activity packets sent home from school four times a year that each include a newsletter with directions for the investigation, necessary materials for the activity, and a journal sheet for children to record data or visually represent understanding;

• Family community science events, such as engineering challenge simulations, and observations and demonstrations at a park, zoo, science center, library or farm; and

• Public service broadcasts on television that promote family science activities.

According to the National Science Foundation, an important facet of this follow-up project is the research effort to understand how each component impacts student learning. Project leaders plan to use control groups and standardized tests to measure the effect of teacher professional development compared to family engagement activities.

“What a tremendous opportunity for the young children, their families and teachers in our region to participate in a project that will enhance their understanding of science and the natural world around them,” said Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. “It is so important for the project team at The University of Toledo to continue to study the impact that family engagement has on a young child’s education. We know that spending time reading to a child exposes them to 1.8 million words a year. What other things could families be exposing to their children to set them on a pathway for success in life? The NURTURES project at The University of Toledo aims to find that out.”

The additional grant award comes one week after the American Association of State Colleges and Universities honored UT with its Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education in recognition of the NURTURES program.

Czerniak oversaw the development of the NURTURES program along with Dr. Joan Kaderavek, professor of early childhood, physical and special education in the UT Judith Herb College of Education; Dr. Susanna Hapgood, associate professor in the UT Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the Judith Herb College of Education; and Dr. Scott Molitor, associate professor in the UT Department of Bioengineering in the College of Engineering.

UT wins national teacher education award for excellence and innovation

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) honored The University of Toledo with its Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education in recognition of a successful program that engages teachers and parents in supporting a young child’s natural curiosity through interactive, inquiry-based science lessons.

The national association of nearly 420 public colleges, universities and systems selected UT for the competitive award that recognizes one institution each year for excellence and innovation because of the University’s NURTURES Early Childhood Science program, which aims to improve the science readiness scores of preschool through third grade students in the Toledo area.

In a letter to UT President Sharon L. Gaber, AASCU President Muriel A. Howard calls the program “an exemplary one that can serve as a model for other institutions and help to advance practices in the field.”

NURTURES, which stands for Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science, is a professional development program and collaboration between UT, local daycare centers and nursery schools, Toledo Public Schools, informal science centers, and other community resources to create a complementary, integrated system of science education. The program was supported with a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“We are honored to receive this award and hope that the NURTURES program will serve as an exciting model for teaching science to young children,” said Dr. Charlene Czerniak, professor emeritus of science education and research professor in the UT College of Engineering. “By engaging young children in high-quality science experiences, teachers can also impact reading, literacy and mathematics in statistically significant ways.”

According to research published recently in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, every year that a student has a NURTURES program teacher adds on average 8.6 points to a student’s early literacy standardized test score compared to control students, 17 points to a student’s mathematics score, and 41.4 points to a student’s reading score.

“Our innovation comes in through the multifaceted way the program engages teachers, parents and the community in science for young children,” Czerniak said. “Science focused on preschool through third grade is not the norm. And by engaging children in school-based, at-home-based and informal-community-based science, we build a model for helping young children learn science and improve in reading, literacy and mathematics as well.”

The NURTURES program enhances teacher understanding of science content to improve classroom practices and offers classroom extension activities and family learning opportunities in the Toledo area.

It includes five primary components, including:

• A two-week summer institute for preschool through third grade teachers in which they have access to both scientists and instructional coaches;

• Academic year professional development, including monthly professional learning community meetings and one-on-one coaching;

• Family science activity take-home packs that each include a newsletter with directions for the investigation, necessary materials for the activity, and a journal sheet for children to record data or visually represent understanding;

• Family community science events, such as engineering challenge simulations, and observations and demonstrations at a park, zoo, science center, library or farm; and

• Public service broadcasts on television that promote family science activities.

Czerniak oversaw the development of the NURTURES program along with Dr. Joan Kaderavek, professor of early childhood, physical and special education in the UT Judith Herb College of Education; Dr. Susanna Hapgood, associate professor in the UT Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the Judith Herb College of Education; and Dr. Scott Molitor, associate professor in the UT Department of Bioengineering in the College of Engineering.

The award for teacher education will be presented to UT Sunday, Oct. 22, during the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ annual meeting in California. Awards also will be presented to institutions in six other categories: civic learning and community engagement; international education; leadership development and diversity; regional and economic development; student success and college completion; and sustainability and sustainable development.

“Innovation at America’s state colleges and universities is focused on advancing the quality of the educational experience for their students and the distinction of their institutions in service to their communities,” Howard said. “The programs for which these universities are being honored will inspire not only their AASCU colleagues, but all of higher education.”

Disability studies assistant professor awarded fellowship for research on incarceration

Dr. Liat Ben-Moshe, assistant professor of disability studies, wants to bridge the gap between studying disability and incarceration.

“It was odd to me that there weren’t more connections between disability studies and prison studies when I first began doing this work. Now, after doing this for more than a decade, there are more people, organizations and scholarship on this topic,” she said. “First, there is the high proportion of disabled — psychiatric, cognitive, learning or other disabilities — in prison, a phenomenon not often discussed. Then there are so many sites of confinement for people with disabilities, even outside of prison settings — nursing homes, psych hospitals, institutions. We need to understand all these as sites of incarceration.”

Ben-Moshe

Ben-Moshe recently was recognized for her outstanding work with one of the American Association of University Women’s American Fellowships for the 2017-18 academic year. These fellowships support women scholars who are completing dissertations, planning research leave, or preparing research for publication.

Her forthcoming book, “Politics of (En)Closure,” focuses on movements to abolish prisons and deinstitutionalization of mental and intellectual health institutions.

“I am incredibly honored to be receiving such a prestigious and competitive fellowship, and I see it as a recognition for my work on social movements that resist incarceration. But I also see it as a recognition of the field of disability studies and specifically of UT’s role as a leader in the field of disability studies, as we have currently the only on campus bachelor of arts degree in disability studies in the U.S.,” Ben-Moshe said.

Studies have shown that more than half of inmates in local and state prisons received clinical diagnosis or treatment by a mental health professional. Ben-Moshe believes the solution to this troubling statistic lies in having a better understanding of what is called mental illness.

“When people who do prison advocacy or critical prison studies work discuss disability, it is not as an identity and a culture, but as a deficit. Those within disability advocacy and work really need to learn more about prison and prison abolition,” she explained. “The intersectional nature of oppression and its resistance here are vital.

“For example, in my new book, I discuss what prison reformers and abolitionists can learn from deinstitutionalization, which was another mass movement to close carceral settings such as psychiatric hospitals, institutions for people with intellectual disabilities. People didn’t think it will happen; it was called utopia, unrealistic. But it did happen, and we can learn from it about how to rely less on settings that segregate people, like institutions and prisons, and more about how to deal with harm and difference in the community.”