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Smart Cities Conference Plans for New Future

Special to UM News

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The inaugural conference was held in the Miami Design District’s Moore Building.

MIAMI, Fla. (February 24, 2017)—The inaugural Smart Cities Miami Conference, hosted last week by the School of Architecture and Center for Computational Science, brought industry visionaries, technology experts, government planners, and the public together to focus on the “disruptive power” that the mobilization of new technology will have in our cities and on our lives.

“We are at the threshold of significant transformations in the urban environment provoked by new services and practices that mobilize emerging technology,’’ Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of the School of Architecture said in kicking off the conference held February 23 and 24 in the Miami Design District’s Moore Building. “These disruptive powers, along with more radical disruptions are sure to change the ways we imagine, shape, inhabit, use, enjoy, manage, and govern the urban realm.”

Added Nick Tsinoremas, director of the Center for Computational Science (CCS), “We live in unprecedented times where technology transforms the way we live and interact with the city. This conference is our first attempt to bring together all the stakeholders—government, industry, academic institutions, and the public—to engage in discussions to understand and shape these transformational forces.”

The forum for cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary perspectives was designed to connect UM and the larger community of entrepreneurs and innovators who are rapidly reinventing Miami as an incubator for tech start-ups with the development and planning agencies in the public and private sectors who are guiding the evolution of one of the fastest-growing cities in North America.

The keynote speaker, Antoine Picon, the director of research at Harvard Graduate School of Design and an expert on the Smart City phenomenon, talked extensively about the changes brought to cities and architecture by digital tools and digital culture as well as the need for technology to embrace sociocultural issues. He emphasized that the city of the future will combine human with artificial intelligence and that from this, a new awareness will arise.

In an interdisciplinary collaboration, Joel Zysman, CCS’s director of Advanced Computing, and Jean-Pierre Bardet, dean of the College of Engineering, led discussions about transformation through datafication, environmentally sustainable technologies, innovation, artificial intelligence, and the best uses of technology solutions.

The School of Architecture’s RAD-UM Lab and several technology companies also shared their demos and start-up innovations, showcasing mixed-use building blocks for a smart city environment.

On the second day of the conference, the Zenciti Workshop provided the opportunity for multidisciplinary teams to design a smart city from scratch on a site in the Yucatan, just outside of Merida. Zenciti will illustrate a customized city on a unified platform, serving as a prototype of the future.

As Picon suggested, every city, even if not yet identified as a “smart city,” needs a plan.

The conference was made possible with the support of contributing sponsors Zenciti, Intel, DDN Storage, and the Miami Design District.

 

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UM Reaffirms Support for Transgender Community

GenderneutralIn a statement released on Friday, the University of Miami reaffirmed its support for the transgender community by continuing to encourage students, faculty, staff, and visitors to use bathrooms and facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

The statement came in response to the federal government’s recent rescindment of its prior guidance providing that a federal law (Title IX) banning discrimination on the basis of sex granted transgender students the freedom to use bathrooms and facilities that corresponded with their gender identity. The statement “adamantly reiterated” UM’s policy of maintaining a campus environment where everyone has the right to use bathrooms and facilities that correspond with their gender identity.

“Allowing people to be their authentic selves in terms of gender identity and expression is an absolute priority in the University’s ongoing efforts to build a culture of inclusion and belonging,” the statement said.

For more information on campus resources available to the transgender community, including locations of gender-neutral and inclusive restrooms, contact the LGBTQ Student CenterFaculty and staff are encouraged to contact Human Resources for assistance and information on the LGBTQ Employee Resource Group and the University’s Non-Discrimination/Anti-Harassment Policy Statement.

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Can Dance Improve Your Mental Abilities?

A University of Miami study suggests that both aerobic and more sophisticated dancing can enhance mental capacity.

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 23, 2017) — A study at the School of Education and Human Development showed mental improvements after 10 weeks of dance classes. The findings suggest that exercise might improve mental function by learning new movements, as well as improving aerobic capacity.

The study was conducted at UM’s Laboratory of Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging, in collaboration with Arthur Murray Dance Studio. Sean Nicolle, a graduate of UM’s Doctorate in Exercise Physiology program, led the study and used the findings and analysis as his doctoral thesis.

Forty volunteers, from 40 to 80 years old, participated in 10 weeks of either ballroom or aerobic dance classes. Subjects were tested for mental function, both on a computer and using a movement test in a physical environment at the beginning and at the end of the study.

Why compare aerobic to ballroom dance? The ballroom dance group was focused on learning new steps (movement patterns), while members of the aerobic dance group were busy trying to keep their heart rate up (aerobic capacity).

The researchers found that both groups improved mental functioning. Michela Laureti, of Arthur Murray Ballroom Studio, explained that the mental benefits of ballroom dance come from the process of learning new steps, as well as working with partners. Aerobic dance is thought to improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain, and the aerobic dancers might also have had to pay attention to quickly changing movements.

Nicolle explained that the goal wasn’t just to see what kind of dance improves mental function, but to understand how the brain and mind work.

He believes that “the brain adapts in specific ways to what is demanded of it. It doesn’t have to be dance. Everything with a mental demand will make the brain adapt. The mental benefits of dance classes are probably different than those of rock climbing.

“We would expect dance classes to improve mental functions related to rhythm and coordination, while learning something like rock climbing would probably challenge the brain to improve mental functions related to anticipation, planning, and problem solving,” he said.

The study is titled “Impact Of Dance Complexity on Computer-Based And Movement-Based Cognitive Performance.”

 

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Activities Director Receives NACA Legacy Award

By Andres Tamayo
UM News

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Joshua Brandfon

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 22, 2017)—The National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) recently recognized Joshua Brandfon, the University of Miami’s director of student activities and student organizations, with its NACA Legacy Award for both his longtime volunteer service to the organization and future volunteer aspirations.

“I’m thankful to have been nominated for this award and appreciate being recognized for my contributions to the association,” Brandfon said. “NACA helps us better serve UM students by providing us with the knowledge, research, and resources we need to do our jobs well.”

As the director of student activities and student organizations, Brandfon is responsible for setting an overall vision and defining the co-curricular experience through campus programming. He directly advises UM’s homecoming program and student funding board (SAFAC).

“Josh is one of our innovative minds ensuring that we are anticipating future student trends and student union needs and is a major contributor to the Division of Student Affairs’ efforts to drive student engagement,” said Gail Cole-Avent, executive director of Student Life.

Over the years, Brandfon and his staff in Student Activities have volunteered their time to help plan programs and events for NACA. Brandfon, who has been heavily involved with the association since his days as a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, has served in both regional and national roles.

Currently, Brandfon serves on the NACA Research and Scholarship Group and was recently part of a committee that helped develop NACA’s new strategic plan. He’s a candidate for the NACA Board of Directors and works closely with fellow NACA professionals, agents, and artists to share and implement ideas on how to enhance student engagement on campus.

Brandfon is happy with what he and his team have accomplished over the years. “I look forward to continuing to give back to an organization that has given so much to me throughout my career,” he said.

For more information on the Department of Student Activities and Student Organizations, visit the website.

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E-Week Celebrates the Power to Make a Difference

By Andi Fuentes
Special to UM News

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High school students put their engineering skills to the test during one of the activities held last Thursday as part of Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 23, 2017)—Making your own lip balm and stacking cups so they don’t fall—that’s engineering? Indeed, it is—as more than 200 high school girls discovered on Thursday at the Society of Women Engineers’ National Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at the University of Miami.

Those fun learning activities helped illustrate the analytical thinking and critical reasoning skills every engineer needs to succeed. The students also toured laboratory facilities at UM’s College of Engineering and listened, enthralled, as Cynthia Gundersen, CEO of AMU Engineering, talked to them about her career path to leading a NASA-affiliated design and development firm.

This year’s celebration of National Engineers Week (E-Week) included the signature event of the UM Society of Women Engineers chapter and many other activities focused on the goal of E-Week, which is to highlight the contributions the engineering profession makes to society. It is celebrated annually during the third week of February to honor President George Washington, an engineer.

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day was just one of the E-Week at the U programs that brought pre-college students to campus. Approximately 300 high school students from around South Florida kicked off the week on Friday, February 17, by participating in Build It, a design competition sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. At Build It, Sebastian the Ibis welcomed the students and Miami-Dade County Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, the morning keynote speaker.

“You are the future of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics—and you will be the ones to build and improve our world,” Carvalho told the audience.

Other daily programming included the Graduate Engineering Student Council’s poster display session, which gave every engineering student an opportunity to see how researchers share their results. Eager throngs of undergraduates avidly listened to graduate students explain their work—showing just how important such efforts are for engineers developing new technologies and products.

Later in the week, the Biomedical Engineering Society hosted a Biomedical Industry Night with a panel discussion led by several noted alumni, followed by networking for students and professionals in the biosciences. The UM chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers welcomed UM President Julio Frenk and CoE Dean Jean-Pierre Bardet to a forum on STEM diversity—an evening devoted to supporting the ongoing efforts by senior leaders to build a culture of belonging and excellence for every student.

The UM chapter of engineering honor society Eta Kappa Nu hosted a programmable engine Raspberry Pi design competition, and the week wrapped up with a shoreline cleanup day sponsored by Engineers Without Borders, proving that engineering makes life better around the world and in our own South Florida back yard.

Of course, no E-Week is complete without fun, and the Society of Hispanic Engineers welcomed all students to a picnic for the U “familia.” The Institute of Industrial Engineers Dunk Tank was, as always, a welcome and fun way for students to unwind on the Engineering Green.

Bardet has a simple, yet profound, message for everyone who participated in National Engineers Week: “You’ll have the power to make a difference! By becoming an engineer, you solve problems that are important to society. Engineering is a ‘helping profession’ and as an engineer you can clean up the environment, develop new medicines to make life better for those who suffer, and solve problems to make the world a better place. But what really matters is that you’ll get to do societal good on a local and global scale.”

At the U, global impact starts in the classroom and extends to service and student leadership. Once again, the 2017 University of Miami College of Engineering E-Week highlighted how our engineers excel in the lab, in the community, and wherever they reach out to help encourage future STEM leaders.

 

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