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Reboot: Artist Transforms Tech into Art

By Meredith Camel
UM News

data.hall2

Miami artist Patricia Van Dalen transforms a motherboard into a piece of a mural that now hangs in the main office of the Center for Computational Science.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 21, 2014) —When Miami artist Patricia Van Dalen saw the motherboards, microprocessors, and heat sinks in storage at the University’s Center for Computational Science (CCS), she didn’t see an electronics graveyard.

“Instead I saw a ‘liveyard,’ with endless possibility,” she says.

The components are the remnants of CCS’s first IBM-built Pegasus supercomputer, disassembled in 2013 to make way for Pegasus 2, which is five times faster than its predecessor. Now the hardware enjoys a second life as part of Data Hall, an art installation that adds color and kinetic energy to CCS’s main office on the sixth floor of Gables One Tower.

Van Dalen’s recent works include Natural Intersections, a vast network of bright pink ribbons at The Kampong, and her homage to power grids and wires in High Voltage, an Art Basel satellite exhibit. Sawsan Khuri, CCS director of engagement and assistant research professor in the Department of Computer Science, recommended Van Dalen for a commissioned work at CCS after taking note of the artist’s approach to mapping connections in science and nature.

Data Hall was installed last week

Data Hall, which was installed last week, will be on long-term display on the sixth floor of Gables One Tower.

Data Hall begins on one wall and wraps around to the adjacent corridor, each motherboard a canvas for zigs and zags of blue, yellow, red, and green plastic lacings. Van Dalen built this color palette using only those hues found in the wires and data cables of Pegasus. Her goal was to infuse the boards with the lively spirit of data processing, reminding observers that these components once carried trillions of data per second on investigations of the human genome, cancer, engineering, music, climate, and more. Data Hall may seem like a mixed media sculpture, but for the artist it’s a mural.

“These are drawings,” Van Dalen explains. “It’s me painting without a brush—applying color and establishing a sense of balance with the direction of the lines. At one point they all seemed to have too much personality, like a screaming teenager. So I added white vertical and horizontal lines to create boundaries.”

Van Dalen will return to campus October 2 to speak on a panel with fellow artists Nela Ochoa and Xavier Cortada about how science inspires their art. The panel is part of Places & Spaces: Mapping Science, a scientific visualization exhibition of images that prompt discussion about the meaning of data and the art of info graphics, hosted at the University of Miami during the fall 2014 semester.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Professor Ensures Architecture Students Have the Chance to Explore Italy’s Treasures

Thomas Spain

Thomas Spain

Professor Thomas Spain, M.A. ’70, who joined the School of Architecture in 1966, still remembers taking his—and the school’s—first study trip to Rome in 1999. “For me, it was just an overwhelming experience,” he says. “I had never been to Europe before, and I was like a kid in a candy store.” Since that trip, Spain has returned to Rome many times as a drawing instructor for students in UM’s Rome Program, contributing his artistic talent, teaching skills, and financial support.

Now a member of the school’s senior faculty, Spain is a key donor for the annual School of Architecture Golf Tournament at the Biltmore Golf Course to benefit the Tom Spain Rome Program Endowment, which was established in his honor, and scholarships for the Rome Program. The program has grown through the years and now includes visits to Venice and Florence, Italy.

With his wife, Dona, B.Arch. ’91, M.Arch. ’92, historical resources director for the City of Coral Gables, Spain has helped raise $210,000 for the scholarships, including his and his wife’s personal donations, in the past five years. “The Rome trip is such a terrific experience for our students that I wanted to make sure it continued,” Spain says.

A Virginia native who has enjoyed drawing all his life, Spain came to UM as an instructor 48 years ago. After serving in the military, he earned his master’s degree in painting and became a professor in the School of Architecture, where he has influenced multiple generations of students.

A master visual interpreter of architectural structures and places, Spain was invited to exhibit a collection of his drawings at the Coral Gables Museum in May 2013. The show, Thomas A. Spain: A Retrospective (1980-2012), featured more than 60 drawings in pencil, ink, watercolor, and chalk and included several lectures and drawing workshops for adults and teens. Some of those drawings are now on display at another retrospective of his work at the School of Architecture’s Irvin Korach Gallery.

Recalling his experiences sketching and drawing with students on the streets of Rome, Spain says, “Seeing the architectural treasures of Italy can be a life-changing experience. Through our endowment program, we provide that unique learning opportunity to students who otherwise couldn’t afford to travel. It’s very satisfying to give back to our University.”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.

 

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Engineering Students Take a ‘Magical and Mind-Boggling’ Ride on NASA’s Weightless Wonder

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

microgravity-UM

Aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder, a modified Boeing 727, College of Engineering students conduct an experiment on the impact of zero gravity on nano-particle dispersion.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 20, 2014) – About an hour into the flight, Nicolas Rongione knew he was in for the ride of his life—a free-floating trip that defied the laws of Newton. With arms and legs flailing, and no control over his body’s orientation, the University of Miami senior must have felt a lot like Alan Shepard some 53 years ago when he blasted off from Cape Canaveral aboard a Freedom 7 capsule to become the first American in space. Read the full story

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Interactive Media’s ‘Zoo Rush’ Wins Good Gaming Award for Raising Sickle Cell Awareness

By Nancy M. Molina
Special to UM News

Zoo.Rush.Zhang

Designer Fan “Franklin” Zhang, a second-year MFA student in the Interactive Media program, works on the award-winning Zoo Rush game.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 25, 2014) – Collaborating with the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, student game developers in the School of Communication have created Zoo Rush, an award-winning adventure game that aims to increase awareness about sickle cell disease and reduce the stigma often associated with the painful inherited blood disorder that slows blood flow.

Representing the UM team, Zoo Rush developers Ebtissam “Ebby” Wahman and Fan “Franklin” Zhang brought the Silver Award in the Games for Good category back from the 2014 International Serious Play Awards held July 24 at the University of Southern California.

In the game, which can be played on the Web or by download to any Android or iOS device, players take on the role of a zookeeper with sickle cell disease who, on his or her first day on the job, faces a monumental challenge: All the animals escape.

The goal is for the player to capture each escaped animal before time runs out. Due to the zookeeper’s medical condition, the player must avoid infections, hydrate often, check in with their physician, and take their medication, such as hydroxyurea, the only FDA-approved medication for sickle cell disease.

Assistant Professor Clay Ewing, Zoo Rush’s project manager and game designer, said the Serious Play award validates the work of students and faculty in the School of Communication’s new Interactive Media program, who collaborated with Lanetta Jordan, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.P.H., associate professor of Public Health Sciences and president of the Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research, to build awareness about the disease that largely affects people who come from or whose ancestors came from parts of the world where malaria is or was common.

As Ewing notes, new programs must establish credibility, and the Serious Play Association’s recognition is a sign that the program is on the right path. He and the Zoo Rush team are particularly proud that the game is proving successful at increasing awareness of sickle cell disease, the most common genetic disorder of newborns in the U.S.

“My friend’s daughter downloaded the game and couldn’t stop playing,” Ewing said. “Later that night, she asked her dad about sickle cell disease. He didn’t know anything about it, so they spent the night finding out about it online. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do: Get a person engaged in an experience to the point where they begin seeking new knowledge on the topic and spreading the word.”

Wahman, who graduated from the UM College of Engineering’s electrical engineering program in 2012, had limited knowledge of sickle cell before taking part in the project. She said Zoo Rush was the first full game she developed and the experience helped her grow both as a developer and a person. “I feel honored that I was a part of such a project where I not only made a fun game, but also raised awareness about a disease that doesn’t get enough attention and affects millions of people around the world,” Wahman said.

Added Zoo Rush’s sound designer, Isabella Douzoglou, a motion picture and computer science major, “Increasing awareness through a fun medium is brilliant, especially when it’s for a good cause. It was a pleasure to be involved.”

Students from all majors at the School of Communication had the opportunity to test the game on various devices in an open playtest. They said the game gave them some insight on sickle cell disease and left them curious to learn more. The developers used this feedback to make adjustments to the game.

In sickle cell disease, red blood cells take on a sickle or crescent shape. Normal red blood cells are round and move through the blood vessels with ease, carrying oxygen to all parts of the body. Sickle-shaped blood cells often get stuck in blood vessel passageways, slowing down blood flow and preventing oxygen from reaching certain parts of the body. This can cause severe pain and other serious problems, such as infection, anemia, and stroke.

As Jordan notes, the transition from pediatric to adult care in young adults with sickle cell disease is becoming a major public health issue. Studies show that young adults transitioning to adult medical care are at a much higher risk for early death, especially shortly after leaving pediatric care. For some, the shift away from pediatric services results in the loss of an established primary medical home or access to health insurance.

In addition, Jordan said, these young adults are especially at risk of suffering from complex psychosocial issues due to stigmatization, the process of identifying an attribute and associating it with a stereotype that negatively labels a person or group.

Children and adolescents with sickle cell often experience low self-esteem or embarrassment. Pain is one of the most stigmatizing aspects of the disease, which often requires treatment with opioids.  As a result, Jordan said, up to 80 percent of young adults and adults with sickle cell disease choose to manage their pain at home. Zoo Rush developers hope to reduce this number by targeting young adults in the sickle cell community and influencing the way people perceive the disease.

For more information, visit Zoo Rush and the Foundation for Sickle Cell Disease Research.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Engineer Enhances Environmental—and University—Resources

Helena Solo-Gabriele

Helena Solo-Gabriele

As a teacher, researcher, role model, and donor, Helena Solo-Gabriele is making a difference in the world. “Since I was an undergraduate here in the 1980s, our University has made huge advances,” says Solo-Gabriele, professor and associate dean for research in the College of Engineering. “While the amount I give each year isn’t large, I know it’s important. As more and more of our faculty, staff, and alumni donate, our University gains important resources.”

The daughter of Cuban-born parents, Solo-Gabriele is a long-time member of the UM “family.”  Her father, Emilio Solo, earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Miami in 1964. “He would bring our family to the UM pool, and it was always a special trip to come to the campus,” she says. Following in her father’s footsteps, she and her husband, Frank Gabriele, III, introduced their two daughters, Christina, now 19, and Elizabeth, 12, to the campus at an early age. Read the full story

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