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UM to Design Smart City in the Yucatan

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UM to Design Smart City in the Yucatan


ZencitiSpecial to UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (July 12, 2016)—In March, the University of Miami announced a hemispheric collaboration between its Center for Computational Science and the Yucatan State Government’s Information Technologies Innovation Center, which is known as Heuristic and located in the Yucatan Science and Technology Park. Taking that collaboration a step further, the UM School of Architecture, its Responsive Architecture and Design Lab, and the CCS will come together to design Zenciti, a smart city next to the science park.

“Instances where smart cities are designed and implemented from scratch are very rare,” said Rodolphe el-Khoury, dean of UMSoA and director of the RAD-UM Lab. “We are fortunate to have the opportunity to design a hyper-connected city where urban infrastructure, municipal services, and social activities are orchestrated into a vibrant and sustainable environment.”

Zenciti came about when a group of developers and leaders in the IT industry joined forces for an opportunity they saw in the growing knowledge economy of Yucatan, spurred by its strategic geographic location and various other social and economic circumstances, including the Yucatan Science and Technology Park, located 30 minutes from downtown Merida. Zenciti will bring into play, among other things, a hub for tech startups that should create a synergy with the science park and fuel development.

Dean el-Khoury and his team think of Zenciti as a startup city: “Just like startup firms create something innovative that is hard to accommodate within existing companies, a startup city prototypes from the ground up a new way of life, something that departs from existing cities and the lifestyles, transactions, governance, and culture they enable,” he said.

Zenciti will occupy roughly 650 acres and will provide 6,000 jobs in the area, on top of the 4,000 that will be created by the science and technology park. The multidisciplinary team working on the smart city includes the following:

School of Architecture:
Rodolphe el-Khoury, PI/RAD-UM
Adib Cure – Architecture and Urban Design
Carie Penabad – Architecture and Urban Design
Juhong Park – Computation, Machine Learning, and Smart Systems
Mark Troen – Real Estate Development and Finance
Veruska Vasconez – Digital Media

Center for Computational Science:
Dean Rodolphe el-Khoury – PI/CCS Program Director Smart Cities
Chris Mader – Software Engineering
Joel Zysman – Advanced Computing

College of Engineering:
Wangda Zuo – Energy and Infrastructure
Landolf Rhode-Barbarigos – Responsive Structures

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‘Witch Doctors’ Flex Skills on BattleBots

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‘Witch Doctors’ Flex Skills on BattleBots


By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

BattleBots

Standing over their robots are, from left, Witch Doctor teammates Paul Grata, Jennifer Villa, Andrea Suarez, and Michael Gellatly.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 23, 2016)—Folktales tell us that most witch doctors believe in healing. But this Witch Doctor is bent on maiming, scorching, and annihilating anything in its path.

Designed by a team that includes two University of Miami alumni, Witch Doctor is a 220-pound robot, which, with its flame-throwing sidekick, Shaman, will try to destroy other robotic competitors in the second season of ABC’s BattleBots.

During the course of the season, which premiered June 23, 48 robots will fight in grueling three-minute matches, but only one will ultimately triumph.

Andrea Suarez, B.S., M.S. ’11, and Michael Gellatly, B.S. ’06, are banking on their robotic duo emerging victorious when they compete during the June 30 show.

“Our strategy is a little unusual because we decided to meet the 250-pound weight limit with two robots instead of one,” said Suarez. “Witch Doctor weighs 220 pounds and has a weapon that spins vertically, while Shaman only weighs 30 pounds and uses a large flamethrower to attack its opponents.”

Witch Doctor participated in the first season of BattleBots and made it to the quarterfinals, where it faced the most-feared robot of all: Tombstone.

Although Witch Doctor and his human handlers lost, they inflicted the most damage to Tombstone in season one.

Suarez and Gellatly met when she was in high school at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart, and he was at UM. At the time, she was competing in high school tournaments with light robots weighing a mere one and two pounds, and he was about to become president of the UM Robotics Team.

When they connected again at UM, they fine-tuned their skills as students in UM’s College of Engineering. Using steel, titanium, and aluminum, they were building electric robots “at a different level,” said Suarez.

“UM gave us the classes and the ability to refine what we knew and then apply it,” she said. “We had resources that we did not have before.”

Working with engineering graduate students and supportive faculty encouraged them to persevere, Gellatly recalls.

“Some people were critical of dueling robots,” said Gellatly. “But we knew that, although we were not saving lives, we were learning valuable engineering lessons.”

The friends continued to compete locally and nationally in college-level robotics competitions, later joining friends Paul Grata and Jennifer Villa to create the Witch Doctor team in 2010. Dressed in top hats and sporting skulls and bones, the team chose its name to appeal to children.

“We wanted to make sure that we drew in kids,” said Suarez. “We wanted children to be attracted to engineering without knowing that they were learning about engineering.”

Their strategy seems to be working. Later this year, the company Hexbug will debut a Witch Doctor toy. And in their day jobs, Suarez and Gellatly are actually enhancing, if not saving, lives. They both work in research and development at Zimmer Biomet, developing implants for traumatic injuries.

 

 

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UM Launches $1M Revolving Reserve to Seed Green Initiatives

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UM Launches $1M Revolving Reserve to Seed Green Initiatives


By Maya Bell
UM News

The metal hali

For the inaugural UGRR project, the metal halide lights in the Wellness Center’s main gym will be replaced with LED lights.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 20, 2016)—The University of Miami’s initial spend-to-save-energy idea is straightforward: Spend $30,000 to replace all the metal halide lights in the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center’s basketball gym with more efficient LED lights, saving $9,000 a year in utility costs. Then, in 3½ years, when the new lights have paid for themselves, redirect the annual savings to other projects that will reduce the U’s energy costs and carbon footprint.

Proposed by Jose Varona, associate director for energy management systems, the gym light swap is the inaugural project of the University’s $1 million U Green Revolving Reserve, an innovative financing tool that a growing number of universities are using to implement energy-efficient, renewable energy and other sustainability initiatives that generate cost savings.

But what other projects the UGRR will support could depend on the ingenuity and imagination of faculty, staff, students, and the broader UM community. The UGRR is now seeking proposals for green projects on the Coral Gables and Rosenstiel School campuses that will not only pay back their respective initial investments, but eventually generate enough savings to replenish the fund and pay for other green projects. Managed by a committee representing a cross-section of the University, the UGRR also plans to fund green-oriented research that could serve as test beds for national deployment.

Brian Gitlin

Brian Gitlin

“The target projects are those that pay back within five years—something that can be done quickly, and effectively, without having to wait for the standard capital request process,” said Brian Gitlin, assistant vice president for real estate who spearheaded the creation of the UGRR after learning about the green revolving fund (GRF) concept at a conference. “We are also open to projects that could take longer, especially if there is a strong sustainability element to it.”

UM became one of more than 50 universities and colleges to establish its own GRF when it accepted the Sustainability Endowments Institute’s Billion Dollar Green Challenge. The challenge encourages nonprofit institutions to invest a collective total of $1 billion in self-managed GRFs to finance energy efficiency improvements. To join the challenge, UM committed a reserve of up to $1 million, with the goal of cutting its operating expenses and reducing its environmental impact.

The reserve also has the benefit of freeing up funds for other campus needs, engaging the entire University community in sustainability efforts, and promoting interdisciplinary collaborations to identify new projects.

“We already see examples of such collaboration and engagement between the College of Engineering and the School of Architecture, which are working on an initiative to bring microgrid capabilities to the Coral Gables campus,” Varona said. “Microgrids could be great UGRR projects because they enable facilities to operate off the main electric grid. Instead, they would be powered by battery, solar panels, or other renewable resources, which would cut costs and carbon emissions and increase our energy independence.”

As Varona notes, the need for cutting operating expenses and reducing the U’s carbon footprint is becoming increasingly critical. Over just a four-year period, the University’s operating expenses on utilities and maintenance increased by 38 percent, from $54.3 million in fiscal year 2010-11 to $74.9 million in fiscal year 2013-14.

At the same time, the world, and South Florida in particular, is becoming increasingly vulnerable to the consequences of global warming, caused primarily by the continued emission of carbon dioxide and other human-produced greenhouse gases that are trapped in the atmosphere and acidifying the oceans.

As the University’s Climate Change Special Report detailed, the rate of sea-level rise in South Florida is already outpacing world projections, nuisance flooding is increasing on Miami Beach, and other nearby cities, and the world’s only tropical coral reef off our coastline is dissolving much faster than originally predicted.

“The bottom line is, as an institution, we need to cut our operating costs and reduce our environmental impact,” Gitlin said. “So we want to hear from different people or groups across the University about ideas that can be evaluated and funded in a flexible and efficient manner to help us do that.”

The UGRR Management Committee will review and select the proposals and ideas to implement based on criteria that includes, but is not limited to, the cost of implementation, the opportunity for cost savings, the estimated payback period, and the potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing educational, research, or social benefits.

In addition to Gitlin and Varona, members of the committee are:

o   Andrea Heuson, professor of finance in the School of Business Administration

o   Antonio Nanni, professor of civil, architectural, and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering

o   Rich Jones, associate vice president for facilities design and construction

o   Aintzane Celaya, assistant vice president for budget and planning

o   James Sprinkle, executive director for facilities management

o   Teddy Lhoutellier, sustainability manager

o   Derick Sheldon, student and member of the ECO Agency-Student Government

UGRR proposals will be reviewed initially by a working group that will provide feedback and determine if the ideas are ready for consideration by the UGRR Management Committee.

To submit an idea, complete the project nomination form and submit it to greenu@miami.edu. For more information about the UGRR, view the UGRR homepage, the nomination form and the operational procedures.

 

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Antonio Nanni Named Officer of the American Concrete Institute


By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

Antonio Nanni

Antonio Nanni

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (May 19, 2016)– University of Miami professor Antonio Nanni, who has conducted research on concrete and advanced composites-based systems for three decades, has been named a board member of the American Concrete Institute (ACI).

“This is a privilege and an honor and a duty I intend to take very seriously,” said Nanni, chair of the Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering in UM’s College of Engineering. “ACI is an incredible organization with an overarching national and international impact on the quality, safety, and sustainability of the built environment.”

Nanni currently serves as chair of the ACI Education Subcommittee of Committee 562 (ACI 562-E) and is a member of ACI’s Committee on Codes and Standards Advocacy and Outreach as well as the organization’s Educational Activities Committee. He also serves on various other committees of the ACI.

Nanni was named a Fellow of ACI in 1999. He is a recipient of ACI’s Chapter Activities Award and the Delmar L. Bloem Distinguished Service Award.

During the past 30 years, he has researched concrete and advanced composites-based systems as the principal investigator of projects sponsored by federal and state agencies and private industry. Nanni is the editor in chief of the ASCE Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering and serves on the editorial board of other technical journals. In addition to co-authoring two books, he has advised over 60 graduate students pursuing master’s and Ph.D. degrees and published 200 papers in refereed journals and more than 300 in conference proceedings.

Nanni has received several awards, including the 2015 Engineer of the Year Award, ASCE Miami-Dade Branch; 2014 IIFC Medal, International Institute for FRP in Construction; ASCE 2012 Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research; and the Engineering News-Record Award of Excellence in 1997 (Top 25 Newsmakers in Construction). He is a licensed professional engineer in Italy, Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

 

 

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Engineers Week Explores Diversity in STEM Disciplines

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Engineers Week Explores Diversity in STEM Disciplines


Hundreds of students attend a week of events to learn more about engineering and change the perception that it’s not for women or minorities.

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 25, 2016) — When College of Engineering senior Kyrah Williams got up to speak during Tuesday’s A Force for Change, Diversity in STEM forum, she voiced a concern many of her fellow students have on their minds.

“When you look at me what do you see?” posed Williams, president of the University of Miami chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, which co-sponsored the event. “My outer appearance shows that I am an African-American woman. What you cannot see are my passions and plans to become a successful engineer. Due to first impressions of me, society will label me as a minority in the workplace and in life.”

Being stereotyped and feeling isolated were two of the many issues that were brought to light during the forum, which featured UM President Julio Frenk, College of Engineering Dean Jean-Pierre Bardet, and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely.

The forum, which drew about 50 students, faculty, and staff members to the UM Faculty Club, was part of Engineers Week, an annual weeklong celebration that calls attention to the contributions engineers make to society and emphasizes the importance of learning math, science, and technical skills. Other events included a duct tape competition, a demonstration of a concrete canoe built by UM engineering students, and the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” which welcomed more than 150 girls from South Florida high schools to the University to stimulate their interest in the world of engineering through lectures and activities.

“How can we foster issues of diversity in the workplace if we don’t start in our school?” Williams asked at last Tuesday’s diversity forum.

Frenk said he was pleased to join the conversation because the meeting was a confluence of two of his aspirations for the future of the University. UM strives to be an “excellent university” and thus be strong in the fields of applied sciences and engineering. A $100 million gift from longtime UM benefactors Phillip and Patricia Frost towards those academic areas makes that goal more attainable.

The president added that, as “an exemplary university,” UM has a responsibility to provide a model for the larger society through the values and behaviors it embraces. “The value of diversity is at the core of an exemplary university,” he said. “Diversity is the right thing to do because we value every life equally. Every human being deserves the same opportunity.”

Beyond diversity, Frenk said, the University has to develop a “sense of belonging” so that every individual feels like they are welcomed into the institution. “Stereotyping and assigning certain characteristics to a group of people corrodes that sense of belonging,” he said.

Reading from a letter that he co-signed with other deans from the American Society of Engineering Education, Bardet said he was committed to bringing in more Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans to STEM education and to the College of Engineering. As part of this commitment, Bardet said the college would create partnerships with more diverse institutions, such as Miami Dade College and Florida A&M University, with the goal of increasing underrepresented minorities at UM.

Also, the college will commit to hiring more minority faculty members. Bardet recognized Professor Vincent Omachonu, who was at the gathering and is the only African-American professor at the college, which has 57 full-time faculty members.

“The fact that we are having this conversation is a great step in a very positive direction,” Whitely said.

She also agreed that recruiting minority faculty had to be a priority since many could become mentors to students. “When you have those mentors, things are easier simply because somebody else has gone down the very same path and will be with you,” Whitely said.

During the question-and-answer period, students brought up concerns about their schools – which included lack of diversity in the faculty, lack of financial resources, and lack of support from the faculty, as well as curriculums that occasionally did not directly serve their needs.

Engineering senior Natasha Koermer said some of her female peers had been told not to pursue the engineering field because “it was not for women.”

Bardet committed to hearing more about their concerns, and said he would set up focus groups as a way to address and resolve them.

The UM chapters of Minority Women in Medicine and the National Association of Black Accountants also sponsored the forum.

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