Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pride of Niner Nation Makes Debut

The UNC Charlotte “Pride of Niner Nation” Marching Band is ready for its inaugural season! The band made its debut on August 22 at a special preview for family and donors, followed on August 24 by the New Student Convocation, where it performed the UNC Charlotte Alma Mater and 49ers Fight Song. 

The Pride of Niner Nation marching band.

Beginning with the first home game on September 12, the Pride of Niner Nation will perform pre-game and halftime shows at all Charlotte 49ers home games this fall.

Band members began preparations this summer with a two-week band camp, August 9-22. Under the leadership of Director of Athletic Bands Jeff Miller, the marching band staff, and the Pride of Niner Nation drum majors and section leaders, the musicians and color guard worked 12-hour days to learn the drill.

“We are making history each day, and I love being a part of each step,” says drum major Quinten Wrenn, a music education major. “I am looking forward to all of the "firsts" for the Pride of Niner Nation Marching Band.”

Jeff Miller
The inaugural Pride of Niner Nation is made up of 144 students, representing every college at UNC Charlotte. While most of them are traditional undergraduate students – and 86 are freshmen – there are non-traditional students, as well, including a doctoral candidate in psychology and a retired combat veteran who plays sousaphone. Participating in marching band brings this diverse group together in a special way, says drum major Madelyn Colby, a sophomore communications major.

“What I love most about marching band is the tight-knit community that is formed within. It is such a safe haven where lifelong bonds are built, and it goes along with performing with people. There is absolutely nothing like performing alongside people with whom you share a common goal.”


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

$2 million gift names football promenade

By Leanna Pough

As the fastest growing institution in the UNC system, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte welcomed nearly 28,000 49ers this fall. The university is expected to continue its climb towards becoming an integral part of the economic, social and cultural fabric of the Charlotte region with the Fall 2017 debut of the light rail; but growth isn’t possible without support.

Friday, August 28, 49ers gathered at the Jerry Richardson Stadium for the naming of the Hunter and Stephanie Edwards Promenade. The naming announcement follows a generous donation of $2 million from the couple –both UNC Charlotte graduates.

Edwards notes the changes and expansion of the UNC Charlotte campus since receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

Stephanie and Hunter Edwards.
“We rode around this place and Wow! What a different facility we have here now than when we did back in the day. It’s impressive,” Edwards says. President and CEO of MSS Solutions, Edwards accredits the UNC Charlotte for much of his adult life.

“I met my wife here, I got a degree finally. I got my first job interview because I had a degree and that started my career path. Without UNC Charlotte, the faculty, the professors, the staff here, I wouldn’t have made it,” Edwards says.

The Edwards’ gift helps lay a foundation of greatness for Charlotte 49ers in their commitment to build champions on and off the field.

# # #

Leanna Pough is a senior Communication Studies major ad intern in the Office of Public Relations.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

High school students do "real science" research

By Wills Citty

Deep underground in a basement auditorium, a high schooler is teaching about nanoparticles. It’s the end of a hot summer spent in cool laboratories for the fortunate juniors and seniors chosen for the research experience at UNC Charlotte. Delivering their presentations marks the culmination of more than a month of study for the six high school students, who were paired with professors to work on complex scientific questions.

The high schoolers were part of a paid internship program offered by UNC Charlotte’s Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (CSTEM); it provided them the chance to perform real science on a college campus.

UNC Charlotte faculty researchers worked with
high school interns in a summer research program.
Dawson Hancock, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Education, said the quality of the students’ research was remarkable. “I was extremely impressed with the methodology and the soundness thereof, the detailed analyses, and the eloquence of the presentations was outstanding.”

The students’ investigations covered a range of scientific spheres. One looked at the possibility of making solar panels more efficient using microscopic silver particles. Another considered ways to improve photodynamic therapy — killing cancer cells with light.





Local student David Mack spent the summer researching how to use Doppler radar to help robots see and navigate better; his presentation, under the supervision of James Conrad, professor of electrical and computer engineering, was entitled “Using Robots and Range Finder Data to Create Navigational Maps.” For Mack, the research was the continuation of years of personal interest.

“Creating information gathering technology has interested me for a long time, since I was five as a matter of fact, and I thought that this experience would be a good opportunity to try my hand at it,” he said.

Victor Mack is the director of the Office of Educational Outreach at UNC Charlotte, and David Mack’s father. The elder Mack led the program from its inception on campus in 1998 through 2006. He said watching his son benefit from the experience was meaningful.

“I'm glad to see the program continue and be supported by the college,” said Mack. “For me, I feel as if I have come full circle. Rare are the opportunities to see our children benefit directly from our labor and excel. I'm extremely proud and thankful.”

The younger Mack said navigating the fast-paced environment of a university laboratory was a new experience, but that his supervising professor was receptive to questions and provided the needed guidance along the way.

A parent who attended the symposium said her son’s “personality changed completely” over the course of the six-week program, and that the experience went a long way to establishing work ethic.

The program was initially created through a National Science Foundation grant as part of a statewide program. That funding dried up, and UNC Charlotte is the only remaining site of the original six that maintains the program; discretionary funding from CSTEM has been used to keep it afloat.

Hancock said the summer research program is in sync with CSTEM’s overarching goals: to heighten the visibility and salience of these topics in the public consciousness.

“The centers were created because STEM wasn’t getting the level of attention it needed,” stated Hancock. “We recognized that in the global economy, the college needed to develop students’ talents and interests at a young age.”

Along with the summer research experience, CSTEM operates a pre-college program that helps prepare students from six nearby counties for math, science and engineering-based careers. The program is affiliated with the North Carolina Mathematics and Science Education Network and coordinated on campus by Shagufta Raja, a pre-college coordinator for CSTEM. It consists of a 12-week Saturday academy that meets during the school year, as well a summer scholars program separate from the more intensive summer research experience.

Hancock, who described these programs as a “win-win,” said, “Participants gain exposure to a university stetting, work with faculty in that environment and engage in depth in areas of STEM in which they are particularly interested. The University gains the benefit of exposing students to our campus, so they can hopefully develop a better understanding of what we have to offer, and maybe one day even become 49ers themselves.”

Concluding presentations by the other high school students were:
·       Kartheek Batchu’s ″Effect of Nanoparticle Sized Silver Paste on Contact Resistance,” supervised by Abasifreke Ebong, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

·       Ethan Wickliff’s ″Screen-printed Solar cell Efficiency Improvement Though use of Appropriate Ag Paste,” supervised by Ebong

·       Bhavana Ambil’s ″Effect of ADP on Actomyosin Dissociation,” supervised by Yuri Nesmelov, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Optical Science

·       Dean Tran’s ″The Use of Radio Waves in Determining Distances,” supervised by Conrad


·       Jared Johnson’s ″Improving Skin Permeation for Photodynamic Therapy,” supervised by Juan Vivero-Escoto, assistant professor of chemistry. 

#                                                                                                          # # #








#





Thursday, July 23, 2015

Study: Reading Interventions Make Big Impacts, Even Outside of English Class

By Wills Citty

A new College of Education study shows teaching struggling students reading strategies through U.S. history class can improve both reading skills and understanding of the subject itself.

The study, published in the journal Exceptional Children, was conducted in partnership with researchers at the University of California, Riverside. It looked at the effects of targeted reading intervention for eighth grade history students who read well below grade level. Half of the students in the study were English language learners, and half received special education services.

Over the course of the 15-week study, participants in some cases made significant gains through comparatively low-impact support.

A new study shows that reading intervention works.
Struggling readers who received just 5-15 minutes of daily direct, interactive vocabulary instruction were able to define more academic vocabulary words than their average performing peers who received incidental instruction from the classroom teacher,” said study co-author Dr. Kristen Beach, who spoke on behalf of the UNC Charlotte contingent.

Beach, an assistant professor in the Department of Special Education and Child Development, and departmental colleague Dr. Lindsay Flynn helped develop the program. The pair trained classroom teachers on reading techniques and documented the results of their deployment in the classroom.
Students were taught the meanings of academic terms, how to break down complicated words, and critically for history class, to understand cause-and-effect relationships.

“The cause-effect text structure is among the most important for readers to understand in history, since history is often defined by sequenced and causally-connected events. Unfortunately, the cause-effect text structure is also among the most difficult for struggling readers to grasp,” said Beach.

After learning strategies to identify and organize cause-effect relationships, struggling readers performed as well as average performing peers on a task that required picking out cause and effect in a new passage, the study found.

Integrating reading instruction into classes other than English may thus be a real answer for students without the foundational skills to succeed; on the other hand, doing so may also be a source of consternation for teachers dealing with limited resources.

Beach noted that while most instructors came to recognize the value of integrating reading instruction into their history class, at first some were skeptical about dedicating time to non-core material.

However, “the decision to teach reading skills or subject-area content isn’t necessarily a catch-22,” Beach said, “In fact, infusing instruction on word reading, vocabulary, and text structure into content area classrooms can be feasible and is often at harmony with content area teachers’ goals: to teach content knowledge and critical thinking skills.”

The numbers back up that argument.

Study participants improved by an average 20 points in teacher-created history finals. That’s a striking statistic, Beach said.

“These improvements are particularly impressive given [our study’s] instruction supplanted the teacher’s typical instruction and did focus more on strategies for reading rather than on instruction to improve content area knowledge.”

 The study was a cooperative effort between university scholars and the middle school teachers who agreed to participate. Researchers and teachers met throughout to talk about which strategies worked and which didn’t. And tactics were modified and improved base on these review sessions.

“Our goal was to design instruction that was effective, manageable, and complimentary with teachers’ existing classroom goals and practices. By doing so, we maximized the likelihood that the resulting intervention would be sustained in the school building after our particular study ended,” Beach said.

The broad based reading strategies employed in the study are part of preservice special education teacher training at UNC Charlotte.  In response to educator feedback, Beach and study co-author Flynn are working with a College of Education colleague to develop a program that teaches class-specific reading skills.



# # #

Willis Citty is Director of Communication for the College of Education.

Mt. Zion excavation could someday lead to archaeological park

John Bland, Phillip Brown and James Hathaway contributed to this story.

[Photos by Rachel Ward]

It's July 2015, and archaeologist Shimon Gibson, an associate professor at UNC Charlotte, has an exciting vision for the Mount Zion excavation site near Jerusalem. The dig is a multi-year effort in the ancient city, and UNC Charlotte is the only American university licensed to carry out such excavations in Jerusalem.

Shimon Gibson instructs excavation teammates and observers.
Work at the Mount Zion site will continue for several years, toward a goal of developing an interactive attraction for the three million yearly visitors to Jerusalem. “We would like to bring about a situation whereby tourists and pilgrims in the future will be able to walk through this time tunnel and see these remains dating from different periods,” Gibson said.

The site is located near the Zion Gate and under the Old City Wall. The dig has an annual staff of about 80, working in two two-week shifts during the summers. Most years, 15 to 20 UNC Charlotte students participate as volunteers, though the project has become so popular in recent years that it is now drawing staff from around the country and around the world. He s

Within a stone’s throw of the dig is the Tomb of David, hero of the bible and the city’s great king, and above it the room where Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Last Supper, before the passion and crucifixion. Also close are the ruins of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s great Nea church

James Tabor, best-selling author and noted religious historian
has worked for years on projects in Jerusalem.
“Archaeology is the material remains of the human past. And this particular period, of all the periods in Western history, is that intersection of ancient Judaism and the birth of Christianity. We’re at ground zero,” said James Tabor, professor of religious studies and co-director of the dig with Gibson, who will teach a course on the history of Jerusalem this fall at the University.

The excavation work takes place during the summer, and the artifacts unearthed are studied and cataloged during the rest of the year at the University of the Holy Land. UNC Charlotte students and volunteers from Charlotte, Europe and the Middle East help with the dig.


View Mt. Zion video on YouTube and The Live Wire.



# # #

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Confirmed: high heels weaken ankles

By Wills Citty

A new study showing the negative effects of prolonged high heel use confirms expert consensus on the footwear, according to a UNC Charlotte expert.

The study, published this month in the International Journal of Clinical Practice (IJCP), found that wearing high heels can strengthen the ankle initially, but leads to weakening and instability over time.

This is not surprising, said Dr. Tricia Turner, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Athletic Training Coordinator at UNC Charlotte.

Tricia Turner
“Initially when wearing heels the muscles that surround the ankles have to continuously contract to keep you upright and walking.  Over time you need less muscle contraction as the lower leg muscles adapt to the changes in footwear. Once that occurs less muscle contraction occurs,” she said.

“With prolonged use you get muscle shortening in the back of the leg and muscle lengthening in the front of the leg.  These changes in muscle length then can change muscle strength. “

The IJCP report looked at ankle strength and balance in women training to be flight attendants, collecting data for each class year, freshman through senior, to consider the effects of high heels over time.

Dr. Turner said high heels can cause problems because they force the foot into a naturally unstable position. “In sneakers or flat shoes the foot is positioned in neutral where the bones of the ankle are under the bones of the lower leg, creating a more stable joint and a decreased likelihood of injury.”

“High heeled shoes also change the normal walking or gait cycle, with the ultimate result being a less fluent gait cycle,” Turner added.

She said ligament and nerve damage in the ankle could lead to issues in the legs and back.

“Changes at the ankle cause the muscles higher in the leg and back to lose efficiency and strength.  It also changes the load the bones in and around the knee have to absorb which can ultimately lead to injury.”

But Turner said there are ways to minimize the risk of injury.  She recommends a combination of stretching and strength and balance training.

Stretching
·       To stretch lower leg muscles, use a towel to pull your foot towards you for 30 seconds.  


Strengthening
·       Use a theraband to strengthen the big muscles of the lower leg and ankle. Use the theraband to resist the ankle as it pushes up, out, and in.
·       Standing toe raises
·       To work the smaller muscles of the leg, put small objects on the floor and use your toes to pick them up

Balance

·       Stand on one limb at a time, holding position for 30 seconds. This may be made more difficult by closing your eyes or standing on an unstable surface.

# # #

Wills Citty is Director of Communication for the College of Health and Human Services.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Architect students build outdoor classroom, playground

By Meg Whalen

To the adult eye, it might be a giant pumpkin or the crown of the “Queen City,” or — its original design inspiration — an apple. To the kindergartners at Chantilly Montessori School, the new structure on the playground suggests limitless possibility.

“We love it!” said blond-headed Ruby.

“We can pretend it’s like a school or a house,” added her friend, Vanessa.

Ashley Girth leads UNC Charlotte's AIAS chapter.
“It’s an igloo!” a boy called out.

“My friends call it the drum station,” countered another. “They drum on the seats.”

“It’s so rewarding to see the little kids using it,” said fourth-year architecture student Ashley Girth, watching the children play on a bright April afternoon. A parade of feet stomps along the sturdy wooden and concrete benches that encircle the structure’s interior. Black patent leather shoes, Batman sneakers, floral fabric flats and pink Disney princess boots suddenly leap off and run across the playground to a wooden deck platform with seats, railings and planting boxes.

Both the play structure and the “outdoor classroom” in the Chantilly Montessori playground were designed and built by UNC Charlotte students and faculty. They are the most recent projects completed by Freedom By Design, a program of the University’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects Students (AIAS). Girth is the program’s current president.

‘Radically Impact’

As the AIAS community service program, Freedom By Design encourages architecture students to use their skills to “radically impact the lives of people in their communities,” said the AIAS website. The UNC Charlotte School of Architecture started a Freedom By Design program in 2007 under the mentorship of architecture faculty John Nelson, Greg Snyder and David Thaddeus.

The playground is popular with students.
The first projects, said Nelson, were about “designing something that restores freedom to movement.” The students replaced stairs with ramps, widened doorways, rebuilt porches — projects that helped older people regain mobility within their homes. Nelson said the projects are not only about community engagement but an educational opportunity.

“Most architecture students don’t have construction experience. If we are going to design buildings, we need to know how to put them together.” While architecture faculty consistently provide guidance and resources, the program is “student initiated and student led: We tell them ‘we are not going to do it for you,’” Nelson said.

The relationship with Chantilly Montessori began more three years ago with the design and construction of the outdoor learning space.

“It’s been amazing to work with the students at UNC Charlotte because of their enthusiasm and their willingness to embrace the thoughts, concerns and ideas that we had at Chantilly,” said Heather Simpson, a teacher at the school who oversaw the first project. “The design of the outdoor learning space kept morphing and morphing as we (teachers) gave input.”

The space is used not only for playtime but for science lessons, especially environmental science activities. “It’s been used by at least 11 classrooms,” Simpson said.

Nature’s Design

The playground doubles as an outside classroom.
After completing the outdoor classroom in the spring of 2013, UNC Charlotte continued its relationship with the school by beginning the design of the playhouse. After two planning meetings, the Freedom By Design students chose a concept based on an apple — not only for its metaphorical association with education but because of the inherent structural stability of nature’s design. At one planning meeting, students grabbed apples and carving tools and began to “interrogate” the form.

“We wanted to explore new construction methods to achieve the apple form and create opportunities that allowed us to expand our architecture and design/build experiences,” said Girth. Months later, people passing through Storrs architecture building could see huge wooden arcs lying on the floor and propped against walls — glued, laminated timber “ribs,” bent to form the apple-shaped structure.

On Jan. 17, Girth, Nelson, architecture professor Greg Snyder and more than 20 students who included Snyder’s Design Build 1 seminar class gathered at Chantilly to assemble the main structure of the playhouse. As a team, they worked together to put each rib up one by one. As the first rib went up, Girth couldn’t watch.

“I was so afraid it wouldn’t come together. But once they were all up, I was like — wow! That’s what we designed. It was pretty neat.”

The final touches were completed in March. In keeping with the Freedom By Design mission, the project was done at no cost to the school. Funding came from the School of Architecture and the Charlotte chapter of the American Institute of Architects, with in-kind donations from Lowe’s, Home Depot and Faulk Brothers Hardware.

“As a leader through the design and construction phases of the project, I can’t believe how many great people I have gotten to work with and how much I have been encouraged to continue doing projects like this in the future,” Girth mused, viewing the children gallop in and out of the apple/igloo/crown/drum station/fort/playhouse. “There were definitely some difficult moments, but finally seeing it finished — every bit of work has been worth it.”


Meg Freeman Whalen is director of communications and external relations for the College of Arts + Architecture.