Thought Leadership


Advances in Raman Spectroscopy for the Geoenvironment

Raman spectroscopy has long offered potential for analytical specificity, sensitivity, and versatility in the study of a broad array of environmentally relevant compounds. As with other optical analytical methods, the use of the technique has been hampered by challenges in optimizing the sensor-sample interface, managing turbidity for quantitative analysis, limiting fluorescence interference, preventing biofouling (particularly for long-term monitoring), and achieving low cost.

Being a professional: Three lenses into design thinking, acting, and being

This paper presents three lenses for interpreting design thinking: a framework on learning to become professionals, and two interpretations of this framework that speak broadly to aspects of ‘design thinking’. The first lens draws on a framework for ‘an embodied understanding of professional practice’ and provides a way to describe how professionals form and organize their knowledge and skills into a particular ‘professional-way-of-being’. The second and third lenses provide examples of using this framework to interpret existing results from phenomenographic studies on ways of experiencing design and ways of experiencing cross-disciplinary practice. We conclude with a discussion of how these three lenses contribute to a working synthesis of design thinking and learning.

Challenging Students values and assumptions through Project-Based Learning.

Challenging Students' Values and Assumptions Through Project-Based Learning Learning through the exploration of problematic situations is not a new educational approach. If we trace the origins of problem-based learning back to early educational forms we will see that Socrates presented students with problems that, through questioning, enabled students to explore the values and assumptions that they apply to problem solving. Literature shows that this kind of increased understanding and examination of perspectives and frameworks is encouraged through problem-based learning because it offers students opportunities to examine their beliefs about knowledge in ways that lecture-based learning and narrow forms of problem-solving learning do not. John Dewey, the father of educational philosophy more than century ago argued that instruction should be based on students interest where students are involved in real life activities and challenge. The pedagogical importance of inductive learning methods, such as project-based learning, create environments where students are driven by their passion, curiosity, engagement, and dreams. This research examines the outcomes of foundational engineering courses (specifically Thermodynamics) and investigates the processes that promote or undermine students’ learning within stimulating academic environments that incorporate project-based learning in a global context. In the study, sophomore engineering students were given opportunities to choose a project (to focus on one of three small countries and write a proposal for a thermal energy system to meet the electrical generation needs of that country for the next ten years. The project needed to include an explanation of the need for additional electrical power generation capacity in the country that each student has chosen, the resources (or lack thereof) that are available for meeting those needs, and the economic situation in the selected country. In the proposal students needed to explain the proposed technology to meet the needs in the chosen country and provide justification of their choice of technology. Specifications for the system including the power generation capacity, the maximum theoretical efficiency of the system, working fluid, and a schematic diagram illustrating the components and configuration of the system also needed to be included. In addition, students were asked to discuss the environmental, societal, and economic impacts of the proposed project. The student reports were evaluated using a grading rubric. A questionnaire was used to assess student engagement in the project and to identify aspects of the project that were engaging and/or challenging. Results of the questionnaire were compared to students’ scores on the project and correlations were identified.

Characterizing the ‘work of coaching’ during design reviews.

In this exploratory study we characterize the work of coaching using a pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) framework to make visible coaches' integrated knowledge of the how, what, and why of coaching during design reviews. We observed four patterns of coaching across three design review contexts: choreography, undergraduate industrial design, and mechanical engineering. These include scaffolding articulation, driving for meaning and guidance, breaking the 4th wall to create a teaching moment, and ‘suggest don't tell’ to let the student figure it out. We conclude with identifying new ways to conceptualize the work of coaching in design reviews as integrated knowing, situated practice, and shared repertoires.

Contaminant Detection, Identification, and Quantification Using a Microchip Laser Fluorescence Sensor

This paper describes a series of laboratory tests conducted to assess the performance of a novel fluorescence-based in situ sensor for environmental contaminants. The sensor, which can be deployed downhole in a monitoring well, or incorporated into the shaft of a cone penetrometer, is less than 4cm in diameter and uses a miniature microchip laser that produces ∼200ps pulses of ultraviolet radiation at a high repetition rate (∼10kHz) to excite fluorescence in a wide range of compounds.

Critical Opportunity Areas for Building Performance Improvement

Green buildings are a proposed holistic solution to reduce energy consumption while simultaneously improving an array of factors affecting the indoor quality of life for building occupants. However, green building performance varies and may not achieve intended design goals.

Cyclic behavior and pore pressure generation in sand with laponite, a super-plastic nano-particle

The paper examines the effect of the presence of small percentages (1–5%) by dry mass of the sand of laponite – a synthetic nanoclay with plasticity index exceeding 1000% – on the cyclic response of sand with relative density in the 15–25% range. The work is based on cyclic triaxial tests performed on specimens prepared pluviating sand and laponite under dry conditions and then permeated with water.

Defining a 'reasonable geographic framework': Path Distance as native copper provenance in the Arctic, Subarctic, and Northwest Coast

The relative purity of geologic native copper, compared to other raw materials such as obsidian, creates challenges for conducting provenance research. Accurate provenance also depends upon a robust dataset of trace element variation within geological sources. These challenges combine in Northwest North America where three native copper source regions (Central Arctic, Western Subarctic, Northwest Coast) supplied multiple technological traditions in native copper through time. This paper utilizes Path Distance models of human mobility and interaction with the landscape as a proxy for geochemical provenance to estimate a 'reasonable geographic framework' (sensu Rapp et al., 2000:96) of the geologic origins of copper artifacts spread across Northwest North America. Generated Path Distance values often link archaeological sites with geologic sources different than when using simple Euclidean distances. Because of their generation using real-world variables to estimate mobility, these values can also be considered a proxy for 'acquisition cost' – the cost in time, energy, and social capital spent to acquire raw material – that can frame the analysis of variation in copper and other materials-based technologies in the future.

Dynamic properties of a sand-nanoclay composite

The paper describes the influence of 1–3% (by dry mass of sand) Laponite, a highly plastic synthetic nanoclay, on the dynamic properties of Ottawa sand, based on undrained resonant column tests. The effect of Laponite depends on the amount added, the confining stress and consolidation time.

Educating effective engineering designers: The role of reflective practice.

Educating effective engineering designers is an important goal. Exploring the extent to which this goal is being met hinges on our ability to characterize what contributes to effectiveness and to map students’ performance against such standards. In previous work, we used verbal protocol analysis to analyze differences in the design processes of freshmen and seniors, the effects of interventions on student design processes, and process factors that contribute to product quality. In this paper, we utilize Schön’s reflective practitioner theory to discuss our empirical results in the context of educating reflective practitioners. Such an approach may provide implications for enhancing engineering education.

Effects of GPR antenna configuration on subpavement drain detection based on the frequency-shift phenomenon

The water and clay content of subsurface soil can significantly influence the detection results obtained from ground penetrating radar (GPR). Due to the variation of the material properties underground, the center frequency of transmitted GPR signals shifts to a lower range as wave attenuation increases. Examination of wave propagation in the subsurface employing an attenuation filter based on a linear system model shows that received GPR signals will be shifted to lower frequencies than those originally transmitted.

Effects of Soils on Laser Induced Fluorescence of BTX Contaminated Pore Waters

A laboratory testing program was conducted to identify and interpret the fundamental factors affecting the performance of a new microchip-laser based fluorescence sensor in soil and ground water. Investigations were performed using a versatile experimental apparatus designed to simulate the in situ interface between the laser induced fluorescence (LIF) sensor and contaminated media while providing complete control of test conditions.

Electronic Life Histories: At Home with E-waste Waste Materialities and Meaning

The interdisciplinary Electronic Life Histories Project integrates behavioral archaeology, engineering, anthropology, art, material culture, and science and technology studies to employ a life history model, community-based research and creative engagement to address the making of electronic waste. Focused in the Greater Lafayette area of Indiana, which is home to a major university, this project examines the entanglements among people, electronics and waste-making. Specifically, this paper focuses on a significant interstitial stage between reuse and discard. We consider the stories and meanings affixed to electronic objects once they have entered people's homes, and the complex lives they have before they are discarded, reused, or repurposed. We find 'closet fill' or junk drawers of electronic devices, bits, bytes and peripherals are often unintentional collections that are situationally valued through a constellation of factors that include emotional attachments, technological obsolescence, imagined use-value, as well as discrepancies between perceived value and market value. While the problem of closet fill has been discussed by scholars, how electronics enter this interstitial stage, why they remain and what motivates movement out of this part of the life history of objects have not been closely examined. We suggest a life history approach can make these interstitial phases visible in a way that illuminates the key factors in keeping electronics versus discarding. As opposed to descriptions of waste as disorderly, abject, or disgusting, our work shows that objects at the interstices of wasting practices embody, represent, and express many meanings to participants socially, spatially, and structurally.

Enhancing Student Attitudes Toward Learning through Entrepreneurially Oriented Case-Based Instruction

As an increasing number and proportion of engineers engage in endeavors that involve technical, socio-economic, and cultural complexity, there is likely an increased need for broader skill sets than those honed in typical engineering coursework. In particular, much of engineering education is focused on developing problem-solving skills in situations for which there is an accepted problem-solving paradigm.

Evaluation of sensing technologies for on-the-go detection of macro-nutrients in cultivated soils

Evaluation of sensing technologies for on-the-go detection of macro-nutrients in cultivated soils The ever-increasing prices of fertilizer and growing ecological concern over chemical run-off into sources of drinking water have brought the issues of precision agriculture and site-specific management to the forefront of present day technological development within agriculture and ecology.

Field Investigations: An Overlooked Form of Laboratory Experience

The types of learning activities that are accepted as constituting a legitimate laboratory experience have expanded considerably over the past decade or so. Traditionally, laboratory instruction was taken to involve hands-on activities around measuring quantitative, technical data associated with some physical phenomenon or the performance of an engineered artefact. More recently virtual laboratories based on computer simulation and remote labs where physical or virtual equipment is accessed at a distance using the internet have become accepted under the umbrella of “laboratory”. The proposed new ABET Criteria 3 (Student Outcomes) has broadened somewhat in respect of experimentation, thereby presenting an opportunity for discussion around laboratory contexts. This paper argues we should adopt a more expansive understanding of what counts as a “laboratory”; one that recognizes the reality that practicing engineers must be adept at creating and conducting investigations that take into account not only technical factors but also the socio-cultural, economic and even ethical aspects and impacts of an engineering project. This might include gathering data of many types; technical and non-technical, qualitative and quantitative, captured and analyzed in a variety of media. Interpreting, making sense of, and development of inferences from such diverse data sets is a developmental extension of the skills acquired by a student in a traditional, technical laboratory setting. As such, what might be termed “socio-technical” laboratory experiences add to, rather than replace, laboratory instruction as we have known it. This paper focuses on one ubiquitous form of engineering experimentation with socio-technical dimensions, i.e. fieldwork. It uses a case study based on a novel Study Abroad program to illustrate the design and implementation of a socio-technical laboratory, one that emulates an experience of global engineering fieldwork.

Finding a lower-risk path to high-impact innovations

The pursuit of major innovations is often seen as a risky endeavor. However, there is a lower-risk way to commercialize certain types of high-impact innovations — by "viewing initial applications as “lily pads” that a company can reach before leaping to the next market."

Inferential monitoring of chlorinated solvents through Raman spectroscopic observation of the vibrational modes of water

Recent improvements in diode laser, fiber optic, and data acquisition technology have rejuvenated interest in field applications of Raman spectroscopy in a wide range of settings. One such application involves the observation of chlorinated solvents to facilitate the practice of "monitored natural attenuation." In this context, this manuscript focuses on means to improve the sensitivity of in-situ Raman analysis of chlorinated solvents.

Innovation Policy Analysis for Civil Infrastructure System-of-Systems

According to the National Academy of Engineering, innovations such as intelligent transportation systems, alternative fuels, smart grids, and financial innovations are critical to enhancing the resilience and sustainability of infrastructure systems. The key to expansion of infrastructure innovations is effective policymaking.

Innovation Science: There’s a method to that light bulb going off in your head

Innovation is a fountain of economic growth and prosperity. It’s the source of leadership in many arenas and the way you make an impact. In industry, innovation drives competitive advantage. In academia, it’s a basis of thought leadership and scholarly excellence. In the nonprofit sector, it holds the key to sustainable solutions to intractable problems, often referred to as Grand Challenges. Today, innovating is no longer simply an aspiration — it is an imperative.

Innovation and Prestige among Northern Hunter-Gathers: Late Prehistoric Native Copper Use in Alaska and Yukon

Several different ethnolinguistic groups in south-central Alaska and southwestern Yukon used native copper. This indigenous innovation diffused throughout the region with the majority of use occurring from A.D. 1000 to 1700. The relatively recent origin of this technology and its continued use long after European contact provide an opportunity to examine the process of innovation among hunter-gatherers using archaeology, metallurgy, and ethnohistory. The analysis of these data using a Behavioral Archaeology framework demonstrates that native copper was used for both practical and prestige technology among groups of varying social complexity. Northern Athabascans did not use native copper overtly as prestige technology, but its many supernatural associations suggest it was a "prestigious" material. Furthermore, native copper provided northern Athabascan aggrandizer-innovators the opportunity to acquire prestige and power through their monopolization of trade relationships and subsequent control of the movement of native copper.

Innovation in Infrastructure Project Finance: A Typology for Conceptualization

Due to the growing demand for civil infrastructure, financial innovations are required to close the financing gap. However, a lack of theories has inhibited a complete understanding and, thus, creation and diffusion of financial innovation. A lack of theory about financial innovations in infrastructure is mainly due to the absence of a framework to conceptualize these innovations.

Institutionalizing Innovation

Building an engine that produces a steady stream of innovative growth businesses is difficult, but companies that are able to do it differentiate themselves from competitors.

Is that Awl? Experimental Insight into Native Copper Working and Innovation

This paper presents the findings of an experiment replicating native copper awls, the most common form of copper tool found in Late Prehistoric contexts in Alaska and Yukon. Several copper awls were made using lithic tools in a relatively short period of time by two novices. Though oral history from the region suggests some individuals were especially proficient at working native copper, our results demonstrate this material could have been added to the existing repertoire of material technologies with relative ease.

Liquefaction 50 years after Anchorage 1964 - how nanoparticles could prevent it

Earthquake induced liquefaction of loose sand deposits has been responsible for significant damage in severe seismic events (e.g. Anchorage 1964, Chile 2010, Japan 2011); therefore, there is a need for developing soil improvement methods to increase the liquefaction resistance of these deposits, particularly in proximity to existing structures, where traditional approaches relying on densification may not always be used.

Metal Armor from St. Lawrence Island

According to oral history and archaeological evidence armor was an important innovation associated with warfare among Eskimo-speaking groups around Bering Strait and along the west coast of Alaska. The use of lamellar armor in this region—made of bone, antler, or ivory plates—is generally believed to be derived from the use of similar armor in Asia made of bone or metal. This paper describes metal armor at the University of Alaska Museum of the North from three sites on St. Lawrence Island and offers an explanation for when and how this armor was made. In addition, this paper provides an overview of the use of armor in Bering Strait and Western Alaska.

Microstructure of sand-laponite-water systems using Cryo-SEM

This paper describes the use of cryo-scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM) to characterize the microstructure of concentrated laponite suspensions (3% by mass of the water), which are being considered for treating liquefiable deposits. In cryo-SEM a sample is cooled rapidly in nitrogen slush, sublimated to remove the unbound water, and imaged under cryogenic conditions (~ -130 °C); hence it remains close to its natural state and dehydration is avoided.

Person or thing oriented: A comparative study of individual differences of first‐year engineering students and practitioners.

Engineering practice is meant to advance the human condition, yet curricula do not appear to fully promote the human‐centered philosophy of engineering in implementation. The educational system may inadvertently signal to students that engineering is a career choice better suited for those preferring to work with things rather than people. This framing of the profession prompts questions regarding student interests when compared to those of practicing engineers and how such interests become concrete through education and introduction into the profession.

Portfolio cash assessment using fuzzy systems theory

Gaps between cash outflows and inflows throughout the life cycle of construction projects can create extended periods of low cash availability for a construction contractor, jeopardizing the financial stability of the business. A number of researchers have therefore attempted to model cash availability at a project level. However, at a firm level, financial stability is more thoroughly examined as a function of the cash flows related to multiple projects.

Precontact Native Copper Innovation in British Columbia

Copper has figured prominently in discussions of social complexity among Northwest Coast Cultures. Coppers, shield like sheets of copper variable in size, were a form of lineage wealth displayed, gifted, or ritually destroyed at potlatches; and copper artifacts have been recovered from human burials. The former use of copper is well-documented ethnographically and historically while the latter phenomenon is less well understood. This paper provides an overview of the occurrence of copper in precontact archaeological contexts in British Columbia using published and unpublished literature. Our investigation is framed within a Behavioral Archaeology approach that elicits ideas on copper innovation and all that it entailed. We find that copper is rare in precontact contexts from a province-wide perspective; there was likely more than one instance of native copper innovation; and contrary to previous suggestions, the copper-rich Dene region of south-central Alaska and southwestern Yukon cannot account for most of the precontact examples of copper use in the province. We offer some hypotheses to explain the precontact distribution of copper in BC, including both local invention and diffusion, not in an attempt to deliver the final verdict on this topic, but rather, to stimulate additional research.

Rendering a problem frame as an unfolding collaborative inquiry process.

This study investigates a group working together in an authentic work setting as they collaboratively render a problem space. We employed an existing data set of a group designing for an European automaker. We used a collaborative inquiry paradigm as a lens for investigation. We analyzed the dimensions of the problem space the group renders and the collaborative inquiry practices used. The group rendered a multi-dimensional problem space integrating user experience and organizational considerations for realizing user-centered products. We observed collaborative inquiry practices as four modes of evoking ways of knowing and two modes of building coherence. This study offers a new perspective on design as collaborative inquiry – a social process of building coherence to co-construct valid knowledge.

Scaling Impact: Equity, Access, and Opportunity in Boston’s Regional Food Economy

Social innovators are working to address some of the most pressing challenges facing society --economic mobility, environmental resilience, community health, food insecurity, intergenerational poverty, and racial, social, and economic inequality. Rather than looking at each of these challenges in isolation, could a single innovative concept create a cascade of impact improving conditions across a multitude of vexing societal issues?

Technology Development Decision Economics for Real-time Rolling Resistance Monitoring of Haul Roads

Proponents of advanced technologies for the delivery of constructed facilities assert that information and automation technologies can significantly reduce construction costs. However, technology transfer has been greatly limited as practitioners are reluctant to adopt new technologies for myriad reasons including concerns over expertise requirements, value versus traditional approaches, implementation practicality, and risk.

The Discipline of Creativity

Ideas can come from anywhere. But that doesn’t mean managers can afford to rely on haphazard, hit-or-miss approaches to idea generation.

The Effect of Turbidity on Raman Spectroscopic Analysis of Aqueous Chlorinated Samples

As attention has shifted to the use of "monitored natural attenuation" to remediate sites contaminated with chlorinated solvents, optical spectroscopic methods have gained attention as a potential means to enable long-term monitoring. However, previous field research has shown that a number of geoenvironmental factors adversely influence the quality of in-situ optical spectroscopic measurements, including the presence of (non-target) fluorophores, presence of multiple chemical compounds, and the hydrogeological environment of the site.

The Informed Design Teaching and Learning Matrix

Design experiences play a crucial role in undergraduate engineering education and are increasingly important in K-12 settings. There are few efforts to purposefully connect research findings on how people design with what teachers need to understand and do to help K-16 students improve their design capability and learn through design activities. This paper connects and simplifies disparate findings from research on design cognition and presents a robust framework for a scholarship of design teaching and learning that includes misconceptions, learning trajectories, instructional goals, and teaching strategies that instructors need to know to teach engineering design effectively. A scholarship of integration study was conducted that involved a meta-literature review and led to selecting and bounding students' design performances with appropriate starting points and end points, establishing key performance dimensions of design practices, and fashioning use-inspired tools that represent design pedagogical content knowledge for teachers. The outcome of this scholarship of integration effort is the Informed Design Learning and Teaching Matrix that contains nine engineering design strategies and associated patterns that contrast beginning versus informed design behaviors, with links to learning goals and instructional approaches that aim to support students in developing their engineering design abilities. This paper's theoretical contribution is an emergent educational theory of informed design that identifies key performance dimensions relevant to K-16 engineering and STEM educational contexts. Practical contributions include the Informed Design Teaching and Learning Matrix, which is fashioned to help teachers do informed teaching with design tasks while developing their own design pedagogical content knowledge.

The Work of Educational Innovation: Exploring a Personalized Interdisciplinary Design Playbook Assignment.

Recent decades have seen calls for scholarship related to engineering education innovation. While some focus on how to identify ‘‘what works,’’ critiques such as ‘‘what works won’t work’’ raise questions about what might be valuable to disseminate with respect to educational innovation projects. In this paper, we explore this issue by asking: What perspectives are useful for bringing to the surface insights that come out of a specific case of innovating, and with these perspectives, what knowledge do we gain? The approach involved reflection conversations, an analysis of these conversations for critical moments, identifying perspectives that help to bring the critical moments into focus, and then clarifying specific insights associated with each perspective. In the results, we discuss the case in terms of practical perspectives, latent theoretical perspectives, and experiential perspectives. In particular, we name and specifically identify demanding problem definition, a discursive approach to translation, sustained coordinated action, lurking provocation, and predictable emotional labor as key insights associated with this case. We discuss how the perspectives identified may be useful for others wishing to interrogate cases of educational innovation and build scholarship in this area.

Thinking Big to Address Major Challenges: Design and Problem-Solving Patterns for High-Impact Innovation

The world’s most pressing challenges are testing the limits of existing approaches to problem exploration, innovation, and design. Be it equitable provision of clean water (OECD 2012), creation of single-dose vaccines (Varmus et al. 2003), clean-energy agriculture (Ferguson 2014), or restored and improved urban infrastructure (NAE 2008), complex systems-level problems that broadly affect society are driven largely by the extraordinary growth in the human population and its demand for essential resources such as water, food, and energy, as well as the compounding implications that manifest as longer human lifespans increase encounters with formidable medical conditions.

Toward a Resilient Complex Adaptive System View of Business Models

This paper employs the theory of resilient complex adaptive systems (RCAS) to offer a versatile and universal foundation for the concept of a business model that facilitates connections between prior works while enabling future exploration with a common language.
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