New app created by CU researchers offers customized advice to improve learning

ok-googleOK Google, I Need My Study Tips

University of Colorado researchers have created on-demand, voice-activated apps to enhance learning and teaching for members of CU Anschutz Medical Campus and CU Denver.

VoxScholar ™ has released its first two apps, CU Study Skills and CU Faculty Development. These apps make it possible for faculty and students to talk to Google Assistant to receive study tips or to get information on faculty development topics.

VoxScholar is an initiative funded by the CU Department of Medicine and was developed by faculty at the CU Anschutz School of Medicine and the CU Denver College of Engineering and Applied Science.

While multiple voice-activated platforms exist, using the Google Assistant platform allows for the creation of higher education apps without extensive and costly infrastructure investment. Students and faculty using the apps can use devices they already own, including cell phones. This approach to academic innovation helps keep higher education affordable, responsive and relevant.

“One goal of the project was to leverage technology everyone had in their pocket – a cell phone – to transform learning,” said Janet Corral, PhD, associate professor of medicine, who leads the project. “Our busy learners and faculty are working in multiple sites: campuses and clinics, homes and offices, in the city and in rural communities. Often, they need just-in-time access to information and cannot wait until the next time they are on campus for face-to-face sessions.”

The VoxScholar apps provide more than other voice-activated apps, which typically offer information on campus meals or laundry services. VoxScholar’s apps focus on academic performance by offering improved study skills or evidence-based teaching advice. For example, students can get timely, practical tips on how to handle multiple choice questions or manage time during an exam. Faculty can get advice on leading small group sessions or improving learner engagement.

Corral is a scholar in the Department of Medicine’s Program for Academic Clinician Educators (PACE), which launched in 2017 and provides grants to support faculty in developing and improving innovative educational programs, and in engaging in educational research to guide how we teach and assess health professions learners.

Suzanne Brandenburg, MD, vice chair for education in the Department of Medicine, said, “Dr. Corral’s innovative work has the potential to transform medical education. I’m delighted that our unique PACE program has provided her the resources, time and mentorship needed to achieve this milestone.”

Corral collaborated with the CU Denver Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the College of Engineering and Applied Science to develop VoxScholar. Assistant Professor Farnoush Banaei-Kashani, PhD, an expert in intelligent and large-scale data-driven systems, along with his PhD student, Javier Pastorino, worked with Corral to develop these apps.

“We have introduced novel ideas based on machine learning and text mining to make the apps smart,” said Banaei-Kashani. “For instance, the apps can capture and use the context of the conversation with the learner or faculty member and personalize the tips it provides accordingly.”

The VoxScholar apps innovate by relying on artificial intelligence. The apps are designed to send specific tips based on the specific student’s needs. Similarly, educators offering lecture-based programming in a classroom setting receive different tips than faculty who teaching in a hospital or other clinical setting.

“The spaces where we work and study are complex, and I wanted the apps to do better than our existing fact-based learning modules and tips sheets. My goal was to create apps that respond just-in-time to what people need, and, furthermore, help coach them to success,” said Corral. Both apps have been developed in consultation with academic leaders, faculty and students. Students and faculty have also beta tested the apps prior to release.

The apps are available for free through the Google Play store, but require an official affiliation with CU Anschutz Medical Campus or CU Denver to access the content. VoxScholar plans to release additional apps throughout the spring and summer as students return to the health professions programs on both campuses.

ESIL program receives $1M NSF S-STEM award

Photo-ESIL-PartnersA team of faculty from the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has received a $1 million National Science Foundation (NSF) S-STEM award to support the new Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands (ESIL) program. This is the second NSF award for the program, which is currently enrolling students for fall 2018.

Timberley Roane, associate professor of integrative biology, David Mays, associate professor of civil engineering, and Rafael Moreno, associate professor of geography and environmental sciences, designed the ESIL program with a focus on land stewardship with the additional goal to recruit Indigenous students and prepare them to serve as liaisons for their tribes and organizations. Two-thirds of the S-STEM grant is earmarked for scholarships, giving full-time undergraduate students in biology, civil engineering, or environmental sciences up to $10,000 per year for up to five years, depending on their financial need.

“There are many examples, such as the Gold King Mine spill of 2015 or the Standing Rock pipeline dispute of 2016–2017, where questions of environmental stewardship have played out in the context of Indigenous lands,” said Mays, explaining that Indigenous is inclusive of Alaskan Natives, American Indians, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians. Mays continued, “Professor Roane recognized the profound need for a new kind of educational program that would train students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) but also provide the nontechnical skills needed to serve as a liaison between tribal, state and federal organizations. We call it the Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands, or ESIL, program.”

These three co-PIs have teamed up with CU Denver’s American Indian Student Services, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and The Evaluation Center, plus external partners representing numerous tribal, state and federal organizations. At the first ESIL Partners Meeting on Friday 4/6/2018, Roane emphasized a key point that makes this program unique—The simple notion that CU Denver does not own the ESIL program, but rather provides the infrastructure for a collaboration in which each partner’s perspective, insight, and contribution is essential for the program to be successful.

ESIL students are required to meet the requirements of their home department plus those of the ESIL certificate program, which ensures that all ESIL students have a common core in STEM, social science, cultural diversity, and cross-cultural communication. Through careful curriculum planning, this program does not require CU Denver to support any new courses and does not require ESIL students in civil engineering, biology, or environmental sciences to take additional credit hours for graduation, because all the ESIL courses that are not major requirements can be taken as electives. A key feature of the program, in addition to a traditional four-year STEM degree, is participation in training and internships designed to provide background with nontechnical matters such as cultural awareness, cross-cultural communication, environmental regulations and organizational dynamics. Additionally, this educational program is designed to support recruitment of Indigenous students.

“But not just recruitment,” Roane added. “We plan to guide our students through every step of the process, from applying to CU Denver, through logistical advice on moving to Denver (if necessary), through major advising, internships, and landing their first professional engagement after leaving CU Denver.”

The focus on land stewardship has been selected not only because it demands the expertise of STEM professionals but also because land stewardship is among the top motivations for Indigenous students considering STEM careers.

“If you know a student who might be interested in this program, or if you represent an organization that might be interested in partnering with the ESIL program (perhaps providing internships or extracurricular support to ESIL students), by all means please let us know,” said Mays.

In 2017, the team also received an award of nearly $300,000 from the National Science Foundation to support the ESIL program. This award is one of 27 design and development launch pilots in the second round of NSF’s program for Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES).

 

 

 

 

 

ESIL partners include (top row) Rosa Burnett, Harmony Spoonhunter, Susan Johnson, Ryan Ortiz, Kim Varilek, (bottom row) David Mays, Timberley Roane, Rafael Moreno, and Scott Aikin.

 

Grace RedShirt Tyon and Chelsea Situmeang at the ESIL Partners Meeting (Friday 4/6/2018).

Biomedical startup acquired by global medical technology firm

A medical device company founded by two University of Colorado Denver and CU Anschutz Medical Campus professors was recently acquired by Stryker, one of the world’s leading medical technology companies.

Shandas_Robin
Dr. Robin Shandas, chair and professor of bioengineering

Dr. Omer Mei-Dan, a sports surgeon and associate professor of orthopedics at the CU School of Medicine and Dr. Robin Shandas, chair of bioengineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus collaborated on the Pivot Guardian, the industry’s first post-free hip distraction system, designed to mitigate groin complications and heel slip associated with hip arthroscopy.

Working with Dr. Jacob Segil, Instructor in Engineering Plus at the University of Colorado Boulder, and Brett Schumer, an orthopedic device consultant, Drs. Mei-Dan and Shandas created MITA LLC to bring Dr. Mei-Dan’s novel hip distraction technique to market. The terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The acquisition shows the impact of pairing clinical faculty with bioengineers to bring promising ideas to market. The total time between initial discussions and company exit was less than two years.

“The fact that our Bioengineering Department is located on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus really facilitates such multi-disciplinary interactions,” said Professor Shandas, founding chair of the department who has co-founded several other companies with clinical faculty. “We built a technical team very quickly to execute on Dr. Mei-Dan’s vision to help his patients, while at the same time building the startup company to carry the idea into commercial reality.”

Dr. Mei-Dan agreed.

“Having biomedical engineers as in-house partners who can quickly understand the clinical need, assemble a business-savvy technical team, and iterate through multiple prototypes efficiently is a huge great asset we have here on campus,” he said. “This great success gives me much confidence for future endeavors.”

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About the Department of Bioengineering, College of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

The Department of Bioengineering at the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus performs interdisciplinary research and training at undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels in bioengineering, focused on catalyzing technology development to cure and prevent disease. One of the few cross-campus programs in Colorado, Bioengineering also partners with clinicians and entrepreneurs to bring products to market efficiently and quickly. More information is available at http://www.ucdenver.edu/bioengineering

About Sports Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine

The CU Sports Medicine division treats competitive and recreational athletes of all types and ages across the Colorado Front Range, encompassing care for hip, knee, hand, foot & ankle, elbow & shoulder, and spine. CU Sports Medicine physicians lead their field performing groundbreaking procedures including stem cell therapies, orthobiologics, innovative devices and clinical trials. They are also the head team physicians for the Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, Colorado Mammoth as well as NCAA teams at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver.

Harid and Golkowski awarded phase II of their DARPA program

Electrical engineering faculty Vijay Harid and Mark Golkowski have been awarded Phase II of their DARPA program BLING (Broadband Low-frequency Imaging with Novel Generation). This significant award will provide their team $850K for the next 12 months to complete Phase II.  Receiving a Phase II DARPA award is a significant event for not just our program or college, but for this campus.

Congratulations!

SMAB lab study, in collaboration with Dartmouth anthropologist, published

Faculty and students from the Smart Materials and Biomechanics (SMAB) lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering collaborated with Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropologist at Dartmouth University, to study bone daggers from New Guinea. The study looked at the composition of cassowary bone daggers and those made from human femurs, which were seen to carry a greater social prestige, to see if one was stronger than the other.

The paper, published today, has already been covered in The Washington Post, Newsweek, Science Alert, Live Science, Popular Science and more.

CU Denver mechanical engineering researchers who participated in the study include assistant professor Dana Carpenter, PhD student Sam Mills, and associate professor Chris Yakacki.

Mays links groundwater, biogeochemistry and chaos through supercomputing

David-Mays- (10-2014)-web
Associate Professor David Mays

With several colleagues and students, civil engineering associate professor David Mays is pioneering a new approach to clean up contaminated groundwater. According to the National Ground Water Association, groundwater—the water occupying the space between soil grains and fractured rocks in the Earth’s crust—provides drinking water to 44% of Americans plus more than 50 billion gallons per day for agricultural irrigation. When groundwater becomes contaminated, however, cleanup is no easy task.

“Groundwater remediation is a challenge for several reasons,” Mays notes, “For one thing, it is hard to manage subsurface resources, simply because they are out of sight. We share this challenge with geotechnical and petroleum engineers. Second, groundwater remediation works through a complex system of linked hydrological, microbiological, and geochemical processes that we call hydrobiogeochemistry. And third, because groundwater moves slowly, there is essentially no turbulence, which is really frustrating for anyone wanting to mix treatment chemicals into subsurface contaminants. So the cleanup problem is important, invisible, complex, and slow.”

Over the last several decades, researchers from the Environmental and Molecular Sciences Laboratory at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed cutting-edge, sophisticated computer model simulations to understand the hydrobiogeochemistry of groundwater remediation.

Mays explains, “These models account for groundwater flow, geochemical reactions, and microbiological processes, which boils down to solving staggeringly large systems of equations on their Cascade supercomputer. And then, what is really impressive, the team from PNNL can validate the simulations with gene expression data taken from a field site. It’s great stuff.”

While PNNL has been working to address the complexity of groundwater remediation, Mays and colleagues have been working to improve mixing in groundwater aquifers by applying new ideas from chaos theory. According to the fluid mechanics research literature, chaotic advection—where flows have sensitive dependence on initial conditions—provide the best possible mixing in the absence of turbulence. “It sounds like rocket science,” Mays comments, “but actually chaos theory can be quite simple. For us, it boils down to stretching and folding the plume of injected treatment chemical, kind of like a saltwater taffy machine.” This work has been supported by NSF grants awarded in 2011 and 2014, and is illustrated in a short animation.

The goal now is to incorporate chaotic advection into PNNL’s existing computer simulation of hydrobiogeochemistry. Mays explains, “Fortunately, this can be done by a fairly straightforward modification of the hydraulic boundary conditions that does not require changing the overall model architecture. And this has been fun. When I started at CU Denver in 2005, I never imagined that I would ever be doing research with a supercomputer.” Work is in progress, but preliminary results have been presented at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana in December 2017, and most recently at the Hydrologic Sciences and Water Resources Engineering Seminar at CU Boulder in January 2018.

Mays Hosts Indigenous STEM Affinity Group

Civil engineering associate professor David Mays has formed an affinity group within the National Science Foundation’s INCLUDES program, where INCLUDES stands for Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers of Engineering and Science. This affinity group brings together principal investigators (PIs), evaluators, and NSF program officers interested in Indigenous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), where the term Indigenous comprises the terms Native American, American Indian, Alaskan Native, and Hawaiian Native.

Mays writes, “Under the leadership of NSF director France Córdova, INCLUDES has been designated as one of NSF’s Ten Big Ideas. I am happy to be involved with this effort, because it builds on my prior experience with Teach for America and with my interest in sharing quality engineering education with anyone and everyone. Forming the Indigenous STEM affinity group made a lot of sense, because we can learn a lot from colleagues at other institutions who are united by a common awareness of the value of Indigenous STEM.”

Mays is co-PI on an INCLUDES design and development grant, active from 2018-2019, to build a network of tribal and government partners for Environmental Stewardship of Indigenous Lands. Mays continues, “This undergraduate certificate program, spearheaded by PI and biology associate professor Timberley Roane, is a first-of-its kind program designed to provide students with training in STEM, plus additional training in cross-cultural communication, historical awareness, and facilitation designed to prepare graduates for careers as tribal liaisons. It’s a unique program designed to fill a known gap in our educational system.” Other co-PIs include Grace RedShirt Tyon, director of CU Denver’s American Indian Student Services; Brenda Allen, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion; and Rafael Moreno-Sanchez, environmental science associate professor.

Mays Edits Special Issue of Open-Access Journal Water

David-Mays- (10-2014)-webCivil engineering associate professor David Mays has been appointed co-editor for a special issue of Water, focused on groundwater contamination and remediation:

http://www.mdpi.com/journal/water/special_issues/Groundwater_Contamination_Remediation

Mays will be co-editing this special issue with Tim Scheibe of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Mays writes, “We hope to solicit a nice group of papers within the broad field of groundwater contamination and remediation, including (but not limited to) processes controlling contaminant sources, transport, and fate in the subsurface; methods to identify the concentration and extent of contaminant plumes; and novel approaches to predict and enhance the performance of remediation techniques.”

Water is a peer-reviewed journal published by Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) of Basel, Switzerland and indexed on the Web of Science. Water will be accepting manuscript submissions this special issue through Wednesday 6/20/2018.

Yakacki’s tech startup wins big at NFL 1st and Future competition

Impressio_1standFuture
Associate Professor Chris Yakacki, far right, receives a $50,000 check for winning the technology category in the NFL’s ‘1st and Future’ competition. Pictured from far left are Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks quarterback; Carl Frick, Yakacki’s co-founder of Impressio; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; Chairman of NBC Broadcasting and Sports Mark Lazarus; President and CEO of the Mayo Clinic John Noseworthy; and Yakacki.

Chris Yakacki, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and his tech startup company Impressio, Inc. won the Advancements for Protective Equipment category at the NFL’s “1st and Future” competition last Saturday for inventing a liquid-crystal foam technology to improve the safety of football helmets. The advanced material is better than legacy materials at absorbing forces of impact that can cause concussions and brain damage, a major issue for the league. He and his colleague Carl Frick, University of Wyoming, won $50,000 to support their research and tickets to the Super Bowl.

Read the NFL press release.
Read the CU Denver Today story.
Read the C|NET story.
Read the Denver Business Journal story.
Watch the Fox31 report.

Congratulations!

Kim inaugurated president of the Bridge Engineering Institute

jimmy kim2015Jimmy Kim, professor of civil engineering has been inaugurated as president of the Bridge Engineering Institute (BEI), an international technical society. BEI is a non-profit, non-political and non-biased organization consisting of the executive committee and the international advisory committee, including world-class researchers and engineers in the area of bridge engineering and related fields. The objectives of BEI are to advance the knowledge of bridge engineering and related fields, to promote the state of the art, to foster young professionals who will lead tomorrow’s technology, and to provide a forum for international cooperation.

Kim’s research interests encompass advanced composite materials for rehabilitation, structural informatics, complex systems, and science-based structural engineering, including statistical, interfacial, and quantum physics. He is the chair of two national technical committees and participates in developing several design specifications and guidelines to transfer research into practice. Kim is an elected Fellow of American Concrete Institute (ACI) and elected Council Member of the International Institute for FRP in Construction (IIFC), and serves as an Associate Editor/Editorial Board Member for two international journals.