Ideas @ Work: #1 Tiny House

CAD rendering of Norwich University's CASA initiative tiny house design.
33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Sometimes a big problem requires a small solution. Enter the CASA initiative, a 334-square-foot tiny house with a small $40,000 price tag, solar power included. Norwich University faculty and students developed the house to address Vermont’s affordable-housing crisis. Nearly 12 percent of Vermonters live below the poverty level, and median household income in the state barely tops $54,000. That leaves many low-income residents priced out of the traditional housing market. Those who can, often turn to mobile homes, which cost around $39,900 on average and are typically financed with car loans. But, unlike traditional houses, mobile homes depreciate in value over time.

Seeking to provide an alternative, the Norwich School of Architecture + Art faculty launched the Creating Affordable Sustainable Architecture (CASA) initiative last year. Sparked by a $20,000 seed grant from TD Bank, architecture faculty Tolya Stonorov, Danny Sagan, Cara Armstrong, and Matt Lutz worked on the initial design over the summer. Last fall, CASA principal investigator and civil engineering professor Ed Schmeckpeper began designing and assembling the build-out with Norwich engineering and construction management students. This spring, junior and senior architecture students in a design/build studio led by Professor Stonorov will complete the project.

With clean lines and a gabled roof, the nearly 14- by 28-foot home offers a modernist, minimalist take on a classic Vermont farmhouse. Sliding glass doors open from its small front porch onto a high-ceilinged living room/kitchen/dining area. Beyond lies a bathroom, bedroom, and storage space. The tiny home can accommodate two adults and a child. Solar panels supply the home’s electricity needs, while even more high-powered engineering lies under the roof. Starting next year, the CASA initiative team plans to develop additional units that can “plug” into the starter house, enabling households with growing families and incomes to expand.

Stonorov says CASA’s ultimate goal is to create a house that is not just beautiful, practical, and affordable—but widely available. The CASA team aims to partner with organizations that share the goal of bringing innovative, sustainable housing to income-eligible Vermonters. “This project will fail to fulfill its mission if we only produce one.”

Photo illustration courtesy Tolya Stonorov
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Ideas @ Work: #3 Safer Drinking Water

Photo of environmental chemist Seth Frisbie working with villagers in Bangladesh
33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

A series of math errors, rounding mistakes, and other miscues led the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue dangerous drinking water guidelines for inorganic toxic substances, including molybdenum, mercury, and uranium. Norwich environmental chemist Seth Frisbie and several colleagues caught the gaffs. In August 2015, they published their findings in the journal Environmental Health. Since then, the researchers have been working to improve the standards.

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Ideas @ Work: #33 Washington Policy Week

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Now entering its third year, Washington Policy Week brings students in Professor Dart Thalman’s U.S. Security Policy and the Private Sector course to the nation’s capital for a weeklong capstone event. In previous years, students have paid high-level visits to the White House, the FBI, the Pentagon, Capitol Hill, and leading private-sector firms and nonprofits. D.C. activities are coordinated by Thalman and an energetic group of distinguished Norwich alumni led by NU Board of Fellows representative Jon Allen ’94 of Booz Allen Hamilton.

College of Liberal Arts Dean Andrea Talentino describes Washington Policy Week as a “great idea.” She adds that Norwich students who participate or attend similar workshops and events, such as the Foreign Policy Association meeting, West Point’s Student Conference on U.S. Affairs, or the St. Anselm program for Women’s Leadership, “come back saying they changed their lives.” You can read more about Washington Policy Week in the Norwich 2014–2015 Annual Report (PDF) in the fall 2015 issue of the Norwich Record.

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Ideas @ Work: #32 Sparkling Tree Water

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

On Arbor Day last year, Asarasi CEO and NU alum Adam Lazar M’06 debuted Sparkling Tree Water, his first in a line of planned beverages produced from maple trees. The lightly carbonated, filtered water represents a tiny portion of the estimated 500 million gallons of water that is a by-product of New England and Canada’s maple sugaring industry. In an interview with Innovation Destination: Hartford, Lazar described his start-up as an impact-focused business. “We are impacting water conservation [and] creating value-added products to the maple farming communities of North America.”

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Ideas @ Work: #31 A Glove That Helps Teach Sign Language

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Overlapping worlds often spark innovation. While watching a sign-language interpreter at a LEGO robotics tournament, engineering major Maggie Cross ’16 came up with the idea to develop a glove that could help teach sign language. Her prototype haptic device uses embedded sensors and buzzers to cue wearers when they make mistakes, an approach known to speed learning.

Read more about Maggie Cross’s research project >>

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Ideas @ Work: #23 Building a Better Park

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Norwich faculty David Westerman (geology), Tara Kulkarni (civil engineering), Matthew Lutz (architecture), and Thomas Roberge (physical education) are working with NU students and the Town of Northfield to design and build a community park on reclaimed land along the flood-prone Dog River. Striving to design more than just a pretty public park, the multi-disciplinary town-and-gown team hopes to build a multi-use green space that also educates visitors about the river’s natural flood cycle.

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Ideas @ Work: #21 Norwich Honors Program

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Launched four-and-a-half years ago as a way to attract and retain exceptional students, the Norwich Honors Program graduated its inaugural class of honor students in 2015. Today, 75 students are currently following the honors track, which begins with a first-year honors seminar and concludes with a senior-year thesis—with many enriching challenges in between. “Students advance their critical thinking ability beyond the level typically expected of undergraduates,” says Darlene Olsen, an associate professor of mathematics who coordinates the program. By senior year, students are ready for graduate-level work.

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Ideas @ Work: #17 Two-Stage Trigger

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.

The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Applying new science to an old idea, Norwich psychology faculty and students have spent the past year developing an early prototype of a two-stage firearm trigger. Faculty members Matt Thomas, Kevin Fleming, and Carole Bandy, and students John Dulmage, Heather Powell, and Muhammad Ali Shahidy believe the project may help prevent wrongful shootings. Their work is based on findings at Norwich that reveal how the human brain processes shooting scenarios. While it takes our brains just 100 milliseconds to deliver instructions to squeeze a trigger, it takes our brains 320 milliseconds to visually process a target. Did the suspect pull a gun or a cell phone? The two-stage trigger project aims to give our brains a brief moment of pause to ask, Are you sure?

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Ideas @ Work: #16 Valor Ale

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.

The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Putting yeast, hops, barley, and water to work for a good cause, Norwich alum and Afghanistan War veteran Steve Gagner ’03 brews his standout Valor Ale at his rapidly growing 14th Star Brewery in St. Albans, Vt. A portion of sales helps support Purple Hearts Reunited, a nonprofit that works to restore lost or stolen Purple Hearts and other medals of valor to veterans.

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Ideas @ Work: #13 Summer Camps

Photo of students at the Norwich University GenCyber@NU summer cyber camp

33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.

The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

How do you recruit promising high school students to test drive the Norwich experience? Think summer camp. For 15 years now, NU’s Future Leaders Camp has brought teenagers to campus for a two-week, military-leadership adventure camp. Last year, Norwich launched two new summer programs. GenCyber@NU offered a free, weeklong cybersecurity immersion for high school juniors and seniors. The program was cosponsored by the National Security Administration and the National Science Foundation. The School of Architecture + Art also hosted a Summer Design Academy for aspiring architects taught by Norwich faculty and alumni. All three camps return this summer, along with a new offering: an entrepreneur boot camp hosted by NU’s School of Business and Management.

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