Ideas @ Work: #11 Robotics Championship

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

The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is a “sports for the mind” robotics competition that helps bridge the STEM education gap for students ages 9-14. Teams prepare intensely over several weeks as they design and build robots and grapple with real-world problems. Along the way, participants learn core values of teamwork, independent problem solving, community engagement, and gracious professionalism. Three years ago, Norwich electrical and computer engineering faculty member David Feinauer organized Vermont’s first regional tournament in Plumley Armory. Last year, Feinauer and his colleagues elevated the event to serve as Vermont’s first statewide FLL championship.

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Ideas @ Work: #4 Shrinking Science

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

Spring 2016

Ion microscopes aren’t cheap (average price: $500,000+) or small (think room-size). So Norwich physics professor Arthur Pallone developed an alternative. Dubbed the Tabletop Transmission Ion Microscope, or T-TIME, the device is composed of a polonium-210 radioactive source and a hacked web camera. The setup uses alpha particles to image meso- and microscopic-sized objects and excels at imaging materials and tissues with different densities. With help from then-student Patrick Barnes ’13 and a one-year Vermont Genetics Network grant, Pallone built his prototype for about $500. Another advantage: “The current T-TIME prototype can fit inside a shoebox,” Pallone says. His ultimate goal is to develop an affordable microscope that can reveal cell structures without laborious prep work.

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Ideas @ Work: #2 Biomass Plant

Photo of woodchips spilling into hopper at Norwich biomass heating plant
33 ideas big and small from Norwich students, faculty, staff, and alumni that are transforming campus and the world.
The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Twenty-five years ago, NU’s current Chief Administrative Officer Dave Magida floated the idea of adding a biomass heating plant to the university’s oil-fired central heating system. The new plant could be supplied with sustainably harvested woodchips from nearby forests. At the time, the project wasn’t economically feasible, but thanks to significant improvements in efficiency and to a low-interest-rate loan from Tawani Enterprises, Magida’s idea became a reality. The plant went online in 2013. In its first two years of operation, it saved the university over $2.3 million in heating costs, offset more than 1.4 million gallons of fuel oil, and reduced CO2 emissions by 13,608 tons. Even with today’s rock-bottom fuel prices, Magida says BTUs produced from woodchips are still 38 percent cheaper than oil, and having the option to burn either fuel helps circumvent supply disruptions and wild price swings.

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Ideas @ Work: #19 DIY Sports Reporting

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

The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

Director of Athletic Communications Derek Dunning finished the 2015 Boston Marathon in 2 hours 57 minutes. He can also drain the occasional jump shot while doubling as the George Plimpton of do-it-yourself sports reporting on campus. Dunning and his sports-com colleagues have challenged Cadets athletes to a number of sporting contests, from field goal kickoffs to soccer penalty shootouts. Video of the often-comic results can be seen at Norwichathletics.com. No word yet on a rugby challenge.

Ideas @ Work: #18 Cutting Red Tape

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

The Norwich Record

Spring 2016

This academic year, Gregory Matthews, Norwich’s new vice president of enrollment management, wrote a memo outlining ways NU can think more strategically about student retention, applying concepts of user-experience product development to campus culture. “It is important to consider what makes up an ideal student experience and then work back from there,” he wrote. Key components include clear paths to outcomes, simpler processes, and good stuff to do often. Hailing the insights, Norwich President Richard W. Schneider shared Matthews’ memo with faculty and staff.

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