Innovation Forum Recaps: Innovative Approaches to Geographic Information Science (GIS)

March 9, 2012 1 comment

TIC Talk: Innovative Approaches to Geographic Information Science (GIS)

Written by Laura Mansfield

Jin-Kyu Jung
Santiago Lopez

Jung and Lopez are both assistant professors in the UW Bothell School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

When talking about geographic information science, Jung prefers the abbreviation “GISci” to communicate the philosophy that GIS is “not just a tool, but a science.” Jung said GIS “helps us understand the procession of place. We are living in a completely new era. We have unprecedented power to map anything, anytime. What does that mean?”

Jung’s work focuses on qualitative GIS, which he said provides a new way to collect and analyze information. To illustrate the power of GIS, he described a research project he is working on that explores how children perceive their community. Jung and his colleagues interviewed children about the places they visit in their community and then used GIS technology to show the community on a visual basis.

“When you show the community on a visual basis, it provides different truths about that neighborhood. It also makes it possible to visualize barriers and opportunities.” Jung said. As he compared children who live in cities to children who live in suburbs, it became apparent that children in in the city have a smaller “activity space” than those in the suburbs. Jung defined “activity space” by the amount of space children have to move and walk around.

The SENSEable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is using GIS technology in Rome, Italy. To visit that site, go to :

Santiago Lopez: “GIS – A spatial approach to addressing global environmental change”

Lopez said he uses GIS “to help ask important questions about the space we live in, and to visualize that information.” There is an unprecedented amount of data being created,” he said. “How do we incorporate all the information to create knowledge?” Specifically, he is looking at changes in the landscape and what factors triggered those landscape changes. There is an unprecedented amount of data being created,” he said. “How do we incorporate all the information to create knowledge?”

Lopez described his research project which involves visualizing changes in physical systems in the tropical Andes region. “The human aspect of climate change in tropical Andes is larger than in Antarctica,” he said. “By the end of the 21st century, the region could experience a change in temperature from 4.5 to 5 degrees. The effects include the shifting of grasslands and recession of mountain glaciers.” Glaciers are important to regulate climate and to provide water to human populations, he noted.

Lopez uses thematic mapping to illustrate his data. “With thematic mapping you can start asking questions and visualize changes,” He said. “GIS allows accurate longitudinal characterizations of landscapes. We need to find innovative ways to find linkages between spatial data and human behavior.” Ultimately, he hopes to determine the key factors to environmental change.


Photos From the Innovation Forum: On the Ceiling

March 8, 2012 Comments off

On the Ceiling was an exhibition of student work created as a visual response project, inspired by the novel Au Plafond (On the Ceiling) by Éric Chevillard.

In the novel, one of the distinguishing features of the main character is that he wears a chair upside-down on his head — both an absurdist gesture and a creative horizon from which the story itself unfolds.

For the project, students were challenged to take a picture of someone wearing a chair, incorporating the spirit of engagement into the process. The intent was to initiate dialogue among participants – as a space for whimsical speculation and creative rethinking of performance and representation.


Innovation Forum Recaps: Increasing Engagement and Learning in STEM Education

March 7, 2012 Comments off

TIC Talk: Increasing Engagement and Learning in STEM Education

Written by Stacy Schultz

On day two of the four-day UW Bothell Innovation Forum, professors from the university presented cutting edge research related to increasing students’ engagement and learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “We are trying to imagine new ways of designing learning environments for STEM education that takes learners’ prior knowledge, interests, and identities into account,” said Carrie Tzou, assistant professor of education.

As members of the audience ate lunch, Tzou along with Kelvin Sung, professor of Computing and Software Systems, and Robin Angotti, associate professor of Education each took the stage to share their work.

Tzou discussed her research as a science educator working with elementary and high school students. Her goal, she said, is to bring what is important and culturally relevant in students’ lives into the classroom while at the same time expanding scientific inquiry into students’ everyday lives outside of school.

She said young students who are given a chance to identify with STEM-related projects in school are more likely to pursue higher education degrees in those fields later on. “They learn to participate in science and have that identity formation as someone who can do science,” she said.

Her projects have included fifth grade students who learn about microbes through a scientific examination of how their families maintain healthy habits at home. Another project involved high school students who studied the effect of pollutants on fish in Puget Sound and how their own use of personal care products might be contributing to the problem.

Sung reported on his work with faculty and students using video games. The conventional thinking, he said, is that students like to play video games so educators should find ways for students to learn by playing. Actually, he said, many students want to learn how to build games.

Sung saw video games as a potential tool for faculty to teach basic computer science skills. The goal of his project is to give faculty some expertise in game programming so they can incorporate games in their lessons. “I’m interested in giving professors a tool to teach what they want to teach, but not for it to take over the entire class,” he said. “We are teaching computer science coding concepts through building simple games.”

The logic behind the coding is the same when you are making changes to the front end, or user experience. “The professor doesn’t need to know so much about gaming,” he said. Still, many professors are not “gamers” he pointed out, so he offers two-day workshops for teachers to learn how to build their own games.

Robin Angotti, who focuses on math education, says that 21st century students need to know more than just how to compute numbers. “There’s a shift in math education to more critical thinking skills,” she said. Students need to do creative problem solving, they need to develop flexibility in thinking, and the ability to question, she said.

Her research has focused on implementing a technology called “Kinect” that uses infrared laser tracking, voice recognition, and face recognition to teach math principles. The technology allows teachers to incorporate movement into math lessons. Angotti calls it “gesture-supported learning.”

Using volunteer members from the audience, Angotti demonstrated how it works. Students come to the front of the room and stand a short distance from the Kinect device. The device tracks motion as they move their bodies, either walking back and forth or moving their arms. Software created by programmers at UW Bothell display the results in graph form on a large screen and then students are asked to describe in mathematical terms, what the graph shows.

“Everything I used to write up on the board, I can have students demonstrate by moving their bodies,” Angotti said. There is not research yet to show whether gesture-supported learning improves students’ understanding of math concepts, she said, but it does seem to increase the interest of students who are not otherwise excited about math class.

One member of the audience wondered if gesture-supported learning could be used to help students gain insight about the Roman Empire. Another audience member talked about using the technology for teaching physics. Angotti agreed there are many possibilities. “There’s so much more that I could do with this,” she said.

Innovation Forum Recaps: 22 Easy Ways to be More Sustainable

March 6, 2012 Comments off

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Provided by Sabrina Combs, Joy Johnston, and Janet Geer from the City of Bothell.

Innovation Forum Recaps: Priorities in Global Health Panel and Discussion

March 5, 2012 Comments off

Priorities in Global Health Panel and Discussion

Written by Laura Mansfield

Persistent poverty and the systematic increase in the inequality of wealth are the primary challenges in the field of global health today, according to a panel of experts who participated in the session “Priorities in Global Health” as a part of the 2012 Innovation Forum.

(Slide courtesy of James Pfeiffer)

Panelists were challenged to identify issues in global public health and innovative ways to address those issues. Members of the panel included:

  • Onyinye Eheh, first-year master of public health student in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington School of Public Health.
  • Stephen Gloyd, associate chair of the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington.
  • James Pfeiffer, associate professor of Anthropology and Health Services in the University of Washington Global Health Department.
  • Clarence Spigner, professor of health services and adjunct professor of American Ethnic Studies and Global Health at the University of Washington.
  • Johanna Crane, assistant professor in the UW Bothell School of  Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Each speaker gave a short presentation on their area of expertise followed by an audience question and answer session. Here are highlights from each presentation:

Onyinye Eheh 

Eheh is studying public health with a focus on adolescent health. “People think young people are healthy,” she said. “But if you look at the factors that affect youth today – violence, drugs, mental illness – they are in dire need of help.” Ehah noted that many lifestyle decisions (smoking, drug use, and sexual behavior) begin during the adolescent years.

Eheh has worked with adolescents both in her native Nigeria and in downtown Atlanta. Whatever the environment, she stressed the importance of involving adolescents when developing services and interventions aimed at teens. “Young people have a voice and can move public health in a positive way,” she said.

Stephen Gloyd

Gloyd began by discussing the increase in disparity and inequality in developing nations. “What
we’re seeing is something different and new and bad,” he said. “Globalization has not been universally positive.”

Gloyd identified two types of innovation:
First, “non innovative” innovations. This type of innovation is based upon fashionable trends that were designed to fit into a broken system. One such example is the use of traditional birth attendants.  “What better innovation could you have than one that fits the austerity system that cuts out nurses?”  He also cited HIV innovations that did not treat patients with the virus.

Innovative solutions cut across the box of normalcy to address the underlying issues, he said. Gloyd said the biggest innovation of the last year has been the Occupy movement, which has shed light on the problem of inequality. “The challenge for us is to take this powerful movement and change policy.”

James Pfeiffer

The essential health infrastructures of developing countries are in terrible shape, Pfeiffer said. “The innovation we need is to change structures to provide adequate resources to the front lines.”
The number of healthcare workers to treat patients in many developing countries is far below the standards set by the World Health Organization, Pfeiffer noted. “It’s very frustrating not to have resources.”

Pfeiffer alleges that the current global economic structure actually transfers money from Africa back to the developed world. As poor countries repay debt to wealthy countries, “more funding leaves Africa than goes into it,” he said. He also addressed the issue of “phantom aid” a phenomenon in which funding is designated for a certain population, but never reaches those who need it most. Pfeiffer estimates 60 to 80 percent of aid dollars may be phantom aid.

Foreign aid also leads to “brain drain” in developing countries, when a country’s best health workers leave to work for a non-governmental organization that can offer higher salaries.

Pfeiffer cited the Occupy Nigeria strike that began early in 2012 to protest a cut in fuel subsidies. “The innovation we need is not technical, but social. We need to challenge the status quo.”

Johanna Crane

Crane described the “new scramble for Africa,” where institutions in the developed world compete with each other for research sites in Africa. “The popularity of the study of global health has skyrocketed,” Crane says, noting the proliferation of university global health programs over the last 10 years. She expressed concerns that “global health may be a way for North American universities to brand themselves” without actually benefitting the host nation.

Crane also discussed the paradox of global health. “Global poverty and inequality makes (university) global health programs possible,” she said. “Global health wants to do the right thing and often does,” she said. “However, the inequalities also present valuable opportunities. We can’t treat foreign countries as fodder for research.”

Clarence Spigner

Spigner discussed the four factors that influence well-being: environment, genetics, medical services and lifestyle. “The U.S. spends 17 percent of its gross domestic product on healthcare,” he said. “But we still have not figured out how to do things better.” Referring to comments by other panelists regarding wealth and inequality, Spigner said “It’s a very troubling trajectory. “We can’t be serious about global health unless we reverse this trend.”

Spigner agreed that the Occupy movement is a “step in the right direction.” He challenged students to take up the cause of global inequality. “Students made the difference in civil rights,” he noted. “Students are supposed to raise hell and change things.”

Reflecting on the First Annual UW Bothell Innovation Forum

March 2, 2012 Comments off

Now that the first annual Innovation Forum is behind us, I sat down one morning after the dust had settled and tried to boil down what I had taken away from the whole experience.  The first feeling I have is appreciation for the amazing work done by the planning committee: Dinah Aldrich, Melissa Arias, Peggy Brown, Ann Cox, Lauren Dun, Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Mat Lam, and Linda Taylor.  They were a dream team and a joy to work with.  The credit for such a marvelous event belongs to them.  The second feeling is gratitude for the community of staff, faculty, and students that together make up this wonderful campus, many of whom contributed their expertise and energy to exploring innovation in all its manifestations.  Thank you!

Then I thought of a stunningly un-innovative way of condensing my own take-aways from this past year of reading and listening into a short frame: a top-ten list of what organizations might do to foster innovation.  So here it is:

Read more…

Photos from “Theater of Situations”

March 1, 2012 Comments off

Theater of Situations was a mixed media presentation, exhibit, demonstration and game participation event, devised by IAS Professor Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren and students in the course, Theatre of Situations: Games as Workshop, Games as Performance during Winter Quarter at UW Bothell.