In the United States, there are nearly 800,000 children and adults that exhibit one or more symptoms of Cerebral Palsy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10,000 new-born babies will develop Cerebral Palsy every year. One of the major symptoms for Cerebral Palsy patients is loss of motor function, taking away the ability to walk with ease, and creating difficulty in feeding. There have been several advancements in devices that aid individuals with Cerebral Palsy, but not enough devices that rehabilitate the patient. Four biomedical engineering students are looking to tackle that issue with their innovative Senior Design project.
Katherine Bradley, Morgan DaSilva, Brianna Perry, and Brittany Morgan, the four students involved in the project, are working on a brace, which would go on the hand and arm of a Cerebral Palsy patient, and would use vibration therapy to treat and strengthen the muscles in those parts of the body. The project is being sponsored by the Biomedical Engineering department, and the group is being advised by Professor Krystyna Gielo-Perczak.
A $4.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation will allow University of Connecticut researchers to collaborate with colleagues around the world in order to help local governments and communities in Ethiopia’s Blue Nile river basin better manage their agricultural and water resources.
The funds, released today, come from NSF’s Partnerships in International Research and Education or PIRE program.
“This grant will position the University of Connecticut as a global leader in the multidisciplinary field of water and food security,” says Provost Mun Choi. “We particularly value the quality of scientific and cultural exchanges that are made possible through the PIRE program for students, faculty, and researchers from UConn, Ethiopia, and other international universities.”
Just 34, Arash Zaghi can point to a string of achievements. After graduating at the top of Iran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, he worked as a project engineer in Tehran while earning a master’s in earthquake engineering. Arriving in the United States, he whipped through a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno in just three years. There, he developed a seismic-design method for a novel connection detail that was incorporated in the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Joining the University of Connecticut in 2011, Zaghi soon won back-to-back awards for teaching excellence. He also established a research lab to study the design of multihazard-resilient infrastructure, launched a start-up, and filed for a patent for an ingenious bridge-column system. His latest endeavor, however, veers sharply away from roads and girders. It’s based on a discovery about himself.
Three years ago, Zaghi was diagnosed with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. Now, backed by a two-year, $150,000 Research in Engineering Education grant from the National Science Foundation, he is studying the creative thinking and risk-taking potential of engineering students with and without ADHD and identifying obstacles to success. “This project has the potential to improve education for all students and transform the way we teach engineering,” says Zaghi. He argues that risk-taking, impulsivity, procrastination, and focus problems – common traits in the 4 to 7 percent of the population who have ADHD – often coexist with significant talents. Properly steered, these talents can spark the “revolutionary change” needed to solve such “broad, complex problems” as cybersecurity or global climate change, he says.
Engineering is a growth industry with well-paying jobs. But many college students with ADHD soon drop out of engineering programs. Or they don’t apply to begin with, says Arash Zaghi, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Connecticut.
Zaghi believes that students with ADHD can be great engineers—with the proper training. And he’s launching a study in the hopes of proving it.
People with ADHD can be some of the most creative engineering students, according to Zaghi. But many programs don’t appreciate the different ways people with ADHD learn. Nor do they reward the innovative thinking of these students.
Most programs focus on using standard methods for solving problems, he explains. For a student with ADHD, that can be very frustrating.
Engineers play a major role in developing cell phones, but what responsibility do they have to consider the origin of the materials the phone is made of? Conversely, can they take credit for how the cell phone can protect African farmers from being swindled?
To address issues such as these, the School of Engineering and the Human Rights Institute have created a track of courses within UConn’s human rights minor that explores the social aspects of engineering, including energy, infrastructure, and water resources management.
“We looked to develop courses that contextualize human rights concepts and theories in an engineering practice,” says Shareen Hertel, associate professor of political science and human rights. “We on the human rights side found it really advantageous to reach out to the students who were going to do work with serious human rights implications but hadn’t thought about it that way before.”
The impact of engineering policy and practice on individuals and societies has often been overlooked in engineering education. Yet, engineering technologies and applications – from the extraction and processing of natural resources and manufacture of high-tech electronics to chemical processing and pollution remediation – affect the health, culture, opportunities and well-being of humans in often profound ways.
The University of Connecticut School of Engineering and the Human Rights Institute (HRI) are pleased to announce the expansion of the existing Human Rights minor program at UConn focusing on human rights within the engineering context. The confluence of engineering and human rights education is a natural fit and reflects engineers’ growing awareness that our technological designs, processes, policies and practices transpire within larger ecosystems and contexts. These, in turn, have varying degrees of impact upon the rights and well-being of individuals, families and cultural norms.
New cross-listed courses, including “Assessment for Human Rights & Sustainability” and “Sustainable Energy for the 21st Century” will be offered beginning in the fall 2014 semester and taught jointly by faculty from both disciplines.