Learning by design

Mar 7
K.C. Ting, Head, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering

On February 13 and 14, I participated in a review of industry-linked capstone design projects. The capstone design is a required course offered every spring semester for the B.S. degree in Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) at Illinois. Most ABE seniors take it right before graduation in May. The course provides students practical learning experience in engineering design. Every team of five to six students works on a “real-world” project identified by a sponsoring organization.

This spring, the sponsors include an off-road equipment manufacturer, an agricultural chemical company, a waste water treatment plant, a grain postharvest loss research institute, and a non-governmental organization. The sponsors present challenging problems and the student teams respond with engineering solutions within approximately 15 weeks. The students are required to work as professional engineers and engineering project managers. They take systems approaches that integrate the knowledge and skills acquired from their previous courses to solve the problems. The deliverables are quantitative analyses, engineering designs, prototype evaluation, a high quality written report, and an oral presentation. Most projects have staff engineers from the sponsoring organizations acting as technical resource persons for the student teams. Many projects also have faculty members serving as their academic advisors. Steve Zahos is the instructor for the course and Dr. Alan Hansen is the faculty member overseeing the development of the course.

The purpose of the February review was to assess the progress of all nine projects. Every project team presented its analyses of the problem scope, alternative solutions, potential design concepts, and cost estimations. The design projects cover a wide range of engineering problems. Examples include devices for pollen sample screening, sensors for grain storage conditions, improved mechanical parts and operations for large agricultural machineries, and processes for water treatment. Several projects are working to improve the quality of life in developing countries.

It is always delightful for me to watch how our students creatively apply their knowledge to solve open-ended problems. The effective ways they connect their educational experience to “professional” practices are clearly demonstrated in their independent contributions and team work in conducting their projects. The capstone design provides an opportunity for students to use what they have learned and learn how to develop professionally. The course is truly designed to bring together the learning partnership of the students, teachers, and industry/business.

Students explore FSHN throughout the month of March

Mar 6
Marla Todd, Associate Director of Advancement Communications
Beginning on March 1, prospective students will be visiting our campus to see their potential in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. On the first day of the month, select students interested in graduate school visited campus to meet with potential faculty advisors, support staff, and others in the department and learn more about the process to become part of the Illini family. High school students and those looking to transfer will be able to experience ExplorACES on March 8-9 to learn about the academic programs in Food Science and Human Nutrition (dietetics, hospitality management, food science, and human nutrition), as well as the wide-variety of additional opportunities in the College of ACES.
Students explore FSHN throughout the month of March

Reason five why I love Illinois

Mar 1
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES

Today’s my last blog post in celebration of “I Love Illinois" Week. Yesterday was the University of Illinois’ 146th birthday, and as we look forward to the next 150 years or so of this institution, we have to think about what will get us there. I believe it’s the people.

5) The people are what make the University of Illinois what it is. We are more than 40,000 individuals. We are a family. We care about each other’s success and work together to achieve countless amazing accomplishments. I am more than a UIN here. I am greeted in the halls and called by name in my classes. And, I hope I am one of the people that makes others thrilled to be a part of our Illinois family.

So in case you haven’t been keeping track, the top five reasons I love Illinois are: the campus, RSOs, opportunities, education and people. Cheers to the next 146 years!

Ag Communicators of Tomorrow at Ag Media Summit

Reason four why I love Illinois

Feb 28
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES

It’s day four of “I Love Illinois" Week, but more importantly today marks the University of Illinois’ 146th birthday! To celebrate, I’ve been sharing one of my top five reasons why I love Illinois each day. So far, I’ve told you about Illinois’ campus, RSOs, and opportunities. Today I think it’s fitting that I talk about this institution’s world-class educational system.

4) The education. That’s the real reason we are all here, and I know I couldn’t have chosen a better place for my field (agricultural communications) or any other. We have world-renowned faculty who go above and beyond to ensure that their students absorb, retain, and apply the material. We know that when we leave the hallowed halls of Illinois, we will be leaving with educations that will carry us through our professions.

ACES Classroom

What’s with Washington?

Feb 27
Richard Vogen, Director, Planning and Research Development

For better or for worse, the nation’s capital is the focus of attention for not only the media, but for many of us associated with the University of Illinois as well. The federal government accounts for 40% of the research expenditures in the College of ACES, through its various grant and formula funding programs. We also have several USDA scientists who live and work right here in ACES. Federal grants are even more important in the research portfolios of some other science and technology units on campus. That’s why the university is ably represented in Washington by our university government relations people and our faculty and administrators need a high profile there to stay competitive.

According to University Administration, up to $65 million could be at risk across the whole university from the mandatory spending cuts being hotly debated this week between Congress and the President, whether in research, student aid, or hospital operations in Chicago. So like it or not, the political machinations in Washington, D.C., matter and the answers are not simple, for those who make the feed, carry the feed, or eat the feed. George Washington would have been 281 years old last Friday, February 22.  I wonder what he would have thought.

Rich Vogen

Another reason I love Illinois

Feb 27
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES

If you haven’t already heard, it’s “I Love Illinois" Week. We are celebrating a very special birthday on Thursday, Feb. 28, it’s University of Illinois’ 146th birthday! To celebrate, I’m sharing one of my top five reasons why I love Illinois each day. So far, I’ve told you about the gorgeous Illinois campus and the literally thousands of RSOs here. Today’s reason why I love Illinois...

3. The opportunities – yes it’s the catch-all category for the millions of opportunities U of I offers its students. U of I abounds with them! From spectacular sports events to outstanding guest lecturers, and from great career and leadership centers to countless internships and scholarships. The list goes on. I love my internship in the College of ACES Communications and Marketing because I get to share all these wonderful opportunities with you.

Claire Benjamin Intern

Reason two why I love Illinois

Feb 26
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES

It’s day two of “I Love Illinois Week,” a week-long celebration of the University of Illinois’ 146th birthday on February 28. To celebrate, I’m sharing one of my top five reasons why I love Illinois each day. Yesterday, I wrote to you about the gorgeous Illinois campus. Today’s reason is the RSOs that complement and enhance our educations here at the U of I.

2. The RSOs. As a past president and current founder of two Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), I know the value of the more than 1,100 RSOs on this campus. They bring together a huge student body and provide opportunities for us to apply our knowledge and skills outside the classroom. I am so thankful for everything that I have gained as a part of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, National Agri-Marketing Association, Alpha Zeta, and 4-H House. I am equally grateful for the opportunity to provide similar opportunities to students through Collegiate Farm Bureau, an RSO I founded this fall.

Collegiate Farm Bureau officers and members attended the Champaign County Farm Bureau’s annual meeting this January.
Collegiate Farm Bureau officers and members attended the Champaign County Farm Bureau’s annual meeting this January.

Installing the Energy Shade Curtains Systems

Feb 26
Nathan Deppe, Plant Care Facility Coordinator

In 2012, the Student Sustainability Committee was very gracious to provide the Plant Care Facility with funds for new curtains in the Plant Sciences Laboratory Greenhouses. We received a $121,000 grant for 12 systems in various rooms, of which, contractors are currently working on installation.

The beauty of these systems is two-fold: It allows us to optimize natural lighting while blocking out heat producing infrared light.  Secondly, it acts as a thermal blanket on cold winter nights which can help protect plants if we lose heat. The shading and insulating properties provided by these curtains also helps reduce unnecessary use of utilities. For example, we can reduce heat use in rooms by 50 percent or more when using curtains during cold weather nights. What a savings!

Curtains help mitigate utility use, while improving plant health for research and academic purposes. This is a win-win situation for all. Even the hydroponic lettuce likes the new curtains!

Energy Shade Curtains Systems

Happy "I love Illinois" Week!

Feb 25
Claire Benjamin, Senior in ACES

Today kicks off I love Illinois Week, a celebration of the 146th birthday of the University of Illinois. We have the 1867 Society, Student Alumni Ambassadors (SAA), Uniting Illini, and Illinois Students Senate to thank for this week-long birthday party to “encourage school spirit, celebrate all that is great about Illinois and raise awareness about giving to Illinois.” In my opinion, there are a lot of reasons to love Illinois, but I’ll (begrudgingly) narrow it down to my top five and share one reason each day this week.

1. The campus. The University of Illinois is in the heartland for a reason. The green grass, mature trees, and picturesque buildings all hold a special place in the hearts and memories of the students that have walked it's sidewalks and hallways. I feel a sense of joy when I see it through a backdrop of raindrops, when the leaves turn brilliant colors and fall to grace my path, when snow settles on the familiar landscape, and when flowers push their way through the dark prairie soil beckoning springtime.

University of Illinois

Don’t miss ExplorACES

Feb 25
Kendra Courson, Director for Special Events

ExplorACES is just around the corner! As it draws closer, I continue to be amazed by our students who make up this year’s steering committee.  This is my third ExplorACES, and every year I become more proud of the student group I am privileged to advise. I know I am a bit partial, but I believe this student group is different from the rest. Perhaps it is because I know how difficult it is to pull off an event like this, so I marvel at their attention to detail. To watch this fantastic group of ACES students pull together all the details… it is something to see.

For those of you who don’t know, the planning starts at the beginning of the fall semester with monthly meetings and then weekly meetings after Christmas break. A lot of time, effort and hard work takes place outside of these meetings. From publicity to recruitment to internal communications, our different committees tackle big tasks and go above and beyond to make sure that ExplorACES is an event for all to remember. This is especially important for the admitted students and their parents who base their admission decision on this event, and the feeling they get when they are in our buildings, meeting with our faculty, and talking to our students. ExplorACES is completely a team effort. So, circle March 8 or March 9 (or both!) when you flip over your calendar this week. It is something you won’t want to miss!

ExplorACES committee