Presentation Discussion Questions

Call to Action Group:

2. In the above grant proposal what are some of the key components of the proposal that compels you to want to fund this project?

At the start of the example grant proposal, the author thoroughly described the low-income housing and power relationship in Washington. This description was crucial in identifying the need and significance of the work that is being proposed. Furthermore, this description demonstrated the expertise of the researchers – they have put in a lot of work to characterize the problem already. The knowledge that has already been gathered serves to accelerate the proposed work and ensure that it is well-founded. After that introduction there was a clear and concise mission statement and a list of project goals. The mission statement is easily related to the background information given in the introduction and the listed goals are direct and quantifiable. For example, one of the final goals was “Reduce the energy burden of 12,000 LIHEAP-eligible families by 20%,” – this lays out an obvious target that can be evaluated for success at the close of the project. Immediately following the listed goals is the planned strategies of the researchers. These strategies are designated as “interventions” because they describe coherent actions and seem to be straight to the point. Each strategy has its own goals and predicted outcomes to maintain focus and accountability. Towards the close of the proposal is the work plan proposed by the researchers. The work plan is simple to read and appears to be well thought-out. Overall, the grant proposal demonstrates a great deal of preparedness on the part of the researchers, and the conciseness of the goals and strategies suggest that if the project were funded, it would be expedient and productive.

Internet Group:

1. Which one of the websites (Apple vs. Drudge Report) is good and which one is bad?

2. What makes it good what make it bad?

It only takes a glance to determine which of the two websites is the better. The Apple website is dominated by colorful swaths of images and graphics that are placed in an intelligent and clean manner. The Drudge Report features huge, ugly headlines of fragmented and obnoxious statements. Visual appeal in websites is very important – it can control whether the visitor absorbs the site’s content or simply leaves. An ugly website can turn people away immediately. The Apple website has images that fit the full width of the browser window and entice the visitor’s eye. Thin, elegant text reads “You’re more powerful than you think.” This simple statement piques the visitor’s interest and compels him to click the link to a video demonstrating the capabilities of the latest iPhone. A clean navigation bar sits at the top of the homepage with short, descriptive headings. Visually, the Apple website takes the cake. The Drudge Report uses small, bold and underlined typewriter-esque font throughout, with small images randomly thrown about. It is difficult to focus on anything in a sea of what looks like a google image search mixed with a government document from 1932. There is no clear navigation in the site – the visitor has no idea what to click on. It is hideous, and I can’t imagine why someone would willingly use it. There is certainly more to websites than their visual appeal, but it is often the first thing people notice. As such, it is critical to a website’s design, and this is seen quite clearly in a comparison of apple.com and drudgereport.com.

Popular Article Group:

How many accounts of relatability can you find on page 1?

What is relatable to you about these things?

I found at least three distinct accounts of relatability on the first page of the article. The author was explaining something fairly complex and difficult to understand, but the examples given quickly established context to the explanation. Electromagnets are used in doorbells and music amplifiers. That’s simple enough; most people are familiar with those things and probably are curious about how they work. A more abstract notion of relatability comes from the more relaxed writing style. The author did not get technical or really very specific in his explanation of electromagnets in the first page of the article. There was humor and colloquial language and it was easy to read. I can’t imagine someone would be overwhelmed by reading it. This kind of language facilitates the transmission of the author’s information to the reader. The audience is not necessarily scientifically literate so this is the best way to get the information across.

Response to Presentation Questions

Wednesday: Blogs/Websites

  1. Which one of the websites is good and which one is bad?
  2. What makes it good what make it bad?

 

From the two examples given I would say that the Apple website is good and that the Drudge Report is bad. This was a relatively easy distinction to make as the Apple website’s use of imagery was far superior to the Drudge Report. Almost the the entire Apple website is organized with stylish pictures of its products that include some fading transition animations that show how well put together it is. The Drudge Report on the other hand has very few images which are followed by a somewhat overwhelming list of links and articles. Even the text used on the Drudge Report is blocky and unappealing. As a visual medium websites need to be organized so that they are appealing to look. The imagery used in the Apple website sets a stylish tone for its browsers while the Drudge Report looks like a blocky site from the 90s.

 

Friday: Grant Proposals

2. In the above grant proposal what are some of the key components of the proposal that compels you to want to fund this project?

 

This article would succeed in compelling me to fund it because because of the clear and concise arguments it makes for Low-Income Wind Energy. The proposal begins by presenting the reader with an issue, in this case rising natural gas prices. By making a logical appeal and stating that energy demands are rising while natural gas production is past its peak the author gives concrete evidence that this problem is real and should be addressed. The graphs that followed helped to visualize the rising energy prices and further clarify the demographics affected. Finally the solution brought forward in the proposal not would not only help the energy crisis but could also bring jobs into indigent communities suffering from unemployment. If I were an individual making decisions on how funding for such projects should be allocated, seeing that this proposal serves to ameliorate multiple issues would be very compelling point for my consideration.

 

Monday: Literature Reviews

2. Why is this [future research] part of a literature review important for researchers and students?

The future research section of a review article carries on the thought process of a review article by applying the information that it has covered. By the end of a review article the author(s) have armed their readers with the knowledge to tackle questions they may not have been able to before. By suggesting future research a review article engages its readers to use this new information. This section can also be used as a tool by the authors to influence the reader’s train of thought a subject such as where they think the next steps should be taken in a field of study. Finally the future research section of a review article justifies the work that has already been done by showing the possibilities now made feasible.

Group Presentation Questions

Popular Research Science: How does the author use language and media to get his audience excited about the article/content?

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/star-birth-sparked-at-the-galaxys-edge/

The author of the article “Star Birth Sparked at the Galaxy’s Edge” does a good job of keeping the audience engaged with use of language much more so than media.  There is a single picture given in the article, and while it shows the Magellanic cloud and how it looks in the sky, it is of such low resolution that it is hard to get any good idea of what is being looked at.  Most of the interest is kept by the writing of the article, which uses a lot of expressive and simple terms to describe the interstellar processes being covered so that a general audience will find the article more entertaining, or when the author does provide specific details it is often unnecessary to the article and only added to benefit the credibility of the piece.  One example: “This gas, named the Magellanic Stream, consists mostly of neutral hydrogen atoms, which broadcast radio waves that are 21 centimeters long.”  While there are several technical details given in the sentence that are true, the author gives no explanation as to what these facts mean or how they influence the story, and as such they are pointless in this context.  The author also uses overly expressive terms: “… which has enhanced its already significant grandeur by grabbing gas from its two most flamboyant satellites and sculpting it into new starts, a process our galaxy must have exploited numerous times in ancient epochs as it grew into a giant.”  The entire final paragraph offers several overly descriptive terms that, when thought of in an astronomical context, are used incorrectly or don’t even make sense.  The term ancient doesn’t do the 13.2 billion year age of the galaxy justice, and it isn’t possible for a cloud of gas to be behaving in a way to attract attention.   It was still an interesting article to read that offers good information to the general public, but for anyone who already has some background knowledge in the topic the writing reads as somewhat superfluous.

 

Writing for Blogs: What was your initial impression of each blog, and why?

http://whybecausescience.com/2014/04/10/oral-hell-and-oral-health/

The first blog is quite engaging to read.  It offers detailed information mixed in with both entertaining pictures that separate the paragraphs as well as funny anecdotes and quips that provide good analogies between oral health care and general life.  Although it does not offer sources for any of the information given in the article, the way it is written gives it a sense of authority on the subject such that I find myself willing to accept everything being said.  I think part of this has to do with the material; oral hygiene is so engrained in most children growing up in the U.S. that none of the oral hygiene material written is new to the reader, so we are willing to accept hearing it again from a second source, especially one as well written and humorous as this blog.

http://blog.sethroberts.net/category/personal-science/page/2/

The second blog is… interesting.  Compared to the first blog, where the information is provided in a factual tone without any personal bias, the second blog is written as completely factual while being entirely from a personal bias.  There are numerous logical fallacies present in the post, which significantly degrade the credibility of any point that is trying to be made.  “I doubt it’s a placebo effect because the sleep improvement has happened whether I expect it or not.”  If the author is going to sleep conducting an experiment that he expects will improve his sleep, he’s most likely going to think it improves his sleep no matter what happens.  The author is assumes that a single action, for instance eating a spoonful of honey before going to bed, causes him to sleep better, when he even admits at least 6 other variables that he was aware of had changed from the night before.  He also only performs these tests for two or three days, far too little time to determine any actual repeatability in the data.  Upon looking into the author, it turns out he has a Ph.D. in psychology from a university in Beijing, which explains his ability to make his arguments sound convincing to the public that buys it, but also explains the lack of true science behind it.

 

Popular Writing: Since the article was written for the educated public, how successful was the author in conveying the scientific topic and debate while keeping you interested throughout the article?

http://www.popsci.com/article/science/can-artificial-meat-save-world

The author does a good job of keeping the reader interested through the article, but it does end up reading rather long.  However, for the publication (Popular Science) this length of article is the norm so the expected readers will be used to it.  The author provides good information about the topic, though most of the piece is written as a story of his experience visiting the plants and talking with the scientists.  Having it written as a story makes the article feel slightly less credible, but for the expected audience it also seems appropriate.  Having a piece written with more specific information would get to the point of turning away readers due to the over detail.

 

A talk appealing to the audience’s emotions

On April 9th, I attended a talk by Maggie Duncan Simbeye, founder of DARE Women’s Foundation.  The goal of Dare Women’s Foundation is provide feminine hygiene products to Tanzanian women to improve their quality of life, teach women how to cook nutritious meals for the families, and to bring children to Tanzania’s national parks to teach them about environmental conservation.

Having previously attended mostly engineering talks, where the presenters provide PowerPoint slides with visuals and information to help make their point, listening to the talk from “Mama Maggie” was definitely an interesting experience.  Maggie discussed her life growing up in Tanzania, including some of her specific experiences that led toward the creation of the foundation, and how the foundation is currently helping people in Tanzania. Most of the talk focused on the difficulties women experience when attending school while dealing with their menstruation periods.  The large majority of families are unable to pay for feminine hygiene products and many of the schools do not have access to running water, the combination of which causes many women attending schools to end up being ridiculed during their menstruation cycles from the other students because of the noticeable smell and from the instructors, who discipline the women for taking too long in the restroom when attempting to deal with the situation.  The direction of the talk focused on the emotional side – it was given more as a personal life story rather than a factual “here’s the problem, here’s how we’re fixing it.”  Telling her story even caused Maggie to have to stop several times as she broke into tears, which caused an awkward silence to fall over the room.  She discussed issues with her family’s lack of income while growing up, time spent as a bouncer at a night club, and how she works as a guide in one of the national parks educating children about the environmental resources of the country.  Luckily she had provided a brief outline of everything she was going to cover at the beginning of the talk so I had a basic idea of what she was going to be covering, otherwise I would have become quite lost.

The talk was given in one of the engineering class rooms; there was a podium at the front, but the audience was sitting at rows of tables on a flat floor so it was not particularly easy to see the speaker.  Maggie didn’t use any sort of technology or provide any sort of evidence to support what she was saying, it was simply given as a word of mouth discussion of what life was like in Tanzania.  Logically speaking, the talk didn’t do a good job of making its point, but expecting a talk like this to be completely logical isn’t really appropriate.  The talk was meant to appeal to the emotions of the audience, to move them in such a way that they understand the plight of women in Tanzania and want to help.  Maggie said that one of her hopes is to have people who want to help “create a relationship with the African community, not to just give money without understanding how to help the African community,” and her talk did a good job of piquing the interest of the audience to do just that.  While it was a little hard to follow at times and was short on factual details, I would still consider the talk to have been successful in presenting its ideas and points.

Gotta Check the Prereqs

As a part of the process for obtaining pre-health status I recently attended a presentation for students interested in applying for pharmacy school. Despite initially thinking that this presentation would be boring and uneventful I found myself walking away more informed, and entertained than I thought I would be. This talk done by Dr. Anne Brooks focused on the prerequisites for pharmacy school, common pitfalls along with what extracurriculars could help to make myself a more desirable applicant. By that description alone this presentation doesn’t seem that interesting, but the Anne was able to make her talk good by addressing her audience and engaging them while not over focusing on her slides.

 

Right of the bat Dr. Brooks started communicating with us, asking how many people felt that they already knew what she was going to talk about. Most of the audience raised their hands, including myself, and she agreed that a lot of the information in her presentation would be review for us but that there were probably some things that we might be unaware of. This made it apparent that Anne understood the people she was talking to and helped me feel better since she understood I wasn’t too pleased to be there.

 

The first part of her talk focused on the prerequisites for pharmacy schools. Anne continued engaging the audience by asking us questions such as if we knew what classes we needed to take that were not in our majors. Her slides were organized to pose a question followed by another that had bullet point information. Other than occasionally elaborating on a bullet point Dr. Brooks did not spend much time or focus on her slides.

 

After going over the prerequisites she went on to discuss common pitfalls students make. These were things like not bringing 2 forms of ID to the PCAT and missing important deadlines. This was followed by what sorts of extracurricular and volunteer activities we could do to help make ourselves more competitive applicants.

 

The thing that stood out for me during this talk was the entertaining manner in which Anne presented. She had the perfect amount of energy and sincerity that helped to keep my attention.

Ultimately this presentation wasn’t the most exciting or informative I’ve ever been too; But it was a lot better than I thought it would be. If Dr. Brooks hadn’t engaged her audience, the bland nature of what she had to discuss would have put me to sleep. I’ve taken away from this experience that no matter how boring a topic you have to talk about, it can always be presented in an entertaining manner.

Drones, War & Privacy

Renowned photojournalist Tomas van Houtryve presented his latest work – a photo essay featured in Harper’s magazine entitled “Blue Sky Days: A Drone’s Eye View of America” – with Harper’s magazine art director Stacey D. Clarkson on April 7. The presentation was part of the ATLAS speaker series.

The information on drones and the work of Tomas van Houtryve contained in this blog post was gathered from the presentation itself, van Houtryve’s website, and the article in Harper’s magazine.

In October 2012, a drone strike in northeast Pakistan killed a 67-year-old woman picking okra outside her house. At a briefing held in 2013 in Washington, DC, the woman’s 13-year-old grandson, Zubair Rehman, spoke to a group of five lawmakers. “I no longer love blue skies,” said Rehman, who was injured by shrapnel in the attack. “In fact, I now prefer gray skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are gray [2].

Background/Presentation Content

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), have been used by the United States for years to collect intelligence and carry out strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen among other places [3]. Their use has become controversial recently due to notable examples of civilian casualties and inhumane tactics. These drones are also currently in use on American soil almost exclusively by public entities, and there is some confusion in the regulation of their use by commercial entities and civilians [1]. In February 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act was signed into law. The act calls for the “integration of civil unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace” by 2015 [3].

Van Houtryve purchased his own drone, a quadcopter from amazon.com, and modified it to accommodate a higher quality camera as well as a video transmission system. He used his drone to photograph the same kinds of scenarios that are often the targets of drones abroad – funerals, weddings, and groups of people praying or exercising. His drone was not flying in some war-torn country though; these photos were taken in the United States. The work is meant to call attention to the actions of the United States in using drones abroad and on American soil as well as suggest the nature of things to come.

bluesky

Van Houtryve’s drone captures an image of a baseball field, echoing the eerie style of images captured by military drones.

The Presentation

Van Houtryve and Stacey Clarkson were seated at a table with microphones before a wide screen. The venue was the Cofrin Auditorium (ATLAS 100) on the CU campus; there were about 150 seats in the auditorium and it was about half full. It seemed that most of the attendees either were involved in the ATLAS programs, photo-journalism students, or otherwise interested in drones. Van Houtryve introduced the project and gave some background information about drones before presenting some of the images he had taken for the project as well as a short video. His presentation was quite simple and it did not seem that he had rehearsed or prepared a speech in any way. He and Clarkson would provide commentary about each of the images with a story of where they were taken and how they related to domestic and foreign drone use. Their discussion was interesting and engaging, and the images were visually appealing. It seemed that the audience was captivated by the project and people asked numerous questions afterwards. It was not necessarily a pre-conceived strategy that contributed to the success of the presentation. The calm and focused demeanor of van Houtryve and Clarkson paired with the unique content of the project made the talk enjoyable and informative.

I was thoroughly entertained by this presentation and it left me with a greater understanding and awareness of drone technology and its use. It conveyed to me the importance of the content of a presentation and how it can be best framed by the presenter. Van Houtryve was seated the entire time and did not make use of hand gestures or complicated presentation methods. He more or less allowed his work to speak for itself, giving enough information and commentary to enhance its reception by the audience. He spoke clearly and with authority, and his responses to audience questions were concise and effective. Overall, it was obvious that van Houtryve was an expert on the topic of drones and his confidence in the project made the presentation an excellent experience.

References

  1. Van Houtryve, Tomas, and Stacey D. Clarkson. “Drones, War & Privacy.” The ATLAS Speaker Series. ATLAS 100, Boulder, CO. 7 Apr. 2014. Speech.
  2. Van Houtryve, Tomas. “Blue Sky Days.” Tomas Van Houtryve. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
  3. Van Houtryve, Tomas. “Blue Sky Days: A Drone’s Eye View of America.” Harper’s Magazine Apr. 2014: 36-51. Print.

A Flow of Information

The essential premise of writing is to convey information. From a celebrity magazine to a peer reviewed science journal, words are put down to paper so that a reader can look at them and obtain information. How this information is given to the reader shapes what a piece is. A novel might use metaphors to describe character traits to engage its readers while an editorial news piece exaggerates facts to entertain its target audience. When reading a scientific paper however you will find that information is displayed in the nude. When the goal of writing is only to inform in an unbiased manner, there is no need for the style of writing itself to engage the reader. For instance I recently read the pharmacological review article Prodrugs: A challenge for the drug development. Even it’s title is direct and informative. The target audience, scientists and pharmacologists, are drawn to read this not because of clever writing but because the information it contains is relevant to their work. With this in mind the paper was written to inform readers on its topic of prodrugs in a clear and concise manner. The thought processes are clearly labeled so that readers are made immediately apparent of why things have been done in a certain way. This also makes the reading challenging. The writer assumes that the reader is informed and knowledgeable on this subject, wasting no time with expanded explanations. This comes as benefit for the target audience who doesn’t want to sift through menial information, while making this piece practically inaccessible to the general public. What the writer gains from producing this paper then is notoriety along with improved discussion in this field. Researches must produce these types of articles to inform one another and drive progress.

Ultimately for me my goal is to become a pharmacist. Reading these types of papers is a part of that process, and one day I might even write one. To create something like this review article requires an immense expertise in the field, and an understanding of how to best communicate to my colleagues. I feel that all the steps involved to create something like this would improve my abilities as a pharmacist because I would not only be more informed, but better equipped to participate in the discussion of this field.

Grant Proposals in Citizen Science

Apart from my studies I have two part time jobs, one of which is a research apprenticeship in the department of mechanical engineering. My supervisor for this is Dr. Michael Hannigan. I chose to interview Mike because I already have a rough idea of what he does on a day to day basis, and I’m considering pursuing a career in research.

As head of a research group, Mike has to do his fair share of technical writing and most of this comes in the form of grant proposals. When I first started in the fall of last year, my “orientation” was reading the proposal for the project I would be working on. The focus of his group for the past few years has been a citizen science approach to air quality research. In cooperation with a few other research groups, they have developed low-cost, portable air quality monitors called EJ-Pods that can be deployed in many locations. The project that I’m working on is concerned with natural gas extraction in the North Fork Valley of western Colorado. I asked Mike about his approach to writing proposals for this kind of research,

In research of this type, you really need to focus on the social benefits that it will bring about. For the North Fork Valley project, the grant money came from local sources rather than say, the National Science Foundation. We had to present the project as being essential to the North Fork community and how we were going to accomplish our goals with limited funds.

dw_site

An EJ-Pod in the North Fork Valley.

The research is being done to inform the community about impacts of natural gas extraction in the region, and to help them make decisions about future development. The focus is less on scientific discoveries and more on presenting clear information to the community. Air quality monitoring can be very expensive; the CO2 monitor used by the group to calibrate the EJ-Pods cost more than $20,000! That’s what makes the pods useful for purposes like this and it is another aspect of proposal writing that is noteworthy. The finances of a given project are often make or break.

An important point of this particular proposal was how we could leverage existing research efforts. This project is related to several bigger endeavors that were largely responsible for developing the technology that we are using. The EJ-Pod design did not require many changes to be useable for the North Fork project, and that meant a reduced cost.

The last page of the proposal was entirely dedicated to the finances of the project. Mike worked to present specific costs for all elements of the research and described what the money would be used for. Scientific research can sometimes have the stigma of being a money pit, so you have to be clear about where the money goes and why it is necessary to spend it in that way. The primary funder of the project is the CU Outreach program. CU Outreach aims to forge partnerships with citizens, schools, and communities in Colorado. The proposal had to be tailored for this audience by highlighting how it would engage the community.

A primary focus of the project is also outreach and education, and as such we are working with several local high schools. During this project, students will have the opportunity to assist with maintaining the monitors and also planning and conducting their own air quality investigations. This element of the project was crucial to getting funding. We had to specifically demonstrate our community engagement.

A grant proposal is rarely one-size-fits-all. It must be targeting a particular audience to be successful. This is true for scientific and really all types of writing. For proposals, the writing is not always aimed at the scientific community and it usually focuses on a lot more than just the science of the project. According to Mike, writing grant proposals can be surprisingly different from writing scientific papers. Applying for grants is a competitive process and this changes the shape of the writing. The two are not aimed at the same audience; the focus shifts away from technical details and moves towards social benefits and finances.

Bad communication killed CU’s Formula SAE team

In determining how I wanted to approach my final project for this course, working on starting a Formula Baja team at CU, I wanted to get a better understanding of how the previous Formula SAE team functioned at the school, and what led to its downfall and cancelation.  I spoke to Greg Potts, the lab coordinator for the Durning lab and machine shop in the mechanical engineering department at CU.  It turned into an interesting discussion about the previous team’s use of communication (or lack thereof), in terms of not only their verbal and written communication but also their mannerisms and attitudes.

Greg began working at CU in Durning lab in mid-February of 2007, some period of time into the semester and at a point where the Formula SAE team had already been working as a group for half the year.  Within the first week the entire team of 10+ students funneled into his tiny office and “explained” to him that they were the formula SAE team and that Durning was their shop; it was there for them to work on things and they had priority over everyone else.  While they did not explicitly say it, their attitudes and mentality was certainly communicating a self-perceived air of superiority around the group.  They were hot shit and didn’t have to follow the rules.  Greg informed them that he was hired to get the Durning lab into order and that things were going to change, but they wouldn’t have anything of it.

The team was constantly butting heads with Greg, never following the rules of the lab, breaking into the machine shop to work whenever they wanted, communicating a complete lack of respect to any authority figure.  One of the examples Greg talked about was that the team would bring their bicycles into the lab because they were “too nice to be left outside.”  Durning lab is an already small area, even more so during the spring semester when all the senior design projects are happening, so having several bikes laying around is not feasible.  Greg told the team multiple times that they had to leave the bikes outside, but the team never listened, and eventually Greg placed a dozen signs up in the shop saying no bikes allowed.  The team continued to ignore him, so Greg finally became so annoyed that he locked a bike that had been propped up against one of the “no bikes” signs to a heavy metal table and left for the day.  The next day the student in question came and asked why his bike had been locked up, and after Greg informed him it was due to not following the rule of no bikes the student responded with a “this is bullshit” and walked off.  The entire semester Greg was butting heads with the team, but they managed to complete the semester in good enough standing for the team to continue the following year.

Because the Formula SAE team, was run as a senior design project, the students in the group switch out every year.  The second year Greg said the team was excellent; they were always respectful of the rules set in Durning, they always had great attitudes, they were always willing to help other student teams with projects.  It was a complete turn around and it seemed like the Formula SAE program was going to continue working without issue.  Much to his dismay, in Greg’s third year the batch of students on the team was even worse than his initial experience.  It was back to the same arrogant antics, thinking they were better than everyone else.  They would break into the lab, mess up the tooling and equipment, and work after hours when the lab should have been closed.  Unfortunately, this group of students did three fatal mistakes that ended up killing the program, two of which went far enough to get several of the students into serious trouble.

One of the things the Formula SAE competition includes is performance tuning of the engine on the race car, and one way to increase the efficiency and power of an engine is to increase the cooling capacity of the engine.  The team decided that they would increase the cooling system performance by cramming dry ice around the radiator, so they went and bought some dry ice (this was all done without any prior communication of intent with Greg).  One weekend as the students were working in Durning, without permission, they decided to make some dry ice bombs.  They threw several of them into the courtyard outside of the Durning lab and had a good time, or at least they did until the Boulder S.W.A.T. team showed up because of the explosions and arrested two of the students.  The second mistake also ended in trouble with the law.  On the year in question there was a female student on the team, and while things started out fine as the year went on the male students became more and more immature/cocky and started to crack sexist jokes and make fun of the female student.  It continued with such extent that the woman ended up filing sexual assault charges against several of the team members.  What was certainly a horrible experience for her came down to the tone and intent of the communication coming from the other team members.

While these two incidents gave the administration a horrible taste in their mouth about the team, they did not cancel it and planned to let it continue for the following year.  Luckily for the administration the team performed the deathblow themselves.  About 95% of the team’s approximately $20k annual funding came from the Student Organization Finance Office (SOFO), which requires yearly applications for new funding as well as a report of how the previous year’s funding had been used.  SOFO has strict requirements for turning in the required communications; deadlines that must be met, requirements for the number of electronic and printed copies of the forms to supply, and requirements for who they must be distributed to.  The Formula SAE team completed the electronic forms and submitted them as needed, but they didn’t want to rush the hard-copies up to the correct offices in person at the end of the day.  They thought that since they were the Formula SAE team, the deadline wouldn’t affect them, so they decided to turn in the hard copies the morning after the deadline.  Unfortunately for them, SOFO didn’t agree with their view of the team and would not accept the forms late, so team failed to procure and funding for the following year.  This was the final nail in the coffin for the Formula SAE team at CU – although the bad team was able to finish out their year, when the next group of students came in the following year they had no funds with which to do anything and were unable to even compete, and it was at this point that the administration decided to cancel the team.

This entire sequence of events, at least the events during the two bad years, serves as a perfect example of exactly how not to communicate with staff and other students at CU when on a team project.  Due to the egos of the members of the team during those two bad years, the team alienated themselves from the administration, so much so that the team was canceled due to their bad behavior.  Greg comments that this is the only team he has ever had issues like this with, and he is certain it has to do with the nature of the team.  Since the point of the team was to build a race car and then compete against other schools, it drew in all the hot-shot, ego-driven students who already believed they were better than everyone.  He believes that the school will never allow another Formula SAE team, at least not the current administration, for the fear of a similar situation happening again.  Greg does, however, think that the school would still be open to starting a new team in a different type of competition, which is what I will work on for my final project.

Automotive technical writing

The journal article “Aerodynamics for Formula SAE: On-Track Performance Evaluation” is intended for a specific audience.  The third in a series of three written by students from Monash University in Australia, it discusses the technical benefits of running an aerodynamic package on their Formula SAE race car in an attempt to become more competitive by improving the speed and handling characteristics.  It was published in “Vehicle Dynamics 2007” (ISBN 0768018560), which is a collection of technical articles presented at the Society of Automotive Engineers’ 2007 International Vehicle Dynamics Conference.  The articles published in the book are heavily detail and technically oriented, with most having been written by researchers from large automotive manufacturers, so it is a safe bet to say that the articles are intended to be read by industry insiders.  Because the authors of “Aerodynamics for Formula SAE” are writing for such a specific audience, their descriptions of the experiments being performed and the methods of measurement are very concise, but are also very short and do not give much in the way of explanation as to how they were implemented.  Coming from an automotive background I was able to understand what was being written about, but if the reader did not have previous knowledge on the subject they would be left clueless.

There are potential benefits to writing an article like this.  It shows that the authors have practical experience in dealing with the subject, and can understand how changing variables in the equation of the experiment (in this case the functionality of the formula SAE car) can affect the outcome.  Although some technical articles are written in a way as to imply that the research was done for the article, this one is written in a way that is apparent that the research was done first for the benefit of the team and the car and they then decided to write an article about it, sharing their results.  Since it is a collegiate setting, it was most likely done as practice for when they enter the industry and have to create similar articles from the work they are doing.

Writing something towards this audience could be helpful if I end up attempting to restart the formula SAE program at CU, though I’m not sure what direction I would take.  It would be interesting writing an article talking about the steps required to start the team and procure funding, but that does not seem like something that would be published with articles similar to “Aerodynamics for Formula SAE.”