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$15,000 Grant to Put Three Remote-Control Quadcopters in Air at UMaine

A new Maine Space Grant from NASA will put three 12-inch-square, remote-control quadcopters in the air on the University of Maine campus and in open fields in the area beginning this spring.

The $15,000, one-year grant awarded to UMaine professors Charles Hess and Sam Hess will involve undergraduate students. The goal of the grant is to increase student involvement in technology, providing hands-on experience in developing heat sensors and other innovations for environmental monitoring, including temperature gradation.

The students also will learn to fly the lightweight quadcopters, which have four small rotors, can carry payloads of up to 300 grams and remain airborne for up to 20 minutes.

Learning Across STEM Disciplines

UMaine researchers seek to improve the teaching of thermodynamics and electronics in physics and engineering.

Researchers at the University of Maine hope to improve the teaching and learning of two central topics in physics and engineering that are critical to undergraduate programs through a three-year project.

John Thompson, an associate professor of physics and cooperating associate professor of STEM education, and MacKenzie Stetzer, assistant professor of physics and cooperating assistant professor of STEM education, have received $599,999 from the National Science Foundation to investigate student learning of thermodynamics and electronics — including electric circuits — in both disciplines.

“Only in the last 10 years or so have researchers really targeted student learning beyond the introductory level, including in laboratory settings.  Interdisciplinary research that focuses on specific physics and engineering content is also relatively novel,” says Thompson of the project.

Both of the targeted areas are aligned with a recent National Research Council report on the status and future directions of discipline-based education research, Stetzer adds.

Undergraduate programs in physics and engineering often include parallel courses that teach the same topics, so the researchers want to determine the important differences between what students do and don’t learn in courses that cover the same material.

Thompson and Stetzer have previously conducted research on learning in STEM fields. Their research — along with studies conducted by many other researchers — confirm that if a student can correctly solve textbook problems, it doesn’t always mean they understand the underlying concepts.

The researchers plan to look at content in parallel courses across disciplines for similarities and differences; study student conceptual understanding across disciplines before and after instruction through written questions, interviews and classroom observations; and use research results to guide the modification and testing of existing instructional materials as well as the development of new materials for use across disciplines to help students learn difficult material in physics and engineering courses.

“Figuring out what works across disciplines and leveraging the strengths of effective instructional strategies employed in both disciplines are ways to increase the efficiency of these typically rather time-consuming research-based curriculum development efforts,” Stetzer says.

Physics Ph.D. students Jessica Clark and Kevin Van De Bogart are leading the work in thermodynamics and electronics, respectively; the research will be the focus of their dissertations. Donald Mountcastle, associate professor of physics and cooperating associate professor of biochemistry, and Wilhelm Alexander Friess, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of UMaine’s Brunswick Engineering Program are the project’s senior personnel. The research is taking place in courses in mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering, as well as in physics.

The majority of the project’s research staff are members of UMaine’s Physics Education Research Laboratory (PERL) and the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center). The PERL consists of about 15 faculty, postdoctoral and graduate students in physics and science education. The RiSE Center includes faculty from several STEM departments and houses programs for a master of science in teaching and a Ph.D. in STEM education.

The researchers say due to the project’s interdisciplinary nature, it has the potential to improve the teaching and learning of physics and engineering at not only UMaine, but beyond, including internationally.

“The development of effective instructional materials based on research is particularly challenging. While many individual faculty develop their own materials and strategies, they usually don’t have time to thoroughly research how well that all works and iteratively refine the materials,” says Thompson, who is also co-director of the PERL.

The modified materials created from the project will be designed to be easily integrated into existing courses and won’t require instructors to implement an entirely new curriculum.

“Coming from a physics perspective, we’ve already begun to see reasoning approaches in engineering classes that we hadn’t observed when working with physics students,” Stetzer says. “We expect to see a similar phenomenon as we collaborate more fully with our engineering colleagues in the project and begin to ask engineering-based questions in physics courses.”

The findings are expected to positively affect all disciplines engaged in teaching thermodynamics and electronics, and could lead to the development of a more coherent educational experience, especially for undergraduates in physics and engineering, the project proposal states. The documentation of differences in instructional approaches and learning outcomes could become a valuable resource for instructors, textbook authors, curriculum developers, education researchers and governing bodies in both disciplines.

“Our findings on student difficulties and the effectiveness of different instructional approaches should inform more nuanced studies within each discipline. This will in turn produce new results that can improve the learning and teaching of these topics more broadly,” Thompson says.

Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747

Political Leadership Conference for Women Accepting Applications

The Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center is offering a six-day residential non-partisan training program to educate and empower undergraduate women to become civic and political leaders.

The 2014 Maine NEW Leadership Summer Institute will be held at the University of Maine from May 30 to June 4 at no cost to participants. Graduating seniors are also eligible to apply.

Tailored to reflect Maine’s political culture and climate, the program is based on a curriculum developed by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. Participants engage with a variety of women leaders in politics and civic organizations, interact with faculty-in-residence, spend a day at the Maine State Legislature and participate in a hands-on political action project. The program aims to create opportunities for women to become engaged and experienced in public speaking, coalition building, networking, advocacy and running for office.

Applications must be postmarked or hand-delivered by March 21, 2014. Program and application information can be found at the 2014 Maine New Leadership Summer Institute website. For more information, contact Eva McLaughlin, the program coordinator at eva.mclaughlin@umit.maine.edu or 207.581.1646.

UMaine forestry, Social Work Researchers Team Up to Help Maine Landowners Overcome Challenges

Finding more efficient ways to serve Maine landowners by incorporating social work strategies — including effective communication and resource- linking skills — into forest management is the goal of a collaborative project between researchers at two schools in the University of Maine College of Natural Sciences, Forestry, and Agriculture.

Jessica Leahy, an associate professor of human dimensions of natural resources in the UMaine School of Forest Resources, is leading the study that tests social work approaches to conservation in the Cumberland County town of Baldwin and surrounding communities. Researchers hope to determine if these strategies could lead to more effective outcomes to landowners’ challenges as opposed to using traditional forestry solutions, such as management plans and outreach materials.

“Social workers are good at listening to people — understanding their needs and connecting people to appropriate resources,” Leahy says. “That’s why we need social workers to help landowners; to listen to what they’d like to do with their land, and then connect and coordinate services from natural resource professionals.”

There are more than 85,000 families in Maine that own at least 10 acres of woods, Leahy says. Their needs can be addressed by UMaine, the Maine Forest Service and others if those organizations can provide services that work for landowners, she adds.

Many conservation problems are related to social and economic factors. While foresters and other natural resource professionals help landowners make decisions about land management, they may not be equipped to handle the challenges landowners face that involve family dynamics. A social work approach could be the answer to solving these conservation problems, Leahy says.

“Foresters specialize in land management and trees, but landowners are often dealing with human issues such as how to afford their taxes and how to talk to their family about what they’d like to happen with their land after they pass away,” she says. “Landowners also often don’t know what a forester can do for them nor do they know how to coordinate all the potential natural resource professionals that are there to help them.”

Leahy, the project’s forestry expert, hired Doug Robertson and Chris Young, students in the UMaine School of Social Work. Both Robertson, a senior in the bachelor’s of social work program from Benton, Maine, and Young, a first-year graduate student of social work from Bangor, Maine, grew up around Maine woodland owners. They’re interested in connecting with landowners through the project and learning more about the land that many families rely on and how community organizations can help.

Pam Wells, a licensed clinical social worker, is supervising the students and translating the social work aspect of the project. She is also a landowner who recognizes areas where social work and forestry intersect.

“Pam often talks about how challenging it is to find, understand and coordinate the various assistance programs that are out there for landowners like the Tree Growth Tax Law, Natural Resources Conservation Service cost-share programs and programs offered by the Maine Forest Service,” Leahy says.

Kevin Doran and Andy Shultz of the Maine Forest Service are also helping with the study.

The one-year project, which began in Sept. 2013 and runs through August 2014, received a $6,500 Maine Community Foundation grant. The project’s social work approach to conservation has been untested to date, Leahy says.

“It’s an innovative, highly experimental, never-been-done-before project that is bridging forestry and social work together in an effort to better engage and serve rural families who own forestland in southern Maine,” she says.

Part of the project will include the development of a forest-specific wraparound case management process that will be implemented with one landowning family. The wraparound process in social work recognizes that all aspects of someone’s life — social, economic and ecological — are related. This understanding is then used to help the individual by focusing on incremental progress, involving community support and using science-based interventions, according to Leahy.

The focus of the project will be on measuring and evaluating the outcomes of the approach to improve future efforts.

“Ultimately, we hope more landowners will be empowered to be stewards of their land, and that will lead to healthy forests, healthy rural economies and healthy families,” Leahy says.

Other aspects of the community project include assisting the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine with succession planning efforts, offering peer-to-peer learning experiences such as suppers and forums, organizing workshops for natural resource professionals to increase their cultural competency and researching community interest in creating a low-income wood bank — similar to a food bank — for the Baldwin area.

Upcoming peer-to-peer learning events include the project’s second woods forum and community supper Feb. 7, a workshop on estate planning for landowners Feb. 27 and a Forester’s Institute brown bag lunch on cultural competency April 11.

Robertson and Young are looking for a family to work with on the project. Interested families must live in Sebago, Hiram, Cornish, Limington, Baldwin or Standish and own at least 10 acres. To participate or for more information on the project or scheduled workshops, call Robertson, 207.435.4798, or Young, 207.992.6182.

Kepware Donates $30,000 Worth of Software to UMaine Students

Kepware Technologies, a software development company focused on communications for automation, announced it is donating $30,000 worth of software to the University of Maine’s Electrical Engineering Technology (EET) Program. Kepware will outfit each of the 12 computers in the programmable logic controller lab with licenses for its professional-grade suite. About 100 students in the EET program will use Kepware’s software for required classes, which the other 370 full-time students in the School of Engineering Technology can also take as electives. Kepware Technologies’ office is located in Portland, Maine. The full news release is available online.

Innovate for Maine Internship Program Accepting Applications

The University of Maine’s Foster Center for Student Innovation is seeking motivated, innovative Maine college students and Maine companies that want to make a difference for the state through the Blackstone Accelerates Growth (BxG) Innovate for Maine Fellows program, supported by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

The BxG Innovate for Maine Fellows program connects the best and brightest Maine college students with the state’s most exciting, growing companies as a way to grow and create jobs in Maine through innovation and entrepreneurship. The program, which is now accepting applications, offers paid internships that place students with companies to receive training in innovation and entrepreneurship, and real-world job experience. Other benefits include potential academic credit and networking opportunities with Maine businesses and other students.

Applications are also available for Maine companies looking for summer interns. Trained innovation experts guide and mentor both the student and the company for the duration of the project.

The application deadline for both fellows and companies is March 1, 2014. More information and applications for the Innovate for Maine program are online.

Study Abroad Fair Jan. 30

The University of Maine International Programs’ Study Abroad Fair will be held Thursday, Jan. 30 to inform students about the variety of programs available for all majors to study, intern, research or teach abroad. The fair will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union, and is free and open to all UMaine students, faculty and staff. Information will be available on UMaine’s direct exchange and recommended programs, as well as scholarships and financial aid. Former UMaine study abroad and current exchange students will be available to answer questions. More information on UMaine’s study abroad program is available online.

Retention, Graduation Focus of Second Academic Faculty Forum on Feb. 3

Provost Jeff Hecker will lead the second of three Academic Faculty Forums 3–4 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union. The forum will focus on retention and graduation.

The third forum is scheduled for March 31.

In year three of the Blue Sky Project, the focus is on integrating the plan’s strategies and goals into the organizational structure of the university. Just as the Blue Sky Strategic Plan was developed through an inclusive process, integration will emerge through collaboration.

Over the course of the academic year, the Provost’s Office, in collaboration with the Faculty Senate leadership, is holding a series of Academic Affairs Faculty Forums. The forums are designed to create a venue for meaningful sharing of ideas about important initiatives in Academic Affairs. Collaboration between the faculty and administration of the university is essential if we are to advance toward our strategic goals.

A website has been developed to extend the collaboration beyond the public meeting. Relevant materials have been posted and there is a space where faculty members can submit reactions, comments or questions generated by the forum. Additional information, including a summary of key topics discussed at the forum, will be added after Feb. 3. The website is linked on the Provost’s Web page.

Accounting Students to Offer Tax Filing Assistance

Accounting students in the Maine Business School at the University of Maine are offering free federal and state income tax filing assistance, under the supervision of Steven Colburn, associate professor of accounting.

Except for the weeks of March 2 and 9, free help sessions will be held 2-4:30 p.m. Thursdays, Feb. 6 to April 10 at 312 Corbett Business Building and noon to 3 p.m. Fridays, Jan. 31 to April 11 at the Orono Public Library, 39 Pine St.

Filers are asked to bring their tax information for 2013, including:

All filers’ information is treated confidentially. Colburn will review all tax returns before they are filed. People who receive assistance will get a printed copy of their state and federal tax returns.

Appointments, which generally last an hour, are required. To make an appointment, contact Colburn, 207.581.1982, steve.colburn@umit.maine.edu or colburn@maine.edu.

CUGR Research Fellows Announced

The Center for Undergraduate Research (CUGR) has launched the Research Fellows Program, a new Blue Sky initiative to support University of Maine faculty efforts in promoting undergraduate research opportunities. Emerging from 2011 stimulus funding of CUGR as one of six initiatives through the 2011 Presidential Request for Visions of University Excellence (PRE-VUE) Program, this CUGR Research Fellows Program is intended to improve undergraduate research and scholarship mentoring skills, expand curricula to include research and scholarship experiences, and develop proposals for further funding specifically involving undergraduate students.

Twenty-three faculty members who were nominated by their deans to be CUGR Research Fellows will participate in the two-year development program. Workshops will focus on topics such as mentoring undergraduate students, funding sources, responsible conduct of research and grant writing. Each CUGR Research Fellow receives a modest stipend and one undergraduate assistant.

The CUGR Research Fellows are:

Laura Artesani, Associate Professor of Music
Dan Bilodeau, Assistant Professor of Theatre
Tim Bowden, Assistant Professor of Aquaculture
Steven Elmer, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education
Nuri Emanetoglu, Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Nick Giudice, Associate Professor of Spatial Information Sciences
Rob Glover, CLAS-Honors Preceptor and Assistant Professor of Political Science
Will Gramlich, Assistant Professor of Organic Chemistry
Hamish Greig, Associate Professor of Stream Ecology
Mark Haggerty, Associate Rezendes Preceptor for Civil Engagement
Sarah Harlan-Haughey, Assistant Professor of English and Assistant Professor of Honors
Kim Huisman, Associate Professor of Sociology
Karl Kreutz, Professor of Geological Sciences and Climate Change Institute
Jordan LaBouff, CLAS-Honors Preceptor and Assistant Professor of  Psychology
Roberto Lopez-Anido, Professor of Civil Engineering
Benildo de los Reyes, Professor of Molecular Genetics
Shannon McCoy, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Reinhard Moratz, Associate Professor of Spatial Information Sciences
Balunkeswar Nayak, Assistant Professor of Food Processing
Brian Robinson, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Climate Change Institute
Mary Shea, Assistant Professor of Nursing
Ebru Ulusoy, Assistant Professor of Marketing
Faren Wolter, Lecturer

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745


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UMaine News
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
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