The Tiktaalik Collection: Science in Transformation
Paper under review.
Topsy is an online analytical tool that evaluates millions of archived and real-time tweets based on their relevancy to a specific criterion. This report studies what Topsy considers relevant, how to create a relevant tweet, the accuracy of Topsy’s relevancy score and whether Topsy is an acceptable tool for use in gauging class participation. After thorough investigation, Topsy was determined to be a great analytical tool for monitoring Twitter participation, yet lacks the fundamental ability to distinguish between tweets relevant to coursework and tweets relevant to everything else.
Access to reliable electricity is at least a co-requisite to sufficient human development. In many developing countries, the percentages of the rural population that have electricity access are often below 5%. Specifically in Uganda, only about 2% of the rural population is currently served by the electric grid. To create effective policy and implementation programs, this paper examines the current challenges and implications of the current energy sector of Uganda. Ostrom’s Social-Ecological Systems framework is employed to organize the driving forces, interactions, and key players of the current system, including recent rural electrification programs that have resulted in some success. However, the implications of the current system include multiple barriers to widespread rural electrification, including high costs and little revenue. The push for solar photovoltaic systems in Uganda also has many shortcomings to improving development within the country. I end by discussing an alternative approach to rural electrification called the Empower Ugandans to Power Uganda Project that offers a locally driven effort to electrification and development.
Historically, advances in technology have made it possible for modern consumers to perform daily tasks more rapidly and efficiently. In the present technological age, innovation extends to energy conservation. As a typical consumer may be well aware, such innovation often means higher prices. However, in the case of appliances which run on minimal energy, advertisements claim that higher purchase prices will be justified by long-term monetary savings resulting from lower energy bills. This report investigates the veracity of this claim. Generally, the findings in this report are that it depends.
The ENERGY STAR program pioneered by the United State Environmental Protection Agency is a voluntary green-labeling program that helps consumers identify energy-saving appliances. Nevertheless, ENERGY STAR does not indicate to consumers whether a higher purchase price for the efficient appliance will be justified by subsequent energy savings.
There are several variables which may justify spending more for energy conserving appliances. It seems uncommon practice for a consumer to thoroughly evaluate factors which affect their purchase, making it possible to spend more money despite the mindset of saving money. The goal of this report is to identify and evaluate the variables, or varying scenarios, that potentially sway the smart purchase decision in the case of ENERGY STAR refrigerators. Thus, the decision can be tailored to a specific type of individual or household.
The ideal refrigerator for any given consumer depends on the habits and preferences of that consumer including: time value of money preferences, food storage habits, and energy prices. A cash flow diagram is a tool used to depict the monetary gains and losses involved in an investment and will be a practical means to showcase both the initial costs and long-term maintenance costs for either type of refrigerator as influenced by each of the three criteria introduced.
This report uses cash flow diagrams to investigative the sensitivity of a refrigerator purchase option to these three parameters. Graphs are also included which will take the costs shown in the cash flow diagrams and display how many years it will take for the higher initial purchase price of the ENERGY STAR refrigerator to be justified by its lower maintenance costs, called the break-even point. The analysis also involves calculating the net present value, a term used largely in business, for both an ENERGY STAR appliance and a conventional appliance; and involves calculating this net present value, also, as influenced by the different circumstances mentioned.
Each year, the United Nation’s Development Program (UNDP) publishes the Human Development Index (HDI), which is a composite index that offers a method of evaluating international human development not only by economic advances but also in terms of the capabilities of individuals within a country. This study investigates the origin of the diminishing returns to HDI, given its important implications for climate policy and development. Specifically, we examine the current HDI calculation procedure to determine if the observed relationship is a factor of dimension normalization and/or aggregation within the HDI calculation.
Climate Change policy proposals are complicated by the dilemma of fossil fuels, which are both the primary cause of global warming and a necessity for human development. An empirical comparison of the United Nation’s Human Development Index (HDI) and per capita CO2 emissions by country confirms that nations with higher HDI values produce more CO2 as a result of greater energy consumption. The comparison also exposes the diminishing returns in human development that accrue as greenhouse gas emissions increase. Taking this relationship into consideration begs the moral question of what responsibility developed countries have to improve conditions in underdeveloped nations. That is, given that climate policy demands management of global CO2 emissions, cuts in the emissions of developed countries could enable emissions increases in underdeveloped countries that result in major improvements in human development.
Nevertheless, the dominant cap and trade climate policy proposals are myopic at addressing these development inequities. While the cap is necessary to curb global CO2 emissions, a market-based approach to trade will result in allocating CO2 emissions to the most profitable countries. Consequently, the relatively inefficient and underdeveloped countries will use the revenue from permit sales to purchase goods from more technologically sophisticated countries, rather than foster domestic production. The capabilities approach stresses that gains in financial resources alone are insufficient to improve the human condition without the supportive services that channel investment toward effective development.
We assert that for developing nations CO2 is a fundamental necessity, given that current technology constraints make CO2 emissions at least a co-requisite to achieving minimally acceptable levels of human development. To this end, we advocate prohibiting CO2 emissions trading between countries of different development stages. Without permit sales, developed countries will have incentives to locate production in underdeveloped countries to comply with carbon caps. Local production in the underdeveloped countries will lead to improvements in the human condition rather than merely fueling consumption from carbon sales revenue.
This project is developing and testing a new approach to teaching engineering and science students that leverages their interest in experiment and experience. Unlike a traditional liberal arts pedagogy involving reading about ethics, discussing the readings, and writing new analyses, this pedagogy uses games to position students in a series of potentially adversarial relationships that force them to confront some of the salient problems of sustainability, including environmental externalities, the Tragedy of the Commons, weak vs. strong sustainability and intra-generational equity. Recent tests allow students at different universities to play the games simultaneously using information communication technologies (ICT). In each game, students must ask themselves the questions related to moral cognition , "What are my obligations to my fellow students?” and moral conation, “What am I willing to risk in my own sense of well-being to meet these obligations?" We hypothesize that this approach will result in students that are actively engaged in learning exercises, and result in an improved ability to identify ethical problems, pose potential solutions, and participate in group deliberations with regard to moral problems.
This poster, first presented at the National Academy of Engineers Frontiers of Engineering Education workshop in Long Beach CA in Oct 2012, explains the necessity of developing engineering cognition, affection, and conation by completing the whole Kolb Learning Cycle. It emphasizes experience and reflection as essential, but overlooked, aspects engineering education with the potential to create transformation of the student.
While sustainability is increasingly recognized as an important ethical principle, teaching ethical reasoning skills appropriate for sustainability is problematic. Using non-cooperative game theory, we simulate problems of collective action where tension exists between individual interests and group benefit using grade points. Each of our ethics games brings students completely around the Kolb Learning cycle, which includes four stages:
1. Abstract conceptualization.
2. Active experimentation.
3. Concrete experience.
4. Reflective observation.
Our pedagogy is organized into game modules that start with a review of theory and relevant concepts in the form of assigned readings and lectures.