electronics

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

It has been said for years that the pen is mightier than the sword, but in a time when technology and education are merging together more and more each year, a new question arises: is the pen mightier than the laptop?

Upon coming to the University of Texas this fall, I was wary about my own answer to that question. Though I have always used pen and paper to take notes, I knew I might be in a slight minority among my peers. I made the assumption that most college classrooms would be dotted with glowing apples, and that technology was the most popular source of learning for students and professors alike. What I did not assume was that many professors at the University of Texas prohibit electronics of any kind in the classroom. I believe this decision is beneficial to students’ learning, and furthermore believe that a professor is well within his or her right to decide how their classroom environment will be structured. 

As it turns out, professors who ban electronics have the right idea. In this age, students tend to think that technology is good and a lack of technology is bad. When looking at studies on the topic, however, the truth of electronic learning comes out. Researchers have concluded that students who take notes on laptops simply don’t process the information like students who take notes by hand. Longhand note-takers are usually slower at note-taking than their classmates, but this is hardly a disadvantage; writing down important parts of the lecture allows these students to absorb, sort, and understand the information better than those that are typing every word. 

Bringing a laptop to class also provides a screen for students to hide behind, in an institution where classes are meant to engage students in discussion and foster active participation in intellectual pursuits. In all likelihood, the chances of being able to actively defend an argument while checking Facebook are slim. Furthermore, laptop screens distract not just the student on the laptop, but anyone who can see their screen. In a study conducted in 2010, researchers determined that students using laptops were on “distracting” screens (including email, games, and general web surfing) for at least 42 percent of the lecture. Studies of this type are numerous and substantial.

Despite the disadvantages of using technology in the classroom, students argue that they should have the right to choose how they will take notes and participate in class. While student activism definitely has an important role in the UT community, this is not a necessary place to take such activism. Professors who prohibit electronics in their class do not do so because they don’t understand technology, or for any other proposed generation gap in understanding. Rather, they usually just want to lecture in a studious, distraction-free environment, a wish that students should be respectful of. We trust our professors for their knowledge on difficult and extensive subjects- we should be able to trust their judgment on matters like this as well. 

It is time to take a step back from the screens and give thought to the concrete, expansive learning environment available at the University of Texas. If students truly wish to have a great experience in their classes, and a solid GPA along with that, we need to reconsider the electronic approach to classroom learning. 

Weisz is an English freshman from Houston. 

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

It has been said for years that the pen is mightier than the sword, but in a time when technology and education are merging together more and more each year, a new question arises: is the pen mightier than the laptop?

Upon coming to the University of Texas this fall, I was wary about my own answer to that question. Though I have always used pen and paper to take notes, I knew I might be in a slight minority among my peers. I made the assumption that most college classrooms would be dotted with glowing apples, and that technology was the most popular source of learning for students and professors alike. What I did not assume was that many professors at the University of Texas prohibit electronics of any kind in the classroom. I believe this decision is beneficial to students’ learning, and furthermore believe that a professor is well within his or her right to decide how their classroom environment will be structured. 

As it turns out, professors who ban electronics have the right idea. In this age, students tend to think that technology is good and a lack of technology is bad. When looking at studies on the topic, however, the truth of electronic learning comes out. Researchers have concluded that students who take notes on laptops simply don’t process the information like students who take notes by hand. Longhand note-takers are usually slower at note-taking than their classmates, but this is hardly a disadvantage; writing down important parts of the lecture allows these students to absorb, sort, and understand the information better than those that are typing every word. 

Bringing a laptop to class also provides a screen for students to hide behind, in an institution where classes are meant to engage students in discussion and foster active participation in intellectual pursuits. In all likelihood, the chances of being able to actively defend an argument while checking Facebook are slim. Furthermore, laptop screens distract not just the student on the laptop, but anyone who can see their screen. In a study conducted in 2010, researchers determined that students using laptops were on “distracting” screens (including email, games, and general web surfing) for at least 42 percent of the lecture. Studies of this type are numerous and substantial.

Despite the disadvantages of using technology in the classroom, students argue that they should have the right to choose how they will take notes and participate in class. While student activism definitely has an important role in the UT community, this is not a necessary place to take such activism. Professors who prohibit electronics in their class do not do so because they don’t understand technology, or for any other proposed generation gap in understanding. Rather, they usually just want to lecture in a studious, distraction-free environment, a wish that students should be respectful of. We trust our professors for their knowledge on difficult and extensive subjects- we should be able to trust their judgment on matters like this as well. 

It is time to take a step back from the screens and give thought to the concrete, expansive learning environment available at the University of Texas. If students truly wish to have a great experience in their classes, and a solid GPA along with that, we need to reconsider the electronic approach to classroom learning. 

Weisz is an English freshman from Houston. 

Although today’s tattoos serve aesthetically pleasing or emotional purposes, the tattoos of the future have the potential to revolutionize the healthcare industry if aerospace engineering assistant professor Nanshu Lu has her way.

Lu worked to create a small flexible tattoo that can monitor vital signs, power itself and transmit data in a more compact way than the bulky options available today. The current product is a temporary patch placed on the skin, although she is also working on a more advanced version that will dissolve into skin for one-time use.  

Vital sign monitoring is the most basic and immediate application of this technology. People with atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heartbeat, who have electrodes pinned in their hearts and battery boxes in their chests, would have a more comfortable alternative, and parents of newborns could monitor their infants at home and possibly prevent Sudden Infant Death syndrome. 

“Actually, every newborn is supposed to be monitored in the hospital for at least six weeks before they can be released to home, but with current medical facilities it’s not possible, they are all released immediately. But think about newborns – they cannot express themselves, they don’t know what’s wrong, so if there is any condition going on there is a very huge tragedy,” Lu said. 

Although the technology for flexible electronics was developed more than 20 years ago when people started to imagine light weight, paper-like display, there is a tremendous challenge to make these stretchable electronics flexible enough, Lu said.

“What does flexible mean? It’s really a mechanics concept, so flexible electronics has to be a perfect marriage between mechanics and electronics. That’s how I was involved,” Lu said.

Currently, Lu and her research team work on the sensing component of the tattoo, but a lot of work involving the power, data transmission and other components still has to be done.

The cost of making one tattoo is around $50, exculding labor. When the tattoos become commercialized, Lu said she sees the one-time use version selling for $10 or less. Every batch contains around four or eight tattoos. The funding for her research comes from the National Science Foundation

Lu began the project in 2010 at the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign with researcher John Rogers, and continued her work at UT since September 2011.

This tattoo would be a great advantage to parents of all newborns, Lu said, because it would not irritate the skin or interrupt the body’s natural activity. 

“It’s so easy to use and transmits data wirelessly to the hospital station that even parents with very little training can apply [it to their children] – that would be a great advantage, and a great addition to current medical care,” Lu said. 

Lu said the device is made of silicon, because it outperforms other materials and because of its durability, although there is a challenge in making it flexible.

“I started to think about yes, silicon, metal—they are all rigid, they are all very, very stiff. But actually we can get inspired by comparing window glass with glass fibers,” Lu said. “Both of them are made out of glass, silicon dioxide, but window glass is thick and large so they are not bendable or flexible; However, the glass fibers are thin, narrow, and long. Even if it’s still glass which is intrinsically brittle, it’s because of the dimension it becomes flexible.” 

Lu also compared the stretchable electronics to a piece of paper. A generic piece of printer paper is not stretchable and will tear if pulled, but a cutout of a pattern can stretch more than one time the original length.

“That’s 100 percent strength. Now imagine if I shrink this by more than 1000 times and replace them with a circuit or metal, you can then start to manufacture stretchable electronics, and imagine that these are the same types of metal and silicon used in traditional wafer-based electronics,” Lu said. “Their electrical performances are on par with all of the conventional devices.”

Lu works closely with other professors, such as assistant professor Deji Akinwande. Akinwande and Lu started collaborating on a flexible electronics project a year ago work, which relates to Lu’s tattoo research, Akinwande said. 

“I find her to be a very intellectual stimulating professor and very open minded with her ideas,” Akinwande said.  

Follow Wynne Davis on Twitter @wynneellyn.

Alejandro Paredes, a member of the Engineers for a Sustainable World, discusses recycling of old computer parts with UT students during America Recycles Day. America Recycles Day brought together students from the Student Engineering Council, Engineers for a Sustainable World and various other student groups to teach people about different ways to recycle.
Photo Credit: Ben Chesnut | Daily Texan Staff

Students said no to electronic waste Thursday by recycling outdated devices in observance of America Recycles Day.

The Campus Environmental Center recognized the national holiday by hosting a recycling drive to collect students’ recyclable waste, including plastic bags, glass and electronics. Engineers for a Sustainable World, Engineering Council Sustainable Committee, the Office of Sustainability and the Division of Housing and Food Service set up tables at the event to collect specific items and educate students on the benefits of recycling.

The Campus Environmental Center hosts a recycling drive in honor of the holiday every year and focuses on a particular item to recycle each drive.

Hunter Mangrum, spokesperson for the Division of Housing and Food Service, said the division is working to help students become familiar with recycling electronic waste. Electronic waste bins will be placed in residence halls before the end of November, Mangrum said. He said in addition to encouraging students to recycle electronic waste, the division has made all recycling bins into single-stream collections that collect plastic, aluminum and compost. 

“The ultimate goal as a University is to empower students to take on the motto to change the world,” Mangrum said. “We hope that this will become the norm and that students will spread their education and environmentally conscious methods elsewhere.”

Psychology senior Faith Shin, director of the Campus Environmental Center, said the few places where electronic waste on campus can be recycled are often inaccessible to students. Shin said many students throw out their electronics because of this, resulting in a lifetime in a landfill and the leaking of toxic chemicals into water sources.

“Students consistently have to change out their electronics,” Shin said. “They typically change their cell phones every two years and their computers every three years. With this growing number, e-waste is becoming more of a problem on campus.”

According to the United Nations Environmental Program, an estimated 20 to 50 million tons of electronic waste is disposed of globally each year. Less than 20 percent of electronic waste worldwide is recycled, and 80 percent of U.S. electronic waste is exported to Asia, according to Do Something, an organization for social change.

Geography junior Reanna Bain, assistant director of the Campus Environmental Center, said the harmful chemicals electronic waste contains, such as mercury and lead, are detrimental to the water supplies of countries that receive U.S. electronic waste.

“E-waste is making whole countries into landfills of electronics,” Bain said.

Printed on Friday, November 16, 2012 as: E-waste added to recycling list 

The Austin Police Department has enlisted the help of the UT Police Department to stop a string of West Campus burglaries hoping to gain crime tips from students who read Campus Watch announcements.

APD spokesman Anthony Hipolito said there were 10 burglaries of West Campus residences from February 26 to April 16.

He said the stolen items were mostly expensive electronics, including flat-screen televisions, laptops and iPads. Hipolito said five out of the 10 burglaries involved unlocked doors or windows, and in many of the cases, the victims were intoxicated when the burglaries happened. APD and UTPD officials said they have not identified a specific suspect, but have reason to believe those involved in the crimes may be neighbors or acquaintances of the victims.

“In one instance the door of a resident’s home was kicked in, but she did not hear it or wake up,” Hipolito said. “It is not possible at this point to determine whether or not these crimes were committed by a single person. It is very likely that the suspect is a neighbor or a friend of the people who were robbed.”

Officer Darrell Halstead, UTPD crime prevention specialist, said UTPD has worked with APD in the past to locate suspects in criminal investigations. He said students who subscribe to the Campus Watch have a history of reporting suspicious behavior and helping the Austin police catch criminals.

Although Halstead urged students with any information to contact UTPD, both Halstead and UTPD Chief Robert Dahlstrom said they were not aware of any tips that had been reported.

2011 UT alumnus Trevor Nichols said he lives on 21st and Rio Grande streets, a few blocks from several of the burglary locations, but he had not heard of the string of incidences.

“You expect there to be a few incidences just because West Campus is such a large area, but I am surprised to hear that there were so many.” Nichols said.

He said he does not think it is uncommon for residents throwing a party to forget to lock their doors after everyone leaves.

“After your guests are gone, you usually just end up crashing on the couch and watching TV,” Nichols said. “I think that can be hugely dangerous, because everyone who has been in the neighborhood recently knows that you just had a party and your doors are probably still unlocked.”

Nichols said he is very careful to keep the door to his apartment locked, but he knows that his roommates and others in his neighborhood are not as cautious.

Printed on Friday,  April 27, 2012 as: West Campus thieves target expensive electronics 

This extreme ultraviolet wavelength image provided by NASA shows a solar flare. An impressive solar flare is heading toward Earth and could disrupt power grids, GPS and airplane flights. Forecasters at the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said the sun erupted Tuesday evening, and the effects started smacking Earth late Wednesday night. They say it is the biggest in five years and growing.

Chemical engineering senior Johnny Sompholphardy seemed surprised that the mint-condition Blackberry phone turned on without fail.

“Why would anyone throw this away?” he said.

The same could not be said for the majority of electronics people donated during UT’s third-annual eWaste Drive on Saturday.

Volunteers from the Student Engineering Council collected electronic devices donated by the Austin community, most in nonworking condition. Goodwill collects the excess televisions, laptops and other items to their electronic processing facilities, where working parts are salvaged and sold in stores. Nonworking items are disposed of within strict environmental standards.

“The main focus of the event is to ensure that electronics are disposed of properly,” said John Koenig, an electrical engineering senior. “A lot of people have no idea how to get rid of this stuff.”

The group has not calculated how many electronics it collected this year, but last year it gathered approximately 500 cars worth of materials.