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Changemaker Central infuses ASU's Havasu location with volunteer spirit

March 24, 2020

New chapter allows students passionate about social justice to make a difference in their community

What started out as an extracurricular activity has turned into the grease that keeps a community's wheels moving smoothly.

Arizona State University at Lake Havasu’s new Changemaker Central chapter has imbued the ASU location with a volunteer spirit while filling a niche in the nonprofit sector by taking over a vital city service.

“I knew Changemaker Central was going to be a big deal, but I didn’t realize the immediate impact it would have on this campus,” said Anthony “TJ” Cook, an organizational leadership and political science major who runs the student-led club. “Every student who has gotten involved with us wants to connect more with the community and help improve it if they can. We make things happen.”

Changemaker Central @ ASU is part of a national effort to harness the energy, idealism and intellect of college students while providing resources and tools to make ideas and dreams reality. It is a student-led initiative on all ASU’s campuses that provides places where student visions of a better future can be realized by sharing ideas about service, social entrepreneurship and change in the community.

The club also fulfills the ASU mission to become socially embedded in the community, said Raymond Van der Riet, director of ASU at Lake Havasu.

“We actively scan for opportunities that would benefit from our innovative approach to problem-solving and allow us to engage in real issues in real time,” Van der Riet said. “The Changemaker leadership and volunteers are crucial in these endeavors as we continue to leverage our place into the greater region.”

And it’s become the hottest and largest club on campus in a matter of months.

The Havasu chapter office opened in January and has 26 committed members — about 20% of the total ASU@Havasu student population.

“I’ve always liked to help people and the kindness you show is always appreciated,” said Raul Rodriguez, a 19-year-old first-year student. “Volunteering also creates opportunities. You meet new people, make friends, and you get to help your community. There’s a lot of pros to giving back.”

Lake Havasu City is now giving back to Changemaker Central, offering an opportunity to be more than just a club, courtesy of Mayor Cal Sheehy.

Sheehy asked Changemaker Central to create a database for all social services, nonprofit groups and faith-based agencies to serve as a clearinghouse for approximately 300 organizations in the Lake Havasu city area. Additionally, they field phone calls, offer up volunteers for community events and create possibilities through these emerging partnerships.

So now when residents call and inquire about services and resources available to them, students can guide them.

“Lake Havasu City is always looking to further our partnership with ASU at Lake Havasu,” said Sheehy, who was elected in 2014. “We wanted to figure out what services and resources we had available to the community and how our community members could gain access to those services and resources and speak with just one voice.”

Cook said Changemaker Central started the database from scratch and grew it through his attendance of mulitple community meetings.

“We let everyone know what we were attempting to do,” Cook said. “There was immediate buy-in from these leaders who said, ‘We’d love to help.’”

So far, it’s helped organizations like the Havasu Community Health Foundation, which sponsors community health and wellness services and runs a food bank.

“We have grown substantially and have seen a lot of movement in the last few months as a result of the nonprofits being linked together,” said Linda Sever, who serves as the foundation’s executive director. “What ASU and Cal Sheehy have done by linking together has been a real shot in the arm for the community.”

lana Silva

First-year student Lana Silva, an international student from Dubai, gives a speech in a public speaking class at ASU at Lake Havasu. Silva joined Changemaker Central to give back and meet new friends. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Additionally, Changemaker Central students also have the opportunity to volunteer their services or intern with these nonprofit groups either as a way of giving back or earning credits through internships. They have shown up for parades, food and clothing drives, and Humane Society events. The have also picked up litter in public parks, and made cards for senior citizens and activity bags for hospitalized children.

Cristen Mann, a lecturer in organizational leadership who serves as an adviser to Changemaker Central, said her students are making inroads in the community.

“We have interns with the medical field, city planning, sheriff’s department, beverage distribution, banks and wildlife,” Mann said. “It’s going to help these students forge their way into the workplace and get whatever jobs they want.”

Daryn Stover, a lecturer in molecular biology, said social activism is embedded in Havasu students.

“Volunteerism demonstrates these students care about their community,” Stover said. “We present options to them and they decide how they want to volunteer. We are using this new location to make a difference.”

First-year student Lana Silva walked in a local parade and volunteered for a blood drive. She said she volunteers for several reasons.

“As an international student, there’s a sense of wanting to belong, and I’ve made a lot of new friends,” said Silva, who was born in Sri Lanka and raised in Dubai, "... and giving back makes me feel happy.” 

That’s the same spirit that possesses Brooke Bahde, a communication major who also serves as Changemaker Central’s official photographer and social media manager.

“I’m always thinking of ways of how I can improve my photography, and so I thought if I could capture on film what this club is doing, it was a way to give back and showcase to ASU students what Lake Havasu City has to offer,” said Bahde, who often highlights sustainability in her work.

Bahde’s pictures were so good that ASU@Havasu offered her an internship helping its social media efforts. This year the junior also started her own photography business.

“I originally wanted to attend the Tempe campus, but I ended up falling in love with the Havasu campus,” Bahde said. “I’m well on my way to my career path and that’s when I realized, why would I leave?”

Top photo: Organizational leadership and political science major Anthony "TJ" Cook leads the Changemaker Central chapter at ASU at Lake Havasu, coordinating opportunities for students with nearly 300 nonprofit organizations in Lake Havasu City, Parker and Kingman. Nearly 20% of the Havasu student body participates in the club, making it the largest at ASU@Havasu. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU News


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Machine learning expands prediction capacity in complex, chaotic systems

March 24, 2020

Framework may one day be relevant for COVID-19 prediction

Just as a neurologist looks to a patient’s neural network for guidance in addressing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s, researchers in the artificial intelligence arena study neural networks (composed of artificial neurons) to improve predictability in complex physical, biological and engineering systems.

Arizona State University’s Ying-Cheng Lai, a professor of electrical engineering and physics, and his team combine expertise in chaos theory, physics, applied mathematics and engineering to develop model-free, purely data-driven machine learning frameworks to predict chaotic systems. 

In a new paper for Physical Review Research titled “Long-term prediction of chaotic systems with machine learning,” Lai and his team use artificial recurrent neural networks to increase the ability to predict the state changes and evolution in chaotic systems that exhibit a sensitive dependence on initial conditions.

Chaos is often exemplified as the mechanism behind the “Butterfly Effect,” wherein a butterfly flapping its wings may cause a seemingly unpredictable, catastrophic weather event half a world away. 

“In a chaotic system, you cannot make a long-term prediction,” explained Lai, “because a small amount of error is going to be magnified exponentially.”

Machine learning is now making long-term predictions more attainable.

“It’s an incremental process,” Lai said. “We train the neural machine with measured time series from the chaotic system of interest, such as an electrical power system, a nonlinear optical system or an epidemiological system such as the spread of COVID-19, and the machine begins to gain the ability to predict the future of the system."

A neural network machine so trained is able to predict the state evolution of a chaotic system five or six times longer than that which can be achieved using the traditional prediction methods in nonlinear dynamics.

Yet, because of the nature of chaos, prediction will begin to deteriorate over time. Additional data is then added to lengthen the prediction time horizon.

“We add one or two data points once every few cycles of natural oscillation of the system to gradually update the knowledge base of the machine so that it can keep generating accurate predictions for an arbitrary, long period of time,” Lai said.

illustration of chaotic systems machine learning

Top: Articulate neural network structure for long-term prediction of chaotic systems. Panel 2: Spatiotemporal state evolution of a chaotic system, where the ordinate is space and the abscissa indicates time. Panel 3: Prediction errors without state update (the white region indicates near zero error). Panels four through six: As rare state updates are provided to the machine at an increasing rate, the prediction errors are reduced and eventually diminish in space and time.

Lai’s group is currently working on exploiting machine learning to predict catastrophic events in complex systems. For example, if you train a machine with data from an ecosystem in a normal functioning regime before any collapse, the machine has the power to predict, upon some changes in the environment, if and when the system is going to collapse.

Likewise, the machine will ultimately be able to predict interruptions to a power grid.

“We can train the machine to virtually mimic previous failures,” Lai said. “We can measure voltage usage at certain points and, based on historical grid failures, identify if and when the grid may be vulnerable to failure.” 

With regard to COVID-19, Lai notes that one challenge is that the currently available datasets are still too small to train a machine. However, people have used data from the SARS epidemic in 2003–04 for training to predict the current COVID-19 trend.

“At the moment, it seems that machine learning may be of secondary importance because a detailed and comprehensive mathematical model for COVID-19 can be built, which has generated accurate predictions of the epidemic trends in China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.”

Other researchers who contributed to this work are Huwei Fan, Junjie Jiang, Chun Zhang and Xingang Wang.  In addition to their affiliations with ASU, Fan and Zhang are also affiliated with the School of Physics and Information Technology at Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China. 

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications