ASU's Zócalo Public Square named finalist in multiple categories for SoCal Journalism Awards

May 31, 2023

Zócalo Public Square, a media enterprise of Arizona State University, has been named a finalist in nine categories for the prestigious 65th annual SoCal Journalism Awards.

The SoCal Journalism Awards recognize outstanding achievements in journalism across Southern California. In its debut year of participation, Zócalo is showcasing some of its recent storytelling and analysis that continue to reverberate within its public square platform, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The nominations span educational reporting, satire, sports commentary, investigative journalism, public affairs, political commentary, nonpolitical commentary and spiritual reporting. Zócalo Public Square Logo "It is a tremendous honor for Zócalo Public Square to be named finalists in multiple categories of the SoCal Journalism Awards," said Moira Shourie, executive director of Zócalo. Download Full Image

The LA Press Club will announce the winners at an awards gala on June 25 at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles.

"Zócalo’s remarkable presence as finalists in multiple categories for the SoCal Journalism Awards is a testament to its enduring impact,” said Mi-Ai Parrish, managing editor of ASU Media Enterprise. “Its ability to convene meaningful conversations aligns perfectly with the mission of ASU Media Enterprise. We are proud to support Zócalo's groundbreaking work and celebrate their continued success."

A week before the SoCal Journalism Awards, Zócalo will hold its own 2023 Book Prize event at ASU’s California Center. The June 15 event will honor this year’s Book Prize winner, Michelle Wilde Anderson, for her nonfiction book “The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America,” and the 2023 winners of Zócalo’s Poetry Prize.

Last year’s Zócalo Book Prize event — Will Americans ever be in this together? — featured winning author and social policy scholar Heather McGhee and is one of two Zócalo events named as finalists in the SoCal Journalism Awards category for Public Affairs. The other finalist event — How can women and girls win in Iran? — highlighted the ongoing struggle for gender equality in Iran.

The other Zócalo platform finalists are:

Educational reporting: "How rural schools survived the pandemic"

Investigative: "What would the end of mass incarceration mean for prison towns?"

Political commentary: "When the public narrative fails"

Nonpolitical commentary: "The Valley's last Camaro"

Satire: "Hey California, the peafowl isn't your scape-bird"

Spiritual reporting: "Keeping the kids' faith"

Sports commentary: "If you're Latinx, loving the Dodgers is complicated"

"It is a tremendous honor for Zócalo Public Square to be named finalists in multiple categories of the SoCal Journalism Awards," said Moira Shourie, executive director of Zócalo. "We are grateful for the opportunity to engage our audience in thought-provoking discussions and shed light on relevant issues thanks to the diverse perspectives of our contributors.”

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer, ASU Media Enterprise


Sun Devils spark innovation in building sustainability

ASU students will compete in final North American round of global Schneider Go Green competition

May 31, 2023

​Each year, Schneider Electric, an energy solutions and digital automation company, hosts a student competition to elevate new ideas in sustainability called Schneider Go Green. In 2023, the competition tasked applicants to conceptualize an idea that would revolutionize circularity and energy efficiency for buildings.

Hussain Bhavnagarwala, a student earning his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, heard about the competition from mechanical and aerospace engineering Professor Patrick Phelan while enrolled in a course studying materials’ heat transfer properties. Bhavnagarwala’s studies inspired him to develop an idea surrounding the transfer of heat to improve sustainability in building materials. Split screen of a building at night and during the day. The Sun Devil Sparks aim to boost buildings’ energy efficiency by conceptualizing a wall panel that will absorb heat during the day and release it at night, cooling indoor spaces with less energy consumption. Graphic by Hayley Hilborn and Erika Gronek, ASU/Midjourney Download Full Image

“Heat transfer is one of my favorite subjects,” Bhavnagarwala said. “My father, being a heating, ventilation and air conditioning engineer himself, works a lot in this area, and I tend to have a lot of discussions with him on ‘green’ buildings. Energy efficiency is very closely related to heat transfer, so this motivated me to take up this competition with a keen interest.”

When looking to sign up for the competition online, Bhavnagarwala found an ASU team – the Sun Devil Sparks – was already registered. The team had been created by Deanna Chaney, an ASU Online undergraduate student based in Tennessee. Chaney is earning her bachelor’s degree in sustainability with a focus on energy, materials and technology in the School of Sustainability, part of the College of Global Futures.

Chaney decided to enroll in the competition since this year’s challenge focuses on innovating sustainable energy solutions for urban spaces, which she said is right up her “academic alley.”

Bhavnagarwala joined the team on the competition website. The two later recruited two teammates: Tosin Clement, a graduate student studying business analytics at the University of Louisville, and Sai Saketh Narabathula, an ASU student pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

The idea

The first phase of the competition required teams to submit a 10-slide presentation conceptualizing their idea.

When thinking of ways to improve the sustainability of buildings, the team started by identifying one of the biggest energy expenders in the home: air conditioners. During the day, air conditioning units consume large quantities of energy to cool buildings, but this function is less necessary at night when temperatures cool.

However, the insulation in most buildings retains heat even after the sun sets, making interiors hot and necessitating continued climate control. The students worked to reduce this avoidable energy consumption by developing a wall panel that works as both a heat conductor and an insulator. The panel will operate as an insulator during the day and, at the flip of a switch, become a conductor at night to expel the retained heat outside of the building.

This kind of material, a substance that absorbs and releases heat energy when it changes phases, is referred to as a phase change material, or PCM. PCMs are already being researched for different applications such as use in car batteries to maintain ideal operating temperature.

The team’s idea and presentation earned them a spot in the competition’s North American finals, where they will travel to Schneider Electric’s North American headquarters in Tennessee to present their idea to judges.

Diagram demonstrating how the student's wall panels will reduce energy consumption by releasing heat at night.

A diagram showing how the students’ idea, which they have dubbed the Struct-Spire, will work to keep spaces cooler. Graphic courtesy Sun Devil Sparks 

The road ahead

To further explicate this idea and ensure thorough presentations from the students, Schneider assigned mentors to each team to point out challenges that must be addressed to make their ideas into commercially viable products.

The Sun Devil Sparks met with three mentors from Schneider: Chris Campbell, a system architect; Marissa Ainsworth, a sustainability and decarbonization strategy leader; and Saeid Golshaeian, the director of Schneider’s industrial automation business unit. After incorporating their mentors’ feedback, the team is reimagining their presentation for the finals in June.

Chaney is investigating the variety of sustainability goals the team can target with their idea. She will also demonstrate how much energy the wall panels will save by investigating other products with similar functions. The team’s mentors also encouraged them to address the circularity of their product to establish ways it can be produced and disposed of sustainably.

Bhavnagarwala is researching the necessary technical properties that will guide the design, such as the most effective material to use and how thick the panel must be, to establish production parameters.

Narabathula is learning to work with Blender, a 3D computer graphics software tool, to develop an animated simulation of the wall panel for the team’s presentation.

While the students have already gained insight into product development with their Schneider mentors’ input, further educational and career growth opportunities abound. 

During their visit to the Schneider headquarters in Tennessee, the students will tour the facility and have the opportunity to interview for internships at the company.

If the students are successful in the North American finals, they will advance to the international finals, traveling to Schneider’s global headquarters in Paris.

Though the experience alone is a career builder, Bhavnagarwala said the company’s track record of hiring the winning students and furthering their research idea is a motivator for the Sun Devil Sparks to give this competition their all.

The competition is a full-circle moment for Bhavnagarwala, who grew up next to a Schneider manufacturing facility in his hometown of Chennai, India. He said he would love to pursue employment with the company and possibly work in the location close to his roots.

Chaney, who is also a student in Barrett, The Honors College, said the competition is an opportunity for her to “gain real-life experience in working with a team on big, innovative ideas.”

“I want to establish connections with sustainability professionals in the field of energy and technology and possibly get my foot in the door for a future internship,” she said. “I want to better acquaint myself with skills and knowledge in the field of sustainability that I haven’t learned in my coursework before I graduate, and I think this project has done just that.”

Phelan, who also serves as the Fulton Schools assistant dean of graduate programs, expresses his excitement for the students’ spirit of innovation.

“The success of this diverse student team speaks volumes about the capabilities of our students to tackle engineering’s biggest problems,” he said. “The innovative concept from this team may help deliver on the promise of making buildings truly sustainable.”

Hayley Hilborn

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering