Powered by poo: Students use dog waste to light park

May 1, 2012

Every day, about 200 dogs and their owners visit the Cosmo dog park in Gilbert, Ariz. When they go home, they leave behind about eight cubic yards of dog waste, plastic bottles, bags and other trash.

Normally, all of that junk ends up in a landfill. But starting this month, the little gifts that Fido leaves will be used to power a light at the park, thanks to a team of engineering and technology students from ASU’s Polytechnic campus. Dogs at the Cosmo dog park Download Full Image

The “dog waste digester” was created as part of the College of Technology and Innovation's iProjects program. The student team includes Aaron Nelson and Sean Burris from mechanical engineering, Jesus Vasquez from electrical engineering, Ryan Williams in civil engineering, and Bryan Bowles, who majors in environmental technology management. Michael Ingram, a graduate student in alternative energy, also is engaged in the project, assisting his undergraduate colleagues.

Team member Aaron Nelson, a senior in the College of Technology and Innovation, said dog waste will be broken down in the septic tanks through a process called anaerobic digestion, which takes place in the absence of oxygen.

“Microbes in the waste use it as a food source,” Nelson said. “A byproduct of the anaerobic digestion process is biogas, a combination of methane, carbon dioxide, water vapor and other gases.”

One of the challenges in designing an anaerobic digester was finding a way to keep the system cool enough to function during the summer months, when temperatures regularly exceed 110 degrees. Nelson said their solution was to bury the system underground, where it will be kept below 100 degrees. The underground design also prevents any unpleasant odors from reaching the noses of visitors at the park. Patrons can deposit their dogs’ waste into the system though specially designed openings. They also can help the digester work by giving its contents a stir.

“That allows them to interact with the system, but it also helps the digestion process by mixing the waste around,” Nelson said.

The City of Gilbert raised $25,000 to help fund the project, with additional donations from companies in the Valley that deal with waste disposal. Ultimately, the digester will help the city save money by eliminating the cost of collecting the dog waste and taking it to a landfill. It will also benefit the environment by reducing atmospheric emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

Protecting the environment with help from adorable, four-legged friends has captured a great deal of public attention. The Purina pet food company even featured the project on their “petcentric” website.

But the iProjects program serves a less flashy, but vitally important goal – connecting students with industry to solve real-world problems. Nelson said the experience has required him to think beyond the scope of his major and work with students from different backgrounds.

Micah Lande is an instructor at the College of Technology and Innovation and one of two faculty mentors for the team. He said the project has given students the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom and hone their problem-solving skills.

“The iProjects are first and foremost learning experiences – a safe place to explore and maybe fail. Our students have changed their design a number of times, and that’s what an engineer does,” Lande said.

The team’s other faculty mentor, Kiril Hristovski, is an assistant professor at the College of Technology and Innovation. He said the iProject program’s interdisciplinary approach is part of what makes it such a valuable experience.

“The future engineers have to come out of an educational experience with deep knowledge in a specific discipline, but also develop the ability to collaborate with different professionals from a broad range of disciplines. The iProjects achieve exactly that,” Hristovski said.

Hristovski says local partners and industry have been very supportive of the iProjects program because it produces students who are able to “hit the ground running” when they enter the workforce.

Many of the projects have a component of “community embeddedness,” giving students the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities and achievements while also making a positive difference in their community and the world.

Hristovski and Lande believe that project-based learning is the next logical step towards creating engineering education for the future.

“Reinventing the education, reinventing the way we teach, that’s one of the primary missions of the College of Technology and Innovation,” Hristovski said. “Here, faculty and students have the opportunity to prototype the future.”

Written by Allie Nicodemo, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Director, Knowledge Enterprise Development


Bob Costas to receive 2012 Cronkite Award

May 1, 2012

Emmy Award-winning sportscaster Bob Costas will be the 2012 recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, Arizona State University announced today.

Costas will accept the 29th annual award, given by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, at a luncheon ceremony Oct. 30 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Download Full Image

“I am truly honored to be selected for the Cronkite Award, especially given my great regard for many of those who have previously received it,” Costas said. “I was privileged to know Walter Cronkite, and I have great respect for him and for the principles of broadcast journalism he embodies.”     

Costas, a 22-time Emmy Award winner, currently hosts NBC’s “Football Night in America” studio show. He also co-hosts NBC’s coverage of the U.S. Open, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and serves as primetime host of the network’s coverage of the Olympic Games.

In addition, he is the host of MLB Network’s “Studio 42 with Bob Costas” and serves as lead play-by-play announcer for the network’s “Thursday Night Baseball” games. 

Costas joined NBC, where he has the longest tenure of any of the network’s sportscasters, in 1980, first covering Major League Baseball, the NFL and college basketball. From 1982-1989, he was the play-by-play announcer for MLB’s “Game of the Week” telecasts and also hosted All-Star Game and World Series pre-game shows. He served as the host of “NFL on NBC,” the network’s NFL pre-game show, from 1984-1992. 

Beginning in 1990, Costas hosted NBC’s NBA pre-game show, “NBA Showtime,” for six seasons.  In 1997, he became the top play-by-play announcer for “NBA on NBC” game telecasts, a role he held for three seasons.    

He created “Costas Coast-to-Coast,” a nationally syndicated sports radio show that ran from 1986-1996, and hosted a late-night interview program, the Emmy Award-winning “Later with Bob Costas,” on NBC from 1988-1994. On HBO, he hosted “On the Record” from 2001-2005, “Inside the NFL” from 2002-2008 and “Costas Now,” a one-hour sports magazine show, from 2005-2009.

He is the author of “Fair Ball: A Fan’s Case for Baseball,” which made the New York Times’ Best Seller List in 2002.

Costas has been recognized with numerous sports journalism awards, including 22 Emmy Awards, a record 14 of them for “Outstanding Sports Personality/Host.” He also has been honored a record eight times as “Sportscaster of the Year” by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

Costas, who attended Syracuse University, began his broadcasting career at WSYR-TV and Radio in Syracuse, N.Y., in 1974, later moving to KMOX Radio in St. Louis, where he was the play-by-play voice of the American Basketball Association’s Spirits of St. Louis. He went on to cover regional NFL and NBA action for CBS Sports while serving as the radio voice of University of Missouri basketball from 1976-1981.  

“We’re thrilled to have Bob Costas as this year’s Cronkite Award winner,” said Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan. “He is the gold standard in sports broadcasting and will be an inspiration for our many students interested in careers in sports journalism.”

Past  Cronkite Award recipients include TV anchors Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer and Tom Brokaw, newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee, Helen Thomas and Bob Woodward and media executives Katharine Graham, Al Neuharth and Bill Paley.

Cronkite personally presented the award during its first quarter-century. The CBS News anchor died in 2009.

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, named in Cronkite’s honor in 1984, prepares the next generation of journalists in both the time-honored fundamentals embraced by Cronkite and the multimedia skills necessary to thrive as journalists in the digital age.

Housed in a $71 million state-of-the-art media complex in downtown Phoenix, the school has been featured in both The New York Times and The Times of London as a leader in 21st century journalism education. It is the home of the Carnegie-Knight News 21 initiative, the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, Cronkite News Service, Cronkite NewsWatch and the Digital Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab.

Reporter , ASU News