University of Delaware: Students Pitch Toy Ideas

University of Delaware: “Engineering students at the University of Delaware recently pitched their own inventions to representatives from a major toy company. A trio of professionals from Melissa and Doug, a toymaker with revenue of more than $350 million per year, visited UD to evaluate toy prototypes made by mechanical engineering students with help from early childhood education students. Companies like Melissa and Doug employ mechanical engineers because they have foundations in product design, mechanics, dynamics and other skills that are useful when making tiny consumer products.”

“The students made toys that were functional, fun and educational, like the Carpet Circuit, which was designed to teach the basics of circuitry … The team created a mat that can be laid on a classroom floor or hung from a chalkboard. The mat is covered with detachable pieces — held on with Velcro — that illustrate the basics of electronics. For example, you can connect a battery-shaped piece to a lightbulb-shaped piece using a rope that represents a wire.”

“Another toy, the Farmyard Friends Puzzle, a 12-piece 3D pig-shaped puzzle, was designed to increase literacy by helping children recognize letters while also developing fine motor skills. Each piece of the wooden puzzle features uppercase and lowercase letters. The team is also interested in making a prototype out of 3D printed polymer. The representatives from Melissa and Doug asked the Farmyard Friends Puzzle team a lot of questions — and asked for more information after the showcase.”

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Professorial Relationships: Key to College Success

Frank Bruni: “Many students, nervous about a new environment, follow friends from high school or people whose demographic backgrounds match their own into homogeneous cocoons. That can indeed provide solace and support. But it’s also a wasted opportunity — educationally, morally, strategically. Diversity opens you to an array and wealth of ideas, and being comfortable with it is an asset in just about any workplace or career. You can decide to establish that comfort in college.”

“But perhaps the most important relationships to invest in are those with members of the school’s faculty. Most students don’t fully get that. They’re not very good at identifying the professors worth knowing — the ones who aren’t such academic rock stars that they’re inaccessible, the ones with a track record of serious mentoring — and then getting to know them well.”

“The Strada-Gallup Alumni Survey “questioned about 100,000 American college graduates of all ages about their college experiences, looking for connections between how they spent their time in college and how fulfilled they say they are now … The study has not found that attending a private college or a highly selective one foretells greater satisfaction. Instead, the game changers include establishing a deep connection with a mentor, taking on a sustained academic project and playing a significant part in a campus organization. What all of these reflect are engagement and commitment … They’re part of an assertive rather than a passive disposition, and they’re key to professional success.”

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An Alexa in Every Dorm Room?

C|NET: “A US college is bringing Amazon’s Alexa onto its campus and in force. Saint Louis University will put 2,300 Amazon Echo Dots in dorm rooms by the start of classes later this month, according to the Missouri university’s blog post. The Alexa-enabled devices will answer more than 100 questions regarding the university, such as ‘Where is the registrar’s office?’ and ‘What time does the library open today?'”

“When students come back to school, Alexa can also give information about athletic events, concerts, student events and organizations, service opportunities and more … SLU experimented with Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices in dorms last spring, and students responded to the concept positively, according to the blog post.”

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‘Sleep Hygiene’ Improves Academic Performance

The New York Times: “College students who fail to adopt more wholesome sleep habits are more likely to find themselves unable to handle their chosen course load and less likely to reach their academic potential, according to a national study of more than 55,000 college students. The study, by Monica E. Hartmann and Dr. J. Roxanne Prichard of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., found that for each additional day of sleep disturbance a college student experienced each week, the likelihood of dropping a course rose by 10 percent and grade point average fell by 0.02, even when most other factors known to influence academic success were taken into account.”

Dr. Prichard recommends “practicing good ‘sleep hygiene’ — the behavioral measures that can help to assure a full and restful night’s sleep. She and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine offer these suggestions: Go to bed and get up every day at approximately the same time, weekends included. Create a relaxing bedroom setting and follow a consistent bedtime routine. Avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine and any medication with stimulant effects at least three hours before bedtime. Don’t stay up late to cram for an exam or finish homework. If your outside activities are too time-consuming, try to cut back on those that are expendable.”

Also: “If possible, keep all electronics — computer, TV, cellphone, etc. — outside the bedroom, and avoid using them just before bedtime. Don’t go to bed hungry, but avoid eating a big meal before bed. Avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime. Instead, do a calming activity like light reading or meditation.Keep the bedroom quiet, dark and cool for sleeping. If outside light or noise is disturbing, consider using light-blocking shades or a white noise machine.”

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Finding ‘Fit’ Can Be a Stretch

The New York Times: “Last fall, when John DiGravio arrived as a freshman at Williams College — a private, liberal arts institution in the Berkshires — the conservative from Central Texas expected to be in the political minority. He did not expect to be ridiculed … At first Mr. DiGravio was taken aback. Then he took his outsider status as a calling. A few months earlier he had started a small, conservative club. He decided to make it bigger. He invited a speaker to give an evening talk on ‘What It Means to Be a Conservative.’ Dozens of students showed up.”

“These days, elite students like Mr. DiGravio, who can financially and/or academically choose from an array of colleges, are often obsessed with ‘finding the right fit.’ Surveys like ones conducted by EAB, an education consulting firm in Washington, routinely indicate that for this group, ‘fitting in’ is one of the top factors when deciding where to go to school. But some students, like Mr. DiGravio, 19, are discovering the pros and cons of being an outsider.”

“’If you have support, that shock can be translated into an advantage,’ he said. That was the case for Jonah Shainberg, a fencer from Rye, N.Y., who is Jewish. When he was accepted to Notre Dame, a football-heavy Catholic university in Indiana, his mother balked at the idea … But once he was there, Mr. Shainberg, who graduated this year with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, discovered something about himself he had not totally understood before: His faith was central to his identity. ‘I think Notre Dame made me more Jewish,’ he said.”

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Survivor Maryland

The Washington Post: “It’s ‘Survivor Maryland,’ the wildest, realest reality show you’ve never heard of: a low-budget, junior-varsity take on the popular CBS competition show “Survivor.” Instead of being marooned for several weeks on an island, the players undergo challenges and tribal turmoil during an entire semester at the University of Maryland … The craze began with Austin Trupp, 25, a “Survivor” superfan who started watching the show as a Rockville high schooler with a passion for strategy games and social politics.”

“Trupp started putting the show together the summer after his freshman year. He recruited a cast of 21 hypercompetitive friends and filmed through the fall of 2012, quickly settling on a formula reminiscent of the original — contestants split into tribes that compete in “challenges” testing their teamwork, resourcefulness and athletic ability, with players gradually eliminated via ‘tribal council’ votes. The winner is the last person standing, selected by a jury of eliminated contestants … Six years and five seasons later, ‘Survivor Maryland’ is notorious. Some of its episodes on YouTube have more than 15,000 views. It’s amassed an avid following that includes former showrunners and contestants from the CBS show.”

“More than a dozen spinoffs have replicated Trupp’s concept at other colleges, including Ohio State University, the University of Virginia and the University of Michigan. They vary in form and length, and certainly in following, but they’re all trying to replicate the ‘Survivor Maryland’ magic.

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American Wonk: Cool Cat on Campus

The Washington Post: “Who knows what the black and white cat was thinking when it arrived on American University’s campus … Whatever the case, this cat — known as Wonk Cat, or the Wonk Cat, if you prefer — has settled in at American, in Northwest Washington. It has become a film star, and it is the subject of tweets from the university’s president. It has a special cat dorm room, set up near a campus building. Here at American, Wonk Cat has found a home.”

“For Stephanie DeStefano, American’s grounds operations manager, this tale of a tail began in the fall, when she noticed piles of cat food in planting beds on campus.” She comments: “It wasn’t long before I had the pleasure of meeting Wonk Cat, who the students had already adopted and named. I have no idea where she came from. Or, actually, if it’s a she or a he.”

“Wonk Cat is not the only cat on American’s campus. A second feline was relocated to the grounds during the winter. That transfer cat, Max, is not exactly pals with Wonk Cat yet, but perhaps we should give this more time … American is not the only animal-friendly campus. Websites for Texas A&M University and the University of West Florida mention cats.” Alice Bershtein, a rising junior at American, comments: “College is a very stressful experience and kind of makes you feel alone. There’s something about animal companionship that is so soothing and reaffirming. I feel like the Wonk Cat kind of serves that purpose.”

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How Hogwarts Inspires New Campus Buildings

Los Angeles Times: “Expensive dormitories, in particular, have begun to exhibit an incurious … nostalgia, with Yale and USC, among other schools, leaning hard on the kind of Gothic Revival excess that first became popular a full century ago … one key source of this renewed interest in the Gothic Revival is — cue the John Williams score — Hogwarts, the boarding school for wizards that stands at the heart of the book series by J.K. Rowling.”

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the series, was published in 1997. The film version of that novel appeared in 2001. This year’s crop of college freshmen was born between those two cultural milestones, which means a huge number grew up reading the Potter books or watching the movies or both. Many of them have an expectation (or perhaps a hope) that going off to college means going off to a campus that resembles the Hollywood version of Hogwarts, full of peaked roofs, gargoyles, stone floors, stained glass and huge dining halls warmed by multiple fireplaces.”

At both Yale and USC, “the Hogwarts feel is strongest, by far, in the dining halls, giant rooms with long wooden tables, peaked ceilings and stained glass. It feels almost as if you’ve wandered onto a set for one of the Potter movies, filmed at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland and Gloucester Cathedral, among many other locations.”

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The Freshman 15: Fact or Fiction?

The Washington Post: “Do most freshmen really gain 15 pounds during their first year as undergrads? Research tells us no. Several studies have looked at the freshman 15 phenomenon and found that while weight gain is common during freshman year, 15 pounds is more than the average. The actual weight gain of freshmen varies greatly among different studies, with an overall average of 7½ pounds. A meta-analysis of studies examining the freshman 15 phenomenon found that although nearly two-thirds of students gain weight as freshmen, fewer than 10 percent gain 15 pounds or more.”

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