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Seed Projects

Encouraging new collaborations for expressive projects

Announcing the Class of 2014 Seed Projects:

A Free Repository of Material Things: A Next-Generation Information Ecology for Drexel Researchers

Digital technologies provide powerful ways for researchers to share findings with other researchers, students, and the public. While many research products are documents, many others consist of physical and material objects. For a long time, researchers interested in examining physical artifacts had a limited number of options: they could travel to visit the artifact, or the artifact could (perhaps) be shipped to them, or they could examine visual surrogates of the artifact, such as photographs. New digital technologies are providing innovative ways to interact with three-dimensional objects, for instance through the use of three-dimensional scans and images. Given these emerging imaging techniques, how should new digital artifacts be stored and made accessible? This research is exploring how we can move beyond existing traditional repository models, which often focus on documents, such as curatorial text or a photo, as a surrogate for the object in question, and towards technologies that support digital interactions with collections of physical and material objects.

To understand how new collections of research objects might be created and shared, this interdisciplinary project is combining approaches from information science, product design, ethnography, and human-computer interaction, to deploy employing a ‘design thinking’ methodology to investigate ways to move beyond existing repository models. The work includes a participatory design approach that will be used to gather requirements for tools for dissemination through various forms of research media. The team will work closely with a range of researchers on the Drexel campus who are engaged in a wide range of intellectual activities, and include co-creation sessions, self-recording, and observations and interviews. The research team will synthesize and visualize the data to identify patterns and connections as well as the diverse research artifacts. The outcomes will include descriptions and requirements for an information space that can provide access to all forms of research from tangible to intangible conducted at Drexel University, with the aim of advancing the research repository landscape and generating innovation in research exchanges between the public and universities.

Project Team:
Michael Khoo, Department of Informatics
Michelle Rogers, Department of Informatics
Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness, Department of Fashion, Product Design, Design and Merchandising

greenSTEM Network Design Challenge

The greenSTEM Network connects students to the environment by monitoring and mining data from rain gardens, green roofs, and various types of green stormwater infrastructure. Using low-cost, DIY sensor kits and open-source code, the greenSTEM Network displays real-time environmental data (such as soil moisture, precipitation, sunlight, and temperature) to help students maintain healthy school gardens, learn about urban water issues, and conduct scientific experiments and analyses.

In spring 2015, the greenSTEM Network will once again collaborate with 7th-9th grade students in Philadelphia to build web-connected environmental sensors for schoolyard gardens. Last year's Root Kit design, which measured soil moisture and temperature, is being taken off the ground and off the grid. The greenSTEM birdhouse is a solar-powered unit that not only measures soil moisture but also provides urban habitat for native species of birds. The birdhouses can be equipped with high-definition, infrared video cameras to observe birds in their nests. This new development broadens the educational scope of the project as we focus not only on stormwater and vegetation, but water as a necessary link between all living things. The greenSTEM birdhouses use low-cost, open-source technology based on the Raspberry Pi and Arduino hardware and software. 

greenSTEM Birdhouse

Drexel's ExCITe Center supports the student-driven nature of this learning project with materials, a creative environment, and collaborative opportunities. Philadelphia public school students design and build the sensor kits and housings. Resources at the ExCITe Center will improve the design, production, and installation of sensor kits at schools in Spring 2015 and help refine our approach to classroom and outdoor learning. For more information and updates, visit

Variable Space—Studying Spatial Interpretation through Dance, Drawing and Digital Media

Variable Space is a collaborative project that seeks to better define our individual perceptions of space. With a shared understanding that space consists of both our physical surroundings and also intangibles, such as time and emotion, our intent is to develop an investigative process that reveals both the commonality and the anomaly in interpretation.

The project employs language as its catalyst and movement as its medium. Trained dancers will react to prompts, which will vary in style from lyrical to instructional to narrative. The dancers will provide interpretive movements to spoken (or otherwise audible) words; both movement and words will be digitally captured. This simultaneous digital recording of both the prompt and action will provide a frame-by-frame understanding of our individual reactions to space and spatial language.

Through motion capture and digital modeling of the dancers' movement, defining variables will be studied in greater detail. Defining variables include duration, range of motion, speed, extent, and frequency. Because this investigation is both scientific and aesthetic, data and findings will be analyzed and presented through a range of methods and visualizations. Variable Space is a collaboration between Drexel faculty: Valerie Fox, PhD, Department of English and Philosophy; Jacklynn Niemiec, Department of Architecture and Interiors; Leah Stein, Department of Dance; Stephen Pettit, Digital Media Program; and Jichen Zhu, PhD, Digital Media and Department of Computer Science. The collaboration is funded through the ExCITe Center Seed Grant (Class of 2014).

Follow this project's progress here!