Top Drexel Stories of 2014
Here's a collection of the stories that generated the most buzz, stoked the imagination, and reflected the best of what Drexel has to offer on every front in 2014.
Big Dino, Big Story
Far and away, the biggest story of 2014 by any and every measure was the announced discovery of Dreadnoughtus schrani, the gigantic sauropod whose fossils captivated minds everywhere.
Discovered by Drexel paleontologist Ken Lacovara, PhD, and with a name which literally means 'fears nothing,' the story of the 65-ton prehistoric beast took off in the media. Dreadnoughtus was featured everywhere, from The New York Times to CNN to Scientific Reports. The giant herbivore even found its way to NPR’s “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” quiz show.
A video detailing Dreadnoughtus’ discovery scored more than five times as many views as the closest contender, racking up more than 530,000 views.
Tetris and Turtles
Speaking of video, several others from Drexel’s official YouTube page proved popular in 2014.
Following the success of 2013’s Pong game played on the Cira Centre, Associate Professor of Digital Media Frank Lee created the world’s largest Tetris game on the building for Philly Tech Week in April.
Video of a person playing the game — and receiving either cheers or groans with each piece they place — scored more than 107,000 views to become the second most popular video of the year.
Fossils were popular in 2014. The third most popular video featured an interview with Associate Professor Ted Daeschler, the vice president of collections and associate curator of vertebrate zoology at Drexel and a counterpart from the New Jersey State Museum.
In it, the pair talked about reuniting two ends of an ancient, giant sea turtle’s humerus bone, which had been split in half. The ends were discovered approximately 150 years apart and joined at Drexel in 2014.
That video amassed approximately 45,000 views.
From Dark Money to Dogs
An article that was actually published late in 2013 continued to have life and became the second most popular DrexelNow feature in 2014.
The article presented the study of Drexel environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle, PhD, into “dark money” donations and their relationship with the denial of climate change.
Examining the philanthropic funding information of more than 100 foundations over several years, he found that funding is increasingly moving through untraceable sources and totals more than $900 million per year.
On a lighter topic, Drexel’s latest celebrity, Jersey the therapy dog, began his climb to fame in September. The University became the first in the country to have a canine regularly on-site at its recreation center all year to help students (and faculty and staff too) cope with anxiety and stress.
Other high-volume stories in 2014 included the unexpected donation of $50 million from Thomas R. Kline toward the University’s law school and a study performed by a professor in the College of Engineering questioning whether the standard three-week quarantine for Ebola patients is sufficient.
Ugly Sweater Party at the Olympics
On the Drexel News Blog, the top story of 2014 was an ugly Christmas sweater party that came a few months too late: the U.S. Olympic Team’s sweater uniforms for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
An interview with Assistant Professor Alphonso McClendon, a fashion design expert in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, focused on the motives behind the American-made design and also its surprising demand. Additionally, McClendon discussed the link between the “garish” U.S. outfits and the tradition and history of military uniforms.
A Season of Firsts for Lacrosse, Crew Repeats, Golfer Impresses
On the sports front, the men’s lacrosse team won its first-ever Colonial Athletic Association title, clinching a trip to the NCAA tournament with a thrilling, triple-overtime victory over Hofstra University powered by a five-goal performance from Cole Shafer.
In the tournament, the Dragons’ inaugural appearance, they advanced to the Elite Eight by giving neighbor-rivals Penn a 16-11 drubbing.
In addition to the team’s success, Drexel midfielder Ben McIntosh was named the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year before being selected first overall in the National Lacrosse League draft by the Edmonton Rush.
Out on the water, Drexel Crew repeated as the Aberdeen Dad Vail Regatta overall champions in May.
Riding atop the Schuylkill River, the combined scores of the men’s and women’s teams amounted to 42 points, seven points above any challengers, and they won four different medals: a gold, two silvers and one bronze.
Christopher Crawford was the most impressive Dragon golfer this season. In addition to earning first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors, Crawford qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship by placing third in a qualifying tournament held in Elverson, Pennsylvania.
A sophomore, Crawford finished eighth in the league championships this year and won the player of the week award four different times.
- Jim Katsaounis, Associate Vice President, University Communications
“This story exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that is part of Drexel’s DNA. It’s a story of two very different individuals, but with commonalities, working together because of a mutual desire to help others and a willingness to devote ‘sleepless nights’ in order to succeed.”
- Alissa Falcone, Communications Associate
“I never figured out a way to write about the David Bowie tapes in Drexel’s Audio Archives until I heard about the sole U.S. showing of the David Bowie retrospective exhibit, ‘David Bowie Is.’ My interview with the project director of the Audio Archives, Toby Seay, was one of my favorite interviews of the year: he fed my Bowie addiction and played never-before-released Bowie songs. Even crazier, the article inspired me to visit Chicago just to see the ‘David Bowie Is’ exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art!”
- Alex McKechnie, News Officer
“The mission of the product design program is to bring meaningful ideas to life — from a ‘smart’ inhaler to glasses that treat seasonal affective disorder. I think these projects were a perfect example of students solving real-world problems through design. In addition to a feature story in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the story was covered by outlets such as Mashable and Fast Company, resulting in calls to the students from everyone, including companies looking to manufacture the products and casting directors for the TV show ‘Shark Tank.’”
- Britt Faulstick, News Officer
“As a resident of South Philly, I see the SS United States quite often and, for some reason, I’m drawn to it. It’s one of the city’s many rusty treasures, but due to a number of unfortunate circumstances it’s docked in a relatively secluded area and inaccessible to the public. The fact that this group of digital media students had an opportunity to board and tour the ship was pretty amazing. Unless an angel donor steps in to restore the boat and keep it in Philadelphia, I have a feeling that their digital tour is the closest many people will get to climbing aboard.”
- Rachel Ewing, News Officer
“There’s no question that the discovery of the giant dinosaur Dreadnoughtus schrani was going to be a personal favorite story. It’s one I and many others at Drexel have anticipated for years, and it’s not only literally huge but also literally awesome. But a smaller, weirder species that didn’t get quite as much attention also charmed me. It’s Kryptoglanis shaji, a pinkie-sized catfish that scientists at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University found to have some truly strange bony structures when they put it through a high-resolution digital CAT scan — so strange that they remain perplexed about what other catfishes it could be related to. What’s cool about Kryptoglanis is that it’s so tiny and cryptic, yet so perplexing and fearsome-looking once you take a closer look — a lot like the creature from the movie 'Alien,' if it were a few millimeters wide. It’s fascinating to realize that weird stuff like this is out there living in the world and life still outwits our ability to categorize it now and then.”
- Niki Gianakaris, Director, Media Relations
"I enjoyed working with the co-founders of Spor, David Hunt and Jason Browne. Both spent last year perfecting a prototype of a portable solar-powered charging device unlike any other. The Spor charger — which features a customizable shell that is made using a 3D printer — does more than give mobile devices power. It makes clean energy more accessible and affordable for the world. Spor chargers aren’t just solar chargeable; they can also soak up power from indoor lighting, USB ports and electrical outlets. What sets them apart from other solar-powered charging devices is not only the fact that they can be customized, but also that they can connect to each other to increase capacity or transfer energy from one Spor to another in what is called 'daisy chaining.' They can be used to charge any device that has a USB port, including smartphones, tablets and GPS devices. Hunt and Browne turned to Kickstarter for funding with the goal of reaching $100,000. They managed to surpass that before the deadline. The story is just one of many that show how Drexel students are creative, forward-thinkers who make great entrepreneurs."