Tuesday, February 17, 2015

BSOS Sustainability Task Force: Create Change through Multidisciplinary Collaboration

The Behavioral and Social Sciences Sustainability Task Force (BSOS STF) is a student driven group made up of undergraduates across various disciplines, including economics, environmental science, engineering, psychology, sociology, neurobiology and physiology, government and politics, geographical sciences, and anthropology. Each week the students meet to discuss different perspectives on and definitions of sustainability while citing current events and civic issues from around the world. The task force also collaborates to further the BSOS Sustainability Plan by working on a singular project that identifies a campus opportunity for green innovation.

The task force is structured such that each student is placed into one of seven sub-groups charged with working on discipline-specific problems and solutions that contribute to the larger scope of the project and to its success. As a team of sub-groups they complement each other’s abilities, skills, and strengths, and the project receives a comprehensive review from many eyes and specialties. The sub-groups are as follows:
  • Admin – act as student leaders and project managers for each sub-group.
  • Protocol – made up of government and politics students, this group meets with necessary campus leaders to ensure the process and protocol of campus projects is followed, and endorsements are secured.
  • Communications and PR – works on creating marketing and media strategies to highlight BSOS sustainability issues and programs, as well as information about the task force project. This group will continue to ensure that students are aware of and can give feedback about the structure, and have access to it.
  • Solar Panel – these members work on finding solar panels with the least environmental impact that were also in a reasonable price range. They also spoke with solar panel experts to find out what considerations need to be acknowledged when working with solar panels. They will be in charge of finding a place for the panels if the demonstration unit is disassembled after a year.
  • Design – these engineering students took all the ideas from the entire task force, including energy monitoring and educational info, and integrated it into a successful solar power charging study station design. Renderings of the design as well as suggested sites for the station are linked below.
  • Social Impact – this sub-group looked at the life-cycle of materials and made recommendations to the design group surrounding which materials to use for the structure. They also created a survey asking students how they would interact with such a structure, spoke with professors about future educational opportunities surrounding the charging station, and looked at case studies of similar projects from around the country for helpful ideas on how impactful the charging station would be to students, professors, and the community.
  • Budget – these task force members kept the group in check when ideas became too ostentatious. Financials are a very important part of any project, and their research into each component of the charging station was invaluable to the process.
The group worked tirelessly over winter break to complete a grant proposal for the UMD Sustainability Fund. If granted, the funds would go toward building and installing a demonstration (for only one to two years) solar paneled charging station located at one of three possible sites near BSOS buildings. Check out the renderings created by our design team here. The hope is that after the demonstration unit is on the campus and used by students and professors, the university will look into a larger-scale project that would put solar powered charging stations all around campus.

What do you think about the BSOS STF process and their project?
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