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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Eller students develop energy-saving project

The Eller College of Management proves that research projects aren’t restricted to the lab, giving honors pre-business students their chance to pitch new sustainability ideas to the UA and Tucson community.

“Eller allows us to be in the spotlight,” said Elizabeth Towne, a pre-business freshman. “I think it’s pretty cool that they would give us such an opportunity at a young age,” she said.

Towne and her fellow team members, Tiana Soto, Alexandra Richardson, and Kevin Spangenberg, designed a research project to cut down on energy waste, a topic they learned about in the mandatory pre-business course Management Information Systems 111, by starting with students’ dorm rooms at the UA. Árbol de la Vida Residence Hall, Towne said, uses “smart thermostats” to solve this problem.

“We wanted to implement them in every dorm in order to save energy,” Towne said. These thermostats detect when no one is in the room, Towne said, and they turn the heating system down until people return. The thermostats also turn lights off when rooms are empty.

“The honors showcase really challenges the pre-business freshmen hoping to apply to Eller to think outside the box,” said Thomas Peres, an honors preceptor for Management Information Systems 111. “It’s really fascinating to see how each group solves a real world problem. It was great to see how people use Management Information Systems to simplify and improve aspects of their everyday life.”

William Neumann, a senior lecturer in the Eller College of Management and course instructor for Management Information Systems 111, said honors students have a distinct experience and are assigned more significant projects.

“I want them to feel challenged but also make them think in terms of problem-solving,” Neumann said. His goal for this showcase was to engage students in projects that did both.

As freshmen, Neumann said, these honors students bring 180 new eyes to look at ways to improve the UA. Through the honors showcase, “They take ownership of a piece of the university. Suddenly, this is their campus,” he added.

Neumann featured peer review as an integral part of this showcase, allowing students to vote for their favorite projects by placing poker chips in plastic bowls assigned to each group. “I had no poker chips,” he added. “They couldn’t convince me.”

The showcase focused on three themes — sustainability, security and synergy — allowing students to develop ideas while finding their own entrepreneurial voice.

They had to learn how to market something, Neumann said, and to get organized as a team. He allowed them to develop their own 1 to 2-minute commercials to grab the attention of those possibly interested in what they had designed.

According to Katherine Carl, a doctoral candidate in Management Information Systems and a graduate teaching assistant for Management Information Systems 111, the program is a wonderful opportunity for students, allowing them to collaborate on something that might actually be implemented at the UA.

“Looking through their projects, these were things that were directly related to the university,” she said.

Carl also said the honors project was a nice way for students to get that small, work-intensive kind of experience that students at large universities are usually not afforded. This is a way for them to get some individual attention from the university, she added.

“It seems like it must be really hard when you’re only taking general education courses,” Carl said, “to think about your post-UA career and whether or not you can risk being creative and still be financially successful.”

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