Edward Averette

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Ed Averette is currently a rising junior, a Sociology major and Journalism minor at UNC Charlotte. He can be contacted at eaverett@uncc.edu.

Op-Ed: On Wednesdays You Should Wear Green…or Whatever Color You Want

Is it a travesty that I hardly know the words to UNC Charlotte’s alma mater, despite being a student here for nearly three years?

The answer to this question may draw mixed reactions from fellow Niners who can empathize with my situation to hardcore stans who may want to banish me from the campus grounds into the Forbidden Forest to live amongst ravenous deer.

Don’t get me wrong, I love UNC Charlotte. I’ve represented Niner Nation during its darkest moments. Whether it was the various and humbling blowouts at The Rich, Hunger-Games-esque class registration periods and Belk Tower’s imminent removal, I’ve always been proud to be a Niner and there is no finer school in the state of North Carolina. However, if you ask me if there is a better school in the country, I would unequivocally and proudly state my lifelong allegiance to a school I don’t attend, the University of Florida.

During any given week, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find someone representing Duke, UNC, ECU, or NC State, just by simply wearing a simple piece of clothing. Because of this, sometimes it’s hard to find the same spirit amongst Charlotte students, and understandably some people are upset at this phenomenon because they perceive this action as disloyal and treasonous.

The usual line of thinking consists of, ‘How can someone wear that when they go to Charlotte?’

And it’s completely understandable that people would react in such a way, because from this view they just want people to be proud of their school. But if we’re parsing ideas here, what makes one proud of their institution. Is it academics, athletics, prestige, setting or some combination of the above?

In my case, it’s a combination of all of these, although I identify with the University of Florida because of their wonderful athletics program (they just happen to be great academically). However, one can assume this is the same for most people whose first exposure to a college is via a television screen, watching whomever their family roots for.

For some that team may be UNC, for others it may be Duke. No matter the case, when you factor in the influences of family, who play a tremendous role in providing individuals with the basis of their social identities (e.g. religion, social class, race and ethnic background), you may possibly get that one bold individual who thinks it’s a fantastic idea to wear Davidson apparel on the week of a big rivalry game.

As much as individuals love to believe alliances and past experiences should fall by the wayside once you attend a college, that’s obviously not the reality. On college campuses it is not uncommon to see students wearing apparel from colleges they applied to, went to or rooted for as a child. This shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a rejection of the college a person currently attends, but as a complicated and maybe not so complicated phenomena that exists in our society.

With over 27,000 students from various states and countries, is it so radical to suggest that one can be supportive of an institution they attend, in addition to another school that they’ve grown up watching every Saturday?

School pride is vital and if you’ve seen Charlotte’s crowds at basketball and football games, it’s evident that enthusiasm is something we struggle with. However, it’s also important to recognize the reasons why school pride is variable, which may include high and unrealistic expectations for athletic teams, lack of marketing and the stigma of being a “commuter school.”

Instead of scapegoating students who wear non-UNC Charlotte apparel, we should embrace diversity and represent the various colleges we identify with, in addition to rooting for Charlotte, without making it seem like an all-or-nothing preposition.

SATIRE: Study shows Niner football blowouts are great for socializing

#12 Brooks Barden takes snap in front of largely empty bleachers. Photo by Chris Crews
Quarterback Brooks Barden takes snap in front of largely empty bleachers. Photo by Chris Crews

New research from UNC Charlotte sociologists Winston Brady, Phillip McAdams and Yolanda Warner show that Niner football home losses are great opportunities for students and fans alike to socialize. The research, which was conducted over the first two and half seasons of football at the university, has found a common trend in social relations once students and fans leave games at halftime when the football team is trailing the road team.

“Wait people are actually leaving?” said UNC Charlotte senior Erica Rollings. “I thought they were going to the bathroom or getting a bite to eat at concessions.”

“Erica, they’ve been gone for about two hours now, they aren’t coming back,” said fellow UNC Charlotte senior Trisha Reid. “Just accept it.”

Despite the relative ignorance of some students over departing fans during games, Brady claims those that are still present during the second half of home games tend to coalesce around one another on an unconscious level and sense the absence of most fans.

“Unconsciously these people know their friends, classmates and significant others have left them hopelessly alone and cheering on these one-sided football contests, but they won’t admit it to themselves on a conscious level,” said Brady. “It’s the bitter truth and it makes most people want to cry. Naturally, this vulnerability allows people to open up to those around them who feel the same way. Add in the fact that they aren’t surrounded by 10,000 people and you have the alleviation of what some would call awkwardness. It’s all very rooted in science.”

According to researchers, this newfound vulnerability in an intimate setting allows people to empathize and talk to one another without the assistance of technology. “I simply can’t believe these entitled brats aren’t on their smartphones putting hashtags on everything or taking unnecessary selfies during these blowouts,” said McAdams. “It’s an amazing sociological phenomenon.”

In addition to students avoiding technology, Warner claims that these blowout losses has allowed students and small groups at games to develop new and innovative chants.

“I really genuinely feel the other 10,000 people are holding us back,” said Niner superfan Brett Allen. “I mean we can do so much better than cheers like ‘You suck’ and using homophobic slurs against opposing players. I at least want my future children and grandchildren to at least not suspect I hit the –ism triple crown.”

Warner finds that these experiences are possibly the best development of the research because it highlights that people are creating new social ties in the process. “What better way to gain a friend or new acquaintance than watching your football team start from the bottom,” she said.

Although attendance is up during the Charlotte’s first FBS season, second half attendance problems still plague the program. However, in light of this research and efforts on behalf of students and fans, Jerry Richardson Stadium may one day become a place opposing teams come to fear.

“Eventually Niner Nation will be so formidable that not even Clemson would want to play us,” said Allen. “Let’s just hope that day comes before I graduate in December.”

*Disclaimer: In this work of satire, all quoted sources are completely fictitious and any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, is coincidental.

Workout Recipe: Banana Raspberry Power Smoothie

Photo by Edward Averette
Photo by Edward Averette

Does the comforts of a warm and cozy mattress sound wonderful after a sweat-busting workout?

There’s a tendency to feel this way, whether you lift weights, do yoga or run on the treadmill. You’re operating on that totally legal post-exercise high and you feel like you’re on top of the world when your adrenaline and energy levels began to crash. It happens. But how can you prevent yourself from crashing on the sheets when you have other things to do during a busy day, without taking a two hour nap.

Well I’ve found your cure, in the elixir of a plant-based smoothie. This recipe can be altered and adapted to the needs of anyone, but in its purest form works best for vegans and vegetarians.

Ingredients

1 banana

½ cup of frozen raspberries (or frozen strawberries)

½ cup of frozen mango chunks

4-5 Baby-cut carrots (optional)

¾-to 1 cup of Almond milk (any kind of milk is fine, although it may taste different with dairy)

Plain or vanilla yogurt (optional)

1 tablespoon of Ground flaxseed (optional)

1 scoop of Vega Protein and Greens- Vanilla or another vanilla flavored protein powder (Optional)

3-5 ice cubes

Supplies

Blender

Drinking cup

Photo by Edward Averette
Photo by Edward Averette

Directions

  1. Get a blender and cut up the banana into smaller blendable pieces before placing the pieces in the blender.
  2. Add half a cup of frozen raspberries (or strawberries) on top of the bananas at the bottom.
  3. Add half a cup of frozen mango chunks (it should be about four chunks) on top of the raspberries.
  4. If preferred, add 4-5 baby cut carrots. This may give the smoothie a bit of a chalky or disjointed texture if it’s not blended fully.
  5. If preferred, add one tablespoon of ground flaxseed.
  6. If preferred, add one scoop of Vega Protein powder or any vanilla flavored protein powder. Make sure the powder is well mixed with the other ingredients. The taste may vary.
  7. Add 3-5 ice cubes into the blender.
  8. Add ¾ to 1 cup of almond milk or any kind of milk. Plain or vanilla yogurt may be used in place of milk, but you’ll probably need less of it or a mixture of both yogurt and milk.
  9. Blend all the ingredients until it’s smooth and consistent in form.

During the post-exercise phase it is vitally important to maintain your energy level and aid your muscles in recovery. The usual rule of thumb is to refuel within 15 minutes to an hour to supply your body with nutrients that can stave off lethargy and agonizing aches and pains. In addition to regulating your body, each of these ingredients within this smoothie provide a nutritional benefit.

While bananas can help with weight loss, they also provide potassium which is vital for maintaining blood pressure and heart function. Bananas can provide at least 10 percent of your daily potassium needs and also serve as a great base for many kinds of smoothies.

Raspberries and strawberries are great antioxidants that possess anti-inflammatory benefits. Both fruits provide anywhere from nearly a third (raspberries) to half (strawberries) of our daily Vitamin C needs, which can protect against heart disease, eye disease, and immune system deficits.

Like bananas, mangoes are a good source of potassium but have the added benefit of providing a fourth of the daily amount of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining eye health and vision and is also capable of clearing the skin.

Although, fruits and vegetables are important components of this smoothie, protein is absolutely vital to recovery. On average, we should ingest anywhere from 10-20 grams of protein following a workout. Usually this works out to a three-to-one or four-to-one ratio of carbohydrates to protein, although fruits can usually provide the bulk of the former.

Even if you don’t end up using the same ingredients and skimp on the protein powder, it’s important to implement protein into your smoothie or a post-workout snack, because it can help reduce fatigue and play a role in creation of new muscle. This can be done by adding yogurt and milk to your smoothie or eating an energy bar in addition to having this smoothie. Instead of feeling drained and succumbing to the depths of dreamland, this smoothie will provide a steady pick-me-up that will allow you to go on with your day.

Op-Ed: Patricia’s path and the danger of warmer seas

Imagine having to evacuate from a behemoth hurricane packing winds in excess of 200 miles per hour, the day before it destroys everything you’ve worked for throughout your life. Your home, your community, the things you take for granted such as old family photos and heirlooms may be washed away by the inevitable storm surge, along with family and neighbors you interact with on a daily basis. It’s not an easy reality to accept, but it was one residents along the southwestern coast of Mexico were faced with a day before Hurricane Patricia made landfall.

On Oct. 23, the strongest hurricane ever and one of the most powerful tropical cyclones in recorded history made landfall near Cuixmala, Mexico on the country’s southwestern coast. Although the storm made landfall with 165 miles per hour winds and gusts approaching 200 miles per hour, it was nowhere near its peak intensity from earlier that day.

This simple yet extraordinary fact is what makes Patricia and her history-making status evens carier. During its initial stages, the budding tropical system had difficulty developing into a tropical depression over a period of six days from Oct. 14- 20. However, in a matter of two days and specifically in the period of a day, Patricia went from being a low-end tropical storm, which was defined as “poorly organized” by meteorologists, and underwent a rapid and record-breaking intensification cycle that transformed the storm into a monster category five hurricane with the lowest air pressure (lower air pressure correlates with a stronger storm) ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.

So what does this all mean exactly? Patricia can’t be the sign of things to come or the only proof of climate change, can it? While the latter is definitively true in that one storm cannot be evidence for or against climate change, the former is more complicated, especially when you consider what fueled Patricia.

Climate change definitely played its part in providing the right ingredients for Patricia to thrive, as is evident by the warmer ocean temperatures across the planet. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sea surface temperatures have risen since the early twentieth century at an average rate of 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. This change may not seem like much, based on the temperature swings we encounter with daily weather, but when the unit of analysis goes from a city to a region to a whole planet, the amount of energy involved changes. Simply put, it takes a tremendous and unfathomable amount of energy to change the temperature of a planet, even by just a tenth of a degree. The difference of a few degrees for the planet is the contrast between living in an Ice Age or Jurassic Age. When you consider that over the past three to four decades these readings have eclipsed past observations and are rising steadily, you have the clear sign of a warming trend for the Earth’s oceans.

What makes Patricia even more complicated is the presence of a strong El Niño event, which creates warmer than average waters and favorable conditions for tropical cyclones in the Pacific Ocean while disrupting weather patterns across the globe. We’re seeing some of those effects include fewer tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin and more or less rain over an extended period of time, depending on where the jet stream flows (moves storms from west to east and north to south) and where you live.

Beyond the technical jargon and complexities of weather and climate, here’s the deal: Mexico was extremely fortunate that Patricia didn’t cause as much damage as it could have. The storm may have weakened as much as it strengthened over a 24-hour period and caused few deaths, but what if Kill Devil Hills or Wilmington, N.C. was hit by Hurricane Patricia instead of Cuixmala, Mexico?

When storms such as Patricia hit “faraway” or “unfamiliar” lands, people have a tendency to become complacent and underestimate the impacts of tropical cyclones. There’s this “It won’t happen to us” mentality that pervades, which is quite hard to shake off even when communities are under threat.

However, such a mentality is dangerous in the face of the changing conditions of an increasingly warming world, and ironically it’s the society’s most disadvantaged, such as lower-income blacks in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, who suffer the most because of such complacency. As a consequence, governments and businesses aren’t taking the enough steps or acting seriously enough to combat the effects of climate change and often times are reacting to situations and in complete denial about the reality of climate change rather than being proactive.

While it’s certainly foolish and short-sighted to say one storm is absolute proof of climate change, Hurricane Patricia is a perfect reminder and cautionary tale for the United States and other countries that despite modern technology we cannot control nature and the unexpected often does happen at the worst time possible. In order to be prepared, the United States and other countries need to take steps to address climate change and reduce impacts before the sea levels rise and impacts society’s most disadvantaged, while everyone else seeks higher ground.

Map lacating the path of Hurricane Patricia off the Mexico coast.
Map lacating the path of Hurricane Patricia off the Mexico coast. (Photo via Tribune News Service)

SATIRE: National Rifle Association wins 2016 Nobel Peace Prize

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord Resort in Oxon Hill, MD, Thursday, March 6, 2014. This year is the American Conservative Union's 50th anniversary and the theme is "Getting it Right for 50 Years." (Pete Marovich/MCT)
NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre speaks at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord Resort in Oxon Hill, MD, Thursday, March 6, 2014. This year is the American Conservative Union’s 50th anniversary and the theme is “Getting it Right for 50 Years.” (Pete Marovich/MCT)

In a surprise turn of events, the National Rifle Association of America has received the 2016

Nobel Peace Prize. The award, which has been awarded 96 times to 129 Nobel Laureates over the past

114 years, was given to the gun rights advocacy group on the basis of “consistent apathy and steadfast

principle in the face of biweekly mass shooting events.”

 

“What we saw with the NRA is simply remarkable,” said Norwegian Nobel Committee

spokesperson Kirsten Haugen. “The committee was so heartbroken because NRA missed this year’s

prize, which went to Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet for promoting and bringing about democracy in

Tunisia following the Arab Spring in 2011. ”

 

While National Dialogue Quartet will receive the Prize on December 10 at Olso City Hall in

Norway, the Nobel Committee faced a difficult decision that would set a new precedent for the

organization.

 

“The chair and the committee were already meeting in late September and earlier this month

deciding on the winner, and then the tragic events at Umpqua Community College took place,” said

Haugen. “That changed everything.”

 

The recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon left 10 people

dead and created the burgeoning national dialogue on gun control.

 

“Somehow this has become routine,” said President Barack Obama during a press conference

following news of the shooting. “The reporting is routine, my response here at this podium ends up

being routine. And what becomes routine is the response from those who oppose any sort of gun

control legislation.”

 

Over the last two weeks, Obama has faced criticism from the NRA and second amendment

advocates who argue he is politicizing mass shootings because of his persistent and admittedly annoying

liberal agenda.

 

“I am so tired of this socialist, Barack Hussein Obama, and his politicization of mass shootings,”

said Huntersville resident and NRA member Dana Carbush. “This sort of thing happens all the time and

we can’t be up in arms just because one loose cannon decides to kill people. We honestly need to follow

Taylor Swift’s suit and shake it off.”

 

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, which has a broader definition of mass shootings that

consists of an event where four or more people are shot, there have been over 300 mass shootings in

285 days.

 

“It’s just amazing that within this span of less than a year and even longer that the NRA and its

members have been resistant and very calm in the aftermath of these biweekly shooting events,” said

Haugen. “Peace is all about maintaining a sense of calm and not questioning the status quo during times

of tragedy, which is what this group has done at an extraordinary level since Columbine. That’s why I

think the committee is rewarding the group with this honor a year in advance.”

 

Carbush thinks this honor has been a long time coming for an organization that has often faced

derision for their claim that gun control is not necessary in America.

 

“September 11th was a real tragedy,” said Carbush, as a single tear streamed during her face. “We need to

protect ourselves from radical Islam and terrorism by spending trillions on fighting a faceless,

transnational enemy that never seems to go away. It’s all about priorities, and I don’t think we should let

one tragedy that happened out of nowhere, define us as a country.”

 


*Disclaimer: In this work of satire, all quoted sources (except for Barack Obama’s attributed quote which he did deliver after the Umpqua Community College shooting) are completely fictitious and any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, is coincidental.

 

OP-ED: Stop talking intraracial crime, start talking #BlackLivesMatter

A young woman yells, "black lives matter," with other protesters at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse on Friday, August 21, 2015 protesting when after four days of deliberations, a mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to resolve a deadlock in the case of Randall "Wes" Kerrick in Charlotte, N.C. Kerrick, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer accused of killing an unarmed man, Jonathan Ferrell, in a struggle two years ago. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS)
A young woman yells, “black lives matter,” with other protesters at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse on Friday, August 21, 2015 protesting when after four days of deliberations, a mistrial was declared when the jury was unable to resolve a deadlock in the case of Randall “Wes” Kerrick in Charlotte, N.C. Kerrick, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police officer was accused of killing an unarmed man, Jonathan Ferrell, in a struggle two years ago. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

The usual scenario when someone says “Black Lives Matter,” is a deafening retort of “All Lives Matter,” or one of its many popular Law & Order spinoffs such as Blue Lives Matter. Naturally, one can guess this latter statement’s popularity is in part because of miscommunication and lack of understanding. One group simply misinterprets the other’s words and thinks the other is advocating on the basis of superiority, like feminists supposedly do. However, as presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley discovered at a political conference this July, that’s not the case.

Everyone acknowledges that All Lives Matter because it’s socially embedded into America’s DNA, at least in principle. It’s a non-threatening value that keeps everyone unaware and secure in their rightful place in the world, much like the myth of a post-racial or a classless society. The belief in equality and value of every life is something our nation is built on but hasn’t always been committed to, as is evident throughout most of American history, which is where All Lives Matter gets murky.

A common argument used by Fox News commentators and mainstream Americans against the phrase Black Lives Matter and the broader social movement is “What about black-on black crime?”  Even recently, prominent black figures such as Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Fox News mainstay and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, and American economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell have reiterated these fateful words in their own ways. In Sherman’s case, he offered a personal spin on this common sentiment. “Dealt with a best friend getting killed … it was two 35-year old black men,” said Sherman. “Wasn’t no police officer involved, wasn’t anybody else involved, and I didn’t hear anybody shouting ‘black lives matter’ then … and I think that’s the point we need to get is that we need to deal with our internal issues before we move forward and start pointing fingers and start attacking other people.”  

In Sherman’s case, his experiences and feelings that no one cared about his best friend being killed are undoubtedly poignant, but in reality there probably were and are people advocating against the problem of crime in lower income black communities.  What isn’t discussed is how these issues are likely a result of factors such lack of economic opportunity, segregation and other socioeconomic issues. However, Sherman’s last point is far more telling to how a fair amount of black Americans and Americans in general feel about the supposed pervasiveness of black-on-black crime, which is so often linked to calls for better accountability and acknowledgement of problems in the black community, rather than how societal institutions cause these problems.

What’s missing from this discussion is that intraracial crime or crime within racial groups is a very common social phenomenon, yet you hardly hear any challenges against the black-on-black crime narrative in the mainstream media.  According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Homicide Trends in the United States, from 1980-2008, 84 percent of white victims were killed by whites and 93 percent of black victims were killed by blacks.

Concerned about the higher rate of blacks killing black victims? Don’t be. This can be explained with the index of dissimilarity or the relative separation or integration of racial and ethnic groups across cities or towns. According to The Persistence of Segregation in the Metropolis: New Findings from the 2010 Census, blacks on average tend to live in areas with higher dissimilarity indices (on a scale of 0 to 100), which means the neighborhoods they live in either contain a high percentage of minorities or are majority black, and segregated from whites. The same scenario applies for whites, although on average they live in less diverse, white-majority neighborhoods. If you consider the level of black-white segregation and isolation in the 50 metro areas with the largest Black populations in 2010 you will witness how many blacks in these large urban areas live in locations where they are the absolute majority or near majority. All of these factors lend to blacks socializing with other blacks and other minorities, much like how whites socialize with other whites.

While there are some pitfalls with the Bureau of Justice Statistics data, such as the lack of data for every murder and the exclusion of multiple victims and offenders, this information falls in line with what we know about social groups and relationships. When you consider all the characteristics that us human; class, age, religion, lifestyle and race, people tend to coalesce around people they know and share similarities with, which permeates into crime as well.

Which is important, because as a nation we need to understand where Black Lives Matter is coming from, instead of writing them off as “race-baiters” and “troublemakers.” Part of that responsibility deals with letting go of unfounded myths such as black-on-black crime, black hypermasculinity and the alleged inherent violent nature of the black community. Ultimately, instead of silencing Black Lives Matter activists and their allies and ignoring reality by shouting “All Lives Matter,” we should all strive to do our research and acknowledge the ways our criminal justice system and our government dishes out disproportionate punishments because of the color of one’s skin.

OP-ED: Crazy, stupid politics

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham speaks with the media in the spin room after the first of two Republican presidential debates at the Quicken Loans Arena on Aug. 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Brian Cahn/Zuma Press/TNS)
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham speaks with the media in the spin room after the first of two Republican presidential debates at the Quicken Loans Arena on Aug. 6, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Brian Cahn/Zuma Press/TNS)

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have made headlines this summer, albeit in contrasting styles. Trump has captured national attention daily by “Keeping It 100,” thus invigorating the outsider base of the Republican Party.

“It’s simply amazing how Trump constantly keeps it real and it hasn’t hurt his campaign at all,” said political strategist Hank Murdoch. “People are just really responsive to his blatant racism, sexism and overall xenophobia and believe that all of the above is exactly what this country needs and they’re absolutely right.”

The latest CNN/ORC poll show the real estate mogul leading the GOP field with 32 percent of the Republican vote, with renowned neurosurgeon Ben Carson as his nearest challenger in most polls. “I’m not exactly sure how Carson is following Trump in the polls, to be honest,” said Murdoch. “I couldn’t have predicted this a few months ago, but most of the time my predictions are completely wrong. ”

Although, Trump continues his oceans eleven deep lead amongst the GOP field, many are beginning to question the authenticity of his conservatism. “He says a lot of stuff that hits right at the core of my essence,” said Mint Hill resident Warren Borders. “He’s right on immigration and all that, but it’s just a little convenient is all I’m saying. Last week he said he didn’t want to defund Planned Parenthood, because they do some good things for women and this week he wants to defund it. The man is flipping and flopping more than a freshly caught bass in the Catawba.”

As conservatives flock to Washington outsiders like Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz, liberals are abandoning Hillary Clinton and throwing their support behind Sanders and Deez Nuts, although the latter is an independent. “I just find Deez Nuts is a lot firmer on positions such renewable energy, and same-sex marriage than Hillary,” said UNC Charlotte student Tiana Young. “I know she’s supposed to be ‘the candidate’ for the Democrats and whatever, but I honestly feel that she’s more robotic than Mitt Romney. Like I can literally see the circuits in her eyes. America’s not ready for a cyborg president just yet.”

Clinton’s support has declined in recent weeks due to concerns of her handling of potentially confidential emails under her personal email. This decline has led to momentous gains for the Sanders campaign, which now boasts a nine-point lead in New Hampshire in the NBC/ Marist poll. “We’re not going to attack Hillary, but we definitely want to capture disillusioned millennials who feel Bernie Sanders is their one-way ticket to Hogwarts,” said Sanders campaign aide Adam Granger.

Although, in recent months, Sanders has eliminated Clinton’s lead in New Hampshire and Iowa, the Vermont Senator faces ever-growing competition from a surging Nuts campaign and hints of a possible Joe Biden run. “Honestly guys, it’s like 14 months out from the election and you’re putting me in hypotheticals against Hillary, Bernie and Deez Nuts?” said Biden. “If I can get in the low to mid-twenties in the polls just on shameless media speculation and unwanted hype, imagine what I can do if I declared to run? They don’t stand a chance.”

With the upcoming Republican and Democratic Primary Debates, Nuts is still without a platform to be able to debate mainstream candidates. “It’s really unfair that I don’t get the exposure the other candidates get because I’m a third-party candidate,” said Nuts. “Nine percent in the polls is great, but Deez Nuts wants to make some noise in 2016. I didn’t run to lose to that guy with the dead animal on his head.”

Despite this, the independent candidate is considering a bold choice for vice president ahead of next summer’s conventions, to generate headlines and create an opportunity to reach the main debate stage. “I know Kanye mentioned he was running in 2020, but nothing would set him up better than being my veep,” said Nuts. “I mean I’m only one guy, and I really shouldn’t have all that power. Kanye would keep me humble.”

UNC Charlotte team competes in EPA’s People, Prosperity and Planet National Sustainable Design Expo

In 2013, UNC Charlotte assistant professor Mona Azarbayjani led an interdisciplinary effort with more than three dozen UNC Charlotte students, and faculty to the biannual Solar Decathlon.

The competition, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, featured 19 academic teams amongst which the UNC Charlotte team won the popular-vote People’s Choice Award, and finished in the top five in four of the ten events.

“One of the core objectives of the Solar Decathlon was to turn ideas into research,” said Azarbayjani in UNC Charlotte’s Exchange Online. “Throughout the competition, we wanted to embrace all aspects of sustainability and the built environment. That’s where the idea of a responsive building envelop was born.”

The blueprint at the time, for the architecture professor and her team, was to design and build an energy and cost-efficient solar-powered home that was also affordable and appealing to consumers.

However, during this period, Azarbayjani met assistant chemistry professor Dr. Michael Walter and discussed implementing another feature into the project, but time constraints squandered her plans.

“We used that idea to develop a material that then later on we decided to apply for grants such as EPA (Environmental Protection Agency),” she said.

Team members at the EPA P3. Photo courtesy of epa.gov
Team members at the EPA P3. Photo courtesy of epa.gov

In August 2014, UNC Charlotte received a $15,000 grant from the EPA to develop a project addressing environmental issues throughout the world.

As a part of the grant, UNC Charlotte could compete in the EPA’s People, Prosperity and Planet National Sustainable Design Expo, with the opportunity to win $75,000 in funding if they won the competition.

“EPA P3 was a much smaller scale of decathlon,” said Azarbayjani.

Despite the difference of scale, the architecture professor says lessons learned from the decathlon were applied throughout the EPA project.

“I learned how to manage time and resources and how to set deliverables and smaller goals for the team and how to hold them accountable for the tasks,” she said.

Walter joining forces with Azarbayjani was another difference this time around, as the two collaborated on the production of a ‘solar-responsive power-producing façade, using silicon and organic materials.

Assisted by an integrated group of six students from fields such as architecture, nano science and chemistry, the two faculty members worked together to develop heat-harvesting transparent windows, which draw energy from the sun.

“The purpose is to lower the energy of the building and to have it become more sustainable,” said Walter. This need to lower energy outputs stems from wasted energy from buildings, which according to U.S. Green Building Council accounts for 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions (more than the amount transportation, and industry) and 70 percent of electricity use in the country.

“All the energy that goes into lighting, heating and cooling, think about it, a lot of buildings are becoming all glass,” he said. “So what are we doing?─We’re creating greenhouses.”

To counter this environmental challenge, the group created a material consisting of thin silicon microwires wrapped inside a temperature-sensitive polymer.

As the outer polymer layer grows warmer and expands, the internal microwires begin to move and respond to external changes in temperature and sunlight intensity.

This effect is most apparent during the heat of the day when the outer polymer layer absorbs heat, which causes the silicon microwires to bend and gain excess solar energy.

This excess solar energy is then converted into electricity and may one day power cars, houses and skyscrapers, just by applying a film-like material on or within a glass surface.

“What we’re saying [is] let’s tint it and use the material that’s tinting the window to generate electricity,” Walter said.

After nearly eight months of working on the project and additional funding from the Energy Production and Infrastructure Center, the Department of Chemistry and the School of Architecture, the UNC Charlotte team took their design to the P3 competition on April 10-13 in Alexandria, Virginia. There, they competed against 41 other collegiate teams for the possibility to win $75,000 in grant money for two years.

While the P3 competition selected seven winners, with nearby Appalachian State University being one of them, UNC Charlotte finished outside the top seven.

“We got honorable mention, which means that the judges believe that our project deserves further funding,” said Azarbayjani.

However, because UNC Charlotte finished outside of the top seven and was one of eighteen teams with an honorable mention that funding has to come from elsewhere.

Although the P3 competition is no longer on Azarbayjani’s radar, the assistant architecture professor and Walter are in the midst of seeking more funding to continue the project.

“We’ll pursue larger grants from the DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) and the NSF (National Science Foundation) to make sure the project has long term funding—so we can really develop the technology,” said Walter.

An inside look at Devin Hatley, UNC Charlotte’s environmental educator

Devin Hatley. Photo by Edward Averette
Devin Hatley. Photo by Edward Averette

Concord native and Navy veteran, Devin Hatley is in the midst of efforts to change UNC Charlotte through recycling. However, past experiences and adaptability has played a role in his job as UNC Charlotte’s environmental educator.

Lifetime of Service

The roots of UNC Charlotte’s recycling program rose from the litter-riddled grounds on campus back in 1990, when frustrated students at Witherspoon Hall grew tired of seeing aluminum cans being tossed away.

Twenty-five years following that formative moment, UNC Charlotte’s Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling boasts a staff of 14 members, which sweeps across the sprawling thousand-acre campus to collect various types of recyclable materials.

“You got to put it in perspective, we’re basically a small city,” UNC Charlotte environmental educator Devin Hartley said. “We have 27,000 students. Then we have several thousand faculty and staff. So you’re looking at 30,000 people on any given day, plus visitors. That’s a lot of material to bring on campus and have to dispose of.”

In his ninth year as an environmental educator for the rapidly growing university, Hatley’s job consists of serving as liaison for the campus’ waste and recycling department. Every April, he is responsible for marketing events like Campus Cleanup and Earth Day, while for the duration of the year he can found doing working alongside UNC Charlotte Waste Contract Administrator Shannon Coveny-Cox on waste audits. “I work with the drivers and the companies that accept our materials, and Devin has to help make sure that the campus knows where the materials need to go.”

It may seem that the gray-whiskered and slightly bald veteran of UNC Charlotte recycling has been at this for a while, with commitments as an advisor for the student-led Charlotte Green Initiative and Earth Club. However, spreading environmental wisdom and changing attitudes towards how we throw away things is only one aspect of the man underneath the cowboy hat.

As a newly-minted high school graduate in 1989, the bright, blue-eyed Concord native wasn’t sure about the direction of his life.  “I went to school a little bit, took some classes at CP [Central Piedmont Community College] at the time and I wasn’t sure about it,” Hatley said. “I was still trying to figure out who I was.”

At the time he had a girlfriend and was clouded by ‘if I want to marry this girl I got to do something’ thoughts. “I always loved the ocean, use to go fishing a lot in the ocean when I was a kid,” he said, reflecting on past hobbies.

Although Hatley worked at AutoZone, waited tables and worked at a hosiery factory as a teen, he hadn’t worked a full-time job. As others encouraged him, the teenager steered towards thoughts of joining the military.

“I was 19 or 20 when I went in [Navy], my first station was in San Diego, so it’s completely different than Concord, North Carolina ── just different place and different coast altogether, so it took me some time to kinda adjust,” he said.

On the sun-drenched southern California coast, the fresh-faced and dimpled, dark-haired recruit was presented with several options to decide the length of his stay in the Navy. “You read a little paragraph that says ‘this is what you’re going to do for the next four years’ ─── to me it was hard for me to commit to this little paragraph saying this is how it’s going to be, so they offered me the two-year option, Hatley said.”

The new recruit accepted the Navy’s offer and worked as a deck-hand, painting ships by sunlight and shadowing others by twilight. “You had to strike into the job you wanted,” he said.

Shadowing consisted of running through a checklist of what recruits had to learn to acquire other jobs on the carrier, and acquiring a certain amount of hours to get signed off by the chief for the opportunity to strike in front of the board. “I was like ‘hey, you know they got computers in here, nice clean environment, and their uniforms never dirty,” Hatley said, his voice ringing with a subtle twang.

After navigating the strike process for a year and a half, he signed up for four more years as a member of personnel and embarked on a cross-country trip from rural Mississippi to the ‘City of Ships’ in Bath, Maine. The latter destination was one in which he found his fortunes changing in the nation’s capital. “I was going to Hawaii, via Washington D.C,” Hatley said. “I know Hawaii sounds great and I was married then. I spent so much time away from my wife, in and out ── plus, I was still looking forward to getting to the East Coast.”

Hatley set out to know the master chief he was working with in the capital city. “I kinda changed my destiny a little bit,” he said. As the highest enlisted person on the ship, the master chief used his political clout to halt a potential move to the Pacific paradise and instead recruited Hatley to join him in Maine.

Although, the Concord native lived in five states during his six-year military career, meandering straits and a desire to stay close to family, brought him closer to home. “My family’s here, my brother, my sister, my parents, just not a bad place to be,” he said.

After graduating from East Carolina University and stints working at Charlotte’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Habitat for Humanity, Hatley began to look for a new job in an increasingly congested job market. One of the targets on his radar included UNC Charlotte, the fourth largest university in the UNC system and one of the faster growing schools in the system. “It sort of went along how my whole career has went in that I’ve kinda been involved in the service, service to others,” he said.

Although the veteran thought “recycling was cool”, he didn’t know a lot about the industry. “I don’t know if that’s how I planned it all out, I was in accounting and finance [at East Carolina University]── I was going to be rich and make a lot of money, but my life turned to different pursuits,” Hatley said.

On the cusp of the Great Recession, he was hired as environmental educator in July 2006 and joined forces with UNC Charlotte recycling office manager Kelly Freshcorn.  Over eight and a half years, Freshcorn has worked with the ‘generally laid back and quite pleasant’ Hatley and alongside Coveny-Cox to conduct waste audits and generate ideas for recycling. “We all work together to make sure our annual events such as Earth Day and Campus Clean-Up go off without a hitch,” Freshcorn said.

In addition to planning events and marketing, Hatley has witnessed the growth of the recycling program and the implentation of the Zero Waste initiative during football season.  The program, initially a student proposition by the Charlotte Green Initiative, seeks to convert suitable used items such as cups, napkins and food into either compostable or recyclable materials.

Under the collaborative efforts of the university, student organizations, stadium management, food services and volunteers, (some of which has come from ROTC) approximately 82.6 percent of waste collected during the 2013 football season, was recycled or composted (65 percent composted). “It’s harder to change some sort of tradition than it is to go and create tradition right away,” Hatley said.

The initiative was recognized last April by the National Association of College Auxiliary Services’ (NACAS) Southern region for ‘outstanding collaboration and partnership.’ Seven months later, the university added to its growing list of honors the Wells Fargo Green Award at the Charlotte Chamber Energy Summit, where Hatley accepted the award alongside University Sustainability Officer, Mike Lizotte.

As the Zero Waste initiative gains traction and recycling efforts yield higher amounts of diverted materials, Hatley foresees a longer stay at UNC Charlotte, although he’s keeping his options open. “UNC Charlotte has grown and continues to grow and overall, it’s a great place to work,” he said.

Somewhere under the red brick road

Construction of the tunnel in the early 2000's. Photo courtesy of John Neilson
Construction of the tunnel in the early 2000’s. Photo courtesy of John Neilson

Below the sidewalks along the rolling terrain of UNC Charlotte’s campus is something that has evaded the knowledge of thousands upon thousands of students, faculty and guests walking over it everyday.

“I think it would be under the bridge between Union and Lynch,” said UNC Charlotte freshman Rayshawna Hicks.

The Software and Information Systems major has no clue where the relatively hidden and concrete-fortified location could lie on campus and has never heard anyone mention it in passing.

Fellow freshman, Suet-ying Wong, says she heard of the existence of a ‘secret tunnel’ during a tour of the school.

“They [the tour guide] said allegedly there was a secret tunnel at CHHS (College of Health and Human Services),” said Wong.

Trevor Dunlap, a UNC Charlotte junior, first discovered the existence of this underground passage three years ago and claims he has walked through it. “I don’t know the purpose of it,” Dunlap said. “I assumed so kids don’t walk out in the rain.”

According to Lee Snodgrass, director of Facilities Operations, the general purpose of the ‘secret tunnel’ is as a service corridor. The tunnel was built in conjunction with one of two Piedmont red-bricked buildings, when the construction broke ground in the early 2000’s, under former UNC Charlotte Chancellor Jim Woodward’s tenure.

“The chancellor didn’t want service vehicles going in the courtyard area,” said Snodgrass.

Problems materialized when space constraints prevented one of the buildings from having a loading dock.  The concept is if there’s any supplies needed for one building, it can be transported through the service corridor from the loading dock of another building.

The eight-foot wide underground pathway serves as a proxy for deliveries where classroom materials, supplies and equipment are exchanged between two buildings. During the day, UPS delivery workers and university employees can be found walking across the pathway, from whichever building, to reach their destination on the other side. At night, the tunnel maintains a different kind of appeal. “It’s kind of cool; I’m not going to lie,” said UNC Charlotte sophomore Allison Blackwell, who explored the depths of the corridor after a recent club meeting. “It felt kind of like a secret.”

Over the heads of passersby is a set of multi-colored tubes scaling along the 150-foot-long corridor ceiling, with each tube serving a specific purpose. “Blue pipes are chilled water supply (air conditioning); green pipes are for domestic water supply (toilets, sinks and water fountains); red is fire protection; and orange is hot water (heating),” said Snodgrass.

In addition to housing utilities for the Regional Utility Plant #1, which are a group of buildings including the Student Activity Center and Woodward Hall, the corridor can also serve as an isolated hideout during severe weather events like tornadoes.

“That is not the intent, [but] it could be used for that purpose,” said Snodgrass. Although, in most cases the corridor has a capacity of 140 people, during an emergency the capacity of the corridor could swell to fit 250 people.

Photo by Eden Creamer
Photo by Eden Creamer

While UNC Charlotte’s service corridor is used for transporting supplies and utilities between buildings, the tunnels further north possess a longer and more colorful history.

According to Wake Forest University’s Old Gold & Black, the school’s tunnels were built in the 1950’s as a place to store steam piping for temperature control of buildings, as well as for phone lines. Since its inception, Wake Forest students used the tunnels for a variety of purposes.

Over the decades, the tunnels have served as shortcuts to other locations on campus and as romantic underground getaways for passionate couples. Some Wake Forest students even took it upon themselves to create a real-world version of the Marauders Map called “The Underground WFU Guidebook” during the ‘70s.

100 miles eastward, underneath North Carolina State University’s campus is a network of steam tunnels that run below the 2,100-acre university. One of NC State’s tunnels, Free Expression Tunnel, allows anyone to add their own images or words to any surface.

According to NC State’s student newspaper, Technician, since 1939, the tunnel has transformed from a pedestrian walkway into a place students are able to graffiti without the watchful eye of campus administrators.

At UNC Charlotte, not many visible signs of student excursions exist amongst the ivory concrete walls, charcoal-black doors and clinically gray floors that wait on one side of the tunnel.

Beyond an open door and a nearby stream of blue light is a pair of signatures along an interrupted block of concrete at the halfway point of the corridor. Above the signatures is an Internet-inspired comment, “First Post Ever,” along with two time stamps at the bottom right-hand corner of the block. Beyond student stories, these scarce signs of graffiti are the lone pieces of evidence involving student excursions in the service corridor.

“There’s not a police officer standing there…it’s not special, it’s just a corridor,” said Snodgrass. “So I don’t know what anybody would do in there.”

While UNC Charlotte Police Lt. Brian Thomas has not heard of any incidents happening in the tunnel and little in the way of police presence exists, it should be noted that the tunnel is a service and utility corridor and is a potentially unsafe location for students.

A look into the decision-making process of delaying, canceling classes

Workers trying to clear a campus road. Photo by Lienna Stoops
Workers trying to clear a road on campus. Photo by Linnea Stoops

Throughout Feb. 16, UNC Charlotte Chancellor Philip Dubois was wrestling with a decision.

“I remember that the issue I was wrestling with on that first day (Monday) was whether we were going to OS2 (Adverse weather operations, cancelled or delayed classes) or whether we should close under OS3 (Emergency Event operations, cancelled classes, closed offices, essential staff to report),” said Dubois. “We were watching both the forecasts and the radar track. We had storms in the past that skirted by us with little or no impact, notwithstanding the general forecast.”

At midday, Gov. Pat McCrory issued a State of Emergency ahead of an approaching winter storm, which National Weather Service forecasters predicted a day prior would bring two-thirds of an inch of precipitation, with a quarter-inch of that falling as freezing rain throughout Mecklenburg County.

Winter storm warnings (almost certain to occur) were in effect from the North Carolina/Tennessee border to the Research Triangle as the storm progressed from the western edge of the state in the early afternoon. By 3 p.m., evening classes were soon cancelled at Central Piedmont Community College and Queens University, as light snow began to fall on the UNC Charlotte campus and throughout the area.

“I’m not sure why it took them so long to reach a decision,” said UNCC Weather co-creator, Ricky Matthews. “The timing and impacts didn’t change throughout the day. The current policy [University Policy 701] that UNC Charlotte has is reflective of a state standard adopted in December. It says that the University will remain open for light amounts of snow/ice. We need to clarify that, since a light dusting of snow as we saw in Atlanta (Atlanta received two inches last January, and experienced gridlock) can cause massive impacts.”

Shortly after 5 p.m., the UNC Charlotte News Twitter account updated students on the social media site about the cancellation of night classes on Feb.16, along with Feb.17 classes prior to 11 a.m.

This information surfaced on UNC Charlotte’s Facebook page five minutes later, following what is typically a part of the university’s traditional notification system (UNC Charlotte home web page, social media accounts and local media). However, in the comments section of UNC Charlotte’s Facebook status, students like Meghan Elias expressed outrage at the school’s timing to notify them of evening class cancellations.

“Glad everyone with 5 p.m. classes risked their lives today driving to them,” said Elias, via Facebook. “Just to receive notice at 5:10 p.m. that all 5 p.m. classes are cancelled. Real prompt. Perhaps issuing notices on time in the future could save a few lives.”

While Dubois said students generally check those sources regularly, he noted that speed and timing of notification were an issue in relaying information.

“I was briefed throughout the morning and early afternoon and, at some point, concluded that the wise decision would be closure,” said Dubois.  “As I said, I might have made that call earlier and avoided the confusion, but we’ve probably had 20-30 decisions like this since I’ve been chancellor and most of them have been right and on time.  I’ll take responsibility for making this call a little late, but the overall decision was the right one.  If students think they were inconvenienced by not receiving the information before the start of 5 p.m. classes, imagine how they would feel if I had decided to keep the institution open and they then had to leave campus later in the evening.”

Parked SafeRide vehicles during the Feb. 16 snow day. Photo by Lienna Stoops
Parked SafeRide vehicles during the Feb. 16 snow day. Photo by Linnea Stoops

UNC Charlotte meteorology student Warren Pettee disagreed about Dubois’ view on the changing weather forecasts and his decision.

“Here’s my biggest thing: UNCC cancelled as the event was unfolding,” said Pettee. “We heard CFD/ CMPD [Charlotte Fire Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department] responding constantly to calls within an hour after. What kind of message does this send to the city regarding UNCC’s views on safety? CMPD specifically asked citizens to remain off the roads. There was obviously no internal collaboration. If they were actually communicating, they would have concluded to cancel all classes after 3:15 [p.m.]. Facilities should have admitted the inability to maintain safety by 2:00 [p.m.], when the latest temperature and precipitation forecasts were in. The weather was there 24 hours prior, there is no excuse – only poor organization by one of NC’s largest universities.”

Throughout the early evening and into the night, freezing rain and sleet fell throughout Charlotte, creating a glaze of ice on roads and highways throughout the Queen City. According to WSOC-TV (Channel 9 ) from 6 – 7:30 p.m., Medic (Mecklenburg EMS Agency) responded to 49 crashes.

By 9:30 p.m., the City of Charlotte’s Twitter reported 118 car accidents since 3 p.m. on Feb.16, with 39 injuries overall. In the early hours of Feb.17, UNC Charlotte Police reported one accident caused by icy road conditions. In the description of the incident, UNC Charlotte Police noted the driver failed to control their vehicle because of slick roads and hit a light pole, causing damage to the vehicle and light pole.

In light of communication issues with emails and notifications in regard to Feb.16 closures and delays, Dubois says the school is coming to the conclusion that emails need to be a part of standard procedure when it comes to adverse weather events.

“Traditionally we have not used emails, but our experience on Feb.16 led us to use emails on Feb.17, and we will probably use emails in the future,” said Dubois.

For Matthews and other meteorology students, they are in the process of collaborating with campus police to provide weather information in a clear and understandable manner in the police’s emails to students. “Myself and several other meteorology majors would be glad to help the administration, working as Incident Meteorologists to help them understand the forecast better by answering questions and providing a breakdown in plain text of the meteorology behind an event and the possible impacts,” said Matthews.

Infrared: science and technology beat

 

During the darkest days of the year, storms are born and bred in the unsettled, cerulean waters of the Pacific Northwest.

“When we start looking more than three days out, we’re looking at systems that are happening, that are currently just crossing over the Pacific way over here or about to form, things that haven’t even formed yet,” said UNC Charlotte meteorology student Warren Pettee.

On January 25, meteorologists anticipated a ‘potentially historic winter storm’ to impact the Northeast, the second in line of three winter storms that impacted the region in the past several weeks. The nor’easter dumped ankle and knee-high lengths of snow and created whiteout conditions throughout New England, while providing less than predicted amounts for New York City and Philadelphia. However, four days prior, the storm wasn’t on Pettee’s radar.

“For the most part, for us, the forecast starts with looking at the big picture,” said Pettee. “We just kind of take a step out and we look at what’s going around the United States.”

For the May-bound graduate, looking at the big picture starts and ends in the Multidisciplinary Earth Sciences and Atmospheric Sciences Research Group (MESAS) lab on the third floor of the McEniry Building. Joining Pettee inside the lab is graduate student Thomas Winesett, and Student Organization of Meteorology (STORM) President, Ricky Matthews. Outside the humble confines of the McEniry 316 is a relatively uneventful and unseasonably warm January day. It’s the kind of day where meteorologists like Pettee spend just a few moments surveying various maps and looking for any clues of an imminent disturbance.

“When winter weather season comes around, I’ll spend one hour, two hours working on something,” said Pettee. “Sometimes, if it’s a nice day, it’s maybe 30 minutes. It really comes down to what’s going on and what you’re forecasting for.”

The group’s winter scoreboard is an attempt to see which one of the crew can predict the most accurate forecast.

“That’s more of us trying to say we’re better than one another,” said Pettee as he laughs.

The scoreboard consists of Pettee, Winesett, Matthews and Matt Todavine. Juxtaposed against the human element of this forecasting competition are three weather models, creating what is essentially a no-skill forecast.  With no-skill forecasts, meteorologists like Pettee, Winesett and Matthews use skill scores to see how they stack up against persistence forecasts, which rely on the previous day’s events, to forecast the next day’s weather.

“We’re looking at maybe a snowstorm next week, maybe,” said Pettee.

While Charlotte was in the midst of enjoying its last anomalous day of prevernal warmth, various conditions across the states began to set up the next powerplay as the brief spell of spring subsided in favor of a new trend. The new trend ushered in a surge of colder temperatures across the Piedmont, but dashed high hopes of a possible snowstorm when the storm Pettee and his colleagues tracked days earlier shifted northward. Instead of snow, pockets of warm air blanketed the Charlotte region and produced a persistent, chilly rain throughout January 23 and into the wee hours of January’s penultimate weekend.

“As far as numerical weather models go, it could really be anything on the planet that affects the way that these models are working,” said Pettee. “Any parking lot, urban settings, too much concrete, it all affects that scale of weather.”

Numerical weather models serve as a primary tool meteorologists use for creating forecasts while measuring the initial conditions of the environment. “We normally use [climatology models] that as a kind of forecast base,” said Pettee. “If the climatology did a better job at forecasting than we did, then we’re doing a really bad job.”

Instead of relying solely on climatology models, Pettee and his colleagues typically feed them into numerical models and examine past weather scenarios to come up with forecasts. Compared to climatology models, which are used to predict long-term conditions with averages, and trend models, numerical models analyze weather observations in real-time while projecting future conditions based on the results.

Although meteorologists can use initial conditions such as temperature, dew point, air pressure and winds to account for what weather lies beyond the horizon, chaos often usurps the expertise of the human subjects analyzing the weather.

“If those are wrong [temperature, dew point, pressure and wind measurements], which there is instrumentation error, or they’re nonexistent in an area, then it plays a huge role in how things are forecasted,” said Pettee.

For meteorologists, the small stuff can often alter a forecast. While late-January nor’easter’s last minute drift 50 miles eastward spared New York City from being buried under 18 to 24 inches of snow (Central Park received 9.8 inches), it didn’t spare criticism directed at forecasters who utilized the Euro (ECMWF) numerical model that emphasized more snow rather than the American GFS (Global Forecasting System) model.

Still Pettee said that “at some point the science is going to have to catch up” in order for models to become more accurate.

“If the forecast before was wrong, certain models aren’t going to do as good as others,” said Pettee. “It’s really a hit or miss thing with frankly a ton of physics and dynamics involved with the why.”

Throughout the past few decades, advances in weather forecasting have led to fewer errors. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver reported that in 1972, the National Weather Service’s temperature forecast missed by an average of six degrees whenever a forecast was made three days in advance.  Nowadays, the temperature error is down to three degrees.

Advancements in technology have also improved forecasting tracks for hurricanes and tropical cyclones. In the ‘80s when NOAA’s National Hurricane Center forecasted tropical cyclones, the average miss was 350 miles (approximately the length from Gastonia to the North Carolina/Virginia state line). In 2015, the margin of error for tropical cyclone paths decreased to 100 miles.

“We’re at the point where our computers are starting to get better at the models we’re running,” said Pettee. “Which is a good thing because we can actually take the scale that we’re running them and make them even smaller.

With countless clusters of molecules whizzing past one another in the atmosphere that have to be accounted for in advanced math equations, meteorologists like the ones for the National Weather Service and at UNC Charlotte are presented with the same daily challenge -predicting the unpredictable at a moment’s notice.

Infrared: science and technology beat

UNC Charlotte student, Michael Carino, working with ThermoDyne. Photo courtesy of Tim Risser
UNC Charlotte student, Michael Carino, working with ThermoDyne. Photo courtesy of Tim Risser

For Tim Risser, the world is full of limitless energy. The International ThermoDyne co-founder envisions a world in which batteries and chargers are obsolete in a new electronic age, a world where heat and motion alone can power electronic devices and could one day end our unyielding dependence on finite energy forms. However in 2015, that world hasn’t come to fruition just yet.

“Generally what we’re working towards is electronic devices that never need to be plugged in again,” Risser said.

In December, the Charlotte-based startup, International ThermoDyne, announced a collaboration with UNC Charlotte, which involves developing their foremost innovative effort−−PowerFelt.  PowerFelt was originally the brainchild of Wake Forest University materials physicist David Carroll, who created the cloth-like material five years ago at Wake Forest’s NanoCenter.

During the initial stages of development, Caroll wrapped plastic fibers around minute-sized carbon nanotubes, which are arranged into the three layers and connected in a z-shape.  These carbon nanotubes serve as a potent electric conductor, which allows the flexible fabric to absorb heat and transfer motion into usable and unlimited energy.

“This is sort of the first step towards green energy everywhere,” Risser said.

The cloth-like PowerFelt operates on the heat differential between the surface temperature of an object (e.g. body) and the relative room temperature to generate an electric charge.  PowerFelt can also draw power from motion, noises or vibrations, which can come in handy during a sweat-inducing workout or a breezy, short walk to class. However, there’s just one caveat: while a thicker PowerFelt means more power, without an energy source in the form of heat or motion, there is no power.

Despite this, PowerFelt has many potential applications for college students and for those beyond the realm of ivory towers. In addition to providing unlimited energy, the fabric could be applied to smart phones, tablets, cars, household appliances and sensors.

“If you think about it, there’s virtually unlimited free energy around us everyday. We’re not tapping into that,” Risser said. “The sun produces and rains down on the earth more energy everyday than we have ever consumed since man has been on the planet. There’s a lot to be harvested.”

International ThermoDyne selected UNC Charlotte as a prime destination to continue development on PowerFelt, as the year-old startup sought resources such as development labs and equipment.

“We sort of informally worked with some of the professors who had some space in [Energy Production Infrastructure Center] EPIC,” Risser said. “We have several students that we have engaged with and we’ve had some special projects from time to time.”

One of the initial issues with PowerFelt and its production results from being a primarily hand-made product, which has limited its output.  “This is a material that’s never been made before, so everything we do, we stub our toes,” Risser said. “I wouldn’t call them problems, let’s call them opportunities in the development process. That’s what makes it fun and exciting and that’s why we do this—to solve problems that need to be solved.”

While Risser and his team are still working on developing PowerFelt, which isn’t currently mass produced, Risser says we can begin to expect seeing PowerFelt-enhanced products in two to three years. For now the charger-less world of the future must wait.

UNC Charlotte’s Murray Webster, Cooley-Mead Award recipient

For UNC Charlotte sociologist Murray Webster, Palo Alto was the place to be in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. Before the region was home to Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook and some of the world’s most influential innovators, Silicon Valley was just pure fantasy.  In the 1890s, the area that engulfs much of the Santa Clara Valley was known more for its treasure trove of tomatoes, pears, apricots and prune-producing French plums, than its technological prowess.

In a matter of decades, the valley’s fortunes changed as the black blizzards of the Dust Bowl in the Midwest and the precipice of war ushered in a new era. At Stanford, the ‘Father of Silicon Valley, Frederick Terman was beginning to build the university’s electrical engineering and electronics programs from the ground up, hoping to get graduates to create local electronics businesses.

Following the end of World War II, under Terman’s tutelage as Stanford’s Dean of Engineering, the university created Stanford Industrial Park (now Stanford Research Park), which became home to such companies like Varian Associates,  Eastman Kodak and General Electric and created the foundation to Silicon Valley.  However, several miles east on the lush grounds of Stanford’s main campus, a new presence would bring the budding technological powerhouse towards another type of discovery.

Joseph Berger arrived on Stanford’s sandstone and red-roofed campus in the late ‘50s. After earning his masters and doctorate at Harvard, Berger sought Stanford just like Terman did decades prior.  He was young, eager and ambitious just like many before him. “[Stanford] hired several new people and the new folks they hired were interested in developing theoretical understandings of different things: social psychology, status processes, organizational structures, legitimation in organizations,” says Webster.

These theoretical understandings developed under what is called ‘Stanford sociology,’ a sociological approach that emphasizes expanding and testing theoretical frameworks often with laboratory research methods. However, much like Cam Newton’s adaptable blend of running and passing in the NFL, the approach was unconventional in a relatively young field.

“One of the things that bothers me is that there are a lot of sociologists who don’t know how experiments work,” says Webster, with a noticeable sense of agitation in his usually soft-spoken voice. “The purpose of the laboratory is not to recreate what’s outside, it’s to simplify situations so you can focus on a few things at a time.”

Berger and his colleagues understood this, creating what is called a standardized experimental situation in order to enforce adaptability in experiments in response to new questions that arise from research.   Even with Silicon Valley next door, Berger and his colleagues were hard at work creating the foundation of what is now regarded by US News & World Report as one of the top sociology programs in the United States.

“Graduate students were very interested in the work we were doing, so it did not require a great deal of effect to get them interested in working on the different aspects of the program,” says Berger.

Webster was one of those graduate students attracted to the hotbed of research occurring in the depths of Stanford’s first social psychology labs. Much like Stanford’s technological entrepreneurs’ decades prior, Webster persistence around the laboratory and creativity led him to develop source theory. Source theory asserts that if a person has the right to evaluate others (teachers), under what conditions are those evaluations effective. 

In a society like ours we have status aspects of gender, status aspects of race, status aspects of age and occupation,” Webster says. “People make inferences on the basis of those things even without evidence. That affects how they interact.”

These status characteristics such as age, gender and race interact with expectation states theory, which states how social interactions can affect how people perceive someone’s ability and competence.One of the things [businesses] are very concerned about now is getting women promoted to the management ranks,” says Webster.

According to Berger if status relations continue to exist in society they can create consequences when individuals from different status groups work together in small groups. “They create inequalities in these groups in terms of who influences whom, and inequalities in how individuals evaluate each other,” says Berger. “And these inequalities can often operate to maintain the initial status relations.”

This can manifest in a myriad of ways as validated by Berger’s and Webster’s research. If someone is classified as low-status, they are associated with friendly, nurturing and helpful behavior while high-status behavior is associated with problem-solving and possessing assertiveness. 

“People look at that in business and they say ‘those are different personality traits’—they aren’t different personality traits, they’re responses to the situation that people are in,” says Webster. “If a woman is in a low-prestige job and she’s got a status disadvantage based on gender— she’s going to be nurturing, she’s going to be helpful.  But you put a woman into a high-status position, you look at the three secretaries of state (Madeline Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hilary Clinton) we had, those are very assertive, task focused individuals.  

Since his Stanford days, Webster continues to research the convergence of status characteristics and expectation states and often has traveled across the country. Destinations like the University of South Carolina and stints as a visiting professor at Emory, San Jose State and his alma mater in the ‘80s and ‘90s have served as pit spots for the sociologist, until his arrival at UNC Charlotte in 1993.

Twenty-one years after his arrival at UNC Charlotte and a few days before Christmas, Webster was awarded the 2015 Cooley-Mead Award for lifetime achievement in the Social Psychology section of the American Sociological Association, the highest honor a social psychologist can receive. “It makes me feel like I should be dying soon,” Webster says jokingly.

Webster sits comfortably in his present-day office on the top floor of Fretwell overlooking dreary and overcast skies on the UNC Charlotte campus.  Beyond the man with a gracious smile and cardinal red sweater are relics and collections over his career, that bear reminders of how much knowledge he has accumulated over a nearly 50-year career that began as an undergraduate at Stanford. A collage of pictures sits outside the confines of Fretwell 460E collecting the fleeting memories of his on-going career, with one particular colleague showing up quite often.

I look at the other folks who have gotten this award and I think I don’t I’ve done anything important as they did,” says Webster with honest disbelief and gratitude. 

Webster’s dissertation advisor, Joseph Berger, won the same award two decades ago, for the ASA’s Social Psychology section and collaborated on research with Webster throughout his career.“[Webster] has created important theoretical arguments, he has devised and carried out crucial experimental tests and concerned himself with developing techniques to overcome the effects of status differences—he is a creative and dedicated scholar who richly deserves the Cooley-Mead Award,” says Berger.

Yet for Webster, his accomplishment is more about UNC Charlotte than himself. “From the beginning of his time here, [Webster] has sought to establish the Sociology department of UNC Charlotte as one of the leading sociological social psychology departments in the country,” says UNC Charlotte sociology professor Joseph Whitmeyer.

UNC Charlotte sociology professor Dr. Lisa Walker says Webster has made efforts to mentor many younger scholars over the years, which as a result has led to co-authored research papers. This collaborative approach isn’t quite as unfamiliar as it sounds. Berger has played role as a mentor to many sociologists including Webster. In the same way Berger influenced Webster, the latter has created the same influence on a newer generation of sociologists.

“Dr. Webster has been important to my career in many ways,” says Whitmeyer.  “When I was starting as an assistant professor, he involved me in his research projects and included me in seeking grants.  This was very valuable to getting my career off the ground.  Dr. Webster taught me a lot about how the discipline of Sociology as an organization of people operates.”

As a result of winning the Cooley-Mead Award, UNC Charlotte joins a list of winners from institutions such as Stanford, UCLA, Harvard and Northwestern. However, for Webster his work in the field of Sociology is long from finished. While teaching various sociology classes at UNC Charlotte, Webster is currently involved an on-going research project with Walker.

“Our work examines how behavior early in an interaction combines with status characteristics to form influence patterns,” says Dr.Walker.

Much like his career has been based on what he gained and embodied from ‘Stanford sociology,’ Webster is still looking to progress sociology into a new era with up-to-date research and technology for the most accurate information.

“I don’t feel like I’m done yet, I got a lot of other things I still want to do,” says Webster.