Category Archives: Creativity

UCR: Reshaping The Solar Spectrum To Turn Light To Electricity

(This article contains excerpts from the written by Iqbal Pittalwala and published in UCR Today on July 27, 2015.)

Photo Credit: David Monniaux
Photo Credit: David Monniaux

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense.  The solar cells – made often of silicon or cadmium telluride – rarely cost more than 20 percent of the total cost.  Solar energy could be made cheaper if less land had to be purchased to accommodate solar panels, best achieved if each solar cell could be coaxed to generate more power.

A huge gain in this direction has now been made by a team of chemists at the University of California, Riverside that has found an ingenious way to make solar energy conversion more efficient.  The researchers report in Nano Letters that by combining inorganic semiconductor nanocrystals with organic molecules, they have succeeded in “upconverting” photons in the visible and near-infrared regions of the solar spectrum.

This research is an extraordinary example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar, and UC Riverside is at the forefront.  The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support research and exploration in the scientific community.  Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, nation, and world to follow.

To read the full article, click here.

Turning Dry Milk And Rice Husks Into Homes

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in The Press Enterprise on July 10, 2015.) 

UC Riverside engineering students won awards at an international competition for creating a less costly, more environmentally friendly and termite resistant alternative to particleboard. The Husk-to-Home team, from left, includes Chris Yang, Lamees Alkhamis, Colin Eckerle, Jeniene Abugherir and Joel Sanchez. Photo Credit: UC Riverside
UC Riverside engineering students won awards at an international competition for creating a less costly, more environmentally friendly and termite resistant alternative to particleboard. The Husk-to-Home team, from left, includes Chris Yang, Lamees Alkhamis, Colin Eckerle, Jeniene Abugherir and Joel Sanchez. Photo Credit: UC Riverside

A team of students from the University of California, Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering recently won two awards at an international design competition for a material composed of rice husks that they created as a less costly and more environmentally friendly alternative to particleboard.

In the students’ design, the rice husks, which contain termite-resistant silica, replace wood chips found in traditional particleboard. The students then use environmentally friendly binding materials instead of traditionally used glues that contain formaldehyde, known to emit harmful gases into the air.

Initial cost estimates compiled by the students show four-by-eight-foot rice husk boards would cost about $18. Currently, four-by-eight-foot particleboard sheets sell for about $25 in the United States. While the main focus of the project is to create a building material for relief structures in the Philippines, the students believe there could be a market in the United States to use the boards for furniture.

“What we are creating is a really a win-win situation,” said Joel Sanchez, a senior chemical engineering major and a member of the team. “It will last longer, be environmentally friendly and cost less.”

In addition to Sanchez, the team consists of Lamees Alkhamis, Colin Eckerle, Jeniene Abugherir and Chris Yang. All except Eckerle expect to graduate in June. They are advised by Kawai Tam, a lecturer at the Bourns College of Engineering; Michael Rust, a distinguished professor at the Department of Entomology; and David Kisailus, an associate professor at the Department of Chemical and Enviornmental Engineering.

The team, called Husk-to-Home, won two awards, including the Intel Environmental Innovation Award, the top award, and $5,000 at the WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development competition in Las Cruces, N.M.

The idea for the project came from one of Tam’s former students, whose father-in-law’s brother runs a nonprofit, the International Deaf Education Association, in the Philippines that builds temporary housing after natural disasters.

One problem the nonprofit has is that its building materials, such as coconut wood, bamboo and plywood, are susceptible to termite damage.

Since the Philippines is one of the world’s largest producers of rice and previous research has shown that rice husks and rice straw are termite resistant the idea was to develop a particleboard-like material with the waste products of rice.

Photo Credit: UC Riverside
Photo Credit: UC Riverside

Initially, this was a makeshift project, in large part because the students didn’t have much money to put into it.

That wasn’t a problem with regard to the rice husks, which they purchased at a feed store. A 45-pound bag sells for $12. The rice husks are typically used as bedding for farm animals.

But the students needed $10,000 for a hot press that would allow them to assemble the risk husk boards in a uniform manner. They improvised, using a combination of nine-by-thirteen baking pans, spring form baking pans, ovens and blow torches.

They also built a makeshift humidity chamber to simulate conditions in the Philippines. The team built the chamber using a plastic container the size of a large shoebox, small fan, heating lamp, humidifier and humidity and temperature sensors. They drilled holes for air and the sensors.

The other challenge the students faced was acquiring termites. They said they were more expensive than expected – $1 to $1.50 per termite – if ordered through the mail and there was no guarantee they would arrive alive.

So the students worked with Rust to collect termites. But, they faced an additional problem: termites are dormant from roughly November to March.

Initially, the students used epoxy, a not-so-environmentally-friendly material, as the binding agent. Now, they are focused on using tannin, a compound naturally found in plants, and casein, a protein found in milk. For the casein experiments they use nonfat instant dry milk they buy at a grocery store.

By March, the students had raised $10,000 to buy the hot press. Once the press arrived, they immediately began experimenting with risk husk boards made with tannin and casein.

Initial results show that tannin boards are strong enough but not water resistant, while casein boards are water resistant but not strong enough.

The students are experimenting with adding coatings or other materials to the mixture. Options include adding shrimp shells, which are abundant in the Philippines. They also plan to add a water resistive coating to eliminate problems with the particleboard falling apart in the humid environment. In addition, they want to incorporate rice straw, which could increase strength and flexibility.

Creating a new way to make particle board is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The people and educational institutions of Riverside cultivate and support useful and beneficial idea, research, products, and scholars. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

Postcard Project Designed to Unite Residents With All Neighborhoods

Photo Credit: Riverside Neighborhood Partnership
Photo Credit: Riverside Neighborhood Partnership

“I love the Wood Streets because of the traditional design and landscape.”  These are the kinds of comments received on postcards written by City residents for the Neighborhood Postcard Project – a global participatory art project that fosters community connection through storytelling exchange.  Residents share personal positive stories about their neighborhood on a postcard and those postcards are delivered to random people in different neighborhoods within the same city.

The Unified City pillar group of Seizing Our Destiny has been collecting these postcards since the NeighborFest event held on May 16th.  The City of Riverside has 26 neighborhoods.  They are being collected two ways:  via a handwritten postcard with a blank space on the back for creativity and through the Seizing our Destiny website.  The ones collected on the website are being shared via social media.

Photo Credit: Riverside Neighborhood Partnership
Photo Credit: Riverside Neighborhood Partnership

The goal of the project is to build community connections, awareness and pride in our local treasures – our neighborhoods.

Postcards are available at various community events throughout the City and on-line at  For more information about the national project, go to

Riverside Box Art Project Uses Historical Art To Enhance A Sense Of Place

(This article contains information accessed from the webpage on July 9, 2015.)

Potential art sample from the Wallace J Miller Collection and Citrus Label Collection contained in the Riverside Public Library Local History Collection

Art and history come together as several utility boxes in the downtown area are “wrapped” with art reproductions from the early 1900s reflecting our singular history. Themes include our citrus heritage, social justice exemplified in the preserving of the Harada House, military history remembered by Camp Anza, the Gage Canal, and Riverside’s thriving business and educational interests. All art work is derived from the Library’s archives. Sponsored by a local business, each box displays a digital code referring the viewer back to our website detailing the background of the historical images represented on each box. Each box displays a small map showing the location of the other box’s in the area. An online map enables virtual and actual walking tours. The exhibit is planned to be unveiled in November 2015—just in time for the Festival of Lights. An inventive addition to this project is the creation of a “how-to manual” for others who may be interested in creating similar thematic box art in Riverside. This project will serve as a 3-year pilot to pave the way for beautiful public art throughout Riverside, enhancing a lasting and attractive sense of place.

Become a sponsor today! Learn How.

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Here are some box art samples from other cities:


Mantis Shrimp Inspires New Body Armor Design At UCR And Purdue

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Sean Nealon and published in UCR Today on June 17, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Carlos Puma, UCR Today
Photo Credit: Carlos Puma, UCR Today

The mantis shrimp is able to repeatedly pummel the shells of prey using a hammer-like appendage that can withstand rapid-fire blows by neutralizing certain frequencies of “shear waves,” according to a new research paper by University of California, Riverside and Purdue University engineers.

The club is made of a composite material containing fibers of chitin, the same substance found in many marine crustacean shells and insect exoskeletons but arranged in a helicoidal structure that resembles a spiral staircase.

This spiral architecture, the new research shows, is naturally designed to survive the repeated high-velocity blows by filtering out certain frequencies of waves, called shear waves, which are particularly damaging.

The findings could allow researchers to use similar filtering principles for the development of new types of composite materials for applications including aerospace and automotive frames, body armor and athletic gear, including football helmets.

“This is a novel concept,” said David Kisailus, the Winston Chung Endowed Professor in Energy Innovation at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering. “It implies that we can make composite materials able to filter certain stress waves that would otherwise damage the material.”

The “dactyl club” can reach an acceleration of 10,000 Gs, unleashing a barrage of impacts with the speed of a .22 caliber bullet.

“The smasher mantis shrimp will hit many times per day. It is amazing,” said Pablo Zavattieri, an associate professor in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering and a University Faculty Scholar at Purdue University.

The researchers modeled the structure with the same mathematical equations used to study materials in solid-state physics and photonics, showing the structure possesses “bandgaps” that filter out the damaging effects of shear waves traveling at the speed of sound.

Findings were detailed in a research paper published online in the journal Acta Biomaterialia. The paper will appear in a future print issue of the journal.

The paper’s lead author was Purdue doctoral student Nicolás Guarín-Zapata and it was co-authored by Juan Gomez, a researcher from the Civil Engineering Department, Universidad EAFIT, Medellín, Colombia; doctoral student Nick Yaraghi from UC Riverside; Kisailus; and Zavattieri.

The research, which is ongoing and also will include efforts to create synthetic materials with filtering properties, has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

This research is an outstanding representation of Seizing Our Destiny’s catalyst for innovation pillar. The students and staff at UCR cultivate and support ideas, research, and products that accelerate the common good for all. Creativity and innovation permeate all that we do, which makes our community a trendsetter for the region, California, and the world to follow.

Celebrate Dance Taking Center Stage At Landis

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in The Press Enterprise on May 23, 2015.)

Photo Credit: RCC
Photo Credit: RCC

Innovation and expression will take center stage when the Riverside Community College Dance Department presents Celebrate Dance, the annual student-choreographed showcase, at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, May 28, 29 and 30.

The concert features pieces choreographed by RCC Dance students, as well as guest artist Daniel Cruz, from Seattle. The event features original music by Odesza with remixes by Ambassadeurs, Mazde & Hermitude. Cruz was a guest teacher and adjudicator in February, and returned in April to set the new work on the eager choreographers.

The students based their choreography on responses to the questions: What inspires you? What makes you move? What pushes you back? What stops you in your tracks?

Celebrate Dance will be staged in the Landis Performing Arts Center on the Riverside City College Campus, 4800 Magnolia Ave.

Tickets are available at the box office, 951-222-8100, or at General admission tickets are $15. The price for students, senior citizens, RCC staff and faculty, and children, 3 and older, is $10. Parking on campus requires a permit, however, park-by-hour spots are available.

Events like this help make Riverside a location of choice for people seeking a city that supports that arts. Our community provides an abundance of opportunities to be amazed, inspired and entertained, including arts and cultural offerings.

For the complete article, click here.

RCC College Drum Line Captures Sixth National Championship

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in the RCC Campus News on April 13, 2015.)

Photo Credit: Marchingbuzz
Photo Credit: Marchingbuzz

Riverside City College Marching Tigers’ Drum Line captured its sixth consecutive national championship this past weekend in Dayton, OH, scoring 98.563 points and setting a new world record for marching percussion ensemble.

Competing in the WGI Independent Marching World Division, RCC bettered Rhythm X from Columbus, OH and Pulse Percussion from Westminster, CA. The national championship competition concluded an undefeated 2015 season for the Tigers.

The 41-member team of percussionists presented an ecologically themed show titled Guardians of the Breath, which Gary Locke, director of the Marching Tigers, called “a kind of musical wake-up call,” a warning of the dangers of the human lifestyle habits killing off trees.

“It was an amazing, sophisticated (performance), yet accessible to spectators, fans and judges,” said Locke. “The production often moved at break-neck speed. The performance included the felling of futuristic-looking steel trees and ended on a hopeful note with the introduction of a new, young tree.”

RCC’s constant achievements help make the college and Riverside a location of choice for students seeking the best education for a reasonable price and a college that supports their passion.

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Final Result for Independent Marching World

1.) RCC (Riverside, CA) 98.563
2.) Rhythm X (Columbus, OH) 96.950
3.) Pulse Percussion (Westminster, CA) 96.838
4.) Music City Mystique (Nashville, TN) 96.063
5.) Infinity (Orlando, FL) 94.750
6.) Cadets Winter Percussion (Allentown, PA) 94.100
7.) Matrix (Akron, OH) 93.550
8.) STRYKE Percussion Ensemble (Palm Beach, FL) 92.125
9.) Cavaliers Indoor Percussion (Rosemont, IL) 91.413
10.) United Percussion (Camden County, NJ) 91.225​​

To read the complete article, click here.

Two Of CBU’s Publications Won Top National Awards

(This article contains excerpts from the article published in CBU News & Events on March 20, 2015.)

Photo Credit: CBU
Photo Credit: CBU

Two of California Baptist University’s campus publications, The Banner newspaper and Pursuitmagazine, took home top national awards at recent journalism conferences in Los Angeles and New York City.

The Associated College Press awarded 1st place “Best of Show” awards to both The Bannernewspaper and Pursuit magazine, in those respective categories, and The Banner Onlineearned the 5th place award in the Best Website category. The 31st Annual ACP National College Journalism Convention was held in Los Angeles Feb. 26 to March 1. A complete list of winners is available by clicking here.

“This is really unprecedented in my experience that one program would be awarded 1st place Best of Show in both the newspaper and magazine categories,” said Dr. Michael Chute, director of the journalism & new media and public relations program. “It is the third year in a row that The Banner has been named the top ‘Best of Show’ newspaper at the ACP convention. This really speaks to the quality work our students do on the campus publications and the top honor three years in a row shows how consistent our students have been in producing quality publications.”

CBU’s constant achievements help make the university and Riverside a location of choice for students seeking the best education for a reasonable price.

In the California College Media Association convention Feb. 28, CCMA awarded seven CBU students for outstanding achievement in writing, photography and design. The Pursuit staff also earned an honorable mention in the Best Magazine category.

At its Spring National College Media Convention in New York City March 11-14, the College Media Association awarded Pursuit magazine 2nd place in Best Magazine Spread, as well as 3rd place in Best Overall Design for another magazine spread, which competed against design entries from newspapers, magazines, yearbooks and advertising.

Colleges and universities from across the U.S. enter publications in the ACP and College Media Association competitions each year.

To read the full article, click here.

Film Camp Offers Hope For Pediatric Cancer Patients

(This article contains excerpts from the article written by Bettye Miller and published in UCR Today on March 12, 2015.)

Cassie Nguyen, a senior public policy major and brain cancer survivor, will introduce her Spotlight On Hope Film Camp to the community on April 2. Photo Credit: UCR Today
Cassie Nguyen, a senior public policy major and brain cancer survivor, will introduce her Spotlight On Hope Film Camp to the community on April 2. Photo Credit: UCR Today

Brain cancer. Not the diagnosis Cassie Nguyen was expecting as a sophomore at Riverside’s Martin Luther King High School. Neither was the debilitating surgery that saved her life.

Today, Nguyen is an honor student and School of Public Policy ambassador at the University of California, Riverside, where she will graduate in June. She is a 10-year cancer survivor, American Cancer Society advocate, and the creator of Spotlight On Hope Film Camp, a free film making program for pediatric cancer patients that until now has been held only in Los Angeles.

Nguyen hopes to bring the film camp to UC Riverside and the Inland Empire, and is screening short films written and produced by pediatric cancer patients in the program on Thursday, April 2, from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Highlander Union Building 367. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is free in Lot 1; pick up parking permits at the Kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus. Reservations are requested as seating is limited and may be made online. The screening is co-sponsored by University Honors and the Women’s Resource Center.

The Riverside resident said she hopes the screening will generate support to expand the program to the Inland Empire. She hopes eventually to establish a nonprofit foundation and offer film camps across the country.

Approximately 13,500 children are diagnosed with cancer each year in the U.S., and about 25 percent of them die, Nguyen said. Although Spotlight On Hope Film Camp does not reduce the death rate, it does provide a therapeutic outlet for pediatric cancer patients, she explained.

“I know how boring the hospital scene is,” Nguyen said, recalling the surgery to remove the tumor from her brain, a year of radiation and chemotherapy, and physical therapy to learn to write with her left hand and regain mobility to address on-going balance and difficult vision issues. “I wanted to do something to help kids take their minds off what was happening to them and give them something to look forward to.”

Nguyen suggested the film camp for young cancer patients while working as an intern for Think Ten Media Group, a production company based in Castaic that aims to use the power of media to create change and spread awareness of key issues.

She raised $700 to cover production costs of the first camp, held in September 2013, by selling plastic cancer bracelets to UCR faculty and students, family and friends in her junior year. She dedicated the first film camp to a younger cousin who died of sarcoma cancer at age 14.

Think Ten Media Group co-founders and filmmakers Ramon Hamilton and Jennifer Fischer helped Nguyen develop the Spotlight On Hope Film Camp for pediatric cancer patients at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as part of their company’s arts education program. The UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television hosts the camp in Los Angeles.

When the film camp proved to be successful, Nguyen applied for and won a $10,000 scholarship from the Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship Foundation in 2014, which funded 10 more film camps at UCLA. The foundation awards $10,000 scholarships to as many as 15 California college juniors annually to support public-service projects that the students carry out during their senior year.

Spotlight On Hope Film Camp allows patients to explore the art of green screen and special effects film-making while working in groups to create a short, green screen and special effects film. The participants, who range in age from 8 to 22, also learn about story/character development, camera technique, video and FX editing during three days of weekend classes.

“Being a pediatric patient myself, I understand how valuable a creative therapeutic outlet can be in the midst of your long, dreadful and difficult journey battling cancer,” Nguyen explained. “Spotlight On Hope Film Camp can help children live in a fantasy world that allows them to get away from all their troubles and create lasting memories.”

Nguyen efforts to put smiles on pediatric cancer patients faces is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar, she demonstrates that we’re a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.

For the full article, click here.

RCC Newspaper Wins National Associated Collegiate Press Award

(This article contains information from a press release distributed by RCCD on March 6, 2015.)

Photo Credit: RCCD
Photo Credit: RCCD

The Associated Collegiate Press has selected Riverside City College’s student newspaper, Viewpoints as one of the top student newspapers in the nation.

Viewpoints received a Best of Show Award March 1 at the Associated Collegiate Press National College Journalism Convention in Universal City, placing fourth among community college newspapers. More than 700 students from the U.S. and Canada attended the convention, which included workshops, an awards ceremony and four keynote speeches.

Allan Lovelace, advisor for the newspaper, said the award recognizes the students’ talent, hard work and commitment to public service.

“The student journalists place a premium on public service with their newspaper,” he said. “That is one of their main goals.”

Wining the Associated Collegiate Press’ Best of Show Award is Viewpoints’ third, with the newspaper also winning in 2011 and 2004. The newspaper and its students have also received from ACP national story of the year awards in 2009, 2003 and 2000; national Pacemaker award in 2005 and 2004; and five All-American awards since 1998.

Viewpoints students received four individual awards from the California College Media Association at the convention. Editor-in-chief James Williams received a third-place award for an editorial about expired elevator permits at RCC, Steven Smith received a third-place award for a video about RCC Astronomy instructor Scott Blair, Crystal Olmedo received an honorable mention for a news series about crime statistics and David Roman received an honorable mention for a critical review about the band Bleached. Viewpoints students entered their Oct. 30 issue, which included coverage of Athletic Hall of Fame inductees and the District police’s reporting timeline for the Cleary Report.

RCC’s outstanding achievements makes Riverside a location of choice for students seeking a great education at an affordable cost.

Information about Viewpoints and RCC’s Journalism program is available at 951-222-8487 and at

To read the full article, click here.