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UF study hopes to create an app to help with adolescent asthma

11 Apr
Woody Joseph is  a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida who aspires to become a public relations practitioner in the political realm. His ultimate desire is to become an advocate for social justice and a promoter of equality on all levels of society.

Woody Joseph is a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida who aspires to become a public relations practitioner in the political realm. His ultimate desire is to become an advocate for social justice and a promoter of equality on all levels of society.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Woody Joseph

A recent study underway at the University of Florida is developing a mobile application, called Team Speak, that will attempt to help young individuals manage asthma. The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health earlier this year.

According to the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at UF, the Team Speak project uses mobile health technology that researchers hope will help adolescents and their caregivers identify asthma management goals, develop behavioral strategies to meet those goals and strengthen communication skills between adolescents and parents.

The study targets adolescents with asthma between the ages of 12 and 15 and their parents.

“The reason we picked this age range is this is an age when parents look to teenagers to take more responsibility for their care, but sometimes kids aren’t interested in doing that yet,” said David Fedele, the study’s lead investigator in a press release. “They aren’t prepared, or they don’t have the knowledge or skills to take on that increased responsibility, even though they may want to.”

The Team Speak project hopes to encourage interventions to help manage asthma within individual families by collecting data from a small chunk of time and then inform the families on the next possible steps in asthma management, Fedele said.

The project consists of two phases, said Andrew McConville, lab coordinator and research assistant for the Team Speak project.

Phase one of the project involves the creating the app. Using a pilot program, an advisory board consisting of the parents of the participants receives feedback from the target audience.

Phase two of the  project is compiling the feedback and then tailoring the final version of the application for a four-month randomized control group trial.

The trial will include two groups. One group would be assigned to simply use the application. The other group is a self-guided control group that is given a diary to document their symptoms and handouts to better manage their asthma.

“Creating an app that would target self-management in asthma is an important psychological domain for lots of different illnesses, especially chronic illness, McConville said.

A secondary function of this project is to help adolescents take charge of their illness.

We also hope to help adolescents make the transition to independently manage asthma so that later down the line they could prevent avoidable symptoms and possible emergency room visits, McConville said.

When asked about the Team Speak mobile application and how it can help with asthma students’ responses were positive.

“I have been dealing with asthma my entire life,” Denard Smith, a third-year criminal justice major. “When I was younger the resources available to me were limited but it is interesting to see how technology is advancing to the point where a mobile app can help with asthma.”

Sarah Bounaim, a third-year education major, also believes that the app would be effective.

“My younger brother has asthma and being that my parents have always desired to instill independence within us, this app can help him take control over his chronic illness,” she said.

The Team Speak project is currently seeking more participant. If you or a family member is interested in participating in the study and would like to see if you are eligible, contact the UF Youth Asthma Research Lab at 352-273-5124.

 

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Future of technology may pose problems for health

23 Mar
Bailey Garner is a second-year student at the University of Florida studying along the Pre-PA track.  She decided to change her major from communications to psychology because of her desire to become a physician assistant.  Garner has a huge passion for fitness and nutrition, and she enjoys maintaining a healthy lifestyle and inspiring others to do so.  She hopes to one day attend the UF Physician Assistant program.

Bailey Garner is a second-year student at the University of Florida studying along the Pre-PA track. She decided to change her major from communications to psychology because of her desire to become a physician assistant. Garner has a huge passion for fitness and nutrition, and she enjoys maintaining a healthy lifestyle and inspiring others to do so. She hopes to one day attend the UF Physician Assistant program.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Bailey Garner

Though technology gives people the opportunity to improve their overall health, the rapid advance of this technology could jeopardize that possibility.

With tech gadgets and software constantly evolving, people are continuing to be consumed by the convenience of having everything at the palm of their hand.  This convenience could eventually lead to detrimental effects towards people’s health.

In 1990, 11.4 percent of Floridians were obese, according to the State of Obesity website.  In just 24 years, that statistic has more than doubled, and though the advancement of technology is not the only factor, it is one of the biggest.

“There are so many different factors that lead to obesity,” said Dr. Karla Pagan Shelnutt, associate professor and extension nutrition specialist at the University of Florida.  “The family and home environment is a big one, and if they’re spending a lot of time in front of the screen, they’re not being as active as they should be.”

This is why the general recommendation for children is less than two hours of screen time per day, Shelnutt said.

“There is definitely an association between screen time and food choices and not being active,” said Shelnutt.  “It’s like a double whammy when you’re sitting inside and watching TV all day. Not only are these kids not moving, but they’re being exposed to advertisements for unhealthy foods.”

“If they’re on their computer playing a game, there are always advertisements there for unhealthy items.”

When it comes to health, people need to keep in mind that there are multiple aspects including physical, mental, emotional and social, Shelnutt said.  With technology continuously becoming a barrier between person-to-person interactions, emotional and social health fall short, she added.

As technology rises, physical health has been put at risk as well.  Although many phone applications have been created to promote a healthier lifestyle, people are constantly distracted by the entertainment technology provides.

“I see people at the gym with their phones every day, every hour and every minute,” said Nikko Tan, fitness associate at UF RecSports.  “Some people like to use it for music, and other people use their phone for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in between sets or even when they’re walking from the treadmill to the water fountain.”

IMG_3060

Jackie Carranza, first-year UF Pharmacy student, ditches technology during her workout at Southwest Recreation Center on a Saturday morning. Carranza says she tries to stay away from her phone while at the gym so she can have effective workouts. Photo by Bailey Garner.

Students even go to the extent of taking pictures of themselves while working out, Tan said.

“You have a rest period, you don’t really know what you’re doing, you don’t want to seem awkward and just stand there so the easiest thing for people to do is go on their phone,” said Hakeem White, CEO and founder of  fitness and nutrition company, Hakeem Getz You Gainz.

Being thoroughly dedicated to his health and well being, White is able to see the negatives and positives of technology.

“It’s a 50-50 honestly,” said White, who is also a nutrition major at UF and a UF RecSports personal trainer.  “You have apps nowadays and programs that can help you track what you eat and can help you with your workout or show you proper form.”

However, there is also an overabundance of social media that can distract people who are working towards their fitness goals, White said.

One glance at a college campus can give anyone an idea of what the future of technology may be like.  With fancy gadgets emerging such as the hover board, even walking may eventually become a thing of the past.

“Society as a whole is losing traction on their health and their fitness, and that’s definitely in decline,” said White.  “At the rate we’re going, technology is just making life a lot easier.”

However, technology continues to give people the opportunity to lead a healthy lifestyle.  Shelnutt uses her Fitbit to track her steps as she participates in the Walk Challenge at UF, Shelnutt said.  Tan has recorded over 600 miles on his Nike+ Running app, Tan said.  White continues to track his food intake and how effective his workouts are through his use of technology, White said.

“I think if we don’t get a grasp on how we use technology, it can get out of hand,” White said.  “But if you use the aspects of technology that are around properly to aid in your fitness, it can be very beneficial.”

Future of global water conservation: sewage to treatment to tap

11 Jun
Lana Nasser is a junior studying public relations student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing personality profiles, feature articles, blogging about skincare and beauty, and learning about the field of sociology.

Lana Nasser is a junior studying public relations student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing personality profiles, feature articles, blogging about skincare and beauty, and learning about the field of sociology.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Lana Nasser

The idea of drinking reclaimed wastewater may be off-putting to some, but as technology sophistication increases, people might not be able to tell the difference.

Due to the growing necessity for water in the United States and around the world, scientists are considering alternative and more sustainable methods of providing drinkable water, like reclaimed wastewater. Reclaimed wastewater is water that has undergone extensive treatment through advanced water technologies like reverse osmosis and multi-step filtration.

“Psychologically, a human being says, ‘Yuck! I don’t want to drink treated sewage,’” said Joseph Delfino, professor in the department of environmental engineering sciences at the University of Florida. “In most places where they get water out of a river, they’re already drinking water that has been through industries, people, animals, but we tend to disregard it.”

Currently, many scientists are studying public perception of recycled water.  Shane Snyder, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Arizona said that if people trusted the treatment process, they might understand that recycling water is unavoidable.

Professionals in the field, like Snyder, hope that public opinion will begin to change.

John Million, an environmental engineering graduate from the University of Florida agreed.

“There are technologies and practices that can take wastewater and treat it to be used again by humans,” he said.

How does wastewater become drinking water?

First, water undergoes advanced primary treatment, where it is separated from large particles. The water then goes into sedimentation tanks where chemicals are used to make scum rise to the top and primary sludge fall to the bottom. Once 80 percent of the solids have been removed and the water is separated, the wastewater is clean enough to be released into the ocean.

The second step is extensive filtration. During this step, bacteria are added to the primary treated wastewater. These bacteria help ingest organic chemicals.

Finally, the water is filtered again to remove any other remaining solids.  It is then disinfected with chlorine.

It is no secret that there are readily available technologies able to make reclaimed water drinkable through various procedures, but this expensive and energy intensive process raises questions of sustainability.

“If we throw enough money at it, we can treat anything to better water to drinking water quality. The issue is, is there a sustainable way to do it?” said Paul Chadik, associate professor in the department of environmental engineering at the University of Florida.

Due to the current need for diverse sources of potable water, some states around the nation are already drinking reclaimed water. The Orange County Water District in California opened a $480 million state-of-the art water reclamation facility in 2008. This facility is claimed to be the largest in the United States, and costs about $29 million a year to operate.

Resources that treat wastewater also require extensive backup systems in case of emergency.

“In our current system, if the plant were to break down, you would be able to drink it without having an adverse reaction. But if you drink wastewater that is improperly treated because the plant has broken down, it would be detrimental,” Chadik said.

In terms of reliability, Chadik believes that large numbers of efficient and readily available backup systems would be needed to take effect without delay in times of crisis.

In many places around the nation, precious resources like groundwater are being used for purposes in which treated wastewater could be used instead.

“Most of the drinking water we have is used to water lawns and flush toilets,” Chadik said. “That water doesn’t need to be very pure. It would be more sustainable to take our wastewater and use it to irrigate land that needs it.”

Americans spend billions of dollars every year treating water to drinking water quality when only about 10 percent of it is used for drinking or cooking. The rest of it is flushed down the toilet or drain.

The growing use of recycled wastewater for purposes such as irrigation, landscaping, industry and toilet flushing is an efficient way to conserve the fresh water resources we have left.

“Nature has done its thing historically for as long as the planets been around so things go up and down, but of course we’re here and we’re the one animals species that pays attention to things,” Delfino said.

Related links:

UF Water Reclamation Facility

New device could charge cell phone by waving it in the air

13 Jan
A micro-windmill is pictured on the face of a penny. Photo courtesy of UT Arlington

A micro-windmill is pictured on the face of a penny. Photo courtesy of UT Arlington

We’ve all been there.

You’re taking one of the most important calls of your life.

You’re lost in the middle of nowhere.

You’re waiting for a text message from that special someone.

And. . .  your phone dies.

The sound it makes before it powers down resembles the feeling of your stomach sinking. You didn’t want to spend the $30 on a car charger and pay phones are  more commonly seen at antique malls than in public areas. Even if there is a payphone nearby, you probably never memorize numbers anymore.

A team of researchers at the University of Texas Arlington have created a device that would make charging a cell phone as easy as waving it in the air.

The tiny micro-windmill, about the tenth of the size of a grain of rice, generates wind energy and the researchers say they are optimistic that it would be a perfect device power cell phone batteries. For it to work, hundreds of the devices could be placed on the cell phone sleeve.

Smitha Rao and J.-C. Chiao originally designed the tiny windmill for a Taiwanese company called WinMEMS that specializes in fabrication techniques for the semiconductor industry.

“The company was quite surprised with the micro-windmill idea when we showed the demo video of working devices,” Rao said. “It was something completely out of the blue for them and their investors.”

The researchers said they were inspired by basic origami concepts and used nickel alloy to ensure the product was strong and flexible.

“The problem most MEMS designers have is that materials are too brittle,” Rao said. “With the nickel alloy, we don’t have that same issue. They’re very, very durable.”

Chiao added that, not only are the devices durable, they can also be mass-produced at a low cost.

“Imagine that they can be cheaply made on the surfaces of portable electronics,” Chiao said, “so you can place them on a sleeve for your smart phone. When the phone is out of battery power, all you need to do is to put on the sleeve, wave the phone in the air for a few minutes and you can use the phone again.”

But, the researchers have bigger plans for the tiny windmills than simply charging cell phones. Chiao said that because of the discreet size of the tiny fans, thousands could easily be placed on flat panels and placed on the walls of houses to generate electricity.

The windmills went through a trial run in September of last year and were successful. WinMEMS and the university are currently discussing collaboration, and only time will tell when a simple wave of a hand will charge our cell phones.

With how much we depend on our phones, I suspect this product could fly off the shelves easily.

UF Robotics team looking to launch robot into space

12 Dec
My name is Lawrence Chan I'm a journalism junior at the University of Florida. I enjoy writing writing about advances in technology and computers. I also cover student organizations on campus who focus on technological developments.  I like to write about how new technology is being implemented into society and how consumers should react to recent developments in computers or gaming. My eventual goal is to become a writer for a technology publication such as CNET news, GameInformer magazine or Wired. I profess that much of my interest in technology stems from the everyday use of technology for entertainment through video games and heavy use of my own 10 lb. computer. Currently, I am attempting to better establish myself as a writer and gain a better insight into the industry I love.

My name is Lawrence Chan and I’m a journalism junior at the University of Florida. I enjoy writing about advances in technology and computers. I also cover student organizations on campus who focus on technological developments.
I like to write about how new technology is being implemented into society and how consumers should react to recent developments in computers or gaming.
My eventual goal is to become a writer for a technology publication such as CNET news, GameInformer magazine or Wired. I profess that much of my interest in technology stems from the everyday use of technology for entertainment through video games and heavy use of my own 10 lb. computer.
Currently, I am attempting to better establish myself as a writer and gain a better insight into the industry I love.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Lawrence Chan

GAINESVILLE—The University of Florida’s Gator Robotics team is aiming high and working to launch their new robot into space.

After an ill-timed mechanical failure at last year’s NASA Robotic Mining Competition, UF’s team, NASAbotics, is once again preparing for an interplanetary mission.

During last year’s competition the team’s robot failed to function entirely due to a problem with the communication array failing to register the signals from the command team. As a result, the robot failed to function during judgment.

Evan Brady, a 20-year-old mechanical engineering junior and mechanical project head for NASAbotics, said he isn’t letting last year’s mishaps get him down. His team is starting from scratch to produce a new-and-improved robot.

“Plainly, our robot worked last year but did absolutely nothing,” Brady said.

“Our goal this year is to fix him up and upgrade him better than before.”

Next year’s competition runs from May 19 to  May 23 and will invite university teams across the nation to build and design mining robots for possible application into a NASA lunar walker.

The goal is for teams create a robot that can collect at least 10 kilograms of very fine, potentially hazardous sand that simulates what would be found on another planet in 10 minutes, said Brady who has been UF’s team leader for two years.

The winning team receives the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence and a $5,000 team scholarship. Startup funding granted by institutions like the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium and student governments has amounted to about $7,000 so far.

“We’re already finished designing the new robot,” said Kevin French, electrical head of the NASAbotics team

French said all that is left is to order the parts and test their stability before they can start manufacturing the new robot.

“Our goal this year is to have him operational by the end of the fall semester,” French said. “At the moment we’re still waiting on some of the parts we ordered to arrive, but once they’re here we can start putting it together and be ready by the competition.”

Video by: Lawrence Chan