The COVID-19 pandemic halted Kent State University’s plans for the 2020 Environmental Science and Design Symposium, but it hasn’t impeded the spirit of the conference.

In late April, Environmental Science and Design Research Initiative (ESDRI) leadership, in collaboration with representatives from the university’s Design Innovation (DI) Initiative, hosted virtual events to keep symposium registrants engaged, and celebrate students’ research projects.

“We were a little heartbroken, after all the efforts of a full year, to have to cancel the in-person conference, but I’m very thankful for working with such an intrepid crew,” said Symposium Chair Margarita Benitez, MFA, Associate Professor of Fashion Design and Merchandising.

On April 22, using the virtual meeting platform Zoom, members of the DI Initiative hosted a virtual workshop that was scheduled to occur at the in-person symposium.

The workshop, entitled “Accelerating Sustainability: Science Meets Design Innovation," was led by J.R. Campbell, MFA, Director of the DI Initiative; and Andrea Oleniczak, Design Innovation Hub/Ecosystem Manager.

During the session, participants stepped out of their laboratories and maker spaces, into a session about facilitating the meaningful conversations that can drive collaborative projects to success.

Using the “Superpowers” app, attendees learned how understanding the strengths and perspectives of each team member from the start can avoid many pitfalls that plague research teams.

The workshop comprised whole group and break-out sessions, including sessions on the role of empathy in the problem-solving process, and a “worst possible solutions” exercise that highlighted how breaking down bad ideas can illustrate what makes for good ones.

In addition to Campbell, the workshop was organized and facilitated by Julie Messing, Director of LaunchNet (the University program that serves students, alumni, staff, and faculty with their entrepreneurship and innovation efforts); John West, Ph.D., Trustees Research Professor; and Michael Kavulic, Ph.D., Director of Research Strategic Initiatives.

“Taking time to assess the group’s strengths, individually and collectively, should be an important part of every collaborative creation process,” said Messing.

Virtual Poster Session
On April 24, ESDRI also hosted a virtual poster session on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra for students who would have displayed their projects in person at the March event.

Undergraduate Student Torrance Gaskins stands in the library holding her laptop which displays her ESDRI symposium poster.

Graduate students and undergraduates displayed and discussed and their posters their research with investigators from inside and outside the university. Their posters are available for viewing through the Kent State Libraries’ Online Archive system (OAKS). 
The poster session was organized by Xiaozhen (Jen) Mou, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biological Sciences.

Faculty judges also assessed the posters and awarded prizes to students. The undergraduate winners were Torrance G. Gaskins (first prize), and Michael P. Back (second prize).

The graduate winners were Kaitlin Shvach (first prize), and Max Barczock (second prize).

“The ideas and results presented on a research poster often represent the outcomes of a year or more of work that a team has done on a project. We didn’t want anyone to lose the opportunity to showcase their work,” said Chris Blackwood, Professor of Biological Sciences and co-Director of ESDRI.
Kaitlin Shvach in the field with her study organism

Kaitlin Shvach in the field with her study organism

“Poster sessions also provide this unique opportunity for dialogue with other people, often resulting in new ideas and connections," Blackwood said. "The live online forum we chose to use had some quirks, but I think overall it was able to replicate a lot of the interaction we were hoping to reproduce from an in-person poster session.”

ESDRI leaders said they still hope to make some of the symposium’s scheduled presentations available sometime this fall.

“We’re looking at creative ways to deliver portions of the symposium content remotely with an in-person segment if feasible,” said Diane Davis-Sikora, M. Arch., Associate Professor of Architecture and Environmental Design and ESDRI co-Director. “We’ve assembled an amazing slate of speakers, and hope to offer a forum for exciting conversations around this year’s Biodesign theme.”

Media Contact
Dan Pompili: 330-672-0731, 330-301-1008, dpompili@kent.edu

POSTED: Sunday, May 17, 2020 12:00 AM
Updated: Friday, December 9, 2022 11:41 AM