Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saving the world one drop at a time

Contact: Lori Johnson
University of Oklahoma

Oklahoma University College of Engineering hosts International WaTER Conference

The WaTER (Water Technologies for Emerging Regions) Center at the University of Oklahoma is bringing together researchers and advocates from around the world to focus on the life-sustaining resource, clean water. The center reports that more children die each year due to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene than AIDS and malaria. This is not due to water scarcity, but rather poverty, inequality and government failures.

The center will address both the technical and non-technical water and sanitation issues at the 2011 International WaTER Conference, scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25 at the Oklahoma Center for Continuing Education on the OU Norman campus. The two-day conference includes local and international speakers, breakout sessions, and poster and paper sessions in fields of social entrepreneurship, behavioral change, water technologies, climate change, and hydro-philanthropy in the developing world.

The highlight of the conference will be a lecture by and presentation of the OU International Water Prize to Ben Fawcett, a professor and environmental health engineer at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is the co-author of "The Last Taboo: Opening the Door on the Global Sanitation Crisis." Fawcett was selected for the Prize to recognize his three decades of focus on providing access to water and sanitation for the billions of people without these basic necessities.

The conference also will feature water and sanitation experts Ned Breslin, Water for People; Annette Johnson, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology; Dennis Lettenmaier, University of Washington; John Oldfield, Water Advocates; Kurt Soderlund, Safe Water Network; and Peter Winch, Director, Social and Behavioral Interventions Program, Johns Hopkins University.

To register, go to, or contact Robert Nairn at 405-325-3354. Conference registration is $350. Discounts are offered to students and participants from developing countries. The conference is open to anyone who has an interest in the role clean water plays in global health.
For accommodations on the basis of disability, contact Molly Smith at 405-325-5913 and/or Please make all requests for accommodations by Oct. 15.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hall of Fame Astronaut Delivers Award at the University of Oklahoma

September 22, 2011
Contact: Beth Higdon
Phone: 321.455.7013

NORMAN, OKLA. – Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke will present University of Oklahoma (OU) student Bradley Pirtle with a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) during a public presentation and ceremony, September 28, 2011 at 1 p.m. in room 200 of the ExxonMobil Lawrence G. Rawl Engineering Practice Facility at OU.

While there, Duke will share his experiences of walking on the Moon during Apollo 16, in addition to presenting the award. The lecture is free and open to the public.

“Bradley is a clear leader in computer engineering at the University of Oklahoma,” said Duke. “He is a prime example of everything an Astronaut Scholar is supposed to be: intelligent, perseverant and destined for greatness. I am honored to have the opportunity to present this award to such a worthy OU student.”

Pirtle is a senior majoring in computer engineering. Fascinated with robots from a young age, Pirtle quickly transitioned into learning programming languages in his spare time. His current interest is in artificial intelligence with a focus on data mining. In his spare time, Pirtle tutors Calculus students and sharpens his culinary skills. After graduation, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science, with the hope of being employed by a government agency or laboratory where his work will ultimately better humankind.

The Astronaut Scholarship is the largest monetary award given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students based solely on merit. Twenty-six of these prestigious awards were dispersed this year through the ASF to outstanding college students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math. More than $3 million has been awarded in scholarships to date. Since 2005, ASF has distributed $70,000 to Astronaut Scholars at the University of Oklahoma. These high-achieving students exhibit strong drive and phenomenal performance in their field, as well as intellectual daring and a genuine desire to positively change the world around them, both in and out of the classroom.

Duke was among 19 new astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. After serving as a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 13, he was named Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 16, along with Commander John Young and Command Module Pilot T.K. Mattingly. They launched on April 16, 1972, and reached the lunar surface three days later. Duke became the tenth man to walk on the Moon and during three outside excursions, he and Young drove a Lunar Rover 16 miles and collected 213 pounds of lunar rock and soil. Duke retired from NASA in 1975 and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997. He currently serves as Chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Its mission is to aid the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships for college students who exhibit motivation, imagination and exceptional performance in these fields. ASF has awarded over $3 million to deserving students nationwide. Today, more than 80 astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle and Space Station programs have joined in this effort. For more information, call 321-455-7013 or log on to

Created by the Oklahoma Territorial Legislature in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a doctoral degree-granting research university serving the educational, cultural, economic and health-care needs of the state, region and nation.  The Norman campus serves as home to all of the university’s academic programs except health-related fields.  The OU Health Sciences Center, which is located in Oklahoma City, is one of only four comprehensive academic health centers in the nation with seven professional colleges.  Both the Norman and Health Sciences Center colleges offer programs at the Schusterman Center, the site of OU-Tulsa.  OU enrolls more than 30,000 students, has more than 2,400 full-time faculty members, and has 21 colleges offering 163 majors at the baccalaureate level, 166 majors at the master’s level, 81 majors at the doctoral level, 27 majors at the doctoral professional level, and 26 graduate certificates.  The university’s annual operating budget is $1.5 billion.  The University of Oklahoma is an equal opportunity institution.


Editor Note: Astronaut interview available upon request or at the presentation with advanced arrangements.

Friday, September 16, 2011

OU Student Serves as Ambassador for German Opportunities

Karin Schutjer,
Deptartment of Modern Languages, Literatures and Linguistics
University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences
(405) 325-1907

NORMAN – Kyle Olson became hooked on Germany during a summer language course in Stuttgart following his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma. In planning his return for a longer stay, he learned of a scholarship opportunity from the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, or German Academic Exchange Service, the German national agency for the support of international academic cooperation. Olson applied, received the scholarship and was able to return to the University of Stuttgart for a full year with all expenses paid.

Now, the civil engineering and economics major with minors in German and international studies is back at OU for his senior year. This year, he has an important new role: as one of 42 student ambassadors across the United States and Canada for the German Academic Exchange Service. Olson’s task is to spread the word to fellow students about the great array of opportunities for study, work and research in Germany, many of which come with full scholarships.

Olson joins a long line of OU students to benefit from the German government's longstanding support of exchange programs. After World War II, the Federal Republic of Germany recognized the need to reject nationalism and open itself up to the world. But an additional motive now helps drive the emphasis on international education. Germany, one of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced economies, is projecting a serious shortage of highly skilled, white-collar workers by the year 2020. Because of its declining birth rate, the country needs to attract the best and brightest from around the world to maintain its standard of living and quality of life.

Olson, just back from training at the German Academic Exchange Service offices in New York City, is ready to begin communicating what he has learned. He will speak at the “German Opportunities Forum,” a part of events planned for OU’s German Language Campus Week, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26, in 170 Hester Hall, 729 Elm Ave.

Olson sees his role as not just informing students about opportunities, but also reducing institutional obstacles. “I will also be working with faculty and staff to make adjustments that will make studying in Germany more attractive to students,” he says.

What is the next step for Olson after he graduates next spring? He currently has his sights set on the Water Resources Engineering and Management program at the University of Stuttgart. WAREM is one of a number of graduate programs in Germany that are taught in English, attract students from all over the world, and charge little or no tuition.


OU's Environmental Science Graduate Student Receives EPA's STAR Fellowship Award

Contact:  Jana Smith, Director
Strategic Communications for R&D
University of Oklahoma                 

Norman, Okla.—A University of Oklahoma environmental science graduate student is the recipient of the 2011 EPA Science to Achieve Results Fellowship for research on safe drinking water with a focus on the Rift Valley area of Ethiopia.
Laura Brunson, a doctoral student in the OU School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, will receive up to $42,000 per year for a three-year period to support her demonstrated commitment and on-going research on safe drinking water solutions for developing countries.
“This award recognizes Laura’s unique abilities, contributions to date and future potential as an international leader in her field.  We are so fortunate to have her as part of the OU WaTER Center team where she is making significant contributions to improve the lives of those living in poverty in Ethiopia,” states David A. Sabatini, professor in the School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science and director of the OU WaTER Center.   
Brunson is working with the OU WaTER Center to develop a technique using aluminum-coated bone char that removes fluoride from drinking water.  She recently traveled to Ethiopia to test low-cost, low-energy, sustainable solutions for communities in the Rift Valley.
The level of fluoride in drinking water in the Rift Valley is extremely high and results in severe overexposure to fluoride marked by damage to the bones and darkening of the teeth.  Bones charred at a high temperature are effective in the removal of fluoride from water, but sustainable treatment plants and implementation methods are needed in rural Ethiopian communities.
According to Brunson, a trip to the Boundary Water Canoe Area in 1992, along with years of outdoor experiences and a belief in the importance of using ones talents and gifts to contribute positively to society, led her to study environmental science with an emphasis on water quality.
Brunson is an adjunct instructor in the OU College of Business where she teaches social entrepreneurship.  She is working with a group of students from the OU Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth to develop and implement a social entrepreneurial model for the bone char technology.
For more information about Brunson’s research project or research activities of the OU WaTER Center, visit  or contact Laura Brunson at

Monday, September 5, 2011

College Hosts First Sooner Engineering Expo

The Expo will take place in the southwest corner of the LNC parking lot.
The Sooner Engineering Expo is an event for the College of Engineering's competitive teams at the University of Oklahoma to showcase their projects by way of dynamic demonstrations. Come see what we've been up to on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the southwest corner of the Lloyd Noble Center parking lot, which will literally be buzzing with race cars, off-road vehicles, human powered vehicles, radio controlled aircraft, concrete canoes (not buzzing hopefully), ChemCars and robots, all designed, built, tested and demonstrated by engineering students.

You will see the Sooner Off-Road team with their off-road "baja" vehicle, the Design/Build/Fly team with their radio controlled aircraft, the Sooner Powered Vehicle team with their human powered recumbent bike, the Concrete Canoe team with their canoe, "Wild Mary Sudik" and the Sooner Racing Team with their Formula SAE racecar, "Allison," just to mention a few.

After a short presentation to kick off the event, cars will be driving, planes will be flying, bikes will be ridden, canoes will be paddled and much more. Plan to spend the day with the OU College of Engineering competitive teams at the Sooner Engineering Expo.

The Engineer's Club will be serving hamburgers, chips and drinks from 11:30-1:00 p.m. The cost is free for all students and children; $5.00 for all adults.

Accommodations on the basis of disability are available by contacting (405) 325-9037.