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Experiential LearningUnleashed

Butler EPICS Students Develop Video Game to Help Children with Autism

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Dec 04 2019

A trio of Butler Software Engineering and Computer Science students are developing a fantasy adventure computer game with the goal of helping Indianapolis children with autism.

As part of Butler University's Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program, Matthew O’Hern, Maya Sanchez, and Parker Winters will deliver the game, which mixes in communication cues along with classic battle play similar to the classic Nintendo Entertainment System games The Legend of Zelda, to Sycamore Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization that offers services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Matthew O'Hern and Parker Winters
EPICS student developers Matthew O'Hern, left, and Parker Winters went old-school for their project.

With Winters creating the maps and environment design, Sanchez and O’Hern developed the main character as well as the artificial intelligence code that drives the baddies—skeletons, zombies, goblins, and evil knights. Along the way, the hero interacts with shopkeepers, travelers, and allies that change facial expressions during these digital conversations. The students and Sycamore Services believe that video gaming can reach an autistic child in augmenting behaviors for face to face interactions away from screens.

Children will play the yet-to-be-named game on computers at the Indianapolis center, located in St. Vincent Hospital. The game contains battle modes, more than 40 world maps, and 600 portraits of characters within a dialogue system where characters in the video game converse—the driving force behind the game’s creation.

“When the opportunity was presented, I couldn’t say ‘no’ to it,” says O’Hern, a Software Engineering sophomore. “We’re developing it as an instructional source to help children grow their social skills.”

Established almost 20 years ago, EPICS classes provide free information technology services to nonprofit organizations and Butler programs. The class started with just four students as an elective, but it has since quintupled in enrollment, growing into a required class for Computer Science and Software Engineering students. Students get early experience working with clients on developing a website, app, or videogame. The fall 2019 class features five student teams working on projects on and off campus. The students selected their preferred project after organizations presented their needs in the beginning of the semester.

O’Hern has already taken the EPICS class twice. His first experience was leading the development of an interface that helps doctors share and gather data for the InVascular project at IUPUI. And this fall’s project has been even more fulfilling, leading to potential internship opportunities.

Most EPICS projects will allow future students to update them. O’Hern said his video game will be left open for future developers to add levels, characters, and more facial expressions for the children to learn from.

Using the cross-platform game engine Unity, O’Hern and his team created a fantasy world with swords that light up to vanquish skeletons and zombies. While helping children is the ultimate goal, adding the retro spin has been fulfilling for the students. The simple, old-school Nintendo vibe of the game also ensures that gameplay will work on almost any computer.

The battles, the interactions and dialogues with the characters, and the movement of the main character, which the player will be able to name, were all created to be easy yet engaging. O’Hern says the gameplay “disguises” its educational aspects.

Digital costuming

The Department of Theatre’s costume shop is brimming with thousands of hats, dresses, suits, and shoes to clothe actors and actresses. A paper-based system has successfully organized the garments for decades, but an EPICS team led by senior Maya Grandstaff is making strides in digitizing the process. 

The Marketing and Management Information Systems major and her classmates are developing a website where users can search for specific garments by size, color, and style while finding the garments’ locations in the tall hanging racks. Directors, show designers, and outside clients looking to rent costumes can access the massive inventory from the comfort of their couch.

Team members Eromo Algibe and Kameron Leisure spent weeks creating the framework of a database to be filled by Theatre staff and faculty members. By the end of the semester, the frontend user application will feature forms to filter searches. The team is testing basic queries from the front end, which will reach back to the huge database.

“They can just click submit and see what they have,” Grandstaff says. “It’s really cool now to go to a show and see all the costumes, components, and changes that go into it. It really helps you understand how diverse the program is.”

Eromo Algibe works on a project.
EPICS student developer Eromo Algibe works in the Butler Theatre costume shop.

Sam Royal didn’t think sifting through old Renaissance-replica gowns and 1930s-style men’s suits would help his career at first, but a recent job interview proved otherwise. The senior says the job recruiter was particularly interested in his EPICS work.

“It’s all about getting that experience but helping someone out at the same time,” says Royal, a senior studying Management Information Systems.

Panos Linos, Professor of Software Engineering and Computer Science, is pleased to see the program that he is coordinating continue to grow.

“Students need to have a platform to use the skills they learn in their classes, and to apply them in a real setting,” Linos says. “The value of a Software Engineering education comes from applying it to real life. And EPICS is a great platform for that.”

Other EPICS projects in the works this fall:

  • Working with Indy Hunger Network, a team is developing an online calculator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Users will be able to track their available credits for the most efficient and nutritious ways to feed their families.
  • Participants in Butler’s Healthy Horizons program will receive a new digital process to keep track of activities, points, and incentives. The online component will be more interactive than its print and PDF predecessors.
  • A team of EPICS developers are creating an online memorial for Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who died July 4 at 85. An active public speaker until just months before her death, Kor gave the Butler Spring 2015 Commencement address, promoting messages of forgiveness, strength, and survival. The website will allow users to “plant” digital flowers in a garden. Each purple flower will contain the name of the person being remembered, the date, and a message. 

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Community Partnerships

Through collaboration and strong partnerships, Butler Beyond will unleash the potential of our brilliant faculty and students on the complex issues facing our community. Support for this pillar will expand Butler’s reach and roots in the Indianapolis community and beyond by cultivating deeper integration with local organizations and businesses, increasing experiential learning opportunities for students, nurturing new ventures, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Experiential LearningUnleashed

Butler EPICS Students Develop Video Game to Help Children with Autism

As part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service program, students provide free IT work to the community

Dec 04 2019 Read more
The Farm at Butler FFA tour
CommunityUnleashed

A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Nov 25 2019

This story is part of a mini-series exploring The Farm at Butler, its methods, and its mission. Part five of six. 

 

On a frosty morning in early November, about 50 high school students from across the nation visited Butler University to learn about a different kind of farming—a kind that can meet the needs of humans and nature alike.

The students traveled from as far away as Maryland and California to spend the day in Indianapolis for the 2019 National FFA Convention & Expo, an annual celebration of student accomplishments within the organization for young people who are interested in agriculture and leadership. Throughout two hours of exploring The Farm at Butler and hearing from staff at the Center for Urban Ecology & Sustainability (CUES), they learned how the chemical-free, planet-friendly growing methods used on Butler's one-acre space could be applied at a larger scale.

These annual tours first started several years ago, when FFA was on the hunt for powerful examples of urban agriculture. As part of the yearly FFA convention in Indianapolis, the organization’s leaders wanted to help teach members about the variety of ways they could approach food production. With a focus on agroecology and sustainability, and a mission based on education, The Farm at Butler became a lasting match.

But the FFA tour is just one of about 30 educational sessions the CUES staff lead each year. Even as The Farm’s main focus shifts to serving Butler students through internships and classes, the urban agriculture project still holds down its role as a community model of all that can be grown on just one diversified acre.

Roughly half of The Farm’s tours each year are for elementary school students, teaching young people how farmers grow the ingredients for pizza and other favorite foods. Another 10 or so tours are for groups on Butler’s campus, who usually learn about the role of local agriculture in the food system or how everyday food choices can influence the environment. The CUES also leads a handful of farm tours with other Indianapolis organizations.

 

 

For a more in-depth experience, The Farm hosts workshops through a science education network called Purdue Extension, helping train the next generation of gardeners and farmers to grow food in ecologically sound ways. Butler is also working alongside three other local farms—Mother Love’s Garden, Fitness Farm, and Growing Places Indy—to explore urban mushroom production. The project, which was funded by a USDA-SARE partnership grant in 2017, has helped these groups understand and share their findings on the most effective ways to grow mushrooms in Indianapolis.

“Overall, we want to educate the public about healthy eating, how food is grown, and the implications of different food production methods,” says CUES Director Julia Angstmann. “We want to help people understand how they, as individuals, can make food choices that benefit themselves, the environment, and society.”

 

READ MORE:

Part 1: Getting To The Root of It: How Butler’s One-Acre Farm Has Evolved In a Decade

Part 2: Farming Full-Time: How Tim Dorsey Discovered the World Through Agriculture

Part 3: A Crash Course on Nature-Focused, Hands-In-The-Dirt Growing

Part 4: Sustainability on the Syllabus

Part 5: A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

Part 6: So, Where Does All The Food Go?

 

Explore the full Farm at Butler mini-series here

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Community Partnerships

Through collaboration and strong partnerships, Butler Beyond will unleash the potential of our brilliant faculty and students on the complex issues facing our community. Support for this pillar will expand Butler’s reach and roots in the Indianapolis community and beyond by cultivating deeper integration with local organizations and businesses, increasing experiential learning opportunities for students, nurturing new ventures, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

The Farm at Butler FFA tour
CommunityUnleashed

A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

The Farm at Butler leads educational tours for local organizations, up-and-coming farmers, and students of all ages.

Nov 25 2019 Read more
GuideDawg 2.0 icon on a phone
Experiential LearningUnleashed

New App to Help Blind, Visually-Impaired Butler Students, Visitors

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 14 2019

Haley Sumner’s first few weeks at Butler University were spent navigating campus—learning routes between buildings,figuring out where to go for coffee, and learning how to use her student ID card. Most new students could always use a head start but Sumner, who graduated in May 2019, is blind. She needed three weeks before the start of classes to feel comfortable with her new academic environment.

Sumner admits there were challenges as construction changed her routes every year. The young graduate had to be mindful of twisting sidewalks, changes in ground surfaces and certain doors being made unavailable, again due to construction.

“Having a guide dog was an asset,” Sumner remembers. “It was incredible to work with a guide dog. I thought campus was very accessible.”

Haley Sumner on campus
Haley Sumner '19 was instrumental in GuideDawg 2.0's development.

But not all blind or visually impaired people have access to a guide dog, and those that do use guide dogs may not have weeks to learn Butler’s campus. What if a visually impaired prospective student wants to find their way around? What if a blind person wants to attend a concert at Clowes Memorial Hall?

A team of undergraduate software developers are working on an answer. Led by Computer Science and Software Engineering Professor Panos Linos, the team is creating a digital guide for the blind and visually impaired. Inspired by its four-legged predecessors, GuideDawg 2.0 will be a mobile prototype application available in time for fall 2020 classes. The app will work on any smartphone.

Initial coding started in fall 2018 and Linos says the students will have enough of GuideDawg 2.0 complete to present at conferences next semester. The app will vocally tell users the best route to take from class to class or the cafeteria to Starbucks in Atherton Union. Custom digital mapping installed in the software combined with GPS location will serve as guidance but with features that stretch beyond Google Maps.

“They are eager to push the envelope,” he says. “Throughout this project, it wasn’t just about finding the answers but also finding the questions. We are really figuring out what it means to have people differently abled than us. These students are all here because of their willingness to learn, to explore, and to communicate.”

Serving the community

GuideDawg 1.0 was developed by Linos and other students for the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in 2015. Blind students at the school were assisted by navigation instructors to get around, but they weren’t getting detailed directions once outside the classroom and on their own. GuideDawg helped them get from classroom to classroom as it gave directions step by step.

Linos and his students had to develop a completely different user experience than typical apps they developed in class. They also had to factor the cadence of the app’s vocalizations with voice-to-text and text-to-voice development, while eliminating as many touches as possible.

“They can hear—and prefer—much faster speech for their apps,” Linos says. “We had to speed up the voice for the app.”

For GuideDawg 1.0, Linos had his students wear blindfolds in early meetings.

“Everybody was wearing them while holding their phones,” Linos says. “That experience reminds us of who the actual user will be. We had ideas that would work for you and me, but not for someone who is differently-abled. Would a blind student be able to use this?”

Tech details

A major key to GuideDawg 2.0 will be data collection by Linos’ students. They are in the process of gathering the latitude and longitude of every door on Butler’s campus—every classroom, every entrance to Atherton Union, every bathroom. The data will be entered into a database that GuideDawg 2.0 will pull from via Microsoft Azure cloud. A pre-existing database of every room at Butler that contains technology was also utilized courtesy of Butler Information Technology.

Bluetooth-activated, weatherproof sensors were purchased and will be placed at construction sites and other “hazardous” areas on campus. The sensors work as beacons to trigger GuideDawg 2.0 and are designed to blend in with walls and doorways.

“It’s an interesting challenge,” says Ryan Graham, a senior studying Computer Science on the GuideDawg 2.0 team, “to try to make it so users can understand where buttons are very efficiently and effectively without seeing them. It can’t be clunky with a billion buttons on the front. It has to be very minimal but extremely functional."

Prof. Linos and student
Professor Panos Linos, left, shows Bluetooth-activated beacons to student Gabbi Forsythe.

GuideDawg 2.0 must be nimble and able to change with a growing campus. In just the last year, the new building for the Andre B. Lacy School of Business and the expansion and renovation of the sciences buildings were added to maps.

“I think Butler is really big on inclusivity and this is just another step in becoming more inclusive,” says Gabbi Forsythe, a Software Engineering senior developing the web interface of the app, “so everyone can get around campus.”

Michele Atterson, Director of the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS), concurs that GuideDawg 2.0 will only improve a campus that has received favorable accessibility feedback, even at active construction sites. She says, “I had many conversations with the project managers for the (sciences complex construction) to ensure the color contrast, font, and size of the detour signage was also accessible to people with vision impairments—as well as those with mobility impairments.

“Raising disability awareness is a mission of SDS. Overall, we have a community that is committed to welcoming people with disabilities.”

The students presented their progress on GuideDawg 2.0 at the October 25 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Committee meeting and were met with enthusiastic, positive feedback. The project was given a $500 donation from committee chair Michael Swarzman ’74 and his wife, Barbara Grier, on the spot.

“You can’t help but respect the innovation a project like that demands,” Swarzman says. “It is an obvious commitment for the professor and the students. Expanding on need of inclusivity and diversity is applaudable and the broader application to it is exactly what my family wants to support.”

‘Very beneficial’

During her senior year at Butler, Sumner served as a consultant for GuideDawg 2.0’s early development. She took the developers on her campus routes and pointed out landmarks like a loud air conditioner near Jordan Hall. Sumner noted doors that were difficult for her to open. The GuideDawg team implemented these details into the app to alert users when they approach potential problem areas.

“I think this will be very beneficial for step-by-step routes between buildings,” Sumner says. “Hopefully it will have a very smooth transition.”

Sumner adds that apps like Google Maps don’t have enough spatial awareness for blind users. Like the young students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Sumner couldn’t rely on Apple Maps for which doors to use and what hallways to take to reach her Communications Sciences and Disorders classes on time.

But accessible technology has come a long way and is improving rapidly. Sumner has noticed a marked improvement in the quality of apps and screen-reading software. GuideDawg 2.0 will be part of the further advancement in technological accessibility. Sumner still lives around Butler and she is excited to download the app next year.

“Technology has come a long way,” says Sumner, who is pursuing certification as a life coach. “It needs to continue to be equal and inclusive for everyone. It will cultivate empowerment and diminish stigma.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

GuideDawg 2.0 icon on a phone
Experiential LearningUnleashed

New App to Help Blind, Visually-Impaired Butler Students, Visitors

Launching in fall 2020, the GuideDawg app measures steps between classrooms and warns of construction sites

Nov 14 2019 Read more
Students get a tour on the Detroit Trek
Experiential LearningUnleashed

LSB Treks Allow Students to Get Inside Peek in New York, Detroit

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 11 2019

Detroit, Michigan, has gone by many names: the Motor City, Hockeytown, and The D, just to name a few. Comeback City is its latest, and that moniker was witnessed by Butler University students.

With the help of alumni like Steve Hamp ‘70, Detroit caught the eye of the Andre B. Lacy School of Business’ Trek program. During Fall Break, nine Business students took part in the second annual Detroit Trek. Hosted by Butler grads, the students met professionals and toured national companies and venues like Quicken Loans, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Ford Field, NYX Inc., and the Detroit Empowerment Plan, where homeless women craft specialized coats to combat global homelessness.

“Trips like this are exciting and fun and advertise Detroit as a destination for graduates to participate and be a part of its renaissance,” says Hamp, who coordinated the Ford Field and Ford Motor Company visits.

The Detroit Trek is the second such trip of its kind within the LSB. A New York Trek has enjoyed a successful five-year run. It concentrates on Wall Street and the world of finance. The 2020 New York Trek will take 10 more Business students to the Big Apple in March.

Both Treks were funded by alumni donations before Michigan native Amy Wierenga ‘01 and her husband, Luis Felipe Perez-Costa, established a $100,000 endowment to ensure the Treks’ continuation.

“It’s so valuable for students to be able to experience the culture of several different firms first hand—to directly interact with people in different kinds of roles in a low-pressure setting,” says Wierenga, who is a Butler Trustee. “Many students don’t realize how diverse the potential opportunities are within and across firms, how many different ways there are to apply their talents and plug into a career. Thanks to the Treks, students get exposed to, and can explore seeing themselves in different seats. They can say ‘I could see that being me in five or 10 years.’”

From trains to electric autonomous vehicles

Hamp, who earned an American History degree from Butler before spending the last four decades in Detroit, introduced Pamela Lewis, director of the New Economy Initiative, to talk about entrepreneurialism with the students over lunch before a behind-the-scenes look at Ford’s development of the old Michigan Central Station. The 105-year-old landmark will be the new home of the car manufacturer’s electric autonomous vehicle research and development.

At Ford Field, the students experienced a rare glimpse of the inner-workings of an NFL franchise in midseason. They met Detroit Lions President Rod Wood, and took a tour of the stadium, which included the opportunity to walk on the turf and stand in the end zones where Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown 141 touchdown passes and counting.

Whether picking professionals’ brains or conversing with alumni over dinner, almost every interaction had a common thread for the students.

Bradley Herzog in Detroit
Senior Bradley Herzog stands inside Michigan Central Station, a future home to Ford vehicle research.

“Everyone we talked to was very passionate about the city and the direction it’s going,” says Bradley Herzog, a senior studying International Business and Spanish. “It was great to see people moving back into the city and finding jobs there. There’s a lot of positive things to say about Detroit.”

Herzog and sophomore Emma Ryan cited the visit to the Empowerment Plan as especially impactful. CEO Veronika Scott was studying fashion design in college when she came up with the idea to create coats that convert to sleeping bags. More than a decade later, the Plan has grown into much more than coats. Ryan was impressed with the tremendous social impact a young entrepreneur has made in a major city.

“Many of the people making the coats were domestic violence victims,” says Ryan, a Finance and Marketing major. “It was a safe place for them with a full kitchen and supportive environment. They were paying them to make coats, but also to unwind and recharge. There was yoga and classes to earn their GED. They could stay for two years and get back on their feet.”

Ryan was also impressed at the number of young women represented at major companies at every level. Two recent college graduates at GM spoke to her about finance and what their job paths have consisted of. In the two young businesswomen, Ryan found inspiration and confidence in her own career path, which now might include Detroit.

“After graduation, I was planning on moving to Chicago or New York,” says the Evansville, Indiana, native, “but after this trip, I saw a different side of Detroit: I saw the booming business side.”

Next Treks: Windy City? Bay Area?

Graham Honaker, Executive Director of Principal Gifts for Butler Advancement, revealed the Trek program could extend to Chicago and the Bay Area. Applications for the New York Trek number in the dozens and Detroit is not far behind. Not bad for a program that started with a cup of Starbucks coffee. Honaker met up with Michael Bennett ‘09, then an analyst with JP Morgan Chase & Co., in Manhattan. The young alumnus spoke about bringing Butler Business students to New York to get an early taste of what working on Wall Street is like.

“It’s so competitive to get into the financial sector in New York,” Honaker says. “From that Starbucks, we outlined the program and launched it a couple years later.”

Bennett is thrilled to see the Treks grow. Only 10 years removed from his own Butler graduation, he is happy to help bring Butler students to the Big Apple for the Trek and, later, as professionals.

“It’s how to get your foot in the door; you have to be there to make that happen,” says Bennett, now director of investment counseling for Citibank. “During these Treks, they have proximity to companies and alumni. It’s engaging and fun, and there’s some elements of excitement around it. It’s a major recruitment tool.”

Whether it’s Detroit Rock City, the City That Never Sleeps, or any other market brimming with Butler alumni, LSB Treks are worth every mile.

“I would highly recommend attending as many as you can,” Herzog says. “There’s no downside. You get the opportunity to see so many companies inside the city. We were really privileged to see and talk to so many successful professionals. It’s an opportunity you don't get at a lot of colleges.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Students get a tour on the Detroit Trek
Experiential LearningUnleashed

LSB Treks Allow Students to Get Inside Peek in New York, Detroit

Business students tour companies and network with alumni

Nov 11 2019 Read more
Tom Mould
ResearchUnleashed

Butler Professor’s Research Dispels Myths of the ‘Welfare Queen’

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 04 2019

Recipients of welfare and other government aid are unfairly scrutinized and even demonized as “welfare queens,” according to Professor of Anthropology and History Tom Mould and his several years of research on public assistance.

Mould dispels numerous myths while humanizing people that rely on welfare. He and his students recorded more than 150 interviews with not only welfare recipients but politicians, grocery store clerks, aid providers, and members of the general public in North Carolina. Mould says his findings go against the grain of what most Americans think of the welfare system.

“Official government documents are clear that the food stamp fraud rate has been between half a percent and one and a half percent over the past decade, way lower than most federal programs,” Mould says. “What we have with stories of so-called ‘welfare queens’ is an incredibly unfair narrative and an incredibly negative light that is unfair. This work is trying to rectify that.”

Mould’s book Overthrowing the Queen: Telling Stories of Welfare in America focuses on the broad picture of welfare in America while weaving in riveting narratives of aid recipients and the overwhelming lengths people go through to provide for their children and to keep a roof over their heads. The title will hit shelves this summer from Indiana University Press.

Mould says the stereotype of the “welfare queen,” someone who is believed to work the welfare system to gain wealth, was mostly fabricated in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It infuriated people, but, of course, the stories, by and large, were not true,” Mould says. “There doesn’t appear to be any more fraud in the welfare system than any government system. Why are we singling out the poor to demonize?”

While all of his research was in the Tarheel State, Overthrow the Queen appeals to readers nationwide, Mould says. The book documents how recipients came to need public assistance and the current challenges they are facing.

“The stories show people putting in a lot of hard work, a lot of ingenuity, a lot of commitment to their children,” he adds. “Parents were unwilling to give up on trying to make a better life for their kids.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Tom Mould
ResearchUnleashed

Butler Professor’s Research Dispels Myths of the ‘Welfare Queen’

Professor of Anthropology Tom Mould’s research shows food stamp fraud rate is lower than most federal programs

Nov 04 2019 Read more
A woman casts her ballot
ResearchUnleashed

Republican Delegates More Likely to Disagree, New Butler Research Shows

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 04 2019

Within any political party, there’s a multitude of views and approaches to campaigning. Some members want to advance specific policies, others just want to do whatever it takes to win.

Recent research co-authored by Greg Shufeldt, Butler University Assistant Professor of Political Science, found that at the 2012 conventions, Republican delegates were not only much more polarized within their party than Democratic delegates, but they were much more divided than in previous years.

While published results are from 2012, they shed important light on internal party processes that shaped the conflicts evident in the 2016 presidential primary contests.

Greg Shufeldt
Greg Shufeldt

“This was before President Trump,” Shufeldt says, “but this might inform some of the things that allowed President Trump to rise to power.” 

Shufeldt culled his data from surveys sent to every delegate that attended the Republican and Democratic conventions. The Butler researcher helped draft the questionnaires in 2012 and 2016, which the delegates filled out online.

“We’re looking at fault lines within the parties,” Shufeldt says. “Congress is more polarized than it's ever been. The parties are farther apart ideologically but also more homogenous. Delegates or party activists are what connects these polarized elites with the general public.” 

Shufeldt writes that delegates are classified as more pragmatist, or wanting the party to win elections at the expense of advancing specific policies, or classified as more purist, believing that advancing specific policies is the way for the party to win elections.

The research found not much variation between 2012 Democratic delegates, which offered more balanced pragmatic and purist tendencies. Shufeldt says the Democratic party is more used to navigating inner faction conflict because that is the nature of the Democratic party. Through group identities, they become Democrats. While Democrats internally balance these competing pragmatic and purist tendencies, Republican delegates are more divided into a clearer pragmatic wing and purist wings.

In fact, his research found that the 2012 Republican delegates were more internally divided than the infamous 1972 McGovern Democrats. Based on how delegates responded to questions about group membership, key policy areas, and attitudes toward key party groups, the study organized delegates into factions. On the Republican side, three factions were developed from the Republican delegate data—“contemporary conservatives,” “establishment Republicans,” and “Libertarians.” Among Democrats, the study identified factions of “cultural liberals,” “all-purpose liberals,” and “centrists.” 

Looking back on 2012, the rise of the Tea Party and support for Rep. Ron Paul, who campaigned for the Republican candidacy, were influencers to Republican delegates within the “Libertarian” faction. Shufeldt reveals that those factors were less crucial in 2016, but new groups formed four years later within both Republican and Democratic parties. 

“These studies inform our politics,” Shufeldt says. “We’re so evenly divided into red and blue states. It’s a really unique time to be talking to people that are at these conventions.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu

A woman casts her ballot
ResearchUnleashed

Republican Delegates More Likely to Disagree, New Butler Research Shows

Research sheds light on what led to internal conflicts during 2016 presidential primary contests

Nov 04 2019 Read more
A Sparki robot used in the Analytical Reasoning course
Experiential LearningUnleashed

Robots Enhance Coding Prowess, Passion in the Core Curriculum

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 01 2019

Getting Butler University Dance majors to learn computer coding was as easy as a plié in first position, thanks to robots.

In Computer Science Professor Panos Linos’ pilot Analytical Reasoning course in 2010, part of the Butler Core Curriculum, the goal was to give students not majoring in Computer Science or Software Engineering some experience in coding. So, Linos employed robots, something he thought would get non-majors excited about using things foreign to almost everyone in the class, such as the Python language. The class, now in its ninth year, teaches students to program robots to do small tasks like drawing shapes, making a sequence of noises, and flashing lights in a pattern.

A recent final project saw a group of Dance majors choreograph their robots to “dance” a routine, something they could all relate to. The students had a classical music score to back up the bots.

“All five robots performed a ballet together,” says Linos, with a laugh. “It’s very challenging to synchronize all of these robots to do the same routine.”

Adjunct Professor in Computer Science Jeremy Eglen now leads the course with a new robot—Sparki. Each student gets their own small robot, which is equipped with motorized wheels, an LCD screen, and little arms for gripping small objects. They also have sensors to help them see light, identify objects, and follow the lines of a maze or edge of a table.

Most of the work is done in groups. The students help one another on assignments with colorful names like Back-Up Bot, Episode 1: The Phantom Obstacle—one that involves writing a program that makes the robot move backward for two seconds without crashing into an obstacle.

The robots have been effective in getting students hooked on coding. Linos says the students treat their bots like their pets, carrying them around and celebrating new tricks that took hours to compute. While some students might have taken a coding class in high school, Analytical Reasoning is more hands-on. They can see their hours of meticulous coding create action for Sparki.

“You can sense the excitement of the students,” Linos says. “The motivation and passion I saw in the students was a great measure of this class’ success.”

Coding encoded in most careers

Whether future teachers or rising anthropologists, students in Eglen’s class realize the importance of basic coding

Jeremy Eglen instructs his students.
Computer Science faculty member Jeremy Eglen, second from left, helps his students code.

Journalism sophomore David Brown already knows the need for coding experience in a competitive job market. He found Analytical Reasoning as an ideal fit.

“Coding seemed so inaccessible to me,” he says. “But it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. If you put your time into it, it’s doable.”

Despite taking a coding class in high school, first-year Journalism major Brook Tracy admitted feeling intimidated by early coding assignments. But after early success in getting Sparki to move around in response to her coding, that changed.

“I thought learning how to code was way out of reach. There was no way I could do that,” Tracy says. “But it is something that’s attainable. You don’t need to be a crazy genius to learn how to do it, but my family and friends are still amazed at what I can do now. You just have to be detail-oriented and listen to instructions, and you can figure it out.

“And If you’re the person at the office who can code, your human capital goes up. Whatever field you go into, this experience will boost your resume even higher.”

Eglen agrees. He says there aren’t many jobs that don’t require computers and the ability to work them.

“Knowledge of programming is going to help you, no matter what your career is,” Eglen says. “And some of the students find out they actually like it.”

‘Still Alive’

Students program their robot.
Students program their Sparki robot in the Analytical Reasoning course.

First-year student Hannah Goergens, a Creative Writing and Computer Science major, enjoys the creative atmosphere in the Analytical Reasoning class, which serves as an appetizer before her Computer Science main courses.

In her spare time, Goergens programmed her robot to “sing” a tune called Still Alive from the video game Portal. She downloaded sheet music for the song, which is sung from the perspective of a robot, and got to work scripting every note, pitching Sparki’s bleeps to match the melody.

“This took me a week,” Goergens says, “right after we learned we could make it learn music. I’m just a big Portal fan, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Inspiring the coder within

The Sparki robots used in the class run about $150 a piece, and they are covered by Core Curriculum grants. The Core Curriculum covers a broad student educational experience, which includes getting STEM students into art classes and vice versa. Analytical Reasoning has been especially effective, says James McGrath, Faculty Director of the Core Curriculum. He has seen positive results when students are taken outside of their comfort zones.

“Lots of students think they’re not good at math, music, or writing,” McGrath says. “One of the purposes of the Core is to foster students to be well-rounded, no matter their focus of study. In these classes, they’re actually approaching the subject in ways not thought of. They may find they’re good at something they didn't know. They’re using a whole other part of their brains.”

Linos says programming drones would be a natural next step for the course, but whether they fly or dance, the robots are making some former Analytical Reasoning students change majors to Computer Science or Software Engineering. The class gave them the confidence that they can—and should—code. 

“It was very gratifying to me—as an educator, as a facilitator of their learning—to see them learning how to write code in a fun way,” Linos says.

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

A Sparki robot used in the Analytical Reasoning course
Experiential LearningUnleashed

Robots Enhance Coding Prowess, Passion in the Core Curriculum

Designed for humanities majors, the Analytical Reasoning course teaches coding with an assist from robots.

Nov 01 2019 Read more
Students visit IU Health warehouse
Experiential LearningUnleashed

From Beer to Cars to Medical Supplies, Students get a Broad Look at Business

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Oct 23 2019

Instructors of the Operations and Global Supply Chain Management course within Butler University’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business realized no PowerPoint presentation could compete with sending students out to explore 300,000 square feet of industry.

The goal of the class is to expose Business students to operations concepts by giving them opportunities to tour the facilities of companies and soak up the knowledge of professionals first hand at their workplace.

Led by Assistant Professor Janaina Siegler and Faculty Lecturer Matthew Caito, the class has taken students on site visits of companies all over Indiana. These trips help students understand concepts of distribution, profit maximization, and waste minimization. They also help students see what life is like inside some of top corporations by giving them a behind-the-scenes look at what makes these businesses truly function.

Students walk in IU Health warehouse.
Business students walk in the huge IU Health Distribution Center warehouse in Plainfield, Indiana.

A recent visit to the Indiana University Health Distribution Center in Plainfield, Indiana, found Caden Castellon and some classmates in a warehouse of the 300,000-square-foot facility, where medical supplies are prepared for shipment to 17 Indiana hospitals. From hospital beds to tongue depressors, the supplies were organized on palettes, conveyor belts, and bins, all of which were moved around by robots the size of Butler Blue III. Shelving soared at least two stories tall, and the facility was cooled by ceiling fans larger than helicopter blades.

“Actually going to the site and seeing how things work is always eye-opening,” says Castellon, a junior studying Finance. “It just broadens the picture of business.”

By the end of the semester, the students will have seen how seven different companies organize their logistics with the ultimate goal of saving time, labor, and money.

Whether Finance, Marketing, or Accounting majors, all Business students take the Operations and Global Supply Chain Management course.

“Marketing people find the money, the finance people count the money, and it’s up to operations people to save the money,” Caito says. “This is an easy class to get engaged with because so much of it is experiential.”

Before the students toured the facility, Derrick Williams, Executive Director of Supply Chain Logistics for IU Health, explained how investing in a distribution center has saved millions of dollars in just two years by consolidating operations in a one-stop-shop. The facility’s AutoStore robots help keep things organized, making the most of available technology. Students were able to see that efficiency first-hand.

A student watches an AutoStore robot.
Finance junior Caden Castellon watches IU Health's AutoStore robots prepare hospital shipments. 

“I personally love having the opportunity to go out and visit somewhere like this,” says Ben Greenblatt, a junior studying Finance. “It gives you a lot of new information that I had no idea about.” 

Opportunities everywhere

Like the clockwork of a well-run facility, Caito says students start seeing operations and supply chain management concepts everywhere they go. They see why certain products are placed along the perimeter of the grocery store (consumers tend to buy more from those areas) or how concession stands at Indiana Pacers games are staffed to meet fans’ hunger and thirst demands.

“After they go to the tours, they’ll come back impressed at all the details that have to happen in order to be successful,” Caito says. “It makes sense, and I hope in five, 10, 15 years, a student can reflect back on the class and say, ‘that’s where I learned where theory is important, but also that doing things that makes sense is really important—anticipating what the needs are going to be.’”

The variety of companies that have partnered with the course are diverse in product, service, and size. Tours of Sun King Brewery had to be divided up to fit all of the students interested in how the popular Indianapolis brewer makes its beers and ships bottles, cans, and kegs all over Indiana. A visit to the UPS World Port started at 11:00 PM on October 4 and extended into the early morning of October 5, when the airport was at its busiest.

Other Indiana visits this fall have included the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Jeffersonville, Subaru Indiana Automotive in Lafayette, and Cummins in Columbus.

Join the club

The course’s popularity has led to the formation of the Butler Global Supply Chain Club. The student-run organization’s meetings often consist of case studies, guest speakers, and networking opportunities. 

Club President Tim Evely took Operations and Global Supply Chain Management a year ago. The experience inspired him to lead the club, which allows members to take Caito and Siegler’s class tours without being enrolled in the class. 

“Supply chain is applicable everywhere, in any business,” says Evely, a senior majoring in Finance and Accounting. “In any decision-making process, supply chain opportunities must be considered.”

Evely’s class also visited sites around the Hoosier State. A tour of the Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing plant in Columbus, Indiana, was especially impactful. Like the IU Health Distribution Center, the sheer size of the Toyota facility astounded Evely and his classmates. They encountered a complex that measured 10 football fields long, which would take a full hour to walk around. Watching the assembly line in action and getting to see a finished product was something he could not have experienced in the classroom.

“We got to see what we’re working on in school translate in the industry,” Evely says. “It’s a good feeling to get out of the classroom and see the real-world applications.”

Upcoming Operations and Supply Chain Management events

  • III International Symposium on Supply Chain 4.0, October 24-28, Lacy School of Business Building
  • Guest speakers Clay Robinson, Co-Founder and CEO of Sun King Brewing Company, and Cameron Panther of Celadon Logistics will discuss entrepreneurship, distribution, and manufacturing processes from 5:00–7:00 PM November 7 at the new building for the Lacy School of Business.

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Students visit IU Health warehouse
Experiential LearningUnleashed

From Beer to Cars to Medical Supplies, Students get a Broad Look at Business

Students experience operational techniques up close during visits to Amazon, Sun King Brewery, and more.

Oct 23 2019 Read more
Megan Franke helps a girl with an experiment.
CommunityUnleashed

Butler Biology and Chemistry Students Inspire Future Scientists at Celebrate Science Indiana

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Oct 16 2019

From lattes to scented dog shampoo, pumpkins are everywhere this time of year—even starring in science experiments led by Butler University students.

In a take on the classic potato electricity experiment, students of Chemistry Lecturer Paul Morgan brought mini pumpkins to their tabletop station at the annual Celebrate Science Indiana event, October 5 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. At the event that brings hands-on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics displays under one roof, Butler Chemistry and Biology students led 10 interactive science experiments designed to help children learn about simple scientific reactions and concepts, like how pumpkins can be wired up to make an LED light glow.

“I didn’t know if the pumpkins would work, but lo and behold, they did,” Morgan says. “The wire is one medium to carry the electricity. The pumpkins themselves have different-charged particles inside of them that will allow the current to flow through.”

Benjamin Nick leads an experiment
Biology and Chemistry Senior Benjamin Nick, center, leads a pumpkin experiment for children.

By volunteering at Celebrate Science Indiana, the Butler students worked toward fulfilling their Indianapolis Community Requirement while gaining experience talking about science in plain language to the hundreds of potential scientists in attendance. The event included science-based companies, nonprofit organizations, and university programs from all over the state.

Morgan’s Chemistry in the Community students were joined by students from the Biology Indianapolis Outreach course, taught by Biological Sciences Senior Lecturer Erin Gerecke.

A steady stream of families checked out the experiments throughout the day. Guests made slime while learning about slugs, tried to pick up golf balls with tongs to simulate how birds eat, and marveled at a tiny motor consisting of an AA battery, copper wire, and magnets.

The experiments will be reprised for several more upcoming events. Morgan’s students will wow future chemists November 2 at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, while Gerecke’s Biology students will share their knowledge for the general public again November 16 at the Indiana State Museum.

“Just getting the children interested in science is the best thing,” Morgan says. “It’s about pulling them in and having something to talk about, to spur that interest, that curiosity. I even learn a few things from doing this every once and a while.”

Science communication is key

Gerecke says the ability to explain science to different audiences without dumbing it down is a skill students will need as they enter the field.

 “This is a very interesting audience because you have children of different ages, and adults,” adds Gerecke while watching her students interact with families at Celebrate Science. “Every person that comes up, you have to start over and figure out how to engage with them.”

Melissa Evans and her classmates chose to promote neuroscience in their display about the four lobes of the brain: That’s the occipital for vision, temporal for speech, frontal for high-level cognition, and parietal for coordination. A plastic model of the human brain fascinated parents and older students while younger children colored pictures of brain halves, attached them to construction paper, and wore them as brainy headbands. 

“We’ve had kids who already know the lobes of the brain and kids who don’t even know what a brain is,” says Evans, a Psychology and Critical Communication major with a Neuroscience minor. “We also had a freshman in high school talk to us about our program because she’s interested in coming to Butler.”

Biology senior Kristen Spolyar believes events like Celebrate Science can only give young students a headstart in their STEM classes.

“I never experienced anything like this,” Spolyar said during a short break from running a booth on recycling and sustainability. “I think it’s really cool to have the opportunity for kids to go around, have fun, and experiment with things.”

Sparking scientific interest

Beyond the Butler stations, the entire Celebrate Science event corralled an energetic atmosphere of discovery.

Butler students show a girl experiments
Butler Chemistry students show a future scientist experiments in magnetism and simple motors.

Cody Carley might be a senior studying Biology and Chemistry at Butler, but he felt like a kid again at Celebrate Science. 

“Walking around, I’m enthralled by all of this stuff, too,” Carley says. “It’s still exciting for people my age… It’s nice to see what we’re learning does have some applicability and some meaning outside of an academic sense.”

Jenny Luerkins of Indianapolis and her young daughters, Etta and Helen, were among the hundreds who visited the Butler tables, and among the thousands at Celebrate Science 2019. It was their third time attending the event.

“What I really enjoy is that each time we come here, they get to see kids that aren’t much older than them interested in science,” she says. “It’s different than a teacher talking to them or a parent talking to them about science. They’ve got good role models to make science fun in a lot of different ways.”

 

Community Partnerships

Through collaboration and strong partnerships, Butler Beyond will unleash the potential of our brilliant faculty and students on the complex issues facing our community. Support for this pillar will expand Butler’s reach and roots in the Indianapolis community and beyond by cultivating deeper integration with local organizations and businesses, increasing experiential learning opportunities for students, nurturing new ventures, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Megan Franke helps a girl with an experiment.
CommunityUnleashed

Butler Biology and Chemistry Students Inspire Future Scientists at Celebrate Science Indiana

As part of their Indianapolis Community Requirement, students engaged with children through hands-on experiments.

Oct 16 2019 Read more
Sally Perkins
Arts & CultureUnleashed

If Susan B. Anthony Had a Smartphone

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 10 2019

 

 

What would the fight for women’s suffrage look like in 2019—a centennial after women won the right to vote?

Sally Perkins, a professional storyteller and Director of Butler University’s Speaker’s Lab, imagines Susan B. Anthony would be texting her fellow activists. Ida B. Wells would be tweeting about the importance of the black female voice. Anna Howard Shaw would become Ellen DeGeneres, and the spirit of Sojourner Truth would shine through Queen Latifah. And no matter how hard the fight for voting rights became, none of them would give up.

In Digging in Their Heels, a one-woman storytelling performance that will hit the stage in New York City later this month, Perkins captures the complexities of this part of American history she’s found most people don’t know much about. Through modern references and comedic elements, she makes this 100-year-old story more accessible to audiences who don’t know much about what it took to win the vote.

The show races through 72 years in 60 minutes. But Perkins helps audience members keep track of the 16 characters by assigning each suffragist a modern alter-ego—a well-known woman who mirrors the suffragist’s personality and activism style. The characters use smartphones and social media to communicate, “in some ways pointing to the fact that they didn’t have that technology,” Perkins says. “It was so difficult what they did.”

And the performance doesn’t shy away from those difficulties, which emerged both from those outside the movement and between the women leading it. Instead, Perkins shows where black women experienced racism from their white counterparts, even as they all worked toward a shared goal.

“I’m doing what I can to bring that truth to the story,” she says. “We cannot talk about issues of gender without talking about issues of race.”

 

Sally Perkins

 

The show first launched at the IndyFringe Festival in 2018. Perkins has performed at several venues since, including a show for Indiana’s League of Women Voters and a few visits to out-of-state conferences. On October 17, she’ll take it to New York for the United Solo Theatre Festival, a 10-week international event dedicated to one-person shows.

When Perkins first applied to perform at the festival, she didn’t really think she had a chance. But she received her acceptance in April, and her October show is now listed as a bestseller among the more than 120 performances on the United Solo calendar. If the first performance sells out completely, Perkins will be able to schedule a second, and that process could repeat for up to eight total shows throughout the course of the festival.

Digging in Their Heels first started taking shape in late 2017, then it unfolded over about 10 months of research and writing. Typically, Perkins is more of an oral performer than a playwright. But to juggle the stories of 16 women over 72 years, sharing the narrative of women’s suffrage demanded a more robust script. And to help keep audience members grounded in the chronology, she called on the skills of Butler CCOM colleague Armando Pellerano, Lecturer of Strategic Communication, to design an interactive set.

“The audience should never have to be thinking, ‘Where are we in the timeline of all this?’” Perkins says. “So I have a huge set with a timeline and a map of the United States, which helps people keep track of which states have granted women the right to vote at different points along the way.”

In Pellerano’s 20 years of experience in the creative services industry, he had never designed a set piece. But on a late-April day when he saw Perkins rehearsing on campus, he stopped to see what she was doing. They chatted about the graphics on her old set, and after a brief critique from Pellerano, Perkins asked if he could help her design something that would tell a better story.

Pellerano chose colors and patterns that captured a Victorian-era mood, making sure the set would complement Perkins instead of drawing attention away from her words.

“I was trying to find something that fit her vision,” he says, “as well as accomplishing what I wanted from a visual standpoint, which was getting people to focus on what she was talking about without being distracted by the background.”

During a recent local performance of Digging in Their Heels, Pellerano had the chance to see the set design in action.

“To me, the coolest thing was seeing her actually use all the pieces,” he says. “There’s a little marker that moves down for the timeline, and we made velcro pieces so she can reveal information more gradually.”

But the show was even more interactive than Pellerano expected, and he was amazed at the way Perkins connected with the audience. Plus, it told an important story he didn’t know.

“What I really learned about was the politics of that time in history,” Pellerano says. “You can read about something, but you’re not really situated in what the conventional wisdom of the time was or what the cultural norms were. To me, it was revelatory that these women were as strategic as they were about when to dig in their heels and when to back off.”

While Perkins has spent the last few months focused on her upcoming trip to New York, she says performance is just one part of her career. At Butler, she teaches public speaking classes and runs the Speakers Lab, a group of tutors who provide students with one-on-one help in creating and delivering speeches or presentations.

In the community, Perkins works with professional clients, helping them effectively tell their stories. She trains organizations on the basics, explaining the power of storytelling when it comes to fundraising, sales, organizational development, recruitment, and more. She also offers individual coaching for a range of story-based projects. This professional service work, along with her commissioned performance experience, strengthens what Perkins does at Butler.

“All my storytelling work has deepened, improved, and impacted the way I teach public speaking,” she says. “Before I started doing all of this, I would never have talked about the importance of storytelling in public speaking class. Now I totally do.”

But it works the other way around, too, and she lets a love of education influence her performing. When audiences walk away from Digging in Their Heels, she wants them to have learned something.

“I want people to feel inspired not to give up, even though, as I say at the end of the story, many of these women went to the grave without ever casting a vote,” Perkins says. “But we need to not give up with whatever our battle is. It matters to me that people walk away feeling inspired by the longevity of the movement, and that they think about how we can be better in the future, no matter what the issue is at hand.”

 

Digging in Their Heels
Thursday, October 17, 7:30 PM
410 West 42nd Street, New York City
Tickets: $45 (purchase here)

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Sally Perkins
Arts & CultureUnleashed

If Susan B. Anthony Had a Smartphone

Celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage, Sally Perkins takes her one-woman storytelling show to New York City.

Oct 10 2019 Read more
Prof. Andrew Stoehr displays cabbage white butterflies.
ResearchUnleashed

Researcher Finds Environmental Clues on Butterfly Wings

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Oct 09 2019

The wings of a butterfly can give clues to the changes happening in their environments and, in turn, ours. At Butler University, Associate Professor of Biology Andrew Stoehr is using those clues to figure out if these wings can serve as early indicators to climate change. The wing patterns could serve as a warning flag for the overall health of the environment.

By measuring changes in the colors and patterns on the wings of the invasive cabbage white butterfly, Stoehr and his students are able to see how changes in temperature affect the butterflies’ health.

Prof. Andrew Stoehr analyzes butterfly wings.
Prof. Andrew Stoehr analyzes a photo of cabbage white butterfly wings in his lab.

The work measures the invasive butterfly’s phenotypic plasticity, which is when environmental factors influence how an organism looks or behaves. Changes in the butterflies’ wing coloration and patterns over time reveal how they are responding to temperature changes that took place while they were still caterpillars. The darker the wings, the colder the temperatures, Stoehr says, and the simple white wings with small flecks of black make the cabbage white butterfly an ideal test subject. Even just a short period of temperature change during development can have a noticeable effect on wing patterns: Just 48 hours of abnormally cool or warm weather, if it occurs at the right time for a caterpillar, can affect the wing pattern of the eventual adult.

Stoehr is an ongoing collaborator in the Pieris Project, a global effort to understand the spread of the cabbage white butterfly and, potentially, its reactions to increasing temperatures. Citizen scientists from as far as Russia, New Zealand, and Korea have shipped the butterflies to scientists involved in this project.

Much to the chagrin of farmers and gardeners of leafy greens, the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies feast on kale, bok choy, and cabbage. But their prevalence is better for researchers than it is for farmers, and Stoehr has studied butterflies from as close as The CUE Farm on Butler’s campus to as far away as Australia.

“They’re widespread and easy to study,” Stoehr says. “The butterfly’s life is very dependent on temperature. Temperature affects what they look like, and temperature affects what they’re able to do as butterflies, essentially controlling their own temperatures. Can they warm up enough to fly? They’re good ecological models for understanding the role of temperature and changing temperature in basic animal biology.”

With 90-degree heat in October, these little butterflies and their white wings are early subjects for animal behavior in unseasonal heat. If the wing development of these fluttering insects doesn’t match the weather outside, resulting in unregulated body heat, how would other animals react?

An ideal subject

The cabbage white butterfly is not only well-traveled—it can also be found around your garden as early as March and as late as November. The insect’s lifespan is short—probably no more than a week or two as a butterfly. Throughout the summer, each generation of butterflies has lighter wings as the weather gets hotter. 

“The population’s wings will change over the course of the year,” Stoehr says. “It takes many days for their wings to develop so they are trying to predict the weather weeks in advance. During those caterpillar stages, they’re receiving information about the temperature.”

These predictions give the butterflies an easier three-week life. As ectotherms, they rely on sunlight and temperatures to function. As a caterpillar and chrysalis, the insect is monitoring the weather so it can develop the most comfortable pair of wings, which are designed to soak in the preferred amount of heat.

Stoehr seeks anomalies in wing patterns — the amount of tiny black wing scales on the white wing background — to reveal unusual weather in a region. What’s a caterpillar to do if it's 85 degrees one day but then plummets to 55 degrees a few days later?

“In Indiana, there are seasonal patterns of predictability, but they’re not perfectly predictable,” he says. “Do the caterpillars ignore the temperature change and come out mismatched?

This is important knowledge, Stoehr adds, because it tells us that weather fluctuations might be enough to cause a butterfly to emerge mismatched to the temperatures it is likely to encounter. It may be that a cold snap or warm snap is enough to make a butterfly emerge with wing patterns that are not optimally suited for its ability to use those wing patterns to regulate temperature to the conditions it will be facing, compared to what it would look like if it had not gone through that cold or warm snap.

Methodology

In Stoehr’s research, each insect is photographed before the wing markings are analyzed through software that has collected more than 10,000 data points from the total butterfly wings, which include variations in areas of the wings that change with temperature. Each area is circled and analyzed with the lab’s computer software. The project’s findings will be finalized in 2020.

Initially, the local specimens were studied separately from the samples sent from abroad. However, combining the data could give clues to how the species will endure climate change.

“Do butterflies from different parts of the world develop in the same way in response to temperature and day length variation?” Stoehr asks. “In other words, how do butterflies from northern climates — like Canada and Finland — where the days are longer but also cooler, compare to butterflies from more southern places — like Mexico — where summer days are hotter but not as long?

To add further dimension, Stoehr hopes to eventually explore the use of museum collections of preserved butterflies from decades ago. How do butterflies collected in May 2019 compared to butterflies collected in May 1969?

“Given the way temperature and day length together affect the wing patterns,” Stoehr says, “we might be able to make predictions about how the butterflies look in the future as those two factors become uncoupled from each other. In other words, the temperature is changing but day length does not.”

Out in the field

Hundreds of the butterflies have come from Stoehr’s nets. He hunts them around his Hamilton County, Indiana, home while students set out across the CUE Farm, Butler Prairie, and woods around campus. 

“The cabbage whites are pretty easy to catch, and they’re very plentiful, especially by the Prairie,” says Makenzie Kurtz, a junior Biology major who has worked in Stoehr’s lab since January. “There’s usually five or six around in one small area.”

Kurtz’s role includes catching butterflies, freezing them, and preparing them for photos before logging each insect. It’s a mix that fortifies her pursuit of a career in research.

“It’s been an overall great experience getting in the field and helping with data analysis,” says Kurtz, who plans on pursuing entomology in graduate school. “It’s interesting to see it all come together.”

Stoehr’s upcoming spring sabbatical will be spent analyzing data and writing his findings from the white cabbage butterfly work. Each wing tells a story about the state of our environment, but just how cautionary will the tales be?

“Since we know something about how their appearance affects their ability to thermoregulate,” Stoehr says, “we might be able to eventually make predictions about whether climate change will increase or decrease populations in different places. It could make them pests in more places than they are now, or it might have the opposite effect.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu

Prof. Andrew Stoehr displays cabbage white butterflies.
ResearchUnleashed

Researcher Finds Environmental Clues on Butterfly Wings

Biology Professor Andrew Stoehr analyzes the phenotypic plasticity of invasive cabbage white butterflies.

Oct 09 2019 Read more
JUUL research
ResearchUnleashed

New Study: Students Report Harmful Effects from Vaping, Don’t Use JUUL to Quit Smoking

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 07 2019

When e-cigarettes first hit the market, manufacturers sold them as a cleaner, safer alternative to combustible cigarettes. They targeted current smokers, touting vape as a good way to quit.

“But that is clearly not how they are being used,” says Amy Peak, Butler University’s Director of Undergraduate Health Science Programs. Her recent research about the harmful effects of vaping included a survey of nearly 1,000 college students.

research results Peak recently completed this large-scale study in collaboration with Sarah Knight, a senior Health Science major, and they presented their findings at the 2019 Indiana Life Sciences Summit on September 26.

They discovered that, while vaping was originally promoted as a safer alternative for existing smokers, most young vape users are brand new to nicotine. And it probably isn’t any safer, either, with most users experiencing a variety of harmful effects.

In data gathered throughout the past year, Peak found that almost 60 percent of college students had used a JUUL—the most popular e-cigarette in the United States. Of the students who vaped, 90 percent had never smoked a traditional cigarette. Only 3 percent of respondents said they used JUUL in an effort to quit smoking.

“Vaping is clearly an entry-level thing,” Peak explains. “It is not something that the college population is using as a smoking cessation product.”

And for pretty much everyone who vapes, even occasionally, there are consequences.

The most common adverse reaction found in Peak’s study was coughing, a symptom reported in about a third of all users. Other common harmful effects included nose or throat irritation (20 percent of users), headaches (18 percent), shortness of breath (16 percent), and difficulty sleeping (6 percent). For most of these effects, Peak found that the more often someone vaped, the more likely they were to experience these side effects.

Nicotine withdrawal was also common, affecting 72 percent of heavy users, 54 percent of moderate users, and 8 percent of occasional users. Reported withdrawal symptoms included cravings, headaches, mood changes, and the inability to think clearly. Peak explains that the form of nicotine used in JUUL pods provides a faster, harder hit than combustible cigarettes, which makes vaping more addictive per use than smoking.

“There is no doubt that this is an addictive substance,” she says. “It is something that people are going to have substantial trouble coming off of if they are using it regularly.”research results

The study also found that almost all college students who vaped had done so in a social setting, sharing e-cigarettes with others, which could contribute to the spread of infectious disease. Of the respondents who used vaping products, 95 percent had put a JUUL in their mouths immediately after it was in someone else’s mouth. Peak says this could spread any form of bacteria or virus that is transmitted via saliva, including some forms of herpes, mononucleosis, influenza, norovirus, or strep throat—just to name a few. This risk of spreading infectious disease is not typically seen with combustible cigarettes.

“That, in and of itself, I think is a public health hazard no one is talking about,” Peak says.

Going forward, Peak plans to partner with Butler Biological Sciences Lecturer Mike Trombley to look deeper into that infectious disease potential.

Before collaborating with Peak on this research, student Sarah Knight had noticed many of her college-aged peers starting to use JUUL without knowing much about it. She wanted to help fill gaps in existing research about the risks of vaping, and she enjoyed the chance to be part of something that has such an immediate impact on public health.

“There is a misconception that vaping is a safer alternative to combustible cigarettes,” Peak says. “My hope is that, as this data comes out, we have mounting evidence that changes this idea.”

She explains that most people assume that just because you don’t see smoke or smell tar when using JUUL, it must be safer than a combustible cigarette. This has created an environment where vaping is a lot more socially acceptable than smoking.

“But this is just a different delivery device for an incredibly addictive substance—and a substance that is mixed with flavorings and colorings that have no business being inhaled,” Peak says.

Those candy-like flavors—now facing a potential ban—have made JUUL especially appealing to young people. And as new lung illnesses have brought vaping products under more nationwide scrutiny in recent weeks, Peak hopes this study will join the conversation in a way that helps teens and college students understand that adding an “e” doesn’t make cigarettes any safer.

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

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JUUL research
ResearchUnleashed

New Study: Students Report Harmful Effects from Vaping, Don’t Use JUUL to Quit Smoking

Professor Amy Peak and student Sarah Knight surveyed nearly 1,000 college students about experiences with JUUL use.

Oct 07 2019 Read more

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