A Year of Questions, A Day of Answers

From the enduring popularity of Harry Potter to the intersection of open-source technology and the performing arts, the unique undergraduate research experience offered at UMBC comes to life this Spring.

The 17th annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement Day (URCAD) held on Wednesday, April 24, gave UMBC undergraduates an opportunity to share their research with fellow students, faculty and staff members and alumni. The projects featured research, scholarship and creative work shared through oral presentations, posters, artistic exhibits, performances and film.

“URCAD brings together some of the most innovative and groundbreaking research projects and has defined UMBC’s commitment to a distinctive undergraduate experience,” said Diane M. Lee, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. “A major goal of the program is to give students the chance to share their knowledge through research and creative achievement and to gain valuable experience that will prepare them for graduate school or future careers.”

URCAD encourages undergraduates to explore inspirational topics and then creates a professional atmosphere where they can share their findings. Questions like “What drives people to create positive social change? How can we improve access to clean drinking water for communities in Africa? Is there a correlation between horror movies and mental disorders?”—as well as hundreds more— were answered by more than 200 different presentations displayed throughout the day. Some highlights included:

  • Mallory L. Brooks ’13 examined the popularity of the Harry Potter series by researching different fan groups and Potter-based organizations. Her findings revealed cultural themes that suggest the series appeals to our natural desire to be social.
  • Aneep S. Bindra ’14, Thomas A. Hervey ’14, and Zachary B. Hullihen ’13 have married the open-source technology of Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensing camera system with the performing arts to create intelligent stage lighting. The result was customizable, dynamic lighting effects that can be applied to virtually any live dance performance.
  • Social responsibility was certainly on the mind of Kathleen Algire-Fedarcyk ’13, but what about other college students? Ms. Algire-Fedarcyk’s research explored how to get students more involved in their communities by instituting a semester-long placement at local service-learning organizations as part of their Social Work 200 class.
  • A small community in Africa has a big problem: no access to clean drinking water. So, Dalton Hughes ’14 and Chris Mullen ’14, along with the UMBC chapter of Engineers Without Borders, decided to visit Isongo, Kenya and do something about it. What they found was high levels of chemical and bacterial contaminant in the water supply. Now, Hughes and Mullen are developing an inexpensive, low-tech water treatment system that will help improve the overall health of the Isongo population.
  • According to Brianna Garrett ’13, horror films are becoming increasingly popular and prevalent. Her study examined the emotions of disgust and fear that horror films prey on and how those emotions affect a person’s arousal, fear and revulsion. Data collected from this research will shed light on the effect of disgust and fear and how it may contribute to an etiology of mental disorders.
  • A full list of the undergraduate research projects presented at the 2013 URCAD event, including abstracts, is available on the URCAD website.