Park Blocks: Spring 2013
Author: Kathryn Kirkland
Posted: May 22, 2013

Relating the history of Russia’s Jews

A HANDFUL OF CONSULTANTS from around the world helped conceptualize and design a historic, new Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center that opened this fall in Moscow, Russia. Among the group was PSU’s Natan Meir—the first academic called on to fill the huge museum with information and exhibits from Russia’s Jewish history. Meir’s expertise is especially evident in the rooms dedicated to Jewish migration, the shtetl, and late Imperial Russia. These and all the special exhibits rely heavily on technology, such as interactive video screens and simulated fog and earthquakes. “It’s one of the most exciting new museums to open in Russia in a long time,” says Meir, who is the Lorry I. Lokey Chair of Judaic Studies in PSU’s Harold Schnitzer Family Program.


A big, big barometer

AFTER THE REMODEL of a science building several years ago, a pile of discarded glass pipes—two inches in diameter and up to 10 feet long—caught the eye of Tom Bennett, a civil and environmental engineering instrument technician. “What,” he wondered, “can you do with long pieces of thick glass pipe?” His answer: Build a really tall barometer. Bennett (right), colleague Kyle Lutz, and a group of grad students installed the 47-foot instrument in the atrium of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science. Barometers measure air pressure, and the taller they are, the more sensitive they are. “I’m kind of expecting that when someone opens the building’s door,” says Bennett, “we’ll see a little blip from the pressure change.”


Children and violence

IT'S NOT HOW MUCH violence a child is exposed to that can create emotional and behavioral problems. It’s exposure to a variety of different types of violence. That was a surprising finding in a five-year study by Laura Hickman of Portland State and researchers at the RAND Corporation. The study, published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, found that children had the most negative symptoms when exposed to more than one category of violence, including sexual abuse, maltreatment, or witnessing violence such as last year’s fatal shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Photo©Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee/


Fueling Oregon's economy

OREGON'S ELECTRIC vehicle industry has grown significantly despite the recent recession, according to a new report by Portland State’s Northwest Economic Research Center. The report found the electric vehicle industry—including parts suppliers, engineering firms, and manufacturers—plugged $266.6 million into the state’s economy and paid an estimated $32.7 million in local, state and federal taxes in 2012. The study sets a baseline to gauge future industry performance. Electric Avenue, a block of charging stations on campus (pictured here), is another way Portland State is studying EV use in the region.


Phoning a cookstone in Kenya

WHAT'S THE POINT in bringing water filters, clean-burning stoves, and sanitation facilities to the world’s poor if they are not being used? None at all. That’s why SWEETsense, a monitoring sensor that uses cell phone networks to transmit information from devices and facilities in Rwanda, Kenya, Indonesia, and Haiti to Portland State laboratories is so important. Engineering professor Evan Thomas (pictured here) and his students have created a new level of accountability for international relief efforts. It’s also led to a new way to track air and water quality in the U.S. The work is part of Thomas’s SWEETLab—Sustainable Water, Energy, and Environmental Technologies—where engineers design gravity water filters, compact clean-burning stoves, and other items for people in developing countries.


Stories of women leaders

THEY STARTED their political careers as activists and volunteers for their neighborhoods, their children’s schools, and for community issues that mattered to them. Today Eleanor Davis, Avel Gordly, Gretchen Kafoury, Vera Katz, Barbara Roberts, and Betty Roberts are recognized civic and political leaders for all Oregonians. The six women donated their papers to the PSU Library Special Collections, which makes them available to the public (the Katz Papers are still being cataloged). From Avel Gordly’s efforts to remove racist language from the Oregon constitution to Barbara Roberts (seen here) becoming the first woman governor in the state, the papers show how these women shaped Oregon and the region.


Sandbox for college students

FROM MOVABLE furniture to wall-embedded LCD displays the PSU Library’s Sandbox is a new, experimental space where students can work together on class projects. The Sandbox (above right) is just one kind of workspace in the Learning Ground, the remodeled north wing of the Library’s first floor. The busiest computer lab on campus with its 58 Mac and PC machines is just on the other side of the wall, and nearby is a more relaxed window seat that gives students access to power, wireless printing, and technology support.