Writing Fellows

Walking into the Writing Center in the Academic Success Center, it is impossible to overlook the buzz of activity. The sounds of paper rustling and group collaboration are nothing new for the Writing Fellows, a group of impressive undergraduates who help all members of the Clemson community become more confident and effective writers. The Writing Fellows assist undergraduate students, graduate students and even faculty members with all forms of expository writing. By working closely with undergraduates in various disciplines, the Writing Fellows have contributed to Clemson’s recent recognition by U.S. News & World Report as one of nineteen colleges that make the writing process a priority at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum.

Dr. Meredith McCarroll, director of the Writing Center, associate director of major fellowships and professor of American literature, realized that peer tutoring in writing involves more than one-on-one conferences; it involves studying the function and effectiveness of tutoring. McCarroll developed the Writing Fellows Creative Inquiry, a subset of the Writing Fellows program, in which a handful of Writing Fellows immerse themselves in self-led research on different aspects of peer tutoring. The purpose of the Writing Fellows Creative Inquiry is to help students conduct and continue this research as they prepare for the National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPW).
The range of research conducted by the Creative Inquiry is exemplified by Caroline Mercer, a senior English literature major. Mercer sees the growing importance of technology and decided to conduct her research on the quality of online tutoring compared to sessions conducted in person.

“This next generation is really techy, so I think that online tutoring will only become more and more prominent over the years,” Mercer said.

Mercer’s fellow Creative Inquiry team member, sophomore industrial engineering major Shannon Kay, is also delving into research that will expand her knowledge of peer tutoring and enhance her own sessions. Kay’s research focuses on sequenced assignments, which refers to the relationships between given assignments. McCarroll believes that such student-driven research is one of the most powerful and memorable experiences that an undergraduate can have.

“It gives students a glimpse of what they can do beyond just one class,” McCarrol said. “Self-guided experiences help students feel autonomous and empowered.”

The semester-long research of Mercer, Kay, and the four other Creative Inquiry team members culminated with the National Confrence on Peer Tutoring in Writing (NCPTW), held in Tampa, Florida in November 2013. At the conference, the students presented their research and had the opportunity to hear ideas from students from other universities. Both McCarroll and Mercer agree that this conference is the most exciting aspect of the Creative Inquiry, as it places Clemson into the growing discussion of peer tutoring and strengthens the university’s emphasis on writing across the curriculum. Returning from the conference, the Creative Inquiry team returned with new ideas and perspectives to share with the other Writing Fellows that they can then implement in their tutoring sessions.

Ultimately, McCarroll hopes that her students will walk away from the Creative Inquiry knowing that they can effectively communicate their ideas and use these ideas to impact their professional work.

“In a large or small way, they have something to contribute –they are going to enter their job and not only do great work, but also help to transform their field,” she said. Both McCarroll and her students believe that peer tutoring in writing is not about comma splices and superficial issues, but rather about content and delivery. It is these two aspects that drive the Creative Inquiry and push Clemson further into the academic discussion of writing across the curriculum.

Improving Wheel Traction in Sand and Lunar Terrain

In a warehouse, a team of mechanical engineering students is conducting research to be implemented where few undergraduate endeavors venture: the moon. Their work involves improving a wheel that must roll smoothly through sand, gracefully manage rock piles and scale daunting inclines.

The project, led by seniors Steven O’Shields and Zach Satterfield is composed of nine undergraduates. Mechanical engineering professor Dr. Joshua Summers began the Creative Inquiry, Development of Sand Traction Concepts, more than seven years ago.

“The purpose originally was for NASA. It was a NASA-funded project to come up with a wheel,” Satterfield said. NASA developed an All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE), a multi-legged robotic platform for transporting large items, such as a living space for astronauts, on the moon. However, since the lunar terrain differs in texture and consistency from the asphalt that most earth-bound vehicles are designed for, ATHLETE needed a new type of wheel on its “feet.”

The average vehicle wheel intended to travel over asphalt is convex, or curved outward. The convex tread pushes debris, which would otherwise cause friction and slow down the vehicle, out from under the wheel. The tread is the shape of the tire’s exterior that creates traction.

“The tread helps you be efficient with moving the vehicle,” Satterfield said. The team has determined that a concave shape, with an indentation around the middle of the wheel’s exterior, is the most efficient shape for moving across sand. This design grips the sand and gives the wheel something more solid to push off of, so that for each rotation, it travels the maximum distance possible.

By testing different wheel designs, the team found that a concave tire covered in non-porous foam moves most efficiently. While they were satisfied with its traction, they wanted to make the tire more durable, because the foam was easily damaged during testing.

“We don’t always get the perfect prototype. Dr. Summers harps on that you learn more from failure than from success,” Satterfield said. To make their product more suitable for extraterrestrial travel, their latest design includes a layer of Kevlar, a strong yet lightweight material, over the foam-covered concave tire. The nine student engineers hope that this design will successfully combine an efficient tread with materials strong enough for use on the moon.

The team tested various characteristics of their Kevlar design, such as velocity and endurance, with the longest test running up to ten hours. By passing the durability test, which previous versions had failed, the Kevlar prototype has become their most successful design yet.

Although the project is intended for space exploration, Satterfield and O’Shields anticipate that their work will also be practically applied on Earth. Their new wheel could be used on any vehicle that travels over sand, from recreational dune buggies to military transports. It would allow a vehicle to move more efficiently thus using less fuel.

In Aug. 2013, Summers, O’Shields, Satterfield and senior Justin Moylan attended a conference for the American Society for Mechanical Engineers in Portland, Oregon. Their paper, which Satterfield presented, was the only undergraduate publication at the conference.

“I don’t think many other schools have undergrad research like this, where it’s run by undergraduate students,”

O’Shields said. The team looks forward to presenting at more conferences as they continue to determine the weaknesses of their Kevlar-covered wheel and how it can be improved.

The students are the driving force at every level and stage of the project because Summers believes that giving the students ownership of the project provides them with more learning opportunities.

O’Shields and Satterfield also gain leadership experience. Along with the other seniors, Moylan, Brett Smenteks and Coleman Heustess, they partner with the students who have not yet taken advanced mechanical engineering courses.

“It’s really a lot of fun working with these people, working with their strengths and weaknesses and trying to get the ultimate goal accomplished of getting a tire that works right” O’Shields said of younger team members.

Creating a Lasting Impression

Walking around campus, it is not hard to find public art that has been implemented into a number of sites throughout the years.

In Fall 2012, Art department faculty members Joey Manson, David Detrich and Denise Woodward-Detrich began Atelier InSite, a Creative Inquiry project that implements public artwork on the Clemson’s campus. It capitalizes on a cross-disciplinary and inclusive approach that is predominantly student driven. The goal is to create a new paradigm for the administration of public art on university campuses.

Manson believes Atelier InSite is helping to gain more student involvement and initiate awareness about not only what kind of art should be implemented on campus, but also why.

“There’s some public art on campus already, but it wasn’t as inclusive with student outreach,” Manson said. “This mechanism is much different. It’s a different model. We study the various ways public art works in universities across the country—how art works, how it functions and how it also fails.”

So how can art fail?

“Well public art’s role is to raise questions and prompt discussion,” Manson said. “We’re not about adorning a building; we’re about creating dialogue that can happen here on campus.”

To ensure no art sits in silence and potentially falls unnoticed, Atelier InSite’s team of 14 Creative Inquiry students, in ten different majors, spent hours perusing 218 portfolio submissions from around the world and narrowed them down to three finalists they felt best represented the Life Sciences Facility and surrounding areas. Proposals were requested from these finalists, and ultimately the commission was awarded with input from faculty, staff, and students working in the facility.

Atelier InSite’s latest project was installed in the atrium of the new Life Sciences Facility—a piece by San Francisco artist Klari Reis, whose 600 individual paintings are embedded in petri dishes of varying sizes.

The students are currently working on implementing art into the Watt Family Innovation Center as well as into the Lee III Expansion.

Sophomore visual arts major Rebekah Warren believes that her contribution to the project has taught her a lot about the art on campus and people’s various perceptions of it.

“It gives me pride that we’re able to decide these things,” she said. “Public artwork is something that evokes thought and isn’t always aesthetically proven but the main purpose is to make the viewer wonder.”

And it’s not just for art students either. Kep Pate, a senior visual arts major, is happy to see Clemson—a fundamentally science-driven university—more actively seeking to keep art alive and present in response to a policy set by the academic council that requires a 0.5% budget towards public art in new construction by Clemson University.

“It’s another cool way to show how the concentrations on campus can connect with one another. This is one of the only classes where you see architecture majors, art majors, life science majors and engineers all collaboratively working together,” Pate said. “Clemson tries to do that in a lot of ways, and this is another example of how we work together.”

Brittany Lamont, a senior health sciences major, says the experience has completely altered her perspective and has led her to earn a minor in art.

“I’ve been doing this CI for a year and half, and there’s something to be said about actually working with your hands and doing something as opposed to sitting in front of a projector watching your professor tell you how it is and how it goes and to just take his word for it,” she said. “It’s really valuable because instead it tells you how something works first-hand.”

Overall, the Creative Inquiry has created a lasting impression on both the students involved and the Clemson community.

“I hope to be able to come back one day if my kids are here and be able to say that I took part in this,” sophomore visual arts major Jessi Helmrich said.

“All the students enrolled are supporters of the arts,” Manson said. “They have that passion and drive and this enables them to leave a lasting contribution to the campus. Any of those graduating know they will have an impact for a long time to come.”

Photo of Dr. Childress and team in front of the Keys Marine Laboratory

Dr. Michael Childress receives 2015 Phil & Mary Bradley Award for CI Mentoring

Dr. Michael Childress received the 2015 Phil and Mary Bradley Award for Creative inquiry Mentoring at the may 7 general Faculty meeting.

Dr. Childress, an associate professor in biological sciences, has hosted a Creative Inquiry team since the early days of the program, serving as mentor to 44 undergraduates and involving his graduate students as additional mentors to the younger students. His project was featured in the inaugural issue of Decipher magazine, in 2012, in the article, Don’t be Crabby: Creative Inquiry Students are Making a Splash.

Michael’s students are exceedingly productive — they have made 21 presentations at professional conferences, have produced at least one publication (with a graduate student in the lab), and describe their work on an ongoing basis through their blog.

His students respect and like him, in great part because he obviously cares about them. A student made the following comment, in nominating Dr. Childress for this award:

Dr. Childress is a brilliant teacher and communicator and really cares about the success of his students. I spend a good part of every week in the lab, even when I’m not working specifically on data analysis for the project. I credit this largely to the camaraderie among the students and mentors on the CI team. Dr. Childress is always willing to help us with our projects but he also challenges us to think for ourselves and figure out problems without being told the answer. Research with Dr. Childress has really changed my Clemson experience. It’s opened my eyes to real world issues and allowed me to cultivate skills I couldn’t have gained in a regular classroom setting.

Brittany Ann Avin (in pink) poses with her parents and Clements after receiving the Norris Medal

CI Student Wins Norris Medal

Brittany Anne Avin of Greenville, North Carolina was awarded the 2015 Norris Medal for being voted the best all-around student by the university scholarships and awards committee. Brittany spent several semesters on a Creative Inquiry team researching the Biochemical and genetic approaches to understanding acetate fermentation in pathogenic fungi with Doctors Cheryl and Kerry Smith and participating in the team that managed the marketing and the planning for the April 10th Relay for Life.

The Norris Medal is given to the best all-around graduating senior student. The Norris Medal is considered the most prestigious award given to an undergraduate.


Click here to read more about the CI project

Photo by Ken Scar

Peter Kent teaching the CI Adobe Scholars

2015 CI Adobe Scholars Begin Their Journey

The second year of the CI Adobe Scholars program got underway this week. We have 10 students working throughout the summer learning the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of programs in order to produce the 2016 issue of Decipher, the Creative Inquiry Magazine. As the summer progresses the students will utilize their skills in InDesign, Photoshop, Premiere, and more to create interactive content for the Decipher App as well as the print version. To view the current issue of Decipher and find out more visit ci.clemson.edu/decipher.