New program reconditions, upgrades and repurposes TU computers

Not long ago, the university’s technologically obsolete computers went from classrooms, offices and labs straight to landfills. Now, thanks to a campus-wide collaboration spearheaded by TU’s Office of Technology Services (OTS), once-obsolete desktops, laptops, tablets and other electronic devices have an extended life on campus and beyond.

Michael Bachman, director of Information Technology Client Services, OTS, says many TU departments participated in creating the recently launched CompuCycle program.


“A lot of people contributed time, resources, space and ideas to the effort,” Bachman says. “They understood that it was a good investment for not only the university, but for everyone involved.”

Bachman cites Joe Oster, vice president for Administration and Finance, and Jeff Schmidt, associate vice president of OTS, as being particularly helpful and supportive.

So far the program has repurposed 212 computers on campus. Another 206 decommissioned computers—obsolete by TU standards but still quite useable—have been deployed to Baltimore County public schools.

Here’s how CompuCycle works: When a TU-owned computer reaches the end of its instructional life, it’s decommissioned and transferred to Compucycle, headquartered in Cook Library. Under the direction of OTS staffers Julie Leary and Mike Scribner, student employees and volunteers from TU’s Hussman Center for Adults with Autism add a new solid-state hard drive (128GB), memory (4BGB) and a new keyboard and mouse.

CompuCycle then makes these computers available to students, faculty and staff for on-campus use. (The program is open only to those who can’t acquire computers through existing budget channels.) Possible uses for Compucycle’s reconditioned computers include student projects, research and/or study; student groups and organizations with on-campus offices; special populations such as adjuncts, graduate and research assistants, student employees and volunteers; self-support departments, office and institutes; and many more. There is no cost to recipients.

“The program also offers a great opportunity for volunteers to learn how to recondition computers,” Bachman says. “We’re looking for TU student-group volunteers as well as high-school students who’d like to help out and gain valuable skills in the process.”

Leary says faculty and staff members may qualify for a CompuCycle computer if they’re not yet eligible for TU’s Trade Up Program. A list of available computers is updated weekly and posted to the program’s website. Leary encourages anyone who’s interested to visit the site to evaluate whether or not an upgrade is worthwhile. Requests involve completing a spreadsheet and attaching it to an OTS TechHelp form.

Mike Bachman says CompuCycle garnered unexpected praise from the CEO of VuePoint Connect during a national conference last month in Portland, Oregon. John Varvarigos approached Bachman to say TU “had all the right boxes checked,” including financials, collaboration, partnerships, providing skill training for populations with challenges and enabling students to gain experience.”

Varvarigos added that the program “might be something that could be scaled up—even to the point of providing computers to developing countries.”






Sun Magazine names Blair Taylor to “50 Women to Watch” list

Blair Taylor, clinical associate professor of computer and information sciences, is on the Sun Magazine’s list of 50 Women to Watch. The list includes area women who have distinguished themselves as business executives, entrepreneurs, educators, legislators and in many other fields.


The magazine praised Taylor for emphasizing the importance of teaching TU cybersecurity students to write secure code at the outset of their studies. Her achievements also include directing SPLASH (Secure Programming Logic Aimed at Students in High School), a program that enables girls to earn college credit and prepares them for pursuing degrees in computer science or cybersecurity. The SPLASH project has been funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the National Science Foundation and the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics.

Taylor, who enrolled at John Hopkins University at 16 and later worked as a computer programmer, became an academic after discovering a love for teaching.

In 2012 she received a University System of Maryland Regents’ Faculty Award for teaching, the highest honor the board presents to USM faculty members.

Field station

Bizarre creatures swarm TU field station as All Hallows’ Eve approaches

As TU’s resident ghosts, goblins and zombies prepare for the revelry of All Hallows’ Eve, the TU Field Station (located 19 miles north of campus in Monkton, Md.), has been invaded by a swarm of eerie and mysterious creatures.

Field station

The tiny aliens are not otherworldly, however. They’re the nymphal stage of the woolly aphid, a common insect pest. Field Station director Don C. Forester observed them next to an experimental plot where TU biologists are studying the impact of deer browsing on the forest ecosystem.

According to Professor Emeritus Forester, a behavioral ecologist, “The nymphs completely covered a two square-meter segment of the forest floor. Each insect was waving its conspicuous furry abdomen in the air, and as I approached, their activity became increasingly frenetic. Apparently this is a genetically controlled, synchronized anti-predator response.”

Instead of warding off predators, Forester says the nymphs’ ghostlike fluttering alerted him to their presence. He reports that many were inadvertently crushed as he lay on the forest floor trying to film them with his iPhone. “They became unintentional collateral damage in my exuberant practice of scientific inquiry,” he adds.

Founded in 2010 through a partnership with Al Henneman ’66 and his wife Suzie Henneman, TU’s Field Station provides a place for faculty and students to investigate and research the natural world. Adjacent to the Gunpowder Fall State Park and protected from development by a conservation easement, it is one of the largest natural preserves in central Maryland.

The TU Field Station is used for field trips and as an outdoor laboratory for student and faculty research To support long-term ecological research, the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics has funded the construction of 11 fenced plots called deer exclosures. Each plot is paired with an adjacent, unfenced control plot. TU scientists and students monitor the plots throughout the year to determine the impact that deer browsing has on the forest vegetation, leaf litter, soil invertebrates and salamanders.

A portable weather station installed this year will enable TU scientists to monitor the influence of climate change on the health of the forest ecosystem. There are also plans to study honeybee populations as well as dung beetles.

Fine arts faculty members awarded prestigious Rubys Artist Project Grants

Amanda Burnham

Amanda Burnham

Two members of  TU’s  College of Fine Arts and Communication faculty have been selected to receive 2014 Rubys Artist Project Grants from the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA). A jury panel composed of 10 noted professionals chose this year’s grantees in the literary and visual arts.

The projects, to be developed over the next 12 months, are to begin immediately if they are not already underway. Each includes opportunities for public engagement such as an exhibition, reading or panel discussion.

Associate Professor Amanda Burnham, Department of Art + Design, Art History, Art Education, received a $10,000 grant for her project, RFP, a “living drawing” installation and subsequent art book that will be designed in dialogue with Baltimoreans’ responses when asked to describe their visions, ambitions and ideas for the city’s future. Burnham’s drawings and installations reflect her fascination with cities and organisms.

Burnham’s work has been exhibited widely; selected venues include the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, the Aldrich Museum of Art, and the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art. She has received Individual Artist Awards from the Maryland State Arts Council and has been invited to be an Artist in Residence at the Embassy of Foreign Artists (Geneva, Switzerland). She was also a Sondheim Award finalist.

Lola Pierson

Lola Pierson

Adjunct faculty member Lola Pierson, Department of Theatre Arts, received a $5,749 grant to support “A Day by Yourself,” a collection of 12 short stories that embrace action, tone and other theatrical elements as expressed through language. The structure of the work will be cumulative rather than relying on a linear narrative, and will present a series of literary snapshots, constructing a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

Pierson, who earned an M.F.A. in theatre from TU, is a writer, playwright and director. She is a co-founding artistic director of The Acme Corporation.

GBCA established the Rubys Artist Project Grants program in 2013 to support the local creative community of performing visual, media and literary artists. Created with the vision and initial funding from the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, the Rubys provide meaningful support directly to artists. The name was inspired in part by Ruby Lerner, the visionary founder and leader of Creative Capital in New York City.

“All of the artists selected reflect the Baltimore region’s rich creative reputation,” says Jeannie Howe, GBCA’s executive director. “We can’t wait to see the final manuscripts and artwork as well as experience the impact of the Rubys on the artists and the community.”



TU-supported program loans cutting-edge equipment to classroom teachers

MarylandkloanerlabOne of Maryland’s premier teacher resources is tucked away among the flashier attractions in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The Maryland Loaner Lab (MDLL), a part of the Towson University Center for STEM Excellence, provides a low-profile, much-appreciated services to the state’s middle and high-school science teachers.

From its offices in the Columbus Center on Pratt Street, MDLL develops, assembles and maintains eight different laboratory activities—dubbed kits—to qualified classroom teachers. MDLL ships the kits to schools via FedEx, which ensures that teachers and students in all Maryland counties have access to the program.

MDLL also loans lab equipment to middle and high schools, enabling students to gain real-world experience they might otherwise not have had until college.

Directed by Mary Stapleton, Ph.D., and a staff of five, MDLL also offers the monthly lab-skills training sessions that teachers need to use the kits. “If the teachers are far away, we’ll go to them,” says Stapleton, who has conducted the sessions at Eastern Shore and Western Maryland schools.

TU’s Fisher College of Science and Mathematics has supported the Maryland Loaner Lab since 2010, when it stepped up to fund the UM Biotechnology Institute’s Bioscience Education and Outreach Program.

“It’s unusual to see a university support this kind of outreach,” Stapleton adds. “Towson provides us with a solid foundation that enables us to focus more on our mission. These types of partnerships between universities and K-12 education systems are needed to help prepare students for higher education.”

MDLL’s eight cutting-edge kits span a variety of bioscience lab activities, including a DNA extraction lab, a “mystery disease” diagnosis challenge, an AP-level introduction to genetic engineering, and a wildlife forensics lab. All are intended to serve 10 classroom workstations comprising one to four students. MDLL provides teacher manuals, student protocols, equipment, supplies and reagents.

“Teachers love the kits because they’re self-contained,” says Stapleton. “They’re aligned with the Maryland State Department of Education’s Core Learning Goals and the just-adopted Next-Generation Science Standards. Teachers and students enjoy the hands-on approach that encourages inquiry-based learning.”

One biology teacher could scarcely contain her enthusiasm for one of the MDLL kits she’d borrowed. “Dear Dr. Stapleton,” she wrote, “’Mystery of the Crooked Cell’ was not only a big hit with the kids, but also the precursor to the best performance on their end-of-unit assessment. [It] was the best I’ve seen in three years here—no doubt because they had done the procedure themselves!”

MDLL kits or equipment loans serve 10,365 students per year, says Stapleton. “We’re always trying to get the word out about all MDLL has to offer,” she says. “It’s a high-quality, cost-effective program, and we’re continually working to make it better.”