Posts in: Kudos

Keith Conger Uses Motorcycle Crash as Inspiration for Award-Winning App

By Angie Bardsley, ITS Administrative Assistant

Keith Conger, ITS systems administrator, won an Invent America contest in middle school for designing an oxygen-making diving suit, and he’s been inventing ever since. So it’s no surprise that he turned a serious motorcycle accident into a creative opportunity. A few years ago, he was riding in three lanes of rush hour traffic when his front tire rapidly lost pressure causing him to lose control. Thanks to the protective gear he was wearing, Conger wasn’t badly injured, but it got him thinking about how an app featuring audible alerts could help prevent future accidents.

He worked on the app for more than a year, but shelved it to work on other projects. But when he came across Google’s Android Experiments I/O Challenge and with just a week to add the finishing touches, he was able to finish the app and submit it in early Spring 2016. Google received entries from all over the world, and Conger’s app was selected as one of only five runner-up winners.

To build the app, he began with the complicated process of reverse engineering the messages sent between the different computer modules on his bike, pinpointing which data points were linked to each component, such as headlights and engine temperature. After gathering as much information as he could, he custom-built the hardware, wrote the software, designed the circuit board, and fabricated a dashboard replacement using a 3D printer.

His final product includes audio alerts for low tire pressure, light failure, freeze warnings when roads could become icy, and high engine temperature. The app also notifies the rider when fuel levels are low, and shows the location of the nearest gas station using Google Maps.

According to Google, “The communication between apps is really useful – like being able to locate nearby gas stations. Using technology in this way is inspiring to us all.” When it comes to creating new technology, Conger says he strongly supports collaboration and information sharing. While building his app, he worked with people in Australia, Germany, and the United States. He also open-source published his app. While it won’t work for all motorcycles, it does provide a foundation for others to build their own versions. “I believe in giving back,” he explains.

Conger now plans to build a custom seven-inch Android device to serve as his motorcycle’s dashboard because none of the off-the-shelf devices have everything he wants — more inspiration for whatever he invents next!

Two Colorado College Alumni Advocate for Utah Wilderness

Red Rock Stories

By Devon Burnham ’16

Coming from a love for the red rock wilderness in southern Utah, Colorado College alumni Brooke Larsen ’14 and Stephen Trimble ’72 are pursuing a project they call “art as advocacy.” “Red Rock Stories,” a collection of works that includes a variety of stories, photographs, art, video, and audio concerning Utah’s public lands, is just one of the ways Larsen and Trimble hope to make a difference.

The project’s goal is to use “Red Rock Stories” to influence decision-makers to protect Bear Ears National Monument and other wilderness areas in southern Utah. “We believe in the power of story to move decision-makers and build empathy,” says Larsen. “By sharing the stories of three generations of writers, we hope to inspire the action needed to protect the red rock wilderness.”

The project came about in October 2015 following five southwestern Native nations’ proposal to establish a Bear Ears National Monument in southern Utah. Threats to the western wildlands have steadily increased over time, and as a result, a group of writers from Salt Lake City began to meet and discuss how they could advocate for the proposal. Taking inspiration from “Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness,” which convinced legislators to defeat an anti-wilderness bill in 1995, members of the Red Rocks Project hope to make a difference through similar means.

“Red Rock Testimony,” the first part of the project, is a chapbook that was sent to the Obama administration to promote the idea of protecting public lands. “Red Rock Stories’ is an 88-page book that conveys the spiritual, cultural, and scientific values of Utah’s canyon country and includes the work of 34 writers. The stories are written by a variety of authors, and all advocate for the protection of the proposed Bear Ears National Monument. The group plans to publish a second trade book in 2017.

“We hope to build and support a community of folks who love the red rock wilderness and want to speak on its behalf,” says Larsen.

Larsen, who worked with CC’s State of the Rockies Project, now works for the Torrey House Press in Salt Lake City. Trimble is an award-winning writer who co-compiled “Testimony,” and is an editor for “Red Rock Stories.”

Currently, the project is focusing on sharing “Red Rock Stories” digitally, and is inviting members of the CC community to contribute their stories. Anyone can submit their stories about the red rocks following a series of creative prompts that are currently on their website.

Others who are interested in helping the project financially can contribute through their Kickstarter campaign.

Farm Interns Growing Produce, Community Relations

CC Student Farm

By Joy Li ’18

Did you know that CC students grow much of the produce you eat in Rastall Café? Siqi Wei ’17, Kelsi Anderson ’18, Rebecca Glazer ’18, and Emma Brachtenbach ’17 are devoting their summer to managing the CC Student Farm, located behind the President’s House on Wood Avenue.
With guidance from Brachtenbach, a second-year intern, the four students together run the farm and the greenhouse, starting with planning, then planting, and finally harvest. They visit the farm in the mornings and evenings to weed and water the plants in the farm’s greenhouse and field plots. Most of the harvest is sold to campus food service provider Bon Appetit and becomes meals for CC students, faculty, and staff. The farm interns also participate in the downtown Colorado Springs farmers markets on Sundays and host community events such as a harvest banquet in September.

As college-age females, this team of interns challenges an older male stereotype of small farm farmers. They bring a variety of experience that not only involves the manual labor aspect of working a farm, but also scientific knowledge. For example, Wei is an environmental science major and tests the soil for pH levels and nitrogen phosphorus potassium (NPK) values, which indicate the wellness of the soil and the suitability for different plants.CC Student Farm

Sustainability is also a big focus at the CC Farm. According to Anderson, “the farm really shows how big a difference local food can make to the sustainable culture. It saves energy to transport food and protects the environment because it prevents large companies from outsourcing from big farms that use huge machines that can damage the ecological system.” Additionally, the farm participates in the local Slow Food chapter, which supports local food and small farms as a countermovement to the fast food culture. Glazer attended a Slow Food conference last fall and was inspired to join the farm. “It’s really important to have a place where people can be aware of where their food comes from and how much work goes into producing it,” she says.

The students’ work at the CC Farm also contributes to the connection between CC and the Colorado Springs community. Aside from attending the Sunday market and local Slow Food chapter meetings, the farm hosts events open to the broader community. Every Wednesday, the farm interns invite students and other members of the CC community and broader community to join them in fun activities at the farm, most recently, strawberry planting.

Brachtenbach believes the farm has the ability to repair and extend bridges into the community and build relationships that might otherwise be tense. “We can both connect and reconnect people to food and other people,” she says. “It should in no way be exclusive to students and hidden from the sight and helping hands of local community members.”

 

 

Eric Stover ’74 Pursues War Criminals in “Hiding in Plain Sight”

"Hiding in Plain Sight"

By Joy Li ’18

Eric Stover ’74, faculty director at the Human Rights Center of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, recently published “Hiding in Plain Sight” with two of his Ph. D. mentees, Victor Peskin and Alexa Koenig. “Hiding In Plain Sight” discusses the flights of war criminals throughout modern history and the range of diplomatic and military strategies to capture them. It starts with the stories of the post-war escapes of Nazis such as Josef Mengele, the Auschwitz physician who was known as the “Angel of Death” and Adolf Eichmann, the infamous initiator of the “final solution” and ends with today’s high-level suspects like al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Stover says he first gained interest in perpetrators of wartime atrocities when he held the bones of Josef Mengele in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “Standing there looking at the skeleton, I thought, ‘How could it be that this war criminal, who fled Auschwitz in 1945, could end up here on the other side of the earth? And what about all the other Nazis who were walking free in Latin America, where were they and why hadn’t they been caught?’” He continued his investigations of wartime leaders who escaped, successfully or unsuccessfully. Six years after, he co-authored and published “Hiding in Plain Sight,” which is also the companion book of the PBS documentary that he co-produced, “Dead Reckoning: Postwar Justice from World War II to The War on Terror,” which is scheduled to air in December. Additionally, his book and the work Stover did in Bosnia was recently featured by Christiane Amanpour on CCN.

As the author of over seven books, when asked to provide writing insight for CC students and faculty, Stover said: “Writing has no magic, it is simply inspiration, diligence, and many lonely hours of solitude as you rewrite and rewrite your copy first for yourself, then your readers, and finally to add a good dollop of spit and polish. And, of course, don’t forget to always check your sources and remember the advice of the Cornish writer and author of “On the Art of Writing,” Arthur Quiller-Couch: ‘In writing, you must kill your darlings.’ Then go for a hike in the Garden of the Gods.”

Hayley Bates ’18 Rides into Cycling Spotlight

Hayley Bates' 18 competes on CC Cycling Team

While many CC students wrapped up final papers and projects at the end of Block 8, Hayley Bates ’18 was not only managing her academic course load, but she was also preparing—physically and mentally—for her steepest competition of the season: representing the CC Cycling team at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships.

Bates says she was pleased with her 14th-place finish in the national field May 13-15 in North Carolina. She finished second just a few weeks before in the regional championship, and says despite illness and some crashes in front of her on the race course, she’s happy with the experience.

“It was a bigger field with a lot of really experienced racers,” says Bates of the national competition. “I’m only 19, so one of the younger ones. I’ve still got plenty of time and plenty of chances. There’s a lot of learning in racing, especially when you get to a higher level; it’s more strategy.”

Bates is a double major in international political economy and romance languages, with aspirations to go on to law school to study international law. She’s from Long Beach, California, and has family in Colorado. She grew up visiting the state, skiing and mountain biking in the high country. Both her parents are accomplished cyclists, too. Bates says she was exposed to the sport at a young age, and they’ll have the chance to ride together this summer.

But even with summer’s arrival, Bates gets little in the way of an off-season. For the first time, she has a coach and they’re now working to target races for the coming year. She’ll compete in some non-collegiate races during the summer, working on moving up from “Category 1” to the “Pro” classification. “I love it enough to do what it takes if I have what it takes,” she says of what motivates her to keep training and racing year round. “But, I’m ready to go home to California and ride with my friends there and my parents.”

Bates will be back in Colorado in August, racing the Leadville 100-mile mountain bike race, her second time taking on the grueling, highly competitive course. “This year I’m focused on what time I can get,” she says. “As for an ultimate goal, for cycling, I’m working my way through the rankings, focusing on improving, and racing collegiately. Right now, I’m just trying to see where my momentum takes me.”

It’s not just momentum, but dedication and talent that are carrying Bates in such a challenging and competitive sport. Like many student-athletes, she has to stay on top of her coursework while traveling and competing, and communicates often with professors about expectations and scheduling.

“When I came into school this year, I spent the first weekend on campus, and didn’t spend another weekend on campus until Halloween weekend,” Bates says of the challenging schedule. “It’s a lot of communication with teachers; in between races our team members are studying as opposed to hanging out. During the week, I’m up super early in the morning to fit in training, racing, school, and work.”

But unlike many other student-athletes, Bates is also coordinating the logistical details of her team’s competitions. CC’s cycling team is small: six racers in each discipline (mountain and road) competing regularly. Bates, currently one of the youngest on the team, is the manager. “I’m the driver, the hotel-booker, I get them there, get a place to stay, manage all of that,” she says. “We needed someone who wanted to race and who wanted to organize, so I just decided to make it happen.”

Not only did Bates make it happen, she stormed onto the scene her sophomore year, racing at the front of the pack in nearly every competition. She placed in the top ten at the mountain biking nationals, and took second in the road conference championships. The cycling team travels all over the state for six weeks each season: March-May is road cycling, September-October is mountain biking. Bates says she’ll also incorporate the cyclo-cross season into her racing plan, which she’ll pick up from about November-January. Bates says fortunately, her house on campus has a basement.

“In January and February, I hook up the bike to the indoor trainer, and train in the basement at 6 a.m. So far, no one has complained about any noise that early. I do a lot of training in the mornings; if class and work allow, I’ll ride outside. But, it’s a lot of (indoor) trainer time, you’re that much stronger when you get outside, getting yourself to where you need to be.”

Bates will be back for mountain biking season in the fall, so keep an eye out for opportunities to cheer on her, and the rest of CC’s cycling team when the 2016-17 academic year begins.

 

 

CC Women’s Rugby Second in the Nation

CC Women's RugbyBy Montana Bass ’18

After their first season in the National Small College Rugby Organization Women’s 7s League, CC’s women’s rugby team took home second place in the national championship held in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 30-May 1.

This season marked the first time that CC women’s rugby has qualified for a national tournament. In past years, the team played in the 15s league, with 15 players on the field at one time instead of seven, and had made it to the playoffs. After switching to the 7s format, throwing themselves into their sport, and fostering a tight-knit team dynamic, the players have seen amazing success.

Both coach Michael Windle and the student-athletes say the close relationships they share have been important contributors to their achievements. “Our team is really like a family; they’re super close,” Windle says. “I had to pick 12 players to go to the championships. Every single girl was supportive of her teammates. They were happy for each other to go just as much as they would have been themselves.” Rachel Fitch ’19 agrees wholeheartedly, “The team itself is a fabulous bunch of human beings and we all have great chemistry.”

Still, these women didn’t make it to the national championship solely on heart; they’re an extremely talented group of athletes. “We’ve got a whole lot of athleticism,” says Windle. “We’re incredibly fast.” Fitch was a nationally ranked all-star rugby player in high school. Windle also mentions Naya Herman ’16 and Emilia Delgado ’17 as integral team members. “Naya is and always has been the heart of the team,” he says. “Emilia has taken to the sport like no one I’ve ever seen. She’s a hard runner and has a nose for the goal. She goes for it right away and is our lead scorer.”

Beyond talent and love for one another, this team has one other thing in common: a fierce love for the sport of rugby. Fitch claims rugby will always have a place in her heart and referred to it as, “an artistic form of violence.” Herman concurs, crediting the sport’s ferocity for fostering such close relationships between teammates. “Rugby is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports out there, and it requires a special type of courage and strength that women, and anybody really, are rarely encouraged to have. It demands that you show up for your teammates fully.”

In the post-season, the team won five matches out of six over two days and Nora Holmes ’18 was selected to the elite All-Tournament team

Following such a fantastic season, the women can end the year with a deep sense of fulfillment and excitement for the future. “I’m incredibly proud of these girls,” says Windle. Herman, a graduating senior adds, “I can’t wait to see where the future leaders of CC rugby take the team next.” Be sure to keep an eye out for them in the future!

Alec Sarche ’17 Pushes the Limits of Experiential Art with Audio Dramas

By Montana Bass ’18

In a mix of creativity and innovation, Alec Sarche ’17 has reinvented the theatre experience with his audio dramas. Inspired by post-modern designers who weight their work more to the audience’s experience than actors’ performances, Sarche created a situation in which the audience becomes the actor, participating in his theatre themselves, all without their sense of sight.

Sarche says he was inspired to create an environment where the audience could witness and interact with art. “Art is becoming more and more ‘make of it what you will,’ or ‘it’s your thing not ours;’ I wanted to take that as far as I could and make something completely designed by my audience,” Sarche says of his original idea to create the audio drama. He decided to take away sight and designed a soundscape that would guide witnesses, a term he ironically coined to describe the participants in his theatre. While witnesses listen to the soundscape, blindfolded, Sarche and his facilitators move physical objects with which the witnesses interact at specific moments dictated by Sarche and his soundscape.

His first audio theatre, “Shore and Woods,” led witnesses towards a fan with the sound of ocean waves playing in their ears. As they moved through the room, Sarche brushed them with branches. The branches acted as an axis prop, the object Sarche uses as the center of his drama. “I tend to write these based around the tactile experience,” he says. “I think about what would be interesting to touch without seeing. If you touch a tree and feel bark and branches, can you picture it?”

The answer turned out to be a resounding “yes,” as witnesses reported seeing vivid scenes in their mind’s eye. “They came up with this incredible rich environment in their heads,” Sarche explains. Even more interesting: the vast difference in the scenes witnesses described, exemplifying the variety of ways their minds interacted with Sarche’s invented world. “Even though you know the script,” says Tinka Avramova ’17, who worked as a facilitator on Sarche’s set, “it changes every time because each new person relates to the directions differently. There is such a rush when something goes right, when someone lets out a laugh or smile. There is this whole world that I get to see as the operator, but somehow I can’t help but feel that the blindfolded audience is actually seeing even more in their imagination.”

During Block 7, Sarche’s final audio drama of the year, “New Season,” pushed the possibilities of this new approach to theatre even further by including two witnesses who move their way through two different, intertwined audiotracks simultaneously. “One track was more optimistic, the other more pessimistic,” says Sarche. “They thought they had the same experience while they listen to the soundscape, but then when talking together, they realized they had this completely different idea of what they thought was the same thing.”

The differing impressions of the two witnesses highlight the powerful psychological results of Sarche’s work. Just as these witnesses were awakened to the misguidedness of their assumption that the other participant would finish with the same perceptions, so future audio dramas can be used to awaken witnesses’ abilities to recognize others’ viewpoints. “I think it could be a really effective tool in social justice,” says Sarche. He plans to gear his next work towards experimenting with that concept. Look out for his thesis, coming out Block 1 next fall.

CC Grad Receives National Attention for Investigative Feature

By Montana Bass ’18

Tay Wiles ’08 recently got her big break in a journalism career, sparked here at CC, with a feature-length story in High Country News, where she is an editor.

“I was a winter start,” Wiles says of her introduction to both CC and the start of her journalistic career came during her first year at CC when, “I saw a copy of the Cipher. I remember thinking immediately, ‘I want to work for that.’” And that’s exactly what she did. Wiles went on to become editor-in-chief of the Cipher during her senior year, preparation for her later success. That year, the team received a grant and Wiles was able to help transform the magazine from an extremely radical publication to the more balanced, literary reportage it provides today. “I love that in college publications, there’s a lot of turn over. It makes it difficult, but it also makes for a huge range of alumni who feel invested in it,” says Wiles.

She also worked in both the news and music departments at KRCC during her time as a student. Jeff Bieri, KRCC program manager, hired Wiles as his assistant when he worked as music director. He says she “was absolutely eating up the experience of learning here at CC, getting involved in every opportunity that came her way to gain experience.”

A recent feature for HCN, “Sugar Pine Mine: The Other Standoff,” was Wiles’ first feature since her years at CC, the first in her professional career, and it has received national recognition. The publication of the story aligned fortuitously with national media attention to developments in the conflict. HCN capitalized on the spike in national interest, posting new updates and teasers from Wiles’ feature on the website in the days leading up to its release. “It sort of dovetailed,” says Wiles. “It was really exciting to me because I felt that all the work I’d been doing over the previous year really came to fruition.”

Prior to HCN, she earned a degree in religion with a journalism minor from CC. “A lot of why I was interested in religion was that I really like to try to understand how people perceive their world, how they understand the forces that put them where they are, and how they fit into society,” she explains. Her intense curiosity translated well into her work in investigative environmental journalism with HCN.

The year after she graduated, Wiles completed a fellowship with Mother Jones magazine in San Francisco, which she credits for her precise editing skills. “They really go after environmental justice — hard. I was always fact-checking, meeting with editors, making sure that stories were air-tight so we wouldn’t come under fire.”

The “Sugar Pine Mine” story was a part of the “Sagebrush Rebellion” issue, and drew on those skills. Wiles expertly reports the story of a mining dispute between the radical Oath Keepers and federal government in Josephine County, Oregon, which caused a standoff that threatened to erupt into an armed battle.

Wiles continues to prove herself as an excellent journalist by landing the editing position at HCN, a publication she cares for deeply, just over five years after completing her fellowship. “I love that it’s a small, tight-knit team,” she says of working at HCN, “We really try to pick ideas that mean something to people. We get people calling who say ‘Hey I’m calling from Idaho. This is what’s going on for me,’ and if it’s good we’ll write it.”

The Bulletin, PrintReLeaf, and Reforestation

By Montana Bass ’18

The next time you pick up a copy of CC’s alumni magazine, the Bulletin, realize that not only are you learning about the awesome lives of CC graduates, you’re also holding a publication that is truly environmentally responsible.

The Bulletin has a long history of being green. Sappi Opus, the paper used for printing, is made from 30 percent post-consumer recycled fiber. It is certified by both the Forestry Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which means it is approved by two of the most influential forest management and sustainability foundations. It’s also green-e certified, meaning that renewable energy is used in the paper production.

How could it get any greener? Enter PrintReLeaf. Tracking the amount of paper that clients order and consume, PrintReLeaf equates that data to the amount of trees used, and then plants the same amount of trees in areas where forests have been degraded or depleted. Felix Sanchez, CC’s creative director, says a representative from Triangle Printing in Denver where the Bulletin is printed, introduced him to PrintReLeaf.

“It was fairly easy to join the PrintReleaf program,” says Sanchez. “We have been a part of PrintReleaf for the past two issues of the Bulletin. An online account and a customized dashboard show how much paper we have used for each issue and how many trees have been planted based on our consumption. It’s a fun, interactive, and transparent way to understand our impact, not only in paper usage, but in global sustainability efforts, too.”

This system makes responsible paper usage and reforestation efforts highly tangible. The PrintReLeaf certificates and dashboards actually allow CC to follow the growth of trees planted in honor of paper used for the Bulletin.

“Right now, we are helping to replant trees in Brazil through the We Forest project, which is working to combat the progressive loss of biodiversity in the Upper Paraná Atlantic Rainforest Ecoregion. This helps contribute towards the restoration of some of the best and most extensive examples of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil,” explains Sanchez. “PrintReLeaf’s goal is to replant 700,000 to 1 million trees every year. It makes me feel good to know that we are contributing to this honorable endeavor.” From paper consumption of the past two editions of the Bulletin, CC has helped We Forest replant 431 trees.

CC’s partnership with PrintReLeaf doesn’t have to be limited to the Bulletin. Sanchez promises efforts are being made to work with other print vendors to enroll in PrintReleaf to monitor paper consumption for most printed publications in the Office of Communications.

Sanchez encourages students interested in seeing their everyday paper usage equated to reforestation efforts to push for PrintReleaf’s expansion. He adds, “students have a strong voice in the college’s sustainable efforts — in fact, most of the sustainable efforts at the college would not exist if it were not for the demands or activism of students.”

Lizzy Stephan ’11 Puts Her Passion to Work as New Era’s New Director

By Monica Black ’19

CC’s prestigious Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) has produced scores of young leaders who go on to develop the nonprofit sector in Colorado and beyond. One such impressive fellow is Lizzy Stephan ’11, who was recently named director of New Era Colorado, an organization dedicated to increasing political participation among youth in Colorado.

“I work at New Era because I believe in the power of democracy to create change, and I believe in the power of young people to accelerate that change,” says Stephan. “I’ve long believed that young people deserve a real seat at the table.”

New Era’s work includes developing innovative solutions to voter registration problems and advocacy work to bring preregistration and online registration to the state of Colorado. The organization made headlines in 2013 when it spearheaded an effort in Boulder to engage youth in a movement to divest from coal and switch to renewable energy sources, pushing back against the energy monopoly in the city.

“New Era is celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, and we’re now one of the largest young voter mobilization programs in the country,” said Stephan. Stephan was named director this March, and she’ll be taking over as the nation heads into the election season. “We’re poised to run our largest statewide voter registration, education, and turnout efforts to date.”

Stephan was a sociology major at CC, co-chaired EnAct for a year, and interned in the Office of Sustainability. She was also always involved in politics, participating in the 2010 midterm election campaign efforts and pushing the school to make responsible investments.

These activities also inspired her career. “Studying sociology at Colorado College made me impatient with and unaccepting of ‘the way things are,’” says Stephan. “At New Era, we’re more driven by ‘the way things could be.’”

Stephan was a two-time fellow through PIFP. “My first PIFP placement showed me that it was possible to make a career out of the full-time pursuit of social change.” Stephan later worked at the Bell Policy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing opportunity for all in the state of Colorado. Through these fellowships, she developed a passion for politics as the vehicle for change.

To this day, Stephan loves her job: “I feel more like I’m obsessively pursuing a hobby than anything else.”