UMD Right Now Twitter Facebook Youtube Instagram

Uncovering How Humans Hear One Voice Among Many

March 8, 2013

Rebecca Copeland 301–405–6602 or 301–706–8312 (after hours)

Jonathan SimonCOLLEGE PARK, Md.—Humans have an uncanny ability to zero in on a single voice, even amid the cacophony of voices found in a crowded party or other large gathering of people. Researchers have long sought to identify the precise mechanisms by which our brains enable this remarkable selectivity in sound processing known as the "cocktail party effect."

In a new study published in the journal Neuron, University of Maryland Associate Professor Jonathan Simon (Biology/Electrical and Computer Engineering), recent Maryland Ph.D. graduate Nai Ding, lead author Elana M. Zion Golumbic of Columbia University and colleagues from Columbia and other New York universities at last are unlocking these neural mechanisms, using data recorded directly from the surface of the brain.

NeuronIn a crowded place, sounds from different talkers enter our ears mixed together, so our brains first must separate them using cues like when and from where the sounds are coming. But we also have the ability to then track a particular voice, which comes to dominates our attention and later, our memory. One major theory hypothesizes we can do this because our brains are able to lock on to patterns we expect to hear in speech at designated times, such as syllables and phrases in sentences. The theory predicts that in a situation with competing sounds, when we train our focus exclusively on one person, that person's speech will dominate our brain's information processing.

Of course, inside our brains, this focusing and processing takes the form of electrical signals racing around a complicated network of neurons in the auditory cortex.

To begin to unlock how the neurons figure things out, the researchers used a brain-signal recording device called electrocorticography (ECoG). These devices, implanted directly in the cortex of the brain, are used in epilepsy surgery. They consist of about 120 electrodes arranged in an array over the brain's lateral cortex.

With the permission of the surgery patients, researchers gave them a cocktail party-like comprehension task in which they watched a brief, 9-12 second movie of two simultaneous talkers, side by side. A cue in the movie indicated to which talker the person should try to listen. The ECoG recorded what was happening in the patients' brains as they focused on what one of the talkers was saying.

The researchers learned that low-frequency "phase entrainment" signals and high-frequency "power modulations" worked together in the brain to dynamically track the chosen talker. In and near low-level auditory cortices, attention enhances the tracking of speech we're paying attention to, while ignored speech is still heard. But in higher-order regions of the cortex, we become more "selective"—there is no detectable tracking of ignored speech. This selectivity seems to sharpen as a speaker's sentence unfolds.

"This new study reaffirms what we've already seen using magnetoencephalography (MEG)," says Simon, who holds a joint appointment in both the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering and College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences. Simon's lab uses MEG, a common non-invasive neuroimaging method, to record from ordinary individuals instead of neurosurgery patients. "In fact, the methods of neural data analysis developed in my lab for analyzing MEG results proved to be fantastic for analyzing these new recordings taken directly from the brain."

"We're quite pleased to see both the low frequency and high frequency neural responses working together," says Simon, "since our earlier MEG results were only able to detect the low frequency components." Simon's own MEG research currently is investigating what happens when the brain is no longer able to pick out a talker from a noisy background due to the effects of aging or damaged hearing.

Simon also notes that the new study's results are in good agreement with the auditory theories of another University of Maryland researcher, Shihab Shamma (Electrical and Computer Engineering and Institute for Systems Research), Maryland alumna Mounya Elhilali (now on faculty at Johns Hopkins University), and their colleagues, who are part of a wide-ranging, collaborative family of neuroscience researchers originating at Maryland.

A better understanding of the cocktail party effect could eventually help those who have trouble deciphering a single voice in a noisy environment, such as some elderly and some people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. It might also lead to technology improvements such as cell phones that can block background voices to improve transmission quality of its user's voice.

More information
Neuron article, "Mechanisms Underlying Selective Neuronal Tracking of Attended Speech at a 'CockTail Party'":

Neuron's press release about the study (includes illustrations):

Jonathan Simon's homepage:

Jonathan Simon research group in the University of Maryland's Computational Sensorimotor Systems Laboratory:

S.A. Shamma, M. Elhilali, C. Micheyl, Trends Neurosci., 34 (2011), pp. 114–123 PDF

UMD Study Provides New Clues to How Flu is Spread

March 7, 2013

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

Donald Milton, M.D., Dr.P.H.COLLEGE PARK, Md. - People may more likely be exposed to the flu through airborne virus than previously thought, according to new research from the University of Maryland School of Public Health. The study also found that when flu patients wear a surgical mask, the release of virus in even the smallest airborne droplets can be significantly reduced.

"People are generally surprised to learn that scientists don't know for sure how flu spreads," says Donald Milton, M.D., Dr.P.H., who directs the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health and led the study of influenza virus aerosols published in the journal PLOS Pathogens on March 7, 2013.

"Our study provides new evidence that there is nearly nine times more influenza virus present in the smallest airborne droplets in the breath exhaled from those infected with flu than in the larger droplets that would be expected to carry more virus," explains Dr. Milton. "This has important implications for how we prevent the spread of flu."

Collecting Exhaled Breath from Flu Patients: The Gesundheit II machine collects the breath exhaled from flu sufferers. Study volunteers sit for 30 minutes with their heads in the horizontal cone attached to the machine, which sucks in the air around their heads to collect tiny airborne droplets generated deep in the lungs. Researchers can then analyze the aerosols for the presence and quantity of virus.Routes of flu transmission include: 1) direct or indirect (e.g., doorknobs, keyboards) contact with an infected person, 2) contact via large droplet spray from a respiratory fluid (via coughs and sneezes), and 3) inhalation of fine airborne particles, which are generated by the release of smaller, virus-containing droplets via normal breathing and coughing. The relative importance of these modes of influenza transmission has not been well understood, but is critical in devising effective interventions to protect healthcare workers and vulnerable people, such as infants and the elderly.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that persons with influenza wear surgical masks to prevent transmission to susceptible individuals. Yet, this recommendation has been supported so far by only one study of mask impact on the containment of large droplet spray during influenza infection. Maryland's study is the first to provide data showing that using a surgical mask can reduce the release of even the smallest droplets containing infectious virus. For this reason, health care facilities should put surgical masks on those suspected of having influenza, and individuals with influenza can protect their families by wearing a mask.

Study Methods
Dr. Milton and his research team, including scientists from Harvard and Boston University Schools of Public Health and the University of Hong Kong, collected the exhaled breath from 38 flu patients and tested both the coarse (≥ 5 µm) and fine (< 5 µm) particles for the number of viruses using molecular methods. They found that the fine particles had 8.8 times more virus than the coarse particles (larger but still airborne droplets). They also tested the airborne droplets for "culturable" virus and found that virus was not only abundant in some cases, but infectious. However, there was a big range of how many viruses people put into the air – some were undetectable while others put out over 100,000 every 30 minutes.

The researchers also tested the impact of wearing a surgical mask on the virus shedding into airborne droplets. Wearing a surgical mask significantly decreased the presence of virus in airborne droplets from exhaled breath. There was a 2.8 fold reduction in the amount of virus shed into the smallest droplets, and a 3.4 fold overall reduction in virus shed in both the coarse and fine and airborne particles.

UMD Among Top 100 in World Reputation Rankings

March 6, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235
University Communications 301-257-0073 (cell)

Times Higher Education’s 2013 top 100 World Reputation RankingsCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has been named to the Times Higher Education’s 2013 top 100 World Reputation Rankings list.

The World Reputation Rankings recognizes the top 100 global universities, based on the results of the world’s largest invitation-only academic opinion survey, which received 16,639 responses from 144 countries.

The survey targets experienced, published scholars, who offer their views on excellence in research and teaching within their disciplines and at institutions with which they are familiar.

This ranking adds to the university’s prestigious list of academic recognitions. The university ranks 19th among public universities by U.S. News & World Report for 2013, with 25 academic programs in U.S. News' Top 10 and 72 in the Top 25.

In addition, the Institute of Higher Education (Jiao Tong University, Shanghai), which ranks the world's top universities based on research, puts UMD at number 38 in the world and number 13 among U.S. public universities.

The full Times Higher Education 2013 top 100 World Reputation Rankings list is available here.

UMD Re-Thinks Architectural Education

March 5, 2013

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

Students from ARCH401 hard at workCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - More than 40 years after the University of Maryland created its architecture program, the school is re-thinking how to best arm the next generation of students with the tools and experience to succeed in tomorrow's marketplace.

Since the creation of the program, the architecture profession has encountered sweeping changes in technology and practice, profound environmental and economic challenges, and a more diverse and accessible cultural landscape. These challenges, coupled with a downsizing of architecture firms since the onset of the recession in 2008, have sparked new questions about the future of architectural education.
"The profession is wrestling with immense and immediate pressures, such as computational changes, the economy of service, globalization and sustainability, which in turn are forcing significant changes to the practice of architecture," says David Cronrath, dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. "In turn, we need to find a way to adjust our curriculum and teaching that prepares our students to adeptly navigate the profession of the future."

The tools used to navigate these challenges, explains Cronrath, revolve around a core set of principles that will drive an innovative and re-conceptualized curriculum for UMD's architecture program. When paired with new ways of teaching, curriculum flexibility and opportunities to collaborate and explore, this holistic approach to teaching architecture will put students on the path to success. Focusing on a key foundation of analytic skills, creative problem solving, rhetorical and communication skills, ethics and most notably, visual thinking, allows the curriculum to adapt and grow with changes in the profession.

Adds Cronrath, "These changes are not only necessary for the future of architecture; they are what the next generation of students will demand."

Architecture director Brian Kelly leading a lecture series discussionThe 2012-13 architecture lecture series, "Conversations on the Future of Architectural Education," offers a glimpse at what that future could be. The series, which resumed this past month, brings together experienced practitioners, industry leaders and innovative educators from across the country—alongside UMD students and faculty—to discuss, debate and examine the future of architectural education. According to Brian Kelly, Architecture Program director and "Conversations" creator, the series facilitates a key step in researching curriculum best practices, taking the temperature with other academics and professionals, providing critical discussion and facilitating idea exchange.  

"Nationally, this is a topic that all schools of architecture are struggling with," explains Kelly. "Many schools are embracing the notion of curricular change and how to deal with evolving technology, sustainability and the changing role of community. How are other schools doing it? It is this sort of collaboration of ideas and viewpoints that will help us to push the curriculum forward."

According to Michael Ambrose, assistant professor of Architecture, a reconceptualization of the curriculum has broad implications for the profession, providing the tools that will not only develop a well-prepared architect, but that equip students for a number of career paths.

"It's a great time to be doing this, because there are so many cultural shifts at play," explains Ambrose. "There is no longer a "traditional" college student. Now is the prime time to open up a discussion and examine how to make ourselves more flexible. These important conversations will help us develop the most engaging modes of delivery."

Join the conversation
"Conversations on the Future of Architectural Education" runs through May, and features lively discussion and debate between professionals, academics, industry leaders and students on the future of education and the profession. The next lecture, "Take Five: Should Architectural Education Change?," featuring a conversation with American Institute of Architects Executive Vice President and CEO Robert Ivy, takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27, at the School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. Click here for a full schedule.

Dried but Not Forgotten

March 5, 2013

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Without fossils, paleontologists would never have discovered that dinosaurs once roamed the earth, how the Tyrannosaurus rex stalked its prey or that the Brontosaurus weighed more than 230 tons. Similarly, pressed, dried plant specimens can provide scientists with important information about where certain plants grow and how they've evolved over time – crucial clues for studying climate change and the overall health of the environment.

Dr. Tanja Schuster, curator of the Norton-Brown Herbarium at UMDThis type of research is being done right on campus at the University of Maryland's herbarium – a collection of catalogued, preserved plant specimens – which boasts roughly 87,000 specimens of flowering and cone-bearing plants, algae, mosses, liverworts, lichen and fungi.
"We pride ourselves on being the best collection for Maryland. It is super valuable," says Dr. Tanja Schuster, curator of the Norton-Brown Herbarium at UMD.

Established in 1901, the Norton-Brown Herbarium has recently seen a revival of sorts after very nearly being lost to the university for good.  The large filing cabinets stacked with rows upon rows of pressed plants were housed in a classroom inside the HJ Patterson building for several decades, where they were largely under lock and key, inaccessible to researchers, students and general plant enthusiasts. 

Due to space constraints inside HJ Patterson, there was talk of moving UMD's collection to be part of another herbarium – either at Towson University or the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. – or simply disposing of it.

That's when Dr. Maile Neel, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture (PSLA), and former PSLA chair Dr. William Kenworthy decided to take on the responsibility of managing the herbarium.  

"It really would be a complete tragedy if Maryland's land-grant institution didn't have a repository for the state's flora," says Neel, who now serves as director of the Norton-Brown Herbarium.

In 2011, the herbarium moved into a space inside the Research Greenhouse Complex (RGC) on campus where it remains today. Schuster was hired as curator in July of 2012 and since then, has been trying to breathe new life into the collection of dried plants. She has been hosting workshops, putting up displays and in general, trying to spread the word that the herbarium is still around and more active than it has been in decades.

"We've had so many visitors already," said Schuster. "Our main goal is to be approachable and accessible to researchers, students and the public."

People around the world can now access a steadily growing number of the University of Maryland's collection through the new digital herbarium where pictures and attending information of roughly 5,000 plant specimens are currently available in a searchable database. Researchers on campus are using the online resource to help track migration patterns of the monarch butterfly by studying the stages of development in milkweed, which the butterflies use as a host plant and nectar source.

Most of the specimens in the Norton-Brown Herbarium were collected from areas in Maryland, but it also houses samples from other areas of the country and across the globe, some of which have been preserved for 112 years.

Looking forward, Schuster and Neel are hoping to increase awareness of the herbarium both on campus and online and to secure funds to keep it a permanent part of the University of Maryland's future.

"It's often very difficult to explain to people why we need this facility and information," says Neel. "If we want to know anything about changes in the environment, conservation, rare or endangered species, we need to have the information found in a herbarium. It is a historical record."

For more information on the Nortown-Brown Herbarium, visit

Six Startups Advance in Cupid's Cup

March 5, 2013

Neil Tickner 301-405-4622

Cupid's Cup LogoCollege Park, Md. – The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business has named six startups as finalists in the 2013 Cupid’s Cup. The six teams, including two from UMD, will advance to compete in the final round of the national business challenge on April 5, 2013.

The annual competition—sponsored by Kevin Plank, UMD alumnus and CEO and founder of Under Armour—received entries from entrepreneurs at 24 universities across 16 states.

During the final round, the finalists will pitch their businesses to Plank and a panel of judges in front of 1,000 attendees. The following finalists will compete for Cupid’s Cup, $70,000 and exclusive access to a member of Plank’s professional network:

  • Diagnostic anSERS, University of Maryland -- maker of ink-jet printed sensors for detecting trace amounts of chemicals, from explosives to narcotics
  • Earth Starter LLC, University of Maryland -- maker of products to accelerate and simplify growth and yield for gardens
  • CoverPlay LLC, University of Virginia -- maker of an ultra-thin Bluetooth speaker for mobile devices called the Mojo
  • Hole Patch LLC, Case Western Reserve University -- developer of a new method for patching potholes
  •, Florida State University -- a study tool for college students that rewards academic effort
  • Neural Analytics, University of California Los Angeles -- a developer of a portable non-invasive medical device to diagnose traumatic brain injuries on the football field or the battlefield

2013 Cupid's Cup FinalistsCupid’s Cup is named for a Valentine’s Day rose delivery business Plank started as a student at the university. As an athlete, he wasn’t permitted to have an outside job, so he turned to entrepreneurship. Plank worked with the Dingman Center to start a business competition to foster similar student entrepreneurship. This is first year the competition has been open to entrepreneurs nationwide.

The competition was open to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at accredited U.S. colleges and universities, as well as young alumni who are running companies that have generated at least $5,000 in revenue or have a version 1.0 product with proof of traction. The finalists will receive intensive coaching from successful entrepreneurs to prepare for the final competition. More information is available at

Gamera Team Flies High in Quest for $250k Prize

March 4, 2013

Lee Tune 301-405-4679
Ted Knight 301-405-3596

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A University of Maryland student engineering team had a strong attempt, but fell a bit short last week in their latest effort to conquer one of the last great aviation challenges – surpassing the winning requirements for the American Helicopter Society's 30-year old Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Competition and its $250,000 prize.

GameraThe team conducted flight attempts on Feb. 27 and 28 in Baltimore in their Gamera II XR helicopter. In separate flights, they reached heights up to 6 feet and were able to stay aloft for 60 seconds and their new control system allowed them to hover within the required area. However, did not reach the requirements to take home the prize: a single flight of over 60 seconds in which the vehicle reaches 3 meters altitude (10 ft.) and remains within a 10 meter x 10 meter box. During previous flights, UMD's Team Gamera set the record for longest human-powered helicopter flight with a 65.1-second flight and has unofficially reached a height of about 9 feet.  The team hopes to try again for the prize later this month.

Their recent attempts, which featured a revamped aircraft equipped with a new control system, were conducted in front of officials from the American Helicopter Society (AHS) and Sikorsky Aircraft International (SAI). 

The team's 51 students, almost all of them from the university's A. James Clark School of Engineering, faced fast rising competition from AeroVelo, a Toronto, Canada based team. Although they did not take home the prize, the UMD team says they believe their design innovation, continued upgrades and improvements, and dedication will soon carry them to victory.

Over its more than three decades, the challenge has inspired a number of efforts to build a successful human-powered aircraft, but none came even close until UMD joined the race in late 2008. Professor Inderjit Chopra, director of the university's Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, recruited a handful of graduate students and undergrads to take on the challenge. Because the UMD mascot is the Diamondback Terrapin, they named their helicopter Gamera after the giant flying turtle of Japanese monster movies.

"I know our students will soon achieve their goal thanks to the innovation, determination and professionalism they have brought to every aspect of this enormously difficult challenge," said Clark School Dean Darryll J. Pines. "They tackle each obstacle in a systematic way, improving and adjusting just as professional engineers would. They embody the spirit of our students and their high standards of excellence here at the University of Maryland."

The Gamera team has had participation from more than 80 students during its four years.

Journalism Deans Support Accountability Journalism

March 4, 2013

Sean Mussenden 301-405-2530

Lucy DalglishCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism dean Lucy Dalglish, along with deans from the nation's top journalism schools, released a joint statement today drawing attention to the steep decline in accountability journalism critical to a healthy democracy.

The deans — members of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education task force — also endorsed a new report calling on the IRS to make it easier for nonprofit news organizations committed to accountability journalism to keep American communities informed.

Dalglish is appearing on a panel from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. today at the Newseum to discuss the new report from from the Council on Foundations, "The IRS and Nonprofit Media: Toward Creating a More Informed Public."

An archive video of the panel will be posted when available.


Full statement from the Carnegie-Knight Initiative deans:

Carnegie-Knight Initiative Issues Statement from Journalism School Deans about Nonprofit Status for News Organizations

As deans of some of the country's leading journalism schools, we see our mission as being not just to educate the next generation of leaders in our profession, but also to be advocates for journalism. Our special concern is with accountability journalism, based on original reporting, which makes the public aware of what the powerful entities in society are doing and helps hold them accountable to the public. This kind of journalism is crucial to the healthy function of communities, and more broadly to democracy.

During the past few years, we have become increasingly alarmed over the steep decline in accountability journalism, especially in local and regional journalism. The main cause of the decline has been the diminution in the reportorial resources of newspapers, which historically have borne the lion's share of reporting in American communities. It was a happy accident that the market used to support a public purpose like accountability journalism. That situation is unlikely to recur soon. It is time to face what to many Americans, including journalists, is a hard truth: accountability journalism, a vital public good, cannot thrive without a measure of explicit support.

We plan to offer a series of periodic proposals that we believe could help rectify the situation. We will begin by suggesting that the Internal Revenue Service look more favorably and act more quickly on nonprofit news organizations' applications for tax-exempt status.

The world of local online journalism has not yet developed a profitable business model, but it is almost miraculously good at giving journalists the ability to publish at low cost and at giving the public access to far more information than was ever available before. The days of one major news organization in each community controlling the production of journalism and its flow to the public are over. Newspapers are unlikely to return to their former size and profitability. Though financially strapped newspapers continue to generate some superb journalism, right now, incubating and supporting nonprofit online news sites is one critical strategy to provide accountability journalism that can fill the local news information gap.

The IRS's problem with granting nonprofit status to news sites seems to be in antiquated rules that equate all "journalism" with "commercial journalism" and do not recognize that the many approvals for nonprofit media they already have granted fall into this category. In one instance, the IRS offered one of the most admirable online startups, the Investigative News Network, nonprofit status if it would remove the word "journalism" from its statement of purpose. And other news nonprofits have been waiting more than two years for adjudication of their applications for nonprofit status—which means that the potential donors who would support them are waiting, too, before making their gifts.

There are a number of large realms in American society where some entities are nonprofit and some are for-profit. Our own realm, education, is one. Hospitals are another. To our mind the test of whether an organization deserves nonprofit status is simple: whether it is engaged primarily in educational activities that provide a community benefit, as opposed to advancing private interests. By that clear standard, the journalism the new online accountability news organizations do—which is not undertaken to make money in the marketplace, and likely never will—is obviously different from the more commercial forms of journalism, and deserves to be granted nonprofit status. It's the journalistic mission of the organization that should make the difference here.

A blue-ribbon group assembled by the Council on Foundations and the Knight Foundation has issued an important new report, The IRS and Nonprofit Media: Toward Creating a More Informed Public, analyzing the problem and offering concrete suggestions for how the IRS could modernize its approach. We endorse those recommendations.

We will continue to make suggestions that we believe would strengthen journalism and democracy in this moment of great challenge and opportunity. For now, we urge the IRS to decide firmly that news organizations engaged exclusively in accountability journalism can speedily be granted nonprofit status if they apply for it.

'WaterShed' Team Takes Expertise Around the World

February 27, 2013

Maggie Haslam 202-258-8946

Nearly two years after their first place win at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, several collaborators on UMD's solar-powered home, WaterShed, are lending their talent and expertise to competitive forums around the world

Brittany WilliamsCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - Brittany Williams M.Arch '07, a lecturer in the University of Maryland's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and faculty advisor for UMD's WaterShed team, which built the award-winning solar-powered home, has been selected as Competition Manager for the inaugural year of the Solar Decathlon China 2013. SD China challenges collegiate teams from around the world to design, build and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive. Williams has extensive experience with sustainable design, not only on UMD's WaterShed team, but also as an architecture team leader for WaterShed's predecessor, LEAFHouse, which placed second in the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2007.

"I am both honored and excited to be a part of Solar Decathlon China," said Williams. "I hope that my participation as competition manager will help further the creative collaboration between the U.S. and China as they work towards creating a more sustainable future."

Amy GardnerIn addition, associate professor and principal investigator for both LEAFHouse and WaterShed Amy Gardner will travel to Oman in March with WaterShed student team leaders David Gavin M.Arch '12 and David Daily M.S. '14 to lead a pre-competition workshop for the Eco House Design Competition (EHDC). A Solar Decathlon "sister" competition, the EHDC challenges collegiate teams to design, build and operate eco-friendly houses, combining consumer appeal and optimal energy efficiency into an attractive, thoughtfully designed package. Gardner, Gavin and Daily will share the principles of UMD's approach to the Solar Decathlon, from building relationships with sponsors, professionals and suppliers to construction management and competition strategy.

"We are very excited to share our experiences and to learn from our fellow competitors who live and practice in a different corner of the world," said Gardner. "Reaching across the boundaries of building culture and learning from each subsequent generation's design successes are essential to building a more sustainable future."

About WaterShed
WaterShed is a solar-powered home inspired and guided by the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, interconnecting the house with its landscape, and leading its dwellers toward a more sustainable lifestyle. It is currently being readied for its permanent location at Pepco's Rockville, Md., facility.

Since its first place win in 2011, WaterShed has collected a number of accolades and awards for sustainable and inspirational design, including a Presidential Citation for Sustainable Design from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), DC chapter, a Maryland AIA Design Award, and a Chesapeake Bay AIA Design Award. WaterShed continues to serve as an example of innovative, sustainable design in articles and publications all over the world.

WaterShed Team

UMD Goes for $250K Human-Powered Helicopter Prize

February 26, 2013

Lee Tune 301-405-4679 (office), 240-328-4914 (cell)
Ted Knight 301-405-3596 (office), 410-703-4685 (cell)
Beth Cavanaugh 301-257-0073 (on-site Thursday)


On Feb. 27-28 the University of Maryland's record-setting human-powered helicopter, and the student team that designed, built and flies it, will be in the Baltimore Convention Center for flight attempts to try and win a long-unreachable prize - the $250,000 AHS Sikorsky Prize. The flights will be observed by officials from the National Aeronautic Association (NAA) and the American Helicopter Society (AHS).



On Wednesday, Feb. 27 and Thursday Feb. 28, the team's flight attempts will open to media and can be photographed or video recorded only during two media availability periods each day:  9–11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. During these periods media must remain in the media area designated by caution tape on the floor unless escorted to other areas of the floor, between flights. During some of the periods between flights, Gamera Team members will come over to the media area to offer interviews. If one of the Gamera flights meets or exceeds the prize requirements, team members will be available following the winning flight.


Baltimore Convention Center, Exhibit Hall G. Media entrance is off of the circle drive on Sharp Street.


In August 2012, Team Gamera set officially certified world records for both altitude (9 feet) and duration (65.1 seconds) of a human powered helicopter with their Gamera II XR aircraft. Both flights were significant improvements over all previous human powered helicopter flights and garnered wide national and international attention.

With a brand new control system installed on their Gamera helicopter, the team of 51 graduate and undergraduate UMD students now has its sights set on winning the prestigious AHS Sikorsky Prize, which has remained unclaimed since its inception in 1980. The prize requires a flight of over 60 seconds in which the vehicle reaches 3 meters altitude (10 ft.) and remains within a 10 meter x 10 meter box. Since August, Team Gamera has been hard at work developing and implementing a means of controlling the helicopter—something which proved necessary during testing—in order to remain within the required 10 meter box.



March 30
University of Maryland places seven graduate programs in the top five and 25 in the top 20. Read
April 7
JPMorgan Chase funds initiative to combat the effects of commercial gentrification and COVID-19 in neighborhoods across... Read
March 30
Three latest University of Maryland Goldwater scholars make 37 such scholars from UMD in the past 10 years  Read
March 30
University of Maryland places seven graduate programs in the top five and 25 in the top 20. Read