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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.


WIE DREAM Conference Inspires High School Students

February 26, 2013

Ted Knight 301-405-3596

2013 WIE Dream Conference attendeesCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - High school girls from across the region gathered at the University of Maryland on Feb. 23, 2013, for the Women in Engineering (WIE) Program's 5th annual DREAM (Developing Revolutionary Engineers and Mentors) Conference to explore their passion for engineering and innovation.

"Diversity and the inclusion of women are critical to the field of engineering," explained Dr. Paige Smith, director of WIE. "There is a strong connection between innovation and diversity. Diversity brings creativity and creativity drives innovation."

Smith went on to share the exciting news that, at the time of the conference, an unprecedented 33 percent of the A. James Clark School of Engineering's fall 2013 admitted engineering undergraduates are women.

Throughout the day, participants rotated through a series of highly interactive discussions, demonstrations and an information fair that showcased the innovations, applications and opportunities that engineering offers. The conference encouraged participants to be inquisitive, to hone problem-solving skills and to invent solutions for real-world problems.

For many participants, the WIE DREAM Conference was a chance to catch a glimpse of life as a college engineering student. Panels were led by UMD faculty, staff and current students on topics such as engineering abroad, the Gamera Project and cybersecurity. The event also featured forums with professional women engineers from a variety of leading organizations like BAE Systems and NASA, who explained the work they do and encouraged students to reach for their dream jobs.

The event featured a keynote address by Denise Russell Fleming, vice president of business technology & transformation at BAE Systems. Fleming shared the inspirational story of her path to success, stressing that the best path may not always be a straight line. Fleming encouraged students to have a strong center, to be open to new possibilities and to embrace changes in direction. And, most importantly, to "enjoy the ride!"

"I couldn't be happier with today's events," concluded Bria McElroy, Assistant Director of WIE. "We aim to inspire these young women, and I feel that's exactly what we've accomplished together."

2013 WIE Dream Conference attendees

UMD to Launch Mid-Atlantic Innovation Hub

February 22, 2013

Eric Schurr 301-405-3889

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland is teaming with two top universities in the Mid-Atlantic region to tackle an enduring challenge: how to translate $60 billion in research funding into new products and companies that benefit society.

National Science Foundation Innovation CorpsThrough $3.75 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the University of Maryland, along with George Washington University and Virginia Tech, will launch a regional Innovation Corps (I-Corps) node with one sweeping goal: find the best entrepreneurial student and faculty researchers and help them bring their discoveries to market.

"I-Corps is aggressive, methodical, and just what our region needs," said Dean Chang, associate vice president for innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland, lead institution for this program. "We live in one of the most fertile areas in the country for technology-based research, and our goal is nothing short of finding 300 of the most talented research teams and guiding them through the best technology commercialization program available."

I-Corps takes researchers through a seven-week program with a methodology that draws upon decades of experience in Silicon Valley, emphasizing talking to as many potential customers as possible, pivoting in response to resulting insights, building low-cost prototypes to get customer feedback, constantly adapting, and building a scalable business model.

Successful outcomes for I-Corps include a new startup, patent or technology license to a company. The program will also foster a culture of entrepreneurship among researchers and students.

Through the new Mid-Atlantic I-Corps Node, NSF will select up to 50 research teams from across the country each year and the Mid-Atlantic Node will select an additional 50 teams of its choosing. With up to 100 teams trained each year for three years, the total could reach 300.

In addition, the Mid-Atlantic I-Corps Node will establish a mentor development program to attract, train and retain top-notch mentors. It will also create a post-I-Corps support program to help teams with follow-on activities, such as continued customer development, minimum viable product (MVP) prototyping, technology transfer and licensing, fundraising, legal services and hiring executive talent.

The University of Maryland, George Washington University and Virginia Tech pull together a wide and experienced collection of resources and personnel to make the Mid-Atlantic I-Corps Node a success. Collectively, the three institutions have already taken nine teams through the national I-Corps program.

The new Mid-Atlantic I-Corps node is one of three announced by NSF, with additional nodes supported in California and New York, through a total of $11.2 million in funding. These add to existing I-Corps nodes at Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan. Collectively, these nodes create the foundation of NSF's plan to establish a National Innovation Network designed to propel research to market.

COE Honored for Commitment to Global Diversity

February 22, 2013

Halima Cherif 301-405-0476

Neil Tickner 301-405-4622

University of Maryland College of EducationCOLLEGE PARK, Md. – The College of Education at the University of Maryland will be honored with the 2013 Best Practice Award in Support of Global Diversity by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). The award recognizes a school, college or department of education that fosters diversity, equity and global awareness as core elements of its educator preparation programs.

The AACTE Committee on Global Diversity, which reviews the award, selected Maryland for making significant contributions to global diversity not only for its students, but also for the educator preparation profession. The program was found to be comprehensive and systematic, with an extensive scholarly record of addressing the goals and missions of global initiatives.

The College of Education team was commended for building long-standing, collaborative partnerships with government entities and school systems, which help to produce internationally literate graduates for the community's diverse schools. Maryland is the only institution in the U.S. to be selected to host the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching program for the past three years.

"The university is delighted but not at all surprised to learn that our College of Education has won the AACTE 2013 Best Practice Award in Support of Global Diversity, as its commitment to internationalizing the college has been long-term, intentional and innovative," said Ross Lewin Ph.D., vice president for international programs at Maryland. "The University of Maryland believes that a great university must be a globally connected university, and has made significant strides toward that goal in recent years. We sincerely appreciate AACTE's recognition of the tireless efforts of our College of Education international outreach."

The Committee gave special recognition to Marylands's Office of International Initiatives for reflecting a vision of sustainability that is focused on global initiatives. It also highlighted grant opportunities that are available for faculty development and curricular implementation around global issues.

Alums Give D.C. Nightclub Encore Performance on MPT

February 22, 2013

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - More than 15 years after one of Washington's most storied nightclubs shut its doors, three Maryland alumni are primed to give The Bayou an encore performance.
Dave Lilling '78, Vinnie Perrone '80 and Bill Scanlan '80Dave Lilling '78, Vinnie Perrone '80 and Bill Scanlan '80 interviewed dozens of musicians, former employees and patrons; culled video and photos from live performances; and gave freely of their time and money to produce a documentary on the eclectic Georgetown venue that saw the likes of Billy Joel, Foreigner, Kiss and Bruce Springsteen grace its stage.

"The Bayou: D.C.'s Killer Joint" airs at 9 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25 on Maryland Public Television. (Find your local channel here).

"It was just a really cool place, there was no other club like it," says Scanlan, who frequented the club as a Maryland undergraduate and is now a producer and on-air commentator for CSPAN. "It was huge, cavernous, raucous—and a really great place to hear music."

The 90-minute documentary covers the colorful history of The Bayou from its beginnings in 1953 as a Dixieland swing joint, to the heyday of rock 'n' roll in the nation's capital in the late '60s and '70s, to the final gig on New Year's Eve 1998.

The building was razed six months later and a movie theater and other commercial buildings now stand in its place.

The film includes rare footage of the last performance by Eva Cassidy, the soulful Maryland singer who died of cancer at age 33, six weeks after performing her signature song, "What a Wonderful World," on The Bayou's stage.

Other notable local musicians featured in the film include guitarist Nils Lofgren, the late go-go musician Chuck Brown and blues master Mark Wenner from The Nighthawks.

"I think people will be surprised when they see this film," says Richard Harrington, who retired in 2008 after 28 years as The Washington Post's national music critic. His memories of the nightclub go back to the late 1960s, when antiwar protests were in full swing and the counterculture and the establishment squared off all across Washington.

"[The Bayou] was one of the few places in D.C. where the hippies and Marines got along," he says. "That should tell you something about the vibe of the place."

Disaster Management Software Meets Sandy Challenge

February 21, 2013

Greg Muraski 301-405-5283

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – In Superstorm Sandy's aftermath, New York City police officers worked alongside "Occupy Sandy" volunteers to haul supplies for survivors. The effort was supported by an open source software system named Sahana Eden (abbreviated from "Emergency Development Environment"), and its post-Sandy application illustrates an emerging model for grassroots disaster management that complements resource-challenged government response systems, says a University of Maryland data management expert.

Louiqa Raschid, a professor in the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Institute of Advanced Computing StudiesSahana is "the world's leading open source software program for the rapid deployment of humanitarian response management," says Louiqa Raschid, a professor in the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business and the Institute of Advanced Computing Studies. She has worked to distribute the platform on a pro bono basis as founding chair of the Sahana Software Foundation. "It helps pinpoint those in need in real time and coordinate efforts to get them relief."

Occupy Sandy adopted the Sahana program to network with other community groups and administer material assistance and volunteers from the hardest hit communities, including the Rockaways in Queens, Staten Island and Coney Island, where recovery efforts will continue for months to come.

"The platform is ready to take off in the U.S., especially at the grassroots level," Raschid says. "I'd recommend that community response groups look into this now – before the next calamity."

How Sahana works
Volunteers use Sahana to coordinate relief efforts from Brooklyn's St. Jacobi ChurchSahana streamlines IT-based humanitarian management by making it possible for organizers to share information – otherwise confined to spreadsheets and Google documents – using database technology. "This database driven application can accommodate rescue management, volunteer management, situational awareness, shelter management and logistics, and it's adaptable to multiple languages," says Raschid, whose research specialties range from data management and information integration to social media modeling to financial cyber infrastructure.

Devin Balkind, executive director of New York-based Sarapis, a nonprofit working with the Sahana Foundation in supporting Occupy Sandy, says the key to Sahana's versatility lies in its capacity for "enabling users to efficiently cross-reference massive sets of data that would otherwise stretch the limits of spreadsheets."

Occupy Sandy collaborator Respond and Rebuild, for example, has used the platform to track and map more than 180 work orders – each with nearly 50 variables of information – targeting residential and business properties in the Rockaways. Such variables include property type, basement and first-floor flooding depth, damage description, work order details covering necessary equipment and total of volunteers, and the total of the property's occupants and whether they intend to stay. This helps response teams triage and identify the most urgent situations.

More broadly, Sahana has facilitated 400-plus phoned and e-mailed supply and service requests from various New York distribution points. "Administrators in these cases are able to confirm request availability and generate a waybill, or checklist, for inventory gathering and delivery instruction," Balkind says.

Global Applications
Raschid, now treasurer and a director of the Sahana Software Foundation, has spearheaded worldwide NGO and government adoption of the platform. It originated in Sri Lanka where "Sahana" means "relief." A team of IT specialists helped the Sri Lankan government pinpoint relief targets by creating a database of relief camps and a demographic breakdown of more than 26,000 survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Subsequent applications include the following:

  • Government officials administered missing persons reports and triage and patient intake records following the 2005 Pakistan Kashmir earthquake.
  • Police tracked missing persons following the 2008 Chengdu-Sitzuan (China) earthquake, locating 42 survivors and reuniting them with their families.
  • Nearly 700 organizations responded to about 10,000 assistance and information requests through the platform in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
  • U.S. Library of Medicine tracked missing persons from the 2011 Joplin, Mo., tornado in coordination with state public safety officials.
  • Government agencies and community groups collaborated through the platform in 2011 Tohoku, Japan earthquake and tsunami response and recovery efforts.
  • The Red Cross incorporated the platform in an "IBM Smarter Command Center" in response to the 2012 Chilean wildfires.

Sahana Software Foundation lead developer Fran Boon (front, center) uses the Sahana platform to assist in managing requests for meals from an “Occupy Sandy kitchen” in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood where volunteers have prepared and distributed thousands of meals daily to dozens of sites serving Sandy survivorsGrassroots Effect
The platform has been a very effective tool for government-wide relief efforts. But it also empowers grassroots-level recovery, says Sahana Foundation CEO Mark Prutsalis – whose Brooklyn neighborhood is in proximity to some of the worst damage from Sandy.

"The burned out blocks on Breezy Point and downtown Rockaway Beach reminded me of the torching of Dili, East Timor, during independence in 1999, and the flooding, beach erosion and water damage is slightly reminiscent of, incredibly enough, the  tsunami damage I witnessed in India and Sri Lanka," says Prutsalis. "Experiencing the recovery has convinced me that in 2013, traditional top-down disaster relief is incapable of preparing for and responding to the scale of these disasters."

The scope of Superstorm Sandy's damage and subsequent demand for relief personnel and supplies overwhelmed New York City's emergency management structure, even with its coastal storm plan, Prutsalis says. But Sahana helped diffuse the pressure by enabling "highly effective community-based organizations like Occupy Sandy to rapidly establish community trust and effective assistance networks in the weeks following the storm. The result has been the most effective, efficient and flexible response I have witnessed in 20 years as a disaster relief professional."

Building a User Community
Sahana supported a volunteer hub in Staten Island that provided hot food distribution, donation drop offs, supply pickups, volunteer dispatches, legal-financial aid and moreIn seven years, Sahana has become well-known in disaster management circles. It has been utilized extensively the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, and New York City's Office of Emergency Management uses it to coordinate and manage emergency shelters.

Effectively applying the platform requires changing organizational workflow, as the immediate aftermath of a disaster is the worst time to introduce a new technology, says Raschid.  "Ideally, an organization or community would adopt Sahana in a pre-disaster mode and use its features for relief planning and preparedness training. So, we focus on strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones. Ultimately, this is an open source community that needs to be built by individuals."

Balkind concurs: "All the technology in the world is worthless without the folks in affected areas doing relief work and practicing mutual aid."

"A software solution based on Sahana Eden isn't going to muck-out a house, deliver diapers or give people the experience of personal connection," he says. "But what it will do is organize information critical for all those tasks taking place. As an open source platform, there are no licensing restrictions and the source code is accessible to anyone who wants to view, use and modify it."

Raschid's grassroots Sahana promotion has targeted, among others, participants of the Grace Hopper Conference for Women in Computing. "Sahana has been involved in an extremely successful Open Source Day initiative at the conference since 2010," she says.

Raschid is helping students understand the transformational role of new technology, like Sahana, as a faculty mentor for the Smith School's Technology and Business Transformation Fellows Program. She also plans an internship at UMD through Smith's Center for Social Value Creation to engage MBA and undergraduate students to help raise Sahana's profile.
"We need to do a lot more," she says. "We want government agencies and grassroots groups in every community equipped and prepared."


April 22
President Pines Reveals Five Bold Actions Outlining Goals and Vision for the University Read
May 5
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Two University of Maryland faculty members—Michele Gelfand, a distinguished professor of psychology... Read
May 3
The University of Maryland has named Jennifer King Rice Ph.D., as Senior Vice President and Provost, effective August... Read
April 29
President Pines announces university’s aims for carbon neutrality by 2025, all electric fleet by 2035 Read

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