Transdisciplinary Urbanism Studio: swlab energy farm

networked infrastructures, research and practice

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Lesson Plan Demonstration @ Sampson-Webber

Last Tuesday, November 19, Professor Bodurow, Dustin, and I visited Ms. Clay and Ms. Thomas’ third grade students at Sampson-Webber Academy. The afternoon focused on demonstrating the 90 minute lesson I prepared for the class concerning Hybrid Alternative Energy and entitled “Above Ground/Below Ground Energy Collection: Solar and Geothermal Energy”. What a success! It was a wonderful experience working with the students at Sampson-Webber, as I had never had any experience teaching young children prior.

The students spent the afternoon learning about non-renewable and renewable energy, ways to collect solar energy, how geothermal energy works in both summer and winter, and how solar and geothermal energy can occupy the same space and be implemented at their school. After teaching the students about these concepts, we then did several hands-on activities. There was a lot of excitement in the room as students made solar bracelets and created models of a future Hybrid Alternative Energy Sampson-Webber Academy [seen in the wonderful photos captured below].

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I would like to thank Principal Houston, Ms. Clay, and Ms. Thomas for allowing me to work with their students, Professor Bodurow for supporting my efforts, and Dustin Altschul for recording and photographing the lesson last Tuesday.


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Creating Transdisciplinary

During the week of October 1st , faculty colleagues Dr. Donald Carpenter and Dr. Robert Fletcher joined us to immerse our brains in Low Impact Development (LID) and Hybrid Alternative Energy (HAE), respectively. Prof. Bodurow has long established collaborations with her colleagues in Lawrence Tech’s Engineering Department. We received tons of information, but all relevant and applicable to our studio project and vision. Their lectures were also the first steps to reinforce the notion of transdisciplinary design in our studio. Not only does the involvement of Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Fletcher create an opportunity for engineering principles to be a part of, and actually strengthen, the design ideation process, but working in the language of technical engineering may actually provide “designers” with a key for effectively accessing the benefits of transdisciplinary design. Designers are often provided with a casted role that corresponds to scale. Interior designers design interiors, architects design buildings, urban designers design cities, landscape architects design land forms, etc….. In other words each of these design disciplines are often trained offer discrete value as it relates to the scale they work in. Engineering on the other hand works completely different; the principles of fluid dynamics are the same whether it is  water being poured from a glass, water supply for a home, or storm water runoff for an entire neighborhood. Point is, engineering is better suited to provide solutions on a multi-scalar level because it is not formally organized by contextual scale.  The exact purpose of transdisciplinary design is to remove territorial barriers that hinder cross collaboration in design. So perhaps by introducing engineering to the design process, and not as an aftermath to the design concept, this can allow designers to break out of their scalar shells.

Our engagement with Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Flecther has allowed us to consider notions of energy production (solar/geothermal) and Low Impact Development at all three scales we are considering (building, site, neighborhood). Thanks to their guidance, our design responses are hybrid-rationalized  with performative energy production/sustainable land development benefits and  qualitative elements of  traditional ‘good’ design. Our transdisciplianry work environment is also supported by four civil engineering students (collectively known as the Vi Solis CE Design Team), who contribute further support to our design work in terms of storm water management, transportation engineering, and construction management.

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A Hybrid Alternative Energy Lesson Plan – For Third Graders!

While the rest of the [TU] Studio is working towards hybridized infrastructure proposals for the Sampson-Webber Leadership Academy, my goal is to create a Hybrid Alternative Energy Lesson Plan for Ms. Clay-Henderson’s third grade students! Ms. Clay has been a great resource during this process! Once the lesson plan is complete, I plan to demonstrate it to Ms. Clay’s class in early November.

Hybrid Alternative Energy – now that’s a complicated subject, not just for children, but for many adults! My challenge is to create a lesson that breaks down this complicated term so that children can become familiar with alternative energies and opportunities for their use at Sampson-Webber. Dr. Fletcher’s lectures on solar and geothermal energy have proven especially helpful, allowing me to understand the basic concepts of these energy options and think of ways to translate them to a third grade level. The focus of the lesson plan is on solar and geothermal energy so that the children can learn about both above ground and below ground energy collection. Here’s an outline of the progress I’ve made so far:

1. Set a List of Lesson Plan Requirements
2. Coordinated Scheduling with Ms. Clay
3. Researched and Narrowed Down Lesson Plans Related to Alternative Energies
4.Synthesized Content Gathered from Various Educational Sources for Use in the Lesson
5. Created a Draft Lesson Plan

I look forward to seeing where this lesson plan leads me!


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AJ’s Site Visit

Site: Located in Tireman, Southwest of Detroit

Date: 09/21/2013, Saturday

Time: 10:00 AM – 01:00 PM

Purpose of the site visit: Provide a few findings and factual data for the initial analysis.

Route of visit: My visit process begins with outdoor facilities of Sampson-Webber Academy and Biddle Elementary School, such as, building envelope, landscape, playground, outdoor basketball court, and so on. Then, take the school site as the center and visit the surroundings.




I traveled through the neighborhood area (67 acres) which assumes Sampson-Webber Academy and Biddle Elementary School as the center (school area: 13 acres). Tireman Avenue serves as a dividing line between South of Tireman and North of that.

All the roads surrounding the site are two-way streets and each road has its corresponding sidewalk. DDOT Bus #27 and #47 work in the area. I couldn’t locate adequate safety signs in the surrounding of schools, such as “stop” signs and “school zone” signs. For a main traffic area and a school zone, it’s not safe enough for students who often walk to school.

There is great difference in the management of green area. I met a work team that was cleaning the campus landscape when I visited the site. I couldn’t find a lot of overgrown grass and plants in the residential area surrounding the schools.

The land use of the site includes institutional, commercial, and single-family residential. Most are single-family residences. The main commercial strip is along Tireman Avenue on south side of Tireman. There are a few vacant properties in the neighborhood, especially south of Tireman. I can find three or more abandoned houses in each block. In spite of this, there are over ten churches in the neighborhood!

Unfortunately, I noticed that there were not too many activities in the community. Churches can provide a lot help for this, but I think it is necessary to provide more public space and increase the community connection. However, the residents have a deep emotional connection and protective consciousness for the community and schools. During my visit, at least three people asked me, the stranger, ”Who are you?” or “Why do you stay here taking pictures?”.

In summary, our site on Tireman holds a lot of promise. The residents have very high enthusiasm for the revival of community and that gives [TU] Studio an opportunity to aid in facilitating that revival.

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Our work builds on the inaugural [TU] studio in spring 2013. See the website:

This fall, our studio project will conduct further design development of the studio[Ci] Energy Farms project in the Tireman/Condon neighborhood of Detroit. The research, analysis and conceptual design were part of the Ford C3 funded project 2010-2012.  See the studio[Ci] website for more information:

Our vision is to:

Create a HYBRIDIZED ECOSYSTEM and ARCHITECTURE – [green] infrastructure networks and structures – for an “Energy Farm.” Engage the community and leverage assets of a strong institutional presence, vacancy, and [corporate] partners in order to generate three things: net-zero energy, wealth and educational opportunities. We will link the schools and neighborhood, and create a new partnership institution for the Sampson Webber Leadership Academy and Biddle School in the Detroit Public School Northwestern District, Tireman/Condon Neighborhood of Detroit.

Our client group includes the school Principal, lower and upper division Teachers, Students, Parents and Neighborhood Residents. This vision statement was created by the team after the initial meeting with the teachers of Sampson Webber.