University of Houston-Downtown freshmen Haydee Balderas and Kari Bustos were awarded second place for their research project, “Transportation-Caused Air Pollution in Mexico City: A Drastic Public Policy Plan,” at the Association for Computer Educators in Texas 2009 Conference last week in Corpus Christi.
Balderas and Bustos are students in a UHD undergraduate composition/computer information systems course that emphasizes writing about research. University professors from different academic disciplines mentor the first-year students.
Merrilee Cunningham, associate professor of English in UHD’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Ruth Robbins, professor of computer information systems in UHD’s College of Business, worked with Balderas, Bustos, Rosa Allende, Aracely Oliva, and Sandra Tapia Rojas on the winning project’s research, writing and presentation. Students sharpened many skills in the process. There were nine student entries in the competition.
“It was good working in a group,” Balderas said. “But what matters most is the hard work you put into it yourself. We were ecstatic about the results. We didn’t expect to place so high on our first research attempt.”
Balderas and Bustos’ team tackled the environmental and human effects of transportation pollution in Mexico City. They found that traffic congestion, the time a car spends on the road, overcrowded roads and the dirty gasoline negatively affected people there. The team proposed public policy initiatives such as the use of light rail to improve pollution indexes in the city of 8.8 million.
Freshmen Maria Cavazos, Mirta Castro, Chelsea Davidson and Raymon Rodriguez authored the second UHD project selected for presentation at the conference. They researched the effects of diminishing biodiversity on the people and environment of Sao Paulo, Brazil, in “Combating the Loss of Biodiversity and Deforestation with the use of Carbon Credits.” From their research, they concluded that incentives such as carbon trading could save the environment from projected negative outcomes.
ACET judges accepted student presentations based on a project’s content quality, quality of data, opportunity for further research or development, innovative presentation technique and visual impact, and relevance to computing.
The course, a combination of composition and computer information systems, called for the use of mathematical and statistical analysis to study the problem using best practices models. It required students to study problems and develop solutions. The professors asked the students to identify public policy solutions that could help solve the problem and contribute to the quality of life in the areas.
Freshmen in the program are members of University College, UHD’s entry point for new students.