Category Archives: Creative Activity

N.C. A&T named 1890 University of the Year, honored for innovation and overall excellence

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University has been named the 1890 University of the Year.

N.C. A&T shared the award with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The honor was presented by the Council of 1890 Universities of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. The council presents the 1890 Teaching, Research and Innovation Awards to honor achievements at the 18 land-grant universities created by the federal Morrill Act of 1890.  All are historically black universities.

A&T also received the Innovation Award for the largest increase in transferring intellectual property into new products, processes, or services from 2012-2013 through 2013-2014. A&T shared this honor with the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.

Among the innovations that A&T researchers have introduced recently are the world’s first hypoallergenic peanuts and a process to replace some of the petroleum content of asphalt with a substance derived from hog manure.

“It’s a tremendous honor for the extraordinary work being done on our campus by administrators, educators, researchers and our students,” Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. said.

“As we continue the journey to fulfill our strategic plan, A&T Preeminence 2020, it is imperative that we continue to make strides in the areas highlighted by this Council and beyond.”

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Aggieland is part of a #NationOfMakers

Group photo of the students behind the Sophisticated Genius clothing line

Co-founder and A&T student entrepreneur Romel Reaves, left, and the team that makes the Sophisticated Genius clothing line

This is part of the deal at a land-grant university: We make things.

We make things you can hold or touch, like hypoallergenic peanuts and asphalt that requires less petroleum. And we make things you can’t hold or touch, like biometric software and carbon nanotubes (and history, which is something else you can’t hold that Aggies make).

We design and build things. And we grow things, which is another very old and very powerful way of making.

N.C. A&T’s motto is “Mens et Manus”: Mind and Hands. Those words set us on a course more than 100 years ago that we’re still traveling. Today, that course brings us together with President Obama and more than 150 other universities to celebrate a Nation of Makers (#NationOfMakers on Twitter).

“On Wednesday, June 18, President Obama will host the first ever White House Maker Faire and meet with students, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens who are using new tools and techniques to launch new businesses, learn vital skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and fuel the renaissance in American manufacturing. The President will also announce new steps the Administration and its partners are taking to support the ability of more Americans, young and old, to have to access to these tools and techniques and brings their ideas to life.

“America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors, and entrepreneurs. In recent years, a growing number of Americans have gained access to technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, easy-to-use design software, and desktop machine tools. These tools are enabling more Americans to design and build almost anything.

“The rise of the Maker Movement represents a huge opportunity for the United States. Nationwide, new tools for democratized production are boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in manufacturing, in the same way that the Internet and cloud computing have lowered the barriers to entry for digital startups, creating the foundation for new products and processes that can help to revitalize American manufacturing.”

And so we celebrate our researchers, like Dr. Salil Desai, Dr. Stephanie Luster-Teasley, and Dr. Jianmei Yu, who all have received patents recently for things they’ve made. And Dr. Ellie Fini and Dr. Ajit Kelkar, who have made things that they’ve been able to build businesses around.

And we especially celebrate our students, so many of whom aren’t waiting to graduate before they start making things. The students who compete in the annual Innovation Challenge … the students we feature on the Aggie Entrepreneurs webpage … and the many more we’ll meet this year and next and the year after that.

New products and processes that can help to revitalize American manufacturing: We’re working with America’s other makers on that. Join us. We can always use more minds and hands.

JSNN researchers go both broad and deep with new book on nanotechnology advances and applications

Cover of nanotechnology book produced by JSNN researchersThe Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering is a collaborative enterprise by nature, with two universities contributing faculty and students.* Its researchers have extended that teamwork with a new book on nanotechnology.

Nanoscience and Nanoengineering: Advances and Applications was written by researchers in both disciplines at the school and a small number of collaborators at other institutions. It was edited by the school’s leadership — Dr. Ajit D. Kelkar, chairman of the Department of Nanoengineering; Dr. Daniel J.C. Herr, chairman  of the Department of Nanosciences; and Dr. James G. Ryan, founding dean of the school.

The book focuses on emerging areas of nanotechnology. “To show the true interdisciplinary nature of nanotechnology, the authors wanted to address the breadth of the field, from research to manufacturing, while also providing sufficient depth that the reader would gain understanding of some of the most important discoveries,” the editors write in the preface.

Topics covered include nanoelectronics, nanobio, nano medicine, nanomodeling,  nanolithography and nanofabrication, and nanosafety.

“This book is intended to be used by students and professionals alike with a goal of sparking their interest to investigate more deeply into the technological advances achieved through manipulation of atomic building blocks,” the editors write.

The book is available online from the publisher, CRC Press, for $159.95 or $111.00 for the ebook. CRC also offers ebook rentals. Amazon lists the book for $143.63.  And if you hurry, you could be Amazon’s first online reviewer.

* If you aren’t from around here or deep into the nano world, the JSNN is a research and graduate-level educational institution operated by N.C. A&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 


Nussbaum entrepreneurship center seeks big ideas: What should they do with this huge old steel mill?

Wide-angle view of the former Carolina Steel plantThe Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship is North Carolina’s biggest incubator for start-up businesses. They’ve helped a lot of entrepreneurs get on to good starts.

The center has been given a gigantic gift — the former Carolina Steel plant at 1431 South Elm-Eugene Street, not far from campus.  They’re looking for ideas about what to do with it, and if you have one (or more), they want to hear it. The center will hold three “visionary” meetings:

  • Wednesday April 23, 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday April 23, 5:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Saturday April 26, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The sessions will be held at the center’s office, 1451 South Elm-Eugene, adjacent to the former mill, now known as the Steelhouse Property. Each session will include a brief tour of the plant and a structured brainstorming session to solicit as many ideas as possible for uses of the property.

Click here to register. And think big. It’s a big place.

(h/t to Action Greensboro for passing this along)

Jazzman, Aggie alum Lou Donaldson honored

Lou Donaldson, alto saxophonist and N.C. A&T alumnus

Lou Donaldson, in a photo from his website

“Lou Donaldson has been a major force not just as a musician but also as a scout for new talent for the Blue Note label.”

Rocco Landesman, chairman, National Endowment for the Arts

 It’s a big year for one of the all-time great Aggie musicians.  This month, alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson will receive the state of North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award. Previously, he was  named a 2013 NEA Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor.

From the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources announcement of this year’s award recipients:

One of the most popular alto saxophonists to record for the famed Blue Note label, Stanly County native Lou Donaldson has played and recorded with jazz legends. He grew up in Badin, attended N.C. A&T State University, and was drafted into the Navy in 1945 where he played with the Great Lakes Navy Band. In the 1950s, several musicians were first recorded with Donaldson, including Horace Silver, Donald Byrd, and Curtis Fuller. He played with Art Blakely, Milt Jackson and Clark Terry, and on the milestone live recording, A Night at Birdland. His most successful albums are Blues Walk, Lush Life, and Alligator Bugaloo. He has toured in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and in 1996 was inducted into the International Jazz Hall of Fame, and was declared a 2013 Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts. At 85-years-old, he still plays locally in New York where he lives.

He and the five other honorees will receive their awards Tuesday October 30 at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh.

“Sweet Poppa Lou’s” very cool website is at

‘Zombie nouns’: You love them, don’t you?

Whether it’s a peer-reviewed article, a funding proposal, or a syllabus, no one reads academic writing for the fun of it. Researchers and other faculty members tend to write for each other, which is to say, for people who get paid to read each other’s stuff. And for students, who, sadly, pay dearly for the privilege.

But just because most or all of your audience is under some degree of obligation to read what you write, that doesn’t give you license to be obscure, muddy and uninspiring. If there’s anything that can beat the life out of academic writing, it’s the overuse of nominalizations.  If that’s a new word to you, don’t feel bad.  Great numbers of people probably came across it for the first time when reading The New York Times website this morning:

“Nouns formed from other parts of speech are called nominalizations. Academics love them; so do lawyers, bureaucrats and business writers. I call them ‘zombie nouns’ because they cannibalize active verbs, suck the lifeblood from adjectives and substitute abstract entities for human beings. …

“At their best, nominalizations help us express complex ideas: perception, intelligence, epistemology. At their worst, they impede clear communication. I have seen academic colleagues become so enchanted by zombie nouns like heteronormativity and interpellation that they forget how ordinary people speak. Their students, in turn, absorb the dangerous message that people who use big words are smarter – or at least appear to be – than those who don’t.

Isn’t it great to be lumped together with lawyers, bureaucrats and zombies? By the way, I added the emphasis at the end, partly because it’s a good point and partly because some of us probably picked up the same idea the same way when we were students.

Writing is hard, and not just for you — it’s hard for everyone who cares about doing it well.  We can all use as much good advice as we can get. And this Times column qualifies.

30 freshman innovators, 13 fresh innovations: The N.C. A&T Freshman Innovation Challenge

Ask N.C. A&T freshmen for their ideas about new or better products to make a difference in the world, and these are some of the answers you get: a chemical bar-code system for tracking firearms, an iron that applies starch while you iron, and a hydraulic system to keep tractor-trailers from jackknifing.

And, best of all, according to a panel of six judges, a combination wristwatch and personal digital assistant to help students manage their time more effectively.

These bright ideas were among 13 submitted by teams competing in the university’s first Freshman Innovation Challenge.  A total of 30 students participated.  The Division of Research and Economic Development invited 2011-12 freshmen to develop an idea for making a difference in the world. The judges rated the submissions on the basis of originality, practicality, benefits of the innovation, and quality of the poster presentation.  All of the teams were invited to present posters on their proposed inventions at the Colors of Innovation event held this week at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

The winning entry was the iWatch, developed by Kelyn Greene and Faris Matar.

The problem: “One problem we are seeking to solve is the lack of consistency most college students have when working to balance schoolwork with social factors and many other aspects of the college experience.  Some students oversleep and miss classes, and others do not know how to manage their time properly. We all procrastinate at some point, and the iWatch would help that slacker of a student get his or her head on track.”

The solution: The iWatch is envisioned as a watch with a digital touchscreen and personal assistant software that would preset alarms for 20 minutes before every class and an hour before the student’s first class of the day.  After a certain amount of time the snooze function would no longer be an option. A USB port would be used to download schedule information.  “The software plans out your day with designated homework, study times, downtimes, time to eat, etc.  This reduces stress and organizes a student so he/she isn’t overwhelmed with the great load of work he or she is faced with.”

The result: The iWatch would help students manage their time properly. “He or she will be more resistant to the possible stress, pressure and negativity that may come his or her way.” Fewer students would drop out, and more would enter the work force.  A global market is anticipated.

Greene and Faris will share a $500 award.  The second-place finishers, Jordan Maness and Catherine Miller, will split $300 for the firearm tracking system.  Third-place finishers Jawari Boyd and Saeed Jones received $200 for the anti-jackknifing system for trucks.  The fourth-place award of $100 went to Lauren Pearson, Ambrose Wallace, and Naeem Gibson for the “Pressed and Neat” iron.

The winning teams will be matched with faculty mentors to further develop their ideas.

The iWatch has already caught the eye of renowned inventor and engineer Lonnie Johnson, keynote speaker for Colors of Innovation.  He asked the university to keep him posted on the iWatch team’s progress. Johnson holds more than 100 patents. He is a nuclear and mechanical engineer, formerly with NASA and the U.S. Air Force.  He is best known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun.

WNAA: Whitney & the state of the music industry

Something a little different for a Friday morning: WNAA-FM looks at the death of Whitney Houston and the state of the recording industry through interviews with a record executive and a radio programmer.  The interviewers are Dwayne Wickham, director of the A&T Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies, and Felicia Lawrence, a senior journalism and mass communications major. The 30-minute program will be on the air at 10 a.m. today (Eastern Standard Time). It’s available anytime online through the A&T Register website.

“Conceptual inconsistency” twisting hip hop

Fifteen years after Tupac Shakur’s death, “we’ve seen the industry manufacture a new type of rapper,” says Dr. Brian Sims, assistant professor of psychology.  Meek Mills, Rick Ross, DMX and others are trying to embrace both of the opposing ideologies of assimilation and nationalism while invoking the names of Tupac, Malcolm X, Huey Newton and other historic leaders.  And Sims is calling them out.   Who better to do it: Among the courses he teaches is Psychology 510: Psychological Perspectives in Hip Hop.  Click here to read his incendiary commentary on the HipHopDX website.  It’s stirring up reactions (190 comments as of this morning).

“Shamelessly claiming to represent what Tupac represented may seem ignorant and reckless; but in fact it is strategic. When people like Tupac Shakur die, the system that they fought always swallows-up that fight, and then, over time, convinces those of us who weren’t there to see it first-hand that there was no fight in the first place. The resistance value of authentic Black thought is thus ultimately sanitized and reduced to a mere spoke in the American wheel of imperialism.”