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ASU pursuing deeper veterans' wellness engagement

April 25, 2019

Symposium brings together community stakeholders, ASU staff and faculty to investigate how to better serve veterans

Arizona State University representatives from across campuses attended a symposium April 17–18 in Phoenix to gain insight into the veteran space, network with local and military veteran community leaders and gather ideas on how the university can help further.

ASU was a key sponsor of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families' 10th annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and Their Families — a highly attended event that included White House representation and a national Department of Veterans Affairs lead.

The coalition serves as the programmatic arm for the Arizona Department of Veteran Services. 

“These are significant times as we look to improve the quality of life of every veteran in Arizona,” said ASU alumna Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services and a retired Air Force colonel.

Due to the Arizona Coalition for Military Families and the collective efforts of many other groups to support veterans, Arizona is unique.

“This kind of work does not happen in most other states,” Wright said. “We are unusual in the way we are able to work together to influence the veteran echo system to manifest goodness for servicemembers, veterans and their families.”

ASU’s interest in the veteran echo system is twofold, supporting student veterans on campus and those out in the communities, plus driving innovative research and curriculum opportunities. The school’s military-affiliated student population grows each year, and currently hovers at well over 8,000 with continued growth expected. The university also owns comprehensive tools and resources to socially embed with public agencies that are on the front lines of veteran/military support.

One of ASU’s colleges with a significant number of student veterans is the College of Health Solutions. The college is aware of the unique challenges veterans face when they transition out of the military and onto campus. Its counselors, some of whom are also veterans, are there to assist.  

“We are trying to understand the veteran experience,” symposium attendee and College of Health Solutions Dean Deborah Helitzer said. “And how their education at the College of Health Solutions can be enhanced by thinking about their situation from a more holistic perspective. We recognize that the veteran students come from a team environment to the university where they are individual learners. We believe our collaborative, experiential approach to education will be effective for veterans who are interested in careers in health.”

The college engaged with the VA to look at different areas where new collaboration may be possible, the dean said. Both ASU’s College of Heath Solutions and Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation participated in strategic working sessions with the Phoenix VA Medical Center in January.

One of the key Arizona Coalition for Military Families programs College of Health Solutions faculty and students are engaged in is “Be Connected.” Launched in 2017, Be Connected is a collaboration between public and private stakeholders in Arizona aiming toward “upstream” suicide prevention in the veteran community.

“Right now Be Connected is a responsive model,” said Nicola Winkle, coalition project director. “You call, the team answers. You need help, it is provided. What we’ll be adding to complement this responsive approach is a proactive approach where we actively seek out and connect to segments of our military veteran and family population.”

Transitioning Be Connected to a proactive model requires data for focusing efforts, Winkle said. Data can prove what works, show how training and support increases intervention and reveal risk and protective factors of the military population. It can also help identify vulnerable populations within veteran communities with higher risk and lower protective factors.  

The symposium featured two days of programming and 11 learning tracks “all focused on increasing knowledge, skills and abilities for serving and supporting the military, veteran and family population.” The Pat Tillman Veterans Center hosted a roundtable discussion on building a veteran-supportive college campus, Veterans Upward Bound reps provided on-site resources throughout the event and ASU’s School of Social Work, a unit within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, conducted a mindfulness and meditation session.

ASU participants also included around 25 faculty and staff from ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services, Enterprise Marketing Hub, Office of Government and Community Engagement, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Office of the President, Flag Officer Council, the Public Service Academy, and affiliate ASU Research Enterprise.

Top photo: Attendees of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families' 10th annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and Their Families mingle at the exhibitor fair in Phoenix on April 16. Photo by Jerry Gonzalez/ASU

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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Cool fashions for a hot planet

April 25, 2019

ASU engineer creating solutions for surviving desert heat with clothing styles of the past and technology of the future

In the classic science fiction novel "Dune," much of the story takes place on a harsh desert planet named Arrakis. The planet has no natural precipitation. Native inhabitants wear suits which capture all the moisture from their bodies and recycle it into drinking water.

Here on Earth, the last four years have been the hottest on record. By the year 2100, about half of the world's population is predicted to be exposed to climatic conditions exceeding deadly thresholds for at least three weeks per year. Deadly heat will become normal. In a foreshadowing of what may come, the city of Quriyat in Oman experienced a record-high 24-hour low temperature of 108.7°F last June.

When scorching Sonoran summers become not just inconvenient, but a matter of life and death, what will we wear to not only survive, but to have a good quality of life?

An Arizona State University engineering professor has been working on the fashions, and fabrics, for a hot planet.

“Cooling will become one of the key functions of clothing,” said Konrad Rykaczewski, an assistant professor at the School for the Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. “Right now we make clothes to look pretty.”

Rykaczewski draws from nature and history as well as materials science and thermal engineering in his work.

Cooling garments exist now, for firefighters and the military, and also multiple sclerosis patients, who are heat sensitive, but they tend to be heavy, or clunky or inefficient over long periods of time.

Initially Rykaczewski imagines cooling components will be concealed under clothes that look like what we wear now.

“If the global temperatures continue to soar, fashion might incorporate the cooling as a part of the new aesthetic,” he wrote in one of two papers he has published on his ideas and research. “From a thermal management point of view, such garments should not only remove more heat, but also help to maintain our core temperature by reducing the internal and external heat loads.”

Cooling garments infographic

Infographic by Safwat Saleem/Presidential Communications

Clothing like that will collect heat from the body, and then reject it. Larger areas cool down faster. That’s what large vascular elephant ears do.

“Exterior clothing components with a large area could, for example, create effective heat shields as well as heat sinks,” Rykaczewski wrote. “Such components could also create micro-climates and provide more space for a robust cooling system as well as a mechanical exoskeleton.”

In imagining clothes of the future, Rykaczewski didn’t go forward 10,000 years to the world of "Dune." He went back in time to Renaissance England and the court of the Sun KingKing Louis XIV of France.. Clothing from those periods extended far beyond the wearer’s body, like massive ruff collars, padded shoulders and sleeves, hoopskirts, bustles, crinolines, hats and wigs.

Reimagine the design and use modern materials, and some historic styles could cool much more than the tight clothes people wear now.

“Could the humble evaporative cooling bandana or towel be outperformed and replaced by an expandable, superabsorbent ruff collar which could store and evaporate considerably more water?” Rykaczewski wrote.

Metamaterial film that reflects visible light but emits highly in infrared could be incorporated into designs. Condenser tubes could provide the support for a future hoopskirt, bustle or crinoline that would provide large heat rejection area.

Historical fashion with potential for future hot weather clothing designs

Examples of historic clothing items with large exterior surface area whose format could be reimagined and reengineered to develop novel cooling garments. Highlighted in blue are (a) a ruff collar, (b) a calash bonnet, and a (c) cutaway sketch of a cage-crinoline underskirt.

“Our social adaptation will have to involve the broad use of personal cooling garments and contemplate on what the ‘cool future fashion’ might look like,” Rykaczewski said.

Since moving to Arizona six years ago, he has been intrigued with the desert, having only lived in temperate climates. “I’ve lived all over the East Coast and in Europe, but this is very different,” he said. “I like Arizona. I like the desert.”

The father of two small children, he started wondering about their future in the Southwest. “Can my children stay here? Is that possible over the next several generations? What will it look like?”

Rykaczewski is not only thinking about fashion for a hot world. He has also been designing materials for them. A thermal engineer, for the last few years he has worked on thermal management of electronics, putting partially liquid, partially solid particles of gallium-based liquid metal into silicone.

“When you put the liquid metal in, when you have the right size of droplet … the droplets will stretch,” he said. When the liquid metal is in the silicone and you stretch it out, the liquid metal droplets change shape from a sphere to a cylinder.

“And there is no impact on the mechanical properties of the material,” he said. “All of a sudden we have materials that can conduct (heat) almost like steel, but they can feel as soft as your skin.”

His temperature-regulating fabric is made from the material, but embedded with tubes that can be filled with circulating liquid. A roughly 4x10 inch sample contains about 15 feet of tubing.

The material is thermally conductive and contains tubes that can be filled with liquid.

A roughly 4x10 inch sample contains about 15 feet of tubing. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Rykaczewski has a “small army” of PhD candidates working to enhance the material even further: Praveen Kotagama, Akshay Phadnis and Chad Manning.

“My group is developing these materials,” Rykaczewski said. “How can we use them for augmenting performance of thermal systems with the aspect that they can deform, that they can change shape as they operate? It turns out no one even knows how to design it. … There’s a lot of potential.”

Top photo: Assistant Professor Konrad Rykaczewski is leading the development of a temperature-regulating fabric created from flexible silicon and aluminum particles. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now