Downtown Phoenix campus launches Urban Devil app

August 17, 2012

A new smartphone application will help students of Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus find things to do on campus and in the surrounding area.

Urban Devil, available for iPhone and Android and online, features university and student organization happenings as well as relevant events within walking distance of the campus. It also highlights special deals offered by local businesses for ASU students.  Download Full Image

“This campus has a unique culture because of its location in the heart of the nation’s sixth-largest city, which also is the Valley’s hub for business and entertainment activity,” said Liz Smith, outreach director for the downtown campus university vice provost’s office. “We wanted to showcase that uniqueness in a tool that helps downtown students navigate numerous student life opportunities.” 

The app was designed by students in the New Media Innovation Lab at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“Urban Devil will give students a one-stop shop to find all the events that are happening on the downtown campus and in the community that surrounds it,” said Rudy Rivas, a Cronkite School graduate who was part of the app’s design team. “And if you are on a budget, you can also find great deals that are made just for ASU students."

Users who log in to the app with their university ID will be able to get personalized event recommendations. The app also allows users to share events with friends through email, Twitter and Facebook.    

New Media Innovation Lab students interviewed a variety of prospective app users when determining specifications for the app.

“The Urban Devil app is designed to help answer the question ‘What's going on?’” said Retha Hill, director of the lab. “There is a lot going on in downtown Phoenix, so this app helps get students out of the rut of going to the same places.”

The free app can be downloaded from the iPhone or Android app stores. A Web version of the app is available at

Reporter , ASU Now


$3M NSF award to launch alternative energy research, PhD program

August 17, 2012

A new effort at Arizona State University to educate and train students in renewable and solar energy is receiving backing by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Through its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program, the NSF is providing $3 million to ASU to help develop a doctoral program in energy and to equip students with the skills needed to find solutions to the energy challenges of the future by establishing the IGERT Solar Utilization Network (SUN) program.  ASU Professor Willem Vermaas Download Full Image

“ASU is taking a leadership role regarding research, education and policy issues in renewable energy utilization,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “We are working at the leading edge of transforming our society from a fossil-fuel-focused energy consumer to a sustainable, renewable-energy based consumer.”

The IGERT SUN program will focus on four key research areas including biological conversion, photovoltaics, solar thermal and sustainable policy. Over a period of five years, some 24 graduate students will complete in-depth core courses in these four SUN research concentrations, as well as conduct research and interact with local, national and international sustainable energy stakeholders.

The program will provide the groundwork necessary to create an energy doctoral program by 2016, offered through ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

“At ASU, we are strong in three important areas: biological energy conversion, photovoltaics and solar thermal energy conversion,” said Willem Vermaas, Foundation Professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and lead scientist in the program. “Because we have those three, we are in a unique position to say, ‘Now let’s train students so they are not only experts in those areas, but also so they can understand the pros and cons of the various ways of creating alternative energy.’ We also need to teach them about the social, environmental and economic contexts of emerging solar technologies so societal transformation can happen,” he added.

Until the doctoral program is established, students will choose a PhD in a traditional degree program within engineering, the natural sciences, or the social sciences, with a concentration in energy. 

ASU’s goal is to attain 25 percent minority participation, effectively doubling the current levels in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields at ASU by recruiting underrepresented minority students through its existing, extensive network of mentorship relationships with minority education programs. 

“We are trying to build on people’s strengths, and develop their thinking and their understanding of this complex issue, so they can make contributions that others haven’t,” said Vermaas. “We want to teach students to use this type of broad training and knowledge of energy issues in their own unique ways to help secure energy supplies and improve conservation in the coming decades.”

“This is exactly the kind of transdisciplinary program we are committed to,” said Gary Dirks, director of LightWorks. “With our combined efforts, we can solve our grand energy challenges.”

LightWorks is a university initiative that pulls light-inspired research at ASU under one strategic framework. This effort leverages the university’s strengths, particularly in renewable energy fields including artificial photosynthesis, biofuels, and next-generation photovoltaics.

The IGERT Solar Utilization Network program begins this fall semester.

ASU’s commitment to solar

Solar energy reaching the Earth is several orders of magnitude larger than human energy consumption, and conversion of a small part of solar energy to electricity or fuels could significantly help in sustainable energy generation.

Arizona State University is a logical place for solar energy research and education. Because of its long-standing emphasis on this area starting in the 1970s, the university established the Center for the Study of Early Events in Photosynthesis (now the Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis) in 1988 and the Photovoltaics Test Laboratory in 1992.

Today, the university exceeds 15 megawatts (MW) of solar energy capacity, which is more than 20 percent of ASU’s peak load – and the most solar capacity of any university in the United States. ASU’s goal is to reach a university-wide total of 20 MW of solar energy capacity by 2014.

Sandra Leander

Manager, Media Relations and Marketing, School of Life Sciences