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U of M team wins DOE challenge

“Team OptiMN,” a group of 14 undergraduate and grad students at the University of Minnesota with diverse majors (including building science, sustainable design, construction management and business), was the Grand Award Winner of The Department of Energy’s second annual "Race to Zero" Student Design Competition. The team won for its design of the OptiMN Impact Home in North Minneapolis.

Teams competing in the “Race to Zero” challenge were asked to design cost-effective zero-energy-ready homes for mainstream builders, according to a press release announcing the award, adding that, "The winning design uses high-performance features that sharply reduce energy use, and allow for most of the remaining energy use to be offset with renewable energy." The contest is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). This year, the competition involved 33 teams from 27 universities in the U.S., Canada and China. "Along with energy-efficiency, the designed homes must be comfortable and attractive as well as affordable," the release stated.

Green Homes North, one of team OptiMN's partners, plans on building 100 energy-efficient homes in North Minneapolis in the next five years. Team OptiMN made sure the home followed their guidelines. The team also partnered with Urban Homeworks to design a high performance, affordable, flexible home. Residential Science Resources was the team's energy rater partner.

Team OptiMN’s design goals centered around meeting: the DOE’s challenge to build a zero energy ready home; Urban Homework’s mission to produce equitable, dignified communities; and Green Homes North Initiative to revitalize North Minneapolis neighborhoods with affordable, sustainable and quality homes.


MSP top metro for innovatively solving urban issues

Minneapolis-St. Paul was recently named one of the top 10 innovative cities in the U.S. by CNN Money.

"From technology and infrastructure, to job creation and sustainability," the article stated, the cities included are "leading the pack when it comes to creatively solving urban issues."

About MSP, the article stated, "June saw the opening of a new light rail line between Minneapolis and St. Paul. Experts from around the country praised it as an example of transportation infrastructure done right -- it integrated the needs of the affected communities and used the new line to drive economic development."

The Twin Cities were also selected as "early adopters of programs to help immigrants start businesses, artists buy real estate, and enlist local execs in solving community problems. The Cities also get high marks for their public health efforts, including smoking cessation programs, cancer screening and efforts to create walkable communities."

Saint Paul artist Chris Larson selected for 2013 Whitney Biennial

Until now, Saint Paul artist Chris Larson was best known nationally for his entry in Northern Spark last summer: a full-scale model of a Saint Paul house designed by architect Marcel Breuer, which he burned down outside the Union Depot.

Of the spectacle, the New York Times wrote: "Mr. Larson was planning something more than an ordinary house fire. He aspired to an inferno. To this end, he had hired a company called Hollywood Pyrotechnics Inc. to string up baggies full of denatured alcohol as an accelerant. And a custom print shop had donated a few tons of scrap paper (obsolete business cards, defective wedding invitations) to stuff the shell with kindling. 'I want to burn it so fast there’s no time to mourn it,' Mr. Larson said."

Based on that work, plus Larson's other large-scale forays into construction, art, and ritual, the 2014 Whitney Biennial recently announced that Larson will be one its artists. On the Whitney website, Donna De Salvo, chief curator and deputy director for programs at the Whitney, noted that, "Together, the 103 participants offer one of the broadest and most diverse takes on art in the United States that the Whitney has offered in many years."

Larson teaches in the art department at the University of Minnesota. His specialities are scultpure, film/video, and performance installations. More of his work can be viewed on the Magnus Muller website.

Source: Whitney Biennial website

Two local restaurants make Open Table's top 100 list of restaurants for last year

Open Table, the restaurant reservation website, recently put together a list of its top 100 picks for dining out across the country.

The Capital Grille in downtown Minneapolis and Restaurant Alma in the city’s Marcy-Holmes neighborhood both made the list, beating out thousands of other restaurants.

“Out of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 15,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, these outstanding restaurants are the top 100 'Best Overall' restaurants in the nation for 2012,” an Open Table posting reads.

Indiana newspaper highlights University of Minnesota "meat lab" program

The Republic, a newspaper out of Columbus, Indiana, recently reported on the University of Minnesota's meat lab, which teaches students to harvest, cut, package, and sell locally raised meat.
"It's part animal science, part age-old craft," the article noted. Founded in 1901, the meat lab was the first program of its kind in the nation.
Faculty adviser Dr. Ryan Cox added that the all-around butcher doesn't seem to exist anymore, and the meat lab's intent is to give students that more traditional view of the meat industry.
One student stated that thanks to the program he knows all the steps in the process, from raising a newborn calf all the way to selling the meat in a store. He says, "It just gives you a better idea where that meat is going and how it's used."

Bell Museum's Alaska�s Wildlife Refuge exhibit noted in Washington Post

The Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota made the the Washington Post with its upcoming exhibit on Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

An Associated Press article notes the exhibit, called "Arctic Sanctuary: Our Collective Refuge," which opens June 25 and runs through Sept. 4.

The exhibit features large-format photographs and text by wilderness landscape photographer Jeff Jones and writer Laurie Hoyle, according to the article.

Their book, "Arctic Sanctuary: Images of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," commemorates the 50th anniversary of the creation of the refuge.

LA Times: Owl City a long way from first gig in Dinkytown

In his interview with Reuters' Mikael Wood, Owl City's Adam Young recalls first gig at the Varsity Club in Dinkytown. ""I'm standing backstage before I go on, just so terrified," the Owatonna native tells Wood in a May 24 article in the LA Times.

Little more than two years later, the butterflies are gone, and Owl City's major-label debut "All Things Bright and Beautiful" is due out June 14 on the Universal Republic label.

The band will kick off a six-week tour this summer that includes a St. Paul date--July 30 at Roy Wilkins--but no Varsity Club show.

U of M researchers closer to making renewable petroleum

The April 1 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry publishes University of Minnesota researchers' step toward making renewable petroleum fuels using bacteria, sunlight and dioxide.

Janice Frias, who earned her doctorate in January, successfully used a protein to transform fatty acids produced by the bacteria into ketones, which can be cracked to make hydrocarbon fuels, according to a press release.

The university is filing patents on the process.

The research is funded by a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-energy (ARPA-e) program. The U of M proposal was one of only 37 selected from 3,700 applicants for the grant.

'This Old House': Prospect Park is best neighborhood for old houses

'This Old House' recently declared that Minneapolis's Prospect Park neighborhood is the best for those in the market for old houses locally, according to a Star Tribune story.

It notes that other neighborhoods that are rich in historic homes, such as Lowry Hill in Minneapolis and Summit Hill in St. Paul, were bypassed by the program.

The story quotes 'This Old House,' saying, "It's common to find a fully restored 2,000-square-foot home built around the turn of the century for less than $400,000," the magazine noted. "Bargain hunters may find deals as low as $150,000 for a 1,200-to 1,500-square-foot house in need of updates."

U of M student group installing wind turbines for Nicaraguan village

The Minnesota Daily reports on a University of Minnesota student group that's erecting a pair of wind turbines for a small Nicaraguan village.

Alejandro De La Mora and Josh Durand, both engineering students, were inspired by a book about wind power to start the Innovative Engineers student group. The student group traveled to the village of La Hermita last year with turbine pieces and laid the tower's foundation. They plan to return this year to finish the installation.

The village currently gets electricity from car batteries that need to be recharged in a nearby town. The wind turbine will allow them to be charged without leaving the village.

The student group plans to continue working on other renewable energy projects that can have an impact.

"If you have the ability to change the world and you want to do it," De La Mora tells the Daily, "why not do it?"

U of M spinoff BioCee include on list of top solar-biofuel projects

A Minneapolis startup was spotlighted this week as one of the most promising solar-biofuels projects.

BioCee, a University of Minnesota spin-off we reported on earlier this month, was included this week on a list of the Top Ten Solar Biofuels Projects by Biofuels Digest, a website and newsletter.

The company is developing a method for converting sunlight, water and CO  into liquid transportation fuels. Its technology is a thin latex coating that contains living microorganisms that serve as biocatalysts.

"It is a fascinating technology, which immobilizes living, biologically active microorganisms in thin latex coatings, represent[ing] a paradigm shift in how living microorganisms are used as biocatalyst," local cleantech attorney Todd Taylor tells the publication.

Biofuels Digest says the use of solar to create biofuels is one of the most overlooked stories of the year.

White House blog shines spotlight on U of M solar car team

The University of Minnesota's solar car team, which recently placed second in the American Solar Challenge race, got a mention on a White House blog last week.

The Office of Science & Tech Policy Blog notes a recent President Obama speech about the importance of getting students excited about education, particularly in science and mathematics:

"Well, there is no better example of how to generate that kind of enthusiasm--all the while helping to make renewable-energy vehicles more practical--than the recently completed American Solar Challenge," it continues. The post includes a photo of the Minnesota team's vehicle.

Read the entire White House blog post here.

New York Times profiles MInnPost's $1.1 million online news operation

New York Times media columnist David Carr, himself a veteran of the Twin Cities media scene, takes a look at Minneapolis-based MinnPost as an example of online news experiments taking root in several cities across the country. Carr notes that MinnPost employs the equivalent of 18 full-time workers with an operating budget of $1.1 million drawn from diverse sources: advertisers, investors, members, sponsors, foundations and donors at fundraising events.

"The trends are impressive, even if the numbers sound more like a successful taco stand than a big news operation. Of course, like many other nonprofit news sites, MinnPost is taking advantage of one of the upsides of the downsides: many skilled journalists with years of expertise are on the loose and looking for a way to continue to avoid getting a real job.

"Doug Grow, a columnist at The Star Tribune for 20 years, has retired, but now finds himself filing as much as six or seven times a week for MinnPost.

"'We don't have enough staff to have any meetings, we can write with a point of view, which is wonderful, and the psychic rewards are enormous,' he said. And the money part? 'I worry about that. They haven't crossed the line in being able to sustain young reporters in the middle of their careers.'"

Read the full story here.
Source: The New York Times

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