12/23/08

An Innovative Approach to Weight-loss

Fad diets and weight loss plans evolve every year, but the main premise is always the same. They all claim to be weight loss programs that actually work.

Yet, a recent Johns Hopkins study suggests that 86% of Americans could be overweight by 2030.

So why aren't these fads working for more people?

It seems losing weight isn't always enough motivation. Instead, many people place more emphasis on instant gratifications, such as the enjoyment of eating.

A new study conducted by Carnegie Mellon Professor George Loewenstein and University of Pennsylvania Professor Kevin Volpp introduced another kind of instant gratification into their weight loss program -- money. The study found that dieters lost more weight when cash incentives were part of the plan.

The study placed adult dieters into three groups:
  • Dieters who entered a daily lottery, but only won money if they reached their target weight levels;
  • Dieters who invested their own money, but lost it if they didn't meet their goals; and
  • Dieters with no monetary incentive at all.
The goal for all dieters was to lose a pound a week for over 16 weeks.

The results?

The mean weight loss for both incentive groups was more than 13 pounds, with about half of the participants reaching the 16-pound goal. But the mean weight loss for the control group was only 4 pounds.

In addition to losing weight, both incentive groups earned money for their efforts. On average, the lottery group earned $272 and the investment group earned $378.

"The key to successful weight loss, whether you use money rewards or not, is to weigh yourself every day and to have daily weight targets that decrease each day by a tiny amount," said Loewenstein. "If you have a larger weekly target, you'll wait to the end of the week to start dieting seriously, and it's awfully difficult to lose a lot of weight in a single day."

So if you're having trouble counting calories, perhaps you'll have better luck counting dollars instead.

12/19/08

Going green with LEED buildings

"Going Green" isn't just a trendy phase. It's our future.

Individuals and organizations, alike, are becoming more environmentally aware. But Carnegie Mellon is ahead of the curve.

How?

For starters, meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria on all new construction projects has been a university priority since 2000.

Since then, seven buildings on campus have received LEED certification.

Most recent is the Carnegie Mellon Café, a campus dining facility formerly known as Highlander Cafeteria.

The café received a Gold LEED certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council for its energy efficiency, sustainability and use of green design principles.

Renovations to the café utilized a variety of green design strategies, including the use of sustainable materials, improving the interior air quality, making energy efficiency enhancements, providing greater access to daylight and views, and upgrading the building's overall systems.

For example, the Carnegie Mellon Café now uses "smarter" energy systems. The second-floor lights use motion sensors to turn on only when somebody is there. Similarly, the first-floor sensors monitor the amount of natural daylight in the room and adjust the artificial lights accordingly.

LEED's rating system for new construction and major renovations awards points based on how the design, construction, operation and management meet specific environmental standards. Depending on points earned, buildings can achieve a certified, silver, gold or platinum status.

Other LEED certified buildings on campus include: 300 and 407 South Craig Street (2007), the Collaborative Innovation Center (2006), Posner Center (2005), the Henderson House (2004) and the Stever House (2003).

And constructing LEED certified buildings is just one of the many ways Carnegie Mellon achieves excellence in energy and environmental sustainability.

12/12/08

It’s a reality

Today, much of reality television is plagued with the idea of scripted lines and over-the-top drama. But at the Waffle Shop in East Liberty, reality TV is the reality.

Customers discuss a variety of topics while they simultaneously enjoy a waffle or cup of coffee. And it’s all captured on film. The concept is providing customers with good food and five minutes of fame.

"Obviously it's an unfamiliar combination,” John Rubin, associate professor in the School of Art, told the Pittsburgh City Paper.

But for the students in his Contextual Practice course, it’s all in a day’s – or in this case, night’s – work. Waffle Shop: A Reality Show – the students’ semester project – is open from 10 p.m. until 3 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

“Each semester, we rent a storefront and students create projects that respond to the surrounding context,” Rubin told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “We start from scratch and look around at the neighborhood, the history of the storefront, the types of people who are walking by or live in the community.”

The next step is for students to choose what to make the storefront. In this case students decided to combine two ideas – a waffle shop with a reality show.

Every night, students film customers who agree to be a part of the reality show. Then students produce a 2-3 minute episode from the footage collected over a couple of nights.

Past episodes play for the public on a TV screen in the Waffle Shop window. And soon they’ll also be available online.

It’s artistic inquiry alright.

But it’s not just art students who are involved. The academic backgrounds of these students include: art, drama, design, architecture, computer science and engineering, proving another example of how Carnegie Mellon really is a place where the left and right brain unite to make innovations with impact.

12/3/08

Innovations in Public Transportation

Every day billions of people across the country benefit from mass transit. Not only is it a smart choice given the current economic downturn – it’s also a great way for people to reduce their carbon footprint.

But for many, using public transportation isn’t a reality.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon want to change that. So they’re collaborating with the University of Buffalo on a project to make public transportation more accessible for everybody.

How? By combining computer science technology and the principles of universal design.

The team will use advances in machine learning to develop software that can assist riders in reaching their destinations. They’ll also focus on the interior design of and access to the Pittsburgh buses.

By partnering with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) in Buffalo and the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, they’ll be able to collect input from transit users.

The next time you step up the stairs into your vehicle or read the route map posted inside, remember that with your support, our researchers are behind innovations making public transportation a reality for all riders.

11/25/08

Staying inspired

Wondering what kind of innovations Carnegie Mellon student, faculty and alumni are coming up with every day? Here are a few ways to stay updated:

11/14/08

A day to remember


November 15 is a day of great importance in Carnegie Mellon's history. It was on this day, 108 years ago at a banquet in Pittsburgh’s Hotel Schenley, that Andrew Carnegie founded the university.

The steel magnate addressed his guests, the mayor of Pittsburgh and other leaders, and articulated his long desire to establish a technical institute in the city. As he concluded his presentation, he gave his famous assurance: “my heart is in the work.”

More than a century later, we remember Carnegie’s generous gift and reflect on the power that one act of giving can have on so many lives.

As we celebrate the progress of the Inspire Innovation campaign, we honor the gift that started it all — as well as the many more gifts it has since inspired.

11/7/08

For your viewing pleasure

Check out these new videos offering perspectives on Carnegie Mellon from the faculty, alumni, students and friends who know it best.

  • Our Unique Culture [.mp4]
  • Leaders of the Future [.mp4]
  • Impact of Giving [.mp4]
  • 10/30/08

    Call it human endowment

    As the Billy Price Band was wrapping up their set and the pyrotechnic display was just about to begin on Friday night, I was walking through the tent that had just played host to the public launch of Inspire Innovation, The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University.

    An alumnus stopped me and said, "Having this kickoff during Homecoming with everyone from campus invited was fabulous. I cannot tell you what it meant to come back to campus and see the whole university celebrating an event. The throngs of students alone made my day."

    I had heard similar comments from faculty, returning alumni and students during the evening – and I must admit, the reaction was what we were hoping for.

    This campaign is about bringing together the extended Carnegie Mellon community – faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and friends, to rally around and support the wonder of what this university is and what it is to become.

    Yes, it's about growing the financial endowment, but it's also about making every stakeholder in the university a true partner - informed, involved and an advocate for who we are.

    Call it human endowment.

    Although we each bring our individual experiences from working here or studying here, we all share a sense of pride and amazement of what we have accomplished and how the value of the university to the world has been enhanced.

    We hope the campaign to be transparent to you as we share our challenges and successes. We hope this campaign is your campaign and we thank you for your involvement.

    10/28/08

    Where everybody knows your name ...

    Wondering what this campaign is all about? This 7-minute video provides a great overview. And it's narrated by Carnegie Mellon alum Ted Danson.

    10/27/08

    Photos from Friday's big kick-off

    The kickoff event last Friday was fantastic. Thanks to everyone for coming out and celebrating Carnegie Mellon's success and our future. For those folks who weren't able to make it, we posted a slideshow of highlights on our website. Check it out.

    10/23/08

    Come on in, there's room for the whole family...


    So, lots of people are wondering what that huge tent in the middle of campus is all about.

    Cars are slowing down on Forbes. Students are circling it. Alumni are taking pictures.

    We took a few snapshots ourselves.

    It's an impressive site. It's also home to what's going to be one great event -- Celebrate Our Future: Carnegie Mellon's Campaign Kick-Off.

    There will be live music -- all with some kind of Carnegie Mellon connection. Celebrity emcees. Even pyrotechnics (see previous post).

    We'll be posting updates after the event. But really, if you're in town and you are worried there's not going to be enough room, rest assured -- there's plenty of room.

    Check out this other photo for scale. Take a closer look. See the arrow? See the van?

    So come on down! There's room and we'd love to have you join us. It's a chance for the Carnegie Mellon community to come together and celebrate how far we've come -- and how far we will go in the future.

    B there! Oct. 24. Doors open 7:30 p.m. on the CFA lawn. Festivities start at 8 p.m.

    10/22/08

    Meet a Super-Villain

    Ever wonder what it's like to play a super-villain having a change of heart? Or an aspiring author working at a 1960s ad agency? Here's your chance to ask the experts.

    Carnegie Mellon alums Zachary Quinto (also known as the spooky Sylar on NBC's Heroes) and Aaron Staton (the flirtatious Ken Cosgrove on AMC's Mad Men), will be joining us for an event already causing quite a bit of buzz on campus.

    Celebrate Our Future: Carnegie Mellon's Campaign Kick-Off will start Friday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m. on the CFA lawn.

    This FREE event will also feature:
    • Live bands ... all with a Carnegie Mellon connection.
    • Refreshments ... think autumn harvest snacks ... apples, caramel, marshmallows, mmmm...
    • Even pyrotechnics ... don't worry, this will be handled by professionals, not entrepreneurial chem students ... and no, you can't roast your marshmallows with 'em.
    For more details on the event, check out www.cmu.edu/bthere.