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Visualizing Food Scarcity. The Inworks Capstone Project Food Security Visualization

Winner of Inworks Fully Baked Award

By Alexis Mitsuhashi | January 22, 2019

I was inspired to study food deserts after watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown where he travels to Detroit and talks to local farmers who provide fresh produce to the area. It seemed unbelievable to me that there were no supermarkets in Detroit. In fact, there are approximately 18.3 million people living in food deserts in the U.S. 

I am the target text.

Supermarkets are a primary resource for healthy foods and fresh produce at prices that can be affordable to families and individuals that struggle economically. In food deserts, there are higher percentages of African Americans and Hispanics, lower educational attainment, and a higher percentage in poverty. Unfortunately, such under-served communities are often located in food deserts; these are areas where at least 33% of the population in an urban census tract lives more than one-half mile from a supermarket. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty and leads to poor eating habits and lifelong health issues.

I reached out to local organizations that work towards increasing nutritional awareness and providing healthy food options for under-served neighborhoods. Working with directors from Groundwork Denver and The Growhaus, we identified visualizations of the problem space as one way that I could help their institutions.

The three maps are an interactive visualization of the Denver area allows users to toggle on and off demographic features that are common for food deserts, a map of median incomes and supermarket locations, and an inset highlighting three communities that are particularly distant from supermarkets and which struggle financially. A final graph shows a linear regression comparing median income with number of supermarkets within 1 mile; on average, a household making $45,482 can expect zero supermarkets within one mile of their house. These maps are first prototypes of what we could be providing our neighbors, city planners and legislators. 

Inworks Synthetic-Biology Project Mettl3 Heads Work to Understand Pluripotent Stem Cells.

Winner of Inworks Zero to 60 Award

Project by Aspen Martin and Eric Lambert | January 22, 2019

On average, 610,000 Americans die every year from various forms of heart disease (CDC 2017). One approach that is being used to help patients is organ donation. This solution has proved successful in many cases, it has proved problematic in others. It can be difficult to find a donor who matches the blood type of the patient. As medically reviewed by WebMD, “At any given time, almost 3,500 to 4,000 people are waiting for a heart or heart-lung transplant. A person may wait months for a transplant and more than 25% do not live long enough to receive a new heart”. In cases where a donor has successfully been matched and integrated into the patient, there are problems with organ rejection due to a mismatch in antigen/antibody composition between the donor and patient. To alleviate the problems found in researchers are working to prefect the uses of stem cell therapy for diseased tissue replacement in individuals suffering from a plethora of tissue and organ damage. Stem cells are known to be difficult to obtain and hard to control because they must stay in a pluripotent state. The more we understand about stem cell pluripotential, the natural tendency a cell has to differentiate into different cell types, the closer we are to opening up more avenues of possible disease tissue treatment.

Our project is a small part of the RNA methylation cycle and by researching this we have the potential to understand pluripotent cells/stem cells as a whole. Without understanding how pluripotency is affected by different gene pathways, sciences ability to induce pluripotency will be hindered and slow down the potential to provide treatment. Stem cells and induced stem cells are a therapy that could affect various treatments from organ regeneration, tissue repair, and progenitor cell replacement (such as red blood cells or white blood cells).

VR Treadmill Wow'd the Expo Guest With Their Innovative VR Movement Interaction.

Winner of Inworks People's Choice Award

Project by Chris and Connor Mahon | January 22, 2019

The problem faced by many Virtual Reality users is a lack of movement immersion. This is caused by the fact that most VR systems only come with touch controllers to control movement. Leaving the user’s feet completely untracked, causing a distraction from the experience in many games. Other companies have created solutions to this, but the ones available are complex and expensive for most consumers. VR Treadmill is a 360-degree treadmill that can be used for any VR game on a PC based VR system. It increases the user’s immersion within the game.

The treadmill uses magnetic reed switches and an Arduino to output the right control to the system to achieve the goal. This allows the user to walk or run in a small physical space. Compared to other current options, VR Treadmill is significantly less expensive to create and could be available to single consumers.

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