Horizons End

I have greatly enjoyed my time here in Abu Dhabi. There are definitely many new buildings and opportunities arising out of this desert, changing and creating new horizons. It is amazing how much the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have grown in just a few decades of time. From small desert outposts to growing international communities. There are people working and living in Abu Dhabi from every known corner of the world. It has been wonderful to spend time learning from and talking to people from other places and other cultures. As much as I have enjoyed seeing and learning about the architecture and structures in the UAE, it is the people I met here that I will miss the most.

Kalifa Port End

Although figuratively for me since, it is also nearing the end of my trip here to the UAE. This is the end of Abu Dhabi Island. Literally, these rocks prevent the sand from eroding away at the end of the Khalifa Port. They also provide a beautiful view for sitting down and looking out at the Arabian Gulf.

As it is with most journeys then end of one, is also the beginning of another. There will be more horizons waiting back in the USA.


UAE Pavilion from Shanghai Expo 2010

The UAE was the first gulf nation to present a pavilion at Venis Biennale. This design built in Shanghai in 2010 rises and falls like a sand dune oriented along the wind. The passive solar space was designed by Foster + Partners. After the Expo the pavilion was moved to a new development and cultural center being built on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. When construction finishes, this district will including museums such as the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Although the interior of the pavilion is not open to visitors, except during an annual local arts fair, I was able to see the exterior of this wonderful design.
For more info on the pavilion: http://uaepavilion.org/uaepav/about-national-pavilion-of-the-uae/

http://www.fosterandpartners.com/news/archive/2009/04/the-uae-pavilion-at-shanghai-expo-2010-breaks-ground/

National Pavilion UAE
For information and plans on other Saadiyat Island structures:

http://www.saadiyat.ae/en/project-update.html


Beware of Mountain Lions

photo 1 (4)

The sunset from Poly Mountain in San Luis Obispo, Ca.

To everybody who plans on visiting California…WARNING: mountain lions, wild turkeys, rattle snakes, and bears roam these seemingly innocuous golden hills and luscious valleys.  How these mountains paralyze you with their captivating beauty while simultaneously feeding you with spontaneity and adrenaline!  They just plead for you to frolic through them like a baby deer without a worry.  In a place like this, it’s hard to think that anything could hurt you.  My mom always nagged me about “being aware of my surroundings” when I was growing up, and clearly I never listened…

My favorite way to start my day here at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, Ca is to run through the valley trails like in the picture above.  One morning this week, on the trail about 50 feet in front of me, I saw an oversized gray cat trotting along.  I thought, “Oh, that must be a mountain lion cub or something! Neat!” and proceeded to run past the brush that it jumped into, wondering if its mama was in there.  It wasn’t until later that day, when I mentioned the baby mountain lion siting, that my roommates made me realize how dumb I had been.  They said, “Didn’t you read the warning sign at the trailhead!?” Obviously not, because the last thing you are supposed to do when you see a mountain lion is run, since it may mistake you as prey.  You’re supposed to a) turn around or b) make a lot of noise and seem threatening like a predator.  I’m pretty lucky that mama lion didn’t decide to chase me for running towards her cub.  In Delaware County Pennsylvania, when we hike in the woods, all we have to worry about are deer ticks! 

Moral of the story, always be aware of your surroundings and take the time to read signs, especially when you’re some place new.   


Al Bahr Towers – Gulf Facades

The Al Bahr Towers have a wonderful façade design for the climate here in Abu Dhabi. Designed by Aedas Architects and Arup Engineers worked together to design a folding active geometric patterned façade that actively moves throughout the day to block the sun from having a harsh direct impact on the building, but allowing a wonderful view out the windows when the sun is at an acceptable angle. I have had the opportunity to drive past these towers during different times of the day. Although unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good photo of it several times. I also learned that here in the Gulf region it is rather common for the architect to come up with a general façade concept and the sub contract out the actual technical design of the final façade. I don’t know how that worked for the Al Bahr Towers, but for many of the building surfaces here the facades can be quite complex.

Al Bahar Towers

Check out http://inhabitat.com/abu-dhabis-stunning-al-behar-towers-are-shaded-by-a-transforming-geometric-facade/ for more great info on the Al Bahr Towers.


Wicked

Wicked

Hi everyone!

Hope you’re all enjoying these few beautiful days. I always love it after a thunderstorm, all the humidity goes away. I’m currently writing this piece in the little patio between the library and STEPS building, absolutely amazing today.

As I’ve written in an earlier post, I’m involved with the Engineering Co-Op Program. The Co-Op program is a internship based program; students have the opportunity to work with a company in their junior fall semester and the summer between their junior and senior year. However, in order to graduate in time, students are required to take the fall classes they would miss during the summer between their sophomore and junior year.

WickedClasses are definitely difficult. This is made harder for me especially because many of my housemates and friends are on campus doing research, which means that they are done at 5pm. While I’m trying hard to study for my soil mechanics exam, they are busy distracting me with Mario Karts. Luckily, the Engineering Co-Op Program understand the troubles of a summer student and they offer many other activities and trips we can be involved with. In May, we were offered a trip to Hershey Park (which unfortunately I could not attend because of a lab session I needed to participate in). Last week, twenty-some of us traveled to New York City to watch the Broadway show, Wicked.

No spoilers here. Wicked is essentially a side story to the Wizard of Oz. In the Wizard of Oz, the main character, Dorothy Gale, is sent to the Land of Oz in a tornado. In her efforts to return home via the wizard, Dorothy is seen to be tormented by the Wicked Witch of the West. In Wicked, the twist is that the “Wicked” Witch of the West is actually a good and passionate woman who is misunderstood by society. The story in the Wizard of Oz is told from the perspective of society, who sees the witch as murderous, crafty, and wicked. In Wicked, the witch, Elphaba, was shown to born to a normal set of parents, however, the witch was born anything BUT normal. As a green child, Elphaba was shunned by peers, adults, and eventually society.

I won’t spoil it for you in case you’ve never actually seen the show (or read the plot). Absolutely amazing, I cannot wait for my next Broadway trip!

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2014-07-11 19.39.24


Using Plants to Do Our Dirty Work

Here at Cal Poly, my research lab is the greenhouse.

IMG_2409

I am part of a project that studies the mechanisms and effectiveness of phytoremediation.  If you’re an environmental engineer, you’ve definitely heard of environmental remediation, which is the term for cleaning up contaminants in the air, water, and soil.  There are several types of environmental remediation: bioremediation, natural attenuation, and phytoremediation.  The latter stands for using plants to remediate soil, air, and/or water contaminants.

Here’s a quick science lesson.  Keep reading, I promise it’s actually really cool!  A contaminant can be remediated by a plant in 5 general ways:

Phytoremediation-01

(Photo Credit: Institute for Green Energy & Clean Environment)

Phytostabilization–the plant reduces the bioavailability of the contaminant in the soil

Phytostimulation–the plant stimulates microbes in the surrounding soil that break down or alter the contaminant, making it less harmful

Phytoextraction–the plant absorbs the chemical through its roots or shoots and sequesters it

Phytodegradation–the plant absorbs the chemical and then oxidizes or reduces it to a less harmful form

Phytovolatilization–the plant absorbs the chemical, possibly alters it in its roots, shoots, or foliage, and then emits it into the air in gas form

My focus this summer is to figure out which contaminants the plants volatilize.  They are grown in soil containing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), dioxins, TPH (total petroleum hydrocarbons), PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and some heavy metals like mercury.  Therefore, we have to wear gloves when taking samples and touching the plants.  The concentrations are not high enough to hurt you unless you “eat the soil”, as my advisor Dr. Nelson put it.  I was sad to hear that no, we do not have to wear classic Breaking Bad Hazmat suits as part of our lab attire.

Here in San Luis Obispo, California, there are a lot of outdoorsy things to do.  If you walk off campus in any direction, you’re bound to encounter a mountain beckoning you to follow its steep and winding path to its peak.  My roommates and I somehow ended up at the top of Bishop’s Peak, overlooking our little city:

IMG_2549 IMG_2546


UAE Water

Water usage and water conservation are hot topics for a country built mostly in a desert. The tap water that is available throughout the country is mostly from desalinated salt water. The tap water can be used for irrigation, cleaning things, and swimming pools. However it is not clean enough for drinking. Everyone drinks from bottled water. Either smaller 0.5 – 1.5 L bottles or larger ~ 5 gallon jugs like you would see in some offices in the United States. I have also noticed that several restaurants that are nationally themed like French or Italian will import the water that they server you from that country. I suppose that might make it seem more authentic, but really I cant taste the difference between the water bottled in Al Ain, UAE or imported from elsewhere. With everyone needing an average of 2L of water per day, that adds up to a lot of plastic bottles over the course of my stay here.


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