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Research / Discovery

NOVA shows how CSU is 'Making Stuff Safer'

October 30, 2013

In August, a NOVA TV production crew filmed not one but two Colorado State University research projects. The episode,"Making Stuff Safer" with host David Pogue, is set to air on PBS stations nationwide on Nov. 6. Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver will carry it at 8 p.m.

In August, a NOVA TV production crew filmed not one but two Colorado State University research projects. The special episode, “Making Stuff Safer” with host David Pogue, is set to air on PBS stations nationwide on Nov. 6. Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver will carry it at 8 p.m.

"Making Stuff Safer" explores the cutting-edge research of scientists and engineers who want to keep us out of harm’s way, including June Medford and John van de Lindt of CSU.

First, a crew spent a day on campus in Medford’s Biology lab in the Anatomy and Zoology Building exploring how plants can be engineered to warn of possibly lethal contaminants in the air. The producers were interested in Medford’s research that will provide inexpensive and widespread detectors that enable ordinary people to know if their air and water is clean or if there are dangerous substances nearby, such as bombs in airports, shopping centers, or sports arenas. 

"The filming took about two days and was great fun," Medford said. "David Pogue is extremely bright and seems to 'play dumb' on camera asking very basic questions to make the show interesting to everyone. The producers were from Hollywood and very professional."

Earthquake retrofits

Then the producers and technicians caught up with Structural Engineering professor van de Lindt in San Diego, where he was testing earthquake retrofit systems for buildings with “weak and soft” first stories – for example, ground-floor parking. Van de Lindt and his collaborators from other universities and industry spent two months agitating a full-scale, four-story building on the shake table at the University of San Diego, to measure which systems best minimize damage during tremblors of various intensities.

"I enjoyed working with the film crew," van de Lindt said. "Since the special is for a wide and general audience, it forced me to think about how we can better explain the dangers of these types of buildings to society."

Van de Lindt and collaborators just finished a second phase of what is known as the NEES-Soft project at the University of Buffalo this week.

"As a result of this testing and the NEES-Soft project as a whole, more is known about the behavior, collapse mechanisms, and methods of retrofit for buildings in earthquake-prone areas," he said. "Ultimately this will save lives in these types of at-risk buildings and communities around the U.S. and world."

View the episode online after it airs.