February 5, 2021

Duke Students: Apply Through Feb. 12 for 2021–2022 Bass Connections Projects

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

The Bass Connections program offers Duke students of all schools and levels an opportunity to collaborate on research addressing nuanced societal challenges. Guided by Duke faculty, students gain experience applying knowledge, research, and skills in interdisciplinary projects. Most project teams collaborate with partners outside Duke, including companies and government agencies.

Faculty and professionals from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Energy Access Project will be part of three Bass Connections projects during the 2021–2022 academic year. The projects (described in more detail below) will cover civic action on plastic pollution, data use, and clean energy access.

The deadline for students to apply to join a 2021–2022 team is Friday, February 12, at 5 p.m. EST.

Empowering Youth Civic Action on Plastic Pollution

This project will develop and pilot a civics curriculum for high school students with a focus on ocean plastic pollution to empower young people to make meaningful progress in this area.

Participants in this team will develop an outreach program centered around plastic pollution, building upon existing partnerships and curriculum development framework (such as HackBio). The team will draw from a variety of disciplines to develop outreach modules that engage high school students and inspire the next generation of environmental stewards to develop innovative solutions for the remediation of ocean plastic pollution.

The deliverables of the project include a pilot of the action-civics materials in Durham Public Schools, a one-week virtual boot camp with high school students, and the translation of learning into extended action over the term of a year-long civics project. This program will culminate in a hackathon that allows students to collaborate in groups and develop a local solution to ocean plastic pollution. Altogether, the Bass Connections project will lay the groundwork to expand the team’s efforts nationally as a Civic Action Project in partnership with the Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Creating Artificial Worlds with AI to Improve Energy Access Data

Members of this team will build upon the work of a 2020–2021 Bass Connections project, employing 3D modeling to represent energy infrastructure in satellite imagery, which expands the methods for generating synthetic imagery to include generative models. Team members will work to develop techniques to create realistic training data through the creation of synthetically generated data. This will contribute to the development of a labeled synthetic energy infrastructure remote sensing dataset generation tool.

The objectives of this project are application of synthetic data generations techniques, including for the generation of synthetic overhead imagery; comparison of traditional, high-effort techniques for training data collection with recent 3D modeling approaches; and sharing of this tool in an open-source format to encourage use by researchers and decision makers.

Providing Clean Fuel for the Developing World

This project team will tackle the challenges of developing, translating, and promoting new technologies that address the global problem of lack of access to clean fuels. Replacing biomass with hydrogen, which produces water vapor when burned, would help eliminate excess deaths due to indoor air pollution.

The team will develop an alkaline water electrolyzer and hydrogen storage system that can provide fuel for cooking and heating as a lower-cost alternative to electrochemical batteries, eliminating the need for a supply chain. The interface between technology and policy research is emphasized, with team members working on a literature review of studies and programs that have been established to introduce new cookstove technology. The ultimate goal is to create a system for producing, storing, and burning hydrogen in a safe and economical manner.