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If Micah Lande has his way, you’d close this story and go dig in some dirt.
Lande, an assistant professor of engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, would like you to heat your soil sample, weigh it, and report your findings to SciStarter, an Arizona State University research affiliate that relies on people like you and me to serve as foot soldiers on the front lines of science.
It’s called “citizen science,” a movement that equips the general public to collaborate with professional scientists on research projects. Measuring soil moisture levels is one of hundreds of projects found on SciStarter, co-founded by Lande collaborator Darlene Cavalier, a professor of practice in ASU’s new School for the Future of Innovation in Society.
Lande brings an engineer’s perspective to citizen science. Also an avid advocate for the “maker” movement, Lande’s academic focus is on equipping tinkerers, inventors, and ASU engineering students to design and build the tools they need to do science or solve problems that arise in our everyday lives.
He shared his populist passion for science and “making” last summer at the Citizen Science Maker Summit at the Chandler Innovation Center, where he and Cavalier ran sessions on producing low-cost data-gathering instruments that adhere to scientific protocols.
Lande’s creative energy landed him a prized Tooker Professorship in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Established by ASU engineering alum and former CEO of Motorola Gary Tooker and his wife, Diane, the professorship is a one- to two-year award for faculty with innovative ideas on how to increase engineering student retention, create a more rewarding learning experience, or give students a competitive edge in the job market.
Lande says the professorship has enabled him to incorporate his passion for design, prototyping, making, and entrepreneurship into
his Fulton curricula and within
He was able to expand his annual Art of Invention summer camp, which draws 120 middle and high school students for design thinking, creative problem solving, and, maybe, dirt digging. “We give them some ideas and tell them you can dive in and get your hands dirty,” Lande says. “It’s remarkable in a short amount of time how middle and high school students can innovate and create.”
Follow Micah Lande on Twitter @micahlande