Feature: Building on the Hawai‘i-China connection

A group of UH Mānoa School of Architecture students, under the direction of Assistant Professor Kris Palagi, participate in a design charrette.

The worldwide allure of studying architectural design and theory in foreign countries has cajoled many aspiring architects to toil in classrooms while yearning to travel and study abroad.  Now University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa students need only go as far as the front steps of the School of Architecture Building.  Drafted plans to offer a dual graduate degree in Architecture—in partnership with Tongji University’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning in Shanghai, China—will become reality in Fall 2012.

Not only may Mānoa students with a pre-professional degree in Architecture elect to participate in the three-year global track/China focus, but those successfully completing it can obtain a National Board of Architectural Education (NBAE of China) Master of Architecture degree from Tongji University, and NAAB (National Architectural Accrediting Board) Doctor of Architecture degree at Mānoa as well.

No other institutional partnership in the world offers accredited professional architectural degrees in the world’s two largest construction economies—the U.S. and China.  Said an excited Spencer Leineweber, FAIA, chair of the Architecture graduate program at Mānoa, “This innovative, timely, and empowering dual-degree track, for American students and their Chinese classmates, builds upon this School’s proud 35-year history. Also, this dual-track derives directly from the 2010 Vision Statement and Strategic Plan that identifies aspirations to pre-eminence in the Asia and Pacific Region, with a corresponding curricular focus.”

The international partnership builds yet another bridge between the Far East and the most western part of the U.S., where Hawai‘i’s pre-statehood history includes Chinese immigrant plantation workers.  UH Mānoa is the only American school of architecture in the Pacific region, and the sole in the nation where a majority of the student body consists of Asian and Pacific Islander minority groups.  Likewise, almost 5,000 miles away, Tongji University is one of the leading universities directly under the State Ministry of Education in China. Among its peer colleges, Tongji’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning boasts a comprehensive range of programs, including an architecture and urban planning post-doctoral mobile station that is the first of its kind in China.

Together, both schools are on the fast track to graduating architects who are appreciative of pioneering design and function from a global point-of-view.  The dual graduate Architecture degrees will become the newest connection linking Hawai‘i and China—both historically and now into the future.

For more information, visit http://www.arch.hawaii.edu or contact Spencer Leineweber at (808) 956-8724 or aspencer@hawaii.edu.

 Top photo:  The School of Architecture Building on the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa campus.

Feature: Taiwan’s seafaring history

Bamboo raft
Modern bamboo raft on the coast of Fujian, China.

An interest in the origins of Polynesia impelled University of Hawai‘i at Manoa archaeologist Barry Rolett to dig deep into the Earth’s core at one of China’s famous hot springs: Fuzhou Basin.  What was the quest of the Department of Anthropology professor so far from home?  To prove the theory that colonization of Polynesian and all Austronesian cultures can be traced to Taiwan.  Rolett and his team found convincing evidence that not only strengthens this belief, but also showed that seafaring played a huge role in shaping both Taiwan and the nearby coast of China.

Their research, reported in the April 2011 issue of Quaternary Science Reviews, indicates that rapid sea level rise in Fuzhou Basin on the southeast coast of the Fujian Province in China 9,000 years ago made it impossible for villagers to make a living from growing rice, the primary agricultural crop harvested by farmers in most other regions.  Since the lack of land needed for rice paddies in Fuzhou Basin prevented this type of food production, villagers took to open-sea voyaging—a type of seafaring associated with Austronesian origins.  They eventually made contact with Taiwan, located about 80 miles across the coast from the Fuzhou Basin.

This presumption contests the popular view by scientists that villagers in northern China spread the popularity of rice farming southward to the Fuzhou Basin. Sediment cores collected by Rolett and his team near the Tanshishan archaeological site, the center of a Neolithic culture that inhabited the Fuzhou Basin between 5,000 and 4,300 years ago, showed that sea-level change has dramatically transformed the landscape since then. The sites are located today on hills that are 50 miles from the coast, which once were little islands in the upper estuary.

Large amounts of shellfish remains indicate that the Tanshishan people relied heavily on maritime resources for their livelihood.  “They may have been the greatest navigators of their day,” said Rolett. Artifacts that were found, such as pottery and stone tools, were also discovered in Taiwan, suggesting that people from the Fuzhou Basin may have crossed the Taiwan Strait and ultimately established farming villages in Taiwan.

In combination with other genetic, linguistic and archaeological evidence found throughout the years, Rolett’s research also boosts the belief by experts that seafaring originating in the Taiwan Strait may be linked with the earliest Austronesians, whose populations include the people of Polynesia, Indonesia and the Philippines.  Robert Blust, a UH Mānoa professor of linguistics who also studies the origins of Austronesians, agrees that Taiwan was likely first settled by speakers of Austronesian languages.  “The archaeology of Neolithic settlement in insular Southeast Asia has supported this scenario completely, since pottery, animal domestication and agriculture make their appearance in Taiwan about a millennium earlier than they do in areas further to the south where Austronesian languages are spoken today,” said Blust.

Rolett’s research team members included Zhuo Zheng of the Department of Earth Sciences at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China, and Yuanfu Yue of the Institut de Sciences de l’Evolution at the Université Montpellier in France.  “This research helps us learn more about China’s rich history and culture, and also to understand how sea level change can transform our coastline,” said Rolett. “As our team had discovered, this can have a dramatic impact on the way we live in the future.”

For more information, contact Barry Rolett at (808) 956-7546 or rolett@hawaii.edu.

Top photo: A drilling rig was used to collect sediment cores documenting 10,000 years in the evolution of the Fuzhou Basin in Fujian, China. UH Mānoa Anthropology Professor Barry Rolett, at right, prepares to hand off one of the drill bits.

The modern city of Fuzhou, capital of Fujian Province in east China, is built on recently formed land. 6000 years ago, during the Neolithic era, this area was submerged as part of a large estuary that fostered the development of early seafaring in the Taiwan Strait.
UH Mānoa archaeologist Barry Rolett, at right, with Sun Yat-Sen University Geologist Zheng Zhuo and St. Andrew’s University student Landon Clay.
UH Mānoa archaeologist Barry Rolett does coring field work in the Fuzhou Basin of China.

Feature: Super-excited about SUPER Math

SUPER-M logo
SUPER-M logo

To Monique Chyba, math is a beautiful thing.  So much, in fact, that the UH Mānoa mathematics associate professor has organized events such as “An Afternoon of Beautiful Mathematics” and “Be a Scientist Tonight” at the Campus Center and local K-12 schools for the past two years, fostering the interests and talents of math- and science-loving youth throughout the community. Attendees explore mentor-run discovery stations designed and run by women graduate students and undergrads, and supervised by UH Mānoa faculty members like Chyba, in the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). The stations, whose topics include robotics and space exploration, encourage the solving of hands-on math and engineering problems.

Now Chyba is one of the prime organizers of SUPER-M, an acronym for School and University Partnerships for Educational Renewal in Mathematics. Funded in 2009 by the prestigious National Science Foundation, the $2.8 million grant allows Super-M Graduate Teaching Fellows from the UH Mānoa Department of Mathematics to work one-on-one with state Department of Education teachers in grades K-12.  The partnership’s goal: to bring top-notch math expertise into the public schools, and make high-level mathematical concepts accessible on O‘ahu and the neighbor islands.

SUPER-M has already made its way to Moloka‘i—with one Fellow commuting on a weekly basis to work with the local schools on the Friendly Isle.  And, for the second year in a row, SUPER-M hosted Moloka‘i Math Day on February 26, 2011.  Approximately 250 residents packed the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakakai for the opportunity to tinker with robots, make and play with paper airplanes, create and decipher codes, have fun with gears, play with a deck of cards to build their math skills, and learn about polyhedrons and much more.

Through this intense partnership with Moloka‘i schools, teachers benefit from having the unique opportunity to focus on specific math content and frame their teaching within a greater trajectory. The program leaves students with a renewed interest in math and science, and gifts the instructor with new teaching resources. And the efforts of SUPER-M even have a positive impact on UH Mānoa students.

For example, about 30 Math 100 students visited Lanikai Elementary on March 4, where they designed and ran discovery stations such as Break a Code (cryptography), Role a Dice (probability), Build a Tower, and Beet per Minute for 200 children and family members who attended the school’s science night. While Math 100 has the reputation of being a notoriously difficult class for undergraduates, the UH Mānoa students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to look at math in a more engaging way by designing the stations and mentoring younger kids.  It was, in Chyba’s eyes for one, a beautiful thing. 

To track the SUPER-M and other outreach programs from the Department of Mathematics, visit http://www.math.hawaii.edu/SUPERM.

For more information, contact Monique Chyba at (808) 956-8464 or mchyba@math.hawaii.edu.

Top photo: SUPER-M Fellow Austin Anderson and Native Hawaiian Science & Engineering Mentorship Program Fellow Amber Imai lead one of the various discover stations, “Airplanes and Brains,” at the 2010 Moloka’i Math Day.