Campus News

UB celebrates Earth Day with new Solar Strand app


Published April 23, 2015

“It’s a great example of taking classroom learning and bringing out here.”
Dennis Black, vice president for university life and services

A group of fifth-graders huddled around Max Bass at UB’s Solar Strand.

The junior environmental studies major named the types of animals that live nearby. Unfortunately, none were visible.

Not a problem.

The animals — everything from red-tailed hawks to coyotes — are featured on UB’s new Solar Strand app, which was unveiled Wednesday as part of the university’s celebration of Earth Day.

Made possible through a grant from Verizon Foundation and developed with support from Buffalo-based IBC Digital, the app acts like traditional signs in museums and parks — only it’s more interactive.

It leads visitors to different stations, each with distinct videos, graphics and information on the Solar Strand’s design, real-time power production and more.

To learn more about the app and download iOS and Android versions, check out UB Sustainability’s webpage.

“It’s a great example of taking classroom learning and bringing it out here,” Dennis R. Black, vice president for university life and services, said while standing amid the Solar Strand’s 3,200 photovoltaic panels.

Unlike most solar-power production facilities, the Solar Strand is open to the public. Visitors are encouraged to walk around and learn about renewable energy and the surrounding natural environment.

That’s exactly what happened Wednesday, with the roughly 150 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from Nichols School, Nardin Academy, Saints Peter & Paul School and the Park School of Buffalo.

“Good morning. I’m Bob the Builder,” Robert G. Shibley, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, jokingly said as he introduced himself to the students.

The reference, a play on the popular children’s television show, is not inaccurate. Shibley played an integral role in developing the Solar Strand, which was created by renowned landscape artist Walter Hood. The array evokes the pattern of a DNA fingerprint and is believed to be the nation’s most publicly accessible solar park.

In addition to the Solar Strand event, UB hosted its first annual Sustainability Summit on Wednesday in the Black Box Theater in the Center for the Arts.

Featuring keynote speaker Erik Foley, managing director of Penn State’s Sustainability Institute, the summit was the kickoff for a larger UB effort to embed sustainable thinking, practices and decision-making throughout the university via an integrated sustainability strategy.

It included UB’s first-ever Green SLICE (Sustainability Leadership, Innovation, Collaboration and Engagement) awards, which recognized faculty, students and staff for their sustainability work at UB.