Gemstone Honors Program

Class of 2002 Teams

Action Against AIDS

The AIDS epidemic in Africa has reached disastrous proportions, calling for novel prevention schemes. Women in Africa are particularly touched by the crisis, as they bury the dead, care for the ill and birth HIV-positive children. Thus, with respect to HIV/AIDS, the behavior of women has been documented as more easily altered than that of men. Women of Africa are also already organized into religious communities. A unique approach to reach these women is by outreach efforts of African women theologians. This thesis documents the HIV/AIDS prevention work done by African women theologians and the obstacles these women face by primary interview.


ACTS Program

The last 20 years have seen large increases in the number of incarcerated non-violent drug offenders, leading to serious prison overcrowding. This is very costly and ineffective, as drug offenders are not receiving the rehabilitation they need to prevent them from recidivating. Previous solutions, like house arrest, boot camps, and drug courts, have proven ineffective at reducing recidivism for drug offenders or have mixed results at best. The solution proposed here is entitled the Alternative Community Therapeutic Stepwise (ACTS) Program and is based on a therapeutic community model. The program is derived from site visits to drug offender programs and a comprehensive meta-analysis of academic rigor and recidivism data of previous studies on other such programs. Based on this analysis, the ACTS program will include substance abuse counseling, urinalysis, and NA or AA; employment counseling; societal integration tools, including life skills, family dynamics, and interpersonal skills; and twelve months of aftercare utilizing electronic monitoring. The research also supports requiring a non-violent/non-habitual participant, an inpatient, residential facility, and surveys for evaluation. Data on educational programs and psychological counseling was insufficient, but they are included in ACTS because they are inherent in therapeutic communities. Before ACTS can be implemented, staff must be trained, public or private funding acquired, the location selected, and the facility built. Success of the program at one location will ensure that it is expanded to other locations. Some research limitations include inherently limiting coding sheets and the consistency differences encountered with 11 different coders. Future research would hopefully resolve these limitations as well as expand the research base.


Education Reform

The Education Reform team of 2002 focused on the effects of standardized testing on classroom learning environment. As an interactive case study, the team logged several hours volunteering at local elementary schools to observe and partake firsthand. As interactive members of the classroom environment, the team was able to weave observations and experiences with team analysis of the benefits and problems with the Maryland State Performance Assessment Program, or MSPAP. A controversial statewide assessment, MSPAP is used to measure performance for all elementary and middle schools. The team has formulated several key ideas about MSPAP's effects on various aspects of the classroom like accountability or treatment of ESL students. Our final document is the fruit of three years of research, analysis, and experience: a careful study of the ways in which MSPAP affects the classroom. By getting personally involved and seeing firsthand the issues MSPAP creates, the team abandoned the "view from the sidelines" objectivity most researchers embrace. Rather than merely focus on available research, the team chose to examine a heavily studied problem from this unique angle in the hopes of contributing a fresh outlook.

Environmental Education and Outreach

Our team formed with an interest in National Parks and wildlife preservation. However, our attention soon shifted to the many environmental issues at play on the University of Maryland, College Park campus. The foremost of these issues was the environmental damage caused by the rapid growth of the campus with its many new buildings and parking lots. The replacement of natural areas with man-made surfaces has several implications for the environment. For instance, stormwater runoff from these impervious surfaces often carries many pollutants, which can flow unimpeded into local waterways. Since the campus is located within the watershed for several important bodies of water, such as the Paint Branch Creek, the Anacostia River, and the Chesapeake Bay, this is a major concern. Stopping development simply was not an option for dealing with this problem, so our team looked at ways of counteracting the damage caused by development. We came up with a two-pronged approach to the problem. First of all, we hoped to work with campus engineers on a stormwater management project that involved planting natural filter areas known as rain gardens, around the parking lots. Secondly, we hoped that through environmental education we could help to prepare students and community members to take an active role in solving the complex environmental problems. Our approach involved constructing signs to educate the campus about local environmental issues, as well as collaboration with an elementary school to provide them with environmental education resources.

Extracurricular Entrepreneurship Education

The purpose of the E3 thesis is to research and analyze the current progress of the entrepreneurship education movement, and to propose a solution to the problems of entrepreneurship education, specifically the lack of entrepreneurship education. In the two and half years after choosing an initial problem, the team studied past research on entrepreneurship education and conducted a case study on a local high school class that had a specific entrepreneurship curriculum. The case study was performed to determine the effectiveness of current teaching methods and the changes that could be made to better suit secondary education. The team visited the class periodically and observed as well as interacted with the students to gauge their level of interest and learning. From the data and information gathered through past studies and the case study, the team formulated a 12-week entrepreneurship education program proposal to teach the skills of entrepreneurship in a competitive environment.

Fish Sustainability

At the turn of the 20th century, anadromous fish, such as shad, striped bass, and herring, crowded Maryland waterways, serving as an economic staple for the region. But after decades of over-harvesting, pollution, and the construction of waterway barriers, the anadromous fish population has suffered a steep decline. Isolating one detriment to fish migration, the Gemstone Fish Sustainability Team has studied stream blockages-including dams, culverts, and stream gauges-in the Patuxent River watershed, aiming to improve long-term fish sustainability through fish passage solutions ranging from blockage removal to the implementation of fish ladder technologies. Teaming up with representatives from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the group has designed a new model for a preliminary prioritization of blockage sites for action, which would enable fish passage decision-makers to optimize the use of resources towards greater benefits in fish sustainability. Having compiled old data and collected new data on the 160 existing blockage sites in the Patuxent River watershed, the team was able to use the proposed model to determine the prioritization of these blockages for implementation of fish passage solutions. The adoption of a new model is a necessary step towards improving and streamlining this decision-making process, thereby benefiting the populations of migratory fish species throughout a watershed. Although the fieldwork is primarily focused on the Patuxent River watershed, the proposed prioritization model is applicable not only to the Patuxent, but also to the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed and even to fish sustainability efforts around the world.

Innovative Tracking Systems

The research of the Innovative Tracking Systems team focuses on location and data management technology for use in the criminal justice system, with an emphasis on monitoring probationers and parolees. Faced with an overwhelming prison population and an unprecedented amount of people recently released from prison, the need to curb recidivism is stronger than ever before. By employing a GPS-based technological solution, corrections officers will be better equipped to monitor offenders in the community while also providing a highly visible deterrent. The team's thesis explores the philosophy of incarceration and parole, current trends in correctional manpower and technology, officer burnout, case law, and privacy concerns. Specific evaluation is made of existing and on-the-horizon location technology for use in probation monitoring. In light of current problems in the corrections field, the thesis evaluates the efficacy of technology for use in probation and crime prevention.

Neurotech SCIence

Spinal cord injuries (SCI), caused by significant trauma to the spinal cord, disrupt pathways that allow proper signaling in both directions between the brain and other parts of the body. In turn, this break in neural communication causes associated loss of control of various voluntary body functions neurologically connected below the injury site. Neurotech SCIence has explored the problem of SCI and sees the potential for improving research through new surgical methods and ultimately using these towards treatment. By combining current research into cellular regeneration and replacement technologies with modifications proposed to the Zeus Robotical Surgical System including the introduction of a microsyringe and improved pre-operative imaging technologies, there is opportunity for significant steps forward in performing SCI research in humans and creating viable treatment options. The Zeus Robotical Surgical System, a tool currently used in heart surgeries, offers potential to significantly reduce surgical invasiveness once properly adapted. Such adaptation would include the creation of a highly precise microsyringe that allows accurate delivery of cellular and chemical SCI treatment options. The system could also be adapted in the future toward even less invasive nano-scale, mechanical SCI repair mechanisms. Lastly, the aforementioned technologies must be combined with improvements to currently available optical and MRI imaging technologies. Ultimately, the goal of Neurotech SCIence is to use these mechanisms in the advancement of current SCI research. These proposed tools would allow a viable mechanism for bringing current research into the human body, and eventually a tool for surgical treatment of spinal cord injury.

Non-Lethal Weapons

The University of Maryland Gemstone Non-Lethal Weapons Team (GNLWT) has spent the past three years conducting research on various aspects of non-lethal weapons. Originally, the group, through its interaction with the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate and the University of Maryland Survey Resource Center, decided to conduct a nationwide survey to determine the American public’s bias and knowledge of non-lethal weapons. Unfortunately, this project did not receive the funding it required. In the fall of 2001, after two years were spent working on the proposed survey, the GNLWT shifted its focus to the study of mass media and non-lethal weapons. The hypothesis when the study began was that the public knew very little about non-lethal weapons, and this could be directly attributed to the lack of media coverage that this technology receives. News articles dealing with non-lethal weapons were collected from nationwide sources, and these articles were then analyzed for content and bias. The conclusions drawn from this study were that mass media does not concentrate on reporting about non-lethal weapons. As a result, the public is not well informed about the topic at large. The information presented to them is neutral for the most part. Thus, the public holds few biases towards non-lethal weapons influenced by the mass media.

Sex Education in Maryland

This paper focused on retrieving information about the history of sexuality education and examined each aspect of sexuality education including different types, styles, and content. I examined both state and federal policy in regards to what is to be included in sexuality education given in public classrooms as well as outside programs. Detailed examination of sexuality programs involved looking into the effectiveness of such programs and the purpose of their existence. The project concluded with a recommendation on ideal sexuality education curricula based on research.