Gathering Storm


Partha Sarkar advocates that homes and buildings in tornado alley be designed to withstand EF3 tornadoes
By Mike Krapfl

The Iowa State University Tornado Simulator kicked up a thick and slowly spinning funnel cloud over a model of a small town, overwhelming the miniature streets, buildings, and homes.

Partha Sarkar turned from the laboratory vortex and explained, “That’s an EF3.”

Most tornadoes (about 90 percent of them) are EF3 or less in intensity. And so Sarkar advocates that homes and buildings within tornado alley across the middle of the U.S. be designed to withstand EF3 tornadoes and their top wind speeds of 165 mph.

Sarkar, an Iowa State professor of aerospace engineering, knows something about the biggest tornadoes. He walked the debris fields of Parkersburg in 2008 and Joplin, Mo., in 2010, and has seen what the 200-plus mph winds of EF5 storms can do to cities, buildings, and people.

To study the interaction of tornadoes with man-made structures, he designed and built a tornado simulator that can create and move a tornado-like vortex back and forth over a test bed. He, his coworkers, and Iowa State students have worked with the simulator for a decade, studying the loads and pressures caused by laboratory storms passing over models of homes and buildings.

But, Sarkar said, there’s still a lot engineers don’t understand about tornado winds: How, for example, do nearby structures and terrain affect those winds? How do building codes, building ages, structure shapes, roof types, and even construction quality influence tornado damage? How do internal pressures inside buildings influence tornado damage? And, how are the wind loads distributed and shared by a building’s components, such as roof sheathing, roof trusses, walls, studs, and nails?

To find these answers, the National Science Foundation has awarded a pair of three-year, $250,000 collaborative research grants to Sarkar and to Texas Tech University researchers Daan Liang, an associate professor of construction engineering and engineering technology, and Xinzhong Chen, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering.

As part of this new project, “We will try to quantify the uncertainties in estimating tornado winds and the corresponding structural damage,” Sarkar said.

To do that, Sarkar said his research group will use the latest advances in tornado simulation, data acquisition, and computer modeling to answer engineering questions about tornado winds and their effects on buildings.

One result of this research could be refinements to the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale that considers storm damage to measure the strength of tornadoes. Another result could be new provisions in building codes and construction practices for tornado-resistant buildings.

“The overarching goal of this research is to enhance society’s resiliency to tornadoes through innovative design and construction of building components and systems in tornado-prone regions,” the Iowa State and Texas Tech researchers wrote in a project summary.

At Iowa State, Sarkar said the grant will support experiments and data collection with the tornado simulator. One experiment, for example, will study actual buildings damaged in tornadoes by creating computer and physical models of the buildings and their structural failures. The computer models will be refined and verified by running lab tornadoes over the physical models. The computational models – called finite element models – will help researchers understand and predict the damage caused by tornado winds.

Data from the experiments and models will also be shared with the Texas Tech construction engineers who will study building performance in tornado winds.

“In the long run,” the researchers wrote in their summary, “the research is expected to contribute to methods and strategies that can be implemented for preventing tornado hazards from becoming disasters.”

Career Corner: Don’t Forget the Questions

By Katie Lickteig, Assistant Director of Outreach & Events

Recently, I’ve been sitting in on some interviews for an open position we have in the office, and it’s reminded me about an aspect of interviewing that sometimes gets overlooked: asking questions! No, not from the interviewer’s side of the table, but from the interviewee.

It’s usually common for an interviewee to ask about the office culture or what the organization is looking for in a candidate (although I’m sometimes surprised at how many candidates don’t ask any questions). And that’s all great information to gather. What impresses me more and what makes candidates more memorable to me is when they ask questions that show they’ve done some research and have already pictured working with the staff and what would that be like and what challenges would that present. Whether it’s accurate or not, candidates who ask several specific questions related to the job seem like they want the job more than candidates who don’t ask any.

Cy’s Suitcase Travel News: June 2015

Cy's Suitcase Web Banner - SIZED

Travel Tips

1) Make sure your cell phone number is on your luggage tag. If someone grabs your bag by mistake and discovers it before they leave the airport or the parking ramp, they can call you before you get too far.

2) If you have a copy of a valuable document, it’s easier to replace the original. In fact, make two sets of photocopies of your passport or driver’s license. (For debit and credit cards, just record the numbers, rather than photocopy them.) Pack one copy and leave the other with a friend at home to be faxed or emailed to you in case of an emergency.

3) Get your shut eye: Some people have trouble sleeping in a hotel room because the drapes won’t stay overlapped enough to keep the sunlight out. If you don’t have anything to keep them shut, head for the closet and a pants hanger that clamps together, and stick them on the drapes.

Time to Shop!

Upcoming trips

  • Passage to the Patagonia & the Antarctic
    (Jan. 26-Feb. 15)
  • Mystical India
    (Feb. 14-March 1)
  • Tanzania Wildlife Safari
    (Feb. 22-March 4)
    Shellie says: “I was fortunate to host this trip last year and it was amazing! We slept in luxury tents, heard the sounds from the African plains at night, and had elephants visit us at our camp! The guides were so amazing. They truly love their country and what they do. They are knowledgeable, considerate, and have a great sense of humor! Seeing all the animals, including the big five, was beyond words. Truly the trip of a lifetime. I recommend this trip highly!
  • Atolls & Islands
    (March 25-April 4)

Please go to for a complete listing of our trips.

Community Planning


Jake Stodola of Cedar Rapids, a third-year landscape architecture student, and Maclaine Sorden of Creston (’11 community and regional planning / environmental studies), a graduate student working toward a master’s in sustainable agriculture and landscape architecture, present their design to transform the Des Moines Social Club courtyard into an edible landscape.

The ISU Community Design Lab’s Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit provides a framework to help communities improve their local food systems
By Carole Gieseke

In the heart of downtown Des Moines, teams of Iowa State students are presenting their unique visions toward a singular goal: growing food in the city.

The designs, presented at the Des Moines Social Club at 9th and Mulberry last fall, take advantage of urban spaces like courtyards, rooftops, and alleyways. These “public edible landscapes” are just one small part of a growing movement to create holistic food systems that assist in community redevelopment, revitalization, and sustainability.

“It’s important to work with communities,” says Courtney Long (’10 landscape architecture, MS ’12 sustainable agriculture), design fellow in the ISU Department of Landscape Architecture. Long facilitates the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit, a project of the College of Design’s Community Design Lab.

Funded by a grant from Iowa State’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and launched in 2014, the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit, by design, has a lot of moving parts. Three pilot communities in Iowa – Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Cresco – were selected to go through a process of developing agricultural urbanism tactics with the goal of promoting local food system revitalization.

Each community is unique, with a different overarching focus and a distinct set of tactics that will be implemented in 2015. Following an initial look at policy changes, for example, the Des Moines workgroup will create neighborhood networks including food hubs, edible landscapes, and a food box pilot program, with a long-term goal of creating an urban farm.

Cresco, a rural community that has the potential to serve as a year-round regional food hub, is partnering with local food co-ops, rural producers, and community programs to establish community orchards, a school garden/faith garden partnership, and an educational farm.

Community planners in Cedar Rapids envision a comprehensive city food system plan, and they aim to direct projects at the human scale that residents can learn from and use at home and around the city. Catalyst projects include an urban orchard, partnership for a shared kitchen, and demonstration sites of agricultural urbanism practices.

In addition to these communities, three new Iowa towns will be selected for the project this year. The Leopold Center recently extended the Toolkit funding for two additional years.

“A local food system needs to include both rural and urban agricultural activities,” Long said. “The Toolkit helps these activities work together to meet the needs of a broader community.”

She said that local leaders in and outside the state of Iowa are encouraged to view the Toolkit model online at to garner ideas for their own communities.

Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit tactics
• Edible residential gardening
• Faith gardens
• School gardens
• Public edible landscaping
• Community-supported agriculture
• Urban farming
• Community gardens
• Farmers markets
• Local markets / public markets
• Food trucks
• Restaurants
• Rural & sustainable farming
• Processing facilities
• Food hubs
• Food box programs
• Shared-use kitchens
• Food-enterprise centers
• Education centers
• Marketing & awareness campaigns
• Food policy councils

Outside of the Box

Iowa State University boxer Olivia Meyer of Dyersville is the first ISU female boxer to compete and win a title in the National Collegiate Boxing Association National Championships. (Photo by Christopher Gannon)

Iowa State University boxer Olivia Meyer of Dyersville is the first ISU female boxer to compete and win a title in the National Collegiate Boxing Association National Championships. (Photo by Christopher Gannon)

Dyersville native Olivia Meyer, a kinesiology major, discovered the sport of boxing while attending ISU’s annual “Clubfest” showcase her freshman year. She played soccer in high school, she says, and wanted to find a collegiate pursuit that would allow her to keep up her fitness and perhaps give her a chance to compete. Today, Meyer is president of the ISU Boxing Club, the club’s lone female competitor, a National Collegiate Boxing Association (NCBA) national champion, and a Glamour magazine “Phenomenal Woman of the Year Who is Making a Difference.” VISIONS recently caught up with Meyer to find out what drives her in the sport of boxing.

With all the clubs and activities available on campus, what made you choose boxing?
A lot of people ask me that question, and I don’t have a fantastic answer. I think I was inspired by the movie “Million Dollar Baby,” because I love Clint Eastwood. So it was just an itsy bitsy spark – not a huge flame. But I went over to the practices and just kind of hit it off.

What was it like walking into the boxing club as a novice?
Initially, it is intimidating. But once you figure out you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of other people like you who just want to learn how to box, and everybody is really nice about it, everything is okay. Some people are just there for the workout – and that’s okay, too, and a lot of people drop out. But eventually you actually have to work with partners and spar – that’s the whole point of boxing, you know. We have maintained about five people who officially compete, and I am the only woman. The first couple of times you’re sparring, it’s awful. After the first time I got into the ring I didn’t want to do it again because I just felt like, “Wow, I’m awful. I’m terrible.” But it just takes practice.

So, if you’re the only woman in the club who spars, does that mean you practice against men who are larger than you are?
Yep; I have to. Sometimes you have to tell them to slow down or stop, but they’re pretty good about it. If you tell them to step off, they’ll step off. But I’ve ripped my eardrum several times, had a bloody nose, lip, you know – what you’d expect.

What does it take to train as a competitive boxer?
You have to come two hours a day, six to seven days a week, and then you also have to train outside of practice with high intensity cardiovascular training, muscle training, and endurance training. I’d say I put in about three to four hours a day just training for boxing, and that’s a significant amount. It’s demanding, but if you like it I think it’s worth it.

Tell us about winning the NBCA title.
Well, I competed against the same girl at regionals and nationals because there aren’t many girls in the sport. So just realize that, compared to the guys who had to fight four or five guys to get there, I didn’t have to do as much. The competition was held in Eisenhower Hall on the military base at West Point, so everything was high security and intense. They had videocameras and CBS television there and they interviewed me after – which was good, because my family was able to watch it on TV when it aired.

How does your family feel about you boxing?
My dad has four girls and is the only guy in our family, so I think he’s happy about it. But obviously, none of them like to see me get hurt. I don’t think Mom could ever watch it; she’s still supportive, but she doesn’t want to watch it.

How did you end up in Glamour magazine?
I got an email from the freelancer, who was looking for women from each state to feature. I immediately called my mom. She laughed and said, “Well, Glamour’s not really your magazine – but go for it.”

You have said it is difficult to find fights. Do you wish more women would enter the sport?
I would love to see more women enter the sport. It’s upsetting to see so many people sign up and be super excited and come to practice but eventually fade away. It’s like, “Nooooo! Come back!” But we see the same number of men get excited, too, and drift away for the same reasons. While I think women leave the sport at the same rate as men do, I do think because of male physiology it’s a little easier for [men] to work at the high intensity without going through muscle atrophy. You definitely have to put in a lot of work.

What do you love about boxing?
I actually really like training for it. But I also do like the moment before you get in the ring and have all the adrenaline rushing through you. I get scared before every fight. I get nervous. Once you step in the ring, you just get tunnel vision. It’s you and the opponent; everything else around you is a blur for that 10 minutes that you’re in there. It’s a really cool experience.”

‘Roots for the Home Team’ Home Run


Teen Entrepreneurs + Garden-Fresh Food + Big-Time Baseball
By Mary Gunderson

Baseball fans savor the food rituals: cold beer, peanuts in the shell, and – for Minnesota Twins
fans – meal-sized bowls of fresh, crisp salad.

Salad!? At the ballgame?! Yup. Since 2012, Minneapolis’s Roots for the Home Team brings young urban agriculturalists together with hungry fans in the midst of Major League Baseball.

“I wanted to change up the food mix at Target Field,” says Susan Dunn Moores (L) (’80 food science), the creative mind at the venture’s heart.

Moores developed close associations with Urban Roots and Youth Farm, Twin Cities neighborhood garden programs with years of experience fostering youth leadership with sustainability and environmentally sound practices to raise and sell organic produce. Moores and 30 paid student interns from these garden partners form Roots’ core sales and marketing team.

In the first three years, 70 percent of the produce for Roots for the Home Team salads was purchased from the garden partners. Moores relies on Co-op Partners Warehouse for additional supplies and to ensure the young growers’ produce meets commercial standards for harvesting, packing, and shipping for food service. Target Field’s Minnesota Sportservice prepares retail product for the games.

Moores, a long-time entrepreneurial registered dietitian, gained corporate support for Roots’ efforts. The Twins Community Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota, Land O’ Lakes, JustBare Chicken, and others provide direct funding or in-kind services such as marketing support.

Pre-season, Moores and the students collaborate, brainstorming and planning product and sales ideas before rolling the Garden Goodies cart into place at Target Field. In 2014 the Roots crew offered six salad varieties at 18 games – with two salads in rotation at each game – including the League’s All-Star Game. All told, more than 130 youth were involved in the program.

One hot July Sunday afternoon, four students alternate in pairs, enticing customers with free samples and selling the finished product to hungry fans.

“I like fresh, local food,” says a 20-something woman, tasting the Tic-Tac-Taco Salad with corn, black beans, kale, and queso fresco. “I’m surprised to find it here!”

An older woman takes a sample, then smiles broadly, reaching for her wallet. “Good idea!”

One dad feeds his year-old son a bite of tomato. Son munches, dad grins. “At least I can say I had a salad at the ballpark,” he says.

Moores stands by at the cash register. She had envisioned satisfied customers. But she didn’t expect the broad benefits for her young sales associates.

“They rise to the occasion,” Moores says. She sees growth in teamwork, honesty, and persistence. The students gain unexpected recognition, too. Moores says, “Customers actually come back after eating the salads and say, ‘Thanks!’”

Tsminuj (SHEE-new) Yang, 16 and a high school junior, gardened extensively with his family before his student-intern experience. “All I knew, I learned again in a different way,” he says.

Now he’s looking toward his future. “Getting this internship widens what I can do. It’s a good starting point for public speaking and entrepreneurship.”

In her second season as a Roots intern, 15-year-old Imogene Silver, a high school sophomore, owned the honor of creating Roots for the Home Team’s Cracklin’ Cajun Salad, drawing upon flavors from her family’s Cajun heritage. The seven-vegetable garden rainbow features black-eyed peas, green peppers, and hot-pepper sauce. “That was fun,” Silver says. “I like to see people enjoying our food.”

Beyond Target Field, Roots promotes and sells the salads in two Twin Cities co-op grocery stores and at several Kowalski’s Markets. The Roots team even marketed the garden partners’ beets for beet-flavored ice cream at locally owned Izzy’s Ice Cream Shops in 2014.

Moores expects new products this year, plus Garden Goodies carts and sales teams at more athletics venues in the Twin Cities.

“I’m always on the prowl,” Moores says, “to keep Roots growing and interesting.”

Mary Gunderson (L)(’77 home economics journalism) of Edina, Minn., is an author, lecturer, and the owner of History Cooks.


Urban Roots youth rallied around this Korean salad concept. It features several of the vegetables found in their seven gardens on the east side of St. Paul.

8 oz. uncooked wide rice noodles (pad Thai)
1 1/2 c. chopped broccoli florets
1 c. chopped radishes
1 c. sweet peas (frozen and thawed) or sliced sugar snaps
1 c. chopped cucumber
1 c. shredded carrots
1/2 c. shelled edamame, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/3 c. sliced green onions
8 c. salad greens
1/2 c. chopped roasted and salted cashews or peanuts
Black sesame seeds, optional

1/2 c. canola or olive oil
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 T. tamari soy sauce
2 T. honey
2 T. Korean gochujang chile sauce
2 t. toasted sesame oil

1. Break noodles into shorter lengths; cook according to package directions.
Rinse with cool water; drain well.
2. Meanwhile, mix remaining salad ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in cooked noodles.
3. To make the dressing, whisk oil, vinegar, tamari, honey, gochujang, and sesame oil
together in a small bowl.
4. Toss dressing with noodle mixture; spoon over greens. Garnish with nuts and
sesame seeds.

Makes 8 servings
© Roots for the Home Team

Throwing Like a Girl


Cyclone Christina Hillman carves out her own
space in the world of women’s shot put

By Kate Bruns

When Tina Hillman was an eighth grader growing up in Dover, Del., her gym teacher’s husband – a champion weight thrower – happened to see the tall blonde pass the pigskin to a classmate. Not an 8.8- pound shot put, but a 14-ounce inflated football. Really, there’s very little that a quarterback and a shot putter have in common, but the sight of it was enough to give him a feeling: This girl could throw.

By the time Hillman got to high school, she had added track and field to her long resume of athletics activities. She was a standout Delaware prep, winning seven state titles at St. Thomas More. Then-Iowa State assistant track coach Grant Wall was in the state recruiting and decided to swing by and check out the 6-foot, 2-inch Hillman, who was still trying to decide whether to pursue collegiate track and field or volleyball. Hillman could hurl the shot 39 feet, even with horrible technique. And Wall just got a feeling: This girl could really throw.

Iowa State was the first school that recruited Hillman, and she rewarded that loyalty by committing to the Cyclones after falling in love with the Iowa State campus on her official visit.

“I didn’t think I was going to come here,” Hillman says, “I really didn’t. But I love it here. The campus is beautiful. And I love the team; the team is like my family.”

During the summer before coming to Iowa State, Hillman began working with a personal trainer. In just a few months, she increased her throwing distance from 39 to 50 feet. In 2011 she won the New Balance Indoor National High School championship and the Penn Relays. As an ISU freshman, Hillman earned all-Big 12 recognition. She continued to improve. And she started to get a feeling: I really can throw.

When Wall and head coach Corey Ihmels left ISU for Boise State in 2013, Hillman began working with a new throwing coach: Fletcher Brooks. Hillman says she owes a lot to both of her coaches and has thrived under Brooks’ tutelage. She says his guidance has helped shape what she is today: The top women’s collegiate shot putter in the U.S.

Hillman won her first national title at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships, reaching a height she hadn’t even dreamed of pursuing in high school.

“I think I was almost crying,” she remembers. “I won it on my second throw, because the girl who was in first place threw such a PR [personal record]. She was beating me, but I said to myself in that moment, ‘No one wants this more than I do.’ It was a completely different mindset for me. It was the first time I truly believed I could win the national championship, so when I did I was jumping up and down on cloud nine.”

Hillman followed up that performance with the 2014 outdoor title, which she won on her last throw. “That one was almost kind of a relief,” she admits. “Once you win once, it’s like: ‘I can’t let another collegian beat me.’”

For Hillman, the bar has now been set extremely high: Not only does she want to win more national titles, but she is also passionate about making it to the 2016 Olympics. She will soon earn undergraduate degrees in psychology and child, adult, and family services and hopes to go on to earn a master’s degree and work with youth in the human services field. But she is willing to put plans on hold to pursue her Olympic dream. “I’ve heard that both training for the Olympics and going to grad school are full-time jobs,” she says, “so I’m not sure how that will work. But I’m open to going wherever I need to go.”

Despite her many successes, Hillman says she still believes there is potential to be fulfilled.

“I’m still relatively weak compared to a lot of the female shot putters,” says Hillman, who lifts weights about four days a week. “I love putting in the hard work and just testing my abilities to see where I can end up. It’s been such a blessing.”

Hillman also says she enjoys defying people’s stereotypes of female throwers. While she is certainly big and strong, she’s not what anyone would describe as masculine, with long blonde locks and painted fingernails.

“I wanted to show that you can succeed in a sport that’s deemed masculine, whether you’re masculine or feminine,” she says. “If [masculine] is your identity, that’s perfectly fine, of course. I’m very feminine; that’s my expression. Even in my sport it doesn’t have to be about masculinity or femininity. It’s about how hard you work and the effort that you put in.”

Issues of gender and sexuality figure largely in Hillman’s life; she was recently profiled by’s Cyd Zeigler, a national author and commentator on sexuality and sports, about her identity as a pansexual student-athlete – an identity Zeigler says adds “another color in the LGBT rainbow.” (“I think of it as being gender blind; I fall in love with humans” is how Hillman explains it.)

“I was open [about my sexuality] in high school because I was dating a female,” Hillman says. “But when I got to college I guess I went back in the closet, in a way, because it was a new place and I’ve always wanted people to know me as a person first. Once I’d made friends and established my networks, I came out and was accepted by almost everyone. Taking the next step and talking to Cyd was me realizing that maybe I could help some other athletes. No one part defines me, obviously. I’m an athlete, pansexual, sister, daughter…but if that one identity can encourage others, I would love to do that.”

As Hillman works toward adding another identity to that list – Olympian, she is relishing her experience at Iowa State.

“I hope my teammates would describe me as an optimist, as someone who is encouraging, generous, and thoughtful,” she says. “I love being part of a team: We support each other and are part of something bigger.

“But at the end of the day, what I do is completely up to me, and I like that. If I mess up, it’s my fault. If I do well, it’s because I put in the work. I love everything about it.”