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Art, science, fashion, engineering and more – if you can name it, it’s at SOURCE

By Andy Matarrese Daily Record staff writer May 22, 2015

Caleb Allison took to the lectern three times Thursday: First to share his screenplay, “Year of the Tortoise,” next to talk about comparisons between the French film “La Femme Infidele” and its remake, “Unfaithful,” and then to present how “Star Wars” reshaped the science fiction genre in film.

“Hallelujah,” he said, when finally done.

Allison will graduate this year from Central Washington University, and it was his second year presenting at SOURCE, the school’s annual academic and creative symposium.

He was most excited to present his screenplay, a “coming-of-age comedy-drama following an angst-ridden high school student,” according to his abstract.

The event, the Symposium on University Research and Creative Expression at Central Washington University, ran all day Thursday in the Student Union and Recreation Center. This year was SOURCE’s 20th anniversary.

Posters for science projects on topics ranging from lizard body temperature regulation to the effects of using yogurt or applesauce as fat replacers in brownies lined the SURC Ballroom.


Allison, who’s in the film studies program, said he plans on trying his hand at writing, to work on his storytelling in general, before trying his hand at Hollywood. That’s part of why he was glad to present at SOURCE.

“In Hollywood you gotta be able to pitch a film before you’re paid to write it,” he said.

As for the “Star Wars” presentation, that was part of a class project he submitted for the conference.

Academic and creative presentations bring different anxieties, Allison said.

“Ultimately, the experience is enriching, but not for any one part of it. Exposing myself to all the information was great, and having to take it and form a coherent, cohesive paper, an argument, and bring people through that logic was really valuable, not only for that information but for the experience of rhetoric and just presenting,” he said.

“For the creative one I was really excited to share it. I was more excited for the whole experience of that one, but I was also really worried that I wouldn’t convey the story well. … The worry there was more emotional, and less intellectual.”

Meeting spaces in the SURC were filled all day as people presented research papers and creative works, some done independently, some as culminating projects and others adapted from work in class.

There were 350 presentations from 34 departments at the university, and from students at Ellensburg High School, Walter Strom Middle School and Valley View Elementary School, SOURCE Coordinator Jamie Gilbert said.

“What’s great about the symposium is that it’s not just research,” she said.

“We have art, we have the fashion show, we have the theater, we have the engineering students — we have one doing prosthetics, we have some doing solar energy.

“It gives every department on campus a place to showcase their work.”

Gilbert, herself a Central grad, said the conference helped her get out of her comfort zone as far as presenting, and it even inspired her academic path into education and autism research. She’s working on a doctorate program now.

“I’ve seen so many students who haven’t decided on a major, and they get to go in and see this and say, ‘I never even knew you could do this with this degree,’ and it sparks a passion in them,” she said.

That exposure is great for Trish Griswold’s students. Griswold is the seventh-grade math and science teacher from Walter Strom Middle School.

Her kids get to stand shoulder to shoulder with college students and their work and see how science works as a process.

“It doesn’t matter what the vocabulary is, it’s the same formula,” she said. “They’re able to go over there and look and see, ‘Oh look, they have summary, they have a hypothesis, they have this, they have that. They may not understand the terminology that it’s in but they can see that it’s the same process that they use.”

The middle school students are nervous at first — you can see them crumple and fiddle with the presentation papers they hold, she said — but it’s a huge confidence booster when the college students come ask questions about their science projects.

“I think they really do feel like scientists, though, but they wouldn’t tell you that because, ‘Does that mean I’m going to do really well on a test?’ You know what? People still do that, they go, ‘Well, if I don’t do well on the test then I’m not a scientist,’” she said. “Baloney. That’s how they learn new things.”

Good for all students

SOURCE includes creative works — art, fashion, some performances — but a lot of it is borne of students’ stereotypical, in-the-lab-or-library, hardcore academic research. Project titles this year included “Predicting Solar Sigmoid Lifetimes Based on Shearing in the Photosphere” and “Satire of Religious Education in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland Texts.”

Not every student will continue in academia or research fields, said Melissa Johnson, an English professor who teaches in the film studies department.

“There’s still a tremendous value in being able to understand your ideas on a number of different levels,” she said. “There’s a benefit to that process of critical thinking and research and exploring those ideas and following those avenues, facing problems in their research and having to ask questions and critically respond to that. And I think, ideally, that’s what all of us are doing in every field and in every aspect of our life.”

“There is something really transformative about knowing something and then being able to confidently acknowledge that to an audience, and I think that’s something that SOURCE really effectively allows for students and for faculty.”


While every participant might gain abstract, intangible benefits, others saw more clear and immediate payoffs from their work.

Senior Geoffrey Gibson, for his final engineering project, replaced the drum brakes on his 1986 Toyota pickup with disc brakes that stop quicker and don’t get as caked with mud when he drives off road. He wanted to do it so the brakes would fit the same wheel rim and keep the factory emergency brakes.

He scavenged parts, tested materials and fabricated pieces as he needed then went out and tested the brakes on the road.

“It’s like, I want to improve what I’ve got, and I want to use it afterwards, because I put in all this money, and this time, this effort, why not put it to something I’m going to use day to day?” he said. “I actually love it. It stops better, performance and braking, it’s night and day.”

The process itself was valuable, too, he said. Having worked in the auto industry, he was used to getting a project and getting it done without much extra thought.

For this, he said, he had to do testing, materials analysis and look at the physics.

“It was cool actually applying what I’ve learned after my four years here and saying, OK, this will actually work on my truck,” he said.

The ‘next thing’

For her project, junior Meghan Gilbert worked with psychology professor Jesse James to study students’ perception of their stress levels relative to their peers.

In short, college-age women seem to feel more stressed out than everyone else, but a better predictor is whether subjects’ test answers indicate they have a more neurotic personality type, she said.

She said she hopes to continue with her education and get a doctorate so she can teach and continue research.

SOURCE allows students to take what they learn in class and apply it, which makes it valuable, she said.

“You’re able to take that and make it into a concrete thing, you actually do this project and you do the things you talked about in class, so it’s just learning those things in a new way and actually putting them into action,” she said.

James said most students in the department are interested in counseling or the more clinical side of the field.

Still, he said, that means students need to keep up on the literature and new studies. Others might go further afield into business, where knowing psychology, and how to research it, helps with careers in market research or customer experience related fields.

“The anticipation is this training can be applied if not directly, very much peripherally to a wide variety of fields,” he said.

In an email he sent later that day, James said a student in one of his classes approached him saying he wanted James as a mentor for his own SOURCE project.

“That’s what makes this whole thing worth the effort!” he said. “Students attend SOURCE and catch the fire. Seeing other students’ success makes them want to succeed, too.”

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