Campus Collage

Campus Collage

Quirky water conservation video wins award; Students find success adding rice to concrete.

WREC student employee Salam Ali (right) stars as the super hero Water Woman

WREC student employee Salam Ali (right) stars as the super hero Water Woman

Water Woman,” a 2.-minute video created by Chico State’s Department of Creative Media and Technology (CMT), was honored with a top award in April in the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association’s 2016 Creative Excellence Awards. 

The video, which urges students, faculty, and staff clients to reduce water use at the Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC), won first place in the audiovisual promotion category.

Featuring senior mechanical engineering major and WREC student employee Salam Ali, “Water Woman” is a lighthearted overview of water conservation measures in place at the WREC. In each scene, Ali, wearing a cape and mask, assumes a superhero’s stance to explain the water-saving measures, which include browning lawns, covering the pool at night, urging limited water use during showers and—perhaps most difficult for clients to accept—suspending towel laundering services.

The film is the result of a partnership between CMT and WREC staff, said WREC Director Curtis Sicheneder. When new water conservation measures were put in place at the 130,000-square-foot facility in summer 2015, Sicheneder turned to Morgan Schmidt, CMT media production lead, to help communicate those changes to clients.

Schmidt and CMT media production specialist Greg Olson wrote the script in a style reminiscent of the original Batman TV series, and Ali embraced the fantastical role with full commitment.

After a collaborative production process, the fi nal video was posted on the Chico State YouTube channel, shared widely on social media and on the WREC’s webpage, and covered by a local TV news station.

The video resonated well with its student audience. 

“One way we measured the success of the video was the number of complaints (about reduced services)—we didn’t get many,” said WREC Director Curtis Sicheneder. “A few people who hadn’t seen the video complained about the towel service, but once we explained why, they understood.” 

He said that since the mandatory water reductions went into effect last summer, the WREC has met or exceeded its goals every month except one, when a leak was discovered and addressed. The water conservation eff orts will continue for the forseeable future, and thanks to Water Woman, the gym’s clients know what to expect.

Watch “Water Woman” at

Ashley Gebb, Public Affairs and Publications


Rice straw is being researched by concrete students as a new addition for concrete.

Rice straw is being researched by concrete students as a new addition for concrete.

Is rice nice for concrete? Student researchers find success in new recipe

Aggregate, water, cement—the standard concrete recipe is pretty simple. 

But a few concrete industry management students hope they have identified a secret ingredient—rice straw. 

A small team of students are working under the guidance of program coordinator Feraidon Ataie to determine if incorporating the agricultural waste product can reduce concrete cracking and shrinkage. If successful, they not only will have created a better product for their industry but also helped the producers of one of California’s largest crops deal with a major waste product. 

“Any time you can be a part of trying to make something better is always rewarding,” said junior Henry Freimuth. “What’s cool about this—if it works—is not only are we helping make concrete better, we are helping other facets outside of the industry.”

Last fall, with support from the CSU’s Agricultural Research Institute and the California Rice Research Board, students whipped up 10 batches of high-performance concrete with varying percentages of rice straw, which had been provided by area farms and ground into a fine pulp by students. 

For every ton of rice that is grown, 500 pounds of rice husks and straw are created. As a byproduct, it is often burned as waste, or used for cattle fodder or insulation. Other studied uses have included fiberboard, sugar syrup, paper pulp, and industrial products, but none were economically promising.

“They’ve tried a lot of things, but nothing has worked,” Freimuth said. “I think we have a shot.”

In February, he and project member Joanne O’Hara were chosen as one of 10 student research groups to present their groundbreaking work at the 30th Annual CSU Statewide Student Research Competition in April.

“It’s just cool to be part of something that could one day change the way we do everything,” said O’Hara, a junior who is also president of the Women in Concrete club. 

Freimuth admits he is much more interested in concrete than he was with recreation management, his first bachelor’s degree. 

“This is what I want to make a career out of,” he said. “It’s great to have the opportunity to do research, and it’s nice to be able to have all the instrumentation and a lab to do this kind of work—there are not many labs out there and few opportunities within the industry.”

Sarah Langford, Public Affairs and Publications