Tag: UT

What Starts Here… Really Changes the World

A Humanity First member working as a disaster relief volunteer.  Photo courtesy of Humanity First

A Humanity First member working as a disaster relief volunteer.
Photo courtesy of Humanity First



Anahita Pardiwalla, Fatima Puri, Shannon Smith

With hundreds of student-run humanitarian groups at the University of Texas to choose from, Irenla Bajrovic did not think she’d have trouble finding one that would be willing to help a cause close to her heart. Bajrovic, a natural-born Bosnian, wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian genocide by organizing a fundraiser. She did not anticipate finding her answer in the merely days old organization, Humanity First.

Coordinating a fundraising dinner is a feat for any organization, never mind a newborn one with just six members. Yet, founder and executive director, Usama Malik, was eager for Humanity First to make its grand debut. About $10,000 later, Malik and his peers were excited about the future of their new Texas Chapter.

A year later, 102 members stronger and with numerous successful events under its belt, Humanity First is more confident than ever. Under its motto “serving mankind” the international organization promotes peace and provides aid to victims of natural disasters and human conflicts.

Malik, however, has tailored the Texas Chapter to stand for more than just the humanitarian relief drafted in their motto.

“One that provides a platform for other organizations and other students to accomplish similar goals,” said Malik.

Through this idea of diversifying the Texas Chapter, the organization has been able to work for a number of different causes—all outside the traditional realm of Humanity First’s mission statement.

These causes have ranged from fundraising for victims of domestic violence to raising awareness of childhood cancer, from feeding the homeless to volunteering at elderly rehabilitation centers. Most recently, the organization assembled hygienic kits for homeless veterans.


A few of Humanity First's milestones. Photos courtesy of Google Images and Bosana Foundation

A few of Humanity First’s milestones.
Photos courtesy of Google Images and Bosana Foundation

The group’s scope is wide and limitless; and members are proud to be a part of an international organization that still maintains a local focus.

“You’re touching someone’s life, and it doesn’t matter how big the scale is, as long as you’re helping someone,” said member Marina Khaled.

Upcoming events include a charity fashion show and a culture appreciation night. Learn more at http://www.humanityfirsttx.org/.


Humanity First has worked for numerous causes since its birth last spring. Check out a timeline of some of their past events here:


Learn more about the Humanity First – Texas Chapter in the video below. The members of Humanity First made hygiene kits for homeless veterans and are currently in production for a fashion show in partnership with Voices Against Violence.

Racist Roots: An inside look at UT landmarks

By Kyle Cavazos, Estefanía de León, Danny Goodwin, & Danielle Vabner

In front of the main tower at the University of Texas, there is an empty space where a statue of Jefferson Davis once stood. Appearing indifferent toward its absence, students walk by on their way to class, cell phones in hand.

The university made the controversial decision to remove the statue after South Carolina took down its own Confederate flag. Some disagree with its relocation, arguing that the statue is simply part of the school’s history, and that to remove it from its original location is to deny its history and its ties to the Confederacy. Others, however, are relieved that the statue is no longer on display, and feel that the time has come to bid adieu to the prejudiced past it is associated with.

“I think that’s kind of what the university allows for in this space is for these kind of conversions and controversies,” said Dr. Simone Browne, an Associate Professor in African and African Diaspora Studies. “But in the end, at least for me, the right thing was done, and for other people they want that to remain so that we can understand these histories.”

The history of the university and its landmarks goes deeper than Jefferson Davis. There are still other figures on campus that remain at the center of this debate, figures who have had an influence on the university for years. One example is George Littlefield, who was a donor to the university and had ties to the Confederacy.

“He established a Littlefield Fund for Southern History, which would basically archive a history that was a celebration of the Confederacy,” Browne said. “[He] gifted not only this archive, but also gifted the money to create what we have as the six-pack…and so his name is still continually on the campus.”

Though Browne said that she agrees with the removal of the statue, she does not believe that awareness of the university’s history and keeping these landmarks up for all to see have to be mutually exclusive.

“[We need to understand] the university, its architecture, and its formation as a…memorialization to the Confederacy as an enterprise,” Browne said. “That’s what it was about. That’s why basically the, the university’s back is facing the north, why we’re facing the Capitol, why we have everything around that fountain.”

Dr. Leonard Moore is an example of a UT faculty member who feels that the statues and other landmarks originating from can serve as learning tools for students, and that they should not be taken down.

“I’m a historian, so other people may see a Confederate statue as problematic. I value them for their historical value, you know what I mean?” Moore said. “I like to use things like that as a teachable moment. I wish they had left them up, because I think it reminds people of the history of this place.”

Moore also said that he does not believe that the statues have a profound effect on minority students at UT. He said that in his experience, students are looking to get more support from the UT community.

“They would’ve probably said some more scholarships, some more outreach efforts, some more outreach programs out of the College of Business and the College of Engineering,” he said. “And so the fear was, when they put the statues down, now we can’t get anything else.”


Inside 6th Street

6th Street, formerly named Pecan Street, is a historic street and entertainment district in Austin, TX. (Photo/Rocio Tueme)

6th Street, formerly named Pecan Street, is a historic street and entertainment district in Austin, TX. (Photo/Rocio Tueme)


By Jessica Garcia, Erin Spencer, Raisa Tillis and Rocio Tueme

Austin, TX – With almost no traffic coming in from Lavaca or Interstate-35 early in the day, Austin’s own 6th street is unrecognizable to its night dwellers. Blaring bars become quiet oases and day drinkers, nomads and homeless occupy the street sparingly.

6th street is a historic entertainment district widely known for it’s live music, weird culture and variety of bars. College students, locals and tourists invade the street at night to celebrate a variety of occasions, the end of the work week included, and to simply get drunk.

Many may think of 6th as a place for fast paced drink guzzling at night, but during the day there are people who like to go to 6th street and drink at their own speed.

Glen Ford, a tourist from New Orleans, enjoys a brief moment of alone time drinking a beer at the Chuggin’ Monkey Thursday afternoon. “I like the day time, because if I’m by myself you know, in the daytime, you do whatever you want to do,” he said.


As opposed to its busy Thursday nights, Chupacabra Cantina is deserted on a Thursday afternoon. ( Photo/Jessica Garcia)

The Blind Pig Pub, a sixth street favorite among college students, is practically deserted on a Thursday afternoon compared to the business it gets at night. However there are some customers that come during the day who plan to stay until the busy street closes.

“It’s a longer period of time that we’re drinking for. It’s a marathon,” said day drinker, Nicole Resnick, a Blind Pig patron.

Although some day drinkers stop before sunset, others continue drinking throughout the night, consuming more alcohol than the recommended amount.

The businesses of 6th street receive more money during the nighttime, and some of its clientele struggles with controlling their alcohol intake levels. No matter the time of day the repercussions of overconsumption are the same.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “low risk” drinking levels for men are no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 for women. Research shows that moderate drinking is usually defined as no more than two drinks in a given day.

Regardless of the statistics many who come to drink on sixth street aim to drink as much as they can before the night ends. It can be especially easy to get carried away during the day without a larger crowd blocking access to the bar area.

“It’s easier to get drinks. You just go up to the bartender and get the drink immediately you don’t have to wait around. It’s pretty easy. I like the daytime,” added Ford.

However, the crowds at night do not stop drinkers from packing the bars and pubs to indulge in drinking as much alcohol as they can.

UT exchange student from Spain, Paloma Rey-stolle, prefers to visit the street at night. “The thing I want to do when I’m at night here is like party. I don’t even care about the quality of alcohol or anything I just want to party. I mean for example, Thursdays are one-dollar drinks. It’s like let’s have fun tonight,” said Rey-stolle.

Regardless of the time of day, the people of Austin and its visitors all have the same goal when venturing to Historic 6th and that’s to come out and have a good time.

Sexual Assault Cases High But Remain Underreported

By: Julianne Staine, Hymi Ashenafi, Jessica Barrera and Stacie Richard

photo by Stacie Richard

photo by Stacie Richard

Every 21 hours, someone is raped at an American college campus.

Various organizations provided by the University of Texas at Austin seek to support victims, educate the public and provide a safer campus by raising awareness.

According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, over 80 percent of victims in Texas did not report the incident to law enforcement.

Officer William R. Pieper of the UTPD Crime Prevention Unit said several theories come
into play as to why sexual assault cases are underreported.

“One theory that I put a great deal of weight in is that many victims fear they will be re-victimized by the process,” Pieper said. “This re-victimization rests in the knowledge that they not only will need to re-live the event through the investigative process and the criminal trial, but they also fear blaming questions will be asked of them.”

According to Pieper, blaming questions can consist of asking the victim what she was
wearing or how much alcohol she consumed.

“As a society, we all need to recognize that assaultive behavior is not tolerable under any circumstance, and the victim in not at fault or culpable for the assault,” Pieper said.

Rape Aggression Defense, a free course offered to female students, faculty and staff by UTPD, is designed to teach self-defense techniques against attackers.

“The UTPD Crime Prevention Unit also works diligently to review construction programs to help design a safer campus,” Pieper said. “During these reviews, we look at lighting, landscaping, callbox placements and for areas that may serve as a funnel or trap. We then offer recommendations to help create a safer environment.”

Organizations, such as Voices Against Violence (VAV), offer individual meetings with
victims to provide information about their rights and options. Topics of these meetings may include medical concerns or reporting options to law enforcement.

The Power House located in the Student Services Building at The University of Texas at Austin is a resource that provides counseling to the Suicide Prevention and Voices Against Violence Outreach groups. photo by Stacie Richard

The Power House located in the Student Services Building at The University of Texas at Austin is a resource that provides counseling to the Suicide Prevention and Voices Against Violence Outreach groups.
photo by Stacie Richard

VAV also provides victims with financial resources through the organization’s emergency fund, which was started in 2001 with the goal of increasing victims’ safety and coping.

Other initiatives in Austin, such as the Victim Services Division of the Austin Police
Department, aim to respond to victims’ psychological and emotional needs through counseling, criminal justice support and education.

According to the 2013 Austin Police Department crime and traffic report, there were 217 reported victims of rape in Austin. In the majority of the incidents, the victim new the suspect as a family member, a partner or ex-partner, a person from a brief encounter or as a non-stranger.

UTPD’s Officer Pieper said that in order for students to stay safe on campus, they should pay attention to the people around them.

“Walk with purpose, having your head up and your eyes open,” Pieper said. “Make eye
contact with other people, and nod so they know you’ve seen them. And know that most
assaults happen between people who know each other and in areas where you may have
felt safe.”

UT Nears Water Conservation Goal

By Anderson Boyd, Mackenzie Drake and Kylie Fitzpatrick


Cooling station number five at UT uses reclaimed water to remove rejected heat from the buildings on campus.

When Markus Hogue taps his iPad, the ground moves.

Eight sprinklers shoot from the manicured lawn of the Belo Media Center, spraying water in a semi-circle over the verdant grass.

Hogue, irrigation and water conservation coordinator for University Facilities Services, taps the glass screen again, and the sprinklers disappear, leaving only wet spots on the surrounding concrete as evidence of their existence.

The iPad is connected to a central computer accessible from anywhere on campus, and acts as a mobile command hub for Hogue. It is part of a large-scale irrigation system overhaul that has reduced its water usage by 66 percent, Hogue said.

“We’re saving the University $800,000 a year,” Hogue said. “We’re hoping to save [water] at a hundred million gallons a year [as well].”

This irrigation overhaul is a main reason University Facilities Services is nearing a 20 percent reduction in water and energy usage, a goal originally set for a 2020 completion. Announced in 2012, the goal sits at about 80 percent completed, according to Patrick Mazur, technical staff associate for Energy and Resource Conservation.


Patrick Mazur points out cooling towers and retrofitted buildings around the UT campus.

Because the project uses 2009 as a baseline year for comparisons, Mazur said a plumbing retrofit of education and general, or E&G, buildings done on campus and at the J.J. Pickle Research Center in 2008 does not officially count toward the project. Data supplied by Facilities Services shows an estimated $2.5 million saved from the plumbing retrofit, which saw 2,220 low-flow toilets and 592 china fixtures installed between 2008 and 2009.

Mazur said Facilities Services only retrofitted E&G buildings because other departments such as University Athletics and Division of Housing and Food Services operate as their own autonomous entities, known as auxiliary enterprises. This means they have their own budgets and receive their own bills for water and energy usage from the University power plant. Mazur compared it to running a hotel.

“They really have more of an incentive, quite frankly, to use less [water and energy] because they get billed, just like you would at your house,” Mazur said. “Since they pay directly for their water usage it’s in their best interest to keep things minimized.”

The University buys 95 percent of its water from the City of Austin Water Utility, with the other five percent recovered through French drains in landscaped areas and through collecting condensation off of air handlers in the cooling stations. Mazur said there is some talk of harvesting rainwater from campus roofs to further reduce water used for irrigation, but only the Belo Media Center, Student Activity Center, Kinsolving and Jester West dormitories and the Biomedical Engineering building currently have useable collection tanks.


The sprinklers are connected to Hogue’s iPad, and can be turned on and off remotely from anywhere on campus.

Utilities and Energy Management, responsible for maintaining the University power plant and cooling stations, uses about 50 percent of the water on campus. Ryan Thompson, maintenance manager for Utilities and Energy Management, said the department uses reclaimed water supplied by the city in their cooling stations because it is a quarter of the price of potable water, which saves the University money in the long term.

“These [cooling towers] are the biggest water users on campus, so our goal was to use the city’s reclaimed water which is a cheaper less energy intensive water source,” Thompson said. “It saves us the money and its more sustainable in the long run for the community.”

Mazur said there is no immediate conservation project as of right now. Current conservation efforts include buying new laboratory equipment such as vacuum pumps and pipette cleaners that better conserve water, since science labs and related buildings consume more water and energy than non-science buildings.


Reclaimed water is supplied by the City of Austin and is a fourth of the cost of potable water.

The University produces its own chilled water, steam and electricity, according to Mazur. It even sits on its own power grid, which can be used as backup in case the city’s main grid fails.

“We are completely autonomous from the city of Austin. The water is the only thing we don’t make on campus, with the exception of the recovered water,” Mazur said. “But we want to be good stewards and not waste unnecessarily. It costs us, it costs money to buy that water; it’s foolish to let it go down the drain.”

B-Cycle or B-Hit?

By Adam Beard, Juan Cortez, Heather Dyer, and Landon Pederson.

Red bikes with baskets are becoming a common sight along the city streets of Austin, Texas. The B-Cycle program, which launched in December of 2013, is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week bike-share program that has gone from 11 stations to 45 stations, doubled its first usage projections and set national records.

Four different stations surround the 40 Acres of the University of Texas, including two on Guadalupe Street. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Four different stations surround the 40 Acres of the University of Texas, including two on Guadalupe Street. Photo by Landon Pederson.

The main goal of the program is to bridge the transportation gap in public transit by providing a final-mile connector from the city’s mass transit system to their final destination and to reduce Austin’s traffic downtown.

However, many believe B-Cycle could be harming a different traffic problem – bicycle safety.

Cyclists interested in using B-cycle need a credit card to access the system. Once the card is swiped, cyclists can choose a bike from the rack and ride it to a station near their destination. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Cyclists interested in using B-cycle need a credit card to access the system. Once the card is swiped, cyclists can choose a bike from the rack and ride it to a station near their destination. Photo by Landon Pederson.

“I don’t really feel that safe as a bike rider myself,” said Bea Scott, a frequent bike rider in Austin. “A lot of times, a lot of people don’t really know what they’re supposed to do.”

Scott referred to both cyclers and drivers having confusion on the roads, which in turn, can cause a lot of accidents. In fact, the city of Austin has seen its bicycle accidents increase by 15 percent almost every year since 2007.

With the increase in bicycles due to the B-Cycle program, some are expecting this will only continue and perhaps get even worse.

“I’ve just heard such horror stories about people getting hit because there’s confusion as to who is turning or if the biker was going to go through a crosswalk,” Scott said. “Because of that confusion and also the fact that a lot of people don’t wear helmets, it’s really concerning.”

Although the number of bicycle accidents is increasing in Austin, the percent might be higher if all

Austin B-cycle was created to provide Austinites and locals another mode of transportation to explore downtown and the surrounding area. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Austin B-cycle was created to provide Austinites and locals another mode of transportation to explore downtown and the surrounding area. Photo by Landon Pederson.

accidents were reported. The Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying “people tend to only report a bicycle accident to the police when there is an injury or major damage. Most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.”

Despite all of the controversy, B-Cycle officials have yet to see a problem with its program.

“It hasn’t really been an issue for us,” said Elliott McFadden, the CEO of B-Cycle Austin. “Bike share systems have a stellar safety record throughout the world, and that is so far the case here.”

Austin resident Joy Messie does not see an issue either.

Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying unless an injury or major damage is involved, “most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.” Photo by Landon Pederson.

Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying unless an injury or major damage is involved, “most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.” Photo by Landon Pederson.

“I’ve moved around a lot, and this is definitely the city I’ve lived in that has the most bike lanes and most biker-friendly stuff,” Messie said. “Some of the drivers in the city I think could do a better job.”

The answer to the question of bicycle safety in Austin remains split, but there are people out there trying to improve the city’s conditions. Nathan Wilkes, an engineer with Austin’s Bicycle Program, said Austin is looking to create a plan that would make for a safer transportation system.

He also added that 39 percent of residents fall into the category of “interested but concerned” to ride a bicycle on the streets. Wilkes said he believes there are ways to make cycling a more appealing option.

                                                                                   One includes what was recently implemented on Guadalupe Street – a cycle track that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic.

Nevertheless, there are still concerns for increasing bicycle accidents with the new B-Cycle program, especially because the program enables people to ride bikes that don’t normally use them on the city’s roads.



3-D Technology Finally Free For UT Students

By: Jamie Balli, Silvana Di Ravenna, Briana Franklin, and Breanna Luna


UT’s first 3D printing vending machine is the hot topic of technology accessible for students.
Photo Credit: Breanna Luna

AUSTIN – With all the talk about 3-D printing, a few questions still remain. What is in it for the consumer? How does 3-D printing work? Is it costly?

Since early September, 3-D printing has been available at no cost for all students at the University of Texas at Austin. The printer is located in the “T-Room” inside the Mechanical Engineering Building on campus.

Third-year aerospace engineer Kenzie Snell heard about the 3-D printer in the Longhorn Rocketry Association where students had to use it for their rockets. Students in other engineering courses are also using the printer for class projects.

“For my engineering design graphics course I had to recreate a water valve pipe that we took the dimensions of, created 3-D images of them, and then printed them for a final project,” Snell said.


This rabbit was designed and printed using free 3-D technology
Photo Credit: Silvana Di Ravenna

A software development group at the university’s school of engineering created an online portal for students to upload their own designs to the 3-D printer. And here is how the process of 3-D printing works. Each design is reviewed by an engineering student for approval. Students are notified via text message once their design has been approved and is in the process of printing. A second and final text message is sent when the design is finished printing and can be picked up.

“No one has to walk up to the machine and load files which is what typically happens with 3-D printers, and involves students kind of hanging around until it becomes available’’ said Dr. Carolyn Seepersad, associate professor of mechanical engineering at U.T.’s Cockrell School of Engineering.

According to Seepersad, students are customizing parts for themselves, including cuff links, initialed designs, and longhorns for the graduating class. Lately, Seepersad has noticed a significant amount of Pokemon figurines being printed.

“If they can draw it up on their computer, then they can print it out and have it pretty quickly, which is easier than going to the machine shop and trying to make it out of wood, steel, or metal,” said Seepersad.


Students can pick up their creations at the Innovation Station once they are completed
Photo Credit: Silvana Di Ravenna

3-D printing is also being used to make complex shapes in low volume that are not made with other manufacturing techniques used for high volume. According to Seepersad, 3-D printing “is not going to replace other forms of manufacturing,” but it’s going to “supplement manufacturing in very viable ways.”

“Essentially, what you would make in five pieces and glue them together in an assembly shop, a 3-D printer can do it in a single step,” said Dr. Vikram Devarajan, University of Texas alumnus and 3-D printing expert.

According to Devarajan, 3-D printing was invented about 20 to 25 years ago, and because all of the original patents have already expired, the cost of printing has since decreased. This has made 3-D printing much more affordable for the consumer.

The 3-D printer available for the students uses materials that are relatively inexpensive. The mechanical engineering department has offered to help pay for materials, but donations are also being accepted.

“We can print parts almost continuously and only have a couple thousand dollars of material costs at the end of the year,” said Seepersad. “The labor of keeping the machine updated and maintained is probably the biggest expense.”

According to Devarajan, U.T. owns several printers that employ two main types of additive manufacturing processes.The 3-D printer available for all students is based on a process called FDM [Fused Deposition Modeling] and is more reasonable in material costs. The other process, SLS [Selective Laser Sintering], is more expensive but can print more complex designs and is widely used in the medical and the aerospace industry.

“We couldn’t afford to open up [the SLS] process to students because of the material costs,” said Seepersad. “The parts printed from the 3-D printer downstairs rarely print anything that has more than a dollar’s worth of material.”

3-D printers range in price depending on the complexity of the printer itself. Printers using the SLS modeling process can print complex designs such as organs and complex flow field geometries. At U.T., a human heart modeled from a CT scan was printed, according to Devarajan.

“You can go buy an FDM 3-D printer for $1,000,” said Devarajan. “The SLS printers I have operated at U.T. are about half a million dollars each.”

3D Printing from Briana Franklin on Vimeo.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of West Campus

West Campus


By: Cody Jo Bankhead, Diego Contreras, Anthony Guerra, and Austin Harrison.

Looking down from outer space human bodies appear to be suspended to the earth by backpacks as they shuffle in and out of skyscrapers and concrete buildings with Greek letters scribbled across them.  Blue and red Solo cups color the grass as if they are trying to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for themselves.  The neighborhood never sleeps.  This is West Campus.


Located behind Guadalupe Street, otherwise known as “The Drag” by Austin residents, and nestled in-between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and North Lamar Boulevard, West Campus houses Austin residents and students from The University of Texas.


West Campus Housing Map



Housing CompairisonWest Campus is well known by Austin residents, but filmmaker Richard Linklater, known for his cult classic, stoner film “Dazed and Confused,” brought another level of notoriety to this tight knit community.  Linklater’s first film “Slacker” was shot in West Campus.  The film features extensive scenes in the neighborhood prior to its expansion as the predominant location for UT student housing.



The neighborhood is home to various apartment complexes, condominiums, co-operative housing compounds, sorority and fraternity houses, restaurants, bars, and local businesses like real estate companies.

In recent years West Campus has become known primarily for its housing of Greek organizations, including 13 sorority houses and over 30 fraternity houses.

Greek organizations host various events throughout the year including a three-day long party in the spring that raises money for various philanthropic organizations known as “Round Up.”   Events such as these have contributed to backlash from locals who complain of West Campus’ rambunctious reputation.  

“The most annoying thing about living in west campus is having to deal with drunk college students at 2 o’clock, or 1 o’clock in the morning,” Joey Valenzuela, a recent UT graduate and real estate researcher, said.  “Especially if you’re trying to sleep or study at night and you can hear hollering and yelling outside of your window.”


Noise levels are one of the many complaints students and residents have in regards to West Campus.  Other concerns include housing prices, building maintenance, constant construction, and safety.


Top Complaints Graphic-01


Fixing the problems with West Campus is no easy task.  Mike McHone, the vice president of University Area Partners, believes that there is no simple fix in West Campus.  According to McHone, repairing streets like Rio Grande are often complex construction projects.


“Buried in the streets is drainage and sewer lines and that presents multiple complications,” McHone said.


When homes and other structures are built, builders routinely place utility pipes underneath the asphalt.   These pipes include electricity and sewage.  Making a road wider or smoother may require contractors to take certain precautions that tend be more expensive.


Many students complain about the infrastructure of West Campus, however improvements to roads and streetlights depend on the budget passed by the city of Austin, McHone said.


According to McHone, University Area Partners are dedicated to improving the safety and living conditions in West Campus for all students.  The University Area Partners are a neighborhood registry for West Campus that provides information to the public and helps construct policy decisions.


The city of Austin has seen major expansion in the last decade with as many as 100 people moving to the city each day. Some see the city’s rapid expansion as a reason for West Campus’ steep rises in housing prices.

“Now that Austin has become more expensive I feel like it’s reasonable to live in West Campus,” Joey Valenzuela said. “The market is kind of leveling out and $800 seems pretty reasonable to live in West Campus or any other part of the town as well.”

Graph 2


On average, West Campus living has increased at an annual rate of 10 percent.  According to the trend, if a student graduating in 2014 has a child that attends The University of Texas in 2054, the rent for the child will have jumped from $840 to $38,467 a month, a massive increase over the span of 30 years.


 “It’s not affordable for the entire student body to live here anymore.  Even the cheaper places have become a lot more expensive,” Safeer Khatib, a UT senior said.  “I’ve seen a change in three years, when I got here it was a lot cheaper.”

According to realtor Kevin Farrell, the price of realty is skyrocketing and even with all the development that is ongoing, the prices aren’t being driven down. “It would be nice if there was more affordable housing for students in the west campus area,” Farrell said.

In order to obtain affordable housing, some students live areas such as Riverside and commute to campus.  These commutes can be inconvenient and often present obstacles for students like traffic.


Cost of living  2


However, Farrell does believe that more students living in West Campus is a step in the right direction.


“I like the idea of UT students being closer to campus,” Farrell said.

Flyboarding — it’s a thing, right here in Austin

By Barbi Barbee, ChinLin Pan, Alisa Semiens

You bike alongside Lady Bird Lake, and all of a sudden, you see a guy standing on a board up in the air with water spurting out from under his feet. What the heck is he doing?

You’re actually witnessing flyboarding in action.

Flyboarding, also called water jetpacking, is a relatively new water sport about 3 years old. Someone stands on a water jet pack — the Flyboard — connected by a firehose to a jet ski, driven by another person. The water pressure from the jet ski moves the person on the Flyboard in the air.

French jet ski racing champion Franky Zapata invented the Flyboard in spring of 2011. Flyboarding has grown popular in the U.S. The balance and ride of the Flyboard is often compared to a snowboard. Photo by Barbi Barbee.

French jet ski racing champion Franky Zapata invented the Flyboard in spring of 2011. Flyboarding has grown popular in the U.S. The balance and ride of the Flyboard is often compared to a snowboard. Photo by Barbi Barbee.

“There is nothing else on your mind, except for what you are doing and just how much fun you are having,” said Damone Rippy, the youngest professional flyboarder to compete in the 2013 Flyboard World Cup at age 15.

Since its inception, there have been a few Flyboard World championships. Rippy finished in fourth place at the 2013 Flyboard World Cup in Doha, Qatar and in first place at the North American Championship in Toronto.

To train for these championships, Rippy practices about four to five times a week at Aquafly where he works.

“[There is] a certain training regimen that I have to complete before the day is over and that either comes to landing a certain amount of backflips in the air or doing double backflips or doing a certain new trick, or keep on trying it,” Rippy said.

Because the sport is so new, one of Rippy’s coaches Christopher Vance explained that the community of flyboarders is like a family.

“We have what’s called a flyboard family. Everybody pretty much knows everybody at this point,” Vance said. “The competitions that we go to, we all get together and have fun, we go out and drink and eat together. But when the competition starts, it’s very competitive. Not cutthroat, but everybody wants to win.”

French jet ski racing champion Franky Zapata invented the Flyboard in spring of 2011. Now, the sport has taken root in Austin.

UT alumnus Ed Hughes owns Fly Lake Austin, one of several rental locations in Texas that instructs people how to flyboard.

Fly Lake Austin owner Ed Hughes dives under water using his Flyboard, which uses water jets to propel riders to perform a number of trick, such as diving or back flips. Photo by Barbi Barbee.

Fly Lake Austin owner Ed Hughes dives under water using his Flyboard, which uses water jets to propel riders to perform a number of trick, such as diving or back flips. Photo by Barbi Barbee.

The first time Hughes flyboarded was January of 2013 when the temperature was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. He immediately fell in love with the sport after reading about it on the Internet.

Since he opened Fly Lake Austin last year, Hughes has taught people of all ages, ranging from 6 years old to 80 years old, and people who loved sports or couldn’t swim.

Besides the Flyboard, people can try flyboarding on a Jetovator, another water sports accessory that allows the flyboarder to redirect water and propel and elevate into the air.

“The Jetovator is a very similar apparatus. It flies on water power from a jet ski,” Hughes said. “It’s more like a motorcycle than a board that you stand on. It also has to hand controllers that the person on the Jetovator controls the up and down with that. There’s a little more control for the rider on that.”

Hughes teaches with both the Flyboard and the Jetovator. While some people prefer one or the other, most people like using both.

Hughes has seen flyboarding become what it is today and how popular it is — or lack thereof — among Austinites.

Hughes soars above Lake Austin on the Flyboard. The Flyboard can send riders over 30 feet above water. Hughes uses a 60 feet firehose, which allows him to elevate higher in the air. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

Hughes soars above Lake Austin on the Flyboard. The Flyboard can send riders over 30 feet above water. Hughes uses a 60 feet firehose, which allows him to elevate higher in the air. Photo by ChinLin Pan.

“People are becoming more and more familiar with this,” Hughes said. “Yet every weekend, I see people that say they have never seen anything like this before. Or they’ve only seen it on the Internet.”

Hughes believes some people stray from flyboarding because it appears dangerous or they feel they cannot grasp the Flyboard or Jetovator.

“A lot of people are intimidated by these machines, but they’re easier than wakeboarding and most people are up and flying in two to to five minutes once you get them out on the water,” Hughes said.

Like most sports, Rippy says, people can get hurt, but it also takes time “to learn the techniques and get in the zone.”

Rippy says that his young age helps him avoid injury in competitions.

“I can bend easier than some of the people and I heal very fast when I get hurt,” Rippy said.

For people who are not professional flyboarders, the risk of injury is low, when they are in capable hands of an instructor. Hughes encourages people of all ages to try if they’re interested because “it’s way easier than it looks.”

S.M.I.L.E. and Brave the Shave

Carolina Media hugs her sister after braving the shave. Photo by Rachel Hill

Carolina Media hugs her sister after braving the shave. Photo by Rachel Hill

Jasmine Alexander, Angela Buenrostro, Rachel Hill and Claudia Resendez

Audience members watched attentively as a panel of brave participants said goodbye to their heads full of hair. Young men lost inches, while girls gave up feet of luscious hair, switching their everyday look for a more unconventional bald head.

Smile volunteer Dakota Batch shaves Ricky Llamas's head.

Smile volunteer Dakota Batch shaves Ricky Llamas’s head.

These people did not simply lose their locks for style; instead, they did it to raise awareness of pediatric cancer as part of Brave the Shave, an event benefiting the St. Baldrick’s Foundation by Students Making Impacts through Love and Empathy (S.M.I.L.E.). Some do it for the praise, some solely to show support, others because they want to try something new, but in the end, it is all for a cause.

Brave the Shave 2014 took place on April 5 in front of the University of Texas tower located in the west mall. Participants sat on stage while audience members watched their acts of bravery take place, as has been the case for the past three years.

Since the event started in 2012, on an annual basis, hundreds of people vow to shave their heads in unity in support of children battling cancer. This year alone, there were 195 participants.

Due to past events being so successful, for Brave the Shave 2014, S.M.I.L.E. set a grand goal of $65,000 and raised 88.8 percent of that. A vast $57,717 was raised by participants, volunteers and donors, as stated on the St. Baldrick’s Foundation website.

Of the $55,000 2012 goal, $57,542 was raised, reaching 104.6 percent of the target. The next year, of the $75,000 goal, $56,260 was raised, reaching 75 percent of the target.

“We’re all really passionate about this,” said Theo Costin, Brave the Shave 2014 event coordinator. “It’s been really hard, but it’s been worth it; the event has been bigger every single year.”

Carolina uses her phone’s camera to check her progress

The success of these events is due in great part to those whom participate. For Brave the Shave 2014, the top single participants included Holly Smith, who raised $6,475; Imani S., who raised $2,087; and Joshua F., who raised $1,563. On the other hand, others decided to team up and raise money in a collective effort. This year, there were 24 teams, and the top three were S.M.I.L.E., which raised $10,537.49; Team Caroline, which raised $7,530; and The Bald Brigade, $4,419.

UT sophomore and English major, Carolina Media, shaved her head in honor of her cousin who had cancer. Her friends took photos and videos with their cell phones as the barber shaved her head. Once she was done, her friends greeted showered her with hugs and tears.

“I was emotional because I realized how much people love me and like how much they’ll come out and support me,” Medina said. “They’re still going to love me now that I’m bald.”

All of the proceeds from the events go to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which then allocates the money to organizations focused on pediatric cancer research. In total, over $100,000 have been raised by S.M.I.L.E. from previous events. People can help S.M.I.L.E. in their efforts by signing up to shave their head, volunteering or simply donating to the cause.

By signing up to shave their head, participants not only help in funding pediatric cancer research organizations, but also show others that “bald is beautiful.” This raises awareness to the disease in general and through this act of solidarity, the participants also show support for those affected by cancer.

“It’s a great cause,” said Megan Yeager, junior international relations major and Brave the Shave 2014 participant. “I wanted to show people that bald is beautiful.”