Fair days open Veenker's fareways

Veenker Golf Course

Veenker Memorial Golf Course opened for the season on Tuesday, March 13. ISU lecturer Yong Chin "Master" Pak (left) and visiting scholar Kwonil Seo (Soonchun University, Korea), pictured here on the No. 2 green, joined an estimated 75 to 100 golfers taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather on opening day.

Tess Balsley, clubhouse manager at Veenker, said the course opening dates commonly fall sometime around spring break. This year may seem early, but she said the course opened on Feb. 29 in 2004.

"We just go by the weather," Balsley said. "When we see the ground temperature rise above freezing and the turf has a chance to absorb the moisture so that it is firm, we're good to go."

Green fees are discounted this spring, with rates of $20 (18 holes) and $13 (9 holes) on weekdays, or $25 and $16.50 on weekends and holidays. Season passes, monthly passes and 10-round cards also are available. Cart fees are extra. Call 4-6727 to reserve a tee time. A schedule of events, including open tournaments, is online. Photo by Bob Elbert.

ISU BioBus is changing the future of fuel


Students (from left) Lauren Bubser, David Correll and Bernardo Del Campo are members of the ISU BioBus student organization. The group converts recycled vegetable oil into fuel, which supplements the diesel fuel for one CyRide bus. Photo by Bob Elbert.

At the conclusion of the 1985 blockbuster movie, Back to the Future, Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) puts food scraps into the gas tank of his DeLorean time machine, boasting to Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and his girlfriend, Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells), that gasoline is unnecessary in the future. Marty and Jennifer curiously look at each other because in 1985 the notion of fueling a vehicle with last night's leftovers was laughable.

Welcome to the future.

While they aren't stuffing wilted lettuce leaves and banana peels into gas tanks, students with ISU BioBus recycle waste vegetable oil from the Union Drive Community Center (UDCC) into biofuel to supplement the diesel fuel used to power CyRide bus No. 18.

ISU BioBus, a student entrepreneurial organization created about three years ago as part of a Live Green! initiative, currently has about 100 members -- 25 who actively convert the vegetable oil into useable fuel. You don't have to be a chemistry major to join; the group welcomes students from all disciplines.

David Correll, a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Business and one of the founders of ISU BioBus, says the organization is a good fit for students concerned about the environment.

"We're engaging students to reduce the carbon footprint of their own community," Correll said. "We want to show it's possible to do without a lot of money."

From French fries to fuel

Several students meet twice each week to convert the vegetable oil into biofuel using a process called transesterification, a chemical process that permanently thins the vegetable oil. First, the students retrieve the oil from UDCC using a contraption they built themselves -- the Super Sucker. It holds 60 gallons of vegetable oil. From there, they transport the vegetable oil to their lab in the BioRenewables Research Laboratory where the transesterification process begins.

The students mix methanol and potassium hydroxide into the vegetable oil in a large tank and heat it to 140 degrees. These chemicals remove the stickiness (glycerin) from the oil to create a higher quality fuel. After the oil sits for a few hours, the glycerin falls to the bottom of the tank, leaving the biodiesel on top. The biodiesel is drained and washed with water to purify it further. Finally, the oil is heated again to evaporate the water. The process yields about 50 gallons of biofuel.

How well does it work?

It's hard to comprehend that standard vegetable oil, which once cooked French fries and chicken strips, can power a bus. But it seems to works pretty well, according to James Rendall, maintenance coordinator at CyRide.

"CyRide has been using fuel from BioBus since last spring," Rendall said. "We haven't seen any issues arise due to the BioBus fuel."

ISU BioBus creates the biofuel, but leaves blending up to the CyRide staff. For example, more biofuel can be added to regular diesel during warmer temperatures.

"All biodiesel is susceptible to 'gelling,' which starts to occur around 30 degrees," Rendall said. "If you keep the percentage of biodiesel low, under 10 percent, the effects of gelling are greatly minimized."

That means CyRide uses less biofuel during winter than summer. Last summer, Correll said the blend used in bus number 18 was up to 22 percent biofuel.

But does the bus's exhaust smell like French fries?

"Yes, it can," Correll said. "It's not as noticeable with the CyRide bus because [the fuel] is a blend."

Future looks bright

ISU BioBus is in the process of developing a comprehensive business plan to increase the number of CyRide buses that use biofuel. While the club's goal is to reduce the community's carbon footprint, outreach to the campus community and beyond also is a top priority.

"My hope is to see more biobuses driving around," Correll said. "I also want to see [ISU BioBus] continue so that students get experience in making biofuel and being entrepreneurs."

Students hit the road to tell state universities' stories

Students will take to the road next month to talk about the value of Iowa's public universities and urge legislative support for Iowa State and the universities of Iowa and Northern Iowa.

The public is invited to an April 2 kickoff event for the student-led initiative, Universities for a Better Iowa, at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines. Joining the students will be Gov. Terry Branstad, president of the Iowa Board of Regents Craig Lang and alumni from Iowa's public universities.  The event will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Elwell Family Food Center on the fairgrounds.

Students from each of the three schools will travel the state together in April, telling Iowans why their public universities are a good investment. Here's a preliminary schedule of visits. Updates will be posted on the Board of Regents website.

Preliminary schedule of visits.

  • April 9: Mount Pleasant (5-6 p.m.)
  • April 12: Carroll (noon-1 p.m.)
  • April 12: Atlantic (5-6 p.m.)
  • April 16: Dubuque (5-6 p.m.)
  • April 19: Cedar Rapids (noon-1 p.m.)
  • April 19: Davenport (5-6 p.m.)
  • April 23: Sioux City (5-6 p.m.)
  • April 25: Fort Dodge (noon-1 p.m.)
  • April 25: Mason City (5-6 p.m.)

Extension and Outreach Week starts March 25

ISU Extension and Outreach Week is March 25-31. And while extension and outreach staff will mark the week with a couple dozen open houses and special events throughout the state, they'll also celebrate their week in classic extension fashion -- offering agricultural research updates, providing education on food safety, family finances and business; helping kids have fun with science, technology, engineering and math, and more.

Extension and Outreach Week will be a pretty typical week for staff, with some 300 events in communities all across the state, augmented by a dash of celebration.

"The weeklong celebration is just one way we can say 'thank you' to the many volunteers, community leaders, organizations, agencies and other partners who support extension and outreach work in Iowa," said Cathann Kress, vice president for extension and outreach.

Gov. Terry Branstad will officially sign a proclamation on March 27 declaring Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Week.

"As a land-grant university, Iowa State was founded on three big ideas: to open higher education to all, to teach practical classes and to share knowledge far beyond the campus borders," Kress said. "ISU Extension and Outreach is dedicated to providing education that makes a difference in Iowans' everyday lives."

Educational network, county by county 

Extension and outreach is part of an educational network supported by Iowa State University, local county governments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Every county extension district in Iowa has an elected extension council that decides how local tax dollars are spent to support educational programs at the county level.

Extension and outreach delivers through five program areas aligned with Iowa State University colleges: agriculture and natural resources, Center for Industrial Research and Service, community and economic development, families, and 4-H youth development.

"ISU Extension and Outreach anticipates emerging issues and trends so Iowans can thrive and succeed," Kress said. "We act in catalytic ways to create opportunities and build relationships, and we stay for the long haul to be there when needs arise. We are committed to Iowans and plan to be a vital part of Iowa's future."

Last year about 1.8 million people, including almost 94,000 youth, benefited from ISU Extension and Outreach educational programs, according to Terry Maloy, president of the Iowa Association of County Extension Councils.

Regents get first look at parking permit, residence hall proposals

All employee parking permits would go up $10 next year (motorcycle parking permits would go up $3), in increases proposed to the state Board of Regents Wednesday in Iowa City. The board is expected to approve parking increases at its April 26 meeting in Cedar Falls.

Hourly rates at parking meters (50 cents) and in metered lots (75 cents) would remain the same.

Parking division manager Mark Miller said the proposed across-the-board increase is the recommendation of Iowa State's Transportation Advisory Council. Council members were concerned about the widening gap between the cost of reserved and general staff permits, currently not quite a 4:1 ratio. Miller said council members prefer a 3:1 ratio. Among Big 12 Conference peers, Iowa State's general staff permit has the second lowest cost; the ISU reserved permit is fourth highest.

An annual permit for the Memorial Union parking ramp would go up $12 as proposed, with the semester and winter season permits each going up $6. Proposed changes in hourly rates at the ramp include a 25-cent increase for the first hour (from $1.50 to $1.75) and a 50-cent increase in the daily maximum, from $9 to $9.50. The lost ticket fee would go up a proposed $2.50, to $30, if approved. The Memorial Union manages the ramp, the parking division in the department of public safety manages all other lots and structures.

Parking permits: Proposed increases




% increase
General staff $132 $142 7.6
Departmental $132 $142 7.6
Reserved $471 $481 2.1
24-hour reserved $846 $856 1.2
Vendor $171 $181 5.8
Motorcycle $44 $47 6.8
MU ramp      
   Annual $474 $486 2.5
   Fall, spring semester $202 $208 3.0
   Winter (Nov.-Feb.) $202 $208 3.0
   Summer $162 $167 3.1


Residence hall and dining rates for 2012-13

The cost to live in an Iowa State residence hall next year would go up an average of 2.5 percent, under increases proposed to the board Wednesday. Apartment rates at Frederiksen Court and Schilletter/University Village would go up about 1.5 percent as proposed.

Students have 16 room rates to select from, depending on building, air conditioning availability and number of roommates. Proposed prices vary from a triple with no air conditioning ($3,888 per person for the academic year) to a lofted double in Eaton or Martin Hall ($7,540).

All meal plans offered by ISU Dining would remain flat next year, as proposed. In student surveys, focus groups and via hall and student governments this year, students requested no increase in meal plan prices. ISU Dining leaders shared their projected expenses with students, who then provided input on service changes that would keep the fees at this year's rates. Meal options include semester plans that combine meals with ISU Dining Dollars, meal blocks (good in dining centers anytime during an academic year) and Dining Dollars (which expire annually in early May).

As proposed, the "door rate" in the campus dining centers also would remain the same next year: $8.50 for breakfast and $10.50 for lunch and dinner.

A room-meal plan the board traditionally has used for annual comparison is a double room with 14 meals/week and 200 Dining Dollars/semester. At Iowa State, that combination would go up a proposed $101 next year, from $7,621 to $7,722.

When resident undergraduate tuition and fees for 2012-13 (as approved by the board in December) are added in, the package totals $15,448, an increase of $341 (2.26 percent) over this year's cost for tuition, fees, room and meal plan.

The board is scheduled to approve room and meal plan rates at its April meeting.

Dance Marathon 2012 success

Dance Marathon student leaders from the three universities reported they raised more than $1.8 million at dance events on their respective campuses in January and February. Funds raised support pediatric cancer patients and their families at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital. School totals were: $380,742 at ISU (15th year, 915 dancers); $1.37 million at U of Iowa (18th year, 1,500 dancers); $56,473 at U of Northern Iowa (first year, 611 dancers).

In other business, the regents approved:

  • Iowa State's request to terminate the bachelor of science program in insect science (College of Agricultural and Life Sciences) due to sustained low enrollment. The program was placed on a 2004 list of programs with 50 or fewer undergraduate majors and subsequent attempts by the entomology department to boost enrollment in the program didn't succeed. The change takes effect immediately; no students will be admitted to the program. All undergraduates in the program as of fall 2012 will be allowed to complete it.
  • A budget ($3.23 million) to renovate the MacKay Hall auditorium. College (about two-thirds) and university (about one-third) funds will cover the cost. Next up in the process is a schematic design of the proposed changes.
  • Iowa State's request to name the yet-to-be-constructed Agriculture Student Learning Center for Jeff and Deb Hansen of West Des Moines, who gave a lead gift of $2 million to the project. Formerly referred to as the agriculture pavilion, the proposed $7 million facility would feature a heated 1,000-seat arena, set of classrooms and a conference room for use by the university community. It will be located on the south side of Mortensen Road, north of the Ames/ISU ice arena. With the Hansens' gift, more than $6 million has been raised for the project.

State grants, institutional grants and how states use them

Sandy Baum, an economist and senior policy analyst at the not-for-profit College Board, made a presentation on Iowa and other states' higher education grant programs, tuition set-aside as an institutional grant program and need-based vs. merit-based aid. She encouraged universities to have access to both state and institutional grants. With institutional grants, the schools have the discretion to decide who receives the aid. Tuition set-aside sometimes creates (inaccurately, she said) the perception that one student might be subsidizing another. State grants avoid this perception. The difficulty in Iowa, she said, is that just 6 percent of the funds in the state's three largest grant programs go to students attending public universities.

Noting that from 26 to 35 percent of tuition set-aside dollars at each of the three regent universities go to undergraduates without financial need, Baum said that states and schools really can't afford to award merit-based grants in these lean years. Ideally, grants are awarded based on need, with requirements for academic performance included, she said.

Board president Craig Lang asked that the topic return to the board's agenda in early summer.

Hira named interim ISU Foundation president

Labh Hira, who'd planned to retire from his position as dean of the College of Business on June 30, is making the move several months early to serve as interim president of the ISU Foundation.

Hira announced Monday that he'd accepted a request from the ISU Foundation Board of Directors to lead the foundation during the search for a successor to former president Dan Saftig.  Hira's appointment is effective immediately.

Saftig stepped down from the foundation presidency Monday. During his nine years of leadership, the foundation generated more than $1 billion in gifts and commitments, including $876 million raised during Iowa State's most successful fundraising campaign.

Mike Crum, who originally was appointed interim dean of the College of Business, effective July 1, will now take over immediately. Crum is associate dean of graduate programs in the college and inaugural holder of the Ruan Chair in Supply Chain Management.

"There will be many details to sort out in coming days," Hira wrote in a letter to faculty and staff in the Business college, "but let me assure you that I am committed to making this transition as seamless as possible. Fortunately, our transition plan was already well under way. Mike and I will do our best to make this accelerated timeline move smoothly."

The Brunnier will be blooming this weekend


A floral entry – and the painting that inspired it – in the 2011 edition of Brunnier in Bloom. Submitted photo.

The fourth annual Brunnier in Bloom -- University Museums' pairing of beautiful art and cut flowers -- will be held the weekend of March 23-25. Ames-area floral designers and garden clubs put their talents to work to create arrangements inspired by works of art currently on exhibition in the Brunnier Art Museum.

At a Friday evening opening event, a guest judge panel will select winners in "Best in Show" and honorable mention categories. There will be live music by ISU alumnus Clayton Severson and floral-inspired treats from the Ames Cupcake Emporium. The floral designers will be available to talk about their entries.

Judges this year are Letitia Kenemer, coordinator of the Memorial Union art collection; Janet Leath, spouse of president Steven Leath; and Deb Lewis, curator of the Ada Hayden Herbarium in Bessey Hall. The opening night event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Brunnier Art Museum, 295 Scheman.

If you're unable to attend Friday, the show continues Saturday and Sunday (11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily). Visitors may cast their vote for the People’s Choice award and participate in a $2 raffle for donated prizes, with proceeds supporting educational programs at the museums. The People's Choice recipient will be announced at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Admission is free all three days, though the museums encourage visitors to consider a $3 donation.