Gazzola’s Paper 2 Tree program connects university, community, environment

11/17/2017

Julia Stackler

MechSE, university partners, and the Champaign-Urbana community kicked off a new initiative yesterday started by Assistant Professor Mattia Gazzola.

Paper 2 Tree is a new outreach program that aims to create a stronger connection between researchers at Illinois and the Champaign-Urbana community and environment. It encourages anyone who publishes a scientific paper to donate a tree to be planted—a tree that will grow along with the scientific reach of the research. Trees will be associated to the publication reference, geo-localized, and visualized on a map—all data to be made publicly available, along with tree species, scientific area, and associated university department.

LaViers leads students at King Elementary School in an activity demonstrating expressive robotic systems.
LaViers leads students at King Elementary School in an activity demonstrating expressive robotic systems.
“Some time ago I realized that for every article I publish, I use many, many sheets of paper—writing, re-writing, reviewing, and correcting. I wondered if I could try to reverse that. What if I could plant a tree every time I publish a good paper, and at the same time celebrate and share it with the wider public?” said Gazzola.

Thanks to several engineering-based activities with MechSE faculty, the kickoff event impacted nearly 100 area school children across both cities. Assistant professors Amy LaViers, Chenhui Shao, Aimy Wissa, and Gazzola, along with graduate student Nishana Ismail, led the educational activities with students at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Urbana and Booker T. Washington STEM Academy in Champaign. The students then helped plant trees in King Park and Douglass Park.

Deborah Frank Feinen, Mayor of Champaign, along with city and park district representatives, were also on hand to celebrate the program’s initiation.  

“It’s great to have more trees that are part of our community, and I love the idea that as the research grows, the tree grows,” said Frank Feinen.

Wissa teaches the students at BTW about bio-inspired robots, including winged, gliding ones, which the students then designed.
Wissa teaches the students at BTW about bio-inspired robots, including winged, gliding ones, which the students then designed.
Paper 2 Tree has partnered with the Champaign Park District, Urbana Park District, City of Champaign, City of Urbana, Champaign Unit 4 School District, Urbana School District 116, and many university units, including the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, the College of Engineering’s Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education, the College of Education, and others.
The Champaign Park District and the students of BTW School plant a Buckeye tree in Douglass Park.
The Champaign Park District and the students of BTW School plant a Buckeye tree in Douglass Park.
“The Champaign Park District is excited to see a creative collaboration like Paper 2 Tree come to fruition. We believe it will help bring more community and environmental awareness to students and researchers, while reminding the community how important their research is to Champaign-Urbana,” said Chelsea Norton, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Champaign Park District.

Urbana Park District Director Tim Bartlett indicated that the district appreciates the new program for the assistance it will provide with ongoing reforestation efforts. “The Urbana Park District cares for nearly 4,000 trees. We are in need of new trees whenever a damaged or diseased tree must be replaced. Paper2Tree will help us meet that need,” he said. 

Illustration by Margherita Gazzola.