Accessibility to Non-Emergency Transportation Services for Senior Citizens & Veterans with Medical Health Disparities in Rural Areas

STS Students

By Anthony Wright

Anthony is a Cincinnati-born, Los Angeles-raised STS: Policy & Law senior. Some of his hobbies include reading financial literacy and personal development books, competing in CEO business plan competitions, and leading various student organizations. 

According to the Transportation Research Board, “Nearly 4 million Americans miss or delay medical care each year due to a lack of transportation.” This issue is pertinent to the community because every family, especially senior citizens and veterans, needs transportation access to life-sustaining services such as primary healthcare providers, pharmacies, nursing homes, grocery stores, and banks in order to stay alive. There is a lack of affordable, safe, and efficient transportation in America, and rural areas are impacted the hardest. My solution is to create a non-e­­mergency transportation network connecting Rapid City public transportation services with local primary health care providers, nursing homes, pharmacies, grocery stores, and various essential service vendors to make them more accessible for seniors and veterans. 

Research has proven that consistent transportation access to healthcare vastly increases the health outcomes of members and leads to dramatic cost savings. For example, there was an “experiment of transportation brokerage service administered in Kentucky and Georgia where access to healthcare improved and resulted in hospital admissions and medical expenditures decreasing for diabetic adults.” The Centers for Disease Control estimated that “8% of the adult population ages 55 and older have at least one chronic condition, resulting in these individuals in need of non-emergency medical transportation to access life sustaining treatments and services they need. More importantly, a large percent of the 20 million adults living with chronic kidney disease undergo dialysis three times a week. Approximately 66% of dialysis patients rely on others for transportation to and from their appointments.”

Balancing Expectations: Preserving the Nature and History in South Dakota

STS Students

By Louise Swanson

Louise is majoring in Science, Technology, and Society with a minor in Environmental Science. She plans on working with the parks system or in museum work.

When I was growing up, I spent my weekends going to ghost town sites around the Black Hills with my father. Each time we went to Spokane we made guesses as to whether or not the old community center that Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke at would have collapsed (a couple of years ago it did) or if the Two-Bit Mill would still be standing (about 10 years ago it was bulldozed into a nearby ravine to better allow for nature to return to the area). Meanwhile, I watched as the Gordon Stockade was refurbished and preserved for visitors to come and see where the Gordon Party lived while in the Black Hills.

A picture containing tree, grass, outdoor, building.
Spokane Community Center/Church, 2016. This photo and the following are taken by either me or my father, William Swanson. I asked him for his permission to use them.

In college I have taken both history and environmental science classes and worked for a year at The Journey Museum, and I have only become more curious about how the decision to preserve some things and not others is made and how agencies decide whether to prioritize the environment or the history of an area. The optimist in me also hopes that maybe sometimes we don’t have to choose. Maybe, sometimes there is a way that environmental conservation and historic preservation are linked.

Food in … SPACE!

history, Technology

By John Dreyer

When I was in my early teens I bought Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise. This book was just a technical manual for Star Trek and, as a young fan, I was pretty happy. One aspect the authors addressed was eating on board a future starship using a replicator. Essentially a 3D food printer, the replicator could make anything you desired. The author even included a menu of choice dishes. This book is only one place where food in science fiction is addressed. From the cornbread in Aliens to the generic-looking dinner in 2001: A Space Odyssey that David Bowmen grabs while it’s still too hot, food has had a place in storytelling.

But what about real space exploration? Do astronauts get Yankee Pot Roast? Space food has had a long developmental arc, often supplemented by industry, that seeks to put nutritious and tasty food at the fingertips of astronauts and, later, consumers.

Partial menu listing, including a list of Terran foods, Vulcan foods, and Andorian foods.
Food available from the Enterprise’s replicator. (Source: Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise)

The first food in space was carried by Yuri Gagarin. His meal was two tubes of pureed meat and a tube of chocolate sauce. For the designers of the meal, there was a question if he could actually eat and digest in zero gravity. In his first American orbital flight, John Glenn consumed a tube of applesauce, which he claimed to have enjoyed. Tube foods are not exactly appetizing, and nutrition in space was still in its infancy. There were also questions of taste and texture. As NASA began to work towards Apollo and the moon landing, it was realized that better food was necessary.

Kissing Robots: Can Technology Help Us Love?

design, Technology

By Christy Tidwell

On Valentine’s Day, talk of love and romance is everywhere. Some people celebrate it and some avoid it. Still others would like to celebrate but are separated from their loved ones. Long-distance relationships are hard, after all, so what if technology could help diminish that distance? Sure, we have phone calls, FaceTime, even emails or letters (if you’re particularly old-fashioned). But these methods of connection don’t include touch.

Lovotics, a multidisciplinary research project proposed by Dr. Hooman Samani of the University of Plymouth (UK), proposes to change this. It includes several applications:

  • Kissenger, a pair of robots designed to transfer a kiss over distance. Here, “the system takes the form of an artificial mouth that provides the convincing properties of the real kiss.”
  • Mini-Surrogate, a project to use miniature robots “as small cute, believable and acceptable surrogates of humans for telecommunication.” They are meant to “foster the illusion of presence.”
  • XOXO, a system that builds on Kissenger but also includes a “wearable hug reproducing jacket.”

It sounds like a potentially nice idea to help with long-distance relationships. When I raised this with students in my Humanities & Technology class last semester, however, they found it more disturbing than promising. Check out the video for the Kissenger for more detail.

Video demonstrating the Kissenger application.

For me, these ideas come with more questions than answers. How important is physical proximity for a meaningful relationship? What elements of touch are most important? Can those elements be replicated by something other-than-human? Even – what new relationships between human and nonhuman might be possible in the future?

I don’t have answers to these questions; in fact, I don’t think there is one right answer to them. But we should probably be asking them before we start creating technological solutions to problems that we don’t fully understand. Will having kissing robots lead to serious harm? Probably not. Will they help? We won’t know unless we ask questions about human emotions and psychology, bringing humanities and social sciences knowledge to bear on technological possibility.

Kissenger application. Photo credit: Ars Electronica.

Spooky Science at the Movies!: Week 5

Film, horror

By Christy Tidwell

This weekend is Halloween! To celebrate, I have two final movie recommendations to share. One is an all-time favorite of mine and probably no surprise to those who know me. The other is one of the scarier recent movies I’ve seen. Their premises are quite different, but both have science and technology at their core.

Classic Movie #5: Jurassic Park

Of course it’s Jurassic Park! Jurassic Park (1993, directed by Steven Spielberg) is an adventure movie featuring dinosaurs, a horror movie with terrifying monster attacks, and a science fiction movie that asks, “What if we could bring a creature back from extinction?” Jurassic Park is such a well-known part of US popular culture that it is a common reference point in discussions of scientific overreach and a familiar critique of the role of money in scientific research. “Spared no expense,” John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) repeats throughout – but the project still fails.

Jurassic Park is a reworking of Frankenstein with dinosaurs, and it is one of the best movies out there for raising important questions about scientific ethics while also being extraordinarily entertaining. If you haven’t seen it, now is the time! If you have already seen it, well, it’s always a good time to watch Jurassic Park again.

Official trailer for Jurassic Park (1993)

Contemporary Movie #5: Host

As Laura Kremmel noted in her recent post “High-Tech Spirits and Ghost Tours,” Host (2020, dir. Rob Savage) has been named as the scariest horror movie. It’s short (only 57 minutes!) and fun, but it definitely gets your heart pounding in that short running time. Host spends less time raising big issues about science than Jurassic Park and focuses more on scaring the audience, but the way it achieves its scares is worth noting from an STS perspective. Those scares are only possible through the technology of Zoom, and the audience’s ability to be scared by spirits via technology is a) definitely not new (as Laura Kremmel points out) and b) perhaps an indication of how mysterious the inner workings of these technologies are to most of us.

Official trailer for Host (2020)

Collected Movie Lists

This is the final entry in the series of STS-related horror movies for this season, so I’ll end by combining all the movies recommended and linking to the earlier posts.

Classic movies:

  1. Frankenstein (1931)
  2. Godzilla (1954)
  3. Phase IV (1974)
  4. The Fly (1986)
  5. Jurassic Park (1993)

Contemporary movies:

  1. Saint Maud (2019)
  2. Crawl (2019)
  3. In the Earth (2020)
  4. Annihilation (2018)
  5. Host (2020)

Happy Halloween, and happy viewing!