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RISE to the occasion

Ian Carlson, Eliz­a­beth Dame

Stu­dents and fac­ulty across many dis­ci­plines pre­sented their schol­arly research, inno­v­a­tive thinking, and entre­pre­neurial ven­tures on Thursday at RISE:2014, Northeastern’s Research, Inno­va­tion and Schol­ar­ship Expo.

Projects spanned many dis­ci­plines and topics, including cyber­se­cu­rity; air­port screening tech­nology; nan­otech­nology; emo­tion sci­ence; game design; sus­tain­able urban archi­tec­ture; and novel phys­ical therapy reha­bil­i­ta­tion devices. Sev­eral stu­dents were hon­ored at an awards recep­tion fol­lowing the expo and the full list of win­ners can be found here.

North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun said he was impressed with the range of use-​​inspired research projects on dis­play at RISE:2014, many of which addressed global chal­lenges in health, secu­rity, and sustainability—the university’s core research themes. “Our research phi­los­ophy here is that we want to impact society,” Aoun said. He added that this research focus aligns with the university’s emphasis on being con­nected to and engaged with the world, par­tic­u­larly through Northeastern’s sig­na­ture co-​​op program.

North­eastern has hosted the research and schol­ar­ship expo for the past 10 years; last year, under the lead­er­ship of the Center for Research Inno­va­tion, the event was renamed RISE to encom­pass the inno­v­a­tive thinking and entre­pre­neur­ship alive at North­eastern in addi­tion to schol­arly research. This year’s event also marked CRI’s launch of Tech2Venture, a pilot funding pro­gram cre­ated to iden­tify and engage sea­soned entre­pre­neurs in the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of Northeastern’s most promising technologies.

Many projects on dis­play at RISE:2014 uti­lized state-​​of-​​the-​​art tech­nology, including the 3-​​D printing facil­i­ties on campus. In one senior cap­stone project, a team of mechan­ical engi­neering stu­dents devel­oped a drone pro­to­type equipped with a video camera that could assist archi­tec­tural engi­neers in finding thermal leaks and cracks in building façades. Another group of engi­neering stu­dents designed a “smart bike” that uti­lizes a series of prox­imity sen­sors, lasers, and Blue­tooth tech­nology to alert bicy­clists to poten­tial haz­ards and avoids acci­dents. The project won the “People’s Choice” RISE Award and an Out­standing Stu­dent Research Award at the grad­uate level.

Stu­dents’ entre­pre­neurial spirit was also on dis­play. Robinson Greig, for example, E’14, is part of a group of under­grad­u­ates who devel­oped Gather, a mobile appli­ca­tion that helps make plan­ning social gath­er­ings easier. Another stu­dent, Ian Carlson, AMD’17, pre­sented his pro­to­type for Dash, an elec­tric dri­ve­train kit that attaches to most long­boards, a longer ver­sion of a skate­board. Carlson said the project, which won the Husky Startup Chal­lenge in Fall 2013, began simply as an idea to cross campus more easily but turned into one that fills the “the first mile and last mile” public trans­porta­tion gap. “There’s a market for this,” Carlson said, “and I’m hoping to bring other stu­dents on board to help me out.”

At least one RISE research project hit close to home: A native of Vietnam, chem­istry major Huynh Vo, S’14, observed how many people in the country lack access to clean drinking water. In response, she began researching the devel­op­ment of a low-​​tech solar water-​​purification device that uti­lizes two of the cheapest mate­rials on earth: tita­nium dioxide and carbon.

Vo was far from the only stu­dent whose project aimed to improve the health and well being of par­tic­ular pop­u­la­tions. For example, phys­ical therapy majors Emily Nasson, Marin Little, and Lucy Bur­rage won the under­grad­uate Out­standing Stu­dent Research Award in the health sci­ences cat­e­gory for their project “Moving On,” a pilot study designed to eval­uate the accept­ability and fea­si­bility of an early phys­ical therapy edu­ca­tion inter­ven­tion for pre-​​surgical breast cancer survivors.

Else­where, senior Eliz­a­beth Dame, AMD’14, high­lighted her research exploring the present and poten­tial role of wood in the building industry. She noted that steel and con­crete cur­rently dom­i­nate large-​​scale urban building, but that the industry pro­duces one-​​third of the world’s green­house gas emis­sions. Through the imple­men­ta­tion of sus­tain­able forestry, she said, wood can be a renew­able solution—one that some Euro­pean cities have already introduced—to incor­po­rate into building design.

She pointed to experts’ esti­mates that 70 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion could be living in urban envi­ron­ments by 2050 as a reason why urban designers and builders—particularly in the U.S.—need to start thinking more about cleaner, alter­na­tive approaches to meet this demand. “If we change the way we build, we can have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on our carbon foot­print,” she said.

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