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Engineering

smart home
Spring 2018

Smart tech in senior living communities

Roschelle “Shelly” Fritz, assistant professor at the WSU College of Nursing in Vancouver, studies how “smart-home” technology can monitor the health and safety of senior citizens from afar. She’s part of an interdisciplinary team that includes WSU engineering professor Diane Cook and WSU psychology professor Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe.

Fritz ran an innovative pilot study that deployed health sensors in five homes at senior living community Touchmark on South Hill in Spokane.

Read more about Fritz’s work with smart health sensors soon.

First Words
Spring 2018

Forged by fire

The intricate mastery of Japanese swordmaking relies on a smith’s deep understanding of fire, metal, and techniques to control both. Each unique sword shimmers with thousands of layers from the folding of the metal, a work of art in steel. That steel, though, traditionally comes from an iron-rich sand full of impurities, pounded and blended by the smith. A smith then uses a secret mix of water, clay, ash, and other ingredients over the blade as they once again plunge the sword into fire to create a keen edge. Only when the blade glows a certain color is it quenched in water.

Humans have learned … » More …

Spring 2018

Fires burned, cauldrons bubble

In the embers of an ancient winter day, a Swedish scout scrambles up the hill of snow-covered boulders, hurrying over the slippery ground between them along a narrow path. His panting breath trails after him until he stumbles through the castle gate gasping, “Vandals on the riverbank! Bandits to the east!”

The heavy palisade slams shut behind him as men rush to position along a glinting rock wall. From 150 feet above the valley floor, they watch as silhouettes begin scaling the boulders below. With a signal, arrows and stones rain down upon them, yet the marauders advance, dragging their weapons or clenching them in … » More …

Winter 2017

Fighting infection a new, old way

Before antibiotics were invented, people often used silver, a known antimicrobial that can also be toxic, to tackle infections.

Researchers in the early 1900s also noticed a mysterious and inconsistent effect from using a mild electric current to kill nasty microbes.

Both methods were problematic, though, and were quickly abandoned with the advent of antibiotics, which killed bacteria so effectively throughout the twentieth century.

Now, as the efficacy of conventional antibiotics wanes, Washington State University researchers are reinventing old ideas to fight bacterial infection.

At their lab in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, Amit Bandyopadhyay and Susmita Bose have developed a nontoxic … » More …

Thumb: King tide at the Embarcadero, San Francisco. Photo Mike Filippoff
Fall 2017

Waves of the future

When the tides are high in parts of San Francisco, Charleston, and Miami, city streets experience an odd new kind of flooding that happens even on bright, sunny days.

In San Francisco’s Embarcadero district, king tides caused flooding between Mission and Howard Street last winter. Seattle’s Georgetown and South Park neighborhoods have experienced sewer back-ups into streets and basements after large storms.

These are quite literally waves of the future, confronted by Hope Hui Rising and her students at Washington State University. They are working on the front lines of sea level rise, developing urban design strategies to help communities adapt.

As the oceans … » More …

Blue Nile
Fall 2017

Fluid dynamic

Growing up in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa, Yonas Demissie never suffered from lack of access to clean water, but he knew from a young age that it was a serious problem in most parts of his home country.

He remembers reading news and watching documentaries about the droughts and related famine that still impact Ethiopia.

“Why can’t a three-year-old eat his breakfast?” the young Demissie would ask his parents and teachers. “A society should not have an excuse for a child to go hungry.”

According to Water.org, which works to improve access to safe water and sanitation, just 43 percent have access … » More …

rollable electronics
Summer 2017

Organic electronics on a roll

In the near future, your local hardware store could include a “green electronics” counter where friendly clerks unspool sheets of plastic film and print devices while you wait.

Need a few more solar panels? No problem.

How about a flexible LED lighting strip? This roll over here.

Computer? Loudspeaker? Or maybe transparent, energy-producing panels for your greenhouse? On sale today!

Though the scene is hypothetical, the emerging technology for organic, thin-film polymer plastics is up and running in laboratories around the world, including those of the Collins Research Group at Washington State University.

Led by assistant professor of physics Brian Collins, the enthusiastic … » More …

SafeShot device
Summer 2017

Healthy innovators

A safe and sterile needle seems to be a basic idea when preventing infections. But how that needle is sterilized, especially in places where reuse is a common practice, spurred a good idea for a pair of Washington State University student entrepreneurs.

Emily Willard and Katherine Brandenstein came up with the idea of SafeShot, a lid that sterilizes a needle each time it enters the vial of medicine, as part of an entrepreneurship class. The two students started a company, won a health business contest last spring, and headed to Tanzania early this year to research how their product could be used in a real … » More …

Dinner with girl geeks - Kristin McKinney
Spring 2017

Dinner with girl geeks

Working for a Portland, Oregon, staffing firm in the late 1990s, Kristin McKinney ’95 helped recruit employees to the city’s burgeoning tech industry. The job unleashed her own geek.

“I found I had a bit of an inner nerd,” says McKinney, who got her degree in business. “I never really knew that.”

Her newfound enthusiasm was tempered by a sobering reality: Women then, like now, accounted for less than 30 percent of the computing and information technology workforce, according to the National Science Foundation.

McKinney, now a recruiter in Nashville, Tennessee, is working to reverse the trend. In 2013, she joined computer application engineer Rachel … » More …

Spring 2017

Paths that grew crystal clear

Crystals reflect the best of nature’s handiwork. With their atoms aligned in repeating 3D patterns, crystals can be as momentary as a snowflake or as common as the sodium chloride in table salt. They can sparkle on a finger, scatter rainbows across the room, or be grown on your kitchen table with a few ingredients from the hobby shop.

Some also possess unusual properties, such as quartz crystal’s ability to generate a tiny electrical current when pressure is applied. Known as the piezoelectric effect, this useful phenomenon helped inspire the rise of a global, multibillion dollar crystal growth industry.

Today, manmade crystals power an astonishing … » More …