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Engineering

Putting feeling into the digital world thumb
Summer 2016

Putting feeling into the digital world

A new touchstone for virtual reality

On its own, the gleaming silver skeletal hand looks like a disembodied limb from The Terminator. Strap it on a human and it becomes a glove to grasp things within virtual, computer-generated worlds.

Hakan Gurocak, the mechanical engineering professor at Washington State University Vancouver who designed the glove with his former graduate student Randy Bullion, says the haptic interface can be used in conjunction with virtual reality headsets and position sensors to add a new sense of touch to the experience of being in a digital environment.

More than just immersive computer games or movies, virtual reality and … » More …

Thin Ice thumb
Summer 2016

Thin ice

Being put to the test at the ground zero of climate change

There’s the day the polar bear mangled the meteorological instruments. Or when a massive storm smashed two humidity sensors. Days of howling winds, extremely limited visibility, and weather so cold that power cords snapped like twigs.

For Von P. Walden, a professor in Washington State University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the most exciting day as part of the Norwegian Young Sea ICE Cruise (N-ICE2015) team was last May when the thin layer of Arctic sea ice on which the researchers were working started breaking up.

Wearing a Regatta suit … » More …

Smart couture thumb. Image from UDK Berlin
Summer 2016

Smart couture

Wearable electronics are leaving the lab and hitting the runway

From smart phones to FitBits, mobile electronics have been woven into the very fabric of our lives. But things are about to get a lot more literal as e-devices begin to be incorporated into the clothing we wear.

Imagine a “smart” shirt or other item of clothing that can monitor your biometrics and ping your doctor when something is out of the ordinary. Or, to manage diabetes, we’ll use a contact lens or pair of glasses to monitor blood glucose levels—and leave behind forever the expensive and annoying finger prick test kit. But wearable … » More …

First Words
Summer 2016

As above, here below

Early science fiction authors tossed around the idea of mining the asteroids near Earth decades ago. Asimov, Heinlein, Pournelle, and other sci-fi luminaries wrote the concept into their stories of robots and space-bound pioneers since the 1940s. As with many of those authors’ ideas, we’re on the edge of fiction becoming reality.

Companies such as Redmond-based Planetary Resources plan to send robot harvesters up to the asteroids, likely within a decade, to extract water and rare minerals. CEO Chris Lewicki told me they are already in the prospecting phase, sending satellites to probe for likely mining candidates. The conference room where we met has … » More …

Sweet solution to toxic waste
Spring 2016

Sweet solution to toxic waste

A jar of foul-smelling clay sits on the cluttered workbench. “I’d better not open it,” says environmental engineer Richard Watts. He grabs a smaller jar filled with liquid the color of a dirty mud puddle. “These are soil and groundwater samples from an industrial waste site in North Carolina.”

The repugnant samples arrived in comparatively pristine Pullman to be analyzed by Watts, who then advises the best ways to remedy the mess. In a twist, one of those methods involves the use of sugar.

Watts, a pioneer in oxidizing systems for the detoxification of polluted soil and groundwater and a professor of civil and environmental … » More …

Alumni Association award
Spring 2015

Alumni Achievement Awards

 

Gaymond ’63 and Cindy Schultz of Reno, Nevada, were honored last November for their contributions to the telecommunications industry and for mentoring students in the WSU Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute.

Gaymond Schultz received the WSUAA Alumni Achievement Award for the significant impact and influence he has had in telecommunications and computers as well as his substantial service to the WSU Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture and its executive leadership board.

Originally from Davenport, Schultz majored in electrical engineering at WSU. He went on to found Stratacom, Vina Technologies, and Seaport Imaging, a leading manufacturer of image processing equipment and software.

Cindy Schultz … » More …

Terry Ishihara
Spring 2015

Terry Ishihara ’49—“You can’t be happy and bitter”

As a teen in Tacoma, Terry (Teruo) Ishihara had his life planned out. The oldest child in his family, he was going to take over his father’s laundry business.

That all changed in the summer of 1942 when he and more than 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry living on the west coast were imprisoned as the United States entered World War II.

More than seven decades later, Ishihara clearly recalls the particulars of his internment, including names of fellow prisoners and a prized comic book collection that he had to leave behind. He recounts the nightmarish details without rancor. “You can’t be happy and bitter,’’ … » More …