Innovative inspiration; USU invokes storm of inventions

By Brandy A. Lee
The Standard-Examiner
August 3, 2005
John Nicholson, Ph.D. student of computer science, and Aliasgar Kutiyanawala talk about a robot at Utah State University.

ALAN MURRAY/Standard-Examiner
John Nicholson, Ph.D. student of computer science, and Aliasgar Kutiyanawala talk about a robot at Utah State University.

LOGAN — Zhen Song, of China, and Hyo-Sung Ahn, of South Korea, love to talk about the project they are working on.

Both are graduate students at Utah State University in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

On Tuesday, they presented a project called ODIS, or Omni-Directional Inspection System. More than 50 state lawmakers and representatives of other Innovation Campus companies were present at the Calibration and Optical Research Lab building at the university.

The Innovation Campus is part of the university and serves as a small business incubator for entrepreneurs and researchers. All businesses are based on research and development.

ODIS is designed to sweep under cars and low areas for objects, such as terrorist bombs. It also has the ability to move in any direction.

"It's a very good thing to develop hands-on techniques," Song said. "I am grateful for the opportunity."

John Nicholson, a graduate student in the USU Computer Science Department, and Aliasgar Kutiyanawala, a graduate student of electrical engineering, showed off a robot to help visually impaired people become more independent.

"We're not looking to replace guide dogs," Nicholson told the group. "This looks at complementing the guide dogs and the canes."

The robot is a creation of Vladimir Kulyukin, a USU assistant professor of computer science. Once completely finished, it will be able to help the visually impaired find their way in new places.

Often, they are at an airport and they cannot go to the stores or to the restroom because their dog does not know the area. The device is set for new settings or the first time they go somewhere, Nicholson said.

The students made the device from a baby carrier and hardware they bought off the shelf. The U.S. government helps fund some of the project, but Kulyukin is looking for more funding to perfect it.

Space Dynamics Laboratory staff also took time to tell lawmakers of projects in the works.

When the space shuttle Discovery comes back to Earth, it will be carrying one of the lab's experiments.

The ISS-LADA growth chamber, named after the Russian goddess of spring, Lada, has been growing plants in the International Space Station.

If astronauts go to Mars, they are going to need to grow food, said Trina Paskett, public relations manager for SDL.

In the Russian section of the space station, astronauts have been growing radishes, minzung -- a bitter Japanese lettuce -- and peas.

The researchers also cite a psychological factor of the green plants.

"It gives them (astronauts) something that reminds them of home," Paskett said.

Other projects shown were projects such as an echo-cancellation device, which helps to block out surrounding noise and isolates one voice at a time. Another device to create power from animal waste was shown by Andegin, a small business on the Innovation Campus.

Copyright © 2005 by Ogden Publishing Corporation