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'Engineering the Future' introduces ASU minds to industry needs

March 21, 2017

Event aims to promote solutions-based collaboration between companies and Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Business, meet Arizona State University’s engineers. This is what we can do for you.

That was the intent behind “Engineering the Future: Entrepreneurship, Partnerships and a Commitment to Innovation,” an event held Tuesday to introduce and promote collaboration between industry and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The Phoenix Business Journal co-sponsored the event.

“We wanted to share with you some of those factors that make us number one in innovation,” moderator Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Strategic Partnerships and Programs, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development, told the crowd of about 200. “We do invite partnership with you.”

Engineering Dean Kyle Squires told attendees the school looks forward to following up with them.

“We want to hear from you, companies and organizations we can move forward,” Squires said.

Nadya Bliss

Four engineering professors introduced and discussed their work.

Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative and a professor in the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, discussed cybersecurity. With ever more devices, vehicles and facilities connected to the internet, there is simply more surface to be attacked, she said.

“Listen to computer scientists,” Bliss said. “We know what we’re talking about.”

Bliss suggested that, in her case, long-term projects with clearly defined goals are a good fit.

Marco Santello

Marco Santello, director of the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, studies how the brain controls and learns movements.

He is working with partners, including the Mayo Clinic and roboticists, on the unmet needs of amputee patients.

Thomas Sugar, a robotics engineer and associate professor in the Polytechnic School, also works on improving mobility with orthotics and prostheses for stroke victims.

“Robotics is blazing right now,” Sugar said. “I’ve never seen it so hot.”

Thomas Sugar

He cited 18 roboticists hired by the university. Sugar also works on wearable robotics for industry, which allow people to work longer and with less physical strain.

Iron Man suits aren’t happening, said Sugar.

“They’re too big and too expensive,” he said. “What’s really happening are these small systems that improve mobility.”

Zachary Holman, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, works on silicon solar cells, solar power storage and efficiency. He recently set an efficiency record for solar cells.

ASU has 10 faculty working on solar technology. (Most universities have one, according to Holman.)

Zachary Holman

Holman co-founded Swift Coat, an ASU spin-off company that deals with nanoparticle coating and is a finalist in the ASU Innovation Open.ASU has 10 faculty working on solar technology. (Most universities have one, according to Holman.)

“We’re well-versed in the process of talking to companies,” he said.

Sergio Gazic, bioscience portfolio manager at the Arizona Commerce Authority, asked the panel what the biggest challenge of starting a company and taking inventions to market is.

Marketing and sales are difficult, Sugar said. “Just because you have the best technology doesn’t mean it’s going to get sold,” he said.

Engineers don’t know business, Holman said, leaving them with two options: learn business themselves, or partner with someone who is knowledgeable.

A representative from an architecture firm asked the engineers if they work with artists or architects.

Holman said he found flat panels on roofs unattractive, and asked to meet with her after the event. 

Engineering the Future

In addition to faculty speakers, the "Engineering the Future" event Tuesday featured displays promoting some of the work at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Top photo: Panelists (from left) Nadya Bliss, Marco Santello, Thomas Sugar and Zachary Holman and moderator Ji Mi Choi answer questions at "Engineering the Future: Entrepreneurship, Partnerships and a Commitment to Innovation" at ASU's ISTB 4 building on Tuesday in Tempe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

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On World Water Day, an ASU team looks to enhance global availability through localized solutions

March 22, 2017

Researchers often look at how people experience water issues in their communities, but these studies are usually focused on a single region. One interdisciplinary group of researchers from Arizona State University, however, is taking a cross-cultural approach to look at water knowledge and management around the world.

In the most recent phase of the Global Ethnohydrology Study, this team interviewed people from communities in the United States, New Zealand, Fiji and Bolivia to see how perceptions of water risks and solutions varied depending on the community’s level of development and water scarcity.

“It can be a challenge to design cross-cultural research that produces meaningful results in a comparative context,” said Amber Wutich, co-author of the study and associate professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “This kind of work is important because it allows us to identify global trends in water problems and solutions.”

One of the unique factors about this project is its high amount of student involvement. Wutich said that mentoring is one of the most important ways the team informs others about their work.

“Through our graduate and undergraduate programs, we involve hundreds of students in the project in research design, data collection in international field sites and data analysis in our labs at ASU,” she said.

The results of the study found that people in wealthy and water-scarce areas were more concerned about water availability. Their solutions leaned toward collective action in creating policies. Meanwhile, people in poorer and relatively water-abundant regions had greater concern for water pollution, and suggested individual behavior changes as solutions.

“This research is important for tailoring water management strategies to the concerns and interests of local residents,” said Kelli Larson, lead author and associate professor in the School of Sustainability. The study lays the foundation for future comparative research, which will help policy and aid workers create solutions that are more likely to succeed for each individual region.

On World Water Day this March 22, Larson reflects on the 2017 theme, “wastewater,” which draws attention to the need to treat and reuse wastewater to protect the environment and make our water cycle more efficient.

“The implications of our research suggest that collective actions and policies in using wastewater may be more popular in developed areas, whereas individual practices and technologies may be more effective in less developed regions,” she said.

You can read the ASU team’s paper "Cross-Cultural Perceptions of Water Risks and Solutions Across Select Sites" and other water-related articles for free for a limited time here in a special World Water Day collection by Taylor & Francis. Then check out other Center for Global Health projects here.

Top photo: A student interviews a Fijian woman for the Global Ethnohydrology Project. Photo courtesy of the Center for Global Health

Mikala Kass

Communications Specialist , ASU Knowledge Enterprise