Engineers from day one: Students achieving excellence
Above: Morgan Kelley, right, works in Lenore Dai’s lab. Photography by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU
Chemical engineering major awarded prestigious Goldwater Scholarship
Morgan Kelley is among the recent academic high-achievers throughout the country to be awarded a Goldwater Scholarship, considered the premier undergraduate scholarship for mathematics, science and engineering majors. From more than 1,200 nominees, Kelley is one of 260 students, and one of 68 engineering majors, selected to receive the award. It provides up to $7,500 per year to support completion of an undergraduate degree.
Kelley, who grew up in Glendale, Arizona, has led student projects to deliver portable technologies to provide nighttime lighting to students in Fiji and Uganda. She also is involved in research aimed at engineering more effective ways to keep ocean and other water environments cleaner and healthier. Kelley is also a student in Barrett, The Honors College. Her plan is to attend graduate school, a path encouraged by the Goldwater Scholarship Program.
Grand Challenge Scholar starts business venture to develop Braille teaching tool
Reverse-engineering the brain was always on Markey Olson’s mind as she engaged in research, community service and entrepreneurial efforts in the Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) at Arizona State University.
Olson decided to focus on reverse engineering the brain because the brain is critical to a multitude of bodily functions. Her research aimed to solve this problem by using sensory cues as opposed to visual cues.
In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) identified reverse-engineering the brain as one of 14 “Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century.”
ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering is among 20 leading engineering schools to establish an undergraduate program guided by the NAE’s Grand Challenges. The program now serves as the Fulton Schools of Engineering Scholar Academy — an individualized program for high-achieving students.
This spring, Olson became the program’s second graduate, receiving a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. That made her the first to graduate from the inaugural group of freshman students invited to be a Grand Challenge Scholar.
Classes on topics related to entrepreneurship along with her capstone course enabled Olson and two other biomedical engineering seniors, Alyssa Oberman and Robert Valenza, to turn their senior capstone project into a startup company called VisiBraille. The idea developed as Olson taught Braille to her sister. The tool allows people, who may not know Braille themselves, to teach Braille to students with visual impairments.
Although the tool is designed to facilitate learning, Olson relates it to her chosen Grand Challenge because “it’s essential to first understand the neural mechanisms at play,” she said.
The venture team is now at work on the manufacturing and distribution systems needed to get the VisiBraille device into the marketplace. Olson also plans to continue her research by beginning a doctoral program in biomedical engineering at ASU next year.
Online student secures funding for patient care startup
A year and a half ago Andrew Ninh spent the night of his high school graduation in intensive care after he experienced spontaneous pneumothorax, what he describes as his “lung exploding.”
Ninh’s observations at the hospital were the basis for his emerging health informatics startup company known as DocBot, which enables physicians to make well-informed decisions about patient care quickly. The technology runs rapid analytics on electronic health record and clinical sources, providing physicians with quick and accurate data.
The electrical engineering major has been working with his business partner, Tyler Dao, to raise funding for DocBot. Ninh earned a $5,000 stipend after participating in the Microsoft Idea Camp last summer, and has been accepted to Singularity University’s Startup Lab Accelerator Program in Silicon Valley this fall. He will receive $100,000 in seed funding as part of the 10-week experience where he will further develop DocBot.
GlobalResolve constructs aquaponics farm for Peruvian orphanage
From designing greenhouses to inspiring future engineers, members of GlobalResolve have completed a series of projects aimed at improving quality of life at the Azul Wasi orphanage in Oropesa, Peru. GlobalResolve, a program of the Fulton Schools, designs solutions to help mitigate the effects of poverty in the developing world, while also helping to create business ventures to provide sustainable economic development.
This year students traveled to Peru during ASU’s spring break to construct an aquaponics farm for Azul Wasi. They also offered STEM learning opportunities for the 22 children housed there. Aquaponics is a system for farming fish and plants together in a mutually beneficial cycle — fish produce waste, which fertilizes plants and the plants in turn purify the water for the fish.
The ASU students were accompanied by Gerald Polesky, a lecturer in the Polytechnic School, who has worked on various engineering projects at the orphanage since his daughter, ASU alumna Tiffany Brown, founded it in 2006. In addition to improving the orphanage’s living conditions, funds from the aquaponics farm will allow the facility to house more children.