Inventors Convene at the WSU Innovation Open House

On September 18th, the WSU Innovation Open House, a “special showcase of just a small sample of the many research activities at Washington State University” was held in the CUB to correspond with the WSU Foundation Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees. From projects just past proof-of-concept to innovations well under way to their commercialization, the showcase demonstrated not only the efforts of the researchers, but the OC’s contributions as well. Here’s a brief presentation of the projects in attendance:

Attendees try their hand at the VALS test simulator


Dr. Amit Dhingra’s work in the agriculture has made major strides in how we grow in Washington, not the least of which includes techniques to more efficiently grow crops, such as special fruits and vegetables, without soil, reducing water consumption and improving the yield of such crops. Dr. Amit and his team have delivered more than 20,000 plants, with even more scheduled for delivery by December of 2014. He is currently working on expanding the crops available to grow using this technique, with hopes to expand into nuts, citrus, biofuel, and forestry.


VALS system: Veterinary Assessment of Laparoscopic Skills:

Laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgery performed by using cameras to operate inside the patient, is becoming more and more common in veterinary medicine. In spite of this, the opportunities to train for this surgery are incredibly sparse. This has recently changed with research at the WSU Veterinary Applied Laparoscopic Training laboratory (VALT), who have developed new and highly effective methods of training students and veterinary surgeons in the procedure. With training that has shown to triple the amount of competent students who complete the program, the VALS system has made the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine a leader in its simulation training.


WSU Viticulture and Enology Program:

The construction of the new Wine Science Center on the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland is underway. The center is to house the world-class research and teaching winery, with research laboratories and classrooms for teaching all practices of wine science, including business and management, viticulture (the science of caring for the grapevines), and of course the making of wine itself. With over 30 faculty directing the efforts of the new facility, WSU is stepping towards one of the largest wine grape-growing and making programs in the nation.


Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER):

Dr. Jacob Leachman and his team have been working for more than 4 years towards the use of hydrogen fuel in clean energy applications. Hydrogen is a high performance fuel, with excellent energy per weight rations, and is as efficient as it is clean, with water being its sole byproduct emitted when used as a fuel cell. His team’s most recent developments have been to develop a fueling station design, cheaper and more efficient than traditional gasoline fueling stations, for use with hydrogen powered cars, as well as developments in fuel tank storage, enabling their creation of the first liquid hydrogen fueled Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) at a university.


Sensors for Phenomics in Plant Breeding:

Utilizing a camera mounted aboard a helicopter-type UAV, Dr. Sindhuja Sankaran and her team are working on sensing technologies to address what is known as the ‘phenotyping bottleneck’. Being able to more effectively identify plants that are more resistant to both environmental stress and disease would progressively increase the yield of crop harvests, thus satisfying the growing demand for food. Current phenotyping and breeding strategies are unable to keep up with this demand, and as a result, Dr. Sankaran and her team are developing methods to accelerate crop improvement.


Cloud-based and Mobile-enabled Labor Monitoring and Scheduling:

Dr. Tanand his team have developed a cloud based software systems that help business owners more effectively manage their businesses and their costs; the SandyClock and Crop Auditor systems. Both enterprising software models are available on Apple devices to beta-users only, but have already collected great feedback regarding their design. Crop Auditor allows farmers to pay their workers by harvest amounts instead of by bucket, improving the average picker’s pay and the overall productivity of the farm system. SandyClock is a labor scheduling and monitoring system, primarily for the service and hospitality industry. Both systems utilize the cloud, enabling business owners to not only view but manage their business from afar.


Unmanned Aerial Systems for Power Line Inspection and Bird Deterrence:

Dr. Matthew Taylor and his team have developed exciting uses for UAVS. Dubbing them UASs or Unmanned Aerial systems, he has developed 2 projects with potential commercial applications that include inspecting powerlines and bird deterrence. Using a UAS to monitor powerline systems, which is cheaper than the costly current methods of inspection via helicopter or car, it is also able to quickly tag abnormalities for review, improving efficiency that much more. Farmers can also use a similar system, instead to ward off flocks of birds which threaten crop grown constantly in Washington.


Creating Interactive iBooks as a Study Resource:

Dr. Patrick Wilson has created a 21 volume set of Veterinary Microscopic Anatomy review iBooks. Using real microscopic images from WSU’s own College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Wilson has created a system that allows students to not only see the images but actively use the iBook as a tool for study. Using these questions, in addition to slides, 3-D images, multiple choice questions, and various multimedia, these are an advantageous study resource that are currently available on the Apple book store.


Novel Sulfur-Based Reagents as Therapeutic Agents and Research Tools:

The hydrogen sulfide molecule has recently been recognized as a signaling molecule, and Dr. Ming Xian and his team have been working towards developing releasing agents. Hydrogen Sulfide, commonly known for the ‘rotten eggs’ smell, is deadly at high doses, and is difficult if not impossible to release in the controlled doses needed to stimulate the normal body reaction. Dr. Xian’s team has helped develop different types of H2S donors, which have been proven to gradually release and generate H2S, allowing the full potential for use as a therapeutic agent to heavily traumatized bodies, such as victims of heart attacks and strokes.