Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Zensor becomes UAA's first start up company, long lifespan sensors for monitoring remote property

Electrical engineering professor John Lund with sensor.
The University of Alaska Board of Regents announced Friday that the University of Alaska Anchorage launched its first ever startup company, Zensor™. The company was established in February 2013 by UAA Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies Dr. Helena Wisniewski, and faculty inventor Dr. John Lund, a UAA electrical engineering professor.

Zensor™ LLC, a Seawolf Holdings company, offers a new generation of wireless sensors for use in remote monitoring, asset management, surveillance and security. The long-lasting sensors––boasting a 50-plus year lifespan––present several advantages over current competitors on the market: no batteries required, effective with a small power source, maintenance free, low cost and more.

The idea for Zensor™ came from Professor Lund’s observation of remote monitoring needs for the maintenance and management of assets in the harsh arctic environment. “Zensor™ sensors are intended to make monitoring remote infrastructure cheap, easy and reliable,” Lund says. He explains that the small sensors are filled with tiny circuits that can be customized to detect humidity, water flow, temperature, tilt, sound and a number of other useful criteria based on the customer’s needs.

Dr. Wisniewski developed a business infrastructure for commercialization of innovative faculty and student research, which was approved by the Board of Regents in August 2012. This infrastructure includes Seawolf Holdings and Seawolf Venture Fund, which provides seed money for startups.

“This is an exciting time for UAA,” says UAA Chancellor Tom Case. “This endeavor is just one example of how our faculty are exploring ideas and practical solutions to local and global challenges. We are a leading force, making a difference in new technologies and new hope for the future.”

Read more about Professor Lund’s work. For more information about Zensor™, contact Dr. Helena Wisniewski at hswisniewski@uaa.alaska.edu or Dr. John Lund at jalund@uaa.alaska.edu.

2013 INNOVATE award winners and their new projects

Congratulations to the second round of winners in the UAA INNOVATE Award. The 2013 winners were announced at a special event in December 2012, and recipients are hard at work on their projects now.

The purpose of the INNOVATE Award is to inspire faculty research, entrepreneurship and creative activity that will lead to publication in a peer review journal or a creative event, external research funding or intellectual property. The INNOVATE Award was created in 2011 by Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies Helena Wisniewski, to stimulate new research and intellectual property.

In her opening remarks, Vice Provost Wisniewski made note of the first year accomplishments for INNOVATE Award winners, at least as of Dec. 14, 2012. They included:

•    11 proposals submitted for external funding
•    As of Dec. 3, 2012, three had already received awards, for a total of $350,000
•    Six submissions in process to peer review journals
•    Four invention disclosures, two evolving into patents pending and two on the way
•    A Scholar in Residence
•    A method developed for image decompression that outperformed the government's own standard
•    Nine presentations at international conferences
•    The first members of the Patent Wall of Fame named, Kenrick Mock and Bogdan Hoanca.

The entire evening of awards was podcast by University Advancement and can be heard at the UAA podcast page here.

At the evening social, Vice Provost Wisniewski invited four recipients from the previous year to provide short summaries of their projects. You can hear their individual summaries within the podcast at the approximate times listed:

•    Khrystyne Duddleston, Biological Sciences, arctic ground squirrels host-gut-microbiome interactions (8:29)
•    John Lund, Electrical Engineering, ultra-long lifespan wireless sensors (13:37)
•    Colin McGill, Chemistry, Alaska bog blueberries (21:00)
•    Don Rearden, College Preparatory & Developmental Studies, a whaling novel (27:40)

In introducing the next round of winners, Vice Provost Wisniewski said 35 proposals were submitted and 16 awards would be made. The new round of applications revealed three notable facts, she said:
•    The diversity of areas and disciplines applying for awards had increased, signaling interest across campus
•    More proposals were interdisciplinary
•    Proposals were received from every one of UAA's colleges and schools.

And without further delay, the 2013 INNOVATE Award recipients and their projects are:

•    Colin McGill, Chemistry and Co-PI Eric Murphy, Psychology, "Malate Supplementation: A Dietary Intervention to Improve Spatial Memory in Aged Rats."
•    Aaron Dotson, Civil Engineering and Co-PI LeeAnn Munk, Geology, "Source Identification and Complexation of Copper in an Urban Environment."
•    Jeffrey Callahan, Construction Management, Justin McVaney, Construction & Design Technology, and Co-PI Kenrick Mock, Computer Science and Engineering, "Augmented Reality, BIM and GIS for Mobile Platforms in Architecture, Engineering and Construction."
•    Khrystyne Duddleston, Biological Sciences and Co-PI Paddy Sullivan, Environmental and Natural Resources Institute, "Importance of the Microbial Community as a Driver of Tree Performance and Treeline Position in Northwest Alaska."
•    Mark McCoy, Chemistry, "Development of a Point of Care Assay for Vitamin D."
•    Jonathan Alevy, Economics, and Co-PI Michael Young, Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, "Seasonality and Economic Behavior."
•    Jill Flanders Crosby, Theatre and Dance, and Co-PI Brian Jeffery, Theatre and Dance, "Secrets Under the Skin Art Installation."
•    John Lund, Electrical Engineering, "Wireless Sensor Nodes with Advanced Signal Analysis Capabilities for Expanded Sensor Network Applications."
•    Scott Hamel, Civil Engineering, "Design and Evaluation of Thin-shell Latex-modified Concrete Barrel Roof Units."
•    Kenrick Mock, Computer Science and Engineering and Co-PIs Bogdan Hoanca, Computer Information Systems, Stephanie Bauer and Raymond Anthony, Philosophy, and Yasuhiro Ozuru, Psychology, "Revealing Human Moral Decision Making Through Eye Tracking."
•    Joey Yang, Civil Engineering "Carbon Fiber Tape-Based Anti-Icing Technology for Wind Turbine Blades."
•    Dr. Andrew Puckett, Physics and Astronomy, and Co-PI Travis Rector, Physics and Astronomy, "Seed Funding for the Production of the Definitive Aurora Borealis Planetarium Show."
•    Jonathan Stecyk, Biological Sciences, "The Turtle Heart: A non-traditional model to understand and potentially treat human cardiovascular disease."
•    Jennifer Stone, English, "Language, Literature, and Technology in Alaska."
•    Patrick Tomco, Chemistry and Co-PIs Dr. Mark McCoy, Chemistry, and Steven Seefeldt, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, "Characterization of Aminopryralid Degradation in Alaska Soils."
•    Liliya Vugmeyster, Chemistry, and Co-PI Dmitry Ostrovsky, Mathematical Sciences, "Computational Modeling of Protein Flexibility via Bridging Polymer and Protein Sciences."

Watch for stories and updates on these works in progress at the UAA INNOVATE blog and in Seawolf Weekly , UAA's weekly newsletter.

Monday, February 4, 2013

INNOVATE celebrates its first birthday with reports from all 13 of the 2012 award recipients

Late in 2012, just two weeks before announcing the next round of 2013 INNOVATE award winners, Dr. Helena Wisniewski, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, hosted a reception and information sharing session among the 13 winners from 2012.

Here is the list of 2012 winners and their projects.

Instrumented Mouthguard – Dr. Anthony Paris, Mechanical Engineering, and Co-PIs Dr. Jennifer Brock and Dr. John Lund, “Evaluation of Instrumentation to Assess Accelerations of the Head Due to Soccer Ball Heading.” Assisting the team were then-current mechanical engineering students Grant Birmingham and Lilan Smith.

video 

The team demonstrated how INNOVATE funding allowed them to refine a next-generation instrumented mouthguard that effectively measures linear and angular accelerations of an athlete’s head, in this case, a soccer player heading balls. Refinements included decreasing the number of accelerometers in the mouthpiece from nine to six, streamlining their design and placement for ease of use in the mouth, and successfully determining accurate linear and angular accelerations.

This is an important step in the quest to develop accurate tools to measure the magnitude and nature of head impacts with the aim of understanding the biomechanics of head injury.


Ecosystem carrying capacity for caribou - Dr. Don Spalinger, Biological Sciences, and CO-PIs Dr. John Lund and Dr. Herb Schroeder, "The Trophic Dynamics of Nutrient Cycling in Western Alaska Tundra Ecosystems.

Graduate students Kate Legner and Brian Atkinson on Unimak.
INNOVATE funding allowed this team to acquire high resolution satellite imagery of Unimak Island in the Aleutians to map habitat. This island, just 72 miles long and 60 miles wide, is home to a declining caribou herd. To better understand their decline, Spalinger and his team are analyzing what the caribou eat. One thing they aren't eating is lichen, usually a normal staple of the caribou diet. It doesn't exist on Unimak. So, what are they eating?

Analyzing what the landscape offers, and through chemical analysis of what the caribou are eating, will lead to a better understanding of Unimak Island's carrying capacity for caribou.


The island work served as a testing ground for technique and approach. Now, the team will take their work to more herds throughout Western Alaska.

Download a PDF of their Nov. 30, 2012 presentation.


Long-lasting, cheap sensors make watching remote Alaska easier - Dr. John Lund, Electrical Engineering, and Co-PI Dr. Todd Peterson, "Ultra-Long Lifespan Wireless Sensore Devices for Asset Management."

Low-cost sensors to monitor important infrastructure.
The practical nature of this team's innovation is obvious in Alaska, where plenty of infrastructure is out of sight, from remote roads and bridges to pipelines and buildings.

They note that both in Alaska and nationwide, infrastructure from the building boom of the 1950s is starting to fail. In remote locations, often catastrophic failure is the first indication of a problem. Emergency repairs are costly and more and more, plastic and steel materials are used, with half the lifespan of concrete.

Their solution? Add a basic, wireless sensor requiring no battery. Cost? $16 per device.

Download a PDF of this team's presentation.
When you can't be there: Cheap, solar-powered sensors  to monitor remote Alaska infrastructure, January 2012