Third Annual SAU Undergraduate Summer Research Institute

The third annual SAU undergraduate summer research institute starts on Monday, June 17. This year we will have 25 students!! Amazing!!! 

Here are the projects we have going on this year:

1)    Development of an affordable upper-limb prosthetic (Dr. Jodi Prosise and Dr. Joshua Drake, Engineering): Several highly complex upper limb prosthetics have been developed that function much like our own arm and hand and can even be controlled utilizing electrical signals from intact nerves and muscles.  However, these prosthetics are highly complex, utilizing intricate electronics and computing sources, and are cost-prohibitive both in initial investment and maintenance.  There is a need for a simplified functional upper limb prosthetic that is affordable and, therefore, accessible to the underprivileged.  The long-term goal of this project is to develop a simple, affordable upper limb prosthetic that functions similar to our own hand and arm.  In order to better understand how humans control their hand movements, in this first phase, students will be studying neural recordings from electro-encephalograms (EEG) of humans reaching to and grasping a set of objects designed to create a large range of joint angles and comparing it to data previously collected in monkeys.  The goal is to then create a simplified control algorithm for an electro-mechanical prosthetic that will function much like a normal hand.


2)    Identifying stream outlines (Dr. Susa Stonedahl, Physics): Identifying stream outlines and recording sampling locations is an important part of field research.  Determining the outline of a stream is challenging because of the level of detail present, constant variability, issues relating to reflections and transparency, and the frequently inhibited view due to branches, grass, and other obstructions.  In this project the students will investigate and compare several methods of determining the stream outline and develop their own method based on what they have learned and their own ideas.  They will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of all of the methods and develop a recommendation for the best way to outline the stream based on accuracy, affordability, and stream characteristics. 

3)    Examination of heavy metals in products (Dr. Gillian Miller, Physics): This project will use X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) to analyze food, consumer products, and/or soil samples that may contain toxic metals, particularly lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. Students will read background literature in this area and then choose a product category and representative items in that category. The items will be analyzed by XRF and the results compared.


4)    Design and analysis of miniature manufacturing machine (Mr. Lee Miller, Engineering): The proposed research project is the design and analysis of a small Computer Numerical Control machine tool optimized to manufacture small parts such as medical device components.  The design will be “virtually prototyped” using Computer Aided Design software.  To reduce manufacturing costs, the design will utilize replaceable, purchased “off-the-shelf” wear components and will incorporate “Design For Manufacturing” concepts.


5)    Developing effective methods for measuring the effects of interacting with a trained therapy dog (Dr. Katie Trujillo, Psychology): This project will explore the most effective means for collecting information about changes in stress level after interacting with a therapy dog. Students will work with iWorx equipment and explore the efficacy of using different sensors (skin temperature, blood pressure, etc.) to detect changes in stress levels. In addition, various behavioral measures of stress will be explored. Students will test various methodologies using therapy dog teams, although the majority of the work will not involve direct work with dogs.


6)    Virtue and Democratic Leadership (Dr. Joseph Hebert, Political Science, and Dr. Sandy McKinley, History). Students will explore relevant texts in history, literature, and political philosophy on the theme of personal and civic virtue and their relation to liberal-democratic governance. Students working with Dr. Hebert will study Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and related texts to help interpret it in light of the above theme. Students working with Dr. McKinley will be working with texts of Sorrel, Rousseau, and others dealing with modern democratic theory and the concept of virtue. 

 Be sure to check in with us for updates over the next 6 weeks!




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