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Students showcase scientific discoveries

May 3, 2006

Photo of part of the  fire-fighting robot, one of the science and engineering projcects featured at the student showcaseStudent inventions and research including an information-gathering and organizing computer program dubbed "Furball" and the "Cast & Catch" automated fishing pole will make their debut at the College of Science and Engineering Student Project Showcase from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 5, in the Gym. Nearly 400 students in the disciplines of astronomy, biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, geosciences, math and physics will compete for a total of $6,000 in prizes.

Among the 148 exhibits is a fishing pole that casts and reels at the touch of a button. The mechanical engineering student inventors -- David Hefflefinger, Irina Walsh and Mike Kerans -- said the device is designed to allow persons with disabilities to fish.

"Depending on the line weight and rod size you use, this device can catch any fish," Hefflefinger said. "It could easily bring in a 20-pound salmon."

A team of computer science students have invented "Furball," a method of capturing and storing large amounts of information from the Internet and other electronic information sources for browsing and searching at a later time. Creators Haishi Bai and Greydon Buckley said the name came to them as a "metaphor for stuff that clings together in clumps."

Another exhibit is an invention that is the subject of an upcoming Discovery Channel "MythBusters" segment. An idea of Archimedes and drawn up by da Vinci, the steam-flash cannon was realized by a group of mechanical engineering students. A "MythBusters" prototype hurled a 20-pound cannon ball over one-quarter of a mile, but the students will be working right up to the last minute to propel their cannonball much farther.

The School of Engineering has also entered fighting robots, a timber bridge, high-mileage vehicles, a robotic four-rotor helicopter and an autonomous boat that retrieves water samples.

Awards for both graduate and undergraduate students in the categories of life and physical sciences will be announced and presented at a College of Science and Engineering alumni reception immediately following the Showcase. The cash prizes were donated by Kenneth and Pamela Fong and other alumni and supporters of the College. For details, visit the Student Project Showcase Web page.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified May 3, 2006 by University Communications