ASU students, faculty put tech achievements on display - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

ASU students, faculty put tech achievements on display

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Posted: Saturday, May 7, 2011 7:00 am | Updated: 9:15 am, Sun May 8, 2011.

From creating a solar energy plant to pasteurizing orange juice in Ghana to creating a word game for the iPhone, students in ASU Polytechnic’s College of Technology and Innovation are putting their education to real-world use.

The student and faculty work was displaced this week at the annual Innovation Showcase.

Some of the projects are sponsored by companies that come to ASU with real problems that need to be solved, says Mitzi Montoya, university vice provost and dean of the college. Their employees work side by side with students to find solutions and help provide funding.

“My expectation is some of these things will land in production sooner rather than later,” Montoya said.

Global Resolve sponsored several projects, including a solar project in Ghana.

“These are poor villages,” Montoya said. Access to electricity is limited. The orange growers need to be able to create their product “off grid,” so solar is a better option.

Tyler Kilbourne worked with his professor, Ashish Amresh, to create the “Word Fighter Alpha,” a “Tetris”-like game where opponents use letters on their screens to create words. The more letters used, the better their chances to win the multiplayer game.

Teachers can set it up so students have to create words from their spelling lists or limit their words to state capitals, all to teach lessons.

“The idea is to create a game that’s fast-paced and still educational,” Kilbourne said.

One student-generated project was “The Twilight Zone,” a canopy that goes over a bed that helps reduce unwanted noise and light in crowded dorm rooms. A desk is attached to a mechanical arm that can be pulled under the canopy for use as well, said senior Jacob Reynolds, one of many students who worked on the project.

One project was just “fun.”

Twelve engineering students helped design and build a mini Baja vehicle to race in Pittsburgh, Ka., later this month. It’s the fourth year ASU students have fielded a vehicle.

The mechanical, manufacturing and automotive students were given a rulebook and an engine and had to decide everything else, from the wheels to the chassis to the suspension.

The limited power of the Briggs & Stratton 10 hp OHV Intek engine required the students to get creative, they said.

“It puts a lot of stress around building everything around only a 10 horsepower engine,” said John LaFata.

More industry partners are needed to help the students — seniors studying applied psychology, engineering, entrepreneurship and more — get real world experience.

“It’s hard to put your finger on who gets the most out of this,” Montoya said. “The companies get huge value. The students get phenomenal value. You can go into an interview and talk about their project with ADM.”

“I think we’re producing better students,” she said. “There’s not a lesson plan for this.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or

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