A Capitol Event, From Hexacopters To Liquid Nitrogen Marshmallows

State legislators took some time from their deliberations recently to look at hexacopters, quadcopters and other ingenious technologies developed at UConn.

More than a dozen science and engineering displays were set up inside the Old Judiciary Room of the State Capitol Building in Hartford as part of a UConn exhibit. Students and faculty explained the science and purpose of their displays to legislators and anyone else who stopped by.

Rosse Gates showed off the autonomously controlled quadcopter he developed. The helicopter, powered by four rotors, is designed to be able to land in disaster areas or other areas that may not be accessible by humans. The unmanned vehicle would be programmed with an initial set of GPS coordinates for its destination. The system would find a suitable landing zone and execute a landing using only decisions made by the on-board computer.

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A steady stream of legislators came to the Old Judiciary Room. Many came for the free UConn Dairy Bar ice cream (or – for the culinarily adventurous – marshmallows frozen in liquid nitrogen), but stayed for the science. Rep. Theresa Conroy of the 105th District said all the demonstrations were impressive.

“It’s really amazing the thought processes that go into these,” she said. As a registered nurse, Conroy said she was particularly interested in the glucose monitor on display.

The monitor is developed by Biorasis, a company founded by Fotios Papadimitrakopoulos, Associate Director of the Institute of Materials Science, and Faquir Jain, Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering. It’s currently the smallest implantable biosensor for continuous glucose monitoring.

“Five years ago, it was the size of a table,” Papadimitrakopoulos said. “Now it’s two millimeters.”

But it’s still not small enough. “Right now, we’re trying to bring it down to one millimeter,” he said.

Juliana Barrett of the UConn Connecticut Sea Grant and Department of Extension, and Richard Meinert of the agriculture department of  the Extension Service Center, brought their hexacopter, a six-rotor helicopter used to map shore erosion along the Long Island Sound.

And in nice marriage of low tech (a spindly tree) and high tech (motion sensors), the UConn Department of Natural Resources and the Environment presented its Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and technologies for tree biomechanics research, which can reduce power outages and contribute to vegetation management efforts .

Assistant Extension Professor Tom Worthley an Amanda Bunce, a student going for her  Master’s degree in Natural Resources Management and Policy, explained the technology. Working with the School of Engineering, the researchers are using LiDAR to measure tree heights by bouncing light off the canopies of forests. And with the sensors, they’re measuring the speed and severity of trees’ movements in the wind, which allows them to identify riskiest spots for power outages. 

(Photos by Chris LaRosa/UConn)

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