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Celebrating the Bicentennial


A new day is dawning


By Joan Slattery Wall


Welcome to the typical day of an Ohio University alumnus.


Flying CarIt’s 7 a.m. Ready for work, you get into your flying car, powered by two jet engines and two electric generators, and cruise at 300 mph to arrive at the office in minutes.


8 a.m.: After sorting through your e-mail, you take a few minutes to read the news on the Internet. Some of the stories:

  • Few casualties are reported after an intense earthquake in Chile. Robots assisted in search and rescue efforts that saved the lives of 28 children trapped in the rubble of their elementary school.
  • A national milestone has been set this year with the fewest U.S. aircraft accidents ever recorded, thanks in large part to technology pilots have been using in poor weather conditions.
  • Health care workers in Africa are using new communication methods to promote behavior that prevents AIDS, finally reducing the occurrence of the disease.
  • The Food and Drug Administration has approved treatments that could cure diabetes and cancer.


11:30 a.m.: Just before lunch, you receive a call from your sister. She had stepped outside to tend the garden out back when her Caregiver’s Assistant robot sounded an alarm that your father, who has Alzheimer’s disease, had wandered out the front door of their home. You breathe as sigh of relief as she tells you she was able to quickly find him safe in the front yard.


2 p.m.: Your company, a power-generating utility, receives an award from the state because your coal-fired power plants have significantly reduced pollution during the past 10 years.


5:15 p.m.: Returning home, you receive another bit of good news: Your wife has been promoted to director of nursing at the state’s largest hospital, where she’ll train the newest crop of individuals starting their own nursing careers.


It all sounds preposterous, doesn’t it? Far-fetched, idealistic and in some cases, frankly, impossible.


Not so fast, skeptics. Faculty and students at your own alma mater are way past the idea stages. Sure, some of these scenarios are far out on the horizon, but they’re not out of reach.


A Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology graduate and undergraduate team is designing a personal air vehicle — the aeromobile (read more about this in late January in the undergraduate student research edition of Perspectives)— that won an honorable mention last summer from NASA Langley Research Center’s Aerospace Vehicle Systems Technology Office.


Yet other developments, such as the Robotic Caregiver’s Assistant, could be ready in as few as 10 years. It’s under study by Russ College researchers, who also have hopes for the use of robots in emergency situations. More details about the robot studies can be found in the research section of the Web site of Cindy Marling, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science.


Here’s the status of the other futuristic possibilities:


Supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, researchers and engineers in the Russ College’s Ohio Coal Research Center are leading one of the first comprehensive efforts to pair coal with fuel cells to create cleaner, more efficient power.


Students and faculty in the Russ College are developing and testing Synthetic Vision Systems, which use satellites and terrain data to provide pilots with information to guide planes.


School of Communication Studies Presidential Scholar and Researcher Arvind Singhal co-wrote the book, “Combating AIDS: Communication Strategies in Action,” highlighting successful strategies that also could be used to combat social problems such as racism, illiteracy and environmental issues.


And in response to the current nursing shortage, Ohio University’s College of Health and Human Services is offering a new master’s degree in nursing and adding an online format to its RN-to-BSN program, which enables registered nurses to obtain bachelor of science in nursing degrees.


Also on the health front, researchers at the Edison Biotechnology Institute are capitalizing on the interdisciplinary environment created by bringing together faculty from three colleges, Arts and Sciences, Osteopathic Medicine and the Russ College, to develop improved treatments and diagnostic tools for diabetes, obesity and cancer. John Kopchick, Xiao Chen, Leonard Kohn and Doug Goetz focus on diabetes, while Susan Evans and Shiyong Wu are studying genes and proteins involved in cancer initiation and progression. And there’s another benefit: A cluster of Athens biotech companies formed to market these advancements is contributing to the region’s economy and providing jobs for Ohio University graduates.


So you see, this imaginative description of your typical day may soon be an actual page of history — in Ohio University’s next 200 years.


Joan Slattery Wall is assistant editor of Ohio Today.


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