USTAR Conversations invites community to learn about ‘Cool Science’

Imagine a lighting system that adjusts automatically when you walk into a room, sit in a chair or open the blinds. Thanks to research done at the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR), this economic and energy efficient lighting is a reality. Last Tuesday was the first of a series of lectures called USTAR Conversations. The event isn’t aimed at any particular age group, though high school students made up half the crowd at the January 10 kick-off. Elementary kids on up to curious adults are encouraged to attend. USTAR Conversations is similar to Science Unwrapped in that both events aim at bringing science education to the community. However, USTAR Conversations focuses on the work being done by USTAR employees and USU students Robert Behunin, Vice President for Commercialization and Regional Development at USTAR, gave an overview of the initiative, highlighting USTAR’s contributions to the community. “We want to create great technologies that turn into really good businesses so that all you guys who like cool science can be the next great engineer or great next physicist or doctor or whatever it is you want to do,” he said. It’s about great relationships – between the faculty members that contribute, between existing or new local businesses that can benefit from USTAR innovations, between students who help engineer and research and between the community who will benefit from these new technologies and businesses. Local businesses can come to USTAR with a wish list of innovations or technologies that could help their business, and USTAR will try to pair the knowledge of USU faculty with the needs of the business to create solutions. Sometimes, USTAR technology is used to create spin-off businesses. One of these spin-offs is called WAVE, Inc., which will be demonstrating their technology on the University of Utah campus. WAVE, Inc., developed electricity-powered buses that don’t need to be plugged in to recharge. Instead the bus will be charged by a magnetic pad buried in the pavement under bus stops, so that the vehicles will charge automatically while picking up passengers. This new way of charging vehicles could lead to the creation of the “highway of the future,” as it’s being called, where magnetic charging pads will be built right into highways and roads so vehicles can charge on the go. Jacoba Poppleton, public relations, said USTAR will have its sixth birthday in March. “It was created to keep this strong knowledge economy here, so that people don’t graduate from our universities and leave because there are other jobs elsewhere. The program has been so successful that other states have started to pattern programs similarly, after our USTAR program,” she said. Representatives from the Institute for Intuitive Buildings, Wireless Power Transfer team and the Space Weather Center – USTAR-funded research teams – were there at USTAR Conversations to explain their technology and to answer questions. USTAR Conversations is a brand new program and there is still planning to be done, Poppleton said. The next event will take place sometime in April. –

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