Innovation in Action

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Day of Innovation Graphic, Join us November 16, 2009
Virtual Brainstorming Sessions
Monday, November 16, 2009
11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

We'll pose questions, tackle problems, and toss around ideas and possible solutions for issues affecting our region. Get involved from your own desktop! Or join us on campus at one of the brainstorming kiosks available in the Student Union Atrium. LEARN MORE...

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Frans Johansson
Author of the bestseller The Medici Effect

April 9, 2010
9:15 a.m., Apollo Room, Student Union
Free and open to the public

John Corvino, Ph.D.
Philosophy professor and "gay moralist"

April 20, 2010
7 p.m., Apollo Room, Student Union
Free and open to the public

Ted Rall
Nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist

May 3, 2010
7 p.m., Apollo Room, Student Union
Free and open to the public

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Wright State's micro air vehicle takes off

Just as the Wright brothers studied birds to aid in the development of fixed-wing flight, researchers in the College of Engineering and Computer Science have turned their attention to nature for inspiration to create the perfect micro air vehicle (MAV).

Modeled after the dragonfly, Wright State's micro air vehicle has a seven-and-a-half-inch wingspan and weighs 10 grams—the weight of two nickels. It is highly maneuverable using a standard joystick and can hover and even perch on its subject.

Since the project-based learning experience began with a budget of $180, the team of research students has developed a flightworthy MAV and challenged themselves to reduce both its size and weight while maintaining structural stability.

A recent $250,000 U.S. Department of Defense grant from the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program will support further research and position the center to apply for more defense funding.

"We are looking to nature, which has had billions of years to develop, for solutions to our engineering problems," said George Huang, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Wright State. "Where better to learn about conserving energy in flight than from flying insects during migration?"

An expert in fluid dynamics, Huang moved to Wright State nearly three years ago after 10 years at the University of Kentucky and seven with NASA, for an opportunity to collaborate with scientists at the Air Vehicle Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

"The development of a camera-and-sensor-equipped MAV is a multidisciplinary endeavor that involves students in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and others doing research in fields such as sensors and alternative energy," said Jack Bantle, vice president for research at Wright State. "Their collaboration with the Air Vehicle Directorate addresses military applications for the MAV that will also serve multiple civilian uses. Eventually biologists, geologists, and medical personnel will join the list of experts using MAVs in a variety of ways."

Because they are able to fit in a backpack and need minimal training to operate, MAVs have tremendous advantages for today's war fighter.

"They can be flown deep into caves to search for hostages or terrorists, or inside buildings in the urban battlefield," said Huang. "They are virtually undetectable in flight and can hover in place, collecting data to send back to the user. They can detect biological-chemical agents as well as human life. MAVs will be an indispensible tool to search for survivors of a mineshaft or natural disaster."

Wright State researchers are now expanding on the unprecedented capability of the MAV so that, like the dragonfly, it can "learn" from its experiences. As the design of the MAV continues to evolve, Huang is looking for other partners and funding to support the project. "We see the opportunities to work with the Air Force and local companies to develop a micro air vehicle," said Huang, who cites the Air Force's goals of releasing a palm-sized MAV by 2015 and an insect-sized MAV by 2030.

"Just as the Wright brothers created the first airplane and changed the world, Wright State can be a leader in this new type of aircraft—the micro air vehicle. This cutting-edge technology could change the future of both military and civilian operations, ranging from rescue missions to gathering information. By creating partnerships with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and local aerospace companies, the Dayton region can once again lead the world in flight," said Bor Jang, dean of Wright State's College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Larry Dosser, president and CEO of the Mound Laser & Photonics Center, Inc., in Miamisburg, sees how MAVs could be the new industry of the 21st century. "The Dayton region can evolve from making cars to creating micro air vehicles that you can hold in your hand," said Dosser. "The collaboration between Wright State and our company will help all of us stay on the leading edge of this technology. The MAV is a classic example of how we can apply our technology to develop something that the Air Force and Department of Defense can use. A lot of this technology has defense or sensing applications, but there are also very similar applications in the medical device fields."

Huang hopes the Dayton region will become the Silicon Valley for micro air vehicles. "Companies will come here and this will become a center for micro air vehicle technology," said Huang.

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Wright State University biplane
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