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Research Symposium

Alex Denton demonstrates her neurologically powered game

Alex Denton demonstrates her game, where an object on a screen is controlled by the electrical signals in a person's arm

The 2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium was welcomed by large crowds as students convened in the EMU ballroom to present their innovative and relevant work to the public.

One of the more popular exhibits was the brainchild of Alex Denton, who conceived a project that could help those who struggle with a limited range of movement, including people who have had strokes. To demonstrate the technology’s capabilities, Denton and her partner created a computer game—based on the short-lived app Flappy Bird—that was controlled by a wireless bracelet. The bracelet read electrical signals in the participant’s arm and reacted accordingly; with a range of hand motions, a character could be made to move up and down on the screen.

Leah Kennon, a junior in environmental studies, researched Oregon’s use of coal as an energy source. In 2016, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill designed to eradicate the use of coal by 2030. In doing so, Oregon will become the first state to move completely away from coal as an energy source. Kennon concluded that while the switch is entirely feasible, it will affect several levels of the energy system.

One issue often brought up is the production of energy when there is no wind to power turbines and no sun for solar panels. But even that, Kennon says, has a green solution. “This past February, Oregon State researchers published work demonstrating a battery using hydronium ions and an acid solution rather than metal ions," she said. "This unique type of battery ... has the potential to be a sustainable, high-powered option for large-scale energy storage. Any development of a battery or other storage mechanism that can operate without the current limitations would be a huge step toward further adoption of renewable energy.”

Another participant, Anne Peters, evaluated the effects of the recently reinstated global gag rule, which prohibits the US government from funding health organizations that provide abortions in addition to other care. An international studies student, Peters became aware of the global gag rule after taking Global Health and Development with Assistant Professor Kristin Yarris. In her research, Peters evaluated the effects the ban has on global health and found that, besides cutting off access to abortions, the ban also limits the number of screenings for viral diseases such as malaria, Zika, tuberculosis, HIV, and Ebola. The policy also means losses in maternal and neonatal care.

“This is what makes this policy and its continued reinstatement so confounding—it has never had anything but adverse effects on global health,” she said. The hardest hit are predominantly poor, rural, women of color, though men and children will also lose various health benefits.

Award-winners from the symposium include Drew McLaughlin (oral presentation), Collette Goode (biology poster), Renee Dobre (undergraduate research opportunities program poster), Kiara Kashuba (food studies), and Scout Galash (international studies).

- UO student Abby Keep

Photos courtesy Kevin Hatfield, director of academic residential and research initiatives, and Marissa Burnsed-Torres, physiologist in the Bowerman Sports Science Clinic.