Tech Connect EXTRA EDITION - State College & University Innovation

Page 1




011 nau

016 ua

022 community colleges

Arizona-born Innovation Starts Here Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. – Steve Jobs ince its first issue was published in 2005, TechConnect has focused on innovation in Arizona’s technology community. Over the years, we believe we have proven the accuracy of the late Apple co-founder’s observation: Arizona indeed has established itself as tech leader, thanks in no small part to a spirit of innovation. As TechConnect readers know, every issue has a theme that focuses on timely topics. But for this special issue, we wanted to do something a bit different. We decided to devote our pages to those centers of innovation where ideas born today will help shape our society for years to come. I’m talking about our public universities: • Arizona State University • Northern Arizona University • The University of Arizona The progress of our universities was evident in a recent report from the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association as two of our universities were named to the list of Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents 2017. ASU tied for No. 17 with 100 patents and UA tied for No. 94 with 27 patents. Additionally, according to the Arizona Board of Regents, the universities’ commercialization efforts resulted in 501 U.S. patents being issued from 2013 to 2017. Further, there were 122 startup companies transacted during that period. Startups are really where the rubber hits the road as the ideas are put into practice. These results likely come as no surprise to TechConnect readers since all three universities


Publisher’s Letter


are regular contributors to our magazine. Over time, they have taken readers behind the scenes to share how ideas that began as sketches on whiteboards took shape until they reached their true potential of affecting lives. When we told our publishing partners at the universities that this issue is theirs, we let them decide how to fill their pages. This is probably the best place to briefly introduce you to those who have made the call on what university news to include not only in this issue but in many others over the years: • ASU: Joe Kullman, science writer, marketing and communications, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering • NAU: Kerry Bennett, marketing communications officer – research, University Marketing • UA: Jessa Turner, director of communications, Tech Parks Arizona Speaking of partners, there is another group involved in identifying ways to contribute to innovation at the postsecondary level. Arizona’s community colleges are working with companies to prepare a next generation for our workforce. My co-publisher, Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, offers a glimpse on the progress so far. When it comes to the importance of innovation to our state, as well as our nation, perhaps no one captured it better than the late Robert Kennedy: From the first moment of independence, the United States has been dedicated to innovation as a way of government and a way of life. AZTECHCONNECT.COM


PUBLISHERS Sandra Watson Steven G. Zylstra


Don Rodriguez




ART DIRECTOR Erin Loukili Lucky You! Creative

008 GOOD BOY! Rover turns robot to help


Jaclyn Threadgill

visually impaired.



Kerry Bennett Joe Kullman Amanda Stoneman Heidi Toth Erik Wirtanen


E-MAIL For queries or customer service call 602-343-8324 TechConnect is published by the Arizona Technology Council, 2800 N. Central Ave. #1530, Phoenix, AZ 85004.

Entire contents copyright 2018, Arizona Technology Council. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Products named in these page pages are trade names or trademarks of their respective companies. Publication of TechConnect is supported by the Arizona Commerce Authority.

Team targets an update of the architecture.

Researchers harvest uses for synthetic biology.


SciHub offers way to make concepts a reality.


Interdisciplinary collaboration alive and well.


Structural material + power storage = great idea


Forecasting who wins, who loses under tariffs.


New solutions a big deal to cybersecurity.




Unmanned aerial systems to keep tabs on animals.




Sorting fact from fiction among border crossers.


Graphite at heart of longlasting power source.


Lifespan cut for cells carrying deadly disease.

020 READY FOR NEW ENEMY NSA deems cyber grads set to take on global threat.



Arizona Commerce Authority

TRAINING 21st CENTURY TALENT Partnerships result in a workforce of the future.





Daniel Bliss and his team, including postdoctoral researcher Richard Gutierrez (right), will redesign computing platforms that enable sophisticated applications to operate more effectively under tight power constraints. PHOTOS BY MARCO-ALEXIS CHAIRA/ASU

BUILDING A BETTER COMPUTER ASU leads effort to boost capabilities and energy efficiency WRITING BY >< JOE KULLMAN


s advances in 21st-century engineering and science increase in number and rapidity, the progress only arouses stronger ambitions to achieve even bigger discoveries and broader technological capabilities. Many of those aspirations are constrained by the limitations of current computing technologies, says Daniel Bliss, an associate professor of electrical, computer and energy engineering in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “I am always computation hungry. I’m interested in taking steps forward on a lot of advanced communications, radar and medical systems, but I never have the computational ability I need,” says Bliss, a systems engineer. That’s why he is eager to begin work on what for him is a dream endeavor. Bliss is leading one of many research efforts being pursued under the new national Electronics Resurgence Initiative headed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, commonly known as DARPA, an agency of the Department of Defense. Under the direction of DARPA’s Microsystems Technology Office, the initiative’s mission is to spark innovative solutions to overcome obstacles that have impeded significant evolution in microelectronic systems—including computing systems.



More specifically, the goals of the DARPA initiative’s Domain-Specific System on Chip (DSSoC) program align precisely with the aims of ASU’s Center for Wireless Information Systems and Computational Architectures, which Bliss directs. The initiative’s directives “are all about exactly what we want to do,” Bliss says. “The bottom line is to help satisfy that hunger for greater computational power that is required by sophisticated signal processing applications.” Bliss’ team will build a new framework to push development of the next generation of high-performance embedded heterogeneous computer processors that are more capable, more power efficient and easier to use. The team’s focus will be on computer architecture, specifically creating a framework that simplifies the development of new heterogeneous processors with advanced functionalities and streamlines the use of these processors. Heterogeneous processors use multiple processors of different kinds on one integrated circuit. Adding various types of coprocessors with specialized capabilities to perform specific computing tasks boosts a system’s performance and energy efficiency. However, heterogeneous processors are notoriously difficult to program, so Bliss’ team will provide software tools and on-chip intelligence to dramatically simplify implementation.


A key part of DARPA’s objective is to engage the electronics industry and commercial enterprises in the ERI’s research projects. So, Bliss and his ASU team will be working not only with fellow researchers at The University of Arizona, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Michigan but also with Arm Limited, a semiconductor intellectual property company; EpiSys Science Inc.; and General Dynamics Mission Systems. Professor Chaitali Chakrabarti and Assistant Professors John Brunhaver and Umit Ogras—all faculty in ASU’s School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering—have significant roles in the research. Chakrabarti works in the areas of low-power embedded systems and algorithm-architecture co-design of signal processing and communication systems. Ogras and Brunhaver work on design and optimization of heterogeneous architectures. If successful, the project will essentially provide master plans for designing, building and maximizing the use of computer chips (small wafers of semiconductor material embedded with integrated electronic circuitry) that are capable of simultaneously processing complex computations for a variety of diverse programs. “We are going to go all the way from providing ideas for making it easier to figure out how this new kind of chip should be assembled to providing the software to help put it together,” Bliss explains. “Then we will give you the software tools and analysis tools to help you program these chips to run multiple applications, including some tools that run in real-time inside the chip. ” Moreover, the team hopes to embed intelligent and machine learning functionality into the chips. “This enables the chip itself to learn, based on how it is being used, so that it can operate more efficiently in the way it is running various applications,” Bliss says. Beyond those enhanced capabilities, processors using these chips will be capable of running extensive, sophisticated computations with significantly less power than they require with current technologies. Operations that now require hundreds of watts of electrical power

might need only several watts. Other research teams working under the DARPA initiative are aiming to make advances by integrating different materials into computer processors, by better understanding and enhancing the underlying physics involved in processing and by developing novel microelectronics designs and potential new applications. These efforts combined could alter the paradigms of how computer processing is done or even fundamentally change the technology used to do processing, Bliss says The DARPA project offers the team “the chance to find ways to boost computational power by a couple orders of magnitude so we can do some of the things we dream of achieving,” he says. Bliss’ project—for which the agency is providing $17 million in support over four years—will give him the opportunity to dive deeper into one of his main research pursuits: signal processing technologies and systems, which are the key parts of many kinds of sensor, monitoring and communications systems. More robust computational ability should open the door to tech improvements that boost the performance of things like heart monitors and other health assessment devices, as well as radar systems such as those used in self-driving vehicles and security systems. “What should come out of this are better processors for all kinds of things we use in our everyday lives,” Bliss says.

Bliss and his team use current heterogenous processor technology, like the Zynq Multiprocessor System on Chip, for advanced electronic applications. JOE KULLMAN is a science writer with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of

Engineering at Arizona State University.




GOOD BOY! Robotic guide dog leads team to first prize WRITING BY >< ERIK WIRTANEN


ccording to Guide Dogs of America, a 16- to 18-month-old puppy will go through four to six months of training before it can become a guide dog. And that doesn’t consider the financial costs of training. A team of students and faculty from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, along with visiting scholars, have developed a high-tech alternative. Their technologically savvy guide dog recently won a first-prize award at the 2018 Intel Cup Undergraduate Electronic Design Contest. More commonly known as the Intel Cup, two ASU students traveled to Shanghai, China, in July for the competition. “The main motivations for this problem are how long it currently takes to train guide dogs for use and the cost of doing so,” says computer science senior Stephen Lockhart. “Along with this are the dog’s physical limitations such as color blindness.” The team has developed a robotic guide dog for a motorized wheelchair for use by individuals who are visually impaired. Both prototypes are currently too small in physical scale to be used by people, but the project allows this concept to be easily demonstrated and tested for the future. Many different systems were integrated for the guide dog to function properly. The guide dog uses many of the same communication protocols found in a smartphone, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. “In addition to these protocols, we had to develop an algorithm in order to get the systems to behave in the way we wanted them to,” says Richard Simpson, a computer systems



The robotic guide dog and motorized wheelchair are based on the integration of VIPLE, Alexa-based voice control and machine learning. PHOTO COURTESY OF YINONG CHEN

engineering and engineering (robotics) major. “For example, when the dog sees a cone we needed to make certain that it would decide to move around the cone rather than plowing into it.” The guide dog also is equipped with Amazon’s Alexa technology to understand verbal commands. For the guide dog to “see” its surroundings, a GoPro camera was strapped to its head. “The images it sees are then passed onto the wheelchair’s computer for a combination of AI visual recognition and specific filters for things like a cone or stoplight,” says Lockhart. “This information is then sent to a laptop running our logic system in a program called VIPLE.” ASU VIPLE is a free programming environment for education that has been used by many universities and schools worldwide. Lockhart and Simpson may have been the only two team members to travel to China, but the team’s five other student members and multiple team mentors were rooting for them from home. Computer systems engineering majors Matthew Koltes and Tyler Pavkov, computer science majors Aubree Dagilis and Yichenglong Zhong, and Denis Liu, a high school junior from Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe, Arizona, rounded out the team. ERIK WIRTANEN is a Web Content Communications Administrator with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.



engineering with synthetic biology and microbiology, Associate Professor Synthetic biology sparks promise of advances David Nielsen’s lab team is striving to WRITING BY >< JOE KULLMAN overcome technological barriers that are limiting the potential to produce bio-def synthetic biology can “catch fire,” few areas rived fuels and chemicals. The effort includes of science and engineering could match developing new biotechnologies that convert it for having as dramatic an impact across renewable biomaterials at the microbial level such a broad a range of human needs. into biofuels and biochemicals. That’s the prediction from Karmella Haynes, an Nielsen’s research is advancing the engiArizona State University assistant professor of bioneering of what he calls “microbial chemical medical engineering. The field has yet to build the factories” to synthesize novel bioproducts, critical momentum necessary to fulfill that potenand he’s developing strategies for carbon and tial, says Haynes, but when it does, she thinks “it will energy conservation to enhance yields of those basically make all of bioengineering better.” products from biomaterials. She and her synthetic biology research His team is engineering microbes with colleagues are confident advances within their characteristics and capabilities that will reach will help provide solutions to an array prove valuable to bio-industries—for example, of challenges in medicine, health care, fuel microbes that would be key ingredients in bioproduction, energy, environmental protection, processing methods that enable biochemicals to industrial processes and much more. be produced more economically. Those possibilities were explored recently at the 2018 Synthetic Biology: Engineering, Evolution EXPLORING REGENERATIVE and Design gathering called the SEED conference, POSSIBILITIES Assistant Professor Mo Ebrahimkhani is trying hosted by the American Institute of Chemical to find ways to trigger body tissue regeneraEngineers. Haynes co-chaired the event held in tion by essentially “writing” gene-regulation Scottsdale, not far from ASU’s Tempe campus, networks onto human cells. Those regulatory which drew more than 400 attendees, including networks would then program cells to generate industry representatives, government agency new tissues for internal organs. leaders, academics and researchers from many His team is concentrating on studies of the major universities across the United States, as well human liver because of its distinctive regenerative as faculty members from research universities in capacity. They hope to create a platform for the Europe, Canada and Mexico. At the SEED conference, discussions and development of new regenerative therapies, as presentations focused on questions researchers are well as for drug testing and gaining a better undertrying to answer about how genes, proteins, chrostanding of the mechanisms of human diseases. mosomes, DNA and the like can be synthesized Ebrahimkhani expects the outcome to be and made to behave predictably for productive and “tools, technology and treatment approaches beneficial purposes. Work by Haynes and other that will set the stage for a new way to perform faculty members in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools regenerative therapy in humans. We will add a of Engineering and the Biodesign Institute covers new dimension to the field of tissue engineering some of the main thrusts of these pursuits. to program the generation of new tissue from the inside out.”



Combining metabolic and bioprocess

JOE KULLMAN is a science writer with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of

Engineering at Arizona State University.




BEYOND PERCEPTION SciHub to turn visionary ideas into real-world solutions WRITING BY >< AMANDA STONEMAN


he human eye can only see a narrow range of visible light. Yet there’s an infinite number of possibilities for the perception of light, from infrared to ultraviolet and beyond. This is a prime example of how our natural senses give a limited picture of the world. Professors Nathan Newman and Frank Wilczek seek to improve and enhance people’s limited scope of perception with modern technology through a new initiative at Arizona State University called the Science Hub, or “SciHub.” “How can we enhance our lives by looking and analyzing beyond human perception?” asks Newman, the Lamonte H. Lawrence professor in solid state science in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “We’re going to transcend the boundaries of engineering and physics to include other disciplines of science, art and design in hopes of turning visionary ideas into real-world results.” ASU President Michael Crow’s vision for the New American University drives SciHub’s mission to combine interdisciplinary teaching and research with community outreach. SciHub’s centerpiece will be an innovation space on the Tempe campus, modeled in the style of a generator lab, where locally generated ideas can undergo a systematic process for development into commercial products. The idea for SciHub arose from a collaboration between Clubes de Ciencia (Spanish for science clubs), a STEM-based program operating in Latin America, and Wilczek, a professor of physics in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a research professor in ASU’s Origins Project. Wilczek, who won the 2004 Nobel Prize in physics, was called upon to help create the inaugural workshop for Clubes de Ciencia



Mexico. Two founders of the club were inspired by Wilczek’s work on how technology could be used to expand humans’ limited color perception and wanted to use it as a means to strengthen science education in Mexico. Wilczek’s workshop, like others in the Clubes program, gave high school students and early undergraduate students the opportunity to engage with practicing scientists. In his workshop, they learned how to control light and sound with computers and electronics to explore aspects of the world that don’t register to the unaided senses. They discovered through hands-on experience that there is much more to reality than what human senses ordinarily perceive. SciHub will partner with the existing Clubes de Ciencia hubs at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to reach out to underserved schools and districts in Arizona. This model will give high school and early undergraduate students the opportunity to apply for and participate in SciHub’s intensive STEM workshops, spark their interest in these fields and help develop real-world products. “One of Michael Crow’s dreams is to give access to people who deserve it. The potential of our society shouldn’t be limited to people who have the resources to get to college,” says Newman, who will co-direct the SciHub initiative. “The beauty of the SciHub stems from access and excellence being at the heart of it. We’re going to pair high school and university-level students with a Nobel Prize winner and leading professionals to educate beyond book learning to a real-world experience in the industrial design process.” AMANDA STONEMAN is a science writer with the Ira A. Fulton

Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.






s a high-research university, Northern Arizona University has long been recognized for discoveries in disciplines like land management and climate sciences, astronomy and planetary science, and health sciences. Over the past several years, the university has capitalized on these strengths while increasing investments in emerging technologies aligned with bioengineering, informatics and cyber systems—all of which are generating exciting new interdisciplinary collaborations across the university. And the world is taking notice. NAU’s research is moving to the forefront of scholarly discussions and academic inquiry. In fact, the World University Rankings recently listed NAU in the top 10 percent worldwide for the frequency that its research is cited by others— indicating how productive the university’s researchers are and the prestige of the journals in which their work is published. Research holds tremendous possibilities for NAU, and it is committed to escalating this growth in the years ahead. As the university’s research capacity is increased, innovation and technology transfer that contributes to Arizona’s intellectual and economic development is stimulated, generating opportunities and improving the quality of life. Many of these inventions are already patented or are in the patent application process, and several technologies are undergoing licensing negotiations.

On the pages that follow, read more about some of the NAU researchers who are expanding the university’s quest for knowledge at 7,000 feet and beyond, and the innovative technologies they’re developing: Paul Flikkema, Carol Chambers and Michael Shafer developed an open-source UAS with an integrated radio telemetry module that will allow for improved wildlife telemetry tag localization. The new system design promises to revolutionize ecological research with its ability to sample at previously inaccessible locations and spatio-temporal resolutions. Constantin Ciocanel and Cindy Browder invented a unique multi-functional material that is capable of storing power while providing structural support for high-performance systems operating in a wide range of environments specific to the aerospace, automotive and renewable energy industries. Bertrand Cambou is leading a team of researchers from NAU, Arizona State University and The University of Arizona to develop practical, end-to-end cybersecurity solutions based on the complex physical properties of nanomaterials. Led by Ben Ruddell, a team of NAU scientists is using informatics to map the U.S. economy’s food, energy and water systems—and the possible effects of the recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. AZTECHCONNECT.COM



NO ADD-ON FOR ENERGY Technology combines structural support with power storage WRITING BY >< KERRY BENNETT


hat if an electric car could be run off the power stored in its door panels? What if a jet could be powered by energy stored in its fuselage? Researchers at Northern Arizona University have invented a unique multifunctional material that is capable of storing power while providing structural support for high-performance systems operating in a wide range of environments specific to the aerospace, automotive and renewable energy industries. Constantin Ciocanel, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Cindy Browder, associate professor of chemistry, have worked together for more than seven years to develop this innovative technology, which recently was awarded patents from the European Union and Australia. (U.S. patents are pending.) The multifunctional material’s design combines elements of composite materials with a power storage mechanism specific to supercapacitors. Made of carbon fiber layers bonded with a solid polymer resin capable of conducting electricity, the multifunctional material can be molded without compromising strength or durability. A complementary technology integrates the mechanical strength properties of a honeycomb design with the lightweight characteristic of carbon fiber electrodes, resulting in a material that



Associate Professors Constantin Ciocanel and Cindy Browder

simultaneously exhibits both electrical energy/ power storage capability and mechanical strength. High-performance composite materials have been used widely in industrial applications for decades. Examples include making stronger, lighter aircraft and spacecraft components. More recently, researchers have begun to integrate other properties into composites, including sensing, actuation, computation and communication. Ciocanel’s brainchild was the idea of embedding the property of power storage into such composites. The idea was triggered, Ciocanel says, “by the realization that we are surrounded by many structures with large surface areas. Building walls, solar panels and wind turbine blades, for example, all play a structural role. I wondered whether a structural material could be made that would still provide the mechanical strength required by these structures while simultaneously storing electricity, by taking advantage of the inherent large surface areas that are a key ingredient for power storage in supercapacitor-like systems.” Ciocanel and Browder are now seeking an industrial partner who can make the technology scalable to accommodate its potential for growth. While the researchers are busy developing prototypes of the material for industrial applications, they’re also continuing to improve and diversify the technology. Recently, Ciocanel and Browder have been joined by colleague Gerrick Lindberg, an NAU assistant professor of chemistry who is applying computational physical chemistry methods to help understand the ion transport that is responsible for the resin’s conductivity. This work is enabling the team to change the formulation that renders the resin more affordable and ecologically sustainable. For more information about licensing NAU’s structural supercapacitor technology, contact NAU Innovations, Northern Arizona University’s technology transfer unit, at NAUInnovations@, or call 928-523-4620. KERRY BENNETT is Northern Arizona University’s research communications officer. Connect at



Professors measure implications of import tariffs WRITING BY >< HEIDI TOTH


n light of the recently announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, Informatics professors at Northern Arizona University mapped out how far-reaching the effects of those duties could be for U.S. communities and industries. Benjamin Ruddell and other professors mapped the possible effects of these proposed tariffs, which has raised the specter of a trade war. Ruddell, an associate professor in the School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems (SICCS), leads the National Science Foundation-funded FEWSION Project, which maps the U.S. economy’s food, energy and water systems and their connections to the broader economy and environment. “While the goal of the tariffs is to protect selected U.S. communities and industries who sell at a disadvantage versus their foreign competitors, retaliatory tariffs by our trading partners can hurt other U.S. communities and industries,” Ruddell says. “Therefore, tariffs can increase the cost of doing business for the U.S. economy because businesses must pay higher prices for their steel, aluminum and other inputs. The U.S. is a major exporter of tourism, aircraft, vehicles, heavy equipment, medical products, agricultural products and high-tech goods and services, among other goods and services.” FEWSION scientists have mapped the largest international trading partners for each county in the United States, along with the goods and services that comprise most of this trade. U.S. tariffs that hit large imports will raise the cost of doing business in these counties while foreign retaliation that hits large exports will directly damage local sales, gross domestic product and

jobs. U.S. steel tariffs protect coal and steel jobs in the rust belt but if Asian steel producers like China retaliate by placing tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, it hurts the farm belt. “Uncertainty with global trading partners has real, local implications,” says Richard Rushforth, assistant research professor in SICCS. “For example, the tariffs proposed by China to counter U.S. tariffs have already had nearly a quarter-billion-dollar impact on Iowa livestock producers. Tariffs shouldn’t be viewed as something happening to someone else but rather as policies that will impact your wallet.” While most of the United States imports industrial and manufactured products, Arizona imports more agricultural products, and these goods are mostly from Mexico. Canada and Mexico, which may be exempted from the new tariffs, are the top trading partners for much of the nation. However, FEWSION analysis shows that the central Midwest, urban West Coast and the East Coast import primarily industrial and manufactured goods from Asia and Europe, where new tariffs may impose costs on local communities. The Northern Rockies, Western Plains, Mississippi Corridor, urban West Coast and urban East Coast export a lot of agricultural, industrial and manufactured goods to China and the European Union, which now are openly discussing retaliatory tariffs. Metropolitan areas and ports in the eastern half of the United States, Texas and California; agricultural areas in the Midwest (Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Minnesota); industrial, agricultural and mining areas in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and northern Nevada; Alaska; and Hawaii are especially vulnerable to tariffs on East Asian trading partners. There are winners and losers in a trade war. How will your community fare? For more information and maps, go to FEWSION’s website. HEIDI TOTH is on Northern Arizona University’s Communications

Team. Connect at




Bertrand Cambou


‘Digital fingerprints’ point the way to next-generation cybersecurity solutions


ith 50 billion devices expected to be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020, this forecast represents an enormous cybersecurity risk. According to Bertrand Cambou, professor of practice with Northern Arizona University’s new School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems, these devices “can be subject to distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, malware and Trojan viruses planted during non-secure manufacturing. Furthermore, the distribution of PKIs, or public key infrastructure, is often complicated and unsafe, and flash memories that are supposed to safely store private keys on the client side are now breakable through side-channel analysis.” Although cybersecurity issues have been around for more than 40 years, most of the solutions developed to protect the integrity of computer networks, programs and data rely on software-based technology using advanced number theory algorithms or on elliptic curve cryptography, a set of algorithms based on elliptic curve mathematics.



“Such solutions are vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated hackers, powerful computers and the proliferation of heterogeneous connected IoT with weak access control capabilities,” Cambou says. Cambou, who brings a wealth of technology-sector leadership experience to his role from such companies as Motorola and AMD, is the principal investigator of a collaborative research project between NAU, Arizona State University and The University of Arizona to develop practical, end-to-end cybersecurity solutions. These new, disruptive solutions are based on novel nanomaterials that represent significant additional levels of security. Nanomaterials are smaller than 100 nanometers. A nanometer is 1 millionth of a millimeter, or approximately 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Because of their complex physical properties, nanomaterials are at the forefront of cybersecurity technology, explains Cambou. “The physical randomness of nanomaterials can generate ‘digital fingerprints’ that are inherently difficult to extract, emulate or replicate. Rather than relying on user-generated, low-level cryptographic algorithms, each device bears unique secrets that cannot be guessed, coerced or phished—even with unlimited device access.” Ultimately, beyond the scope of their current research, Cambou and his collaborators see the potential for their work to spur economic growth in Arizona’s tech industry. “We see huge opportunities for the widespread adoption of our nanomaterial-based security solutions to protect critical national infrastructures, financial institutions, transportation networks and healthcare,” says Cambou. “Our long-term vision is to simultaneously branch into commercial applications and obtain significant government funding.” KERRY BENNETT is Northern Arizona University’s Research

Communications Officer. Connect at


STAYING ON TRACK New technology deploys unmanned aerial systems to track wildlife WRITING BY >< KERRY BENNETT

Michael Shafer (left) and Paul Flikkema


onitoring wildlife is an essential part of understanding how animals disperse, move and evolve. Wildlife ecologists use data gathered through tracking devices to address environmental challenges such as climate and land use change, biodiversity loss, and the spread of infectious diseases. Despite significant advances in technology as a whole, the electronic tags used to track small animals such as birds, bats and reptiles haven’t changed much over the last 50 years. Very high frequency (VHF) radio tags developed in the 1960s are still the only viable tagging technology for these animals. Although technologically archaic, VHF tags are relatively lightweight and are inexpensive to deploy. Scientists typically track the signals emitted by these tiny tags in the field by using a handheld receiver and directional antenna. But it can be very time- and labor-intensive to follow animals this way—and sample sizes can be low, limiting research findings. Funded through a National Science Foundation grant, a team of researchers at Northern Arizona University is developing an innovative new unmanned aerial system (UAS) with the potential to vastly improve the tracking of animals in the wild carrying VHF tags. Paul Flikkema, professor of electrical engineering; Carol Chambers, professor of wildlife ecology; and Michael Shafer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, are working together to develop this first-generation system that will be shared with scientists around the world.

“We are developing a new UAV that is not available anywhere commercially,” says Flikkema. “We think the technology is a great synthesis of a mobile platform with sophisticated electronics and software that together can help find and track small animals.” Explains Shafer, “We are developing an opensource UAS with an integrated radio telemetry module that will allow for improved wildlife telemetry tag localization. The current version uses a software-defined radio system attached to a UAV and an on-board companion computer to transmit the receiver audio to the user on the ground. The improved vantage and mobility of the UAV allows for previously infeasible localization techniques and data collection. “These systems promise to revolutionize ecological research with their ability to sample at previously inaccessible locations and spatiotemporal resolutions,” he adds. “It will make our work more efficient because we won’t have to drive around for days searching for transmitters, often hiking long distances and up to the tops of hills and mountains to find bat roosts,” says Chambers, who has spent years tracking bats through rugged terrain. The researchers are currently testing prototypes and developing documentation. Once the project is complete, users will be able to download instructions to build their own systems. The team recently received a U.S. patent for the technology. KERRY BENNETT is Northern Arizona University’s Research

Communications Officer. Connect at





DECEPTION DETECTION Technology sorts truth from fiction among border crossers


he University of Arizona has licensed a deception detection technology called the Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time (AVATAR) that was developed in the Eller College of Management MIS program. Development of the technology was led by Jay Nunamaker, Regents professor and Soldwedel professor who also serves as president and CEO of the company. Tech Launch Arizona (TLA), the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from university research, worked to protect the intellectual property then collaborated with Nunamaker and David Mackstaller to license it to Tucson startup Discern Science International. The AVATAR system works like this: As users answer interview questions posed to them by an interactive electronic interviewer, the system records facial expressions in high-definition video and at the same time its many sensors measure and record thousands of signals from the subject’s voice, body and eyes. All of this information is routed through a complex analytical algorithm and the results are produced almost instantly: green means the subject is clear to pass, yellow means there are some issues to be investigated and red means there are serious issues that require deeper investigation. “The AVATAR technology was developed for the most rigorous and difficult task of detecting deception at the border,” Nunamaker says. “It had to allow innocent people to quickly pass through the border while simultaneously identifying those attempting deception—and do it all in about 30 seconds.” While the initial applications have been around border security, the company’s plan is to



Jay Nunamaker developed the AVATAR system with graduate students to make border crossings both more secure and more efficient. PAUL TUMARKIN/TECH LAUNCH ARIZONA

commercialize the AVATAR technology across a broad range of fields. Research has shown the system is 70 percent to 92 percent accurate depending on the application. By comparison, many studies show humans can catch deception only 54 percent of the time. Like other types of artificial intelligence, the AVATAR can learn and will improve over time. “We have designed studies to accelerate the AVATAR’S learning by engaging people who will be well compensated if they can fool the AVATAR,” Nunamaker says. Nunamaker originally conducted the research that led to AVATAR’s creation through the Borders Research Project. The U.S. Department of Defense; National Science Foundation; the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, also known as Frontex; and U.S. Department of Homeland Security funded the work. Many people collaborated with Nunamaker over many years to create the AVATAR, most notably Judee K. Burgoon, professor and director of human communication research for the UA Center for the Management of Information; Douglas C. Derrick, former graduate student in Nunamaker’s lab and now assistant professor of IT innovation at the University of Nebraska at Omaha; and Aaron C. Elkins, former graduate student and now director of the artificial intelligence program at San Diego State University. “We are already talking to TLA about licensing additional technology to package with the AVATAR,” he says. “This way, we can continue to focus on our research knowing that we have processes and people who stand ready to help get our ideas out into the world where they can make our world a little safer.”


BRILLIANCE IN A BATTERY Inventions and relationships power this innovation


n 2012 as part of a class of ambitious young minds, Adam Small graduated from the Eller College of Management at The University of Arizona. While at UA, he swam his way to an NCAA national championship. As a young entrepreneur in 2014, he saw the coming opportunities in the graphite industry and co-founded Mesa-based Urbix Resources with UA College of Engineering alumni Nicolas Cuevas, Sergio Aguirre, Javier Ayala and Luis Ramos. By 2018 at age 28, he was honored as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in the energy sector. That same year, under his leadership Urbix licensed a portfolio of lithium-ion battery and related materials technologies invented at the UA. The inventions—an environmentally friendly low-temperature graphite purification technique first commissioned by Urbix Resources, a new electrode architecture, an electrolyte, and a graphene exfoliation process—were all developed by Palash Gangopadhyay in his role as research scientist at the UA College of Optical Sciences. He is now an adjunct research professor, as well as full-time CTO at Urbix, overseeing the commercialization of these technologies. According to Cuevas, executive chairman of the company, the inventions are transformational for the energy storage industry. The company has made a fundamental jump beyond its original graphite commercialization business model to bring these new materials and battery cell designs to market. “Essentially,” says Gangopadhyay, “this graphite purification technology can make current processes to make lithium-ion battery-grade anode material safer, more environmentally friendly and more cost-effective, ultimately enabling lithium-ion battery’s true potential as a sustainable technology.” Gangopadhyay was a research scientist at UA when he and his colleagues originally

created the electrode technology. Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions resulting from research, provided funding via its Asset Development program to verify the performance of the new technology to help entrepreneurs and investors understand its commercial potential and bring it closer to market readiness. Through a sponsored research project, Urbix commissioned the UA to develop processes for graphite purification and graphene exfoliation. “This intellectual property package has helped bring Urbix into a new era,” says Amy Phillips, licensing manager for TLA. “They have smart people, bright ideas and great graphite. The UA gave them the edge they need to go all the way.” “The batteries being developed in our Mesa lab right now are more efficient, safer and longer lasting than current technologies,” says Small, CMO of Urbix.

Urbix team (from left): Nicolas Cuevas, Adam Small and Palash Gangopadhyay URBIX RESOURCES




The Urbix batteries have shown stability at greater than 5.2 volts, a goal that industry giants are seeking by 2024. “This is a huge step forward for electric vehicles and utility storage,” he says. “Batteries today are considered a consumable but with our technology, they will be classified as long-term assets, which is critical for renewable energy, IoT infrastructure and financing.” While current comparable top-of-the-line batteries can last between 500 and 3,000 cycles of charging, the UA/Urbix-invented batteries can exceed 7,000 cycles while still maintaining a greater than 95 percent specific capacity. More importantly, this technology has been vetted for over five years, unlike many new battery innovations that lack testing longevity and performance confidence. “With a 15- to 20-year battery life as opposed to three,” says Small, “we’re creating a product that results in less waste in our landfills, and is a more viable solution for electric vehicles, aerospace and utility storage applications.” In the past year, the new company has taken a number of steps forward on its pathway to success. In late spring 2018, it was one of five

companies to receive a U.S. Department of Energy technology development voucher for preliminary work oriented towards the advancement of ultra-high purity isotropic graphite. In August came the announcement of a strategic relationship with Canada-based South Star Mining for advanced testing, optimization development and commercialization of graphite concentrates. That same month, the company formed the subsidiary Urbix Advanced Materials and hired a CEO, Edward Trueman, whose long and successful career in specialty materials with companies like Sintex Advanced Composites and JER Envirotech brings new depth and experience. Parent company Urbix Resources has raised over $5 million to date and shows every sign of maintaining its forward momentum. “Urbix has been a great partner for the UA, so we’re excited to see them achieve this milestone,” says Douglas Hockstad, TLA assistant vice president. “It’s another demonstration of how strategically pairing these early-stage technologies with the right people can lead to greater impact.”

CRUSHING CANCER Drug cuts short the lifespan of target cells

U Reglagene team (from left): Laurence Hurley, Vijay Gokhale and Richard Austin. PAUL TUMARKIN/TECH LAUNCH ARIZONA



niversity of Arizona bioscience startup Reglagene has been recognized in a national competition for its breakthrough invention to fight cancer. Reglagene, a company stemming from research at The University of Arizona, placed in the upper tier of the Freedom from Cancer Startup Challenge as an Innovation Excellence winner. It was selected as one of few startups from across the nation that better prevent, diagnose, treat and cure cancers.


The university licensed a drug that aims to shorten the lives of cancer cells to Reglagene. The technology invented at the UA College of Pharmacy and the UA BIO5 Institute has been shown to be effective in shortening the lives of target cells, essentially inducing cancer cells to grow old and die. Reglagene gives new hope to cancer patients by attacking cancer’s weaknesses in ways that were once out of reach. The company is focused on cancer therapeutics and the commercialization of the DNA quadruplex discoveries from research coming from the labs of Laurence Hurley and Vijay Gokhale at the university. They discovered that DNA quadruplexes in gene promoter regions serve as master control elements for gene expression. Hurley pioneered methodology known as quadruplex master switch technology (QMST) to discover small molecule medicines that fight disease through the control of gene expression. “Our laboratory has developed the underlying technology for a number of drugs that have reached phase I/II clinical trials,” he says. “This is by far the most exciting technology we have developed during our 40 years of research.” Previous similar technologies—which target DNA structures called telomeres that control the lifespan of cells—take several months to exert an effect in cancer cells, which is too long for cancer patients. Through regulating the expression of a protein called telomerase, this drug promotes the rapid erosion of telomeres, inducing cell aging and death in days, not months. “We are now able to target telomerase expression in cancer with small molecule drugs,” says Gokhale, who was recognized by Tech Launch Arizona (TLA) as the 2017 UA Life Sciences Inventor of the Year. “We are excited about the potential for this technology to lead to cancer therapies.” To protect the invention and license the technology, the co-founders worked with TLA,

“This is by far the most exciting technology we have developed during our 40 years of research.” - LAURENCE HURLEY

the UA unit that commercializes inventions stemming from university research. Reglagene was formed in November 2016 and licensed the technology in September 2017. The company is a client of the Arizona Center for Innovation (AzCI), a business incubator at the UA Tech Park, and is going through the AzCI program where Richard Austin is leading the company’s commercialization efforts. Through the program, Reglagene receives individualized business development assistance to bring the company from idea to sustaining enterprise. The pharmaceutical research and development landscape continues to evolve. The rapid advancement of biomedical technology and the cost of maintaining ever-ready R&D capacity have conspired to create a shift in the pharmaceutical business model. Once the exclusive domain of major companies, pharmaceutical discovery is increasingly distributed among innovative startup companies. Reglagene helps cancer patients by leveraging QMST to discover and develop new medicines that control gene expression. Many high value oncology targets are out of reach for conventional medicinal discovery technologies yet are under quadruplex control. Reglagene’s business model is to establish proof of concept around new medicines to enable partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to bring lifesaving products to market. AZTECHCONNECT.COM



READY FOR A NEW ENEMY UA cyber ops program ranked among nation’s best by NSA

Jason Denno




ince January 2017, The University of Arizona’s cyber operations program has grown at blinding speed. The program has learners logging in from all over the world, ranging from traditional students to retired military personnel to an aerospace engineer with a Ph.D. Based at UA South in Sierra Vista and taught both traditionally and online, the program’s appeal has much to do with a wealth of career opportunities in the field. In a tech world where data breaches have become common and costly, the talent pool hasn’t been keeping pace with the demand for sophisticated cyber expertise from industries such as retail, health care and banking. According to the International Information Security Certification Consortium, a nonprofit organization specializing in training and certifications for cybersecurity professionals, an additional 1.8 million cyber professionals will be needed in the U.S. by 2022. These are good jobs, too, with a median salary of more than $95,000 for information security analysts in 2017. It’s not a capacity problem, it’s a competence problem, says Jason Denno, a former Army paratrooper and intelligence officer who created and directs the UA’s cyber operations program. More than eight in 10 organizations believe half or fewer of their applicants for cyber positions are qualified, according to ISACA, an international association focused on information technology governance. “The one thing our graduates can count on is the fact that they will possess extraordinary technical cyber skills. Those skills are not very common in the workplace right now,” said Denno. “I’m here to build highly qualified, highly skilled professionals to defend and arm this nation. They’re not going to be looking for work. Work is going to be looking for them for the rest of their lives.”



The big difference from most other cyber programs, Denno says, is the skills-heavy work done by UA students in CyberApolis, a virtual city with 15,000 residents, its own water and power companies, news media, retailers, bank and hospital—and, naturally, its own underground hacking community. “Everything in the program is completely hands-on, and that makes us unique,” Denno says. “Everything is done to ensure that the student has the knowledge, skills and ability when they leave to be able to do what they were taught to do.” Add credibility to that distinction. On June 6, UA’s cyber ops program received official designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations (CAE-CO) by the National Security Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. Although about 150 four-year colleges and universities, including UA, have been designated Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), only 20 institutions have achieved CAE-CO status, which affirms an emphasis on specialized cyber ops technologies and techniques. The smaller group also includes the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Military Academy and Naval Postgraduate School. “With the rapid advancement of digital technology, there is now a corresponding high demand for cybersecurity expertise in the public and private sectors,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “I am very proud that the University of Arizona is meeting that demand and that the National Security Agency has recognized our cyber operations program as one of the nation’s best. As they graduate from a top-tier cyber program, our students will make vital contributions in the workforce of our region and to the defense of our nation and its citizens.”

2018 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation:

Transformation Thursday, November 8 | 4:00-8:30PM at Phoenix Convention Center This event is the premier awards gala in Arizona recognizing innovative thinkers and technologists from across the state. Attracting more than 850 attendees each year for a night of networking, food, and entertainment, 2018 marks the 15th year of this prestigious event.

AZTC Members: $125 | Non-Members: $150 Sponsorships Starting at $2,500

Learn more and register at

Arizona Commerce Authority


Arizona’s Community Colleges:



ong before IT giant Cognizant announced it was creating 500 jobs at its newest facility in Mesa, the company’s executives along with the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) and academia developed a plan to ensure it would cultivate a key ingredient necessary for its continued growth in the state: talent. Arizona already offered many items critical to the company’s success: a competitive tax and regulatory environment, world-class infrastructure, unbeatable quality of life, and a business culture that embraces innovation. But ask any C-suite executive what the key ingredient to long-term sustainability is and they’ll tell you that “human capital” is at the top of the list. Like sunshine, Arizona has that in abundance. Our state’s available workforce is skilled, plentiful, talented and young. Greater Phoenix alone has more than 2 million workers, and the Tucson metropolitan area has another 450,000. Maricopa is outpacing the other 3,141 counties in the U.S. in terms of population growth, attracting an average of 200 people a day. This steady influx of people empowers Arizona’s community colleges to play a critical role in shaping, strengthening and transforming the workforce of the future. For example, our community college system is responsible for granting more than 19,000 degrees and 25,000 certificates. Maricopa County Community College District enrolls 200,000 students annually and Pima Community College enrolls 45,000 annually. As the state’s leading economic development agency, the ACA is proactive about connecting companies like Cognizant with the state’s education network. For example, regular meetings are held with industry leaders to find out what skills executives want to see in potential job candidates. Based on what we learn, the ACA develops innovative partnerships, bringing together private industry with academia and government



to ensure companies have access to well-trained graduates who are ready to work. In short, the ACA sees enterprise and education as fundamentally interconnected. Below are a few highlights of the many initiatives the ACA, and its academic and industry partners have developed in Arizona:

Cognizant + Maricopa Corporate College Last month, Cognizant along with Governor Doug Ducey, the ACA and the Maricopa County Community College District announced a new partnership with Maricopa Corporate College to provide technical training for in-demand digital economy jobs like the ones at Cognizant. Training will be provided at no cost to those selected to participate. Courses held at Maricopa Corporate College starting this fall will focus on “application support” and “infrastructure services.” Those who complete the program will get an opportunity to interview for job openings within Cognizant, which employs nearly 3,000 employees at three facilities in Mesa, Chandler and Phoenix. “As one of the world’s largest technology employers, we care deeply about workforce readiness to compete in the digital age—and ensuring that those who are interested in pursuing technology careers have access to necessary training,” Karen McLoughlin, Cognizant chief financial officer, said last month of the partnership. McLoughlin said she hopes the initiative grows the number of qualified technology workers in the region and provides new career opportunities.

Community College Charter + Advanced Technologies Corridor The ACA in conjunction with academia and industry-leading companies unveiled a

partnership in 2017 to design curriculum that ensures advanced-manufacturing operations in Arizona continue have the talent pipeline they need to grow and expand. Maricopa County Community College District, Pima Community College District and Central Arizona College signed a historic charter, solidifying an agreement to create a uniform curriculum that will help develop a workforce with the skills advanced manufacturing operations in Arizona need. Private companies, including Boeing, Raytheon and Lucid, worked with the colleges to develop this first-of-its-kind curriculum. The concentration of advanced manufacturing operations along the Interstate 10 corridor from the Southeast Valley to Tucson is rapidly increasing, which makes this collaboration important and timely.

AZSkyTech + Yavapai College Yavapai College in Northern Arizona recognizes unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are among the fastest growing emerging industries, which is why it has created UAS degree and certificate programs and is a partner of the ACA’s AZSkyTech program. “We can’t afford to be stagnant or to follow. We have to be passionate and forward thinking, while staying ahead of the pack,” says Matt Mintzmyer, director of the UAS program at Yavapai College. The UAS programs gives students a leg up in the industry by preparing them with skills that have applications in industries including agriculture, emergency management, and fire management. The program offers hands-on training systems fabrication and repair, data collection, mapping, video editing, and data analysis.

Mesa Community College + Blockchain Technology Certification Mesa Community College (MCC) this fall semester began offering a blockchain


Arizona Commerce Authority

technology certificate, becoming one of the first community colleges in the country to provide such a certificate. The certificate will prepare students in a number of industries being transformed by blockchain, including banking, finance, insurance and shipping. Many of these industries have already begun adopting blockchain technology to secure transactions and contracts. The program puts Mesa Community College in a leadership role in advancing this specific curriculum.

Pima Community College + Applied Technology Academy In August, Caterpillar and Pima Community College launched an educational partnership for company engineers and future students to develop hands-on skills in welding and machining. The program known as the Applied Technology Academy will consist of hands-on courses designed to teach fabrication skills to engineers and other non-technical professionals. The idea is to make engineers better designers and innovators since they often lack the hands-on or end-user experience with the products they design. Students who complete the 20-week program will earn a professional development certificate. In summer 2019, the courses will open to the public, allowing other companies with similar talent needs to take advantage of the program. Broadening participation will only strengthen Arizona’s status as a top state for workforce readiness. These programs play a key role in maintaining Arizona’s position at the forefront of talent development efforts, proving that when you unite private industry and academia, the state comes out ahead. SANDRA WATSON is the Arizona Commerce

Authority’s president & CEO and co-publisher of TechConnect.




Logo Reversed Logo Reversed Logo Reversed


Logo&Black & White Logo Black White Logo Black & White




Alliance Bank |Solutions APS | Blue Marketing cStor | Cyrus One | GuardVant | Indecomm Global Services D Digital |Canoe Alliance Bank | |APS | Arizona | |Audio Canoe Marketing Alliance Bank |Solutions APS | Blue Marketing cStor | Cyrus One |Collaboratory EY || EY GuardVant Indecomm Global Services A &AD&Digital |Canoe Alliance Bank | |APS | Arizona Collaboratory | Audio Eye|Eye| BlueBlue Canoe Marketing InfusionSoft | JDA | MDSL | MSS | Pima Community College | Resound | Solugenix | Sun Cooridor Inc Bank | APS | Blue Marketing | cStor | Cyrus One EY | |Idea Alliance APS Blue Canoe Marketing Cyrus OneGroup EY||GuardVant GuardVant FarmCooridor Clements |Canoe cStor | Commercial Estate of Tucson |Idea CyrusOne |Inc GuardVant InfusionSoft |Agency JDA ||MSS | Pima Community College ||| Resound | Solugenix | Farm Sun Clements Agency || MDSL cStor Commercial RealReal Estate Group of Tucson | CyrusOne | EY| |EY GuardVant Indecomm Global Services| InfusionSoft | JDA | MDSL | Pima Community College | Resound Solugenix Indecomm Global Services | | Involta | JDA | MDSL | Pima Community College | Resound University of Advancing Technology | University of Arizona Tech Parks Indecomm Global Services | Infusionsoft | LeaseWeb | MSS | Okta | Pima Community College | Simpleview Advancing Technology of Arizona Parks College || Simpleview Indecomm GlobalUniversity Services |ofInfusionsoft | LeaseWeb| University | MSS | Okta | PimaTech Community Inc| of Technology | University of Arizona Tech Parks | World View|Enterprises SunSolugenix Cooridor Inc |University University of Advancing Advancing Technology | Sun Cooridor | Symantec | Trailblazer Advisors Tech | ViaWest World View Solugenix | Sun Cooridor Inc.Inc. | Symantec | Trailblazer Advisors | UA| UA Tech ParkPark | ViaWest | World View AZTECHCONNECT.COM AZTECHCONNECT.COM 023 023 AZTECHCONNECT.COM 023 AZTECHCONNECT.COM AZTECHCONNECT.COM For For more more information information sponsorship, on sponsorship, visit visit 023 023 For more information on sponsorship, visit For For more more information information on on sponsorship, on sponsorship, visit visit

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.