[From CASE Reports, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1996]


IN BRIEF: Science and Technology Notes from Around Connecticut


DRIVE-IN DATA. Public telephones and cellular telephones have made it easy for people to keep in touch while traveling, and now a new service is being tested in Hartford that will enable those who use portable computers to do the same. Southern New England Telephone (SNET) has installed dataports on two drive-up public telephones on Brainard Road, the first site in the nation to test the service on outdoor telephones; until now, dataports-external phone jacks-could be found only on indoor public telephones. But after sales people who spend much time on the road asked for the expanded service, SNET worked with International Totalizing Systems of Bradford, MA, to develop the technology.

SUPER STRANDS. Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. (SNET Corp.) announced an advance in information-highway technology in October-a system to deliver electric power alongside data in cables carrying fiber-optic strands. The new cables combine the clarity and improved signal range of fiber optics with wires carrying enough power to make voice, video and data networks usable even when the power is out. Power will be supplied from backup reserves at the company's central offices, as is currently done for telephones during outages, according to SNET officials.

SURFING THE TOWN. Many Connecticut towns either have or are preparing to have a town home page on the World Wide Web, part of an initiative sponsored by the state Department of Administrative Services and the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, with help from the Connecticut State Library. In Avon, for example, residents with a personal computer and modem should be able to find information such as the town's history, local real estate transactions, a community calendar, school district profiles, budgets, school bus schedules, a social and cultural guide, and census information. Such home pages will also provide access to bulletin boards where computer users "talk" to municipal officials, hold discussions on municipal issues, and exchange ideas with others. In June, the state's own home page debuted on the World Wide Web (at http://www.ctstateu.edu/state.html), making government, law, education, economic development, transportation, and tourism information accessible to the public.

... OR THE CLASSICS. Home pages on the World Wide Web are penetrating the academic classroom as well. The University of Connecticut offers about 55 courses that use the vast resources of this global network to one degree or another. Various subjects are taught at the university's computer center, such as Professor Barbara Johnson's English 109. Students can access Homer's Odyssey or the manuscript of Beowulf, tour James Joyce's Dublin, or hear a recording of the author reading from Finnegan's Wake. Students also link up with students at other universities to discuss literary works.

CBS ON DEMAND. CBS Corp. has joined the Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. (SNET Corp.) to provide programming for the 350 West Hartford residents now participating in SNET's video-on-demand pilot project-and, ultimately, for the service's future customers if the project is successful. Participants can view popular CBS programs such as "60 Minutes" and "Central Park West" at their own convenience; the shows are made available for a week, starting the day after they air. A one-hour show costs participants 99 cents. CBS said the trial is a way to assess the popularity of its programs in a multimedia environment.


FAIR SCIENCE. Olin Corp. and Yale University teamed scientists with students in New Haven schools last fall to create projects for the school district's annual science fair. Employees from Olin Metals Research Laboratories and Yale faculty met with students in 11 schools and served as judges for the fair. The two institutions also donated $14,750 each to help pay for materials and other fair costs. "It really does become a burden sometimes for teachers to do these projects and everything else, too," said Jack Crane, a retired Olin executive who coordinates the program.

ECOSYSTEM GRANT. Project Oceanology, a nonprofit marine education program in Groton, and Learn, a regional educational service center, have received a $78,130 grant from the state Department of Education to conduct a program for middle school students to study the aquatic ecosystem of the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound. Students from six Groton-area schools will seine fish for study and investigate water quality at Haddam Meadows State Park, and will make comparable studies of the Sound aboard Project Oceanology's boat, EnviroLab II.

CYBER-SENIORS. Computer courses intended to bring senior citizens up to speed with their grandchildren are being taught at various locations in Connecticut, with Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. sponsoring programs in Groton, Norwalk and Manchester. In Norwalk, 200 people are on a waiting list for the next session. SeniorNet, a San Francisco-based nonprofit group, organizes the courses, with the goal of involving people 55 years of age and older in the computer revolution. The program also has an area for senior concerns on America Online and a page on the World Wide Web (http.//www.seniornet.org).

PHYSICS POOL. Physics students at Hartford's Bulkeley High School donned scuba gear for their classes this fall-jumping into the school's swimming pool to discuss and demonstrate Boyle's law, buoyancy, volume and density. Aided by the Scuba Shack of Rocky Hill, students were able to supplement classroom learning with experiments under real-life conditions. Teacher Geraldine Maiorini said such practical experience was in line with what colleges now require: hands-on experience. "You cannot use your calculator until you use your common sense," she said.

WHALE HEARING. Noise pollution in the ocean may affect the hearing of whales and dolphins and interfere with their ability to hunt for food and avoid predators, according to a study by students from the American School for the Deaf who participated in the University of Connecticut's (UConn's) Aquanauts program. The seven students, who performed the research last summer on Stellwagen Bank in the Gulf of Maine, determined that commercial vessels are emitting noise at sea at an increasing rate. This noise could interfere with sea mammals' sonar systems. "The research is the critical first step toward understanding the impact of low-frequency noise on cetaceans," said marine acoustics specialist Dr. Peter Scheifele, who accompanied the students. The Aquanauts program is a project of the National Undersea Research Center at UConn's Avery Point campus in Groton.

WIRED SCHOOLS. Tolland Middle School students will soon be able to go as far as their imaginations and the Internet will take them, thanks to a $3,150 grant from the Southern New England Telecommunications Corp. (SNET). The grant is one of 20 awarded around the state through SNET's Links to Learning, a program which helps schools hook up to telecommunications networks such as the Internet. In the grant application, enrichment specialist Lynn Niro explained how teachers could use Internet connections to expand the curriculum.

GROUND BROKEN. After three years of planning, studying, obtaining permits and raising funds, ground was broken in October for OceanQuest, a $35 million ocean sciences learning center in New London. The idea of using old submarine equipment to teach children about the ocean and technology came from Analysis & Technology Inc. managers Michael O'Donnell and Philip J. Slack III. The facility, described by Slack as a cross between a science center and a theme park, is expected to draw 375,000 visitors its first year, nearly as many as passed through Mystic Seaport's gates last year. OceanQuest will be the region's first attraction on the west side of the Thames River.

WOMEN IN SCIENCE. A recent study co-sponsored by CASE and United Connecticut for Women in Science surveyed 33 colleges and universities, 50 businesses and industries and 10 government and nonprofit laboratories to determine the extent to which women are employed in scientific, mathematical, engineering and technical fields in Connecticut. The survey was conducted by CASE member Claire Markham of Saint Joseph College. Results of the survey show that, overall, women represent 21.2% of scientists and engineers in the state ("scientists" are defined as natural scientists, mathematics and computer scientists, and social scientists). This figure is slightly below the national figure of 22% identified by a National Science Foundation survey published in 1994.


BORING WORK. Connecticut Natural Gas has used innovative excavation techniques to supply 17 homes in Simsbury with gas for heat, hot water and cooking without tearing up a stretch of paved state highway. Using "directional boring," the company was able to avoid the excavation and reduce costs. Directional boring is a type of trenchless technology that uses an electronic signal to guide the drill head to avoid any underground utilities. Drills enter the ground at an angle and bore horizontally, exiting at a predetermined point; a 4-inch steel pipe can then be inserted in the bored passage.

TAKING THE CHALLENGE. Kaman Industrial Technologies, a subsidiary of Bloomfield's Kaman Corp., has become a member of the Department of Energy's Motor Challenge Program. The program was established in response to President Clinton's Energy Policy Act of 1992, which mandates that by October 1997, motors manufactured in or imported into the United States must meet new efficiency standards. The program is a voluntary one, under which the DOE agrees to provide companies with the information and tools they need to make informed decisions about incorporating energy-efficient electric motors and related equipment into their production processes.


CHEAPER CLEANUP. The cleanup of Long Island Sound may cost billions of dollars less than first estimated, it was announced at a meeting of top environmental policymakers from New York, Connecticut, and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency in Old Lyme in September. New technologies such as denitrification filters-already in use in Florida-should sharply reduce the need for one of the costliest aspects of the original plan: new sewage treatment plants. The cost of reducing nitrogen pollution in the sound from treatment plants may now be $2.5 billion, down from the $6 billion estimated seven years ago.

TAX PARADOX. A new study of 11 southern New England communities challenges the assumption that converting farms, forest s and other land into subdivisions will help solve community budget problems. Even though developed land brings in far more property tax revenue, the study found, the cost of servicing that developed land exceeds the total tax revenue generated. For each dollar in property tax revenue from residential land, the 11 towns, including Durham, Farmington, Litchfield and Pomfret, spent an average of $1.14 to provide services such as roads and schools. For that same dollar of tax revenue, the towns spent only 42 cents to provide services to open space lands. Southern New England Forest Consortium Inc. sponsored the study.

ALGAL PUMP. A University of Connecticut marine biologist is studying how phytoplankton-free-floating algae-capture and confine carbon dioxide and what impact this has on the "greenhouse effect." Hans Dam, Assistant Professor of Marine Sciences at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point, is trying to understand how carbon moves in the ocean-whether the oceans are, in effect, a sink for carbon dioxide. The biological "pump" thus created could affect world climate, according to Professor Dam.

EARTH PARTNERS. The United Illuminating Co. has awarded its first Earth Partner grants to 11 community groups who have devised practical projects to improve the environment throughout the 17 towns the utility serves. The recipients of the grants, which range from $750 to $1,000, include Parkfriends of New Haven, for a river, pond and watershed restoration project; Clean Sound Inc. of Shelton, for a mobile environmental learning center; Connecticut Public Radio, for its broadcasts of environmental features for children; and the Naugatuck River Watershed Association, for a sedimentation and thermal-pollution abatement project.

REDEFINING RESOURCES. The state Supreme Court ruled in November that trees should be considered a natural resource when development is considered. The court issued the unanimous ruling in a case involving efforts by Fairfield University to clear-cut 1312 acres of woodlands and subdivide it into building lots. Neighbors objected, and tried to enforce a state law that requires developers to propose alternative plans if a project may pollute or destroy "the public trust in the air, water or other natural resources of the state." Two lower courts dismissed the case, saying nearly every development project requires clearing trees. But the Supreme Court found that the lower court decisions clashed with most definitions of natural resources used in environmental protection laws.


SEAWEED FARMING. Researchers from the University of Connecticut (UConn), three other New England universities, and a Maine seaweed-farming company have received a $1.2 million federal grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a farm to cultivate nori, a highly nutritious red seaweed that is also used in many industrial applications. Researchers from UConn, Northeastern University, the University of Maine, and the University of New Hampshire want to develop a nori industry to diversify New England's economy; in Japan, nori-which is relatively inexpensive, yet labor-intensive, to cultivate-represents a $2 billion industry. One of the team's principal investigators, Charles Yarish, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn, will evaluate native forms of the seaweed in the first phase of the program.

BIOTECH BUILDING. The University of Connecticut has received federal support for construction of the Agricultural Biotechnology Building, according to Kirklyn M. Kerr, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The final version of the agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal year 1996 includes $1.35 million to begin construction. "Biotechnology is the key to the future for providing an adequate, safe and economic food and fiber supply for a growing population," said Dean Kerr.

PESTICIDE RESIDUE TESTS. Scientists from The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station report that testing of produce for pesticide residues for the past seven years shows that 76% of the samples had no residues. Researchers Harry M. Pylypiw, Jr., Terri Missenti, and Mary Jane Incorvia Mattina reported that of a total of 2,648 samples tested, only 10 were above EPA tolerances and 25 others had detectable residues of pesticides for which there are no EPA tolerances.


LYME PROGRESS. An early detection test for Lyme disease conceived by University of Connecticut (UConn) scientists will be developed and marketed by a French drug company in a deal that could bring UConn millions of dollars in royalties. Stewart Rosenberg, President of Bio-Investigations Ltd., a venture capital firm in Madison that put the deal together, said the new blood test could lead to a market of $350 million worldwide. Connaught Laboratories Inc., a subsidiary of the French company Pasteur Merieux Serums and Vaccines, sublicensed the rights to help develop and market the test. Meanwhile, UConn scientists have received extended funding and a renewal of their contract with Connaught, which has determined that the work is promising.

OBESITY DRUGS. Branford-based Neurogen Corp. and Pfizer Inc. completed an agreement in November for the joint development and marketing of drugs to treat obesity and other eating disorders. Obesity affects as much as one-third of the US adult population, and drugs to treat it and other disorders "represent a worldwide potential of several billion dollars," according to a Neurogen statement. Pfizer gets world rights to sell a drug called NGD 95-1, which suppresses the appetite by blocking a natural hunger stimulant called Neuropeptide Y.

MINORITY DENTISTRY. A $4.2 million National Institutes of Health grant is supporting a joint program by the University of Connecticut (UConn) School of Dental Medicine and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to improve oral health among members of minority groups. The grant created the Northeastern Minority Oral Health Research Center at UConn's Health Center at Farmington, one of four national centers intended to conduct research on improving service to minority populations, encouraging the training of minority junior scientists, and increasing the research capabilities of minority dental schools.

ASTHMA GRANT. The John B. Pierce Laboratory and Yale University have won a $3.6 million federal grant to study asthma, which has increased dramatically over the past 15 years. The five-year study of about 1,000 children in New Haven, Bridgeport and Hartford-the largest of its type-is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the country, affecting about 10–20 million children. Researchers hope to account for a 46% increase in the disease since 1980, as well as the higher risk experienced by black and Latino children.

PIG HEARTS. New Haven-based Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. has granted exclusive rights to United States Surgical Corp. of Norwalk to market genetically engineered animal organs developed by Alexion. Alexion has developed a method of genetically engineering animals so that their organs are more resistant to rejection by humans. The collaboration "potentially can eliminate the waiting lists of tens of thousands of patients who desperately need organ transplants," said Leon C. Hirsch, Chairman of US Surgical. Most of Alexion's research has focused on pigs, considered the ideal animal for transgenic implants. In October, Alexion won a $2 million federal research grant that could lead to the implantation of pig hearts into humans within three years.

NEW HOPE. Yale-New Haven Hospital is the first in the state to successfully perform a new technique that could allow previously infertile men to become fathers. One couple has given birth using the new procedure and three more are expecting. Called intracyto-plasmic sperm injection/microepididymal sperm aspiration, the technique involves surgically obtaining sperm from a man and injecting it into an egg from a woman, then implanting the embryo into the woman. The procedure overcomes problems that exist even if sperm are present, such as low sperm count and immotility.


GROWING CRYSTALS. At the Yale Center for Microelectronics Materials and Structures, scientists are growing semiconductor crystals with new, high-tech equipment purchased in collaboration with the University of Connecticut and with help from Connecticut Innovations, Inc. Few universities possess one of the $250,000 devices, known as Emcore MOCVD Reactors, for growing new kinds of crystals to be fashioned into transistor-like devices that emit laser beams. These are used to carry data in photonics, the science predicted to revolutionize communications and computer technology.

NIGHT SIGHT. In September, a Nightsight Thermal Vision System-a device made by Texas Instruments for finding missing swimmers and stranded boaters-was installed on the Clinton Police Department's 24-foot Steigercraft, making Clinton the first law enforcement agency east of the Mississippi to install one on a boat. Police Chief Joseph Faughnan said the $8,000 instrument will increase the chances of finding victims. The device is a camera that resembles the head of the Star Wars character R2D2, which is mounted on the roof of the Steigercraft and, like R2D2, can spin 360°. Images appear on a small screen inside the cabin. The system allows objects emitting more heat to be portrayed as either lighter or darker images than cooler objects.

PATENTLY SUCCESSFUL. MicroPatent, an East Haven company that has been offering patent information on CD-ROMs crammed with 1,000 patents apiece since 1990, has created Patent Server, a home page on the World Wide Web that allows users to search through and read recent patents as well as buy and download copies of any patents issued since 1976. There are more than 1.5 million patents available, and they are online within 48 hours after they are issued. The company has sold its CD-ROMs around the world-including $100,000 worth to the government of Vietnam.

RADIO UPGRADE. The Connecticut State Police is overhauling the police radio network to replace a system using 55-year-old, two-way FM technology-a technology that still makes it possible for a trooper to lose contact with his base in the state's "dead zones." Though delays have plagued the upgrade since it was conceived more than a decade ago, it has been declared a priority by Public Safety Commissioner Kenneth H. Kirschner, and the department hopes that by 1997 the new $66 million system will be working. It will use a computer and so-called trunking technology to control the assignment of frequencies and allow static-free, secure conversations throughout the state.

COAST GUARD STAYS. The US Coast Guard announced in October that it will keep its Research & Development Center at the University of Connecticut's (UConn's) Avery Point campus in Groton after originally proposing to move the center to Virginia to cut costs. UConn convinced the Coast Guard to stay in part by reducing its overhead by $250,000 a year for the next two years. The center would also benefit from the resources of the UConn Marine Sciences & Technology Center's new research vessel and laboratory, as well as the university's projected $54 million state-of-the-art research facility and other marine study resources clustered in the Groton area.


WEB BUSINESS. Businesses in Connecticut are flooding onto the World Wide Web. Brian Matthews of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association said getting onto the Internet and designing home pages is a major goal of many Connecticut companies today. Businesses ranging from Air Handling Systems in Woodbridge (http://www/.airhand.com/airhand/) and Yervant Oriental Rugs in North Branford (http://www.unilk.com/yervant/yervant.html.) are hoping to sell their products on the Web.

TOOL TEAMWORK. The University of Hartford and its industrial neighbor, United Tool & Die Co., have teamed up to manufacture and sell a high-tech invention: a computerized surface roughness analyzer. United Tool & Die will manufacture the device under a licensing arrangement with the university in which it will share profits. The relationship between the university and the West Hartford manufacturer of aircraft parts and machine tools is "a superb example of technology transfer from a university to the nuts-and-bolts world of manufacturing," said Dr. Devdas Shetty, Director of the Engineering Applications Center at the college's School of Engineering and inventor of the device.

FREE INTERNET. The Connecticut Small Business Development Center in West Hartford offered businesses free access to the Internet in the fall-specifically to browse the US Commerce Department's STAT-USA bulletin board, a repository of government procurement information, foreign trade data, and economic and demographic statistics. Such access normally costs about $100 a year. Dennis Gruell, Regional Director for the center, said the largest number of requests were for information on foreign trade.

ACCENT ON COLOR. East Hartford's Accent Color Sciences Inc. has created the world's first full-color printing machine for variable-data documents such as credit card bills and insurance policies. The company announced a number of joint agreements with major manufacturers of printing technology at a major show in Minneapolis in November. Xerox Corp., IBM Corp. and Siemens AG announced partnerships with Accent at the Xplor show. Accent uses computer-controlled color printing equipment in tandem with printing machines made by the companies.

BUDNICK APPOINTED. The Board of Directors of Connecticut Innovations Inc. announced the appointment of Victor R. Budnick as President and Executive Director in November. Budnick joined CII in 1991 as a project director, and is responsible for investment programs that have provided $65 million in debt, equity and royalty-based risk capital financing to over 130 technology-based companies, and for technology programs that have provided $60 million in funding. CII is a quasi-public corporation that funds projects in such areas as aerospace, biotechnology, marine sciences and telecommunications.


ROAD PLANS. Regional and local road planners are about to try out a new system of linking road planning with the decisions about the way land is developed along the roads. At the state level, decisions about roads are not coordinated with local decisions on subdivisions and strip malls, planners say. A $3.8 million series of "corridor studies" of six commuter routes in the Hartford area should result in recommendations for planning and zoning changes that towns could make to get the most use out of existing highways and eliminate congestion. The study is being carried out with 80% federal funding by the Capitol Region Council of Governments and 11 municipal planning agencies.

LIGHT RAIL. At a symposium at Connecticut College in New London in December, light rail advocates presented their vision of southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island sites connected by a system of energy-efficient electric trains, with tracks linking the Foxwoods Resort Casino, the projected Mohegan Sun Casino, Mystic Seaport, the Westerly-area beaches and other tourist attractions. Indian tribes and light-rail advocates have been allies in attempts to get government funding for a regional system. A light-rail system could use abandoned trolley rights-of-way, according to Penny Parkesian of the Trails and Rails Action Committee.

ELECTRIFICATION ON TRACK. In December, Amtrak awarded a $321 million contract for electrification of its Northeast Rail Corridor to a joint venture firm of Massachusetts Electric Co. of Boston and Balfour Beatty Construction Co. of Atlanta. The firm will complete the design and construction of the "catenary," or wire-connected system, between New Haven and Boston. The entire renovation is expected to cost $3 billion and will allow Amtrak to operate high-speed train service between Boston and New York. Construction is expected to start in the spring.

NEW SAFETY SYSTEM. The Department of Transportation will test a revolutionary system to prevent railroad crossing accidents in Connecticut next year. The system uses metal detectors and motion sensors to detect whether there is a vehicle on the tracks long before a train comes within sight of a grade crossing. The $1.2 million for the test, to be conducted at the School Street crossing in the West Mystic section of Groton, will come from the Federal Railroad Administration and the DOT.

RUSSIAN VISIT. Russian engineers toured roads and bridges and a quarry in Connecticut in November, with a particular interest in the Department of Transportation's incident management facility in Bridgeport. The facility uses fiber-optic cable to monitor traffic on Interstate 95. The visit, sponsored by the International Finance and Economic Partnership Institute, included a look at the machinery and dust-reduction equipment at Tilcon Inc.'s trap rock quarry in North Branford.

--Compiled and edited by Steve Courtney


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