[From CASE Reports, Vol. 11, No. 3, 1996]


IN BRIEF: Science and Technology Notes from Around Connecticut


INTERNET PITCH. Thousands of businesses of all sizes are using the Internet to pitch their goods to customers, passing on savings in traditional marketing costs to customers in the form of discounts. In one example, Cadkey Inc. of Windsor is selling $700 worth of software for $400 and making money by using World Wide Web presence as a marketing, sales and service tool for its Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. "We're getting orders from all over the world," Cadkey's Livingston Davies told the New Haven Register recently. Another success story is Middletown's Virtual Marketing, a public relations firm for high-tech companies, which is acquiring customers for its services without face-to-face meetings.

WIRED SCHOOLS. In June, Hartford Public High School became the first school in the state to be hooked up to the Internet under "Connect '96," a public-private program designed to wire every school for computer access. Governor John G. Rowland was on hand for the launch of the program, expected to be operational throughout the state by October. The state has spent about $10 million toward the goal. The program is intended to give students of different economic and social backgrounds equal access to computers.

COURT DATE ON TAPE. Prisoners at Somers Correctional Facility seeking a judge's permission to legally change their names were the first to use a new interactive video system that links the prison with Superior Court in Rockville. The exchanges between the prisoners and judge were carried by a fiber-optic telephone line connecting cameras, video monitors and sound systems in the courtroom and the prison. The system is deemed safer and less expensive than transporting prisoners to court, and other states are using the technology for sentencings, arraignments and children's testimony in sexual abuse cases. In Connecticut, it is being used at first only for uncontested matters brought by inmates.

BANKING HOME PAGE. The state Department of Banking has a home page on the World Wide Web that provides instant access to information about all of Connecticut's 337 banks, savings and loans, credit unions and trust companies. The little-known resource puts state consumers a step closer to on-line banking-the ability to apply for a loan, locate automated teller machines and receive statement information through a home computer. Consumers can also learn the interest that a landlord must pay a tenant on a security deposit or calculate loan payments. The home page, with links to individual banks' pages, is at http://www.state.ct.us/dob.


UNDERGRAD COLLOQUIUM. Undergraduates at the University of Connecticut got to present their findings from independent research studies at the Biology Undergraduate Research Colloquium at the university in May. Research was presented to students' peers and faculty in much the same way as it would be at any scientific symposium or colloquium. Subjects included gene mapping, analysis of protein folding, and nitrogen-converting bacteria found in a variety of New Zealand root nodules.

SCIENCE SENSE. In April, Mae Jemison, the nation's first black female astronaut, led students at Orange's Turkey Hill School in a series of hands-on experiments related to space travel as part of a "Making Science Make Sense" program offered nationwide by Bayer Corp. Jemison, who runs a company that designs technologies to benefit developing countries, said the purpose was to train students "to be able to read a newspaper article or watch a television show [on science] with comprehension and vote responsibly on scientific issues such as the environment."

PLANETARIUM LIFT. The Gengras Planetarium at the Science Center of Connecticut in West Hartford will undergo repairs and obtain new equipment with the help of an $85,500 grant from Northeast Utilities and Duracell International Inc. The grant will enable the center to upgrade slide projection equipment in the 28-year-old structure to make it compatible with other planetariums nationwide. Edward J. Forand Jr., Operations Director of the center, which draws 70,000 visitors yearly, said the grant "is a tremendous lift for us."

FERRIS WHEEL PHYSICS. Thousands of high school seniors from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York carried accelero-meters, stopwatches and workbooks to the Riverside Park in Agawam, MA, in May. They and other students used the day to calculate acceleration, velocity and other forces on rides such as the Cyclone roller coaster, the Wave Swinger flying chairs and the Colossus Ferris Wheel. More than 3,000 students from more than 50 schools took part in the park's annual Physics Day.

PRODUCTION PARTNERS. The University of Connecticut's Department of Mechanical Engineering is involved in a novel senior design project that is helping 12 state companies make their products and their production methods more efficient and economic. Each company contributes $3,000 to $5,000 for a research project and commits an engineer to a student team. "This provides us with an excellent opportunity to interact with Connecticut industry as well as provide valuable experience to our students," says Kazem Kazerounian, Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director and Coordinator for student projects.

TOWN TECHNOLOGY. An ambitious technology plan developed by a group of volunteers impressed town of Plymouth residents who gathered in June hear a presentation on the proposal. "Plymouth 2000: Soaring Together to New Heights" was developed to enhance the use of information technology at all levels of the community. The plan calls for setting up a web site on the Internet and an information network linking all the schools, the library, town hall and homes. Jere Wilson, who headed the technology and design committee, told the residents that preliminary estimates indicate the plan would cost $1.8 million over five years.

SCIENCE HEAD START. An educational consortium of universities in the state has been formed to increase the interest in health-related careers of students who attend the Hartford and New Britain public schools. The consortium's goal is to raise the percentage of health professionals who are members of minority groups that are under-represented in these professions. The consortium-made up of the University of Connecticut Health Center, Wesleyan University, Central Connecticut State University and the University of Connecticut at Storrs is targeting the medical, dental, biomedical research, nursing and allied health professions. The consortium began this summer with high school students, but will ultimately help minority students at all levels experience first-hand research techniques and work by providing mentors and a science curriculum geared toward health-related careers.

NU COMPUTER DONATION. Northeast Utilities (NU) announced in April it would donate 700 computers this year to schools and children's programs in the state. The computers will go to Computers 4 Kids, a nonprofit foundation that channels donations of used computers to groups that otherwise could not afford them. Bernard Fox, NU's president and chief executive officer, said that besides schools across the state, computers will go to AmeriCorps homework sites. The company is giving highest priority to distressed cities and communities with limited resources.

DENTAL WORK. The University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine has received a $1.8 million five-year federal grant to proceed with a program that will train dental researchers for leadership positions in dental school. The Dentist Scientist Award program provides support for postgraduate education in specialty training and doctoral-level studies in biomedical science. The grant is from the National Institute of Dental Research at the National Institutes of Health.


REACTIVATED PLANTS. With its larger and more efficient Millstone nuclear reactors off-line indefinitely, Northeast Utilities (NU) has been calling its older plants into active duty recently. NU has spent $25 million to reactivate the older plants, bring in temporary power units and improve transmission lines for peak summer power needs. Retired fossil fuel plants in Middletown and Bridgeport are being reactivated, as well as two small Wallingford units and five leased General Electric power plants. Four of these will be set up at the Devon Station in Milford and one in the South Meadows in Hartford.

POWER PAGE. Utility customers concerned about power supplies are now able to get updates on the Internet, thanks to a new home page launched in July by the Connecticut Valley Electrical Exchange. The exchange controls 182 generating plants and 2,200 miles of transmission lines for electrical utilities in Connecticut and western Massachusetts. Customers who have sensitive equipment or who have agreed to have power interrupted in an emergency need accurate and timely information to plan for interruptions. Users can find information about the exchange and its members, the electrical supply situation, weather forecasts and the status of power warnings at http://www.cvx.com.


EARTH-FRIENDLY ENTERPRISE. Entrepreneurs Evelyn M. Golden and Jonas V. Straimaitis of Simsbury, who have made a business of selling promotional products made from recycled materials, recently sold a 400-pound park bench to the Simsbury Recycling Committee. The bench, made from recycled plastic and wood byproducts, is to be placed at a parking lot next to the Farmington Valley Greenway hiking trail. The couple, who call their business Signature Marketing and seek out manufacturers who have lines of recycled products, have also supplied Frisbees and thermal coffee mugs made from recycled plastic to the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority's gift shop.

BANKERS TAKE NOTE. More and more banks are looking at environmental factors such as the presence of asbestos and industrial waste in granting mortgage loans to prospective borrowers, the New Haven Register reported this spring. Environmental screening is required by 93% of banks surveyed by Environmental Data Resources Inc., of Fairfield. Area banks report a growing awareness of problems such as radon, underground oil tanks and lead-based paint that require corrective measures as part of the lending process.

SALMON RESURGENCE. By the end of June, about 240 Atlantic salmon had returned from the sea and migrated up the Connecticut River and its tributaries as a result of the state's effort to restore the fish to the river. Only 180 fish were counted last year by the state's Department of Environmental Protection. DEP biologists attribute the increase to higher water temperatures in the ocean and more sophisticated restoration stocking methods, in which newborn salmon are put directly into tributaries rather than being reared longer in captivity. Salmon disappeared from the river more than 200 years ago; the restoration work has gone on for nearly three decades.

RESTORING A LOST LAKE. Nine Yale University School of Forestry students are helping officials from the state and the town of Wallingford come up with a plan for restoring the town's Community Lake. The lake, destroyed in a dam break in 1979, was once a popular spot for fishing, swimming, boating and duck hunting. The students are applying techniques of "multiple criteria decision making" for a course in water systems analysis that blends management science and environmental studies.

ENVIRONMENTAL DIRECTORY. In June, a directory of environmental companies throughout the state was released by the Connecticut Environmental Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Connecticut. The comprehensive list includes more than 500 companies representing consultants, laboratories and manufacturers in the field. The center was established in 1995 to stimulate the development of environmentally-oriented businesses in the state.

ELUSIVE BUTTERFLIES. A group of entomologists and hundreds of volunteers are trekking through Connecticut with nets and cameras, cataloguing every species of butterfly they find. The goal is the creation of a Connecticut Butterfly Atlas, which will pinpoint where each of the state's 120 or so species resides. The project is being conducted by the Department of Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Butterfly Association and the Connecticut Entomological Association. Butterflies are sensitive to environmental changes, so the map is expected to suggest how human beings have altered the state's environment.

HEMLOCK UPDATE... The search for a biological control of the adelgid killing the state's hemlocks is proceeding at the Valley Laboratory of The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Researchers Mark S. McClure and Carole Cheah found that the Japanese ladybird beetle, Pseudoscymnus tsugae, significantly reduced densities of hemlock woolly adelgid on trees on which this imported ladybird beetle was released during the summer of 1995, and that it survived the subsequent winter.

... AND MORE NEWSABOUT HEMLOCKS. Theodore G. Andreadis, Chris T. Maier, and Carol R. Lemmon of The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station discovered a new microsporidian parasite called Orthosomella lambdinae from the spring hemlock looper Lambdina athasaria. The parasite infects the gut of the caterpillar and is moderately pathogenic. Its natural prevalence in caterpillars at Devil's Hopyard State Park in East Haddam ranged from 2-18%, and it appears to have been a factor in the decline of this pest.


SUPER CORN. Farmers in the Midwest this year sowed their first crop of a new strain of "super corn" that can withstand disease, herbicides and drought. The corn was developed in DEKALB Genetics Corp.'s Discovery Research laboratory in Mystic. DEKALB, based in Illinois, chose Mystic as the site to develop the new corn after carrying out a joint effort with Pfizer Inc.'s Groton Research Center to develop seeds. The 65,000-square foot DEKALB facility includes giant, computer-controlled greenhouses where corn stalks grow to 15 feet, sterile high-tech laboratories where corn is bombarded with new genes, and DNA mapping equipment. About 60 scientists are employed in the laboratory.


VIRUSES EXAMINED. The way viruses interact with cellular processes is the target of research by virologists at the state's research universities, biotechnology firms and pharmaceutical companies, reports BioDimensions, the newsletter of Connecticut United for Research Excellence Inc. Researchers at the Bayer Corp. in West Haven, for example, have worked with HIV and rhinoviruses that cause the common cold. Bristol-Myers-Squibb in Wallingford is seeking treatment for hepatitis and other diseases. Basic research also is being carried on at laboratories at the University of Connecticut and Yale University.

LIBRARY HONORED. The National Library of Medicine has awarded the University of Connecticut Health Center a $4.1 million contract to continue operating as the regional medical library for New England for the next five years. The library serves as a regional information center and database resource for health professionals. It promotes access to national databases such as Medline, Toxline, and AIDSline and encourages resource sharing through interlibrary loans. Outreach programs provide such access through demonstrations, workshops and exhibits.

SURGERY ANXIETY. A two-year research project on anxiety in children who will undergo surgery has begun at the Yale University School of Medicine with a $150,000 grant provided by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation. Preoperative anxiety poses a threat to more than a half-million children who undergo surgery every year in the United States. "We need to better understand the root causes and risk factors for preoperative anxiety and discover ways to alleviate it so the psychological and physiological problems faced by children who undergo surgery will not continue to grow," said Zeev N. Kain, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Pediatrics, who will conduct the research.

NON-INVASIVE SURGERY. In April, the Department of Surgery at the Yale University School of Medicine and Yale-New Haven Hospital opened a major facility that focuses on the development, education and clinical practices associated with minimally invasive endo-laparascopic surgery. The Yale Endo-Laparoscopic Center provides consultation and care by a staff of advanced laparascopic surgeons. Laparoscopic surgery involves operations through a dime-sized incision using video monitor and other equipment to enlarge the area of operation. Suturing, hernia repair and gall-bladder surgery are operations that can be enhanced, simplified and made more cost-effective-as well as less painful-by this method.

BIOLOGISTS MEET ENGINEERS. A major new program in biomedical engineering will be established within Yale's Faculty of Engineering and its School of Medicine by consolidating separate activities in biomedical imaging, molecular bioengineering and traditional biomedical engineering. The program, announced by CASE member D. Allan Bromley, Dean of Yale Engineering, is the result of a grant from The Whitaker Foundation and a partnership with the Hewlett-Packard Co. for research collaboration and the provision of state-of-the-art computer monitoring equipment.


TESTING THE LIMITS. Civil engineering students from the University of Connecticut (UConn) and 14 other colleges raced across a lake in Mansfield Hollow in April in concrete canoes, as UConn hosted the annual race sponsored by the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The two-day event included a presentation of papers by engineering students on how they designed their craft, which have hulls made of a concrete mixture about a quarter-inch thick. "You're trying to make the lightest and strongest boat," said Chris Barrett, a student from East Hartford. "This is pushing structural engineering to the limit."

DNA ATTACK. Connecticut State Police in June announced a new assault on the nearly 400 unsolved rape cases in Connecticut, using the state's new DNA Data Bank for Sex Offenders. With DNA profiles of more than 800 convicted sex offenders in the database, scientists believe they are ready to do "cold searches"-that is, profile the genetic coding of semen or other physiological evidence from unsolved cases to determine if it matches known offenders' codes. Henry Lee, Chief Criminalist and Director of the state's police forensic laboratory, said the searches, which take three to four weeks each, will also help clear innocent suspects.

ENGINEERS' VILLAGE. The Homer Babbidge Library at the University of Connecticut (UConn) is helping forge a new relationship among New England's land grant universities. UConn is subscribing for six months to an electronic research tool known as Engineering Information Village (Ei Village), which offers quick access to more than 8,500 World Wide Web sites of interest to engineers, including a major bibliographic index to engineering journals, reports, books and conference papers worldwide. "Consortia boost the purchasing power of member libraries," said Paul Kobulnicky, Director of the University Libraries.

COOL MUMMY. The Carrier Corp. of Farmington kept a 500-year-old Peruvian mummy cool while it was on display at the National Geographic's Explorer's Hall in Washington, then donated the equipment for the display of the scientifically important find in its home country. The body is that of a 13-year-old girl sacrificed in a volcano crater at about the time Columbus discovered America; it had remained frozen since then until its discovery last year. The air-conditioning company spent $200,000 and employed the time of three engineers and 20 shop workers to produce the cooling system in two months.

SIMULATED ECONOMICS. A computer simulation model at the University of Connecticut describes in minute detail what high-profile business and economic projects could mean to the state. The Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis has provided objective information about such issues as the efforts to salvage the Groton submarine base, and the debate over a Bridgeport casino. A series of computer programs known as input-output models show the domino effect of any given event; the one used by the Center is known as REMI. Its verdict on the casino plan-which took into consideration such details as how much space a slot machine occupies-was that it would have a positive economic impact, but not as large as proponents wished.

OIL SPILL SOFTWARE. Ship Analytics of North Stonington is trying to solve the problem of oil spills from grounded tankers, and has developed a software system that can provide officials with information about dozens of factors including tides, weather, the tanker itself, threatened sea life, nearby containment equipment and the likely direction of the drifting oil. Ship Analytics has sold three of the systems, which cost $1.5 million each, to the Egyptian government for use in the Suez Canal. The company, which originally provided software for training Navy submariners, demonstrated the system in May to state officials, who are considering such a system for Long Island Sound.

SHARED KNOWLEDGE. Experts at the University of Connecticut (UConn) have helped municipal officials in several towns understand how they can develop their communities while reducing the impact upon the water and the land. Now the US Environmental Protection Agency has given UConn a $20,000 grant to share the program with officials at the North Carolina State University. The Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials program turns pictures from Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping technology into colorful images of the towns' natural resources and their potential degradation. "We've taken a very complex topic-the relation of land use to water quality-and using the wizardry of GIS, condensed it into a simple and understandable message for town officials, said Chester L. Arnold, Water Quality Educator for the Cooperative Extension System in Haddam.


AFRICAN CELLULAR. While many US telephone companies have focused on Asia and South America as big growth areas for cellular systems, a small New Canaan-based firm has quietly tapped the cellular market in Africa, where only about one in every 100 people has a phone. Telecel International Ltd. currently operates cellular systems in five African nations and has plans to expand into another four countries within the next year. "The existing (landline) phone system was very bad, so they needed something else," said Telecel President Miko Rwayitare, a native of Zaire who helped found the company in 1985. "The demand can be supported by cellular."

EDUCATION KEY. The computer revolution has caused drastic income and education gaps in America, and the only way to deal with the problem is to embrace technology education, United Technologies Corp. Chairman George David told Yale University students in April. Technology and re-engineering have resulted in 40% of the nation's wealth being concentrated in the top 1% of households, as opposed to 17% 25 years ago, David said. "We need to reaffirm the value of technology as the fundamental force to improve living standards for all people," he said, noting that UTC aids its employees by paying for the cost of continuing education.

GE, PRATT COOPERATE. Fairfield's General Electric Co. and Pratt & Whitney of East Hartford have agreed to develop jointly a new engine for a proposed Boeing Corp. jetliner. The 50-50 venture will allow the two companies to share the cost of the project, which typically for such design and production efforts is $1 billion to $1.5 billion. Sharing development expenses should lower costs, the two companies say. The new jetliner is a larger version of the 747. The joint venture is the first of its kind for Pratt & Whitney and GE, traditional rivals in the aircraft engine business.

SOFTWARE MECCA? The newly formed Connecticut Software Executive Forum is trying to develop the idea of the state as a software mecca to encourage entrepreneurship in this growing area. "We're not trying to duplicate Silicon Valley," Marshall Harrison of TechWorks International in Westport told the Stamford Advocate, "but we'd like to be in the same league." Members of the forum say it provides a place for software executives to meet, network and compare different firms' problems and solutions. Connecticut is uniquely placed for development of a strong software industry, organizers say, because of the proximity of capital sources in both Boston and New York.


KEEP ON TRUCKING. The state has showcased four new custom-made trucks to help stranded motorists with minor repairs, flat tires and other problems. Starting this spring, the trucks began patrolling a 56-mile stretch of I-95 between Branford and Greenwich under a new program called Connecticut Highway Assistance Motorist Patrol, or CHAMP. The trucks will carry small amounts of fuel for drivers who run out of gas. The patrols can tape leaking hoses, jump-start cars, push vehicles to shoulders and offer shelter to motorists. The program is designed to improve traffic flow along the state's busiest travel corridor "without expanding the roadway," according to state Transportation Commissioner J. William Burns.

TOUR DE SOL. Rocky Hill High School students spent six months of the past school year taking a 1982 Dodge Rampage apart and rebuilding it as an electric-powered car. Tony Guida and Eric Berner, both seniors, and juniors Sal Rondinelli and Joe Phelps called their creation, "Solar Saurus," and entered it in the American Tour de Sol, a contest for alternative power vehicles in May that began in New York and ended in Washington, DC. They took third place among utility vehicles and ninth place overall.

ALTERNATE VEHICLES. On the track at Plainville High School in May, middle and high school students from across New England were peddling, and at times pushing, their wares-solar-powered, spring-powered and pedal-powered vehicles-at an alternate energy competition. Cars made from discarded bicycle wheels, scaffolding, and scrap metal were breaking records, breaking design barriers and breaking down, all in the name of technology education. The competition, in its third year, is sponsored by Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

PEQUOT FERRIES. The Mashantucket Pequots announced in May that they plan to build high-speed boats that would ferry gamblers from Boston and New York to their Foxwoods Resort Casino near Ledyard. The Pequots would also sell the 330-passenger TriCat ferry boats-now made only in Great Britain-in North and South America, the Caribbean and Hawaii. They expect a strong sales market for the boats, said Tribal Chairman Richard A. Hayward. The TriCat, designed by FBM Marine Group, is nearly 150 feet long and reaches a top speed of 58 mph. The boats will be built at a former steel plant, and the Pequots expect initially to hire 60 employees, some of whom used to work at Electric Boat.

GAS TRAIN. Two railroad buffs hope the lure of 9,400 new manufacturing jobs for Connecticut will build support for their dream to resurrect an unusual high-speed passenger train. Entrepreneurs Rene Gauthier and Robert Sposato believe the market would support a new and improved version of the gas-turbine locomotive that both worked on from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, a machine that was designed by aerospace engineers in Farmington. "What we envision is a new generation of turbine-powered passenger trains that can maintain [speeds] beyond 150 mph," said Gauthier, who worked on United Aircraft's TurboTrain from 1966 to 1976.

--Compiled and edited by Steve Courtney


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