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ASU Achievements Honored at Governor’s Celebration of Innovation Awards

The iCARE research team working on a prototype for an iCARE Reader that reads printed text for people who are blind or visually impaired.  Clockwise from left: Laura Bratton, Sushant Bhatia, Terri Hedgpeth, Mike Rush and Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director of CUbiC and chair of the department of computer science and engineering

The 2004 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation Awards highlighted ASU researchers as some of the top innovators in the state.

ASU’s Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC) was named Innovator of the Year for Academia for its iCARE research project. The iCARE team received the award over two other finalists, both projects in the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

The annual awards event is presented by the Arizona Technology Council, the Arizona Commerce Department, the High Technology Industry Cluster and the Southern Arizona Tech Council. More than 1,100 people attended the second annual event, which was held at the Arizona Biltmore on Nov. 18. The awards pay homage to companies, scholars, legislators and others with technological and business achievements.

“ASU had an excellent showing,” says Jonathan Fink, ASU vice president for Research and Economic Affairs. “We were well-represented with at least four tables full of ASU faculty, staff, and students. The wide visibility of ASU’s many research-related economic activities serves as an important reminder of the impact the University can have on the emerging high tech economy of Greater Phoenix.”

The ASU winners spanned several award categories in community service, academic innovation and entrepreneurship.

Among them, Ira A. Fulton was named the William F. McWhortor Community Service Leader of the Year. The award is presented to an individual who contributes to Arizona’s technology industry through community involvement, leadership and excellence in economic development activity.

Fulton, the chief executive officer of Fulton Homes, is a leader in the home-building industry and incorporates community service into the central mission of his company. Fulton was nominated for the award for his contributions to the technology development of the state, plus his dedication to investing in people and education. In the past year, Fulton has donated close to $60 million to ASU to invest in the schools of engineering, education and other university research efforts.

CUbiC’s flagship project is iCARE, which is developing several projects to help people who are visually impaired recognize text, people and environments. Sethuraman (Panch) Panchanathan, director of CUbiC and chairman of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, accepted the award on behalf of the iCARE research team.

“It is gratifying to see all the hard work and dedication of the students, researchers and participants who are blind being recognized in this manner,” Panchanathan says. “We believe that this is just the beginning of many more such innovations to be realized.”

CUbiC is a research center within the Institute for Computing and Information Sciences and Engineering (InCISE), a collaboration of interdisciplinary research groups at ASU that shares expertise in computing and informatics. The mission of CUbiC is to design and develop perceptive computers that are environmentally aware to serve people’s needs and enrich their lives.

“CUbiC is one of the best examples of our ASU design principles,” says ASU President Michael Crow. “It is research that is linked to the people and their needs that fuses our intellectual cultures together in new ways that gives us a chance for unanticipated breakthroughs. This is ASU at its finest.”

The research challenges of the iCARE project were derived based on input from focus groups of individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and from researchers involved in disability studies.

“The focus groups are truly the key component to the development of our iCARE technologies,” says Terri Hedgpeth, disability research specialist for CUbiC. “By relying on consumer input from day one, we have focused our efforts on what consumers who are blind really value.”

The Innovator of the Year in Academia award was a new category this year, presented to a department or office within a higher education institution that has achieved scientific achievement and success through research and development. ASU dominated this academic innovation category, as all three nominees were from the university.

The other two finalists in this category were both are from the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

Frederic Zenhausern, who directs the Biodesign Institute's Center for Applied Nanobioscience, was nominated based on his work in developing the technology to allow development of flexible display screens, uses that could be applied to allow portable x-ray imaging as well as the use being explored in ASU's new Flexible Display Center funded by a U.S. Army grant.

Stuart Lindsay, who directs the Biodesign Institute's Center for Single Molecule Biophysics, was nominated for his work in developing a revolutionary nanoscale imaging technique called Molecular Recognition Atomic Force Microscopy.

ASU researchers also played a role in the top Innovative Start-Up Company of the Year award, which was given to Kinetic Muscles Inc. (KMI). Tom Sugar, from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Jiping He from the Harrington Department of Bioengineering and Don Herring from the School of Design are co-collaborators on a National Institute of Health (NIH) grant in conjunction with Good Samaritan Hospital, KMI and ASU.

“The award was well deserved, as KMI designs innovative, home therapy robots used for stroke therapy,” Sugar says. “I was happy to be a part of the celebration as a researcher working in conjunction with KMI, designing the next generation of home therapy robots for arm and gait training.”

“It was most gratifying to see several of ASU’s start-up companies being nominated for and winning awards in a variety of categories,” says Fink. “Several of the nominees and winners acknowledged the support of the university, President Crow’s vision, and the value of the Technopolis Program. Technopolis, which is run out of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Affairs, helps budding companies learn how to be successful.”

More information on the iCARE projects can be found at (


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