ODU Technology Fair Relates High-Tech to Regional Business

By Akweli Parker, The Virginia-Pilot
April 1, 1999

Norfolk — Old Dominion University's economic development machine offered a peek under the hood Wednesday during the school's Technology Solutions Fair.

Laboratory tours and lightning-quick lectures on complex topics like ISO 9000 and so-classed "smart materials" were stages for about 130 participants. The daylong event provided an informational glimpse of the services and technologies ODU would like to see adopted by area business.

ODU aerospace engineering professor Jeng Jong Ro whizzed through a stack of formula-laden transparencies as he tried to hastily explain "smart structures" -- a promising new generation of materials with the capacity to change shape under stimuli such as electric current or changes in temperature.

Matched with a computer "brain" and sensors that act as a mechanical "nervous system," such materials could make airplane cabins quieter, rifles more accurate and aircraft more stable by damping their vibration, Ro said.

Mool Gupta expounded on the ubiquity of the laser and what he said is the photon's rightful throne as "the manufacturing process for the next millennium."

"It provides a non-contact tool," he said, which means less wear and expense on machinery.

"You can control it with a computer," for precise holes, grooves, etchings or patterns.

In using lasers for welding, he said, " the durability of the joint is as good as the quality of the material itself."

And you don't have to shell out $100,000 to buy your own, Gupta -- ODU director at the multi-university Applied Research Center next to Jefferson Lab in Newport News -- reminded his audience that the ARC does low-cost consulting for manufacturers and leases use of its powerful lasers.

ODU's Technology Applications Center, an organization that seeks technology solutions for business, and the College of Engineering and Technology put on the event. TAC Director Helen Madden said the event will be held again next year and will attempt to include engineering departments from other local universities.