Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering

New 30-year climate normals

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Map of 30-year normal average annual precipitation from 1991-2020.

Oregon State University’s new maps of 30-year U.S. climate “normals” show the area east of the Rockies is getting wetter, the Southwest is getting drier, and temperatures are inching upward – with daily lows rising faster than daily highs.

“When we publish the new normals every 10 years, we’re taking away one decade from a 30- year period and adding another, which means the changes we see are subtle,” said Chris Daly, professor of geospatial climatology and the founding director of Oregon State’s PRISM Climate Group.

PRISM, which stands for Parameter-elevation Regressions on Independent Slopes Model, was developed by Daly in 1991 when he was a Ph.D. student at Oregon State. The 30-year normals are the climate group’s signature product, with thousands of downloads each day from around the globe. “PRISM data sets are used by many government agencies including NOAA, the EPA, NASA, and the departments of Defense, Energy, and the Interior.” Daly said. “The private sector relies on PRISM data, too, with applications including agriculture, hydrology, engineering, ecology, and economics.”

For this latest update of the normals, Daly and colleagues made a big push to add new data sources from new weather station networks. PRISM added 9,000 precipitation stations, for a total of 26,600; 3,000 temperature stations, bringing the total to 19,500; 2,400 dew point stations, for a total of 6,400; and 2,800 vapor pressure deficit stations, increasing that total to 6,400.

Solar radiation was added for the first time, thanks to a three-year collaboration with David Rupp of Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

While PRISM uses many data sources, Daly points out that one of the beauties of the state-of- the-art algorithm is that it allows for filling in information gaps.

“We can interpolate where we have no weather stations; PRISM accounts for how the Earth’s features affect the spatial patterns of climate on the landscape,” he said. “We have programmed in mountains, valleys, rain shadows, coastlines, and water body sources, so we can make pretty accurate estimates on what average conditions are like across the lower 48. Our maps feature tens of millions of grid cells-half-mile by half-mile squares.”

While the 30-year-normals are PRISM’s trademark product, the group also has monthly climate maps of the same resolution back to 1895 and daily maps dating to 1981; those maps incorporate the same variables as the normals, whose information is ubiquitous in climate science.

“Anytime you see a detailed map showing percentage of average or deviation from average, most likely PRISM normals are underlying that calculation,” Daly said.

Feb. 2, 2023

Advancements in semiconductors through surface chemistry: an interview with Professor Gregory Herman

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Greg Herman and student in the lab

Gregory Herman, professor of chemical engineering at Oregon State University, is a leading researcher in next-generation oxide semiconductor materials. Herman made the jump to Oregon State after collaborating with the university for many years, first at HP and later at Sharp Laboratories of America. At HP, he was part of the team that secured the patent for indium gallium zinc oxide, a key material used in many of today's consumer electronics. At Sharp, he helped transfer indium gallium zinc oxide into production for display manufacturing. Having developed a great working relationship with Chih-hung Chang, professor of chemical engineering, the move to Oregon State came easily. His move was fueled by the university's strong collaborative efforts with industry, its state-of-the-art facilities, and its forward-looking leadership.

In a recent interview, Herman spoke about his history in industry, how and why he came to Oregon State, and the research he is involved in today.

Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I received my Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Hawaii, where I did my dissertation on metal semiconductor contacts, and atomic imaging of atoms in semiconductors using photoelectron holography, which was a new technique at the time. I then did a National Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Naval Research Laboratory. I was based at Brookhaven National Laboratory, at the National Synchrotron Light Source, where I did research related to measuring excited electronic states in gallium arsenide, a high-performance semiconductor. This research was new and exciting, and I found it intellectually stimulating. As a result, I have continued working in surface chemistry and surface physics throughout my career. After my postdoc, I went to work at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for about eight years. I was one of the early scientists that were part of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a large user facility at PNNL. We were developing new research equipment for studying surface chemistry and surface reactions. My primary focus was looking at surface chemistry on oxide materials, and that included titanium dioxide. The goal was to understand the role of both physical and electronic structures in driving both thermal-induced and photo-induced chemical reactions. We made excellent progress and made insightful discoveries on these topics.

I was then recruited to HP based on my oxide surface chemistry work and started on a solid oxide fuel cell program where we were looking at the miniaturization of solid oxide fuel cells with the goal of replacing lithium-ion batteries. Although we were making really good technical progress on the program, the business case just wasn't there. So, we ended up switching our focus to printed electronics, roll-to-roll processing, and flexible displays. The goal with those efforts was to look at higher-performance semiconductors compared to the organic semiconductors that other companies were focusing on at the time. As part of this effort, we started a collaboration with Oregon State University. We worked on a wide range of technologies, such as low-temperature, solution-processed materials, primarily focused on oxide semiconductors and amorphous high-K dielectrics. During this time we obtained some very impressive results. But what I found most exciting was the work a group of us inside HP were focusing on. We were working on developing the next generation of amorphous oxide semiconductor materials. We started this work by doing combinatorial depositions, where we could study a wide range of compositions of these oxide materials in a short amount of time. At the same time, we were building a patent portfolio around these new material compositions. We ended up getting the foundational patent for indium gallium zinc oxide, typically called IGZO. IGZO is a material used today in cellphones, computer displays, televisions, and similar products. That was a very exciting time with a large impact in consumer electronics.

What would you say is Oregon State’s biggest strength in these programs?

One of the reasons I decided to come to Oregon State is that I saw how well people work together. It’s a very collaborative atmosphere. At other universities that I had considered in the past, I saw that faculty worked in their own silos. And very often, you'd have faculty in a department who wouldn't even talk to each other. What I found during my collaborations with Oregon State, which lasted for almost nine years, is that people liked working together, they felt comfortable discussing ideas with each other, and they worked together on building large programs. I really enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere. When I was part of the National Science Foundation - Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry, I found that this culture of collaboration extended to other universities as well, where we worked closely with the University of Oregon and others. Often you don't see the two main research universities in a state working as closely together as we did with UO. On other projects I worked closely with Oregon Health & Science University, and these collaborations continue to expand. I really enjoy the collaborative atmosphere in the state, especially across higher education.

Can you take us along your research path at Oregon State?

Oregon State has a lot of collaborations with industry. I continued to work on the oxide semiconductors that we started developing at HP and that I helped transition to commercialization at Sharp. What we have done is focus on different applications, instead of only thin-film transistors. For example, we have used these oxide semiconductors as active elements in field effect biosensors. We published several papers related to fully transparent biosensors, and we were looking at the concept of integrating these biosensors in contact lenses. There are some properties, including high mobility and low leakage currents, that are very good for thin-film transistors and also work well for sensors. We were able to measure glucose concentrations at very low levels, uric acid as well. We were really interested in measuring glucose concentrations in human tears.

Another area of research is display technology. If you look at displays, usually it's just this piece of glass with an array of transistors, and these transistors serve only one function. Usually that's a switch, either on or off. With more advanced displays, what is really wanted was logic on the glass as well as memory. We studied using the same oxide semiconductor materials, but integrating into resistive random access memory devices. We published a couple of articles on this research, and the devices performed fairly well. That said, I don't think this direction is where companies are going right now. But it is a material that has worked well for the application and could have increased the functionality of displays while keeping costs low.

Where are things now, research-wise?

One of the big things I've focused on over the past 10 years is improving the analytical research capabilities on campus. As part of this effort, I was lead on proposals for bringing in a research instrument that does ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and ambient pressure scanning tunneling microscopy. These techniques allow us to characterize surfaces of materials. With ambient pressure X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, we can measure oxidation states of materials to see how stable they are under a range of environments. With ambient pressure scanning tunneling microscopy, we can image individual atoms and defects. One area we're really interested in is studying 2D materials as semiconductors. The electronics industry is planning to transition away from silicon to novel materials, and these 2D semiconductors are one path forward. Understanding defects in these 2D materials — how they affect electronic properties, doping, and stability — is critical for future applications. That is one area my group is focused on. Another area my group is studying is extreme ultraviolet photoresists. These EUV photoresists are important for companies like Intel and Micron, which use EUV steppers to make semiconductor devices at the nanoscale. Each of these EUV steppers can cost up to $500 million. Our studies are evaluating the new paradigm of using these metal-organic clusters as the photoresist, as opposed to traditional polymer resists. We are focused on understanding the mechanisms of the photoinduced processes, and how to improve the materials.

Why are you and your team so interested in metal organic clusters?

Inpria, a company in Corvallis that was founded from Oregon State research, is a world leader in developing and manufacturing these metal-organic photoresist materials. The main thing my group is studying is what happens to these materials when they are exposed to EUV radiation.  A range of chemistries take place in these photoresists, and we believe that understanding the mechanisms will allow for a path to improve the performance of the photoresists. The main thing about photoresists is there is a transition between a soluble and insoluble phase, which depends on the material being exposed to radiation. We are trying to understand how to improve the sensitivity of these materials, and how to reduce the amount of radiation to effect this transition. Ultimately, this will allow companies to produce semiconductors more quickly and efficiently, and reduce costs.

Will the next generation of chips take advantage of this particular advent in photoresist technology?

YYes, these metal-organic resists are a critical path forward to make more semiconductor devices on a chip. Of course, there will be different generations of fabs that will not need this technology, since many applications do not need nanosized devices. For example, HP has a big focus on inkjet printing and will not likely need to push the fundamental limits of how small they can make devices. Places like HP make larger devices that can drive more power, so going smaller isn’t the goal. However, smaller devices are critical for Intel, Micron, and many other semiconductor companies and foundries. Nanoscaling is a critical technology on the international semiconductor roadmap, which requires making smaller and smaller devices. Once scaling is below 10 nanometers or so, it will be necessary to use either the Inpria photoresist or one very similar to it.

That is quite an accomplishment.

Yes, it is. Actually, the genesis of this concept was Doug Keszler's research group at Oregon State. I saw some of the results while at HP and we were working jointly on other projects.  HP was not funding this project, but his group was looking at how to make these photoresists from a material that had been developed as a dielectric for our joint project. This was before anyone probably even thought about using inorganic materials as an EUV photoresist. We continued to collaborate when I started at Oregon State in the NSF - Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry. In the CSMC we had a core group of people looking at how to make the photoresists, what the chemistries are, understanding the reactions, and how to move the technology forward. During this time Inpria worked separately on how to advance the technology. Inpria did very thorough and very important work. I am impressed with what we accomplished in the CSMC. We had a very good group, including May Nyman’s group from chemistry, Rick Garfunkel’s group from Rutgers University, Doug Keszler's group, and my group from chemical engineering. These were the main groups that were part of the nanopatterning group. We also collaborated with groups from UO, specifically Darren Johnson and Jim Hutchison.

Can you speak to the NSF-driven call for advancement in nanotechnology?

During our work with the CSMC we brought in new research equipment to assist in the research. As we were ramping down the CSMC, the NSF came up with a new program called the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure. The University of Washington has historically been part of a very similar program with the NSF. Researchers at UW reached out to us to collaborate on this new program. They knew about the new capabilities we brought in as well as the strength of Oregon State’s research in semiconductors. They also knew that we were the only Oregon university that had a user facility with a clean room at the time. It was a natural fit. Therefore, we collaborated with UW on a proposal. We were initially awarded about $5 million, around eight years ago.

In this collaboration we are primarily focused on fabrication and characterization, making nanodevices and nanostructured materials, and measuring their properties. We also focus on mentoring, bringing up the next generation of researchers and providing the research equipment they need. We were renewed on the program about two years ago for another $5 million or so.  Our site, the Northwest Nanotechnology Infrastructure site, is part of a national program with 16 member sites across the country. We have many collaborative programs, with monthly and annual meetings, and we coordinate efforts between the sites. We've been working together on addressing many of the opportunities coming out, like the CHIPS and Science Act, and working to align the future directions of the NNCI to make the largest impact. This includes working with the NSF program managers and hopefully visualizing the changes that we would like to see in the program. We’re looking primarily at expanding and getting more investment into the various sites to make an even larger impact in nanotechnology.

Recently, there was a broad agency announcement from the NSF where they have developed a Regional Innovation Engines program. Oregon State  took the lead on submitting a proposal focused on developing and expanding the ecosystem related to semiconductors and microelectronics in the Northwest, which includes Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. I am the principal investigator on this proposal. We're hoping to hear back on the results in early 2023. Our proposal aligns well with the states’ and universities’ visions for the region’s future in semiconductors and microelectronics. The proposal includes academic institutions, like UW, Boise State University, Oregon State, and UO. Those are the main graduate research-intensive universities. We also included Oregon Institute of Technology and Portland Community College — actually, all community colleges in Oregon. Ultimately we hope all academic institutions in the Northwest will be part of the ecosystem. Also included are Idaho National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Both of those labs have unique facilities, capabilities, research expertise, and programs related to semiconductors. Finally, we have midsized and large semiconductor-related companies throughout the Northwest as part of the proposal.

What collaborations have been taking place in your research at Oregon State?

I think what is most exciting is companies like Intel, Micron, Microsoft, Meta, and HP all signed up to be part of the Regional Innovation Engines program. We are also working with smaller companies, like Inpria and American Semiconductor. We probably have 60 or so companies involved and are part of our proposal. Phase one is primarily for pulling the team together and planning how to best make an impact in the region. Our goal is to go after a second phase proposal in two years. The second phase would be about $80 million to $100 million over eight years. This amount of money and the collaborations it will enable will be very beneficial for the region.

What would you say will be the biggest impacts if the funding is granted?

The neat thing about the RIE proposal is that, although it is focused on semiconductors, it covers many items, including workforce development, use-inspired research, and economic development, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion across the entire site. For the use-inspired research, we are covering nanolithography, semiconductors, memory, More Than Moore, and artificial intelligence. Each of these areas is critical for future generations of consumer products, but the combination will have an even larger impact. One area I am excited about is nanomanufacturing. This is the EUV photoresist work I mentioned earlier, and we will be continuing these efforts as part of the proposal. This is a very important area for Micron and Intel. For example, Micron and Intel buy EUV steppers from AMSL, and they're over $500 million each. Companies need multiples of these EUV steppers, so you can see how expensive it can get. The systems are so expensive that companies need to make sure that they are usable and optimized. That is where photoresists come in. These photoresists have high sensitivity and high resolution. As a result, companies can get more wafers moved through the EUV steppers, increasing production, which affects the bottom line. This is a game-changer.

So you work pretty closely with Intel?

I have worked with Intel through the Semiconductor Research Corporation and have had some smaller projects through the NNCI. Our SRC project was focused on how to improve EUV photoresists, developing methods for characterizing them, understanding the fundamentals, and applying those to practice. In the future, as part of the RIE, we hope to be able to run our chemistries through Intel equipment and to better characterize their performance. We have also done collaborative work, where Intel sent us samples to measure and we hope to expand these efforts. Companies have been using silicon and silicon-germanium since the start of the semiconductor microelectronics industry. If you visualize how these devices are made, it is called two-dimensional integration, because essentially, you are laying these materials out on a flat substrate. Moore's law, where you need to keep increasing the number of transistors on a wafer, which results in reducing the size of the transistors. At some point the transistors cannot get any smaller. For example, devices can't get smaller than an atom. So, the transition is to stack devices on top of each other, so we can fit more transistors on a wafer. This is 3D integration, and both new materials and processes are required. Initially, integration will probably be more like a hybrid, 2.5D approach. But the idea is understanding how to develop these materials, pattern them, and put them in the places where you want them, while getting device performance that's uniform across the entire wafer. This is critical, and understanding the interfacial chemistry is vital to enable this technology transition.

Can you tell us more about advancements in memory and where things are headed?

Our group has done memory research as well. Micron is a world leader in memory and has evaluated essentially every memory technology and has commercialized 3D vertical structures for memory. My group has been studying resistive random access memory, which can also be integrated into these vertical structures, while integrating other functionality is important for future technology nodes. The use-inspired research area covered in the RIE is impactful and I believe it encompasses the future of where the semiconductor industry is heading.

The other thing underlying just about everything in the research that we will be doing is artificial intelligence and machine learning. These new computational approaches include new programs that can identify what material systems make the most sense to use, what are the best architectural structures of the devices that we are creating, and how to develop processes to better understand how everything can fit together. I'm really excited about these five research areas all coming together. Combining very good experiments with very good theory is critical for the future direction of the semiconductor industry and will be an area that the team will focus on.

Given all of that, what do you see as the biggest challenges in the field?

For my personal research interests, I believe that the biggest challenges are trying to find the optimal semiconductor materials to allow the three-dimensional scaling. In my past experience in industry, I've found that a lot of time is focused on making sure that the research is scalable. I think a lot of researchers don't really worry about scalability. Rather, they believe that if they can make one transistor that works well, then someone else can worry about making tens of millions of transistors that are identical. What I’ve found is that it's so critical to have that uniformity. So, trying to find ways of controlling defects and getting uniformity across the entire wafer for these new semiconductor materials is really going to be critical for advancing them. If we can't get that under control, these three-dimensional integration structures with 2D materials just aren't going to happen.

Anything else that you're working on that you're excited about?

In my group we work on a lot of different things, where some areas are somewhat unrelated to semiconductor research. For example, we're doing research looking at single-atom catalysis, which is really understanding chemistry that can be dictated by a single atom at a surface. We are finding ways to get a single atom pinned at a specific defect at the surface of a material. This research is primarily related to catalysis, where we are working to make more efficient catalysts through a detailed understanding of surface reactions. These concepts can be directly applied to semiconductors as well. My group has expertise in surface characterization and modification, which helps us better understand reactions at surfaces. These concepts can be applied to a variety of other systems.

The Jen-Hsun and Lori Huang Collaborative Innovation Complex is projected to open in 2025. What opportunities will that open up?

I really am excited about the CIC, because it's not just an Engineering building, it’s not just a Science building, and it’s not just focused on Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. It's meant to be collaborative between these three colleges and the rest of the university. We're going to have collaborative research working together on complex programs in the CIC. We will have a clean room and a supercomputer. We will also have modular lab space available. Early on, when the university was putting together a proposal to the donors, Brady Gibbons (associate dean for research) and I co-led a team of scientists and engineers in coming up with concepts of what the CIC would enable us to do. We had people from across Engineering, across Science, and across Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. There were just so many good ideas that came out of these brainstorming sessions that we sent up to College of Engineering Dean Scott Ashford, and went all the way up to the provost and the president. In the end, it's exciting to see that the CIC is happening and that it's moving forward as quickly as it is. I think it's not only going to pull together researchers at the university; I can see that it will also get companies from across the state interested in collaborating. The CIC is going to be awesome, and the faculty are extremely excited. We are already talking to Intel about aspects of the cleanroom, along with HP. I think they are as excited as we are to see this building moving forward.

Fantastic. 2025 can’t come soon enough.

Also, when you asked about the CIC, there's something else that came to mind. Oregon State’s new president, Jayathi Murthy, is an engineer. She has a vision of what Oregon State can become and the impact that we can make. She's really good at meeting with industry, working with industrial partners in the state, especially in the semiconductor industry, and promoting the university as well as our faculty, staff, and students. She was a great hire, and will be able to leverage the goodwill throughout the state and help expand industry and academic research programs. Ultimately this will advance the university’s and state’s missions.

To explore collaborative opportunities, or the semiconductor program in general, get in touch with us at: semi-osu@oregonstate.edu.

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Jan. 30, 2023

Lea Clayton
Lea Clayton
Accountant
Organizations
Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering
College of Engineering
Address

Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering
216L Johnson Hall
Corvallis, OR 97331
United States

Portrait of Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown
Assistant Professor
Organizations
Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering
Address

1601 SW Jefferson Ave.
Corvallis, OR 97331
United States

Degrees
B.S. in Physics and B.A. in Mathematics, Louisiana State University, 1998
Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, Cornell University, 2003
Helen Hay Whitney Foundation Fellow, Harvard University, 2004-2007
Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, Santa Barbara, Department of Physics 2007-2012
Biography

Kevin Brown is a complex systems scientist. He researches complex biological systems, particularly networks arising in systems biology, systems neuroscience, and cognitive science. He employs methodology from dynamical systems, network theory, Bayesian and nonparametric statistics, computational biology, and statistical signal processing, employing a mix of data-driven and model-driven approaches.

Employment:
Research Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Department of Marine Sciences, 2011-2013

Assistant Professor, University of Connecticut, Departments of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Physics, and Marine Sciences, 2013-2018

Assistant Professor, Oregon State University, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering, 2018-present

Research Highlights:
I am interested in complex biological systems: networks of genes and proteins, neurons in the brain, and words in spoken and written language. My theory of Sloppy Models has important implications for systems in ecology, chemistry, neuroscience, physics, and even atmospheric science. 

Start it up

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Two engineering members holding their business brand mugs.

Photos by Karl Maasdam, Lucas Radostitz, Gale Sumida.

Every engineer spends countless hours learning their field inside and out, but only a relative few ever launch a company to bring their inventions to the world. Luckily, the Oregon State University Advantage Accelerator helps faculty, staff, students, and alumni take that critical step by shepherding new companies through all phases of the startup process.

“Part of Oregon State’s mission as a land-grant university is boosting the local as well as the global economy,” said Karl Mundorff, executive director of innovation and entrepreneurship at Oregon State and the Accelerator’s director. “You can do that by supporting existing businesses, but to really be competitive and grow stronger and more diverse living-wage jobs in Oregon, we need to layer entrepreneurship on top of that.”

The Accelerator offers a trio of programs to help would-be entrepreneurs take their idea from sketch pad to launch pad.

ITERATE consists of four workshops that help clients evaluate ideas from an entrepreneurial mindset. Clients in this stage work to identify a potential product, market, and industry for their idea.

The 10-week ACCELERATE program focuses on product-market fit. Clients develop a viable product, test their startup’s feasibility, and validate their business models. Faculty, students, staff, alumni, and the broader Oregon State community all participate in Iterate and Accelerate together.

LAUNCH is a five-month, immersive program designed to make each startup fully operational — from completing the team to developing a repeatable sales model. At this stage, clients seek to ramp up from an R&D company to a product manufacturing and marketing company.

The Accelerator also offers funding support, including access to the University Innovation Research Fund, the University Venture Development Fund, and small business development grants. When clients are ready, Accelerator staff make introductions to angel and venture capital investors.

Since its creation in 2013, the Accelerator has helped companies created by College of Engineering faculty, staff, students, and alumni — including inaugural Accelerate program member Onboard Dynamics, which received a $30 million investment from BP Energy in 2021. The stories that follow highlight three companies launched, both with and without Accelerator support, by College of Engineering students and alumni.

Adaptive Ascent

Josh Bamberger knew for certain that his invention would work after he used a single finger to effortlessly lift a duffel bag holding a 50-pound sack of concrete. He followed that with a one-finger pull-up.

“He’s pretty strong, but not strong enough to do one-arm pinkie pull-ups on his own,” said Nathan Jewell, Bamberger’s business partner and co-inventor of the MoonClimb adaptive climbing device, designed to help rock climbers ascend using less force, making the sport more accessible to climbers of varying ability and strength.

Nathan Jewell (left) and Josh Bamberger get ready to test the lifting capabilities of MoonClimb, a product they invented to provide assistance for rock climbers. With the help of the device, Bamberger easily hoisted a duffel bag containing 50 pounds of cement with his little finger.

Bamberger, B.S. mechanical engineering ’21, and Jewell, B.S. computer science ’21, were friends in preschool, but they didn’t cross paths again until Oregon State. By pure chance, they became dorm neighbors in West Hall and reestablished their friendship around backpacking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, and mountaineering. Their adventures included summiting some of the Pacific Northwest’s foremost glaciated peaks, like Rainier, Hood, and Baker.

The idea for MoonClimb emerged in the winter of 2020, when Bamberger was talking with some other members of the Adaptive Technology Engineering Network, or ATEN, a student group that aspires to provide solutions to problems encountered by people with disabilities. Its membership includes individuals with and without disabilities.

“We were thinking up ways to make rock climbing more accessible, and my friend at ATEN said he could probably make it to the top of a climbing wall if he didn’t have to support his entire weight,” Bamberger said.

After graduation, Bamberger and Jewell became roommates in Corvallis and founded Adaptive Ascent. They worked out of their garage, and Bamberger recalls many cold, late nights. “I have clear memories of Nathan with a blanket over his shoulders, hunched over a workstation, soldering circuits or writing code,” he said. Later, they moved into the Rogue Makers workspace just outside of town. Their first working prototype was ready in early 2022, even though both partners hold full-time jobs and run the company on the side.

MoonClimb, which is the size of a beefy briefcase and weighs about 25 pounds, is simple to use. Once the device is secured at the top of a climbing route with traditional gear, a rope is looped through it. One end attaches to the climber’s harness, while a climbing partner nearby serves as the belayer to take up slack and arrest falls. Power comes from a standard wall outlet.

With the rope pulled taut, the climber sits back until they’re suspended a foot or two above the ground so the machine can gauge their weight. MoonClimb’s assistance level is set through a smartphone app. With a 50% assist, for example, the climber needs to exert only half the total force required to ascend. Assistance can go up to 95% for climbers up to 310 pounds, and the level can be changed midclimb.

MoonClimb was initially developed for people with disabilities, but Jewell and Bamberger see the potential for a much larger market, such as novices who need a shot of confidence. They compare the device to e-bikes, which have become popular among people who know how to ride regular bicycles but just want a little more oomph.

There are about 500 climbing gyms in the U.S., and the number is growing. However, that market may not be big enough to attract major investors, Jewell says. The partners are exploring other channels, such as selling directly to adaptive sports groups. And market opportunities are bound to expand once a battery pack is integrated into the unit, allowing outdoor use. So far, the most effective marketing tactic has been letting people try MoonClimb.

“It’s been really cool to watch people who have never scaled a climbing wall reach the top,” Jewell said. “We’re excited that this technology can open up rock climbing to many more people.”

Alerty

When fourth-year computer science student Harry Herzberg was in high school, his sister worked as a paraeducator who assisted students with learning disabilities by sitting with them in class, giving them one-on-one support. Her experiences, as well as his being diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, inspired Herzberg to develop Alerty, a mobile app to help students — especially those with ADHD — perform better in class.

Dubbed “a paraeducator in your pocket,” the Alerty app transcribes class lectures in real time to help students see what they might have just missed. Herzberg explains that students with ADHD may unintentionally lose focus in class and — because college courses are often fast-paced, with information that builds upon itself — quickly get left behind.

Dmytro Shabanov (left) and Harry Herzberg discuss Alerty, the mobile app they helped create to enable students to perform better in class.

“I’ve had many classes where I’ve missed the teacher talking about the homework assignment, or a key point,” Herzberg said. “Then I’m spending the entire day or even weeks trying to catch up, just because I missed that one important point.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when classes were being taught asynchronously online, Herzberg liked that he was able to go back, replay the lectures, and absorb concepts he may have missed.

“I was able to get better grades and even made the dean’s list because I was able to go back and replay, slow down, and speed up the videos,” he said.

Alerty is designed to be used by instructors and students together. When the instructor makes an important point, they press a button on the app, which alerts students with a vibration on their phones or tablets. The app also highlights the corresponding part of the transcript in blue.

After class, students can review the lecture and, if necessary, select a portion of the transcript to ask for clarification. This feature also helps instructors to see where students are struggling over certain concepts. The app could prove helpful to students without ADHD, including those who have different learning styles, English language learners, and those who have difficulty hearing.

Herzberg and Dmytro Shabanov, a fourth-year student in finance and marketing, are joined on the Alerty team by their business partners Jade Zavsklavsky, Artemis Kearny, Nicholas Craycraft, Alexander Victoria Trujillo, and Freya Crowe.

The team, more than half of whom have ADHD or autism, recently won the TiE Oregon regional competition and the Social Entrepreneurship Award at The Indus Entrepreneurs’ University Global Pitch Competition and was one of 30 teams to advance to the semifinal round, out of some 1,400 accepted into the competition. Alerty also earned second place in the College of Business’s Launch Academy competition, and a grant from the 1517 Fund.

Mike Bailey, professor of computer science, beta-tested Alerty in one of his classes during spring term. “For those who have difficulty focusing and taking notes in class, I think this could be a game changer,” he said.

Tonsil Tech

Confronting an embarrassing problem was the first step for two bioengineering alumni who invented an oral health care solution. The idea sparked in their senior design class, when they were asked to come up with 10 health care issues they wanted to improve. At the top of both of their lists was tonsil stones.

Even though Sydney Forbes, ’17, and Jessy Imdieke, ’17, were friends, they were shocked to find out they had tonsil stones in common. The condition occurs when substances like mucus and tiny bits of food collect in pits on the tonsils and harden into stones that harbor odor-causing bacteria.

“It’s a huge source of embarrassment and frustration, because it causes extreme bad breath,” Forbes said. For their project, Forbes and Imdieke designed a tool to allow people to remove their own tonsil stones at home.

After graduation, both got full-time jobs with biomedical startups in the San Francisco Bay Area. Then the pandemic hit, and they saw an opportunity to return to their passion to create a new solution for tonsil stones.

In early 2020, they launched Tonsil Tech in Bend, with a third co-founder, Daniel Forbes. Sydney Forbes contacted Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator, which was conducting programs online. After completing the Iterate and Launch programs, the team further refined their plan with the help of programs at University of Washington, the Washington Innovation Network, and the Oregon Bioscience Incubator. Their mentors at the Accelerator continue to support them, and they also get advice from Adam Krynicki, executive director in the Innovation Co-Lab at OSU-Cascades.

“Oregon State University was critical for the development of our company. The Accelerator programs gave us the mentorship, structure, and resources we needed to move forward,” Imdieke said.

Sydney Forbes (left) and Jessy Imdieke discuss their products — individual stone removal tools and TonsiFIX basic and premium kits.

In July 2021, Tonsil Tech brought to market the first tool specifically designed to remove tonsil stones. The tool, TonsiFIX (patent pending), features a teardrop-shaped loop at the end of a handle with an attached wrist strap, with details of its construction optimized for removing tonsil stones. The company sells the tool alone or in a kit that includes a travel pouch and a bright LED mirror light. Customers can purchase directly from tonsiltech.com, and the company plans to expand into retail and health care settings.

Tonsil Tech has raised $160,000 from various sources and competitions, including $60,000 through the Accelerator’s University Venture Development Fund. The Accelerator funding will allow the company to scale up production and lower costs by moving from 3D printing to injection molding, Imdieke said.

Success for the Tonsil Tech team is more than their business achievements. They can see that they are changing people’s lives.

“Customers continuously tell us that they have never told anyone about the problem, and yet it affects about 10% of the population,” Imdieke said. “Something that you could think of as a nuisance has a big impact on people’s self-esteem.”

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Dec. 7, 2022
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