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The Global Challenge

At the Troy Commencement, President Jackson also challenged graduates to make a positive difference in the lives of others, saying “individuals, through their work, have the potential to improve lives—and perhaps to save lives.”

Four Class of 2008 graduates are doing just that through projects such as a video game for the disabled and a playground-powered water pump for a small school in Cusco, Peru.

Jennifer Ash, Zach Barth, and Peter Mueller led an interdisciplinary team to create a groundbreaking interactive game simulation called the CapAbility Games Research Project, which helps individuals with disabilities develop life skills and increase autonomy. The students collaborated with the Adult Services Division of the Center for Disability Services in Albany to develop a game called “Capable Shopper” that addresses the needs of the center’s consumers.

The game simulates a shopping trip at a local Price Chopper supermarket, where “players” maneuver through the virtual grocery store using a specially designed joystick or a head mouse. (The virtual store is based on blueprints obtained from an area Price Chopper where the center’s consumers often shop.) A computer monitor set up directly in front of the user simulates the layout of the store, and a second monitor to the left displays a virtual shopping list. Users start the game by selecting a meal they’d like to make—such as a spaghetti dinner, a holiday ham, or even rotini with Alfredo lobster sauce—and then find all the items that compose it. Consumers at the center have successfully used the game, and a permanent installation of Capable Shopper in the services center was completed in May.

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Inspired by a civil engineering project in Mexico to design a water filtration system for a small rural community that lacked running water, environmental engineering graduate Rebecca Moore began an independent study project to help design a new type of water pump and purification system for a small school in Cusco, Peru. Moore designed the system after spending a semester studying at a university in Mexico. Her system used playground equipment, such as a seesaw or merry-go-round, to pump water from the ground into the school. The water would then be sterilized, filtered, and ready for use in the school.

Moore says that with motivation and “a little snooping,” every Rensselaer student can find a cause or project through which to use knowledge and technology to make a significant positive impact on the world. “It doesn’t matter what kind of engineer you are or what your major is,” Moore says. “There are ways for you to help.”

Pushing the Boundaries of Discovery

The Class of 2008 also spent their years at Rensselaer engaged in sometimes groundbreaking discovery in labs and classrooms across the Troy campus. In many instances, their work has pushed research boundaries and paved the way for future breakthroughs in critical areas of inquiry. Megan Salt, who received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry/biophysics, plans to continue cancer research she started as an undergraduate student in laboratories at Rensselaer and MIT. Salt already has performed research into cancer cell interaction within the micro environment and assisted with research on mesenchymal stem cell signaling, adhesion and behavior, and on epithelial cell polarization. She has presented research at poster sessions in Cambridge, Mass., and in Los Angeles, and contributed to an article published in a national research journal.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.