UAF invited to world technology forum

Perhaps unknown to most, and what might come as a surprise to many, is that some of the leading technology experts call Fairbanks home. The Office of Electronic Miniaturization at the UAF is credited with being one of the top programs in the world and they have an invitation to the World’s Best Technology forum to prove it.

A new and advanced sensor technology developed by Dr. Shiva Hullavarad and his wife Dr. Nilima Hullavarad, both assistant professors at the Office of Electronic Miniaturization, was selected to participate in this year’s forum in Arlington, Texas. UAF’s program is one of the largest microelectronic and nanotechnology labs in Alaska, Shiva said.

“Our mission is to miniaturize existing electronic components,” Shiva said. “We want to make smaller components that have greater power but it’s not as simple because it’s not as possible to get the same type of performance.”

Examples of said components can be anything from communications systems to a Global Positioning System.

Shiva said one good example of the benefits of miniaturizing electronic components is for the military.

A soldier who carries a communications system in his backpack, for instance, could carry that same system in the form of a small chip planted in his helmet with the help of nanotechnology. Perhaps this military benefit is what led to the establishment of the Office of Electronic Miniaturization in Fairbanks four years ago. Although the program is part of the university, it is actually funded by the Department of Defense.

“The Department of Defense has a huge strategic interest in Alaska,” Shiva said. “When they have [military bases] in a particular area, it is also important for them to support research-related activities.”

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Shiva said he believed the DOD program was a good one. He said he viewed it as a way for the department to build up expertise locally.

Currently, that expertise is in Fairbanks.

The WBT forum is held every year. Organized by a small pool of industrial and investment institutions as well as the National Association of Seed and Venture Funds and the Federal Lab Consortium for Technology Transfer, the WBT forum is serious business. The forum showcases the best technologies from top universities and institutions such as MIT and Stanford. Submissions come from all over the world with the top 100 submissions selected by a committee. This year, UAF is one of them– a great accomplishment not only for the program but for the state as well, Shiva said.

“I see it as a great opportunity for Alaska to make its name in the technology world,” Shiva said. ” I’m more than satisfied.”

At the forum, Shiva and Nilima will be able to present their innovation in the hope that it will appeal to possible investors. Their invention is a unique type of censor technology-one that can sense pressure, temperature and gas. It is also very small in size and was designed to overcome electromagnetic interferences, something a typical sensor is unable to do. Shiva said it is one of the best sensors available in the market but it is still in its initial phase. The forum offers the team a chance to present how their technology works, where it works, who can benefit and how to market it. Even if the team fails to find an investor, the recognition that comes with participating in the forum is huge.

“We represent UAF; we represent Alaska as a whole,” Shiva said. “It’s an event to celebrate.”

In preparation for the forum, The Office of Electronic Miniaturization will be assigned a mentor team who will help them design their presentation. Mentors chosen to help the participants come from the best institutes in the world and are provided by the WBT Forum. The forum will be held Mar. 23-26.