URI robotics lab, scholarship named for slain alumnus
KINGSTON, R.I. -- July 27, 2001 -- Danielle Flores was just 18 months old when her father was murdered in the parking lot at his new job in California in 1994. Now at age 8, she made one of the first donations -- $5 from her allowance -- to a memorial scholarship in his name and spoke last week at the dedication of the Matthew D. Flores Robotics Research Laboratory at the University of Rhode Island.
Matthew Flores earned a degree in mechanical engineering from URI in 1990, then served in the U.S. Army in Desert Storm and later at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia. In March 1994, he moved his family to California to begin a career as a computer engineer at Applied Materials Inc. in Santa Clara, but just three weeks later he was murdered by a still unknown assailant.
"Matthew was one of the most brilliant and motivated students we have ever had," said Thomas Kim, dean of the URI College of Engineering and one of Flores professors. "As an undergrad, he was an active participant in robotics and automation projects that are usually reserved for graduate students."
Shortly before his death, Flores began work on research to design a robotic limb that would be connected to the neurons of the brain and spinal column so amputees or paralyzed individuals could regain motor function.
Flores widow, Denise, a resident of Rehoboth, Mass., along with family and friends, recently established the Matthew D. Flores Memorial Scholarship at URI, which will be awarded annually beginning this fall to a junior or senior with high academic achievement in mechanical engineering and an interest in robotics or biomedical research. The scholarship fund totals more than $12,000.
"It was a very moving moment when Denise presented the College with a $5,000 check and Danielle followed suit with her allowance money," said Robert Clough, senior development officer in the URI Division of University Advancement.
During the dedication of the Robotics Research Laboratory, Denise Flores shared stories of her husbands hopes and dreams, and said "this ceremony is the first truly positive outcome of his tragedy."
In the Robotics Research Laboratory where Matthew spent much of his time as a student, and which is now named in his memory, Professors Philip Datseris, Musa Jouaneh and others are now conducting research related to the automation of manufacturing processes and improving the accuracy of machines.
For Information: Todd McLeish 874-7892