URI students, researchers to benefit from Champlin Foundations grants

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 27, 2006 — The Champlin Foundations has provided the University of Rhode Island with $450,123 to purchase high-tech equipment for scientific research and education.

The grants will fund new tools to provide students and faculty with interactive simulations of engineering models and processes, increased imaging capabilities of small animals used in biomedical research, and the ability to “see” through murky coastal waters. Funds will also be used to improve textile and apparel design training through acquisition of computer-aided design and production equipment.

“These projects generously funded by The Champlin Foundations allow our faculty to expand opportunities for our students and ensure that they are skilled in the use of the latest technological advances,” said Paul Witham, URI associate vice president for development. “We are very grateful to The Champlin Foundations for their support.”

The Champlin Foundations’ generosity toward URI spans more than three decades. In 1970, The Foundations made their first donation to the University in the form of a scholarship grant for the College of Pharmacy. Their next gift was in 1982 and since then The Foundations have awarded grants to URI every year, consistently placing the University as one of the top five organizations to receive funding for some of the latest technology, materials and other research and teaching tools.

The following grants have been awarded this year:

Discovery-Based Learning Center, $110,000: The practice of engineering design and analysis is performed using complex computer models and visualizations, so engineering education must incorporate these tools to enhance student learning. Using advanced design animation software and an immersive projection system, the Discovery-Based Learning Center will be a sophisticated viewing facility that allows students to become immersed in life-sized, interactive simulations of virtual models, environments and processes. For instance, students who build a dune buggy every year for a national competition will be able to conduct virtual test drives of the vehicle before a prototype is ever built. The technology in the Center will also foster collaboration between and among students, faculty and administrators.

Small Animal Imaging Center, $95,000: Novel treatments for human diseases must first be tested on animals, and to monitor tumor growth, drug distribution and other molecular events in these animals, the URI Physics Department will establish a Small Animal Imaging Center. The Champlin grant will fund acquisition of a Kodak Imaging Station, which will allow students and faculty to use florescence, luminescence, radioisotopic and X-ray techniques to create digital images of live animals. This technology will result in much more accurate studies and fewer animals being used in biomedical research. It will also expose students to the critical emerging problems in biological physics and the biomedical sciences and serve as a base for the education of students in many other disciplines.

Sonar System for 3-Dimensional Mapping, $116,000: As human influences and natural factors combine to threaten the health of coastal waters, it becomes imperative to have an accurate inventory of coastal resources and a better understanding of coastal ecosystems. A radical new technology called interferometric sonar can be used cost-effectively to “see” through turbid coastal waters and produce high-resolution, 3-dimensional pictures of coastal features, fish schools, archaeological structures and navigational hazards. Not only will this device play an important role in environmental monitoring and research, it will be the centerpiece of a new course on acoustic tools for marine mapping for graduate and undergraduate students beginning next fall.

Computer-Aided Textile and Apparel Design Equipment, $129,123: The leading provider of computer-aided design equipment to the textile and apparel industry, Lectra, has donated state-of-the-art software to URI’s Textile, Fashion Merchandising and Design department valued at $1 million, and funds from Champlin will provide the computer hardware to operate it. The hardware and software will revolutionize coursework in the department, and students will gain a better understanding of fabric structure, garment design, apparel production, and color management. Students will also use the equipment to create digital design portfolios for job interviews and prepare designs for the student fashion shows.