By Greg St. Martin
News @ Northeastern

Ever walk by a con­struc­tion project in the city and wonder what the site will look like one day? Well, a team of seven seniors at North­eastern has cre­ated a new app for that.

For their inter­ac­tive media cap­stone, the stu­dents devel­oped what they call arc—a mobile appli­ca­tion that bridges the gap between archi­tects and the public in regard to city plan­ning. Here’s how it would work: Archi­tects upload project specs, and com­mu­nity mem­bers walk to the con­struc­tion site and use an iPad’s camera-​​view fea­ture to see an aug­mented reality overlay of the pro­posed building over the cur­rent site. Users could view details like foot traffic, wind pat­terns, and the building’s shadows throughout the day, and then post feed­back directly to the architects.

“You really get a feel for what the project will be like,” said team member Michael Godlewski, who noted that the app’s web ver­sion would include sev­eral addi­tional features.

The app was one of the many under­grad­uate, grad­uate, and fac­ulty research projects on dis­play last Friday at RISE:2013, Northeastern’s inno­va­tion, schol­ar­ship, and research expo held in the Cabot Phys­ical Edu­ca­tion Center. The annual event, spon­sored by the Center for Research Inno­va­tion and the Office of the Provost, high­lights research across many dis­ci­plines and show­cases the breadth and depth of inno­v­a­tive thinking at Northeastern.

Fol­lowing the poster demon­stra­tions at the expo, indi­vidual projects in seven cat­e­gories at the under­grad­uate and grad­uate level were rec­og­nized at an awards cer­e­mony. Of those win­ners, four stu­dent projects earned spe­cial RISE Awards that include grants to con­tinue the research. Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun and Steven W. Director, provost and senior vice pres­i­dent for aca­d­emic affairs, pre­sented the awards to the win­ners, who were deter­mined by an expert panel of judges from North­eastern and industry.

One award went to “arc” in the “Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Topics, Cen­ters, and Insti­tutes” cat­e­gory for undergraduates.

At the cer­e­mony, Tracey Doden­hoff, director of the Center for Research Inno­va­tion, noted that one of Northeastern’s greatest strengths is the diver­sity of thought that exists throughout campus. It’s for that reason that RISE orga­nizers resisted a sug­ges­tion from feed­back last year to group the posters by cat­e­gory at this year’s event.

“There’s safety in what we know, and it’s com­forting to be around people who share our ideas. But inno­va­tion takes the courage to put your­self out there with a dif­ferent per­spec­tive, a dif­ferent opinion, and even some­times a dif­ferent truth,” Doden­hoff said. “Trans­for­ma­tive inno­va­tion takes place inch by inch and day by day by people who are relent­lessly curious and have an unbri­dled vision of what could be.”

Many of the pre­sen­ta­tions at RISE:2013 fea­tured use-​​inspired research that addressed global chal­lenges. One cre­ated by a group of engi­neering stu­dents was a startup called Filter Light, billed as a low-​​cost, human-​​powered, UV water-​​filtration system for Third World coun­tries. The stu­dents got started through Engi­neers for the Greater Good—a weekend-​​long com­pe­ti­tion run by the North­eastern Entre­pre­neurs Club that chal­lenges stu­dents to build a busi­ness around a product that addresses a social good. They hope to have a pro­to­type ready next month.

Filter Light earned the under­grad­uate award in the “Engi­neering and Tech­nology” cat­e­gory and the spe­cial RISE Award in the “Inno­va­tion” category.

For his part, Ben­jamin Greer, a fourth-​​year archi­tec­ture stu­dent, devel­oped a new sus­tain­able model of coastal urban devel­op­ment for mit­i­gating urban runoff and storm surge con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. Using Assembly Square in Somerville, Mass., as a testing ground for his model, he pro­posed con­verting more than 50 acres of derelict indus­trial low­land back to its orig­inal form as a salt marsh. Salt marshes, he noted, pro­vide some of the most diverse pop­u­la­tions of marine species in the ecosystem and act as a filter for runoff pol­lu­tants and a drainage system that col­lects storm water.

Greer said that since the Indus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion, devel­op­ment of urban coastal land has often and unfor­tu­nately resulted in unfil­tered water runoff and pol­luted waterways—in this case, the Mystic River.

“The model is not spe­cific to this one site. It fits here in Somerville, but it could be repli­cated else­where,” said Greer, citing Bal­ti­more and Wash­ington, D.C.’s coast­lines as exam­ples. His project earned the under­grad­uate award in the “Human­i­ties and Arts” cat­e­gory and the spe­cial RISE Award in the “Schol­ar­ship” category.

Many stu­dent researchers cred­ited their experiential-​​learning oppor­tu­ni­ties at North­eastern for serving as the foun­da­tion for their work. Janelle Peiczarka, a com­bined major in busi­ness and polit­ical sci­ence, found inspi­ra­tion for her research while on a summer Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram in southern France in 2010 during the global eco­nomic crisis. Everyone the group encoun­tered, from politi­cians to a fruit stand worker in Nice, was feeling the effects.

“Ever since, I wanted to learn more about how coun­tries recov­ered from these crises in the past,” she said.

So she con­ducted research on the eco­nomic melt­downs of the late 20th and early 21st cen­turies, iden­ti­fying strate­gies that have led to recovery, like respon­sible fiscal poli­cies and building sup­portive rela­tion­ships with inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tions. Then she applied the best prac­tices to a com­par­a­tive analysis of Ice­land and Greece during the global finan­cial crisis and dis­cov­ered that Iceland’s resilience and Greece’s strug­gles mir­rored her findings.

Third-​​year chem­istry major Rebecca Lewis is working on a research project on co-​​op at Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­eral Hos­pital in Boston that could lead to ear­lier diag­nosis of Alzheimer’s dis­ease. Lewis is working in the hospital’s Nuclear Med­i­cine and Mol­e­c­ular Imaging Divi­sion, where a team of researchers is using posi­tion emis­sion topog­raphy to test a rel­a­tively new hypoth­esis: that ele­vated levels of metals in the plaques in the brain could serve as an early signal of the disease.

Prior to her co-​​op, Lewis began vol­un­teering at the lab last summer and con­tinued working there in the fall for uni­ver­sity credit. “Our goal is to make a tracer that we can use for early diag­nosis,” she said.