Technology center is 'best-kept secret in Kansas'

Lawrence,Kansas (05-24-1999)

From Kansas City Star
By David Hayes

It may have been the talk on "incremental dipoles with polarizability tensors." It might have been the spiel about "stimulated Brillouin scattering." Or maybe it was just the math. After all, there's a reason I'm a writer. To me, long division is the highest possible form of higher mathematics. So when I saw it up there on the screen -- one of those (0(r') 1 things -- I knew I was in over my head.

It was all part of technology review day at the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. It was high-tech show-and-tell day to brag about some of the work being done at the center's five research labs.

As a University of Missouri grad, it's tough for me to concede this, but KU students, professors and researchers are doing some pretty impressive stuff at the center.

Formed in 1996, the center has 125 students and 26 faculty members doing research in everything from high-speed telecommunications to software that analyzes icebergs. With a $6-million-a-year budget, center researchers have worked on 55 projects for 15 companies this year. Some of their projects are being licensed or sold to private companies. Maybe that's the reason why those who work at the center refer to it as the "best-kept secret in Kansas."

"It seems like nationally and internationally we have more recognition than we do in our own region," said Tim Johnson, executive director for operations and applied technology.

Consider Torry Akins and Pannir Kanagaratnam. They've been in Greenland for a few weeks, making daily science flights in a NASA jet. They're part of an ongoing research project to use an ice-penetrating radar system developed at the KU center to measure the thickness of the Greenland ice sheet. They're up where it's still winter trying to find out if global warming is making the ice sheet thinner. It's no small feat. The ice is almost two miles thick.

Travis Butler has been thinking just as long term. He's been trying to figure out how humans and robots will interact in the future -- etiquette for robots. Consider him Mr. Manners for the 21st century. Chris Johnson presented the work he's done on "multiwavelength all-optical clock recovery using stimulated Brillouin scattering."

"A year and a half ago I wouldn't have known what that meant," Johnson said. "But it's really very simple."

Simple? I can't explain it. If it hadn't been for a really big sandbox, Jim Stiles would have lost me completely, too. Researchers working with Stiles are trying to develop a reliable radar system to find land mines that have been long forgotten in fields around the world. Again, this is no small task. Stiles said there were 60 million lost mines; explosions claim 70 victims a day.

The radar system is based on research involving "scattering approximations" and "3-D bistatic simulations." But it gets tested in a 7-foot-deep sandbox. The technology is mind-numbing, although it seems to show promise. But I could, somehow, relate to the sandbox.

Shane Haas and other researchers spent a couple of days last July in Washington, D.C., demonstrating KU wireless radio technology to government and industry officials. The center's Rapidly Deployable Radio Network is a mobile high-speed network that can be deployed quickly in areas of military conflicts or civilian disasters.

Students, faculty and staff set up mobile stations near the Washington Monument and on top of an area hotel to broadcast video from station to station.

Some of the center's highest-profile projects involve the Internet. At the Intelligent Systems and Information Management lab, researchers have developed a top-rated Web search engine -- -- and licensed another Internet-based program to Turner Broadcasting.

Other projects being developed in the lab sound more like movie titles or characters -- OBIWAN, ANTS, ARKTOS.

"The most difficult thing with projects is to come up with good acronyms," said Costas Tsatsoulis, director of the lab.

For more information, contact ITTC.

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The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center at the University of Kansas has developed several assistance policies that enhance interactions between the Center and local, Kansas, or national companies. 

ITTC assistance includes initial free consulting (normally one to five hours). If additional support is needed, ITTC will offer one of the following approaches: 

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