Geoscience Graduate Student Wins First Prize in Innovation Quest Competition

By: Sheila Foran

The words ‘scientist’ and ‘entrepreneur’ may not evoke the same mental image, but in the case of Mark Smith, they are a perfect fit.

Smith, who will finish his Master of Science degree in geoscience later this summer, is the winner of this year’s Innovation Quest competition which recognizes aspiring UConn student entrepreneurs with monetary awards as well as providing support through an ongoing training program known as inQubator.

For Smith, who earned the $15,000 first-place award in a competition that drew more than 100 entries, getting kudos for his proposal to form a hi-tech start-up company called Macropod Imaging Solutions was vindication of his hard work and determination.

Caterpillar in ultra-high-resolution. (Photo courtesy of Tony Gutierrez & Graham Snodgrass)

Caterpillar in ultra-high-resolution. (Photo courtesy of Tony Gutierrez & Graham Snodgrass)

The company, which has already generated considerable interest, will produce an imaging device that is not only lower in cost than currently available technologies, but is also portable. Smith’s prototype offers a means of capturing ultra-high-resolution images of micro-macroscopic objects in both two and three dimensions. Unlike existing devices, his version moves lightweight objects relative to the optic device, rather than the inverse. This helps eliminate the possibility of vibrations that could potentially corrupt the photos and produces finished images that are completely in focus.

Another aspect of his prototype that sets it apart from others is that it will incorporate a state-of-the-art method for geo-referencing tiny objects in geographic information systems such as Google Earth or ARC GIS. Smith’s next generation prototype will be entirely automated and will get the user from start to finish in seconds, so high resolution images can be rapidly captured and uploaded to a global geographic database. This has important implications for scientists taking the hardware into remote field locations.

Read more at UConn Today.

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