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SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Sandra Morales presents her project at Oregon Tech's student project symposium June 2.Oregon Tech’s student project symposium is a sight to behold. From custom video games to innovative medical equipment, there was student-created technology of all kinds on display Thursday, June 2 at the Wilsonville campus.


Students of all majors showcased projects they’ve spent the past year working on to local business members, family and the greater community.

The symposium served as an opportunity for students to connect with potential employers, but more than anything it allowed them to share their hard work.

In some cases students had spent more than a year on their project — like Caleb Larson, a senior and dual major in hardware and software engineering. Larson created a GPS tracking device meant to catalogue long hikes for backpackers. He spent all of last school year creating the hardware, and all of this year on the accompanying software to map hikes up to a week in time.

“It’s called ‘BackTrack’ and it’s a GPS hiking tracker. Its focus is mainly on battery life for backpacking trips,” he said. “The battery lasts up to 40 hours, and actually experimentally it’s been longer than that and is meant for like a week-long hike. Essentially what it does is — rather than leaving GPS on the entire time — it will turn on and off, recording when it’s on and then turning off for a certain amount of time. So you end up with a map of points as to where you were.”

An avid hiker, Larson said he’d become fed up with the short battery lives of GPS units. He realized that by creating a device that didn’t need to be constantly turned on he could make the device function longer without battery replacement or any charging.

“I wanted something that would last, and I have a Garmin GPS that I was using to track hikes, but I was using so many batteries,” he said. “I had to carry basically a zip lock bag full of double-A batteries with me. So I built this and it actually uses rechargeable double-A batteries so you can reuse them if you’d like. ... It will show you your actual coordinates, so you can use it as like a GPS during your hike, or you can just leave it in your backpack to track the hike.”

Most were senior projects, but there were others, too, from students who simply wanted to share what they’ve been studying.

“(Oregon Tech) wanted some clinical lab science people to come in and kind of represent the major,” said freshman Jake Sinick. “I signed up to do it to kind of get some street cred and be able to say ‘I did the senior symposium as a freshman.’ And I love this stuff, I’m really interested in the study of hematology — the study of blood. That’s really what I want to do, trying to help make people healthy.”

Sinick’s project was research-based, taking a look at how clinical lab scientists diagnose and treat acute myeloid leukemia. Sinick said the goal of his project was to educate others about the unique things students in the program learn to do, while educating about laboratory practices at the same time. He explained to interested event-goers the different methods he might use to identify myeloid leukemia in the lab setting.SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Jacob Green shows the circuit he made for 3D printing control.

“To kind of understand how leukemia works you need to understand how red blood cells are made,” he said. “So in the red bone marrow, right in the middle of your bones, you have stem cells that differentiate into the different formed elements of your blood — so white blood cells, platelets and red blood cells. What happens during myeloid leukemia, during the differentiation when becoming a white blood cell, a mutation will happen and it will freeze in an immature state. ... What will happen is the cells mutate and the bone marrow overproduce white blood cells, which basically overtake your blood.”

Sinick’s project showed how students take blood samples to analyze under a microscope, looking at multiple samples while counting red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. After some conversions scientists determine how many white blood cells are present per microliter.

“We can compare it to the normal amount — about 3,500-10,500 cells per microliter,” he said. “With myeloid leukemia it goes up to 4 billion, so it’s completely off the charts.

“Another way to double check that and a more official way is to put it through the flow cytometer. What it does is you put the sample through the nozzle of the machine, and it sucks it up and basically makes a stream that’s one cell thick. As that stream passes through the machine there’s a bunch of laser and optic systems set up that will shoot light through the cells. And the way the light is refracted off the cell, which is known as the granularity, you can get massive amounts of information about the cell.”

Sinick also explained how the form of leukemia is treated, with the major focus again revolving around process.

Freshman Isaac Boyd, another CSL major and Sinick’s roommate, based his project on the type of staphylococcus (staph infection) known as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The widely-feared bacterial infection is something of a mystery to the general public, prompting Boyd to do his best to explain what it is and how it’s treated.

Boyd said he enjoyed the symposium because it gave him an opportunity to learn more about a topic he finds fascinating as well practice his presentation skills.

“I thought it was good experience to stand in front of people and talk, especially about something you’re passionate about,” he said. “It’s important to be able to talk about it and sound informed about what you’re talking about. This is an amazing field that I’m really excited about, and I want other people to learn about it as well.”SPOKESMAN PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Shon Webber demonstrates his predictive tracking solar panel.

Larson, meanwhile, enjoyed the symposium as a means to share his work and connect with other students before graduation.

“There are some companies here so I’m hoping to branch out and maybe talk to a few people, but I also like this because it lets me share what I did and show it off,” he said. “I also want to see the other projects because there are a lot of really cool projects here.”

Contact Andrew Kilstrom at 503-636-1281 ext. 112 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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