Lt. Gov. Pinnell, OCAST highlight Oklahoma innovators in new podcast

Dr. Richard Kopke (left) with the Hough Ear Institute was the historic first guest on the Innovate That! podcast hosted by Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell

Editor’s note: My friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) recently launched their first podcast, which highlights Oklahoma innovators and companies across the state. I listened to the first three podcasts hosted by Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and wrote this story about the podcast and the folks Pinnell interviewed:

“Thank you to all who are listening to the Innovate That! podcast.”

With those words, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell launched the initial podcast produced by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and highlighting innovative Oklahoma companies and entrepreneurs.

OCAST is a legislatively funded state agency with a mission to expand and diversify Oklahoma’s economy by supporting research and development of new projects, processes and industries.

Pinnell serves as host of the Innovate That! podcast, interviewing Oklahoma innovators and highlighting the collaborative Oklahoma Innovation Model that provides assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“I’m really excited to start this podcast with OCAST,” Pinnell said. “They are all about innovation, all about helping companies create, helping companies grow their businesses in the state of Oklahoma. For us to build a top 10 state and build a state in the right way, we have to have OCAST and the Innovation Pipeline Model.”

The podcast is produced by Lyle Walters, OCAST’s Policy and Planning Legislative Liaison. You can listen to the Innovate That podcast on most major podcast apps including Podbean, Apple, Google, Amazon and Spotify.

The historic first Innovate That! podcast featured Dr. Richard Kopke, CEO of Oklahoma City’s Hough Ear Institute. The Institute developed a drug known as NHPN-1010 in cooperation with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF) that can prevent and potentially restore hearing loss.

Hough Ear Institute is a not-for-profit research organization with a mission to restore hearing worldwide through research, education and humanitarian efforts.

Stillwater-based XploSafe was the second innovative company highlighted by the podcast, with Gas Tech Engineering of Sapulpa completing the trio of launch podcasts.

The positive influence of OCAST and its partners in the Oklahoma Innovation Model – i2E Inc., the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, the New Product Development Center at Oklahoma State University and the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma – was a common theme in the first three podcasts.

“OCAST has been key to it all,” Kopke said of Hough Ear Institute’s success in both developing the drug and licensing it last year to Oblato Inc., which has indicated it plans to initiate Phase 2 clinical trials of NHPN-1010. “And through their granting process, OCAST has provided grants that were leveraged into several millions of dollars of Department of Defense funding.”

Kopke’s words were echoed by entrepreneurs in companies with different missions and in far different industries.

XploSafe is a provider of critical safety solutions for homeland security and chemical safety.

“OCAST programs have been instrumental in us being able to not only find funding to push out new products, but they’ve also helped us find the people that we hire,” said Michael Teicheira, operations manager for XploSafe. “The OCAST intern program funding in particular has been great for us.”

Gas Tech Engineering, which provides expertise in process engineering, design, fabrication and service, received OCAST funding to develop a new product for the oil and gas industry.

“Without the OCAST process, as a small, privately held company, I don’t think we could have done the project,” said Ron Key, chief technology officer at Gas Tech Engineering. “Now we are working with another Oklahoma agency, the OSU New Product Development Center.”

OCAST Executive Director Michael Carolina said the involvement of Pinnell and the Lt. Governor’s office shows the world of potential listeners that Oklahoma is all-in on developing new technologies and new companies.

“We’re so pleased Lt. Gov. Pinnell agreed to host our new podcast,” Carolina said. “He brings an enthusiasm for Oklahoma innovation that will make listeners across Oklahoma and the nation want to know more about innovation in our state.”

Oklahoma innovators have a great story to tell, and the Innovate That! podcast makes its accessible to potentially a worldwide audience, Pinnell said.

“That’s why Innovate That! is the name of this podcast,” he said. “To really bring amazing Oklahoma companies to the 4 million Oklahomans inside the state of Oklahoma, and, hopefully, to people around the country and around the world as well, who will be listening to this to see and to hear what an amazing state that Oklahoma is when it comes to innovation.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

ABOUT OCAST:
The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology is a state agency tasked with leading Oklahoma’s technology-based economic development efforts, supporting the efforts of start-ups and entrepreneurs to transform promising innovations from concepts into commercial products. OCAST also is an active supporter of STEM education across Oklahoma and provides funding to support internships between local industries and two- and four-year colleges and universities. Visit ocast.ok.gov to learn more.

 

OSU center pursues alternatives to Opioid pain medications

A screen shot of the August meeting of the board that oversees the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

Editor’s Note: I recently sat in on the August virtual meeting of the board that oversees the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), where a couple of scientists made some interesting presentations. First up was a presentation from OSU’s National Center for Wellness & Recovery, followed by Sean Bauman of Norman’s IMMY.  I wrote up this report on the presentations, a portion of which was published in the Oklahoma City Journal Record business newspaper.   (Subscription required)

Researchers at Oklahoma State University’s National Center for Wellness & Recovery (NCWR) are pursuing promising new molecules that could break the link between Opioid pain medications and the often-fatal side effects that accompany them, a scientist said this week.

During a presentation to the August meeting of the board that governs the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), Don Kyle, Ph.D., said the Center has “unpublished research molecules” that show efficacy in pain relief without the common side effects of Opioids.

“New molecular approaches to treating pain outside the Opioid world, or using Opioid mechanisms in new ways are of premiere importance to develop Opioid-strength analgesics without the Opioid side-effect baggage,” said Kyle, an adjunct professor of Pharmacology and Physiology at OSU’s Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa.

Launched in 2017, the National Center for Wellness & Recovery is located on OSU’s Center for Health Sciences campus. A settlement announced last year between the State of Oklahoma and drug maker Purdue Pharma established a $200 million endowment for the Center to pursue research and treatment for Opioid addiction.

Kyle provided a historical perspective on Opioids for the OCAST board.

A graphic used in the presentation revealed that Opioids were first developed in the 1800s, but scientists didn’t discover the biological mechanisms by which they provide pain relief until the 1970s.

Efforts to develop side-effect free alternatives to Opioids have been largely unsuccessful, Kyle said.

“Look back over the past 25 or 30 years, FDA approval of new non-addictive pain medications has been disappointing,” he said. “It’s not because no one is trying.”

With discoveries of new molecules that show efficacy in pain reduction in pre-clinical trials, OSU’s National Center for Wellness & Recovery is pushing the science closer to a real alternative, he said.

“These molecules show analgesic efficacy that is comparable to morphine in animal models, but have reductions in the unwanted side effects,” Kyle said. “The bottom line is to end the Opioid crisis using scientific research.”

The OCAST board also heard a presentation from Sean Bauman, Ph.D., CEO of Norman-based IMMY, a developer and manufacturer of diagnostic tests for infectious diseases. Through a subsidiary called IMMYLabs, the company developed an FDA-approved test for COVID-19 in March to make testing more widely accessible across Oklahoma.

IMMY has since set up drive-through mobile test sites in nine communities, including Claremore, Edmond, McAlester, Midwest City, Moore, Norman, Sapulpa, Shawnee and Yukon.

“I can tell you, there is nothing else like this in the state of Oklahoma,” Bauman said. “You can make an appointment at IMMYLabs.com, pick a site, a day and an appointment time. All the data entry happens in advance of your appointment.”

The whole process takes less than 10 minutes, with diagnostic results available within two business days.

“We’re committed to fast turn-around,” Bauman said.

 

Navigating the hazards of information security in new world of working from home

OCAST interview with Crowe & Dunlevy from OCAST on Vimeo.

 

Editor’s Note: Along with my colleague Debbie Cox from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), I recently had the opportunity to interview Elliot Anderson, an attorney in the Tulsa office of Crowe & Dunlevy, about steps needed to ensure information and communications are secure in home and remote working locations. This is my report.

Back in the olden days, Elliot Anderson had only the foggiest notion what a “Zoom” meeting was. We’re talking way back there, maybe as far back as February 2020.

Anderson is an attorney in the Tulsa office of Crowe & Dunlevy, one of Oklahoma’s oldest and largest law firms. He provides legal counsel in business disputes, contract litigation, oil and gas matters, and securities and insurance disputes.

Like the rest of the business world, Anderson’s job meant that he drove to work every day and practiced as a litigator in Crowe’s office in downtown Tulsa. Or maybe in a courtroom.

Then the pandemic happened.

The Coronavirus shut millions of workers out of their offices and forced them to work remotely from home. It’s no different for Crowe and its team of attorneys and support staff.

Most days now, Anderson works from the home he shares with his wife and four children.

And he’s learned how to navigate the world of work from home and remote business meetings through platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Skype.

“I didn’t really know what Zoom was until the school sent all the kids home and, suddenly, the kids were experts at Zoom because they’re meeting with teachers, studying with friends, taking drum lessons, ballet lessons, dance lessons,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s role with the law firm also includes loss prevention and data security. So, I took the opportunity over a Microsoft Teams virtual interview to ask him about maintaining a secure working environment while working remotely.

Turns out, he’s had a brush with the hazards of online meetings through one of his children. An uninvited guest crashed one of his daughter’s Zoom meetings as she took a virtual dance lesson.

“Nothing inappropriate happened, but this was a random adult person who decided they wanted to crash the party and learn some dance steps,” he said. “I think one thing we’ve learned from the Zoom experience is not to assume that an online communication is secure just because nothing bad has happened.”

So, how do you ensure your meeting and your data is secure while on an online platform?

“Zoom was designed to be open and easy, as easy as walking into a hotel lobby and talking to someone,” he said. “But it turns out it was just about as private. Microsoft Teams and Skype are alternatives and are a little harder to access with more barriers to entry. There are definitely concerns there, and making sure you are in a secure environment is important.”

Anderson suggested an even more secure method. Make an old-fashioned telephone call instead.

“I think one thing we’ve learned from the Zoom experience is not to assume that an online communication is secure just because nothing bad has happened.”

Here are some other suggestions Anderson has for the work-from-home crowd during the pandemic:

Make sure it’s a secure environment: “I live in a household with my wife and four kids, and at any given moment when I’m conducting business online, people are walking through the room. If I’m on a phone call I have to lock the door to keep my kids out. Making sure that you have a secure environment and can control who’s in there to see what you are doing or hear what you are doing is important. If I’m on the phone at my house working on a call, I don’t just have four kids and a wife in the house, if my kid is taking a drum lesson I basically have the drum instructor in the house too.”

Elliot P. Anderson

Use a virtual private network (VPN) to ensure a secure connection: “Sometimes people will think, ‘well, it’s too much trouble to go through all that hassle of logging into my secure environment. I’ll just email this from my work account to my Gmail. I’ll work on it on my home computer and email it back.’ But the copy you worked on, on your home computer is still there if you didn’t remember to delete it and then empty the trash. And things like that accumulate over time. We all have old work stuck like barnacles to our home computer, and when the computer ages out you will give it to a kid or donate it to a church or a charity. That data that you didn’t even know was on there gets out and you don’t have control of it anymore.”

Don’t throw away documents at home: “I’ve had to remind the other lawyers in my firm a couple times, because we can’t do everything online, some things need to be printed, something need to be typed out and read. Then we generate garbage. When we generate paper waste at the office, we just put it in the shred bin and don’t worry about it. But at home, just this morning I found myself with two copies of an old document that I didn’t need. I can’t throw confidential information away in my kitchen trash and I shouldn’t put it in the recycle bin. What we tell our employees to do is keep a box or folder at home of any sort of office trash you are generating and save it there until your next trip up to the office and you can throw it in the shred bin.

Dress for success, even for a Zoom meeting from home: ‘When I’m preparing for a meeting online, I remember the words of a senior attorney who mentored me. He said ‘casual dress leads to casual thinking.’ He very much took the position that if you take the effort to make yourself look like a professional, your work is going to be more professional. And I think with an online meeting it’s exactly the same. If my plan is to roll into the business meeting at the last minute with pajama pants and a Velcro tie, well, … if I’m neglecting my appearance, I probably haven’t built in enough time to pay attention to other things, too.”

Final thoughts: “Working remotely has been a big adjustment for everyone who has had to do it. By and large, I think that everyone who has had to do this is far better at it now than they were a month ago. Even old dogs can learn new tricks. But I think it’s more important now than ever to slow down and be careful and be deliberate. When you are in a remote environment when you might be in a house with children or you might be in a car in the drive-thru line or you might be waiting your turn outside at Walmart until enough people come out so that you can walk in, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to security and be aware of who’s listening or may be able to get access to your information.”

OSU’s New Product Development Center supports Oklahoma’s innovators with prototyping services

Editor’s Note: Along with colleague Debbie Cox from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, I recently toured the fabrication lab at the Tulsa campus of Oklahoma State University’s New Product Development Center.  Here is my report:

By Jim Stafford

TULSA – Evan Pratt, a design engineer at the Oklahoma State University – Tulsa campus location of OSU’s New Product Development Center (NPDC), held a small plastic device in front of me for inspection and challenged me to guess its purpose.

I didn’t have a clue. New computer mouse? Fancy salt shaker? Home security device?

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Pratt was actually showcasing a “bottle grabber” assembly used by a Tulsa area manufacturer to keep the bottle filling and shipping process flowing smoothly.

“What this does is it fits on a conveyer system that is in their bottling system that helps them move and transport bottles from one conveyer system to another,” Pratt said.

The bottle grabber assembly was designed and created at the NPDC lab on a 3D printer to replace an original design and mesh perfectly with the client’s manufacturing process.

“This piece recently became unsupported by the original manufacturer,” Pratt said. “So, under a pay-for-service contract, we reverse engineered this bottle grabber assembly and created a 3D-printed prototype for them to test.”

The New Product Development Center was founded by OSU in 2002 to provide Oklahoma inventors and entrepreneurs with market research, prototype development and grant writing assistance to advance their concepts, said Jessica Stewart, assistant director.

Along with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST), i2E Inc., the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, the NPDC is a key element in the Oklahoma Innovation Model that supports Oklahoma’s innovation economy. Robert Taylor is NPDC executive director.

As Debbie Cox from OCAST looks on, Evan Pratt displays a tray of ‘bottle grabbers’ designed and produced by OSU’s New Product Development Center

The bottle grabber assembly was created as part of a $399,000 grant awarded in 2017 to NPDC by the federal Economic Development Administration through its “i6 Challenge” program. Launched in 2014 the ongoing i6 Challenge has awarded $42 million with $54 million in matching funds that are supporting 88 projects across 36 states, according to the EDA website.

“The EDA i6 grant is basically set up to assist small businesses, inventors, startups and some manufacturers with a working first prototype to be able to get them further along in their product development,” Stewart said.

On this mid-January day, Pratt and Stewart gave me and OCAST colleague Debbie Cox a tour of their fabrication shop that features 3D printing capabilities along with tools to engineer and create just about any prototype to the specifications sought by manufacturers or inventors.

The EDA grant led to a unique collaboration between the OSU organization and OU’s Tom Love Innovation Hub, which expanded the array of services offered Oklahoma innovators through the grant.

“The Tom Love Innovation Hub has been excellent in providing services to our inventor community to create prototypes that we don’t have the capacity to do here,” Stewart said.

Added Tom Wavering, executive director of OU’s Innovation Hub: “When jobs come in, and they come to us and need some help, we figure out if we can help them or OSU can help them and send them to the right spot. Jessica and Robert do the same.”

At its Tulsa location, the NPDC provides both a mechanical and electrical engineer who provide design expertise and prototyping services like that of the bottle grabber assembly.

“We are probably Tulsa’s best kept secret,” Stewart said of the NPDC. “We invite inventors, small businesses and manufacturers to call us to see if we can provide resources and move them forward.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Educational consortium designs intern program to help turn Tulsa into bioscience ‘hub’

Editor’s note:  My friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology invited me to this week’s Bioscience Networking Luncheon in Tulsa, where I heard an interesting presentation on internship opportunities in the Tulsa area.  This is what I wrote about the event.

Kathleen Curtis, Ph.D., addresses audience at OCAST-sponsored Bioscience Networking Luncheon at the OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa.

By Jim Stafford

TULSA – The eight member organizations of the Tulsa Area Bioscience Education and Research Consortium (TABERC) have aspirations to make Tulsa a “hub” of bioscience education and research, Kathleen Curtis, Ph.D., told a recent bioscience networking luncheon here.

Curtis was among speakers at the 2nd Annual Bioscience Networking Luncheon on the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences (OSU-CHS) campus. The event was presented by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) for about 60 Tulsa area bioscience professionals.

Curtis is a professor of physiology and interim chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at OSU-CHS and chair of the Tulsa area research consortium.

TABERC has developed a vibrant internship program to help bioscience research flourish in Tulsa, Curtis said. Student interns gain hands-on skills by working on real world research projects in participating laboratories

“I was just sitting here counting on my fingers about the number of interns we have placed over the last 13 years,” Curtis said during her presentation. “I’m thinking it’s somewhere between 60 and 70 research interns in just 13 years that we’ve provided hands-on bench experience with bioscience research.”

Educational institutions that compose TABERC are Northeastern State University, OSU-Center for Health Sciences, Oral Roberts University, Rogers State University, Tulsa Community College, Tulsa Technology Center, the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, and the University of Tulsa.

“All of these internships are completely funded by dues paid by our member organizations,” Curtis said.

Internships are also a key element of OCAST’s mission to grow and diversify Oklahoma’s economy through technology development. Its Intern Partnership Program is a cost-share initiative that places Oklahoma college students in laboratories and business across the state.

For instance, the Oklahoma Life Science Fund, an early stage venture capital fund that focuses on biotech opportunities, has been awarded three past grants to employ interns through the OCAST program.

Fund manager William Paiva, Ph.D., was in the audience as Curtis pitched the TABERC program. Internships provide students with experiences that they can’t gain on campus, he said.

“Our interns spent 50 percent of their time looking at new deals, new investment opportunities doing the due diligence, doing the valuations, structuring the deals, helping raise the co-investors into the deals,” Paiva said. “The other half of their time I would actually loan them out to the CEOs of our portfolio companies to work on specific projects for the companies.”

“It wasn’t stuff you learn in the classroom,” Paiva said. “It was real world experience.”

Paiva said he recently submitted an application for a fourth OCAST Intern Partnership grant.

Meanwhile, TABERC’s Curtis wrapped up her presentation with an appeal to the networking luncheon audience.

“If you know of opportunities to place students or money to fund students, please talk to us,” she said. “We’ll put it to good use to train students and advance the research that will help make Tulsa a hub for bioscience.”

Other speakers at the bioscience luncheon included Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of OSU Center for Health Sciences and Oklahoma Secretary of Science and Innovation; Carol Curtis, Ph.D., with i2E, Inc.; Bill Murphy with the Tulsa Regional Chamber; and Paul Gignac, Ph.D., associate professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at OSU-CHS.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Tulsa’s AAON makes it rain – and snow – in high tech Norman Asbjornson Innovation Center

 

Editor’s note: This report was written after I toured the AAON manufacturing campus in Tulsa at the invitation of my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).

By Jim Stafford

TULSA – Mark Fly can make it rain at the massive Norman Asbjornson Innovation Center on the manufacturing campus of Tulsa’s AAON Inc. And snow.

Fly is executive director of AAON’s new R&D laboratory, a 134,000 square foot building that opened in 2019, and was a key designer of the facility. The Norman Asbjornson Innovation Center (NAIC) consists of 10 testing chambers, some of which can simulate heat, cold, rain, snow, wind and humid or arid conditions to test the durability of AAON’s industrial heating and air conditioning equipment in the most brutal of conditions.

“In our extreme environmental chamber, it can snow up to two inches an hour or rain eight inches an hour and do so with a simulated wind of 50 miles per hour,” Fly told me and colleagues from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) as he recently led us on a tour of the NAIC.

Mark Fly with AAON takes us through a tour of the company’s manufacturing and warehouse floor

“Our environmental chambers can be controlled to minus 20 degrees or up to 130 degrees, and humidity from 10 percent well into the 90 percent range,” Fly said. “We can simulate any outdoor environment in the world.”

AAON is a publicly traded (NASDAQ: AAON) manufacturer of commercial and industrial air conditioning and heating units. It employs approximately 1,900 people who work in 1.5 million square feet of manufacturing space at its Tulsa headquarters.

Named after company co-founder Norman Asbjornson, the NAIC provides AAON with testing capabilities that are unequaled in the industry, said Gary Fields, AAON’s president.

AAON employs 47 engineers among its 125-person R&D division affectionately known as “Area 51.”

“The innovation that we are noted for here at AAON is very much accentuated in this laboratory,” Fields said. “R&D has been the core value of AAON since the beginning.”

AAON was founded in 1988 when Asbjornson and partners purchased the heating and air conditioning division of the John Zink Company. Asbjornson is AAON’s CEO and chairman of the board.

Today, AAON employs 2,400 people across the company that also includes locations in Longview, Texas, and the Kansas City, Mo., area. Annual revenue is approximately $500 million from a diverse customer base.

“One of our premier customers that would be noteworthy would be the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, N.Y.,” Fields said. “We shipped 26 units that were as much as 77 feet long; each unit took two truckloads to get to the facility.”

Nike Inc., on the west coast, is another premier AAON customer, Fields said.

OCAST has supported AAON’s R&D over the years with Oklahoma Applied Research Support (OARS) projects involving computer modeling on energy measurement and prediction, as well as controls, Fly said. The company also has been a participant in the OCAST Intern Partnerships program that places promising Oklahoma college students in real world work environments.

“Oklahoma has always been a very manufacturing-friendly state,” Fly said. “It is very supportive from both a tax and incentive standpoint, which includes programs like OCAST.”

Fly eventually led us into AAON’s sound test chamber that featured 12-inch thick concrete walls adorned with rectangular metal plates designed to echo sound.

“Customers want to know how much noise the equipment makes, because it may be going into a concert hall or a school,” Fly said as his voice reverberated back to us. “The sound is virtually the same everywhere in this room because of the echo.”

AAON performs acoustical, air flow and thermal testing simultaneously in the sound test chamber, Fields said.

“This capability exists nowhere else in the world,” he said.

Now that’s making it rain.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

What is Blockchain for Business? OKC conference provides some context

Alan Dickman, IBM Blockchain Architect, delivers a primer on Blockchain for Business to an audience of OKC business leaders.

Editor’s note: I was invited by my friends at OCAST to attend the recent Blockchain for Business conference here in OKC. This is what I wrote about the experience and what I learned from the event about a subject that I know very little about.

By Jim Stafford

There is a huge gulf between the emerging blockchain-for-business technology and the cryptocurrency world, a group of 150 Oklahoma business leaders learned at the recent Blockchain for Business conference at the Baker Hughes/GE Energy Innovation Center.

The blockchain primer delivered to the Oklahoma audience by Alan Dickman, IBM Blockchain Architect, contrasted the two computing networks that are often confused for one another.

“Blockchain is really just a shared, distributed ledger that helps record transactions,” Dickman said in his keynote presentation. “Blockchain facilitates business processes that are shared among a network that is using the same ledger.”

What blockchain-for-business is not is a giant, worldwide computing network that requires every member of the network, or peer, to update their blockchain file with each transaction, Dickman said.

“That sounds like Bitcoin, where there are lots and lots of peers around the world, and what you are doing is updating each ledger,” he said. “Only a small number of blockchains have that infrastructure.”

Blockchain-for-business can limit the number of peers, and requires that each participant be identified and invited to the network. Transactions are recorded as an “immutable” record that can never be altered.

In contrast, Cryptocurrency networks are known as “permission-less,” which means that participation is unlimited. Participants can remain anonymous. The “permission-less” networks can grow unwieldy and consume large amounts of energy as each transaction is updated.

“You can have permission blockchains where you put up your own private networks,” Dickman said. “So, it depends on the use case and depends on the technology and whether you are using a permission or permission-less blockchain.”

The Blockchain for Business conference was presented by OG&E and IBM, with support from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber; the Oklahoma Department of Commerce; the Oklahoma City Innovation District; the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST); the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma; Baker Hughes, a GE Company, the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance; Zilker Technology LLC.; and the Energy Web Foundation.

“From OG&E’s perspective, the business purpose of this conference was two-fold,” said Richard Cornelison, economic development manager for OG&E. “We wanted to bring a better understanding of technology, and ways to communicate to the communities we serve and into the companies we serve.”

The conference featured breakout sessions for energy industry users, government, health care and supply chain, and oil and gas.

“Blockchain is one of those emerging, potentially enabling technologies that has the capability of impacting our economy,” said Mark Ballard, programs officer with OCAST. “We’re interested in this technology because it can give businesses another opportunity to compete more effectively in the economy.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

OK-WISE panel: Internships provide entry into Aerospace industry for young women

Panelists in a Women Impacting Aerospace discussion are (from left): Heather McDowell, OCAST, Alexis Higgins, CEO of the Tulsa International Airport; Brenda Rolls, Ph.D., CEO of Frontier Electronic Systems; Sara Shmalo, material and process engineer at Spirit Aerosystems; and Haley Marie Keith, CEO of MITO Material Solutions

 

Editor’s note: I was invited by my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to attend the recent OK-WISE conference in Tulsa, where I sat in on a couple of panel discussions.  The topic of internships as a way to gain experience and an entry into the Aerospace industry (and others!) caught my attention.  So, I filed this report.

TULSA – Heather McDowell shared some bleak industry employment numbers as moderator during a panel discussion entitled Women Impacting Aerospace at the recent 2019 OK-WISE conference at the Hyatt Regency Tulsa.

The conference focused on helping women advance their careers in STEM fields such as cybersecurity, manufacturing, technology and economic empowerment.

“We see statistics all the time about STEM industry and how women are under represented in this field,” said McDowell, associate director of Programs at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).

“Overall, about 25 percent of our workforce are women, but particularly in aerospace only about 10 percent of the workforce are women,” she said. “How can we get more women involved in aerospace?”

The OK-WISE – Women Impacting STEM & Entrepreneurship – conference was produced by the Oklahoma Catalyst Programs that is headquartered at the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma. Organizers sought to inspire and encourage an audience of about 300 women aspiring to STEM careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or entrepreneurship.

So, how did the panel of female aerospace professionals answer McDowell’s questions of bringing more women into the industry?  

Internships can be an important component to bringing more women into aerospace – and any STEM profession — panelists suggested.

And that can begin with high school, students, said Sara Shmalo, material and process engineer at Spirit Aerosystems in Tulsa.

“One of the things that Spirit does is we partner with high schools and started bringing in high school students who have a passion for aviation,” Shmalo said. “They can watch the processes in place, and some of them have come up with great ideas that have saved time, and they are offered jobs out of high school. We train them to work there.”

Seated next to Shmalo on the panel was Brenda Rolls, Ph.D., CEO of Stillwater’s Frontier Electronic Systems, a company that manufactures sophisticated electronic components for advanced military aircraft and for the U.S. space industry. Frontier employs more than 50 engineers among its workforce of about 120 people.

Potential interns are recruited and evaluated for the positions as if they were being hired for full-time Frontier Electronic positions, Rolls said.

“We try to give the interns real hands-on experience of what it would be like to work in an aerospace company like ours,” Rolls said. “We have had a number of female interns, and one of the great things that happens is there have been a number of interns who have stayed with us after they graduated. So, we have three women that have continued with us as full-time employees, and we have a number of men.”

OCAST manages a statewide cost-share Intern Partnership program that places college students in real world work environments like Frontier Electronic Systems across Oklahoma.

“I think Oklahoma is trying really, really hard to improve the hands-on learning opportunities for students at all levels,” Rolls said.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Launching pad: Considering the potential of UCO’s Don Betz STEM Center

Michael Carolina, left, OCAST executive director, poses with Dr. Thomas and Carolyn Kupiec in the Don Betz STEM Research and Learning Center on the UCO campus.

I’ve always said that I would love to be involved in a STEM career, except for a few barriers – those being science, technology, engineering and math.

So, I’m content to write about those subjects on behalf of my friends at Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) and i2E, Inc.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t admire an awesome new facility like the Don Betz STEM Research and Learning Center on the University of Central Oklahoma campus.

UCO officially opened the new 57,000-square-foot facility with a ribbon cutting ceremony this past Wednesday. I was among about 200 people fortunate to attend.

After the speeches and the ribbon cutting, we were invited inside to check it out.

The Don Betz Center, named after the current UCO President, features state-of-the-art research and teaching labs for multiple academic disciplines and a striking lecture hall that can accommodate 80 students.

As I wandered the halls taking it all in, I encountered Dr. Thomas Kupiec, CEO of Oklahoma City’s ARL Biopharma and DNA Solutions. He and his wife, Carolyn, were visiting with Michael Carolina, OCAST executive director. I consider them all friends of mine and stopped to chat for a moment.

I knew that Dr. Kupiec was a UCO graduate, earning his undergraduate degrees there, but did not realize how involved he remains with the university. He is a member of the UCO Foundation Board of Trustees, and his Kupiec Family Foundation provided funding for the Betz Center’s lecture hall.

Dr. Kupiec pointed me to the lecture hall just across the corridor from where we were talking, so I walked over to check it out. A sign on the outside wall identified it as the Kupiec Family Foundation Lecture Hall, so I stepped inside.

The lecture hall is breathtaking, with theater style seating, sleek white tables and massive video screens scattered throughout.

The lecture hall also doubles as a storm shelter and is identified as such at the entrance.

The rest of the two-story Betz Center was equally impressive. I saw labs filled with microscopes and chemistry hoods. I toured a teaching facility for nurses that looked like an actual hospital room. I saw large racks of computer servers.

Hanging on the walls in the interior corridor were the original drawings of the building as envisioned by the architects at Elliot & Associates.

The Don Betz Center appears to be a perfect place to launch the next generation of chemists, health care professionals and research scientists for whom science, technology, engineering and math are no barriers.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing about it.

Inside the Kupiec Family Foundation Lecture Hall