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Co-op on display at RISE:2015

Each year I attend RISE, Northeastern’s annual research, innovation, and scholarship expo, I leave even more impressed with the high level and range of research happening here. But this year, I’ve been thinking more about how many of the research projects presented at the event stem in one way or another from students’ experiential learning opportunities—particularly co-op.

Take the College of Engineering senior capstone team that developed the Intelligent Virtual Reality Augmented Cycling Kit, or iVRACK, after recognizing a need for a more quantifiable way to measure post-stroke victims’ physical therapy success. One of those students, Benjamin Russell, E’15, noted how he used skills he learned from a product development co-op at Boston Device Development to help create pedals that attach to a stationary bike and measure a patient’s force and angle as he works the foot-operated levers. Russell said the team got good results during lab tests and hopes iVRACK could someday be utilized in outpatient facilities.

Another engineering capstone team presenting at RISE—and which I profiled recently—developed the “farm arm,” a prosthetic limb designed to help amputee agricultural workers operate tractors. All five students drew from their co-ops for this project.

Caroline Coughlin, SSH’16, a combined major in international affairs and economics, and Megan Carroll, SSH’15, a combined major in political science and international affairs, presented a comparative case study of independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia. They noted that these secession movements are quite different, despite the fact that both the media and academia characterize them as similar. They also found that the evolutions of those movements were heavily influenced by the state responses to them.

For their project, they drew upon their international co-op experiences, as well as additional research. Coughlin worked on co-op for Jackie Baillie, a member of the Scottish Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament. She was able to directly campaign (for the “Better Together” or “no” campaign) in the referendum, as well as do research and write speeches for use in Parliamentary debates. Carroll, for her part, worked at the Catalan National Assembly in Barcelona, which is the leading civil society organization promoting Catalan independence from Spain. “Comparing our opinions and experiences gave us the idea for this project,” Carroll said.

In our story on RISE:2015, we noted the cybersecurity research project presented by Neel Shah, E’15, and Tushar Swamy, E/S’15. But one thing we didn’t mention was that Shah’s co-op at Mitre Corporation, a nonprofit that operates research and development centers sponsored by the federal government, served as the inspiration for his project. Upon returning to campus, he sought out research opportunities in Internet architecture and security.

Ditto for history major Martha Pearson, SSH’15, whose co-op at the Northeastern University Archives inspired her research project to explore the interplay between education civil rights in Boston and busing desegregation.

And if those aren’t enough examples of how co-op influenced the projects on display at RISE, how about architecture student Christina Dadona, AMD’16, who returned to campus from co-op in Washington this semester to present her research examining opportunities to stitch together the urban fabric of East Boston.

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