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Professor named technology ambassador

Computer science Professor Alexander Ferworn will be presented with a 2014 Partners in Research (PIR) Technology Ambassador Award in Ottawa next week.

Partners in Research is an organization that recognizes exceptional Canadian research and the communication of that research to the general public. Ferworn is one of eight research ambassadors to be honoured on May 23. The Technology Ambassador Award of PIR recognizes outstanding contributions of a body of work over a period of time to the field of technology and to Canadians and their promotion to the public by a Canadian researcher.

“It seems like our contributions to the field of Computational Public Safety (CPS) are just beginning to be practically useful,” Ferworn said. “It has always been my hope that the results of our form of applied research would be considered on its merits. Perhaps the most ambitious of our goals is that our technology will contribute to saving lives. At the end of the day, all I did was insist the stuff we make is useful for the emergency first responders who will use it and try and spread the message to broaden public interest in CPS.”

Ferworn was nominated by Imogen Coe, dean of the Faculty of Science, because of his research interest in urban search and rescue (USAR).

The citation says: “Prof. Ferworn’s research has been focused on and driven by his strong connection with and commitment to practitioners, and to addressing and solving their real-world problems. His commitment to understanding the real-world problems of urban search and rescue led Prof. Ferworn to becoming an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Auxilliary Police Officer attached to the OPP UCRT from 2008 to 2010.

“Essentially, most of Prof. Ferworn’s research involves improving USAR and other public safety processes in order to reduce the amount of time it takes to find trapped people in rubble after an urban disaster with the goal of improving survival rates.

“The success of the canine augmentation technology project was followed by the Canine Remote Deployment System (CRDS), which allows a dog to release a package to a survivor based on the continuous barking of a dog that has found a victim. The CRDS has been used operationally by the OPP since 2006.

“Dr. Ferworn has whole-heartedly embraced the importance and value of translating his research and explaining its value and impact to the general public. Taken as a whole, Prof. Ferworn’s research addresses the realities of life and the unexpected nature of disaster.

His unique line of inquiry makes Ontarians safer every day as he works to create the tools that could one day save their lives. It is very rare that a research program so closely aligns with the needs of the public in such fundamental ways—creating a safer society for us all.”

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