USAO Professor, Students Earn Distinct DaVinci Awards
CHICKASHA -- Nearly 500 years after his death, Renaissance man Leonardo DaVinci is still alive and well in the form of movies, books and one statewide organization devoted to higher education in Oklahoma. Last month, the DaVinci Institute honored two students and a faculty member at the University of Science and Arts at a special reception in the Oklahoma History Center.
Dr. John K. Johnson, professor of computer science, was one of three Oklahoma professors who received the annual DaVinci Fellows awards for creative approaches to teaching and research.
Johnson, who has taught at USAO for 20 years, was selected for his research and work with robotics and artificial intelligence.
" I was very flattered, honored and happy to have the award," Johnson said. " It's nice to have someone else's perspective of your research. It's good to have other colleagues appreciate it and recognize you for your work."
Last fall, Johnson's team of USAO undergraduates and graduates competed in an international urban robotic vehicle race sponsored by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. His Team Nova finished in the top 50 teams in a race with nearly 200 teams from six countries.
The DaVinci Fellows award for faculty is based on the premise that creative thought and insight are fundamental components of extraordinary scholarship and teaching across all academic disciplines.
Johnson received $1,000 and a medal as part of the DaVinci Fellows recognition.
Dr. Sanders Huguenin, vice president of academic affairs at USAO, serves as president of DaVinci Institute.
" Dr. Johnson's work is not only groundbreaking, it takes biological models of thought and applies them to software," Huguenin said. " His ability to do what he does with a low budget and undergraduate workers is impressive. The fact that he made it to the top third against national research universities with millions of dollars, with merely thousands of dollars to work with, makes him and his innovative research worthy of this kind of statewide distinction."
The institute also recognized two USAO students with the annual Martin-DaVinci Scholar awards for demonstrating creativity, academic achievement and a commitment to teaching.
As part of their distinction, Mustang history senior Kimberly Massicote and Oklahoma City elementary education senior Thomas Parker each will receive $3,000 when they begin teaching after graduating this spring.
" Our students received excellent recommendations," Huguenin said. " Although I was not on the committee that made the decision to recognize the students, I am very pleased that USAO was so well represented by these students."
According to Huguenin, the DaVinci Institute " is the only intellectual organization that connects all Oklahoma institutions of Higher Learning, both public and private, across disciplinary lines. DaVinci is committed to fostering a statewide renaissance by promoting creativity and interdisciplinary discourse."
The goal of the institute is to nurture the arts, sciences, humanities and education in Oklahoma through academic and community partnerships, programming and public awareness.
During its annual banquet, the institute named two other recipients for this year's DaVinci Fellows award: Mary Ann Moore from Oklahoma City Community College and Wayne Stein from the University of Central Oklahoma. Eight undergraduate students representing UCO, Northeastern State University, Oklahoma State University and Northwestern Oklahoma State University also were named DaVinci Scholars.
The guest speaker for the evening was Elizabeth Catlos, an associate professor in the Boone Pickens School of Geology at Oklahoma State University. Catlos was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of " America's Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences."