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Petroleum Engineering Student Develops Innovative Border Technology

February 6, 2019
Luis Salinas mug shot
Luis Salinas used his UW education to patent a border-security device that will benefit police dogs. (Luis Salinas photo)

Luis Salinas has always displayed a creative side, and recently has patented a product that could save the lives of police dogs at the United States-Mexico border.

Salinas hails from McAllen, Texas, and will graduate with a degree in petroleum engineering in spring 2020. He and his friend Edward Maxwell have developed a device that can change how border traffic is regulated.

“I grew up in a border town. Every day, people are trying to move drugs through the port of entry in cars. I thought of a solution that hopefully helps officers and canines,” Salinas says. “We created a device that will scan cars and trucks remotely. It will isolate each car’s smell individually in maybe 12 seconds. You can get a car scanned completely by sending the odor to a canine, which will now be in an air-conditioned room.

“The dogs will no longer be zig-zagging between the lanes in 110 degrees or more. The main problem is that (using the dogs outside), you cannot scan every single car because of the time.”

Salinas followed a non-traditional academic path, first enrolling at the Marion Military School in Alabama and then pursuing his passion for medicine at the Catholic University of Cordoba in Argentina. After much soul-searching, he decided to pursue a career in a different scientific field—engineering. Throughout his academic and personal journeys, he has developed diverse intellectual interests, ranging from artificial intelligence to healthcare innovation and entrepreneurship. He enjoys research and has worked for the chemical engineering, petroleum engineering and petrophysics departments at UW.

He and Maxwell wanted to address concerns about how heat exhaustion affects military working dogs and police canines. Salinas says in 2016, 11 police dogs died due to heat exhaustion. When temperatures exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit, 15 minutes is considered the upper limit of a work period, followed by rest periods of at least 40 minutes. Their new device allows the dogs and handlers to stay indoors, protected from the heat, to minimize risk.

The device also can be fitted for advanced X-rays or gas spectrometry. Salinas says the duo developed have three novelties, but needed just one to successfully get the patent.

“Innovating and trying to help people—creating something so I can help others—that’s my passion,” he says. “Professors have said they haven’t met someone like me, who thinks so abstractly. I have done six semesters of research. My freshman year, I started working in the petroleum engineering department doing research. Now I’m working on petrophysics. I’m working on another project with artificial intelligence, that hopefully I can patent before graduation, that will help the petroleum industry.”

Salinas believes his work in petroleum engineering can have applications in the medical field.

“Medicine and petroleum can help each other, because petroleum research focuses on porous media and spends millions on it,” he says. “Some of the work can apply to human bones. Why not help each other? Hopefully I can implement artificial intelligence, with applications for rocks and bones.”

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