Water as Destiny

Annette von Jouanne

There’s something serendipitous, almost poetic, about von Jouanne’s work in wave energy. She was raised in Seattle, a metropolis laced with lakes and bedeviled by drizzle. Growing up, she never went anywhere without first tossing a Speedo in her backpack, just in case a chance for a swim presented itself.

When she wasn’t swimming, Annette was tinkering. As a girl, she would borrow her engineer father’s screwdrivers to take apart the family TV and would study her college-age brothers’ engineering texts.

A competitive swimmer in college, von Jouanne married a member of the Portuguese Olympic swim team — Alex Yokochi, who is also an engineering professor at OSU. They swim daily in their dual-flume workout pool at home. They named their oldest daughter Sydney for the 2000 Olympics and their younger daughter Naiya, Hawaiian for the wild dolphins the couple has swum with in Key Largo and Kauai.

Alan Wallace

Wallace, like von Jouanne, was the child of an engineer and grew up taking apart household appliances. Although his hometown of Sheffield is landlocked, Wallace notes that “no place in England is very far from the sea.” Every year, his family summered on the coast in an old boat that had been converted to a vacation cottage. At night, lying in his room in the prow of the grounded vessel, young Alan would fall asleep to the lap, lap, lap of North Atlantic waves.

It was the North Atlantic that first piqued Wallace’s interest in ocean-generated power. As a graduate student at the University of Sheffield in the 1960s, he attended a seminar about capturing the enormous energy of the tides that surge through Bristol Channel. “It stuck with me,” he says, “all these years.”

After a 25-year career designing innovative linear motors for transit systems — in places as far-flung as Detroit, Toronto, and Turkey — Wallace was, in a sense, circling back when he teamed up with von Jouanne to puzzle out the problem of wave energy.

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