TryEngineering Today! is dedicated to providing the latest news and information for students, parents, teachers, and counselors interested in engineering, computing technology and related topics.
Engineers at Washington University in St. Louis are developing a new biorobotic sensing system that will capitalize on locusts' highly advanced sense of smell. In studying locusts, the researchers found that they are able to correctly identify odors across a number of different situations, such as in the presence of other odors or overlapping scents, or in varying environmental conditions. They also found that odors prompt patterns of neural activity in the locusts' brains that can be analyzed. The researchers developed miniature electronic components to monitor the neural activity of the locusts, and gather, record and transmit data. A remote control system will also be developed to enable the researchers to steer the locusts' movement. Biocompatible silk tattoos that generate mild heat will be applied to the locusts' wings enabling them to be guided to particular locations. The researchers hope that locusts might serve as a more robust and cost effective alternative to using canines for homeland security and even medical diagnosis purposes.
Check out this great article on CNN.com about career opportunities for women with STEM degrees, including some great insights from IEEE Fellow, Karen Panetta.
Researchers at the University of California have developed an underwater microscope that captures images of the sea floor and its inhabitants as tiny as one-hundredth of a millimeter. The Benthic Underwater Microscope, or BUM, employs miniature cameras and efficient LED lights to provide illuminated, focused, and stable underwater views of marine life.
The microscope has real-time recording capabilities and can be controlled by the diver via a computer interface. A squishy tunable lens allows divers to rapidly focus on objects with three-dimensional relief in focus. The microscope is equipped with one housing system for the camera, lights, and lens and another for the computer which controls the camera, a live diver interface and data storage.
The researchers tested the microscope in California as well as in the Red Sea near Eilat, Israel. During testing, the microscope uncovered never-before-seen views of coral polyps "kissing" to share food. The microscope also provided a glimpse into how coral colonies work together to wage chemical warfare against their enemies and other species of coral. The researchers were also able to get microscale views of algae colonizing bleached corals in Hawaii.
It is anticipated that the microscope will be used to investigate questions such as how kelp propagate, how corals and algae compete, and how coral diseases progress. Future improvements to the microscope such as better resolution and frame rates and exciting applications in virtual reality are also envisioned.
Frustrated when you can't get that last bit of shampoo out of the bottle? Engineers at Ohio State University have developed a coating that enables soaps and detergents to slide more easily out of their containers. The coating is made up of little y-shaped nanoparticles made of silica or quartz. After being treated, these y-shaped nanoparticles do not allow soap to stick to them. They also prevent the soap droplets from touching the inside of the bottle by holding them atop tiny air pockets.
Coatings already exist to help food get out of bottles, but soap is trickier. Soaps have very low surface tension, which cause them to stick to plastics easily. To create the coating, the researchers sprayed a mixture of solvent and silica nanoparticles into plastic bottles, causing the inside surface to soften. When the plastic re-hardened, the silica became embedded in the surface of the plastic. Positioning the y-shaped silica structures a few millimeters apart on the inside of the bottle prevents soap from touching the plastic, and causes it to form beads and roll off.
Although getting all of the product out of a shampoo bottle sounds like a frivolous problem, it has a big environmental impact. Billions of bottles with product still inside them end up discarded in landfills. This innovation will also help with recycling, since plastics must be rinsed clean before they can be recycled. The researchers have already applied the coating on other materials such as smartphone covers and headlights. They also hope that the technology can be used on biomedical devices that need to remain clean such as catheters.
Photo credit: Image from video by Philip S. Brown, courtesy of The Ohio State University.
Researchers at Stanford University are leveraging the now discontinued Google Glass technology to improve the lives of people with autism. The Autism Glass project is investigating how the technology might help autistic children learn how to read emotions. The researchers developed facial recognition software that runs on Google Glass, a headset worn like a pair of glasses that is equipped with a forward-facing camera and a small display that can be seen by the user. The 100 children participating in the study wear the device for approximately 20 minutes per day while interacting with friends and family members. When the camera and software detect an emotion, an emotion word such as "happy" and an accompanying happy emoji flash on the wearer's visual display. The software is operated by a smart phone, which also records the sessions so they can be reviewed later. Although still in its early stages, children participating in the study have shown gains in their abilities to read faces. The researchers hope that this technology will prove promising in helping people with autism develop their social engagement skills.
Video credit: Associated Press
Researchers in Iceland have made a significant breakthrough in the battle against climate change by developing a process that can turn carbon dioxide into stone. The Carbfix project, led by the University of Southampton in the U.K., developed an economal way to bury CO2 and turn it into stone, where it can no longer contribute to global warming. The research involved pumping CO2 into volcanic rock, while expediting processes where basalts react with the gas to create carbonate minerals. This process of turning CO2 into a solid took only 2 years, as compared to the hundreds or even thousands of years initally predicted. This method has advantages over current carbon capture and storage (CCS) methods that store CO2 as a gas, which is both costly and runs the risk of leakage. The new process does require 25 tons of water for each ton of CO2 buried, but the researchers anticipate that seawater can be used for this purpose.
To celebrate the launch of BEAM, the first expandable habitat to the International Space Station, and the launch of AMF, the first commercial 3D printer in space, we are challenging students to think outside the box with 3D printing – literally. If you are a K-12 student in the United States, your challenge is to design an object that assembles, telescopes, hinges, accordions, grows, or expands to become larger than the printing bounds of the AMF 3D printer (14cm long x 10cm wide x 10cm tall). The assembled or expanded item should be useful for an astronaut living in microgravity on the International Space Station.
The deadline to enter is Aug. 1, 2016
Researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are investigating the use of drones to study, detect, and track bonnethead sharks. The primary aim of this research is to study shark ecology and aid conservation of shark species. The researchers are testing how well drones can locate sharks in different habitats and in various water conditions; a job that was previously accomplished using planes. The drones are equipped with cameras which can capture imagery of coastal areas that can be difficult to access. By keeping track of the location of sharks, the drones can also help reduce the incidence of shark bites during beach season. The researchers are currently testing the effectiveness of the drones to determine whether they can be used exclusively to monitor shark activity.
2015 IEEE Presidents' Scholarship winner, Alex Tacescu's Project Maverick was recently featured on The Tonight Show. Project Maverick is an omni-directional robotic system designed to provide a mobility solution for people with walking disabilities by mimicking the movement patterns of humans. The drive system allows the user to move in any direction using 4 steering and 4 driving electronically synchronized motors, creating the same degrees of motion as an able person. The IEEE Foundation established the IEEE Presidents' Scholarship fund to accept donations to support the financial resources students need to pursue their engineering dreams.
Unlock the intriguing world of cybersecurity in this issue of IEEE Spark. Learn about data protection techniques, meet a cybersecurity expert, practice code breaking, and check out resources to build your cyber skills.