Home > TryEngineering Today!

TryEngineering Today!

Bookmark and Share

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.

Recent Graduate Develops Cost-Effective Smartphone Microscope

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A recent graduate of the University of Washington, Thomas Larson, has developed a device that can transform a smartphone or tablet into a portable microscope. Referred to as the Micro Phone Lens, this soft flexible lens can be attached to a phone's camera without the use of adhesives. Larson's invention is significantly less expensive than previously developed smartphone magnification devices. About the size of a button, the lens enables objects to be magnified up to 15 times on the screen of a device running in camera mode. The device requires an external light source, such as a lamp, to be turned on to see objects clearly on the screen. Focusing in on an object requires moving the device either closer to it or farther away. Larson is now working on a version of the lens that can magnify objects up to 150 times. 


Categories: Innovations

Engineers Catch Waves to Generate Power

Monday, April 7, 2014

Engineers at Brown University have developed a unique device that can harness the power of the tides. A device that can capture tidal power is particularly attractive because it can offer a more reliable and constant source of energy than wind turbines and watermills. However, tidal energy is particularly difficult to control, especially in shallow water. Tidal energy systems are also very expensive to create and very few exist in the world today. To develop the device, the researchers designed a pole equipped with several wings or hydrofoil. When mounted on the sea floor, the wings are moved up and down by the movement of the tides, similar to the way the wings of an airplane catch air. An algorithm controls the fine motion of the wings to maximize efficiency. This up and down movement is then used to power a generator. The device is particularly effective in shallow water, because a wide wing can cover a span that would require several watermills arranged side-by-side. The hydrofoil device can even fold down flat to allow for passing ships. The researchers soon hope to develop a larger prototype of the hydrofoil device for field testing. 


Categories: Innovations

Engineering the Cone of Silence

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Engineers at Duke University have developed a three dimensional acoustic cloaking device that can shield objects from sound waves. The device consists of a stack of perforated plastic plates arranged in the shape of a pyramid. When placed around an object, the device alters the trajectory of sound waves so they behave as if they were reflecting off a flat surface. The researchers tested the device by placing a small sphere beneath it, and then pinging it with sound waves from different angles. They then compared these results with tests of the sphere alone and with a flat plane. They found that the device created the impression that the waves were bouncing off an empty surface. This technology has potential applications ranging from shielding submarines from sonar to improving the acoustics of concert halls. 

Categories: Innovations

Wetlands Inspire Water Filtration System

Monday, March 17, 2014
egret in wetlands

UCLA researchers have developed a reusable water system that mimics the filtration processes of the wetlands. Known as the Gray2Blue Mobile Wetland Graywater Treatment System, the system takes gray water from showers, sinks, and laundry rooms and filters it so it can be used for tasks like watering trees and lawns. Gray water is filtered through a flower bed that sits atop a rectangular box, which then circulates down through the plant roots over the course of about 3 hours. The water then is filtered further through a biofilm of bacteria and then drips into a collection bin connected to irrigation pipes and a storage container. The system has a maximum output of 560 gallons of reusable water per day, which can have uses including flushing toilets and watering gardens. This water-saving innovation has the potential to aid conservation efforts in areas of water shortages or drought, which has plagued California over the last several years. 

Source: UCLA Today

Categories: Innovations

Calling all Computing Students and Professionals!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Are you a computing university student or professional? Do you want to inspire future generations to consider computing? Visit www.trycomputing.org and submit your profile to be considered for inclusion on the site. 

IEEE TryComputing.org is a free online pre-university computing education Web site. IEEE TryComputing.org offers resources to inform and engage pre-university students, their teachers, school counselors and parents about computing and related careers. 

Submit your profile today!

Water Filtration by Nature

Monday, March 10, 2014
Courtesy: National Science Foundation

A team of investigators including an associate mechanical engineering professor from MIT, a secondary school teacher, and a secondary school student have designed and tested a water filtration system that uses the wood of the pine tree as a filter. The inspiration for the system came from the way trees can filter out air bubbles within their circulatory systems while allowing sap to flow. The researchers first tested dried wood samples, but found that the drying process affects the system of channels, or xylem, within the tree, making it an ineffective filter. They then tested fresh pine wood stripped of its bark, by placing a cross section, an inch long and a half inch in diameter inside a tube. The researchers discovered that the wood filtered out red food dye particles as small as 100 nanometers in size. Additional tests discovered that the wood was also effective at filtering out E. coli bacteria. The pine wood filter can purify up to 4 liters of water per day. The investigators believe that pine wood has the potential to become part of the next generation of inexpensive water filters. 

Source: Boston.com

Categories: Innovations

Silkworms Help Mend Broken Bones

Friday, March 7, 2014

A team of researchers from Tufts University School of Engineering and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has developed surgical plates and implants for bone fractures made from silk protein derived from Bombyx mori silkworm cocoons. As opposed to metal or synthetic polymer implants, which can cause infections requiring removal, silk implants can actually be absorbed by the body over time. The researchers found that the silk implants can withstand extreme conditions such as high temperatures, and can easily be sterilized. Silk screws can also be used to deliver antibiotics to surgical sites to reduce the chance of infection. Silk implants do not show up on X-rays, which enables surgeons to better visualize how fractures are healing. It is anticipated that silk screws could be quite beneficial for surgeries for facial injuries and other type of bone fractures. This work represents the first time silk has been used to develop a medical device to repair bone fractures. 

Source: Tufts

Categories: Innovations

Enter the Doodle 4 Google competition!

Monday, February 24, 2014
robot arm sketch

Before there was an airplane, there were doodles of cool flying machines. And before there was a submarine, there were doodles of magical underwater sea explorers. Since the beginning of time, ideas big and small, practical and playful, have started out as doodles. One talented young artist (grades K-12) will see his or her artwork on the Google homepage and receive a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 Google for Education technology grant for his or her school. The 2014 theme of the Google 4 Doodle competition is "If I Could Invent One Thing To Make the World a Better Place..."

Learn more...


Check Out Discover Engineering Family Day!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

If you are going to be in the D.C. area this weekend, stop by Discover Engineering Family Day at the National Building Museum on Saturday, 22 February between the hours of 10:00a and 4:30p.  IEEE will be hosting a fun brushbot activity alongside dozens of other exhibitors! (If you can't attend the event, learn how to make your own brushbot at home.)

At Discover Engineering Family Day visitors can also:

  • Meet astronaut Dr. Robert Crouch
  • See engineer Nate Ball, co-host of PBS' Design Squad Nation, demonstrate the Atlas Power Ascender
  • Make slime
  • Control a robot
  • Build a skyscraper
  • Catapult a Ping Pong ball
  • Test the strength of a building in a tsunami
  • Meet Curious George and Cat in the Hat from WETA and PBSKids

Discover Engineering Family Day is a FREE, drop-in program. $5 donation suggested. Program and activities are most appropriate for children ages 6 to 12 with adult supervision. Registration is not required. 

Check out some highlights from last year's event:



Categories: Events

The Next Generation of Cochlear Implants

Monday, February 10, 2014
cochlear implant

Cochlear implants are medical breakthroughs that have provided the sense of sound to those who would otherwise be deaf or severely hard of hearing. These devices, which electrically stimulate the auditory nerve, rely on external components including a transmitter, microphone and power source, that are wired from around the ear to the wearer's skull. Researchers at MIT have developed a low-power signal-processing chip that could be used to create a cochlear implant that no longer requires external components. The new cohclear implant would utilize a sensor that detects vibrations from bones in the middle ear and transmits them to a microchip implantented in the ear. These vibrations would then be converted into an electrical signal and sent to an electrode in the cochlea. To lower the power requirements of the converter chip, the researchers optimized the arrangement of low-power filters and amplifiers, and developed a more power-efficient signal-generating circuit. This new cochlear implant could even be charged wirelessly in only two minutes using a device that plugs into a smart phone, for a charge that would last up to eight hours. 

Source: MIT News

Categories: Innovations