Paper Thin Speakers and Microphones

Paper Thin SpeakersMichigan State University Research

In an amazing research development, scientists at the Michigan State University, have created a transducer that is paper thin.

From the Michigan State University website posted by Andy Henlon, MSU associate professor Nelson Sepulveda states:

“This is the first transducer that is ultrathin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy.”

This team created the FENG, the Ferroelectret Nanogenerator, and this research extends that development so that the energy conversion can be bi-directional, thus increasing its functionality.

In a really impressive video, they show how they converted a Michigan State University green and white Spartan flag into a speaker.

Fascinating work. A great way to show your students some cutting edge research that has huge societal implications.

Questions for Discussions

  1. What is FENG?
  2. Describe the difference between mechanical energy and electrical energy.
  3. What was the process by which they created the device?
  4. How are the ions added to each layer?
  5. What uses can your class brainstorm for this technology?
  6. Are there any negative implications they can imagine?

 

Inspiring Video- Indiana University Faculty Builds Arm with 3-D Printer

Inspiring Video- 3-D Printing Creates New Hand for Young Girl

Looking for an inspiring video to get you going today?

Jon Racek, senior lecturer, at Indiana University, created a prosthetic arm for a nine year old girl born without a hand using a 3-D printer.

The four minute video is wonderful to share with colleagues and students reminding us about the importance of using our skills to serve those in need.

He shares a bit about his career path-from being a successful designer with his work featured in national publications, but changed paths as he found it ultimately unfulfilling. As he moved careers and began teaching, he looked for ways to give back.

Then, he became acquainted with the family of the 9 year old girl who was born without a hand. They share their story of loss and frustration and ultimately great joy as she adapts to live with her new 3-D hand.

A very well done video and article. 

Want more inspiring tech stories? Click here to read about college students focused on using 3-D printing to help those in need.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What field did Jon Racek start out in?
  2. Why did he ultimately leave?
  3. What were Violet’s parents’ reactions when she was born with one hand?
  4. What activities did Violet engage in despite this challenge?
  5. How did Jon and the family connect?
  6. What was Jon’s experience with 3-D printing?
  7. How does 3-D printing work?
  8. What are some of the challenges in 3-D printing a prosthetic limb?
  9. What other uses for 3-D printing can you imagine?

Falcon Cam at Bowling Green State University

Biology teachers and those interested in ecology and wildlife will definitely want to check out Falcon Cam at Bowling Green State University.

A pair of Peregrine Falcons, the mascot of Bowling Green State University have chosen to nest once again, the seventh year in a row, at the Wood County Courthouse. The county and the university have teamed up to provide Falcon Cam, a way for students, educators, and interested nature fans to have access to the amazing nesting process.

Educators will especially love the Peregrine Falcon facts on the webpage. Did you know that they have a wingspan of 40 inches and that females are more powerful than males?

Learn about these fascinating birds on Falcon Cam at Bowling Green State University. This is an excellent resource, worthy of a few minutes of your time.

Click here for Bowling Green’s Falcon Cam.

Questions for Discussion (answers on the Falcon Cam website)

  1. How long is an adult’s wingspan?
  2. What is the adult falcon’s diving speed?
  3. Describe the adult falcon’s appearance.
  4. Describe the nesting behavior of the falcon.
  5. How many eggs are usually in a nest?
  6. Who incubates the eggs?
  7. What is a young falcon called?
  8. Describe the process for falcon’s learning to fly.

March for Science Educator Resources

Educators and parents looking to help provide resources to enrich their discussions regarding the March for Science might want to consider the following:

Yale News: Truth in the Internet Age-Science Under Siege While the title is quite stark, this link takes you to a brief (about 3 minutes) video highlighting a series of symposia Yale has been offering regarding the issues related to science in our “post-truth” climate.

University of Michigan News: Stand Up for Science-Teach Out UMich wants to extend the conversation beyond today’s march. They are offering a free online “teach-out” on May 5 on the edX platform to help provide additional information. This link features a video and information about their intentions to help scientists and science supporters engage in effective communication and dialogue about science and its fundamental importance in a civil society.

March for Science Principles and Goals: The website for the organization has a list of their principles and goals, with a special emphasis on diversity and inclusion.

Harvard Gazette: Harvard Gazette features an interview with the European Union Science Commissioner regarding the role that scientists can play in being vocal about science, telling the story about the myriad ways in which our lives are enhanced by science and technology.

University of Alabama- Adam Jones wrote an informative article about how University of Alabama engineering students created a car for a child with special needs. The video is inspiring and at a great inspiration and reminder of why we believe in education and science.

Women Coders- Solution?

How do we promote full inclusion in our educational and vocational systems?

Common sense might suggest that simply encouraging more participation in certain subject areas or certain industries will fix the problem.
But does it?

Maybe not, according to UCLA faculty member Miriam Posner, who teaches in the digital humanities department.

She lays forth an interesting argument that highlights a deeper division within the computer programming industry-the rift between designers, “front end” and engineers, “back end.” Apparently, the “back end” workers have more prestige, earn higher salaries, and tend to be males-often considered the “geniuses” of the industry.

In a “Hidden Figures” style revelation, apparently women were among the earliest computer programmers, but were pushed out by market forces which propelled men to the forefront. I am curious to read Nathan Ensmenger’s, The Computer Boys Take Overwhich more fully lays out this argument.

Educators and parents interested in a thought provoking opinion piece should definitely check out Miriam Posner’s essay.

I only wish there was a simple solution.

For more on computer historian Nathan Ensmenger, check out his website

Questions for Discussion

1.”Technology has a gender problem, as everyone knows,” according to Miriam Posner-discuss this with your students-have they noticed it, what examples can they cite for this, what exceptions are there to this statement? Is it an effective lead or “grabber?”

2. What does she mean, “But in practice, when more women enter a role, its value seems to go down more.” What evidence would you look for if you wanted data to support or refute this statement?

3. What change does Coraline Ada Ehmke describe occurring in the industry?

4. What does Nathan Ensmenger highlight as ways to protect the status of an industry?

5. What does Marle Hicks identify as the real problem in the industry?

6. Miriam Posner’s essay does not end with any solutions to the problems highlighted in the essay, what solutions can your students brainstorm that would help improve the role and status of women in the “tech” sector?

 

EnableUC-Engineering Students Changing the World with 3D Printing

                                                           enableuc
EnableUC, a University of Cincinnati engineering student group, is on a mission.
Quite simply, they want to make your life better. This inspirational group, whose work on providing prosthetic limbs, created by 3-D printing to underprivileged individuals,  have taken the time to share their story with us.
Below, is an email interview primarily with Michael, member of EnableUC, edited only for clarity.
1. Can you tell Wide Open Research readers a bit about how you wanted to go into engineering and specifically how you chose to work on the prosthetics?
“For me personally, I always have wanted to help people out medically because I see it as one of the most immediate ways to improve someone’s life as well as get to work directly with the people you help.
As I explored majors and careers, however, I felt that my mind was more engineering driven. With this in mind, biomedical engineering just seemed like a perfect fit. I thought initially that a lot of BMEs do prosthetics and such, but the major is much more broad, and I never was really exposed to that world until Jacob, our president and founder, reached out to me about starting Enable UC.
I think Jacob really saw an opportunity through the larger E-nable open source site to help patients he had interacted with at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime. Since kids are constantly growing, they don’t want to waste it at that age, but a lot of times. by the time a child is fully grown, they are so used to using their non defective hand that when they actually get a prosthetic, they don’t even use it. This helps  combat both of those issues.”

“The prosthetics just seemed like a great way to provide a service that a lot of children don’t get because insurance usually only covers the cost of one prosthetic during their lifetime.”

2.  What sort of general knowledge did you learn in high school that was foundational for your engineering success at college? Concepts, skills, facts, etc. 
“I would say the biggest thing I learned is how to solve problems. While the classes I take here can sometimes be much different than my high school classes, I would say the science and math I took began to help me find ways to solve problems, and that is really what an engineer’s job is all about. So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

“So take that physics class or that engineering foundations class. They will help you begin to turn those engineering gears in your head.”

3. How much time do you commit to the Enable team and how do you balance your class responsibilities? What advice would you give high school students on managing the demands of college….
“I personally work on a lot of the upfront patient relations of the enable team, so a lot of my time was spent up front finding patients for us to design solutions for.
While this takes some time, I would say the best things to do are to be realistic with your time, schedule it out, and write down the things you want to accomplish and get done with each task.
The biggest advice I would give to a high schooler transitioning into college is to establish habits early and stick to them because they will create your patterns for the rest of your career. “
4.  What are some cool science/tech things you wished you would have explored more in high school?
“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity and help you understand the trajectory of science and tech moving forward.
Things like 3D printing, unique clean energy solutions, nano-technology, and more are really cool things that show how much our world is constantly innovating and creating new solutions to the many problems we have in our world.”

“I wish I would have explored more of the cutting edge devices and tech magazines out there because those can spark creativity….”

5. Did you have any moments in high school where it really became apparent that you wanted to go into engineering? Any classes or teachers that really inspired you?
“I don’t remember their being a really strong moment for me in terms of an ah-ha moment, but I do remember absolutely loving designing both a mouse trap car and a Rube Goldberg device during my science classes in high school.
What I think I loved was figuring out how to best solve the problem and doing so in a group setting that allowed me to work with and understand a team and how each individual works within that team to solve our problem.”

6.  With the many distractions that high school students face these days, how would you recommend teachers really engage students?
“I think one really unique way to do this would be to challenge them at the beginning to tell me some cool things they might want to learn from the subject and having them outline some of what they want to get out of the class besides just an A.
I think if that could then be tied in more deeply with the lesson plans, that would help engage students because they would feel they had an active part in determining their learning.”
7. Any  luck with the crowd funded project?
“We have had some awesome luck with it. We reached our initial goal to provide funding for our first myo-electric prosthetic project, which is currently in the design process already! We think our unique organization allows students to really get hands on experience and change lives. This translates really well to people who might have a few bucks to get rid of. I think we will continue to see this success moving forward as well.”
A hand they made from 3-D printing:
14188153_1094358930612049_1417089260315051067_o
8.  I know  that Enable UC was interested in helping high school students who might not know much about engineering become exposed to the field. What sort of outreach have you been working on?
“We have done some local Cincinnati high school outreach where we are basically trying to get students exposed to what we do by showing them our organization as well as providing seminars about engineering, design, Solidworks, etc.
This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at UC to try to draw them towards engineering. We also plan to go into schools and set up those seminars that I mentioned, but we are in the early stages of our outreach.”

“This fall we presented to hundreds of local high schoolers at University of Cincinnati to try to draw them towards engineering.”

9. Any good ideas about how to help more “non-traditional” students become interested in engineering?
“I think the best way to get non-traditional students to really get interested in engineering is to relate it to their interests. For example, maybe they are an athlete. Being able to teach them about the forces their muscles provide when doing their sport could make them interested in engineering. Just finding ways to relate engineering concepts to their interests is the best way to pique someone’s interest.”
After graduation Michael is going to be working in a tech-start-up, other UCEnable members are continuing their studies in medical school, graduate school, and work in the medical device industry.
EnableUC is still seeking to serve. So, if you would like to contact them to get more information about their group or if you know someone who could benefit from their work on prosthetics please reach out to them @EnableUC.
For more reading on 3-D Printing, please read this article:

Your Brain Never Rests-Wayne State University Research

Your Brain Never Rests (1)

Anyone interested in understanding more about that most fascinating topic-the human brain, should check out the new research by Detroit’s Wayne State University researcher Vaibhav Diwadkar, which suggests that the brain never really is at rest.

Using an fMRI, subjects were asked to perform a simple behavior-tapping their finger when they saw a visual cue. So, the researcher was able to distinguish brain activity while tapping, versus while the subject was not tapping.

The team then modeled the network signals between parts of the brain that execute motor functions and one that provided control.

In an interesting twist, when the subject’s brain was at rest- the network activity actually increased!

According to professor Diwadkar, this has long been suspected, that the brain is never truly at rest. Why? Because it always might have to be ready to act.

This is important because it highlights normal brain function, but also suggests how brain networks might function in individuals that experience severe episodes of brain activity such as those individuals suffering with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Schizophrenia.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a an fMRI?
  2. How does it actually work?
  3. How did Dr. Diwadker conduct the study?
  4. How did Dr. Diwadker and his team create the models to understand brain behavior?
  5. Why do we sometimes perceive that our brain is “at rest” even when it might not be?
  6. How could Dr. Diwadker and the research team use this information to help individuals suffering from schizophrenia or obsessive compulsive disorder?
  7. What limitations are there with this study?

For more information, please see the article by Julie O’Connor

And a link to the PLOSone primary source material.