Archive for April, 2010

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Growing old with engineering

April 28th, 2010 by Gene
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Most of the time, engineers design and build new things. Some of them are designing old stuff. Engineering for people as we age. Today, on Engineering Works!

When we think about the future, the idea most people have involves young people doing new things. But this isn’t quite a true picture. If you look at the numbers, the future is going to belong to older people. The UN says more than 700 million people over 60 are alive on earth now. And by 2050, there will be two billion that age. Just in the United States, more than one person in 10 is over 65 now. In 20 years, that will grow to 20 percent of the population.

These numbers have big implications for the things we use in everyday life. Everything from labels that are easy to read with aging eyes to cars with controls that are easy to see and easy to reach.

Some engineers are thinking about what this means for designing new products. They’re using specially equipped cars to learn how older people’s eyes move around the dashboard and out the windshield in different driving situations. Others are looking into nifty gadgets like scanners that might combine grocery shoppers’ medical information with information scanned from food packages to suggest healthy choices.

Part of what the engineers are learning is how to get engineers in their 20s and 30s to think about products as if they were 65.

We’re getting older every minute, and we’re done for this time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

For more:

For more:

http://www.boston.com/business/technology/articles/2009/03/23/at_mits_agelab_growing_old_is_the_new_frontier/

http://www.designnews.com/article/195758-MIT_s_AgeLab_is_Engineering_for_the_Ages.php

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/06/mits-aware-car/

NASA

Move over, C3PO

April 21st, 2010 by Gene
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Engineering is catching up to science fiction. Robots like people. Today, on Engineering Works!

Just about everybody remembers C3PO, one of Luke Skywalker’s robot sidekicks in Star Wars. Well, guess what? NASA is catching up, with a robot the space agency has dubbed R2, short for Robonaut 2. R2 doesn’t talk too well, but it looks a lot like the prissy movie robot. From the waist up, anyway. And it can use its hands to do almost anything a human astronaut can do. Far more than earlier humanoid robots.

R2 is the second generation of human-like robots NASA and General Motors have been working on for almost 10-years. So far, it’s just the top half of a human like figure, complete with a shiny helmet-head. With arms and five-fingered hands, just like humans. It’s not that strong: 20 pounds in each hand is about all it can handle, but it can move and manipulate that weight almost as well as you or I. The robot uses advanced control, sensor and vision technology. And it’s designed to use the same hand tools humans do.

NASA is working with GM to design and build the human-like robot. It’s aimed at duplicating the same dexterity astronauts have in their EVA suits. GM isn’t that interested in what R2 can do in space, but they would like to have robots that can work safely and efficiently around humans in manufacturing plants.

R2 is waving good-bye and we’re gone.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

For more:

http://robonaut.jsc.nasa.gov

http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/robonaut.html

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17912_3-10447375-72.html

http://www.howstuffworks.com/robonaut.htm

marknormandcomedy.com

marknormandcomedy.com

Nobody knows an engineer

April 14th, 2010 by Gene
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To hear some engineers tell it, they feel a lot like Rodney Dangerfield. They don’t get no respect. We’ll see. Today, on Engineering Works!

It’s pop quiz time. Name two famous scientists. If you pay attention to science at all, it’s easy. Albert Einstein. Stephen Hawking. We know Einstein for the theory of relativity. Hawking for his work in cosmology. There are lots more.

Now for a tough one. Give us two famous engineers. Not so easy, is it? That’s a problem for a lot of engineers. And it sounds silly, but a lot of the top engineers are leaving the profession for jobs where they’ll be better known. And make more money. Doctor. Lawyer. Corporate manager.

A lot of engineers should be famous. They’ve had huge impacts on our lives, now and in the future. Here’s a few. Start with Neil Armstrong, first person to step onto the Moon. An aerospace engineer. Grace Hopper, who invented the COBOL computer language and the first compiler. Burt Rutan designed and built the first airplane to fly around the world without refueling or stopping. Aeronautical engineer.

Now, a really important one. Martin Cooper. Electrical engineer. He invented the cell phone. Where would you be without him? NASCAR driver Ashton Lewis is a mechanical engineer.

So. Now you know. It’s up to you to make them famous.

We’ve had all the fame we can take and we’re going home. See you next time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

For more:

http://students.egfi-k12.org/famous-engineers/

http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/List_of_famous_engineers/

http://www.factacular.com/subjects/Famous_Engineers

Chris-Håvard Berge

Chris-Havard Berge

Quicker than … what?

April 7th, 2010 by Gene
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Engineers deal with time a lot, in everything from computers to airplanes to anything that moves. Time in little pieces. Today, on Engineering Works!

A lot of the things engineers design are meant to do something faster than before. Computer chips. Airplanes. Safety switches. Sometimes the difference between fast and faster isn’t much, but we need to know how small that difference is.

Here are some of them. Pay attention. These really go by fast. Let’s start out slow, with a tenth of a second. That’s how long it takes your eye to blink. A hundredth of a second: one beat of a hummingbird’s wings. A thousandth of a second: the flash of the strobe in your camera. A millionth of a second. A microsecond: the time it takes news of the pain in your neck to get to your brain.

These things all sound kinda quick to us, but they’re really pretty poky. Next is a billionth of a second. A nanosecond. In a nanosecond, you’d just be starting that eyeblink we saw earlier. But your laptop has already added two numbers together. High-end computer processors get it done in trillionths of a second. We’re getting faster but we’re not done yet.

Now, we’re getting really quick, an attosecond. A trillionth of a second. In 24 attoseconds, an electron has flashed around the nucleus of a hydrogen atom. Time gets even smaller and faster than this, but our time is running out. See you next time.

Engineering Works! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. Learn more about engineering. Visit us on the World Wide Web.

http://engineeringworks.tamu.edu

For more:

http://campaign.constantcontact.com/render?v=001qwhULkbmHDvufah28uSjPlJ0p4YO5wbFmB5bws699RFabm2raR-_-hJ-xkuYQMkKW96OwbvpuGHOXSi2PuOUk0vbiu8ldNfC9TuMLNnfVgusso-01FTD2MCSaITpT9hqN2DP9nurkaD8iu8kc4WDKg%3D%3D

http://www.natalieangier.com/main.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time