Archive for October, 2010



CHOOSE HAITI is an initiative to create sustainable jobs in Haiti by building demand for Haitian-made products and services.

Since the earthquake in Haiti, earlier this year. 80% of Haiti is unemployed, aid is diminishing, and jobs are needed now.

One of the popular products, the CHOOSE HAITI bracelet, has attracted the support of major US retailers, The Clinton Foundation, and WorldVision. The bracelet is made of 100% recycled material derived from bottles bought in bulk from tent camp residents, sanitized, cut and covered with newspaper paper mache. Read more about this initiative by clicking here.

To visit the CHOOSE HAIT Web site, and see other products, click here.


Mems-based natural disaster warning system

IBM has developed a MEMS-based natural disaster warning system using analytics to improve the effectiveness and timeliness of post-event rescue efforts. The technology features a way to predict the location and timing of subsequent catastrophic events.

According to IBM, the system conducts post-event analysis of seismic events, such as earthquakes, and provides early warnings for tsunamis, which can follow earthquakes. It also provides the ability to rapidly measure and analyze the damage zone of an earthquake and thus help prioritize emergency response needed following an earthquake, IBM said.

The warning system uses data generated by vibration sensors (MEMS accelerometers) within computer hard disk drives to analyze and assess information generated by seismic events. This technique works by collecting hard drive sensor data and transmitting it via high-speed networking to a data processing center, which analyzes the data, classifies the events, and enriches the data in real time.

IBM says that the rapid analysis of the data leads to determining exactly when a seismic event started, how long it lasted, its intensity, the frequency of motion of the seismic event, the direction of motion of the seismic event, and other data. This information is then delivered to local, state and federal emergency response officials.


husk power system

A short but interesting video shows how entrepreneurs in India are lighting up with bio power.

Husk Power Systems is using an innovative technology mix to run off-grid mini power stations fired by rice husks, a by-product that would otherwise be thrown away and release methane as it rotted. Click here to watch.


“sustainability” here to stay

Is the notion of sustainable engineering practices related to designing with an eye toward the environment? Or is it about business ethics? Actually, it’s about both.

And it’s also about profit: Sustainable practices can have a positive impact on the bottom line. But more about this in a future post. For now, you may want to read what they’re saying in Pittsburgh about sustainability and ethics… click here for the link.


vintage technologies

The iPads of today will become the vintage technologies of tomorrow.

From Super 8 movie cameras using film, to typewriters… this quick and fun look at how far we’ve come will make some of you reminisce. Others will wonder exactly how some of these contraptions worked. Check it out by clicking here.


eyesight holds robots back

The Economist reports that even though robots are getting smarter, their eyesight is not improving.

“They disarm bombs, fly combat missions, put together complicated machines, even play football. Why, then, one might ask, are they nowhere to be seen, beyond war zones, factories and technology fairs? One reason is that they themselves cannot see very well. And people are understandably wary of purblind contraptions bumping into them willy-nilly in the street or at home.” Click here for the full article.

To read a related article we did in Mechanical Engineering magazine a few years ago, “What the Robots See,” click here.

To read the latest article on robotics in the current issue of Mechanical  Engineering magazine, click here.



Lemelson-MIT awards support “stem”

Fourteen high school teams from across the country, comprised of students, teachers and mentors, were awarded up to $10,000 InvenTeam grants to create technology solutions to real-world problems.

In the eighth year of this initiative, the Lemelson-MIT Program aims to inspire a new generation of inventors, as it supports STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.

One of the teams, the Kell High School Robotics Team, was awarded a $10,000 grant to create ORCA, an Oil Recovery & CApture robot. This team is supported by ASME and is mentored by ASME staff member RuthAnn Bigley.

Kell High School is one of 14 high schools nationwide to be selected as an InvenTeam winners this year. A panel of judges comprised of educators, researchers, staff and alumni from MIT, as well as former Lemelson-MIT Program Award winners and innovation industry leaders, selected the InvenTeams from a national pool of applicants based on the technical merits of their proposals for useful and unique devices.

Members of the 2010 – 2011 Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam initiative are drawn from public high schools in rural, suburban and urban communities; those schools and their proposed inventions are:

  • Berlin High School (Cherry Plain, N.Y.): Alert device for hearing-impaired athletes
  • Smithtown High School West (Smithtown, N.Y.): Solar tracker for a compact, portable, affordable solar charging unit
  • Central Bloom High School (Chicago Heights, Ill.): Collection and recycling device for vegetable oil at restaurants
  • Eureka Springs High School (Eureka Springs, Ark.): Search and rescue cane with GPS, light source and sound mechanism
  • Green Bay Southwest High School (Green Bay, Wis.): Portable hydroelectric supply station
  • Kings High School (Kings Mills, Ohio): Portable, low-cost, hydroelectric generator for developing countries
  • Northbrook High School (Houston, Texas): Energy-efficient cooling blanket
  • Omaha North High School Magnet (Omaha, Neb.): Sustainable cooking system for developing countries
  • Pike Central High School (Petersburg, Ind.): Lightweight, portable emergency shelter


  • Carlton J. Kell High School (Marietta, Ga.): Remotely-operated oil removal watercraft
  • Suncoast High School (Riviera Beach, Fla.): Durable, efficient wave energy conversion system


  • Tehachapi High School (Tehachapi, Calif.): Low-cost, durable shoes for remote villagers in developing countries
  • West High School (Salt Lake City, Utah): Autonomous, solar-powered robot to locate unexploded weaponry
  • West Salem High School (Salem, Ore.): Pressure sensitive grip for writing utensils

In June 2011, after working through the various stages of design and prototype development throughout the school year, InvenTeams will showcase their projects at EurekaFest, a multi-day celebration of the inventive spirit, presented by the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Mass.

In addition to the 14 new teams, continuation grants of up to $2,000 will be awarded to select InvenTeams from the previous year interested in establishing a sustainable program for invention in their school curriculums or communities. Both Cesar Chavez High School and Oak Ridge High School have been selected for continuation grants.

The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam application for the 2011 – 2012 school year is now available at

The Editor

John G. Falcioni is Editor-in-Chief of Mechanical Engineering magazine, the flagship publication of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

October 2010
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