Archive for October, 2010


“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


new question of the month

Respond to this month’s Question of the Month on Mechanical Engineering magazine and add your comments. We want to hear from you!

This month’s question is:

How much should we rely on deepwater oil production to supply our future energy needs?

Select from:

  1. It’s a critical resource we need to exploit fully.
  2. It will help at the margins, but it isn’t a solution to our energy needs.
  3. Or, the expense and risk involved will limit its potential.
This month’s question will be up until the end of the month. Results will be posted in the December issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine and also on this blog.

nsf awards advance energy storage

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) awarded 14 grants for fiscal year (FY) 2010, representing nearly $28 million toward 62 investigators at 24 institutions.

Over the next four years, researchers will pursue transformative, fundamental research in two areas: storing energy from renewable sources; and engineering sustainable buildings.

Information on the four Renewable Energy Storage Projects.

Information on the 10 Science in Energy and Environmental Design Projects.


M.E. named NCAA Woman of the Year

The University of Arizona’s Justine Schluntz, a Rhodes Scholar and member of ASME, was named the 20th NCAA Woman of the Year Sunday evening at the annual event ceremony at the Indiana Convention Center, in Indianapolis.

Schluntz earned her Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering at UA and is now studying fluid dynamics as a grad student. At Oxford, she is researching the viability of harnessing tidal energy from the oceans to use as a renewable resource.


Now on Twitter

My posts from Twitter ( now appear on this blog, see bottom right.

Blogging on breakthroughs and trends—and on other, hopefully interesting, matters—as we examine the impact of engineering and technology on the world that we share will resume soon. Stay tuned. 

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

Twitter from John Falcioni

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