NEWS BEYOND OUR BORDERS
Light bulbs go on for students
Welland Tribune - As part of national Engineering Month, 13 teams of Grade 11 and 12 students built LED light banks and the batteries to power them from scratch at Niagara College.
The build was part of the third annual engineering design and build competition hosted by the Professional Engineers Ontario Niagara chapter, partnered with Niagara College and the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists.
Lindsay Mooradian, P.Eng., a Professional Engineer involved with PEO, said students are sent a package with the information they need two weeks before the competition, which gives them time to design and even do some prototypes beforehand. On competition day, each team has a kit and they must work with the materials in it to complete their designs in a four-hour time limit.
“The main goal was to bring interest to children for engineering,” she said. “Sometimes schools don’t offer these kinds of opportunities explicitly.” Stan Mathew, P.Eng., Chair for the PEO Niagara chapter, said the competition is growing every year and as it does it is hoped to include grade 9 and 10 students as well.
Engineering students design refugee shelters
Interesting Engineering - The growing refugee crisis around the world has become not only a humanitarian crisis but an engineering one as well. One group of college seniors is working to design and engineer an affordable shelter for refugees across the world. The engineering team at LeTourneau University in Texas has spent the last seven months trying to find the best solution for shelters for refugees in Greece. The effort is part of a national competition held jointly by John Brown University and Samaritan’s Purse. The ultimate goal of the intercollegiate competition is to find the best shelter design that can be implemented around the world.
Ten senior engineering students, varying from mechanical engineers to civil, are continually working to design two competing shelter designs for the competition. Named SafeHome, the shelter design team wants to build shelters not just to keep refugees safe but one in which that they can grow and build communities. Specifications on how the shelters need to be designed are laid out on the competition website by John Brown University. Most notably, the shelters need to be able to accommodate a family of four with 3.5 square metres of space per person. Costs must be kept to under $1,500 US per shelter and the completed structures will need to withstand an array of tests ranging from wind loading to seismic loading.
Lilium aims to make personal aircraft a reality
Engineering.com - The idea of a flying car has captured imaginations for decades. Who wouldn’t want to trade tedious trips to the airport for simply stepping out of the house and into your own private aircraft?
A startup company, hosted in a European Space Agency (ESA) business incubator, is the latest to attempt to make that dream a reality. The Lilium electric plane is designed to seat two people, fly quietly and aims to be simpler than aircraft designs today. Daniel Wiegand, Lilium CEO and one of the company’s founders, said, “We are going for a plane that can take off and land vertically and does not need the complex and expensive infrastructure of an airport. To reduce noise and pollution, we are using electric engines so it can also be used close to urban areas.”
The concept has been proven with several 25-kilogram prototypes and the company is on to the next step: developing a full-size ultralight vertical takeoff and landing aircraft.
Lilium requires a takeoff area of about 15 x 15 metres and can reach flight speeds of up to 400 kilometres per hour. This is achieved by combining helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft designs with the goal of breaking away from the restrictions of taking off from airfields.
While obtaining a helicopter license is extremely expensive and time consuming, the Lilium should require a pilot licence with only 20 hours of training. The initial goal is for recreational use in the daytime in good weather conditions.
The Lilium aircraft battery is designed to recharge from any wall plug and has a range of 500 kilometres.
Of course, a high volume of these aircraft in urban areas would potentially make air travel in the city extremely dangerous. For that reason, it seems unlikely that Lilium will reach the mass market but it could be an appealing travel option for the wealthy elite.
Engineers turn objects into FM stations
Phys.org - Imagine you're waiting in your car and a poster for a concert from a local band catches your eye. What if you could just tune your car to a radio station and actually listen to that band's music? Or perhaps you see the poster on the side of a bus stop. What if it could send your smart phone a link for discounted tickets or give you directions to the venue?
Going further, imagine you go for a run and your shirt can sense your perspiration and send data on your vital signs directly to your phone.
A new technique pioneered by University of Washington engineers makes these "smart" posters and clothing a reality by allowing them to communicate directly with your car's radio or your smart phone. For instance, bus stop billboards could send digital content about local attractions. A street sign could broadcast the name of an intersection or notice that it is safe to cross a street, improving accessibility for the disabled. In addition, clothing with integrated sensors could monitor vital signs and send them to a phone.
The researchers developed a new way of communication that sends information by reflecting ambient FM radio signals that are already in the air, which consumes close to zero power.
“Tiny drones: the future of pollination?
Electronics360 - While it’s common knowledge that bees are now showing up on the endangered species list in the United States, the dangers of this event may not be clear. While bees could be considered pesky critters, they do perform the important task of pollination. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “More than $15 billion a year in U.S. crops are pollinated by bees, including apples, berries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, alfalfa and almonds. U.S. honey bees also produce about $150 million in honey annually.”
There’s been some focus on artificial pollinators to pick up the slack for bees. For example, in Japan, researchers are working to pollinate lilies with insect-sized drones. The undersides of these artificial pollinators are coated with horse hairs and an ionic gel that’s sticky enough to pick up pollen from one flower and drop it onto another. The researchers hope that their invention could someday help benefit farmers by eliminating some of the potential damage that could result from bee extinction.
Although the team’s technology is not quite ready for use in the field, it is a first step toward addressing a future with fewer bees. The goal would be to decrease the stress put on bee populations by commercialization so that they can do what robots can't: make honey, while the drones take over the demands of crop pollination.