“To transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology.Image: FIRST

FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.
Image: FIRST

That is the mission of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). The organization aims to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, and you can see their engineering and innovative expertise live this Saturday as some of the brightest young minds go head-to-head in this robotics competition.

The competition theme for this year is “Recycle Rush,” where hundreds of high school students will compete for the title of FIRST Champion. The competition aids in inspiring young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in mentor-based programs that combine the excitement of a varsity sport with hands-on training in science and technology.

Check out the live stream Saturday, April 11th at 9am.

Vibrating Vest Allows People to Feel Sound

A novel vibrating vest that will allow deaf people to feel sound is under development at Rice University. The low-cost, non-invasive VEST—Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer—features dozens of embedded sensors to vibrate varying patterns based on the words spoken.

The VEST works in tandem with a phone or tablet app to isolate speech from ambient sound and allow for easier translation of the vibration patterns.

“We see other applications for what we’re calling tactile sensory substitution,” says Rice University junior Abhipray Sahoo. “Information can be sent through the human body. It’s not just an augmentative device for the deaf. The VEST could be a general neural input device. You could receive any form of information.”


227th ECS Meeting Chicago LogoInterested in how sensor technology could change the world? Make sure to join us at the 227th ECS Meeting in Chicago this May, where we’ll hold symposia dedicated to sensors and their applications in healthcare, the environment, and beyond.

Register online now!

Engineers have developed a way to visualize the optical properties of objects that are thousands of times small than a grain of sand.Source: YouTube/Stanford University

Engineers have developed a way to visualize the optical properties of objects that are thousands of times small than a grain of sand.
Source: YouTube/Stanford University

In order to develop high efficiency solar cells and LEDs, researchers need to see how light interacts with objects on the nanoscale. Unfortunately, light is tricky to visualize in relation to small-scale objects.

Engineers from Stanford University, in collaboration with FOM Institute AMOLF, have developed a next-gen optical method to produce high-resolution, 3D images of nanoscale objects. This allows researchers to visualize the optical properties of objects that are several thousandths the size of a grain of sand.

The teams achieved this by combining two technologies: cathodluminescence and tomography.

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People in remote locations can now detect viruses and bacteria without leaving their homes.Image: Scientific Reports

People in remote locations can now detect viruses and bacteria without leaving their homes.
Image: Scientific Reports

A team of researchers has developed a device that aims to provide adequate and efficient health care to those who live in remote regions with limited access to medical professionals.

The device utilizes biosensing to detected such viruses and bacteria as HIV and Staph from remote locations. Patients simply take a small blood or saliva sample and apply it to a film made of cellulose paper—each of which is designed to detect a specific bacteria or virus.

This from Popular Science:

The patient would then use a smartphone app to take a picture of the sample and send it to a doctor for diagnosis. Medical professionals, no matter where they are, would receive the cell-fies and look at the bacterial biomarkers in the sample to diagnose the disease. The film is sensitive, disposable, and much cheaper to produce than similar biosensing films.

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The Rise of Quantum Dots

Andrea Guenzel, ECS Publications Specialist, recently spotted a CNN article on quantum dots and how they’re poised to change industry.

The technology behind Edison’s incandescent blub may be a thing of the past, but the warm, gentle glow that it produced may be making its way back into your living room.

But we’re not scrapping the advancements in LEDs and regressing to old technology to do this. Instead, we’re turning our attention to quantum dots—the tiny crystal-like particles that are 10,000 times smaller than the width of human hair.

And the dots’ applications do not end simply at bulbs. These tiny bursts of light are expected to impact displays, solar cells, and cancer imaging equipment as well.

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The Excrevator will help put an end to emptying pit latrines by hand.Image: NC State University

The Excrevator will help put an end to emptying pit latrines by hand.
Image: NC State University

Critical technology gaps in water, sanitation, and hygiene are being faced all over the world. According to UNICEF, 2.5 billion people—36 percent of the world’s population—don’t have access to a toilet. Due to this, many people in the developing world either practice open defecation or utilize pit latrines. In turn, this leads to a high risk of contracting diseases ranging from typhoid to hepatitis.

Tate Rogers, an engineering student from North Carolina State University, decided that something has to be done about this. In 2011, Rogers began developing a device that would help those in the developing world more safely deal with raw sewage.

It’s four years later, and the project is still under way—but it’s beginning to come to fruition.

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Graphene Light Bulb

When it comes to light bulbs, we’ve seen a lot of transformation since Thomas Edison’s practical incandescent bulb. Since then we’ve delved into fluorescent lights, and more recently, LEDs. Now we’re moving on to the next big thing in light bulbs, and that just may be graphene.

The new bulb is projected to last longer and cut energy use by 10 percent.

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ECS Podcast – Jon Gertner, Author

Our second episode of ECS Podcast features Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. Listen as we explore one of the most innovative institutions of the 20th century and how it revolutionized computing and information technology.

This episode of the ECS Podcast is available below and is free to download! (Also available through the iTunes Store and RSS Feed.)

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Computer pioneer Grace Hopper

Computing pioneer Rear Admiral Grace Hopper as a LEGO minifigure.
image by: pixbymaia, image license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

One of the quotes I like to keep on my desk is, “A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things.”

“Amazing Grace” Hopper, who said those words, certainly did new things. She was a computer programming pioneer, and the first woman at Yale University to earn a doctorate in math.

She is perhaps most noted for having invented key software technologies that laid the ground for today’s computer languages, and which remain a part of our everyday life. She was able to convince industry and government agencies to agree on a common business programming language, called Cobol, which (among many uses) is still used when you withdraw money from a cash machine.

She also worked on a device called the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, which worked out flight trajectories for rockets. Named for her are many places and objects, including the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper, the Department of Energy’s flagship computer system “Hopper,” and the Cray XE6 “Hopper” supercomputer at NERSC.

Read about just ten of the many women who changed the tech industry forever.

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