The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 4

February 28, 2003

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Revolutionizing Science and Engineering through Cyber-Infrastructure [.pdf]
An expert panel from National Science Foundation's (NSF) Advisory Panel on Cyber-Infrastructure released their final report in January 2003. The report seeks to "evaluate current major investments in cyberinfrastructure and its use, to recommend new areas of emphasis relevant to cyberinfrastructure, and to propose an implementation plan for pursuing them." Several key points are made that promote scientific and engineering research and education through technology. The NSF panel argues that recent advances in computing power and communication systems underscore the need for new ways of looking at the research process. [CL]
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Intel Developer Forum [Windows Media Player, RealPlayer, .zip]
The Intel Developer Forum (IDF) concluded on February 21, 2003, and many keynote presentations from the conference can be viewed as Web casts at this site. Jokingly introduced as "the greatest geek fest on earth," IDF featured speakers from Intel who shared their views on industry trends and new technologies. A virtual press kit is available online, which contains speaker bios, transcripts, and press releases related to IDF. The individual session presentations from various industry representatives are restricted to attendees until April 30, 2003, after which they will be put online for public viewing. [CL]
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StarTiger [.avi, .mp3]
StarTiger is a project of the European Space Agency that is testing a new framework for research and development, with the goal of dramatically reducing the time needed to achieve a breakthrough. The basic method is to assemble a group of doctorate level researchers and engineers, put them in an environment that is free of distractions, and give them access to state-of-the-art equipment and technology. The first success of StarTiger was realized in October 2002, when, after only four months of work, the research group demonstrated a passive imaging system based on terahertz waves. According to the StarTiger Web site, "Unlike light, terahertz waves are able to propagate through cloud and smoke providing a powerful advantage for certain remote sensing measurements." Several images produced by the system are given online, including images of a hand taken through fifteen millimeters (over half an inch) of paper. [CL]
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Two on Cable Reinforcement
UC Berkeley News
A. Astaneh's Homepage [.pdf]
A civil engineering professor at the University of California at Berkeley is working on a novel way of maintaining a building's structural stability after an earthquake or terrorist bomb. The team of researchers working with the professor have designed and tested a system that uses cables for backup support in case main support beams failed. An overview of the system is provided in a February 20, 2003 news article. The second site is the homepage of the professor leading this research. A number of projects on which he is currently working are described, as well as an ongoing investigation into the World Trade Center collapse. A couple conference papers are also provided online. [CL]
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Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies [.pdf]
Founded in March 2002, the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) is investigating the potential use of nanotechnology to improve the effectiveness of individual soldiers. The US Army is funding the research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which focuses on three main areas: "protection, performance enhancement, and injury intervention and cure." The ISN homepage has overviews of many different projects, including energy absorbing materials and medical technology. With such a diverse range of research topics, seven multidisciplinary teams are needed for the institute. ISN has been featured in many news articles in 2003, and links to five of the stories are given. [CL]
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Ultrascale Simulation for Science [.pdf]
When Japan's Earth Simulator supercomputer eclipsed its US counterparts in terms of speed and processing power, America was faced with a challenge to regain its dominance of supercomputing capability. The Ultrascale Web site studies this challenge, and the implications it has on the nation's scientific objectives. Several short documents about the importance of and applications for ultrascale simulation are given on this page. Generally between one and two pages, the papers are mostly from the US Department of Energy. Topics range from analyses of the Earth Simulator to potential applications of similar systems. Several other documents and links can be found on the Ultrascale homepage. [CL]
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Nursebot Project: Robotic Assistants for the Elderly [.mpg, QuickTime, .pdf, .ps, .gz]
A joint project between Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, Personal Robotic Assistants for the Elderly are designed to "assist elderly people suffering from chronic disorders in their everyday life." The homepage of the project has extensive documentation, videos, experiences, and research papers about a number of different Nursebot designs. The robots can remind their human companion to take their medicine, watch over them, and act as companions. With tele-presence, doctors can remotely check up on a patient by using monitoring equipment installed on the robot. A great deal of research remains until these robots can be widely used, but this project has already contributed greatly to human-robot interaction. [CL]
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The Warming World: Designing for Climate Change [.pdf]
A workshop held in January 2003 attempted to ascertain how engineers and scientists need to change their practices to account for global warming. Road and bridge damage caused by "increased sediment loads in streams, catastrophic landslides, snow avalanches, and riverside flooding" necessitates a reevaluation of engineering design methods. Eight presentations from the workshop are given in slide form on this Web site. An executive summary is also provided, which outlines some of the proposed changes and strategies. According to the workshop's brochure, a final report will incorporate the main points from each session and be put online in May 2003. [CL]
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Education [Shockwave, .pdf]
As part of the ExploreLearning organization, ExploreMath offers an outstanding collection of interactive activities for students in "elementary algebra through pre-calculus." The online multimedia applications are easy to use and demonstrate almost 40 concepts across twelve general categories. One activity, for example, explains some fundamentals of probability by randomly throwing darts and showing how many hit the target. Instructions and topic overviews are given for each activity. Some additional resources are available to teachers and students if they register with ExploreMath. Free registration allows users to access lesson plans or participate in an online forum. [CL]
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Ars Technica: CPU and Chipset Guide
An informative collection of articles on computer hardware and operation is presented by Ars Technica. Many of the more recent articles (July 2002 to February 2003) have shifted from focusing on specific technologies and platforms to explaining basic principles of computer architecture. This includes "pipelining and superscalar execution," bandwidth and latency, multithreading, and CPU caching. Other articles delve inside new microprocessors and describe new features and notable architectural improvements. The material is written in an informal style, making them easy to understand, interesting, and occasionally humorous. [CL]
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Computer Aided Instruction Project
Central Connecticut State University maintains several tutorials and lecture notes about different programming languages and mathematics. Some of the material, most notably the Introduction to Assembly Language, is primarily intended for computer science students. However, much of the site can be useful for anyone; programming guides for Java and QuickBasic are provided, as well as tutorials on vector mathematics and finite-state automata. All of these topics are presented separately and are quite substantial, but three of the sections are in rough draft form. A message on the site warns that on-campus construction has resulted in frequent power outages, and therefore, the site may occasionally be inaccessible. [CL]
[Back to Contents] [Flash, .pdf]
10Ticks is a montage of free mathematics lessons, worksheets, and games based on the UK's National Numeracy Strategy. One of the most popular attractions of the Web site is Pac Math, a fun game that allows children to practice basic arithmetic. Over 200 worksheets discuss topics in algebra, geometrical shapes and spaces, statistics, and more. Several more features are available after registration. For example, teachers can access free sample learning packs with suggested exercises to present in class, and students can keep track of their high scores in the various educational games. Because this is a UK-based site, registration can be somewhat confusing for foreigners. [CL]
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CYBERMAN: A Manufacturing Education Experience
As part of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Michigan Technological University, this Web site offers a wealth of resources related to manufacturing processes. The bulk of the material is contained in the CYBERMAN primers, which describe machining methods and tools, cutting fluids, and much more. The software testbeds section has links to computer applications for specialized analyses. Although the site has a tremendous amount of material, some areas are poorly maintained or not yet finished. The diagrams are occasionally a bit blurry, but overall, the site is worth visiting for manufacturing information. [CL]
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Animated Engines
This remarkable Web site contains descriptions and animations of nineteen different kinds of engines. Engine types include internal combustion, steam, and sterling engines, and each page shows how the piston, crankshaft, and other components move together to generate power. The animations demonstrate the processes of intake, compression, and exhaust. Some of the featured engines have more detailed descriptions than others, and oftentimes, a brief account of the engine's history is included. One engine dates back to the early 1700s. [CL]
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Project Links: Mathematics and its Applications in Engineering and Science [.zip, .pdf]
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the home of Project Links, an original site that combines the principles of mathematics with applied science and engineering topics. In most college curricula, math is a standalone subject, and students often find it difficult to relate what they learn to their other classes. Project Links offers a series of modules that introduce concepts like mechanical oscillations, electricity and magnetism, and system design. Each module starts with basic background information and gradually builds to encompass both the theory of the topic and the mathematics needed to characterize the underlying parameters. Java applets are included to graphically demonstrate the concepts. While many of the modules are fully functional, some are in progress. [CL]
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DSP Design Performance
This Web site has an extraordinary collection of digital signal processing (DSP) resources for electrical engineering students or professionals. The author of the site maintains "38 freely usable digital filter design applets plus DSP tutorials and code segments." The Java applets are divided into finite and infinite impulse response categories, and then divided again according to band-select or specialty filters. Helpful instructions accompany each applet, explaining what each parameter is and how it can be changed. Several tutorials demonstrate aliasing effects, modulation techniques, and detailed algorithms. [CL]
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Space Launch Initiative News [.pdf, .doc, .zip, QuickTime]
The purpose of the Space Launch Initiative (SLI) is "to identify feasible options for future NASA space transportation and enable a decision regarding whether the agency should proceed into full-scale development of a new reusable launch vehicle system." This news page has information on current developments, fact sheets, and vehicle concepts. Several technology summaries describe the various areas of research for the SLI. For example, using neural networks in the vehicle's control and navigation would allow for automatic, intelligent adjustments and would take some of the burden off the crew. Safety is one of the primary concerns, which is demonstrated by the articles on crew escape systems and the Integrated Vehicle Health Management system. [CL]
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IEEE Power and Energy [.pdf]
The inaugural issue of the IEEE Power and Energy magazine, which premiered in January 2003, is available online with unrestricted access for a limited time. The five featured articles cover the areas of "distributed generation, 'green' power, and power engineering education." Additionally, a focus on security considers what is being done to protect the energy grid from terrorist acts. Other columns of Power and Energy highlight history, industry news, standards, and opinion articles. [CL]
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Two on the U-2 Spy Plane
A Well-Tested Eye in the Sky
FAS: Intelligence Resource Program
One of the most important pieces of technology being used to search Iraq for evidence of weapons is a 48-year old spy plane. The U-2, which was first flown in the beginnings of the Cold War, has withstood the test of time and continues to be widely used by the US. The first site discusses the U-2's use in Iraq, as well as outlining its unique design, operating characteristics, and specifications. The second site provides more details about the history of the U-2. It also describes many technical aspects involved in flights, such as the advanced sensor systems and pilot life support. [CL]
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" is a single destination site for large-scale research projects powered by the United Devices Global MetaProcessor." It harnesses the combined computing power of thousands of computers around the world to process large amounts of data that would otherwise be impossible or very costly to analyze. The Web site is an excellent place to start if you want to participate in a distributed computing project, or if you are just interested in learning the basics of the technology. Current and past projects that use the grid platform have targeted cancer, smallpox, and anthrax, to name a few. [CL]
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An important concern facing electronics designers is heat dissipation. Especially in laptop computers and server farms, overheating can be a major problem. ElectronicsCooling is a free, quarterly publication that provides "practical information to the reader that relates to cooling of today's electronics." Every article since the magazine's debut in 1995 can be viewed from this site. Common topics are packaging, thermal design, and technical data related to many types of electronics. Contributions to ElectronicsCooling are generally from industry and academia. [CL]
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Afghan Explorer
War zones and hostile environments often prevent press coverage of important events, such as the Gulf War and, more recently, the dealings with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. A new invention, called the Afghan Explorer, could solve this problem. It is, in essence, a robotic journalist. With the capability to maneuver, record audio and video footage, and conduct interviews, the Afghan Explorer can provide coverage of military situations and off-limit areas with no risk of human casualties. The mobile "war reporting system" is described on this site, including details of its power source, wireless technologies, and other components. [CL]
[Back to Contents] Project of the Month
SourceForge, described as the most prominent repository of open source software, selects an outstanding contribution to recognize on its Project of the Month Web site. As with all open source projects, the software can be freely downloaded, used, and modified. Examples of past projects of the month include an instant messaging client, a 3D game developing kit, and a tool for porting applications from UNIX to the Macintosh OS X operating system. A description of the project and an interview with the project's creator showcase the software. [CL]
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AVS: Electric/ Hybrid-Electric Buses [.pdf, .zip]
Advanced Vehicle Systems offers some interesting facts about its electric and hybrid-electric buses on its Web site. Emissions information, descriptive brochures, and photos are given for the 22- and 38-foot models. The most in-depth section covers technology used in the buses, including microturbine engines, battery management systems, and climate control. Several press releases about city usage and other topics are also provided. The complete specifications cannot be accessed without a password, but the rest of the information presented online is available to the public. [CL]
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Topic In Depth

1. How They Work [.pdf]
2. The zNose, A New Electric Nose Using Acoustic Technology [.pdf]
3. Flying SnifferSTAR May Aid Civilians and US Military
5. Sensors Online: An Overview of MEMS Inertial Sensing Technology
6. I&IT Media Vision [Windows Media Player]
7. Large Group Musical Interaction Using Disposable Wireless Motion Sensors [.pdf]
8. Shuttle X-Y Axis Plane [.pdf]
Electronic sensors exist in many facets of our lives, from measuring operating conditions of our vehicles to adjusting the temperature of our homes. They can even mean the difference between life and death when used to monitor patients in emergency rooms. Even though sensors work transparently in their multitude of functions, their importance cannot be understated.

Sensorland (1) has basic descriptions of a wide variety of sensors and related concepts. Out of the 50 items in the list, some have full technical reports that explain physical processes, while others consist of succinct explanations of a device's operation. The site covers sensors that measure everything from atmospheric pressure to the pH value of liquid solutions. In September 2002, the US Army conducted exercises using the zNose, a sensor that can quickly and quantitatively analyze any smell or vapor. This paper (2) provides a complete technical description of the zNose. Several more documents, including the press release of the Army's use of the device, can be found on the Electronic Sensor Technology homepage. In a related story from Sandia National Laboratories, the SnifferSTAR (3) could be especially useful in case of a terrorist gas attack. The short article briefly discusses how the invention works, with an emphasis on its characteristics of low power consumption and rapid analysis. Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (4) is a NASA program to develop unmanned aerial vehicles capable of conducting advanced scientific studies. A number of aircraft are highlighted on the program's Web site, many of which are designed for long-term flights or potentially dangerous missions. The February 2003 cover story of Sensors magazine (5) is inertial sensing technology made from microelectromechanical systems (MEMS). The article discusses the applications of MEMS in accelerometers and gyroscopes, as well as explaining some of the theory behind these devices. A streaming video presentation, given in May 2002, can be viewed from this site (6). The hour-long talk introduces Sensor Webs, a network of tiny sensors connected by wireless technology that can be scattered over a large area to gather scientific data. Sensors can even be used in performing arts, as is shown in this paper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab (7). The authors propose using motion sensors to monitor hundreds of performers simultaneously, thereby allowing for much improved lighting and music responses. In the wake of the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, a great deal of attention was given to the intermittent and failing sensors on the shuttle minutes before it broke apart. This document from NASA shows the status of several sensors at various intervals in the shuttle's decent (8). [CL]
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From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2002.

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