The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 2, Number 17

August 29, 2003

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

Entertainment Technology Center A Large-Scale Study of the Evolution of Web Pages 3D Body Scanner CRA Conference on Grand Research Challenges in Computer Science and Engineering Soft Walls: Preventing the Use of Commercial Aircraft as Weapons Next Generation Space Telescope (NGST) Observatory Architecture and Performance Education and Training for the Information Technology Workforce CSIDC 2003
Cplusplus: The C++ Resources Network The Learning Center The Abacus: Index Castle Islands Introduction to RP Technologies EggMath Girls Go Tech Tau Beta Pi: Brain Ticklers InTime
ElsevierEngineering PC Magazine: The Future of Technology Open Mind: Teaching Robots the Stuff We All Know Two on the Electric Power Grid LavaRnd The GW Forecast: A Virtual Think-Tank for Tracking the Technology Revolution BlackHat Media Archives Bloodlines: Technology Hits Homes
Building Technology

The Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University is a unique research institution "that combines technology and fine arts to create new processes, tools, and vision for storytelling and entertainment." Most visitors to the center's homepage will be mainly interested in the diverse array of current and past projects investigated by students and faculty. The Biohazard project is developing a program used to train firefighters for a chemical terrorist attack in a shopping mall; the program simulates the mall environment and the trainees are required to virtually guide civilians outside for decontamination. Despite the lack of research papers on the site, the projects are all explained in detail and several video demonstrations are provided. [CL]
Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard researchers collaborated to write this paper for the Twelfth International World Wide Web Conference in May 2003. The paper looks at the Web as a dynamic entity, constantly changing, and considers how this behavior affects its usability. In particular, search engines are noted as being especially susceptible since they cannot possibly have records of the most current version of every Web page. To measure the rate and amount of change, the researchers "collected 151 million web pages eleven times over, retaining salient information including a feature vector of each page." Their results show which Web page parameters are strong indicators of future change. [CL]
Body scanning is a focus of research at Cornell University that uses three-dimensional visualization technology to create accurate digital models of the human body, with the goal of enabling cost effective, custom-fit apparel. This Web site describes the process of capturing a 3D image and how it can be applied to enhance online shopping. The section called Virtual Try-On illustrates how "a consumer's body scan is merged with scans of pants sized for a set of fit models." The site is heavily multimedia oriented, which allows users to see for themselves the benefits and applications of body scanning. [CL]
The first in a series of conferences intended to identify and explore potential opportunities for major advancement in the field of computing was held in June 2002, and the final report was released in 2003. This Web site has many documents that either were submitted to or resulted from the conference. For instance, the people invited to attend the conference were required to submit a one or two page essay stating their views on future problem areas facing the computer industry; these comments are available online. Presentation slides from keynote speakers are provided as well as a final report which seeks to reinforce the key findings. [CL]
In the hopes of preventing another terrorist attack like the ones of September 11, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley are developing an intelligent autopilot system for commercial aircraft. The system, dubbed Soft Walls, would activate whenever an aircraft approaches a designated no-fly zone. Using global positioning system technology, the autopilot would guide the plane around or away from restricted airspace. A few technical papers describing the Soft Walls concept and proposed implementation are available on its home page. For a more general overview of the project, several presentations and links to media coverage of Soft Walls are also provided. [CL]
Although not scheduled to be launched until 2011, design plans for the Hubble Space Telescope's replacement are already underway. This research paper describes some of the architectural and performance specifications slated for the Next Generation Space Telescope (now called the James Webb Space Telescope). The seven-meter primary mirror will be hexagonal and made up of twelve smaller one-meter mirrors, allowing the observatory to see "objects 400 times fainter than seen from large groundbased telescopes or the current generation of space-based infrared telescopes." Details about the main components of the observatory and its deployment are given in this paper. [CL]
Demand for skilled information technology (IT) workers exists in virtually every major industry. This report from the US Secretary of Commerce serves as a guide for government and business entities "as they develop education and training policies and programs designed to ensure a world-class IT workforce for the United States." Published in June 2003, it should be especially insightful for people entering an IT field. The first major section considers the qualities companies look for when hiring IT workers. The diversity among different educational and training programs is addressed in the second section, while the final section explores the dynamics of the IT industry and resulting effects on worker demand. [CL]
The Computer Society of the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers concluded its 4th Annual International Design Competition in July 2003, and the ten finalists are featured on this Web site. Each team has their project presentation and report available for download. The goal of the 2003 competition was to "advance excellence in education by having student teams design and implement computer-based solutions to real-world problems." The winner was a team from Taiwan, who proposed a novel system for computer-aided education and instruction. Incorporating wireless technology, tablet PCs, automatic file transfer, and many other items, the system was enough to earn the team top honors. [CL]
Despite being introduced in the 1980's, the C++ programming language remains one of the most commonly used languages for a variety of applications. People who are learning the basics of C++, or more seasoned programmers who just need a refresher, can find a great deal of useful information on this Web site. An easy-to-follow tutorial, complete with detailed examples and clear explanations, is one of the best resources on the site. Several other valuable features include descriptions of individual instructions that are included in standard C++ header files, free source code, and much more. [CL]
Brighthand is an established Web site for news and information about handheld computers. The Learning Center is a new addition to the site, with articles focusing on the main components of handhelds and comparing the different technologies that are used in the design of those components. Storage methods are the topic of the first article, which was posted in July 2003. It begins with general classifications and definitions, and proceeds to specific types of memory. Features such as capacity, power consumption, and size are mentioned for each specific storage type. The second article, released in August 2003, discusses handheld display technologies. Due to the relative newness of the site, additional articles are likely to be added in the future. Many more resources about handheld computers and smart phones can be found on the Brighthand homepage. [CL]
Parents often scoff at the powerful calculators their children use for math classes, noting that they had to learn with slide rules. A device that predates both tools, however, is the focus of this unique site. The abacus has roots in the fifth century B.C., and still sees limited use in various parts of the world. A very thorough overview is provided online, with interactive applets that teach the user how to perform addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with an abacus. Several excerpts from a textbook demonstrate square and cube root extraction. Historical perspectives are given that trace the use of the abacus through time and different civilizations. [CL]
Rapid prototyping (RP) encompasses a wide range of technologies used to efficiently transition from a computer design model directly to a physical product. This tutorial outlines eight of the main RP technologies, as well as several miscellaneous ones that have not yet been widely adopted. Able to be used for almost any application and with any material, RP technologies include stereolithography, inkjet, and selective laser sintering. All of the different types are explained individually, and their relative benefits and weaknesses are described in the RP Technology Comparison Chart. [CL]
EggMath is "a collection of web modules (including many interactive applets) covering different topics in mathematics related to eggs." This unusual site helps grade school students understand concepts such as symmetry, spherical geometry, and exponential growth. The authors of the site have even invented special terminology to make the material more fun for students. For example, the White / Yolk Theorem is an interesting interpretation of a theorem from topology, which states that any shape can be divided into equal halves with only one straight cut. Embryo Calculus is another amusing and educational section of the site. [CL]
This page of the Girl Scouts of America Web site is intended to encourage girls to "bridge the techno-gender gap" and explore technology, mathematics, and science. It is divided into three main sections for different age groups, ranging from age five to seventeen. Each section is similar in appearance, but with different content. The user is shown a scene of a bedroom, and by moving over different objects the user can learn about the technology used to make that object. Example careers related to each technology are given, and some activities are suggested. A section for adults is also available to help parents and teachers promote technology-related subjects. [CL]
Tau Beta Pi is a national honor society for engineering students, and its quarterly Brain Ticklers online feature is a true challenge aimed at motivated individuals. In each issue, five standard questions and two bonus questions are given, which are intended to exercise peoples' problem solving skills. The problems are generally straightforward and easy to understand, but they can be extremely perplexing to solve. People who attempt the problems are encouraged to submit their answers for possible recognition in the following issue. Answers to the previous issue's problems are included when new issues are published. [CL]
Teachers of all grade levels and subjects can take advantage of the material available on this Web site to learn about new teaching methods and strategies. The main feature of InTime is the collection of 60 online videos of teachers using technology to make their classes more enjoyable and educational. Visitors to the site can browse the videos by content area, grade level, learning element, and more. The model on which the InTime project is based is also presented. This framework integrates educational processes, learning environments, and content standards with the underlying goal of greater technology use to facilitate original and unique teaching practices. [CL]
Brought online in April 2003, ElsevierEngineering is "a new engineering information website made up of 7 gateways covering different engineering subject areas." Specialized sections devoted to civil, electrical, mechanical, and other engineering disciplines are available. The site serves as an excellent starting point for subject-specific research, as well as a source for news and conferences. Most of the site's features are available to registered members; although registration is free, it takes a couple minutes to complete. [CL]
This section of PC Magazine's Web site highlights some of the most fascinating and potentially revolutionary technologies that could be on the verge of large scale development. Of the nineteen main technologies that are featured, some have been widely publicized, such as hydrogen fuel cells and grid computing. Others are not as well known. For example, the article on e-bombs, or "high-power microwave (HPM) weapons," touches on a US Department of Defense effort that until recently has been shrouded in secrecy. A prototype gallery is also available on this site, showing images and brief descriptions of other remarkable technologies. [CL]
"The goal of the Open Mind Indoor Common Sense project is to make indoor mobile robots that work in environments like homes and offices more intelligent." It is seeking input from users to build a database of facts, mostly about household and office objects. For example, information about an object's most common location and purpose, its proximity to other objects, and even images showing what an object looks like are valid pieces of common sense that users can submit. Several essays about the project and the general problem of endowing computers with common sense are also available. A brief registration is required to access the site. [CL]
While key infrastructures that were not working as a result of the August 14, 2003 blackout were widely publicized, the systems that remained operational received less notice. An interesting article from the Washington Post notes that the Internet was largely unaffected by the power outage. The redundancy of the Net and extensive use of power backups by Internet service providers are the main reasons for this triumph of technology, which would not have been noticed if it were not for the major failure of technology, the blackout. Access to this article requires a free, and anonymous, registration. Another item of interest that has implications for better future control of the power grid is a January 2003 document from Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The report outlines new concepts for advanced Energy Management Systems for a condensed area of electrical load. The resulting interaction between these "microgrids" and the interconnecting distribution system is also discussed. [CL]
LavaRnd is an open source project that uses a chaotic source to generate truly random numbers. With applications in cryptography and encryption, the LavaRnd system involves taking a digital image of a chaotic process and filtering out structured data to obtain a non-repeatable series of numbers. A complete description of the system's implementation is given on the LavaRnd homepage. For people who are not interested in building their own random number generator or playing with the source code of LavaRnd algorithms, the Web site has a great deal of background information on random numbers in general. For example, an enlightening discussion of how the quality of a random number generator is tested is provided. [CL]
The George Washington University Forecast of Technology and Strategy is a collaborative online effort of experts used to evaluate trends and predict breakthroughs for a variety of emerging technologies. The combined input of all contributors is evaluated to estimate "the most likely year in which the breakthrough will occur, its associated confidence level, the potential economic demand, and so on." Results of the project can be viewed on its homepage. In addition to the actual predictions, several reports and technology briefs are provided as introductions to the project and the specific fields considered. [CL]
This massive archive of presentations is offered for "the world wide computer security community." The archive can be accessed at no cost, and mainly consists of slide presentations from BlackHat conferences and conventions. These events began in 1997 to help professionals assess potential risks and recognize areas most vulnerable to security breaches. The material available in the archive includes slide presentations, audio and video, and other notes and tools. The BlackHat USA 2003 conference, held in July 2003, is the most recently added in the archive; however, streaming media from this event has not yet been posted. [CL]
This is the homepage of a PBS documentary about genetic technologies that was first aired in June 2003. The Web site has many online-only interactive features, including a section called Fact or Fiction. Here users can test their knowledge of reproductive technologies, cloning, legal DNA issues, and other topics. Stem cell research is outlined in one of the parts of Mapping the Future, and ethical considerations are the focus of Drawing the Line. An extremely detailed timeline of genetic technologies traces notable events and discoveries back hundreds of years. [CL]
1. Center for Resourceful Building Technology [pdf]
2. Final Report of the 2003 National Green Building Conference [pdf]
3. The Acoustical Design of Conventional Open Plan Offices [pdf]
4. Immune-Building Technology and Bioterrorism Defense [pdf]
5. High Performance Buildings [pdf]
6. Saving Time, Money, and Costs with Integrated Building Controls
7. Technology Versus Nature
8. CMC Magazine
From residential houses to hundred-story skyscrapers, many different technologies come together to make a building safe and comfortable. Building design is a continually changing industry, and new advances are being made possible as research progresses.

Sustainable development is gaining popularity worldwide in an effort to minimize environmental impact. The Center for Resourceful Building Technology (1) maintains an online guide that describes building practices that are resource-efficient; some information on the center's research projects is also available. Similar in topic is this report from the National Association of Home Builders Research Center (2). The 70-page document is the final report of an April 2003 conference on green building; it gives day-by-day summaries of presentations and activities in which the conference participants were involved. Office buildings have a number of design issues that need to be considered to make a productive work environment. One such issue is the acoustics in a cubicle workspace. The Canadian Institute for Research in Construction (3) discusses some design factors that can improve privacy even in the very open atmosphere of closely spaced cubicles. In the wake of the 2001 anthrax scare, a research project at Pennsylvania State University has garnered significant attention. This paper (4) introduces immune buildings, which have advanced ventilation and air filtration systems that can mitigate the danger caused by airborne pathogens. Experimental results from the project are also presented. The US Department of Energy High Performance Building Initiative (5) is investigating new technologies to make commercial buildings more comfortable and cost effective. Several interesting technical papers and introductory reports are given on the initiative's homepage, including a technology road map for high performance buildings. This essay from the June 2003 issue of Constructech Magazine (6) highlights a movement toward integrated control systems for all types of buildings. The author notes that having a unified system that automatically manages security, lighting, energy, and several other building operations can save time and money in the long run. Another article, written by a member of the Partnership for Advanced Technology in Housing (7), discusses building materials and practices that can improve residential installation's resistance to major storms and natural disasters. An example of an area that is using these weather resistant designs is in Florida; the article cites the vulnerability of coastal homes to hurricanes and outlines some efforts to build them in a more structurally sound manner. Lastly, the Commercial Modular Construction Magazine (8) is a quarterly publication that centers on permanent and temporary modular building design. The second issue of 2003 has, among other things, a good article that describes the basics and benefits of modular construction. [CL]

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