The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 3, Number 3

January 30, 2004

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




Topic In Depth


NASA: Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) [QuickTime, MPEG]

This website describes a satellite instrument designed by the Jet Propulsion Lab that will fly aboard NASA's Aura spacecraft in June 2004 and will study Earth's troposphere and ozone. The website provides links to information on the TES status, TES data products, mission details, the science behind TES, and related TES publications. The Gallery section includes animations and image plots of instrument observations and orbit coverage, as well as images of the instruments. [VF]

MIT: Cell Phone Technology to Prevent Those Embarassing Moments

Researchers at the MIT Media Lab's MIThril project propose a solution to "the social and safety problems" associated with cell phones. Specifically, they are designing a prototype phone that can determine the user's circumstances or context, so the phone can respond appropriately. This "context aware phone could automatically switch profiles when the user enters a restaurant, sits in the driver's seat of a car, etc." A CVS repository includes the code used (which is covered by the GNU GPL license) while other pages offer tutorials and other information on their "wearables research" if you're willing to dig a little. [VF]

American Mathematical Society: Probability Web

The Probability Web is maintained by a professor in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department at Carleton College and offers links and resources for researchers, teachers, and others interested in probability. Links to an abstract database, book lists, conferences, jobs, journals, newsgroups, teaching resources and other miscellaneous online resources are included. In some cases early chapters of books are posted and some journals are free. Also interesting is the alphabetical listing of People in Probability, which includes links to mathematicians' websites. Another section provides favorite quotes on probability submitted by visitors. [VF]

Europe's Digital Library [pdf]

This European website is dedicated to addressing digital preservation problems so that those involved can better plan for future research and development. A key concern is that digital information, and specifically "cultural heritage and scientific objects," will remain accessible and usable for future generations. Although Epranet does not conduct research and development, "it will create a coherent platform for proactive co-operation, collaboration, exchange and dissemination of research results and experience in the preservation of digital objects." Information available online includes best practice guides, workshop materials, reports, and other resources. [VF]

Science and Engineering Workforce Project [pdf]

The Science and Engineering Workforce Project (SEWP) brings together labor economists and other researchers on topics such as wage levels, education and recruitment, graduate student unionization, scientific competition and collaboration. The project researchers conduct basic research and provide government, business, and labor "with objective and timely analyses of scientific workforce issues." The website provides information on relevant fellowship opportunities, biographies and websites for project participants, and links to relevant stakeholders, including federal agencies and professional employer groups. A few papers from the project are posted, but the site is still under construction. The most recent posting includes a briefing book from the project's workshop on societal implications of nanoscience and nonotechnology. [VF]

Mathematical Programming Glossary [pdf]

University of Colorado at Denver Mathematics professor Harvey J. Greenberg has created this website listing terms specific to mathematical programming, as well as some terms from other disciplines, such as economics, computer science, and mathematics. Of note is the Notation section that provides all sorts of explanations for various mathematical symbols and abbreviations, including functions, sets, vectors, and matrices. Some entires are expanded upon in the supplements section where you can also find several mathematical problems listed -- including the Diet, Newsboy, and Warehouse problem. [VF]


Cheche Konnen Center at TERC: Science Education in Urban Schools

The Chche Konnen Center conducts research on teaching and learning in K-8 urban classrooms where many students speak a first language other than English. A key aspect of their work is to document "the sense-making resources that children from ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds bring to the study of science (e.g., the oral and literate traditions they command in their daily lives outside of school) and the ways these intersect with those characteristic of scientific disciplines." The website describes the classroom research project, their approach to teacher professional development, and lists related research articles. The History section describes one of their first investigations, The Water Taste Test. [VF]

Stevens Institute of Technology Research Centers and Initiatives [pdf]

This website describes the various research projects of faculty, students, professional staff, and visiting scientists at Stevens Institute of Technology. An array of interdisciplinary research initiatives and centers are described, such as the Center for Improved Engineering Science Education, the initiative on Cyber Security, the Center for Environmental Engineering (CEE), and the Nanoscale Device Laboratory. From the homepage, visitors can also learn about the WebCampus where students can complete courses towards a Graduate Certificate or Masters Degree online. [VF]

Project Mathematics: Modules for High School and Community College Mathematics [RealPlayer]

Project Mathematics, funded mostly by grants from the National Science Foundation, "produces videotape-and-workbook modules that explore basic topics in high school mathematics in ways that cannot be done at the chalkboard or in a textbook." Using live action, music, special effects, and computer animation, the project aims to raise student interest in mathematics and encourage interaction between students and teachers. The modules are distributed free of charge through a national network. The website describes the modules and provides links to the distributors. Some descriptions include short video segments. Modules currently available are: The Theorem of Pythagoras, The Story of Pi, Similarity (and scaling), Polynomials, and Sines and Cosines, and a video which reviews the early history of mathematics to the development of calculus in the seventeenth century. Videos that showcase teachers implementing the modules are also available. [VF]

The Personal Exploration Rover: Mars Rover Comes to K-12 Classrooms [mpeg]

Students and arm-chair scientists can learn more about how the Mars Rover works with the Personal Exploration Rovers (PER). Roboticist Illah Nourbakhsh from Carnegie Mellon University has taken the lead on developing these smaller, cheaper robots. The website describes how these little robots work, lists locations where they will be exhibited beginning in January 2004, and provides a zipped file of the open source code used for PER, "including the firmware running on the Cerebellum motor controller, the on-board single-board computer (Intel Stayton or Stargate board) and the off-board kiosk computer (running Java)." The Gallery provides videos of the PER in action. [VF]

Telescopes in Education (TIE)

The collaborative Telescopes in Education (TIE) program, sponsored by NASA, lets students around the world operate a remotely controlled telescope and charge-coupled device (CCD) camera. Using a science-grade 24-inch reflecting telescope located at the Mount Wilson Observatory in of Southern California, a modem, and special software, students in the U.S., Australia, Canada, England, and Japan have learned about astronomy, astrophysics, and mathematics. With the purchase of The Sky: Remote Astronomy Software which controls the telescope, educators and students can reserve observation time on the telescope for any evening of the week lasting from one hour to an entire night. The website provides more information on how to obtain the software, system requirements, an online users guide, and current weather conditions on Mount Wilson. Unfortunately, the webcam didn't work at the time the site was reviewed, yet the online photo Gallery provides some lovely images taken using the CCD camera. The project also provides a large listing of other educational links, including one to another educational telescope in Australia, called Nanango. [VF]

Math Forum 2004 Game

The well known Math Forum (formerly from Swarthmore College, discussed in the October 20, 1995 issue of The Scout Report), offers a new game where students find out how many expressions they can write for all the numbers from 1 to 100 using only the digits in the current year. Complete rules, worksheets and printable manipulatives are available from this website. Student solutions may be submitted starting January 1, 2004, using the webform, and solutions will be posted starting February 1, 2004. [VF]


Museum of Computer History [pdf]

The Museum of Computer History collection includes artifacts from pre-computing to supercomputing, with a primary emphasis on post-WWII electronic computing. Although the museum is located in Mountain View, CA, a sampling of artifacts are provided online with promises to continue digitizing the collection. The website also provides a wealth of information for anyone researching computer history or simply curious about milestones in computer history. A key feature of the website is the timeline for the history of computing from 1945 to 1990, where visitors can click by year to view "illustrated descriptions of significant innovations in hardware and software technology," or search for a specific topic. A separate page provides a timeline for the history of the internet and another for the "microprocessor evolution." The document archive portion of the website contains various documents including history books, manuals, biographical and other historical materials. [VF]

Alaska Pipeline

Learn more about one of the largest pipeline systems in the world directly from the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. Monthly newsletters address key issues, press releases, reports on leaks and other news, while technical papers address issues relating to the operation of a pipeline in a cold region. The section on Pipeline Facts provides information on the Pipeline History, Pipeline Design, Pipeline Operations, Marine Terminal & Tankers, Environmental Protection as well as some facts on Alaska and a glossary of terms. A page on Safety and Environment provides amendments to Alyeskas Oil Discharge Prevention and Contingency Plan (ODPCP) and addresses other environmental issues. [VF]

The Institute For the Future: Predicting Future Trends in Technology [pdf]

The Institute for the Future is a non-profit research group "identifying emerging trends and discontinuities that will transform the global marketplace in five key areas: Consumers,
Technology, Health and Health Care, and Workplace." Although the reports and member services are geared towards businesses seeking strategic planning advice, their reports on emerging trends are available online and may be of interest to anyone curious about the future directions of technology. [VF]

Caltech's Streaming Theatre [QuickTime, pdf]

At this website, Caltech provides video files of lectures held on campus in the areas of Science and Technology, Society and Culture, and Campus Life. Topics include: "Diversifying the Talent Pool for Science and Engineering," a symposium on environmental sustainability in greater Los Angeles, and a ceremony at the White House at which Carver Mead received the National Medal of Technology. [VF]

How Does a Car Engine Work?

This website provides and easy-to-read overview on how a car engine works, with more detailed pages and diagrams on Internal Combustion, Parts of an Engine, What Can Go Wrong, Engine Subsystems, How to Help an Engine Produce More Power, and other information. Note of warning: The site is heavy on advertising. [VF]

Smithsonian Air and Space: Images and Articles [QuickTime VR]

From this website, visitors can view panoramic images and videos taken above earth. Each sighting page also links to text from related articles in Air and Space magazine. The most recent sighting is a high resolution 360 degree color panoramic photograph of the area surrounding the landing spot of the Mars Exploratory Rover Spirit. This landing area has been named Columbia Memorial Station. [VF]

Topic In Depth


1. Jet Propulsion Lab: How Robots Are Like People (Almost)
2. Interaction Lab at USC [pdf]
3. Field Robotics Center at the Robotics Institute
4. National Robotics Engineering Consortium Robotics Academy for Children [pdf]
5. The Project on People and Robots [pdf]
6. The Social Robotics Project [pdf]
7. Robotics Trends: Current Uses for Robotics Technology
8. Imaging, Robotics, and Intelligent Systems Laboratory

Recent news coverage on the Mars Rover has sparked a renewed interest in robotics. Projects like the Personal Exploration Rover (see under Education in this report) are bringing this technology to K-12 classrooms, while others are exploring the ways scientists can match the technology to the needs of people. This Topic in Depth offers a closer look into research on robotics and the many uses of robotics technology -- from space exploration to household electronics.

The Jet Propulsion Lab (1) has posted this article describing the different approaches taken to control robots. The site covers some of the advantages of behavior-based control, especially in space exploration where the use of intelligent systems can alleviate the communication delay that results from operating distant rovers from Earth. The Interaction Lab at USC (2) also conducts research on behavior-based control systems. This website describes the various projects and provides links to reports and articles on topics such as multi-robot control, and human-robot interaction and learning. The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon houses numerous projects, including the Field Robotics Center (3) for the study of mobile robots in field environments; an educational site (4) offering Robocamp for kids, teacher training, curriculum (in Spanish and English), and competitions to promote young students' learning of science and technology; and the Project on People and Robots (5), which studies the design and behavior of service robots, and their interactions with humans. Meanwhile, researchers at the Social Robots Project (6) are developing Vikia -- a robot with a human face and a personality.
Robotics Trends (7) provides an overview of current trends and links to articles on various topics, including the first robot scientist, Japan's rescue robot, and a baby simulator designed to help students of nursing train for the real thing. Finally, the uses for robotics in national defense are described more on this website for the Imaging, Robotics, and Intelligent Systems Laboratory (8). [VF]

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