The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 3, Number 4

February 13, 2004

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




Topic In Depth


Hypothesis Generation and Experimentation by a Robot Scientist [pdf]

This article in Nature describes a robotic system that uses techniques from artificial intelligence to generate hypotheses and conduct experiments. In the example described, the system is applied in a functional genomic experiment, but the findings are relevant for anyone interested in the ways scientific discovery software can be integrated with laboratory robotics. Supplemental information regarding materials and methods is available from the sidebar. [VF]

Free GIS Data

This online resource for GIS and geospatial data has compiled data from a wide range of GIS Web sites located on the Internet. Some of the data is free once you set up a user account to be part of the GeoCommunity, with additional data available for a fee using the Premium option. Downloading may require the user to be proficient in GIS and own relevant software. Download options include: Digital Raster Graphic (DRG) Data, USGS Digital elevation Models (DEM), Digital Orthophotos (DOQ/DOQQ), and FEMA Flood Data. Bundles of data available for purchase include: VECTOR MAP (VMap) Level 1, National Wetlands Inventory, TIGER Data & U.S. Census Resources, data by individual states in the U.S. as well as data on countries around the globe. The majority of the datasets are in ARC/INFO E00, SHP, DLG, TIGER, and DEM formats. [VF]

Motor Development International: Compressed Air Technology Systems

How does a car that boasts "zero pollution" and even "cleans the air it uses" work? This website provides information on the air compression cars developed by Motor Development International. Aside from the general overview of the mechanics of air compression, the FAQ section provides additional information on the air tanks, filter system, body frame, electric system and MDI's business model. A key target for this website seems to be potential buyers and investors. [VF]

Statistics Research at Bell Laboratories [pdf]

Statistics research at Bell Labs bridges the dotted line between Mathematical Sciences research and Computer Science research. The labs' work follows in the footsteps of Walter Shewhart and John Tukey "by continuing to focus on data from a host of challenging applications, we are working on new ways to think about, look at, and compute with data." Visitors can learn more about technical research on distributed computing, network traffic analysis, fraud detection and model selection, or read about current projects, which "range from pure methodology to application-driven research." Another section allows visitors to download software to be used for "calculations, plots or any other purpose in a journal article or other published work" as long as appropriate reference is made to the software and author(s). [VF]

Python Programming Language

Python is often compared to Tcl, Perl, Scheme or Java and runs on many brands of UNIX, on Windows, OS/2, Mac, Amiga, and many other platforms. The most recent version of Python is available for free from this website. Also included are Python 2.3.3 Documentation (released December 19, 2003), the interpreter program that reads Python programs and carries out their instructions, tutorials for non-programmers and programmers, some examples and sample code, information for developers, and links to the programming community user groups. "The Python implementation is copyrighted but freely usable and distributable, even for commercial use."

Harvard University: Harvard@Home Videos of Lectures

The Harvard@Home website lets visitors download video footage from research, teaching, and public addresses at Harvard (for more see Scout Report Dec 5, 2003). This 45-minute video features Professors Benedict H. Gross and William A. Stein taking "a modern approach to the ancient mathematical problem of solving cubic equations." A glossary of terms, slide images and audience Q&A are also included. [VF]

American Mathematical Society: Current Events in Mathematics [pdf]

The American Mathematical Society has posted talks from an AMS Special Session on Current Events in Mathematics held on Friday, January 9. The talks include The Interior-Point Revolution in Optimization: History, Recent Developments and Lasting Consequences, presented by Margaret Wright; What Is Motivic Integration?, by Thomas C. Hales; It Is Easy to Determine Whether or Not a Given Integer is Prime, by Andrew Granville; and Perelman's Recent Work on the Classification of 3-Manifolds, by John W. Morgan.

Department of Energy: Deep Web Search Technology [QuickTime, Windows Media Player or Real Player]

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) recognizes the need for "state-of-the-art technologies and services" to support the needs of visitors searching OSTI's "wealth of energy, science, and technology research and development (R&D) information." From this website you can view a video and the corresponding transcript demonstrating this new technology that allows users to search data not accessible by popular search engines. [VF]


Two on Teaching and Learning Python

LiveWires: Children's Lesson in Python [pdf]
Guido van Robot: High School Students Use Python to Program

Python is an introductory programming language considered ideal for learning the basic concepts of programming. These two websites offer examples of educational uses and lesson plans for Python. The first site describes LiveWires, which is used to teach Python to children ages 12-15 at a summer camp in Britain. The lesson materials are free online and include a series of worksheets, reference sheets and game sheets for use with the LiveWires package (Python modules). Also on this website are a list of possible activities that will be offered in the 2004 summer session, interviews with current and former LiveWires people, and a typical timetable. The second website describes a project called Guido van Robot in which students write simple programs to control a simulated robot. Using Python, students write a program to guide the actions of a robot that is "represented by a triangle on the screen that moves around in a world made up of streets and venues, walls and beepers, which Guido can collect or set." Students learn the concepts of sequencing, conditional branching, looping and procedural abstraction. Related documents, program file screen shots, and a lesson plan are available for free downloading. [VF]

ESRI: US Community Atlas

ESRI's U.S. Community Atlas allows teachers and students across the country to "define the nature of 'their community' and post descriptions and maps about it." The project involves students in exploring the data and discovering patterns and characteristics of their neighborhoods to produce a "community profile." Students are challenged to reach a consensus on the bounds of "the community" and to build their spatial and analytical skills. This website provides guidelines and sample projects for teachers interested in planning a Community Atlas project in their school. They recommend using map services available online through your web browser and offer links to those services as well as ways to purchase GIS software and datasets. Final projects can be posted on the Community Atlas website to be part of the database and eligible for a reward from ESRI. Teachers are asked to register for free. [VF]

Youth04: Young Voters, the Internet and Political Power

Based at the Center for Democracy and Technology, Youth04 is an effort, mostly by college students, to "start a revolution in the role that 18 to 25-year-olds play in politics in America" by using Internet technologies and grassroots organizing. The goals are: 1) to create effective strategies for young voters to express their beliefs and values in election 2004; 2) to encourage candidates, their consultants, and the media to pay attention to young voters; and 3) to increase voter turnout among young voters. Visitors to the website can sign a petition, enter discussion groups (where some candidates have actually chimed in), and learn about ways to get involved and spread the word. A separate page is devoted to college professors with curricular suggestions.

Accessibility in Distance Education (ADE)

The Accessibility in Distance Education (ADE) website offers guidelines for faculty seeking to develop accessible online materials for people with disabilities. The five major sections of the website address common questions regarding the meaning of accessibility, legal issues, issues to consider when designing an online course, as well as How-To and Best Practices sections. Provided by the University of Maryland University College, this site should prove to be immensely helpful to those instructors striving to consider accessibility with regard to online education.

Show-Me Center [pdf]

The Show-Me Center is a partnership of four NSF-sponsored middle grades mathematics curriculum development Satellite Centers (University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University, University of Montana, and the Educational Development Center). The group's website provides "information and resources needed to support selection and implementation of standards-based middle grades mathematics curricula." The Video Showcase includes segments on Number, Algebra, Geometry, Measure, and Data Analysis, with information on ways to obtain the complete video set. The Curricula Showcase provides general information, unit goals, sample lessons and teacher pages spanning four projects: the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP), Mathematics in Context (MiC), MathScape: Seeing and Thinking Mathematically, and Middle Grades Math Thematics. The website also posts Show-Me Center newsletters, information on upcoming conferences and workshops, and links to resources including published articles and unpublished commentary on mathematics school reform. [VF]

EERE: Energy Education and Training Resources

This website hosted by the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offers links to educational and training resources on energy. They provide information relevant to students, school administrators and homeowners, in addition to the usual resources for teachers such as curriculum and lesson plans. The section for students provides ideas for energy-related science projects and links to other resources to help with writing reports. High school and college students can also read about energy careers and energy-related college degrees, programs and internships. The section for school administrators includes not only information on energy education programs, but also resources on ways to make school buildings more energy efficient and about alternative fuel and vehicle technologies for school buses. Those already knowledgeable about energy may find the links to energy-related job listings and continuing education opportunities helpful. Finally, homeowners will find a section on training and classes helpful for building energy-efficient homes. [VF]

RAND: Achievement for All

RAND has developed this website in an effort to bring together researchers, teachers, developers, and policymakers "to create, debate and apply research findings and the wisdom of practitioners to solving education problems" in reading and mathematics. To address fundamental problems of knowledge and practice in education research, RAND organized two study groups to begin a conversation about "what programmatic, problem-solving research might look like in two of the most important problem areas facing American education." Deciding that the promotion of research and practice communities was central to this effort, RAND hosts this website where study group reports are distributed and "a wide variety of concerned publics" can offer their input.

The School and Classroom Program: Connecting Young Students from Around the World

The School and Classroom Program is a service offered by People to People International (PTPI), an organization that seeks "to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures." This website describes the program which connects teachers and their students with similar-age classrooms in other countries. Students can interact online and offline using various audio and visual tools, and collaborate on projects such as exchanging letters or examining recycling systems. Thousands of students in countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America have participated. Teachers and students interested in joining the program can register online and participation is free. [VF]


PBS: Triumph of the Nerds [Shockwave]

PBS has developed this website as a companion to its television special "Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires." The website includes a historical timeline (beginning with the invention of the abacus and ending with the World Wide Web), stats and figures about the nerds featured on the show, "an interactive 'pick the computer' game that lets you test your nerd quotient," the transcript from the three-part television program, and an opportunity to read and give feedback, as well as a Q & A "gossip" column. [VF]

Fact Monster's Computer Glossary

In an age of ever-expanding technology, it stands to reason that our vocabulary also continues to expand. This website by Fact Monster offers a glossary of computer terms -- from applet to WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) -- to help you when you are stumped or simply want to learn more about computers. Other interesting facts about the computer and the internet include: The Dawn of an Electronic Era, How Do Computers Work?, Computer Virus Timeline, How Big Is a Bit?, Internet Safety Guide, What Kids Do Online, Top Five Countries Using the Internet, and much more. [VF]

Democracy Online

This project arose from a master's thesis by Wijbrand Pieter De Jager in Change Management from Erasmus University, Rotterdam and mirrors a sister website in Dutch. The author asks whether the Internet can "build a new kind of politics" and offers a "a space of play" to explore these issues. To this end, the website includes e-democracy news, links and resources from all over the world, and a link to, which allows people worldwide to cast their votes on the forthcoming U.S. Presidential Election because it "directly influences the life of citizens around the world." [VF]

Bridge Construction and Engineering Learning Center

This website is a great resource for information on bridges. The site provides links to websites like PBS's Nova, where you can learn about different types of bridges and then test your knowledge by matching the right bridge to the right location (over a freeway, river, canyon or ocean waterway), or where you can read more about the forces, loads and materials that affect bridges. Another link takes you to Better Bridges, where you can find out how many bridges are in your state. Definitely a great resource for those armchair engineers but also for teachers and students of physics looking for some great information on this fascinating type of construction. [VF]

EERE News: World Trade Center's Freedom Tower to Feature Wind Turbines

The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy posts a weekly electronic newsletter. This January 7, 2004 issue of features a story about the wind turbines which will be part of the forthcoming Freedom Tower to be located at the site of the World Trade Center. The story includes links to the press release from the architects, images of the Freedom Tower design, as well as images of the proposed wind turbine installation.

Science: Essays on Science and Society

Science offers this monthly series, Essays on Science and Society, which "features the views of individuals from inside or outside the scientific community as they explore the interface between science and the wider society." The February 2004 issue addresses: Beyond the Ivory Tower, investigating how science and scientists have interacted with society at different times and in different areas. This is certainly a series worth revisiting often. [VF]

Symantec: Virus Alerts and Hoaxes

This website by Symantec (makers of Norton AntiVirus) provides information on the latest virus threats, security advisories, updates for Symantec products and removal tools, as well as some basic information on viruses. The Reference Area includes FAQ, a Glossary, Newsletter, White Papers, a section where you can Submit Virus Samples, postings of Hoaxes, a Security Database, Virus Encyclopedia, and Virus Calendar. [VF]

Topic In Depth

Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

1. City Governments Map Trends,1282,62131,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_8
2. ESRI: Join the Spirit of Mars Exploration
3. Earth Satellite Corporation: GIS Services
4. Your Internet Guide to Geographic Information Systems
5. GISlounge: History of GIS
6. University Consortium for Geographic Information Science

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) technology crosses many disciplines in research and encompasses a wide range of applications. The technology can be integrated with a system that combines aerial (or satellite) photography, census figures, crime statistics and other information and then overlaid on a highly-detailed interactive map. This Topic in Depth covers some of the current uses of GIS and resources for learning more about the technology.

City governments have found various uses for GIS technology, (1) including helping firefighters avoid closed roads when navigating through New York City. Moving even beyond Earth, GIS was also used to gather planetary geography and geographic characteristics in the rover mission to Mars (2). Visitors to this website can learn more about Martian GIS and visualization tools and find image viewers for the advanced and beginner users of GIS that allow you to get a closer look at Mars, Venus, the moon, or your hometown here on earth. The Earth Satellite Corporation (3) provides this overview of some applications for satellite imagery combined with GIS technology. This website, Your Internet Guide to Geographical Information Systems (4), provides general information on GIS, sample images, and ways to get software, training and data. To gain some perspective on the expansion of GIS, the GISlounge provides links to where you can learn more about the history of GIS (5), and describes the history project, which includes a "critical history" that asks the question, "What were the precursors and ways of understanding the world that provided the conditions of possibility for GIS to emerge in the forms that did?" To give you a better sense of the rapid growth that has occurred in the field of geographic information and steps being taken to ensure that a coherent view emerges, visit this website of the University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS)(6). [VF]

Below are the copyright statements to be included when reproducing annotations from The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology.

The single phrase below is the copyright notice to be used when reproducing any portion of this report, in any format:

From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2003.

The paragraph below is the copyright notice to be used when reproducing the entire report, in any format:

Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2003. The Internet Scout Project (, located in the Computer Sciences Department of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, provides information about the Internet to the U.S. research and education community under a grant from the National Science Foundation, number NCR-9712163. The Government has certain rights in this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the entire Scout Report provided this paragraph, including the copyright notice, are preserved on all copies.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or the National Science Foundation.

Internet Scout Project Team
Valerie Farnsworth Editor
John Morgan Managing Editor
Rachael Bower Co-Director
Edward Almasy Co-Director
Nathan Larson Contributor
Max Grinnell Contributor
Debra Shapiro Contributor
Rachel Enright Contributor
Todd Bruns Internet Cataloger
Barry Wiegan Software Engineer
Justin Rush Technical Specialist
Michael Grossheim Technical Specialist
Andy Yaco-Mink Website Designer

For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout Project staff page.