The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 3, Number 23

November 5, 2004

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




Topic In Depth


USC: The Interaction Lab [pdf, avi, mov]

The Interaction Lab at the University of Southern California is part of the Center for Robotics and Embedded Systems (CRES) and the USC Robotics Labs. Its work involves "using a behavior-based approach to control, favoring solutions that are distributed, scalable, and robust" and when possible, validating algorithms in embodied domains. Areas of study include: Multi-Robot Coordination and Learning, Humanoid Robot Control and Learning, Learning by Imitation, Assistive Human-Robot Interaction, and Activity Modeling. The website provides short descriptions and research goals for each of these areas and related projects. Several publications and videos resulting from these projects are also posted online. The "fun" section offers a glimpse of the good times shared by the lab researchers. [VF]

MIT: Signals, Information and Algorithms Laboratory [pdf]

Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Signals, Information and Algorithms Laboratory focuses on "developing efficient algorithmic structures to address emerging problems of fundamental interest involving the manipulation of signals and information in diverse settings." Its work examines fundamental limits and architectural principles, implementation issues and experimental investigations. Wireless, sensor, multimedia, and broadband network contexts are a major emphasis in recent work. The website provides an overview of some recent projects and lists journal articles, conference papers, doctoral theses, technical reports, patents, and course notes, many of which are available online. Technology developed as a result of the lab's research may be used for industrial applications. The Technology section will periodically feature a product and make it available to download free online for noncommercial purposes. [VF]

National Educational Computing Conference [pdf]

The 2004 National Educational Computing Conference, sponsored by the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) with the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators (LACUE), has posted here the research papers presented at the conference. Topics include distance learning, K-12 education and technology use, teacher education, assessment, and analysis of computer culture and online discussion boards. The archived webcasts of some sessions will be available for video-on-demand viewing until January 7, 2005.


University of Florida: Tribology Laboratory [pdf, Macromedia Flash Player]

The Tribology Laboratory in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Florida is dedicated to the study of tribology, "the branch of science and technology concerned with interacting surfaces in relative motion, friction, wear, and lubrication." Its work draws on areas of study such as materials science, fluid dynamics, contact mechanics, dynamics, heat transfer, chemistry, physics, controls, and surface characterization. However, the primary area of investigation is the friction and wear of materials in order to "engineer and design materials that have improved wear resistance." The website provides background on the tribology and describes the lab's research projects. The publication section includes journal papers and other articles, conference proceedings, and masters and doctoral theses. Online presentations given by the tribology laboratory and online software, primarily Hertzian contact calculators, are also made available to download. [VF]

Caltech Control and Dynamical Systems (CDS) [pdf]

The Caltech Control and Dynamical Systems (CDS) program provides training in mathematics, dynamics, and control, applied in the areas of science and engineering. The website describes the program's theoretical and applied research. It provides links to websites of selected multi-investigator projects such as Software Enabled Control (DARPA), Institute for Quantum Information (NSF), Quantum Communication Networks (MURI), Center for Multiscale Modeling and Simulation (CIT, NSF), and Adaptive Ocean Sampling Network (ONR). Information on seminars and meetings as well as some older technical reports are also archived online. [VF]

Penn State: Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering [pdf]

The Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Pennsylvania State University conducts research to generate new knowledge and strengthen and support undergraduate and graduate education at PSU. Its research is multidisciplinary and involves collaborations with many of the academic colleges and research centers within Penn State. Research areas include Acoustics and Vibrations, Bioengineering, Combustion and Propulsion, Energy and Environment, Fluid Mechanics, Information Technology, Mechanical Systems and Design, Transportation and more. Information on these areas can be found on the site's research projects, research centers and faculty web pages. [VF]

MindPixel: Digital Mind Modeling Project

Digital Mind Modeling Project by MindPixel invites Web users to contribute to the creation of the first statistical model of human thought. The Canadian scientist, Chris McKinstry, who founded the project "hopes to be able to teach a computer what it means to be human" by using an approach similar to seti@home "to extract the entire content of an average person's mind bit by literal bit from millions of different internet users." After about 10 years running, the final collection will be available for other artificial intelligence researchers. For now, visitors can register using an online form to access the Mindpixel News System, which offers the latest news pertaining to the mind and mind-related science. Internet users can also register and make their contribution to science by talking to the online system, which the author calls GAC, pronounced "Jack." Contributors earn voting rights "that will give them a say in every aspect of how the project is run, from data collection and use to the distribution of data and research funds." [VF]

Bishop's University: Representation Theory of Algebras [pdf]

The Research Group in Representation Theory of Algebras of Bishop's University and l'Universit de Sherbrooke in Canada hosts visiting scholars, sponsors conferences, and offers graduate and undergraduate training. The main page provides an overview of the representation theory of algebras for the non-specialist. Experts in the field are invited to browse the selected research publications posted online.


Teaching OnLine [pdf, Windows Media Player]

This website from S&S Publishing serves as a resource for New Zealand's teachers. The site features an online version of the company's monthly magazine, Starters and Strategies, which includes various lesson ideas on a variety of topics. The website also includes a Lessons Library with ideas for lessons in technology, art and music, social studies, science, mathematics, and health and physical education. The library includes other sections providing homework handouts, study skills handouts, and suggested ways to pique student interest in language arts, mathematics, and other topics. The site also encourages the use of webcams for social studies and science activities by providing links to webcams worldwide, including a number of webcams set up in New Zealand. Visitors may need to download free plug-ins to view the webcams.

NASA: Engineering Design Challenges [QuickTime, pdf]

The Engineering Design Challenges website is a collaborative project among NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center Education Programs Department, Dryden Flight Research Center Education Programs Office, Ames Research Center, and TERC. The program is intended to connect students with "the challenges faced by NASA engineers as they design the next generation of aerospace vehicles." The carefully selected design challenges include: Thermal Protection Systems, Spacecraft Design Structures, Electrodynamic Propulsion Systems, Centennial of Flight: Propeller, and Personal Satellite Assistant. By designing, building, testing, re-designing, and re-building models that meet specified design criteria, middle and high school students learn science, mathematics, and thinking skills. The project culminates with classroom poster presentations in which students describe the process and results of their work. An educator guide includes handouts for parents so they can keep informed of their child's work and try some activities at home. A section for teachers provides testimonials from teachers, videos of other classrooms that "took the Challenge," resource links, planning materials, and other tips for using the challenge. [VF]

NetDay [pdf]

The mission of NetDay is "to connect every child to a brighter future by helping educators meet educational goals through the effective use of technology." The nonprofit organization provides direct service to 25 schools in five underserved communities and offers resources, guidance and skilled people to assist with technology integration in schools. The website posts issue articles, resource links and guides and serves as a forum to raise national awareness on topics related to the Internet. The organization's free online publication, NetDayCompass, includes more than 2,000 education technology resources for K-12 decision-makers. The site also features results from research, surveys, and analysis that NetDay conducts on issues that matter to the targeted communities. In 2003, the organization launched Speak Up Day, which is intended to "give a voice to all stakeholders in the educational community and to frame a new conversation around education and technology." Highlights from previous online surveys of teachers and students are posted on the site. Students have until November 12 to register their school and include their voice in the 2004 survey. [VF]

Women in Engineering Organization

Women in Engineering Organization (WIEO) is a product of Tufts University, The Women in Engineering Programs & Advocates Network (WEpan), and The Society of Women Engineers (SWE) with support from the GE Fund. Tufts University initiated the program to take its interest in introducing girls to engineering to the next step "by making information about all engineering programs in the nation accessible to all girls and women." The website serves as a clearinghouse of information about engineering, offering information on books about engineering or related matters, fun games and projects, contests, lesson plans, scholarships, jobs, and engineering-related programs across the U.S. Discussion boards let girls and women communicate with one another about engineering and related issues. The section for K-12 teachers includes the Massachusetts Technology/Engineering Frameworks, noting that other states may soon adopt similar standards. Also posted are several lesson plan ideas and information in WIEO Contests and Challenges and a searchable database of programs for students. Note that some pages may only work using an updated Mozilla browser. [VF]

T.H.E. Journal Online: Technological Horizons in Education

Technological Horizons in Education (T.H.E.) is a publishing and services company that makes its journal, T.H.E. Journal, available free online. The website describes T.H.E. Journal as "the solid foundation of a rapidly expanding suite of information-based products and services offered by T.H.E." The monthly articles address various issues related to education technology. Some site resources include a Checklist for Designing a Technology-Friendly Classroom and an Educational Road Map to the Web listing some of the company's picks for teacher resources online. From this website, visitors can also learn about other products and services from T.H.E., such as research, a discussion forum, and a listing of upcoming conferences. [VF]

Geometry in Motion [Java, pdf]

Daniel Scher has created this website with a collection of geometric diagrams using Java Sketchpad. Visitors can interact with the drawings online to learn about geometry. The author poses questions and invites visitors to work through the problems using the diagrams provided. In addition to these carefully organized activities, Scher has posted a variety of articles he has written on geometry. [VF]

Smithsonian: From Carbon to Computers

From Carbons to Computers: The Changing American Office is an educational website from the Smithsonian exploring the connections between contemporary and past offices. The website points out that the "high-tech American office of today is more similar to than different from its predecessors twenty, fifty, or a hundred years ago" and compares a floppy disk to a small-scale filing cabinet. The connections follow not only in terms of technologies, but in other more subtle ways as well, such as organization. The website offers lesson ideas for middle and high school students and provides background information on each topic. Visitors will find a history of the American office, a timeline highlighting several milestones, and a list of links to websites on various office equipment including telephones, typewriters and computers. [VF]

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally

This website, presented as part of The Franklin Institute Online Museum Educator program, highlights a popular mnemonic used in mathematics, Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. The website draws the visitor in with short answers discussing mnemonic, mathematics, and science and then proceeds to explain what PEMDAS has to do with mathematics. In particular, the website explains the order of operations and how the mnemonic can help keep track of that order: Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. The author encourages the visitor throughout and includes various examples and a quiz to demonstrate how to use PEDMAS in solving problems. [VF]


Physics Web: Greatest Equations Ever

Critical Point is a feature of the online version of the magazine Physics World. The article posted here, by philosopher and historian Robert Crease, revisits "the greatest equations ever." He presents the results from his survey of readers in which he asked for a short list of nominations for great equations and "to explain why their nominations belonged on the list and why, if at all, the topic matters." The results place Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism and the Euler equation at the top. Some of the criteria that readers used for selecting their favorites include simplicity, practicality, and historical relevance. [VF]

ARS Electronica Festival 2004 [Windows Media Player]

ARS Electronica, based in Linz, Germany, is a museum and research institute, offering exhibits, symposia and festivals related to technology and society. The website features video footage of the 2004 Festival, which focused on "Timeshift - The World in 25 Years" and brought together international artists, theoreticians and scientists to discuss past developments and the future prospects of media-cultural phenomena. The four panels organized for this conference were titled Progress, Disruption, Spirit, and Topia, and address the promise of technology as well as "how the value of intent is relative and how counter-force can dominate in an imperfect world where things don't always go as planned." The Spirit panel is "intended to refocus our attention from global to self and to explore such issues as wellness, pleasure, family, and mortality." The final panel, Topia, offers some possible scenarios for the world in 25 years. [VF]

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

Wikipedia is a free online, editable encyclopedia that "all Internet users can collaborate on by writing and submitting new articles or improving existing ones." The project, which claims to be "living proof that content and knowledge can also organize themselves," uses a wiki, i.e. software to allow users to revise content. The website encourages community participation by listing Open Tasks, such as copy-editing, merging, and peer reviewing needing to be done for particular entries. The texts and media presented on Wikipedia are available to the public "to process the content further and disseminate it." There are also wikipedias in 50 other languages, including one in Esperanto, the invented international language. Users must create an account to contribute to Wikipedia, but anyone can browse the entries by topic area or search on a specific term. Within each entry are links to related items and some of the more extended entries include a table of contents for ease of navigation. Other sections of the website let you view the most recent changes (within the past seven days) or browse entries related to current events. [VF]

Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology [pdf]

The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology is a national organization "that provides platforms allowing women's voices, ideas and spirits to influence technology." In honoring Dr. Anita Borg, who "is responsible for including women in the technological revolution - not as bystanders, but as active participants and leaders," the organization offers programs and events for academics, industry, and "technology thought leaders." Its work addresses the ways in which technology is learned and taught, the ways that technology is created, the culture of technology, and the celebration of "the women who change the face of technology." The website posts details on awards and scholarships the Institute offers and highlights women and technology in the news. Various publications providing information, news, and reports on Institute projects, as well as photos from its past events, are also available online. [VF]

CNN: Wireless: Reaching the Far Reaches of the World

This article from CNN reports on the Ulwazi e-learning project, a venture between South African government officials and Motorola that attempts to bring wireless access to five schools in South Africa. The article points to some important ways that less affluent, more remote areas benefit from wireless. For example, in schools where one or two teachers are responsible for 50 to 100 students, this technology "allows schools to share teachers and resources so more students have access to more material." [VF]

Howard Rheingold

Howard Rheingold is a writer who briefly served as Editor for the HotWired online magazine and authored several books on cognition, technology and virtual communities. This website posts a number of articles, interviews and discussions about his views on the Internet and society. Also posted are online versions of his books, "The Virtual Community," and "Tools for Thought," as well as several articles on technology and democracy, technology criticism, technology and education, and the Net. In the section about Rheingold, visitors will find additional information on the virtual community he founded and other projects he supports. [VF]

Math And Science Song Information, Viewable Everywhere [RealPlayer, Windows Media Player]

Math And Science Song Information, Viewable Everywhere, or MASSIVE, is a database containing information on more than 1700 science and math songs. The songs, suitable for a variety of ages and of varying sound quality, are both silly and serious. Visitors can search on a song or listen to MASSIVE radio, "an Internet radio station devoted entirely to science/math songs." (Note that the radio station requires a connection speed of at least 64 kilobits per second). The database includes the name of the performer, songwriter, the album title, lyrics, and links to sample files along with purchasing information. The database is maintained by Greg Crowther, who is affiliated with the University of Washington, Science Groove, and the Science Songwriters' Association. The project is part of the National Science Foundation's National Science Digital Library. [VF]

Global Reach: Global Internet Statistics

Global Reach is a multilingual Web promotion and website translation marketing company geared toward increasing companies' online visibility internationally. To demonstrate the value of expanded marketing, the company has posted this page with useful statistics on "the latest estimated figures of the number of people online in each language zone (native speakers)." They classify the results by languages instead of by countries, since their focus is on the need for translations and thus focus on language communities rather than particular countries in which they happen to live. The table shows language-organized figures on Internet access population, percentage world online population, total population, gross domestic product (GDP), percentage of world economy, GDP per capita, and net hosts as of 2003. [VF]

Topic In Depth

The Internet and Civic Life

First Monday: The Digital Tea Leaves of Election 2000
Institute for Policy, Democracy and the Internet
Wired: Weapons of Mass Mobilization
Fact Check
IT Facts
Pew: Internet and Democratic Debate
Wikipedia: Political Privacy
How Can Democracy Be Bad?

After the 2000 election, these two authors predicted that Internet usage would change the way campaigns are run (1). A report posted on this website provides some examples of how the Internet was used in 2004, particularly for posting videos (2). Another feature of this year's campaign is the use of the Internet to organize grassroots activism, as is discussed in this article from Wired (3). By far the most common "political" websites, however, seek to provide information, including this website from Annenberg, (4). This recent report from Pew finds people are using the Internet for political information, and not only to seek information that reinforces their political preferences (5). One concern with this movement to Internet campaigning is that the use of cookies, online donation forms, and political mailing lists to gather information on people has implications for political privacy, an issue which is discussed generally on this website (6). This website from IT Facts (7) provides a variety of statistics on Internet use for further exploration . This final article offers some intriguing thoughts on democracy (8 ). [VF]

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From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2004.

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Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2004. 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.

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