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

February 11, 2005

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




Topic In Depth


Stanford University: Center for the Study of Language and Information [pdf]

The Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI) "is devoted to research in the emerging science of information, computing, and cognition." This "new science" is an interdisciplinary project that developed through a shared interest among computer scientists, linguists, logicians, philosophers, psychologists, and artificial intelligence researchers "in how agents, whether biological or artificial, acquire, process, and convey information." The Center, initiated by researchers from Stanford, SRI International, and Xerox PARC, now also collaborates with researchers from other universities, laboratories, and companies around the world. The website provides information on projects from the Interface Laboratory and the Research in the Cognitive Sciences program. Projects from the Interface Laboratory "constitute a concerted effort at CSLI to address human/computer interface problems emerging in the world of telecommunications, information processing, and consumer electronics." Research in the Cognitive Sciences program addresses interdisciplinary projects that cover a range of topics in computer science, linguistics, logic and semantics, philosophy, psychology, and education. The Publications section includes proceedings from annual conferences, a few older technical reports, and a one-page summary of all publications, including several books available for purchase. [VF]

Mobile Information and Communcation Systems [pdf, postscript, Java]

Mobile Information and Communication Systems (MICS) is part of the Swiss National Science Foundation's National Centres of Competence in Research. The goal of MICS is "to study fundamental and applied questions raised by new generation mobile communication and information services, based on self-organization." Its work addresses unanswered questions and issues surrounding aspects of self-organizing, distributed communication and information services. The group's investigations advance research on a range of issues in mathematics (statistical physics based analysis, information and communication theory), networking, signal processing, security, distributed systems, software architecture and economics. More information on MICS 11 "interacting projects" can be found in the Research Projects section of the website or by searching for publications in the Publications section. Also available are presentations made at various workshops and conferences, simulations and demonstrations of select algorithms, schemes and models, and information on programs available for undergraduate students. [VF]

Web Accessibility for All [pdf, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, Windows Media Player]

Web developers may find this website from the Center on Education and Work (CEW) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison helpful. In collaboration with the university's McBurney Disability Resource Center, the Center has created this website to provide "an array of resources, links, and tutorials designed to help individuals and organizations create and maintain accessible web content." Among the resources are a free accessibility checker, a slide show tutorial on the HiSoftware Web accessibility suite (available for purchase separately), and a video presentation and related information on Web Standards techniques used to make Web pages more accessible, faster, smaller, easier to maintain, ranked higher in search engines, and compatible with other devices such as PDAs. The Center has also developed the Aquatic Arts Learn by Example website, which addresses "the most prevalent problems that commonly inhibit access" and provides examples of both inaccessible and accessible pages, along with explanations of the problems exemplified. Note that some services and support offered on the website are available only for employees of the University of Wisconsin system. [VF]

RAND: Transportation, Space, and Technology Program [pdf]

The RAND Corporation decided to consolidate the work of RAND Public Safety and Justice, the RAND Homeland Security Center, and RAND Science and Technology units to create a single Infrastructure, Safety and Environment (ISE) research unit. This website describes the Transportation, Space, and Technology program that is part of this unit. The program, which conducts research on "new technologies and their implications for the nation and the world," focuses on transportation systems and regulation, ports, space exploration, information and telecommunications technologies and regulation, federal research and development allocation, and social implications of emerging technologies. Posted here are reports, news releases and other documents highlighting its projects. Recent reports include a study that "finds airliner anti-missile systems too expensive and unreliable" and which concludes that "radio frequency identification reduces workplace privacy." From here, visitors can also learn more about the other programs and centers within the Infrastructure, Safety and Environment research unit. [VF]

ORNL: Building Envelopes Program

The Engineering Science and Technology Division (ESTD), one of 12 research divisions at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is home to the Buildings Technology Center (BTC), which is "devoted to developing technologies that improve the energy efficiency and environmental compatibility of residential and commercial buildings." This website highlights the BTC's "building envelopes" research program. Given that the building envelope "provides the thermal barrier between the indoor and outdoor environment," research in this field must address the structural elements that enclose a building (walls, roofs and foundations), and the materials within the envelope systems (such as insulation). A fact sheet (which is best viewed with Internet Explorer or downloaded as a pdf) describes the research program and offers links to some of ORNL's design and simulation tools and standards. The Research Programs section provides more detailed information about the group's research in building structure and materials. Other useful resources on energy-efficient building envelope systems include handbooks, fact sheets, interactive calculators, articles, links to other websites, and the Hotbox Test R-value Database, which describes several wall technologies (such as Log House Systems and Steel Frame) and provides test data for each, as well as information on related research projects in wall technologies. [VF]

Mathematics Survey Project [pdf]

The Mathematics Survey Project, initiated by Professor Jim Pitman of the Departments of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, aims to construct new ways to organize, communicate and archive mathematical knowledge online. The project is "a bold proposal which attempts to solve the problems of fragmentation and compartmentalization, and indirectly to reduce the cost of commercial journals, by promoting the value of openly accessible content." The proposal, which is described on this website, includes the formation of a large collection of open access journals in mathematics to be indexed by subject. Starting with a survey of the field of probability and stochastic processes, project supporters hope to develop a model for a system of surveys to cover every major branch of mathematics. Anyone who supports this project in principle is invited to add their name to the List of Supporters posted online. Also available from this website are links to Some Free Electronic Mathematics Journals, The Electronic Library of Mathematics, as well as Free and Gated Electronic Mathematics Journals. Links to related materials in support of the proposal are also available. Note that the links to the Committee on Electronic Information Communication (CEIC) were not working at the time of this report, but the link to its article on Best Practices from 2002 was working. [VF]

Materials Research Science & Engineering Centers: Highlights

The National Science Foundation funds 26 Materials Research Science & Engineering Centers (MRSEC) and website highlights research conducted at the MRSECs at universities across the United States. The featured projects have been "selected with care and pride by the director of each MRSEC" and "represent samples of exemplary research at the Centers." Some examples include Cornell University's work on Ultra-Small Memory Devices for Silicon Electronics and the University of Pennsylvania's work on Nematic Nanotube Gels. Links are provided to individual MRSEC websites where visitors can further explore each group's work. [VF]

University of Heidelberg: Atom Chip Group [pdf]

This website from the Atom Chip Group at the University of Heidelberg details research in "the study of the interaction between light and atoms, both for understanding the system itself and for investigating its possible uses for Quantum Information Processing and Control." The project and examples of the group's experiments are described on this website, along with a section overviewing the theory grounding its work. Their research has potential applications for highly sensitive sensors and quantum-information processing. The News section includes a link to a journal article, "Microscopic Atom Optics: From Wires to an Atom Chip," which details the groups work. [VF]


Encyclopedia of Educational Technology [pdf, Macromedia Shockwave Player]

The Encyclopedia of Educational Technology (EET), published by San Diego State University Department of Educational Technology, offers a collection of short multimedia articles from various authors discussing topics related to the fields of instructional design, and education and training. The materials are meant for "students and novices to intermediate practitioners in these fields, who need a brief overview as a starting point to further research on specific topics." The Table of Contents is divided into the following main topics: Cognition and Learning, Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. For each subtopic the site provides a short explanation and related video demonstrations, images, or examples to help explain the topic, and links to related topics. Visitors will find overviews of topics such as Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), eLearning, Web accessibility, and authentic assessment. The Bibliography lists numerous references (some with links to online articles) used in writing the entries in this encyclopedia. [VF]

PreK-12 Engineering [pdf, Microsoft Word]

According to this website, Massachusetts is the only state that currently has engineering standards in the Curriculum Frameworks, although many other states have technology standards that include engineering components. The website, sponsored by Tufts University, Verizon, and Pinnacor, provides PreK-12 engineering educational resources to help educators and administrators design instruction to meet this addition to the Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Frameworks. Although the website was developed for Massachusetts schools, the authors "hope to expand in the future to include other states as they follow Massachusetts' lead in adding engineering to their education frameworks." The classroom activities that can be used to integrate key engineering concepts and principles into classroom instruction are also available to download free of charge. The activities are organized by grade level (pre-kindergarten through grade two, grades three to five, grades six to eight, and grades nine to 12) and are available in both pdf and Word formats. The Massachusetts frameworks are also posted along with a simplified interpretation. The section that lists Workshops and Community section offering a message board were still under development at the time of this report. [VF]

Assessment Resource Tools for Improving Statistical Thinking [pdf]

Sponsored by the University of Minnesota, the National Science Foundation and Cal Poly, this website provides assessment resources to evaluate the impact of recent changes made in introductory statistics courses. The Web Assessment Resource Tools for Improving Statistical Thinking (ARTIST) project is developing Web-based assessment resources for first courses in statistics. The project has collected and posted here a number of assessment items and tasks, which can be searched by topics and learning outcomes and then used to build a test that can be saved as a rich text file (rtf). Other resources include explanations, guidelines and examples of alternative assessments (such as projects, article critiques, and writing assignments), articles on assessment in statistics, references and links to other online resources, a Questions and Answers section addressing implementation issues, and several research instruments, such as surveys and a Statistical Reasoning Test, that may be useful for research and evaluation projects on teaching and learning statistics. Copies of conference papers and presentations provide additional information on the ARTIST project. Anyone interested in contributing to this website or interested in becoming a class tester for ARTIST materials are invited to visit the Ways to Participate section. [VF]

CIESE: K-12 Online Classroom Projects

The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE) at the Stevens Institute of Technology "sponsors and designs interdisciplinary projects that teachers throughout the world can use to enhance their curriculum through compelling use of the Internet." Using real-time data available from the Internet, teachers and students can collaborate on projects "that utilize the Internet's potential to reach peers and experts around the world". Some projects that are currently being or have been sponsored by CIESE include collaborative projects analyzing genetic data, a series of activities that uses census and demographic from the U.S. Census Bureau to explore the mathematical and environmental aspects of population growth, and hands-on activities and real-time data investigations to study factors that affect weather and climate. Each project has a brief description and includes links to the National Science Standards and NCTM math standards that it supports. The About Us section includes some papers written, mostly by CIESE staff, about CIESE efforts. [VF]

Future Scientists and Engineers of America [pdf]

Future Scientists and Engineers of America (FSEA)is "a national non profit organization which provides the structure, project material, documentation and workshop training necessary to establish after school technology clubs in K-12 schools." The organization has selected programs that can be easily and readily implemented in every school to give students an opportunity to work in teams and experience practical, hands-on engineering projects in ways that mirror what an engineer or scientist would do. The program involves the community, including students, parents, schools, businesses, technical and civic organizations, and universities and colleges as well PTA/PTO organizations. Participants are part of a local FSEA chapter, which consists of a sponsor, mentors, FSEA student members, a teacher and a parent coordinator. Information on how to join or start a chapter are provided on this website, along with links to websites created by some schools that are part of the program. Handbooks, guides and directories are also available to download. The Science Challenge Questions offers a collection of projects and questions intended to promote learning of specific concepts as participants engage in the projects. A short description and the full plan for each project is available to download free of charge. [VF]

KidPsych [Macromedia Flash Player]

Magination Press, which publishes "innovative books that would help children deal with the many problems they face as they grow up" developed this website that offers some fun activities for kids and parents to try online. The activities are grouped into two main sections, those for children ages one to five and those for children ages six to nine. The activities help develop children's skills in hand-eye coordination, cognitive thinking skills, deductive reasoning, and creative problem solving, among other concepts. Each game has a link to information about the activity objectives, providing parents some understanding of child development and cognitive thinking. Note that some sections, such as the Information for Parents section, seems to work best using Internet Explorer. [VF]

This website demonstrates various math concepts and problems. The topics are organized by topic, such as Math for Everyone, General Math, K-8 Math, Algebra, Plots & Geometry, and Trigonometry & Calculus. Each demonstration has an interactive format so that visitors can see the solution to a particular problem and then read the explanation for the problem solution. The website also has a few advertisements and offers for other products. Another resource offered is the option to ask an expert about a particular problem. It is free to submit the question, but costs money "if a solution becomes available." However, over 1,000 previously answered questions are posted online and most can be viewed free of charge. [VF]

College Board: SAT Preparation Center

The College Board designs, administers and scores the SAT exam, which is widely used for college admissions in the United States. On this website, the College Board offers a few resources to help students prepare for the test. The resources include a selection of math, critical reading, and writing practice questions, a review of the SAT essay, and an Official SAT Practice Test. The practice test can be downloaded and printed so students can take the test and then review the score and skills report, which is also provided by the College Board and includes explanations to all test answers. Free registration is required to access the practice test and score report. To help increase students' familiarity with the format of SAT questions, the site offers a "question of the day," which visitors can answer online with immediate feedback or subscribe to have the questions emailed daily. Other resources on test preparation are also posted, as well as information on registering for the exam. [VF]


CHANCE Magazine [pdf, wav]

CHANCE Magazine is a joint publication of the American Statistical Association and Springer-Verlag. The magazine features articles about statistics and the use of statistics in society in a style that is intended to be accessible to a broad public audience or anyone with "an interest in the analysis of data." Topic areas include statistics used in the social, biological, physical, and medical sciences, as well as information about statistical computing and graphical presentation of data. The monthly featured article is available online free of charge, but the regular columns, book reviews, and other sections are available only through paid subscription. The February 2005 feature article discusses "which aspects of music can be described by quantitative models" and includes supplemental sound clips. [VF]

Art and AARON Robot

AI Topics (see also November 30, 1999 Scout report for Mathematics, Engineering and Technology) is "a dynamic library of introductory information about Artificial Intelligence." In this article, AI Topics provides an extensive listing of online resources for anyone interested in learning more about AARON Robot. Initiated by artist Harold Cohen, AARON is a research project to develop an autonomous machine that paints. The artwork created by AARON has been displayed at museums around the world and some samples are posted on the websites listed here. Many of the links lead to other sections of AI Topics, providing related information on robotics and artificial intelligence, including resources for teachers. Other websites offer discussions about Harold Cohen's theories about art and art making, including how his work differs from what other computer-oriented artists are doing. [VF]

First Monday: Copyright Law in Age of Digital Technology

This article from First Monday discusses copyright law in light of current advances in digital technologies and within the context of the British and German music industries. Author Martin Kretschmer, Professor of Information Jurisprudence and Joint Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management at Bournemouth University, addresses questions about whether digital technologies "enable a qualitatively new engagement with already existing cultural materials (for example through sampling and adaptation)" and the value of offering a "disintermediated distribution channel to the creator." Based on a review of secondary data on music artists' earnings and eight in-depth interviews, the author discusses "to what extent the structure of copyright law is to blame, and sets out a research agenda." [VF]

Number Watch

John Brignell, Professor Emeritus from the Department of Electronics & Computer Science at the University of Southampton, is the author of this informal website "devoted to the monitoring of the misleading numbers that rain down on us via the media." Brignell says he aims to "nail" a few of the "Single Issue Fanatics (SIFs), politicians, bureaucrats, quasi-scientists (junk, pseudo- or just bad)," who use misleading numbers to write catchy articles or who try to keep numbers away from public notice. Since April 2000, he has been posting a "number of the month" as well as a "number for the year," which offer his commentary on media usage of misleading numbers and explanations for why the numbers are misleading. He also posts book reviews and an extensive list of online resources on statistics and statistics education. The FAQ section includes answers to some interesting questions, such as "Is there such a thing as average global temperature?" and some more basic questions such as "What is the Normal Distribution and what is so normal about it?" The Bits and Pieces section includes a variety of short articles on statistics and his definitions for some terms he uses on the website. Visitors are also invited to join the discussion forum (complete with a few advertisements) and view comments by others who want to discuss "wrong numbers in science, politics and the media." A few comments sent to Brignell and his responses are also posted online. [VF]

Math Academy: History of Infinity

This article from the MiniTexts section of the Math Academy/Platonic Realms website discusses the history of the concept of infinity. The author begins with a reminder of some of the common questions people ask, such as "How could you get bigger than infinity?" and proceeds to explain why this mysterious concept was once taboo among mathematicians. He begins the history of infinity with a discussion of how Aristotle taught about the possibility of infinity and highlights other key figures, such as the English mathematician John Wallis who introduced the "love knot" or "lazy eight" symbol for infinity that we use today. The article includes a nice explanation of Cantor's Set Theory and Cardinal Numbers. [VF]

Einstein's Origami Snowflake Game

Rick Nordal has created this fun website about the art of origami. The website is essentially an online paper-folding game. Graphic images are used to lead the visitor through the step-by-step process of folding paper into various geometric shapes in order to make a snowflake. The games involve folding a paper into a series of geometric shapes as quickly as possible, testing "a player's folding speed as well as his or her strategic thinking skills." Other games provide more fun with origami and a story tells how Nordal got started with origami. [VF]

American Academy of Actuaries: Social Secrity News Briefing [pdf]

The American Academy of Actuaries reports here on a news briefing held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 1, 2005, which addressed options for Social Security reform. At the briefing, Senior Pension Fellow Ron Gebhardtsbauer "talked about the financial and demographic challenges facing the system and reviewed the options for reform." Available from this website are some of the materials presented at the brief, including a fact sheet on social security, a table summarizing some of the options for reform, charts on Social Security's financial challenges, and some questions for reformers which draw on the analytical tools actuaries use to evaluate the impact of various reform proposals. More information on Gebhardtsbauer and a copy of a letter sent to the Social Security trustees regarding "infinite time period" estimates are also posted. [VF]

Ziska Designs: Technical Terms Explained

Anyone new to the Internet or to the Web may find this site helpful. Ziska Designs, a freelance Web design firm, explains several technical terms that people often "come across when looking at web sites or talking to people about the Internet." The short definitions are written in "plain English" and are arranged alphabetically. Some terms covered here include "cookie," "emoticon," and "ISP." The author also offers to try and explain any other word of phrase you have heard but don't understand. [VF]

Topic In Depth


SkyCross: Future Telematics Applications Rely on Wireless Integration
Global Telematics: The Meaning of Telematics Telematics
Tekrati: Automotive Industry Jumps into Electronics, Says Telematics Research Group
Institute of Transportation Studies: Intelligent Transport Systems
Automotive Design & Production: Sweden Does Telematics
Telematics Update

The design of wireless communication systems for the collection and dissemination of data is known as telematics and has been applied in mobile telephony, vehicle tracking, online navigation and emergency assistance. This article from SkyCross (1) provides a nice overview of the technology and its applications. A little history of developments in telematics is described in this website from Global Telematics (2). Most references to telematics are made in relation to automotive applications; however, this article from (3) highlights some other applications such as the study and development of monitoring water and air pollution, medical informatics and health care and distance learning. An overview of just how pervasive telematics is in the automotive industry is provided in this article from Tekrati (4). This next website from Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and Caltrans (5) provides an overview of the applications of telematics as it relates to transportation and raises some implementation issues as well as costs and benefits of these systems. In Europe, telematics is used more widely for sharing information on road conditions, as is described in this article about telematics research in Sweden (6). Finally, Telematics Update (7) summarizes recent news coverage related to telematics and posts summaries of research reports that are available to purchase. [VF]

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