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

February 25, 2005

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




Topic In Depth


Stanford: MediaX [pdf]

Media X is a network of interdisciplinary researchers, faculty and students at Stanford University who study and design interactive technology. Media X "influences the next generation of interactive technology relevant to commerce, learning and entertainment." Their work focuses on challenges related to people and technology, such as ease of use, natural forms of input and output, social and emotional responses, enhancement of learning, and interaction strategies in business. Numerous research projects are listed with links to additional information on each project, some with their own website. Other features of the website include a listing of upcoming and past events hosted by MediaX and a list of the researchers and industry, foundation, and government partners and their websites. [VF]

ORNL: Robotics and Energetic Systems Group [pdf]

The Robotics and Energetic Systems Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) conducts research in Robotics, Energy Transformation Systems, Power Transfer Devices, and Human-Amplifying Machines. A full description and related factsheets are posted for each research area. The group's work spans the spectrum from basic research to "one-of-a-kind integrated system design, development, test, and evaluation" in robotics. Other areas of research address approaches to heat storage and release systems, magnetic and fluidic engine systems, fuel cells, and hydrogen-based technologies and technologies focused on achieving high-power density systems. Their work on Human-Amplifying Machines involves developing "systems that work in smooth synergy with humans in augmenting their physical strength abilities while maintaining complete task awareness through feedback to the human." The publications lists various journal articles and books by the group's research staff covering a variety of topics. [VF]

Project Honey Pot

Project Honey Pot, created by Unspam, LLC, is "a distributed system for identifying spammers and the spambots they use to scrape addresses from your website." Webmasters can install the free software on their website and begin collecting information on the exact moment that spammers harvest information and the IP address that gathered it. Project Honey Pot also works with law enforcement authorities to track down and prosecute spammers. Information they gather is shared with developers and researchers in order to inform the building of the next generation of anti-spam software. Participation (and access to the software) requires completion of a short online form. Data and Statistics on the Top 25 Global Spam Harvester and Top Harvester User Agents are posted online without registration. At the time of this report, Project Honey Pot was in the early stage of its public beta and anticipate posting additional statistics on trends and other statistics in the future. Note, the website is partially supported by paid advertisements that are not necessarily endorsed by the Honey Pot Project. [VF]

Termite Emulation of Regulatory Mound Environments by Simulation

The Termite Emulation of Regulatory Mound Environments by Simulation (TERMES) project at Loughborough University seeks to understand the complex architecture of termite mounds, focusing in particular on the Sandkings found in Africa. The work is intended to "serve as both the foundation for future basic research, and as inspiration for more tangible and immediate innovations in architecture, structural and environmental engineering." The termite structures are "shaped to accommodate and regulate the exchanges of respiratory gases between the nest and atmosphere" and thus provide a potential model for developing sustainable building structures for humans. The website outlines the research project, providing information on the structure and functions of the mounds, as well as a discussion of their objectives, methods and simulation techniques. [VF]

Exploring Patterns in Nature Tutorials [zip]

PhysioNet, a cooperative project "intended to stimulate current research and new investigations in the study of complex biomedical and physiologic signals," offers this set of tutorials on Exploring Patterns in Nature. The tutorials are based upon materials developed by the Center for Polymer Studies at Boston University with support from the National Science Foundation. The tutorial is organized into seven units: The Fractal Coastline and Dimension; Measuring Randomness; Physical and Chemical Branching Structures; Biological Branching Patterns; Diffusion; Oozing and Growing: Percolation; and Motion on a Fractal. Each unit includes suggested hands-on experiments that help demonstrate key concepts (such as measurement, fractals, and distribution), as well as computer simulations to use in a analyzing data. At the end of each unit are suggestions for more involved research projects. The simulations can be used online in Java or downloaded in Mac OS or Windows formats. [VF]

Research Projects of the Laboratory of Applied Informatics Research

The Laboratory of Applied Informatics Research (LAIR ) at Indiana University, Bloomington (IUB) conducts research on information retrieval, machine learning, and human-computer interaction. The website provides links to information on various projects that address topics such as "agent-based information management, agent-user interaction, concept discovery and analysis, and information customization for effective online information delivery." Project descriptions, technical reports, and related resources are posted for each of the 10 projects currently supported through this laboratory. Some course syllabi and course materials are also posted in the Courses section of the website. [VF]

MIT: Global System for Sustainable Development

Global System for Sustainable Development (GSSD) is a project of the Global Accords Consortium for Sustainable Development that is "dedicated to internationalization of knowledge access, provision & sharing for 'reducing the gap between knowledge & policy.'" Housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), GSSD is "a multi-dimensional knowledge networking system" that combines public and private networks to provide a continually evolving cross-referenced knowledge base for informing decision-making and policy in the domain of "sustainable development." The Using GSSD section of the website provides information on the organizing principles used to develop the database, demonstrates the functionality and architecture of the system and other aspects of the project, such as the multiple mirror sites that are in languages other than English. Reports and working papers from the GSSD are also posted. Visitors can search the holdings of the database using a text search or based on other parameters, such as issue area or industry type, and are invited to submit websites to be considered for inclusion. [VF]

Game Technology Research at Brown [pdf, avi]

This website highlights research at Brown University on game technology. The Brown "Games" Group "investigates new algorithms for real-time interactive 3D environments." The group's work, which focuses on video game applications, also has implications for simulation, training, scientific visualization, and computer-assisted design. Papers discussing the group's approach to creating realistic images and other theoretical issues relating to creating 3D environments are posted online to download free along with graphic representations and video clips. [VF]


Central Audiovisual Library of the European Commission

This website from Mediatheque offers a variety of videos, developed by the European Commission, which are available to download free of charge for "EU-related information and education purposes." The Commission "embodies and upholds the general interest of the Union" and the videos address key issues for the political Community and public interest. The videos cover a variety of topics including trade, railways, and responsible fishing. The Research section includes two videos on nanotechnology, which feature interviews with researchers (some of which are translated into English through subtitles), an inside look at nanotechnology laboratories, and simulations to demonstrate the microscopic world of nanotechnology. The videos vary in length and newly added videos are noted. A link at the bottom of the page allows visitors to search for keywords to locate a particular video in the archive. Visitors to the website can also learn about other audiovisual services offered by Mediatheque. [VF]

Kids Web: The Digital Library for K-12 students

Kids Web is a digital library for K-12 students that aims to "present students with a subset of the Web that is very simple to navigate, and contains information targeted at the K-12 level." Maintained by Northeast Parallel Architectures Center at Syracuse University, the collection of websites is organized into the following subject areas: Arts, Sciences, Social Studies, and Miscellaneous. The Miscellaneous section currently includes some games and reference resources, such as dictionaries and economic data. The Science section includes websites on topics such as mathematics, computers, technology, and meteorology. Each subject section provides links to "information that is understandable and interesting to schoolkids" as well as some links to other online resources for advanced students. Kids are invited to use an interactive form to suggest other websites to be considered for inclusion in the Kids Web site. [VF]

Carnegie Foundation: KEEP Toolkit

KEEP stands for "Knowledge. Exchange. Exhibition. Presentation." The KEEP toolkit, developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, offers "a set of Web-based tools that help teachers, students and institutions quickly create compact and engaging knowledge representations on the Web." Some specific features of the toolkit include: the ability to select and organize teaching and learning materials; templates that provide conceptual frameworks, categories, and guiding prompts/questions to assist in analysis; and tools to create "visually appealing and intellectually engaging representations of material" that can be easily shared online or in print. The toolkit is intended to make it easier to share ideas for peer review, assessment, collective knowledge building, and building a "community of practice and reflection." The features are described in the Tour section and case studies provide some examples of ways that partner institutions and faculty have used their tools. Access to the tools is free but requires registration. [VF]

Robotics Outreach Group

RoboFesta is "a worldwide educational movement that focuses on bringing science and technology to a general audience through widespread public participation in a range of robot competitions." This website provides links and information on the Open University Robotics Outreach Group, which began as a multidisciplinary research group that promoted RoboFesta. Members have posted various resources for students and teachers involved in the project, including a discussion of using the Lego RCX brick and their On-Brick Programmer using leJOS (Java for the RCX) that allows users to write simple, linear programs for the RCX Brick without the need for a PC. Related activities and worksheets are also posted and free to download as part of the Teacher Resource Packs being developed to support the RoboCup Junior robot soccer competition. Other projects such as the Robot Fashion Show and Dinomech, 'Robot' Dinosaurs workshop, are also described. [VF]

Appetizers and Lessons for Mathematics and Reason: Linear Equations

This section of the website, Appetizers and Lessons for Mathematics and Reason, written by Alan Selby, PD. (see also Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology, May 24, 2005) offers lesson ideas for teaching linear equations in high school or college. The approach uses stick diagrams to solve linear equations because they "provide a concrete or visual context for many of the rules or patterns for solving equations, a context that may develop equation solving skills and confidence." The idea is to build up student confidence in problem solving before presenting any formal algebraic statement of the rule and patterns for solving equations. Links to related chapters from his book, "Three Skills for Algebra," are also provided. [VF]

Association of Teachers of Mathematics: Resources OnLine

The Association of Teachers of Mathematics (ATM), based in the United Kingdom, "believes in providing teachers with the resources to help them develop their mathematics teaching in creative and broad-thinking ways." This section on Resources OnLine offers a variety of resources, some of which are available only by purchase online. Some of the free online resources include sample files and programs from ATM CDs on spreadsheets and Interactive Mathematics, as well as some games involving shapes and probability. Films available in Macromedia Flash Player format demonstrate topics such as Polygons, Exploring Halves, Tangrams, and Euclid's Pythagoras Proof. A link to ATM's Convex Polyhedra Website shows 50 of the convex polyhedra that can be made with regular polygons and groups them into 10 families and some suggested activities to try using the images. Some articles from ATM Journals are also available online. [VF]

The Riverdeep Current

The Riverdeep Current is a magazine for students and teachers published by a U.S.-based education software company, Riverdeep Interactive Learning Limited. The magazine is free online and offers stories for students and tips and resources for teachers. The current issue highlights a story for students about the future of video technology, while the section for teachers includes activities and lesson ideas relating to sports. The company's daily newsletter, delivered via email and posted online, highlights several online resources and offers teacher-to-teacher advice. Visitors can also explore previous issues of Riverdeep Current by topic areas, such as math, technology, space and the environment. Some free activities are also posted on their website and organized by grade level (PreK-2, K-6, six to nine, and nine to 12). [VF]

Franklin Institute: Coin Flip for Benjamin Franklin's 300th Birthday [pdf]

The Franklin Institute, which seeks "to inspire an understanding of and passion for science and technology learning" is based in Philadelphia, Pa. (See also Scout Report for Math, Engineering, and Technology, February 21, 2003). In honor of Benjamin Franklin, who coined the phrase "a penny saved is a penny earned," the Franklin Institute is gearing up for an online coin-flipping event to commemorate Franklin's 300th birthday on Jan. 16, 2006. That same day "students around the world collectively engage in a common scientific experiment to determine, once and for all, if "heads" or "tails" occurs more frequently in coin flips." Students are asked to use the worksheet posted on this website to record and submit their coin flips. The results from the coin flips will then be posted online. Results from coin flips conducted by students who came to The Franklin Institute to celebrate Ben Franklin's 298th birthday and students from a school in Liverpool, U.K., are posted already. Also available here are links to related educational resources that offer ideas for learning more about coins and probability. [VF]


New Outlooks In Science & Engineering

NOISE stands for New Outlooks In Science & Engineering, a U.K.-wide campaign funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) that "aims to raise awareness of science & engineering among young people by making these subjects more relevant and accessible." The website provides career information as well as articles on ways that science is applicable to a range of areas in life such as health, travel, sports, entertainment, and the environment. A section called Serious Science organizes the articles by scientific field, such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, IT, materials, life sciences, and engineering. The articles provide a nice overviews of innovations in robotics, aircraft technology, and architecture, just to name a few. Other features include a free newsletter distributed via email and animated e-cards to send to friends. [VF]

University of Cambridge: Science Through the Centuries

Science Through the Centuries is a history project highlighting people and places that have contributed to the University of Cambridge "tradition of excellence." The tradition includes Isaac Newton, Darwin, and Stephen Hawking. The section on Newton includes a short discussion of "the birth of computer science," while the section on Darwin includes a link to "the largest single collection of Darwin's letters" and a website maintained by the University Library. A science tour map is posted online for those who visit Cambridge University and want to locate some of the buildings and structures mentioned in this historical review. [VF]

Wired News: The Web Not the Death of Language,1284,66671,00.html?tw=wn_story_top5

This article from Wired News discuss the ways that "communicating using instant messenger, text messaging, even blogging are changing the way humans communicate." The article gives voice to linguists who fear these technologies may be damaging "our ability to articulate properly" as well as those who argue we have "entered a new era of expression." The article reviews a study of Internet communication techniques used by college students and provides a link to Microsoft's latest cheat sheet for parents explaining the codes used in IMing.

BBC News: Mathematicians Crochet Chaos

This article from BBC News discusses how two mathematicians made a crochet model of chaos. The mathematicians, whose research focuses on developing a computer model to describe complex surfaces, were able to represent the Lorenz equations using 25,511 crochet stitches. The pattern was published in the journal Mathematics Intelligencer and the mathematicians are challenging others to repeat the effort. The model stretches almost a meter across and was used as a Christmas decoration. [VF]

Simon Singh

This website features Simon Singh, "an author, journalist and TV producer, specialising in science and mathematics." The website reviews some of his books, such as "the story of the Big Bang theory" and its "curious incidents and peculiar characters." The Code Book, which can be downloaded for free from his website, offers a beginner's cryptography tutorial, encryption tools, code breaking tools, coded messages to crack, resources for teachers, and an animated section on quantum cryptography. Singh has also developed "the virtual Black Chamber," a website "where you can learn about codes and codebreaking, encrypt your own messages, crack those of your enemies, and play with interactive enciphering programmes." Other sections describe his theatrical and television accomplishments, including directing a program on Fermats Last Theorem. Several articles on cryptography, Fermat's Last Theorem and Erdos-Bacon Numbers ("six degrees of separation") are also posted online. Archived copies of his periodic newsletter (which he emails to anyone who subscribes) gives "updates on current projects, announces any programmes that are about to be transmitted, highlights forthcoming public lectures and allows me to have a rant if there is something that has been annoying me." [VF]

MIT: Letters from Sri Lanka

Charles Harvey, an associate professor from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has kept a log of the findings from a recent visit to Sri Lanka. Harvey and colleagues Tissa Illagasekera from the Colorado School of Mines and Jayantha Obeysekera from the South Florida Water District went to Sri Lanka to investigate the impact of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami on local drinking wells. Excepts from his notes and photographs are posted on this website from the MIT News Office. The letters describe his four-day fact-finding trip and conclude that, based on the group's limited observations, "the condition of the wells depends on their location and the level of post-tsunami interference." [VF]

Computer Cracks Go Game

Computers can now compete with humans not only in chess, but also in the board game Go. Go involves two players who each try to surround a territory with stones of their color. The player who gains the most territory (mostly by surrounding his opponent these with his own stones) wins the game. Dutch researcher Erik van der Werf, with funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, "achieved a world first" with a program that can solve the Go game for a 5x5 playing board. This article briefly describes the game and the technique used to develop the program. [VF]

Bell System Memorial

Bell System Memorial is a non-commercial website created by David Massey, who openly admits to his love of telephones and interest in the Bell System. The website "was created to help keep the memories of the Bell System alive and to pay tribute to those that made it the greatest telecommunications system on earth." The author provides some technical and corporate historical information on Bell Labs, Western Electric, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), and the Regional Bell Operating Companies. The Bell System Memorial logo on the main page links to an introductory webpage, where visitors can sort through the information based on their needs. For example, teachers will find lessons ideas, and AT&T, Western Electric, Bell Labs, Bell Operating Company retirees and current employees of the companies divested from AT&T will find some interesting corporate history. A listing of books and resources on Bell Systems is available for anyone interested in further research and hobbyists will find links to resources and associations relating to electronics and telecommunications. [VF]

Topic In Depth

Computer Recycling

BBC News: PC Ownership to 'Double by 2010'
Oasis: Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment
PC World: How to Dispose of an Old Notebook,aid,119445,00.asp
Tech Soup: Ten Tips for Donating a Computer
CompuMentor: Computer Recycling & Reuse Program
Vnunet: Refurbished PCs
Refurbished Computers Buyers Guide Bill to Curb Electronic Waste Introduced

Given current rates of computer consumerism and technological advances, one might expect to find a lot of computers out there in the world. What happens to these old computers? This Topic in Depth explores this issue, reviews some options for recycling computers, and provides tips for anyone considering purchasing a refurbished computer. The first article from BBC News (1) reports on research which suggests that "the number of personal computers worldwide is expected to double by 2010 to 1.3 billion machines." The second article from Oasis, a project of the Irish eGovernment initiative, (2) reviews some of the issues surrounding waste from electrical and electronic equipment. This next article from PC World (3) gives some ideas for how to dispose of an old notebook computer. One option, of course, is to donate your notebook, which is discussed in this article from Tech Soup (4). Another resource for information on computer recycling and reuse is this website from CompuMentor (5). Given the current market for computers, many are considering refurbished computers. This article from Vnunet (6 ) explains what a refurbished computer is while the next website provides some tips for buying a refurbished computer (7 ). Finally, this article from reports on the recently introduced National Computer Recycling Act (8). [VF]

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