The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology -- Volume 4, Number 10

May 20, 2005

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




Topic In Depth


George Mason University: Exploring and Collecting History Online

Exploring and Collecting History Online (Echo) is a project based at George Mason University's Center for History and New Media and is funded by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The project began in 2001 to experiment with new approaches to collecting history online, focusing specifically on the recent history of science, technology, and industry. Their goal is to realize the potential of the Internet to create a more democratic history, which "means including multiple voices and diverse perspectives in the historical record; making the historical record accessible to multiple audiences; and developing historical practices that many different people, not just 'certified' professionals, can conduct." Drawing upon "the most exacting standards and approaches of professional historians and archivist," the Research Center catalogues, annotates, and reviews online historical information which visitors can browse by topic, time period, publisher or content as well as search using online search forms. Historical practitioners interested in launching their own websites can explore the resources and featured archival projects in the Collecting Center, download free tools available in the Tools Center, browse the Practical Guide offered in the Resource Center, or contact the group to find out about free workshops and consultation services. [VF]

Harvard: Systems Research [pdf, Microsoft Powerpoint]

This website features Systems Research at Harvard University. Projects described on this website focus on distributed computing, sensor networks, file systems, and systems integration. Researchers from the System Group also develop educational resources, including a platform for teaching an Introduction to Computer Sciences course and an instructional operating system. The researchers provide overviews of their projects and related publications are available to download. Past projects include a project that explored methodologies for application-specific benchmarking and a project that proposed a framework for developing Web applications with client-side storage. [VF]

Georgia Tech: Contextual Computing Group

The Contextual Computing Group is a research organization at Georgia Tech College of Computing that focuses on the field of contextually-aware, wearable computing systems. The group is interested in "how the continued emergence of on-body computational resources will impact society." Topics addressed in its work include Wearable Computing, Augmented Reality, Lifelong Everyday Interfaces, Natural Gestural Interfaces, First-Person Perceptive Agents, Contextual Computing Devices, Human Computer Interaction, Computer Vision, Memory Prostheses, Embedded Computers, and Sensor Fusion. Projects related to Wearable Computing have yielded hardware products that are available to purchase. Resources that the group has found useful are available to download free of charge. [VF]

University of Washington: Database Research Group [pdf]

The University of Washington's Database Research Group is focused on broadening the scope of database and data management techniques beyond their traditional scope. Its work focuses on databases and the Web, XML, data management for ubiquitous computing, data integration, and data mining. For example, the Mangrove project seeks to facilitate the move to the semantic Web by creating an environment in which users are motivated to create semantic content because of the existence of useful semantic services. The various projects are described on this website along with related publications, which are available to download. [VF]

Zentralblatt MATH Preprints

Zentralblatt MATH is an extensive database containing abstracts of reviewed articles in pure and applied mathematics. The database contains over two million entries drawn from more than 2,300 serials and journals. The publication dates for the articles begin in 1868 and continue into the present. The search function is flexible, allowing visitors to search the database by numerous criteria such as author, title, keyword, source, or classification code. The abstract entry includes links to abstracts of articles on related topics. Only abstracts and issue table of contents are available free of charge, and access to the full articles is only available by paid subscription. [VF]

Columbia University: Industrial Engineering and Operations Research

This is the website for Columbia Universitys Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research, which is concerned with the design, analysis, and control of production and service operations and systems. The website describes two of the Department's research centers. The first, the Center for Applied Probability, supports interdisciplinary research on probability and its applications. The second, the Computational Optimization Research Center, specializes in "the design and implementation of state-of-the-art algorithms for the solution of large-scale optimization problems arising from a wide variety of industrial and commercial applications." Separate websites provide a description of research conducted at the Centers along with links to various publications. [VF]

University of Maryland: Active Logic, Metacognitive Computation, and Mind [pdf, postscript]

The long-term goal of the Active Logic, Metacognitive Computation, and Mind project at University of Maryland, College Park, Computer Science Department is "to design and implement common sense in a computer." The website offers an explanation for what a project of this nature involves and the challenges of achieving "cognitive adequacy." A Primer section provides an introduction to active logic, which the project describes as a formal architecture that is more flexible than traditional artificial intelligence systems because it explicitly reasons in time and incorporates a history of its reasoning as it runs, making it most suitable for commonsense, real-world reasoning. Examples of logic interfaces are provided as one of the Primers. The website also discusses the project hypothesis regarding a limited and formalizable set of generic strategies of metareasoning and explain why its researchers focus on the study of conversations, particularly human-computer natural-language dialog, to better understand these metacognitive strategies. The Publications section posts forthcoming and previously published articles as well as dissertations. [VF]

Electronic Colloquium on Computational Complexity [postscript]

The Electronic Colloquium on Computational Complexity (ECCC), maintained by the University of Trier in Germany, offers resources on computational complexity, including research reports, surveys and books. The database includes over 700 articles and can be browsed by year or publication type. The website also provides information on how to submit articles, contribute to the discussion forum, and join the mailing list to receive periodical emails announcing new ECCC publications. The complexity scientists who collaborated to develop this resource, introduced in 1994, also offer some solutions to reducing the time between the submission of a paper and its publication as ECCC-report and still maintaining high scientific quality. They also provide some background how they are protecting copyright, guaranteeing long-term citability, safely archiving reports, and supporting communication among researchers. [VF]


NASA: Engine 101

NASA's Ultra-Efficient Engine Technology program offers this website with links to online resources that provide basic information about the science of aeronautics and about jet engines. The various resource websites are organized by topic and address questions students might have about aeronautics as a discipline in general, the basic principles of aeronautics, how engines work, the different types of engines, current technologies used for designing engines, careers in engineering, and the history of engine development. The site also provides links to various test facilities and tutorials on a range of topics, such as wind tunnels, materials and structures, and emission reduction. [VF]

Ed Week: Technology Counts 2005

Ed Week (see also Scout Report from September 13, 1996) publishes the annual Technology Counts report, now on its eighth edition, which reports on the status of technology and education. This years' report "tracks the economic and policy forces that are converging to push changes at the federal, state, and local levels." The article reports that the previous focus on funding instructional technologies, such as personal computers and learning software, is being superseded by a growing emphasis on data-management technologies. They trace this need for online student-data systems to "the expansive reporting requirements and ambitious student-achievement goals set forth in the federal No Child Left Behind Act." The article discusses these shifts and offers links to Web resources relating to data management technologies, student achievement reporting requirements, and more. Note that visitors must complete a simple and free registration form to view the articles in Ed Week. [VF]

Web Interface for Statistics Education

Web Interface for Statistics Education (WISE) is a project out of the School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences at Claremont Graduate University, which "aims to develop an on-line teaching tool to take advantage of the unique hypertextual and presentational benefits of the World Wide Web (WWW)." The tool is intended to serve as a supplement to traditional teaching materials and to assist teachers in addressing specific topics. The online tutorials, which students can use to learn and review concepts at their own pace, address topics such as Sampling Distributions of the Mean, Central Limit Theorem and Hypothesis Testing. Other sections of the website provide links to numerous other online resources for learning statistics. The Glossary section offers links to online glossaries, although not all the links were working at the time of this report.

National Building Museum [pdf]

National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., has developed Educator Resource Packets, which it makes available for download free of charge from this website. The three packets available at the time of this report were: Patterns that Thump, Bump, and Jump; City by Design; and Bridge Basics. The first packet is intended for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade and aims to increase students' awareness of patterns, their ability to predict patterns, and understanding of ways "to examine and interpret patterns that are found in the built environment." The City by Design packet is intended for kindergarten through sixth-grade students and aims to increase students' awareness of the communities in which they live, promote an understanding for how people's use of land and buildings affects the environment, and to explore the implications of various transportation options. Finally, the packet on Bridge Basics provides instructional ideas for teaching students in grades four through eight about bridge construction and the environmental impact of bridges. Each packet offers a review of key concepts, suggests a few activities and offers some resources for further exploration, along with information on visiting the National Building Museum. Hard copies of the packets are available upon request. [VF] is a non-profit organization operated by engineers and scientists in the aerospace field who volunteer their time and services to create this website that provides "educational information on a variety of subjects ranging from aviation to space travel to weaponry." Visitors to the website can learn about a variety of topics, such as aerodynamics, propulsion systems, vehicle design, engineering career information, and aerospace history. The Aircraft Museum section offers an extensive online collection of photos and background information on the most well-known aircraft of the jet age, with future plans to include the aircraft of the piston age (from the Wright brothers through World War II). The Aerospace Design section offers several articles discussing issues related to the development of aerospace technologies. Visitors can also submit a question to the staff of "rocket scientists," who then choose a question or two to be answered and posted on the website. Previously answered questions are posted in the archive, which is organized by subtopic. The online calculators are free to use for computing aerodynamic and atmospheric properties, while the Shop section offers various products for purchase. [VF]

Teacher Laptop Foundation

The Teacher Laptop Foundation believes that "every teacher should own an up-to-date computer." The mission of this nonprofit organization is to make it possible for individuals and businesses to make tax-deductible contributions which help teachers purchase their own computer technology. The website includes information on how to donate and a form to create flyers to post at your local school or community. To demonstrate support for its mission, the Foundation also posts testimonials from stakeholders in education and stories from teachers, as well as summaries of research studies, which address the question, "Why provide all teachers with their own laptop computers?" [VF]

Education World: Math Center

Education World (See also February 22, 2002 Scout Report) offers a wealth of instructional resources for teachers. This section of the website is devoted to mathematics resources, primarily articles and lesson ideas. Each lesson idea lists the appropriate grade levels for the activity, the Standards and instructional goals addressed through the activity, supplies needed, key words to learn, and assessment strategies. The articles address various topics in teacher professional development and school administration. Education World also invites educators to submit their original lesson plans for selection and inclusion in this collection using a simple online form. [VF]


Ecybermission is a Web-based regional and national competition intended to engage students in grades six through nine in math, science, and technology explorations. The teams propose a solution to a real problem in their communities and compete for awards (such as US savings bonds). The website provides information on how to register as well as volunteer options such as judging, acting as a CyberGuide providing online coaching and assistance to teams, or becoming an ambassador, spreading the word about the program. The site also features the project that won last year's competition, a two-digit key code system that can be used to improve speed at which 911 calls can be handled. Registration for the next competition has not yet opened, but last year's registration ran from September 1 through December 13. The program is sponsored by the Department of Army and the final judging event is held in Washington, D.C. [VF]


NPR: Math in the media [RealPlayer, Windows Media Player]

On April 29, 2005, NPR's Science Friday, hosted by Ira Flatlow, featured "fun with numbers." The guest interviews addressed topics such as how math is turning up in shows like "The Simpsons," "Futurama," and "Numbers" and ways these references might be able to reduce math anxiety and motivate students. They also discuss "the clash of cultures between mathematicians and TV writers behind-the-scenes" as well as "the natural instinct people--and animals--may have for math." The radio program is available to download from the NPR Audio Archive. They also provide links to related articles and other online resources. [VF]

CNET: Broadband Regulation

In this article, staff writers for CNET, an online technology news source, discuss the "broadband war." The article focuses on a battle in Lafayette, La., over plans by BellSouth and cable provider Cox Communications to lay out their fiber-optic broadband network. The article provides a link to another article describing the "legal skirmish" from a year ago and goes on to discuss the issues surrounding the debate, which the authors say is essentially about "whether the government or private industries should take the leading role in building out what's considered this generation's critical infrastructure challenge." [VF]

HamRad: Amateur Radio Resource

HamRad is a resource for Ham Radio enthusiasts. The website organizes the links to various online resources by topic area: Organizations, Events, Manufacturers, Dealers, Personal Ham Sites, Misc. Ham Sites, HamRad Trader, and Buy-Sell-Trade. All of the collections can be searched by keyword (such as organization name, callsign, or location), while the event listing provides a more detailed search function including search categories such as state, AARL division, AARL Section and event date. Visitors are also invited to add a site to the listings and can connect to an FTP website and download Radio Mods. [VF]

Arrick Robots: The Robot Menu

Arrick Robots, makers of robot products, maintains this website as "a free service from Arrick Robotics so robot builders can show off their creations." The Robot Menu posts a photograph and some basic information about the robots built and submitted by individuals worldwide. Over 300 robots were featured at the time of this report and visitors are invited to submit a photo and description of their own creation using a simple online form. Other sections provide advice on building your first robot and, of course, detailed information on products offered by Arrick Robots, such as The ARobot, which is designed for Experimenters and Educators. Some additional robot projects developed by customers are described in the Projects section of the website. Because the founder of Arrick Robots, Roger Arrick, is the author of Robot Building for Dummies, there is also a link to a website that acts "as an extension to the book and give readers a place to share ideas, offer advice and solve problems." [VF] Why Women Shy Away from Careers in Science and Math

This article from provides a psychological perspective on Why Women Shy Away from Careers in Science and Math. The article begins, "Girls steer away from careers in math, science and engineering because they view science as a solitary rather than a social occupation." The article reports primarily on a talk that University of Michigan psychologist, Jacquelynne Eccles, gave at the Society for Research in Child Development conference on how parents and teachers influence children's academic and career choices. The psychologist suggests that teachers tell parents that their daughters are talented in math and science and "provide girls and their parents with vocational and intellectual reasons for studying math or science." One major problem to address, according to the psychologist, are children's understandings of what scientists do. Rather than leaving young people with the impression that scientists are "eccentric old men with wild hair, smoking cigars, deep in thought, alone," we need to promote a richer, more nuanced vision of who scientists are, what they do and how they work. [VF]

Mathematics Geneaology Project

The Mathematics Genealogy Project is maintained by the Department of Mathematics at North Dakota State University. The goal of this project is "to compile information about ALL the mathematicians of the world." It is soliciting information from anyone who participates in the development of research level mathematics or has information on mathematicians to include in the database. The site notes some of the challenges to this project such as imperfect data sources and the ways in which the model the project is using may be anachronistic for the earlier periods. Nonetheless, as of May 15, 2005, the project has amassed 86,827 records. The database can be searched by a variety of criteria, such as individual name, name of school, year of degree, country, math subject, or key word from a thesis. [VF]

Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) was established in 1985 to promote "computer users' rights to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs." That is, the organization promotes the development and use of free software, particularly for the GNU operating system (GNU/Linux). FSF is the primary sponsor of the GNU Project, which was established to create new distribution terms that would prevent the project from being turned into proprietary software. The website provides information on current FSF projects, such as providing development systems support for GNU software maintainers and raising awareness about the Free Software license and how to use it. They also maintain the Free Software Directory, which catalogs "all useful free software that runs under free operating systems" and currently contains over 3,000 entries. The Directory can be accessed from this website and searched by keyword or browsed by application area, such as Business and Productivity, Database, Education, Email, Games, Mathematics, Network Applications, Printing, Science, Security, Software development, and Web Authoring. The website also provides information on how to add packages to the Directory and how to donate to the Foundation. [VF] Fast Free Technical Support claims to provide "fast free technical support." Answers to questions about your computer problems are answered by an online community. The group aim to provide "the highest quality technical support" to its "clients." The support technicians are all volunteers, many of whom have been featured in media publications including USA Weekend, Yahoo! Internet Life and .net magazine. Clients are invited to submit questions regarding any computer problems, whether it's related to hardware or HTML problems, on your PC, Mac, Unix or PDA. Questions are submitted using an online form and answers are sent via email. Information on how to become a volunteer Tech is provided along with other ways to support the project. A discussion forum section is also accessible to those who complete a free online registration form. [VF]

Topic In Depth

Robotic Surgery

FDA: Robots Lend a Helping Hand to Surgeons
How Stuff Works: Robotic Surgery
USC Robotic Surgery Institute
Science Daily: Penn Researchers Use Robotic Surgery
Current Science and Technology Center: World's First Telesurgery
The Engineer Online: Easily Led
Brown University: Robotic Surgery
PBS: Cybersurgery

Surgical robots, now used in operating rooms worldwide, are not performing surgical tasks on their own, but "lend a helping hand to surgeons," as discussed in this article from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)(1). How Stuff Works (2) provides a nice overview of some of the robotics systems currently in use and how they are used. This next website from the USC Robotic Surgery Institute (3), which was founded by the cardiothoracic surgeon who was one of the first "to see the potential for robotic surgery," discusses the medical procedures benefiting from this technology and includes a few videos of the surgeries (not for the faint of heart). This next article from Science Daily (4) reports on two studies from UPenn "that demonstrate the effective use of the daVinci Surgical Robotic System to perform Trans-Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS) which greatly reduces surgical trauma for patients." Another way that robotic technology is used in surgery is to allow doctors to perform surgery remotely. The history of this development known as telesurgery is described on this next website (5). This article from The Engineer Online (6) describes a project by researchers in the United Kingdom that aims to develop an image guidance system that uses 3-D images to improve the range of medical procedures for which robotics can be used. Brown University's website (7) also provides a nice overview of the history of Robotic Surgery as well as some basics on costs and demographics, and interviews with doctors and patients. Finally, PBS (8) offers this lesson idea, pro viding students a "journey to the operating room of the future." [VF]

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From The NSDL Scout Report for Math, Engineering, & Technology, Copyright Internet Scout Project 1994-2005.

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Copyright Susan Calcari and the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents, 1994-2005. 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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