In a fun example of appropriate technology and innovation 4 college students have created a football (soccer ball) that is charged as you play with it. The ball uses an inductive coil mechanism to generate energy, thanks in part to a novel Engineering Sciences course, Idea Translation. They are beta testing the ball in Africa: the current prototypes can provide light 3 hours of LED light after less than 10 minutes of play. Jessica Matthews ’10, Jessica Lin ’09, Hemali Thakkara ’11 and Julia Silverman ’10 (see photo) created the eco-friendly ball when they all were undergraduates at Harvard College.
sOccket creators: Jessica Matthews, Jessica Lin, Hemali Thakkara and Julia Silverman
sOccket won the Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award, which recognizes the innovators and products poised to change the world. A future model could be used to charge a cell phone.
From Take part: approximately 1.5 billion people worldwide use kerosene to light their homes. “Not only is kerosene expensive, but its flames are dangerous and the smoke poses serious health risks,” says Lin. Respiratory infections account for the largest percentage of childhood deaths in developing nations—more than AIDS and malaria.
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was born an ethnic Serb in the village of Smiljan, in the Austrian Empire (today’s Croatia), he was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen. Nikoka Tesla studied electrical engineering at Technical University at Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague.
Tesla’s patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase system of electrical distribution and the AC motor, which helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.
In 1882 he moved to Paris, to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company, designing improvements to electric equipment brought overseas from Edison’s ideas.
According to his autobiography, in the same year he conceived the induction motor and began developing various devices that use rotating magnetic fields for which he received patents in 1888.
He emigrated to the United States in 1884 and sold the patent rights to his system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers, and motors to George Westinghouse the following year.
In 1887, Tesla began investigating what would later be called X-rays using his own single terminal vacuum tubes.
Tesla introduced his motors and electrical systems in a classic paper, “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers” which he delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888. One of the most impressed was the industrialist and inventor George Westinghouse.
The Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment. Among his discoveries are the fluorescent light , laser beam, wireless communications, wireless transmission of electrical energy, remote control, robotics, Tesla’s turbines and vertical take off aircraft. Tesla is the father of the radio and the modern electrical transmissions systems. He registered over 700 patents worldwide. His vision included exploration of solar energy and the power of the sea. He foresaw interplanetary communications and satellites.
“Within a few years a simple and inexpensive device, readily carried about, will enable one to receive on land or sea the principal news, to hear a speech, a lecture, a song or play of a musical instrument, conveyed from any other region of the globe.” – Nikola Tesla, “The Transmission of Electrical Energy without wires as a means for furthering Peace” in Electrical World and Engineer (7 January 1905)
“Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been invested into experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier life.” – Nikola Tesla
UCLA Professor Aydogan Ozcan‘s invention (LUCAS) enables rapid counting and imaging of cells without using any lenses even within a working cell phone device. He placed cells directly on the imaging sensor of a cell phone. The imaging sensor captures a holographic image of the cells containing more information than a conventional microscope. The CelloPhone received a Wireless Innovations Award from Vodafone
a wireless health monitoring technology that runs on a regular cell-phone would significantly impact the global fight against infectious diseases in resource poor settings such as in Africa, parts of India, South-East Asia and South America.
The CelloPhone Project aims to develop a transformative solution to these global challenges by providing a revolutionary optical imaging platform that will be used to specifically analyze bodily fluids within a regular cell phone. Through wide-spread use of this innovative technology, the health care services in the developing countries will significantly be improved making a real impact in the life quality and life expectancy of millions.
For most bio-medical imaging applications, directly seeing the structure of the object is of paramount importance. This conventional way of thinking has been the driving motivation for the last few decades to build better microscopes with more powerful lenses or other advanced imaging apparatus. However, for imaging and monitoring of discrete particles such as cells or bacteria, there is a much better way of imaging that relies on detection of their shadow signatures. Technically, the shadow of a micro-object can be thought as a hologram that is based on interference of diffracted beams interacting with each cell. Quite contrary to the dark shadows that we are used to seeing in the macro-world (such as our own shadow on the wall), micro-scale shadows (or transmission holograms) contain an extremely rich source of quantified information regarding the spatial features of the micro-object of interest.
By making use of this new way of thinking, unlike conventional lens based imaging approaches, LUCAS does not utilize any lenses, microscope-objectives or other bulk optical components, and it can immediately monitor an ultra-large field of view by detecting the holographic shadow of cells or bacteria of interest on a chip. The holographic diffraction pattern of each cell, when imaged under special conditions, is extremely rich in terms of spatial information related to the state of the cell or bacteria. Through advanced signal processing tools that are running at a central computer station, the unique texture of these cell/bacteria holograms will enable highly specific and accurate medical diagnostics to be performed even in resource poor settings by utilizing the existing wireless networks.
Kane Kramer, an inventor by trade, came up with a gadget and music distribution service almost eerily similar to the iPod-iTunes relationship that predates it by three decades. The guy predicted details down to DRM and flash memory’s dominance.
Kramer’s device, the IXI, was flash-based, even though flash memory in 1979 only could have held about three minutes of audio, and featured a screen, four-way controls, and was about the size of a cigarette pack. Even weirder, he envisioned the creation and sale of digital music and foresaw all the good and bad that would come from this: No overhead, no inventory, but a great push for independent artists, with the risk of piracy looming large.
He predicted DRM, though he didn’t go into many specifics, and in his one concession to the time, guessed that music would be bought on coin-operated machines placed in high-traffic areas.
Leahy sketched out new leg pads that blend into the goal netting behind him. He wanted pads, a trapper, and a blocker that are white with a raised double-stitched design, just like the goal. He applied for a design patent and had them custom-made by a Canada-based pad maker.
“When the shooter comes down and only has a split second to shoot the puck, they’re looking for net,” said Leahy, a senior from Hampton, N.H., who grew up in Byfield. “If you put the net on the pad, they’ll shoot at the pad instead of the goal.”
Exactly what will happen to the pads after this season is unclear. Leahy said he would like to play hockey in college, probably at the club level, and wants to market the idea. “It would definitely be cool to get it out there and get other guys in the future wearing it,” he said.
21-year-old student/inventor/entrepreneur Emily Cummins has designed a brilliant portable solar-powered refrigerator that works based upon the principle of evaporation. Employing a combination of conduction and convection, the refrigerator requires no electricity and can be made from commonly available materials like cardboard, sand, and recycled metal.
Simply place perishable foods or temperature-sensitive medications in the solar refrigerator’s interior metal chamber and seal it. In-between the inner and outer chamber, organic material like sand, wool or soil is then saturated with water. As the sun warms the organic material, water evaporates, reducing the temperature of the inner chamber to a cool, 6 ºC [43 ºF] for days at a time!
After winning £5,000 from York Merchant Adventurers for her idea, Emily delayed going to college for a year to take her refrigerator to Africa for further development.
At 16 Emily won a regional Young Engineer for Britain Award for creating a toothpaste squeezer for people with arthritis, and the next year went on to win a Sustainable Design Award for a water-carrier made from wood and rubber tubing. In 2007 Emily was named the British Female Innovator of the Year, and last year was short-listed for Cosmopolitan’s 2008 Ultimate Women of the Year Competition.
Update: some readers seem confused by what related means below. Those links show previous post to related items and include previous similar designs to keep things cool, including “Refrigerator Without Electricity” which is a clay pot design by Mohammed Bah Abba of Nigeria for the Pot in Pot Cooling System that received the 2000 Rolex award.
Sadly MIT deleted the video after having it live for several years.
Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams is a national grants initiative of the Lemelson-MIT Program to foster inventiveness among high school students. The webcast above shows a high school team presenting a project they completed to create a solution to provide clean water. This stuff is great. I love appropriate technology. I love seeing kids think and create effective solutions to real problems. This is how you get kids to learn – not boring classes (at least kids like me).
The students are passing on the project to students at their school to continue to work on. (MIT TechTV used to have many more presentation by other InvenTeams – not anymore 🙁 ) InvenTeams and MIT deserve a great deal of credit for creating such great learning opportunities and great solutions for the world.
InvenTeams composed of high school students, teachers and mentors are asked to collaboratively identify a problem that they want to solve, research the problem, and then develop a prototype invention as an in-class or extracurricular project. Grants of up to $10,000 support each team’s efforts. InvenTeams are encouraged to work with community partners, specifically the potential beneficiaries of their invention.
Conceived in Scotland almost 200 years ago, the Stirling [engine] is a marvel of thermo-dynamics that could help to replace the internal combustion engine – in theory it can turn any source of heat into electricity, in silence and with 100 per cent efficiency. But corporations including Phillips, Ford and Nasa have devoted decades of research, and millions of dollars, to developing the engine, and all retired defeated, having failed to find a way of turning the theoretical principles of the engine into a workable everyday application. Kamen, nevertheless, has spent the past 10 years and, he estimates, up to $40 million working on the problem.
Now he and his engineers have built and tested a range of Stirling engines suitable for mass production that can be run on anything from jet fuel to cow dung. The one in the boot of the small blue car is designed to extend its range and constantly recharge its batteries to make a new kind of hybrid vehicle: one fit for the roads of the 21st century. A Stirling-electric hybrid, Kamen tells me, can travel farther and more efficiently than conventional electric cars; it generates enough power to run energy-hungry devices such as heaters and defrosters that are essential for drivers who, unlike those he calls the ‘tofu heads’ of California, must cope with a cold climate; and even using petrol, the engine runs far cleaner than petrol-electric hybrids such as Toyota’s Prius.
However, Kamen confesses, his new creation isn’t quite finished yet: ‘The Stirling engine’s not hooked up. Which really pisses me off.’
The charcoal project is the responsibility of Mary Hong, a 19-year-old branching out beyond her aerospace major this semester. She and the other students, coincidentally all women, are enrolled in Smith’s D-Lab, a course that is becoming quietly famous beyond the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass. The D is for development, design and dissemination; last fall, more than 100 students applied for about 30 slots. To prepare for their field work, D-Lab students live for a week in Cambridge on $2 per day. (Smith joins in.) Right now, eight more D-Lab teams are plying jungle rivers, hiking goat trails and hailing chicken buses in seven additional countries—Brazil, Honduras, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, India and China. In Smith’s view, even harsh aspects of Third World travel have their benefits. “If you get a good bout of diarrhea from a waterborne disease,” she says, “you really understand what it means to have access to clean drinking water.”
Despite their simplicity, Smith’s creations made her a minor celebrity at MIT, and in 2000 she became the first woman to win the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. The same year, she began teaching full time at the university. It was nearly 30 years since German economist E.F. Schumacher had published Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, the book credited with launching the appropriate technology movement. Schumacher argued that many of the infrastructure projects funded by the World Bank and other organizations hadn’t improved lives on the village level. “He rightly and aptly pointed out that big solutions don’t fit for villages. You have to make it small,”
The Lemelson-MIT Prize awards $500,000 to mid-career inventors dedicated to improving our world through technological invention and innovation. Joseph M. DeSimone received the 2008 award.
His exposure to polymer science led him to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va. At the age of 25, DeSimone joined the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) as an assistant professor in chemistry and launched the university’s polymer program with his mentor Dr. Edward Samulski. He resides there today as the Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC, in addition to serving as the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University.
Among DeSimone’s notable inventions is an environmentally friendly manufacturing process that relies on supercritical carbon dioxide instead of water and bio-persistent surfactants (detergents) for the creation of fluoropolymers or high-performance plastics, such as Teflon®. More recently, he worked on a team to design a polymer-based, fully bioabsorbable, drug-eluting stent, which helps keep a blocked blood vessel open after a balloon-angioplasty and is absorbed by the body within 18 months.
DeSimone’s newest invention is PRINT® (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) technology, used to manufacture nanocarriers in medicine. At present, DeSimone’s Lab is vested in a variety of projects that also extend beyond medicine, including potential applications for more efficient solar cells and morphable robots. In 2004, DeSimone co-founded Liquidia Technologies with a team of researchers from UNC to make the technology available in the market. Liquidia is using the PRINT technology to develop precisely engineered nanocarriers for highly targeted delivery of biological and small molecule therapeutics to treat cancer and other diseases. DeSimone’s proposed applications for cancer treatment with the PRINT platform was instrumental in UNC landing a grant of $24 million from the National Cancer Institute to establish the Carolina Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence.
“You can do all the innovating you want in the laboratory, but if you can’t get it out of the university walls you do no one any good,” said DeSimone. He instills an entrepreneurial spirit in his students that focuses on the importance of commercializing technology and scientific inventions. One of DeSimone’s greatest accomplishments is his mentorship of more than 45 postdoctoral research associates, 52 Ph.D. candidates, six M.S. theses and 21 undergraduate researchers. Furthermore, he speaks to groups of high school students about the inventive process and encourages them to learn and explore areas that are less familiar to them to broaden their exposure to other disciplines.
A prolific inventor, DeSimone holds more than 115 issued patents with more than 70 new patent applications pending, and he has published more than 240 peer-reviewed scientific articles.
A team of eight British college students, calling themselves Fangs A Lot, have created the first false tooth for a cat and set up a business, Animal Solutions, to market false teeth for cats, dogs, and other animals. The group and its prototype false cat tooth have made it to the finals of the Ideas Igloo Roadshow, an invention contest for college students sponsored by Britain’s Make Your Mark Campaign and Microsoft, UK.
False teeth for cats may sound ridiculous, but they could be a solution to a serious problem for cats. Cats have notoriously bad dental problems. Cat owners seldom brush their cats’ teeth or scrape the surfaces of the teeth to remove plaque. By the time a cat is 3 or 4 years old, she may already have periodontal disease that can lead to tooth loss. Tooth loss may also come about as a result of tooth breakage, particularly in the canine teeth.