By Nadia Cheng as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 08.17.2012 at 11:00 am 4 Comments
Our 14-inch-long robotic elephant trunk has five segments, each made of a silicone membrane with an embedded metal spring that acts like an exoskeleton. The segments are filled with dry coffee grounds and each is vacuum-controlled separately. When coffee grounds are loosely packed, they’re in a liquid-like state. When they’re vacuum-packed, they transition into a solid-like state.
By David Brady as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 08.16.2012 at 5:30 pm 2 Comments
"Our Aware-2 camera combines 98 small cameras with a spherical lens to take black-and-white gigapixel photographs. It set the record for the largest digital snapshot by a terrestrial camera. One image from the camera, printed at 300 dots per inch, is 8 feet high by 16 feet long.
“Our .50-caliber bullet can guide itself to a hit half a mile away”
By Larry Shipers, as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 06.07.2012 at 1:08 pm 27 Comments
For years, people have tried to come up with ways to steer bullets, and everyone has consistently said you can’t do it. And you couldn’t—if the bullet was spinning. A spinning bullet is too stable; you can’t apply enough force to turn it off its axis of revolution. The secret sauce is that our bullet doesn’t spin. It’s kind of like a musket ball, which doesn’t rotate, but with technology added to let us control where it goes.
By Vijay Kumar as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 04.30.2012 at 5:12 pm 3 Comments
If you want a robot to maneuver aggressively, it has to be small. As you scale things down, the “moment of inertia”—the resistance to angular motion—drops dramatically. Our nano-quadrotor robots are made to be as lightweight as possible: less than a fifth of a pound and palm-sized.
By Don Wegel, as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 03.23.2012 at 3:50 pm 10 Comments
How do you get a core sample from a comet? There’s so little gravity that if you used a scoop or a drill, you’d push yourself right off the surface. To solve this problem, we came up with a harpoon that collects samples. The concept is that the spacecraft flies next to the moving comet and fires from about 30 feet away, we would use a dampening system and propulsion to counteract the recoil. Our prototype harpoon is stainless steel, about one foot long, two inches wide and four pounds.
By Babak Parviz, as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 02.21.2012 at 10:13 am 5 Comments
"We made a lens that displays a single pixel that can be turned on and off wirelessly. An integrated circuit stores the energy, and a light-emitting diode shoots light toward the eye, but the optics are tricky. You can't focus on something that's that close. To correct this, we put a series of tiny lenses between the LED and the eye—imagine holding your finger too close to your eye so it's blurry; you could bring it into focus by putting a magnifying glass between your eye and your finger.
By Jordan Kooi of Lynden High School, Lynden, Washington, as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 01.24.2012 at 11:06 am 2 Comments
Our inspiration came from a classmate who has spina bifida—a split spine—and can't ride a regular bike. Our trike has extra back support and a steering system to make turning easier. On a normal bike, leaning in the direction you want to go helps you turn. It's hard to do that on a trike because it's rigid, but ours has hydraulic pistons that tilt the tires when you lean, allowing you to make tighter corners. You can go just as fast as you could on a regular bike, and we're going to add an electric motor, so it is going to be really fun to ride. We're building a prototype in our shop at school.
By Tom Krupenkin, engineer at the University of Wisconsin, as told to Flora LichtmanPosted 12.06.2011 at 10:13 am 15 Comments
Humans are not very efficient. When we walk, we waste close to 20 watts of energy per second. Instead of turning all calories into lift or forward motion, we turn most of them into heat that’s quickly dissipated. So my colleagues and I came up with a way to harvest the wasted energy from human motion and convert it into about 10 watts of electricity.