Dec 9, 2010

Water tower Competition

I(Theo), Oriana, and Gabe went to a water tower competition; it was last minute and we had a hard time finding the place; but once found we made some new friends from the Cuban-American something(view the FES dinner review the get exact name).

We mostly helped with crowd control; water towers were judge on weight, material, the time to charge and discharge water, and aesthetics. the winner received $300.

The management of the competition said that last weekend was good for their second run; but hope to expand; we exchanged contact information and look forward to working together in the future.


FES Holiday Dinner Review

This is a brief review of the FES dinner that was held last Friday evening.

I was able to get tickets to the event and that included seven students – all of them attended. I made sure the students made contacts with the other attendees. Overall to say they were glad they attended would be an understatement. We met several engineering company owners and project managers. Although they were all civil engineers, the overlapping of the engineering branches was reinforced. Our EE, IE, Chem E, Biomed students all benefited by making new contacts, having industry needs explained, and considerations for the future. Imagine our biomed students thrilled to speak with civil engineers!

Miller Legg: I met the project manager for Miller Legg. He is the one who will be coordinating the new building at the Kendall campus. This starts in January. I asked if we can get our students involved, at least seeing the project. He was in complete agreement and is eager to meet our students. We talked about having a meeting to show the design layout and then take a site visit. And then follow this up with visits to see the progress of the project. He also has a presentation for Technical Writing and he really wants to show this to us. This would be great to also invite the other MDC student clubs and societies.

Marlin Engineering: The owner and public relations manager would like to speak at an FES meeting. They want to do this in January. We were also invited to the Feb 5 Cuban American Gala, they already want to get a table for us. I think it’s a great idea and told her I would give her numbers later because we have more students. For me and MDC this is the first contact with Marlin and we made a very good impression.

C3TS: Next year’s FES Dade President is Tom Ruiz, our former student and MDC FES president. He wants to help us fund the solar project.

Rod Rodriguez offered to speak to our group about current civil engineering, incorporating other engineering into today’s projects, and how things have changed. Dave Clarke is the FES treasurer. We briefly discussed getting our student chapter funds for upcoming project ideas.

I know I’m leaving out what the students gained individually, but I know they benefitted. It was a well attended event and our students made good impressions that should benefit all of us. I’ll get some of the photos out later.

Dec 7, 2010

"Energy Independence" of Saudi Arabia, Now go to Your Bunker

The United States is getting ready to sell $123 billion in conventional arms to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.  the order mostly consists of F-15 fighters and Lockheed Martin's high-altitude Thaad missile defense system.
Why are the Gulf states buying? Partly of course because they have a lot of money burning holes in their pockets: With high oil prices they have accumulated  vast hordes of foreign currency. However, their main immediate motive appears to be fear of a hegemony-minded nuclear Iran and, closely related to that, fear that Israel might attack Iran--and that Iran might then retaliate against them, because of implicit or explicit cooperation with Israel.

You don't have to worry; only 15% of our oil comes from the Middle East; It is Japan and Europe that are deeply dependent on the Gulf states oil.  You may ask when the Gulf  states plan to end there buying spree; we the answer appears that they are not going to stop any time still.  With experts saying that Israel is not going to attack Iran and our absence of action. (despite King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia asking the US to attack Iran in his last visit)

source: IEEE Spectrum

Net Neutrality Or FCC Overthrow

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its latest plan on regulating the Internet to assure Net Neutrality. The plan, among other things, would allow Internet providers to  charge users and content providers for their usage.
I have no doubts, however, that given the FCC's plan yesterday that proposals to meter customer as well as content provider Internet usage, such as that tried by Time Warner Cable last year, will emerge from most of the major US Internet providers in a matter of weeks. Time Warner got stopped when it hit a political backlash - I don't see that happening in the new Congress.

If what the FCC wants to do goes to pass, the days of getting all the content you want over the Internet at a fixed price are soon to be only a forgotten memory.  in the words of anonomuses internet users "The Internet is dead!! Long live the Internet!!"

source: IEEE Spectrum

Dec 6, 2010

Sanyo to make more efficient solar cells

Sanyo Electric Co.  said Friday that it will start mass producing a new solar cell that has the world's highest energy conversion efficiency.  The Japanese electronics maker said it will start selling in Europe in February a new cell with a sunlight-to-energy conversion rate of 21.6%.  Previously, the company's most efficient cell had a conversion rate of 21.1%.

some say however:
Only the uninformed buy Sanyo modules. Higher efficiency only means a smaller module. Why would anyone pay such a high premium this Sanyo panel only to have a smaller footprnt. A 240 watt solar panel is still only a 240 watt solar panel you don't get anything more than 240 watts from this Sanyo 240 watt solar panel. The bigger issue here that consumers seem to be ignoring is the fact that Sanyo offers one of the shortest warranties in the industry. If Sanyo offers such a great product then why do they offer such a comparatively poor warranty ? The answer: They use faster debrading thinfilm (amorphous silicon) in their design. Like a shooting star, their product is nice and bright in the begining and then burns out quicker then the others.


U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) summer research team

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is offering faculty and students at Minority Serving Institutions an opportunity to participate in a ten-week summer research team experience at university-based DHS Centers of Excellence as part of its DHS Summer Research Team Program for Minority Serving Institutions. At the end of the summer, faculty participants are encouraged to apply for up to $50,000 in follow-on funding. Details about the program, including eligibility guidelines and application forms, can be found at Faculty from all science, technology, engineering and math disciplines are encouraged to apply, including faculty in agricultural sciences, biological/life sciences, computer and information sciences, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, psychology, and social sciences.

Application deadline: February 1, 2011

Dec 1, 2010

Robot Ping Pong

This robot is capable of learning by watching; you can manipulate its arm, then the robot will try to reproduce you actions.  As you can see in the video above it does take trial and error.

Dr. Jan Peters at the Robot Learning Lab; who leads the team who built the arm, is part of the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, in Tübingen, Germany.
Take the example of a person learning tennis. The teacher takes the student by the hand and shows basic movements: This is a forehand, this is a backhand, this is a serve. Still, it will take hours and hours of training before the student even feels comfortable at performing these behaviors. Even more practice is needed for the student to be able to play an actual game with these elementary behaviors."

But still, he asks? humans succeed at learning the task. Why can't robots do the same?
"That's what we're trying to do: Make our robots mimic the way humans learn new behaviors."

Now not only do we have to lose the the Chinese at every World Table Tennis Championships; we are going to get our behinds handed to us by a team of one armed German robots.