Tag Archives: Engineering

MIT Celebrates Pi Day with “The Last Dean”

Short Films – I thought that “The Last Dean” is a very clever short (2:53) video.


Happy “Pi” Day 2018


It is Pi Day today and I wanted to remind all my readers about it. I can’t really say much more than I wrote last year, so I’m just going to repeat it here.

It is time to celebrate once again that incredible number Pi or 3.14159… I had a post that included some of the history in 2016. Take a few moments today and participate in the 30th annual celebration of Pi!

This is a great opportunity to introduce kids to STEM thru Pi. They learn a little history, learn some math and it can be capped with a nice slice of yummy pie. My first choice would be cherry.

As I suggested previously, try these methods of celebration.

One of the easiest and most fun is to simply eat pie!

Wear or display the Pi symbol

Plan your recognition event for 1:59 PM (i.e. 3.14159)

And, of course, mark your calendars for next year so you can plan something in advance.

NASA is offering a way to celebrate Pi Day this year with their “Pi in the Sky” challenge.

Disney Autonomous Animatronics

Robots – I have always liked the animatronics that Disney has placed in their parks. Now they are headed in a new direction with some new self-contained, autonomous animatronic characters – the Vyloo. I read about these today in the article “Disney has begun populating its parks with autonomous, personality-driven robots“.

These creatures have embedded cameras and sensors as well as the control electronics to make them come to life. These little robotic figures are programmed with actions and motions, but what makes them unique is the way they can sense their audience and interact with them.

I look forward to seeing these little guys and even more advanced versions in the years ahead. I can easily see where autonomous robots like these are going to be key to establishing the immersive experience that Disney wants to offer their visitors.


Women and Computers in WWII – Intermission Story (22)

WWII – I read this a while back and have been meaning to reblog it. I thought it gave an interesting look back in history. It is a good, though quick, look at how women used computing to aid in World War II.

Pacific Paratrooper

Women with the ENIAC computer

Before the invention of electronic computers, “computer” was a job description, not a machine. Both men and women were employed as computers, but women were more prominent in the field. This was a matter of practicality more than equality. Women were hired because there was a large pool of women with training in mathematics, but they could be hired for much less money than men with comparable training. Despite this bias, some women overcame their inferior status and contributed to the invention of the first electronic computers.

In 1942, just after the United States entered World War II, hundreds of women were employed around the country as computers. Their job consisted of using mechanical desk calculators to solve long lists of equations. The results of these calculations were compiled into tables and published for use on the battlefields by gunnery officers. The tables allowed soldiers…

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Boston Dynamics Robots Continue to Improve

Robots – I have been impress by the Boston Dynamics robots since their first models. They just keep getting better every year. This video was posted today on YouTube.


SpaceX Successfully Tests the Falcon Heavy

SpaceSpaceX tested its new, heavy launch vehicle the Falcon Heavy today. Not only was the launch successful placing a test payload into orbit, but it was able to successfully recover both of the flanking boosters at the Florida facility. At the time I publish this there is no word yet as to whether the main stage recovery on a barge in the Pacific was successful.

This will give the US a heavy lift capacity that it has not had in some time. With the ability to lift over 140,000 lbs, this rocket will be able to lift nearly three times the Delta IV-Heavy, TitanIV-B or Atlas V. This may be a significant step forward for missions to the Moon or more importantly to Mars.


The Cost of Industrial Robots Predicted to Decline


Robots – In a recently published article “Industrial Robot Cost Decline” by ARK Invest, they predict that the cost of industrial robots will drop 65% by 2025. They say:

. . . costs will drop by roughly 65%, to levels much lower than most analysts now anticipate, by 2025. Combined with advances in machine learning and computer vision, this drop in costs should cause an inflection point in the demand for robots as they infiltrate new industries with more provocative use cases.

These are just machines with a significant helping of electronics. It is no surprise that the price will fall as the technology matures, just as it has in so many segments of the electronics industry. This just adds to the rush towards more robotics and automation.

The big question looking forward is how will all of this automation affect society. It is a move that can’t and shouldn’t be stopped, but some long range planning is needed to keep the wide introduction of robots and AI from being disruptive.


Robots at Walmart

Apparently even Walmart is looking at automation in its stores. Two different initiatives seem to be under evaluation by Walmart.

EMMA (Enabling Mobile Machine Automation), an autonomous machine for scrubbing store floors, is under evaluation at five stores. After a training run controlled by a human operator to identify the desired operational path, the machine will autonomously clean the floor. It has built in sensors and cameras similar to autonomous vehicles currently on the roads that allow it to navigate around obstacles at a sedate 2.5 miles per hour. EMMA is a product of Brain Corp.

In a separate trial, Walmart has deployed shelf-scanning robots in 50 stores. These machines will scan store shelves to verify inventory, prices and misplaced items. These units are from Bossa Nova Robotics.

Will these attempts at automation cost jobs? Well, probably over the long term, but it is unlikely that the impact will be significant. It is clear though that robots and automation will be in our future.


November Issue of IEEE Central Texas Section Newsletter


I wrapped up the November issue of the IEEE Central Texas Section newsletter, The Analog. If you are interested in Tech and live in Central Texas, you may be interested in some of the events. IEEE Technical meetings are always open to the public.



Happy “Ada Lovelace Day”


It is the second Tuesday of October and that means that it is again Ada Lovelace Day. The day has been identified (per The Guardian) to:

. . . celebrate inspirational women in science, technology, maths and engineering, in the hope that by shining a light on such people and increasing their visibility, they can inspire future generations.

Ada Lovelace Day was founded in 2009 by Suw Charman-Anderson, and part of her reason for doing this was a worry that women in tech were invisible. The idea was a positive one – rather than highlighting the problem, highlight the unseen women and shout from the rooftops about all the amazing things they’ve achieved. Ada Lovelace was an obvious choice of mascot for such an endeavour.

Take this opportunity and join in some activity to recognize the contributions of women in technology. This would also be a good time to introduce or encourage a girl you know in STEM careers.

CapMac – In Austin, our local Capital Macintosh User Group is having a special program this evening. The featured speaker will be Rhonda Childress, the only Female IBM Fellow in Austin, the CTO of Security Services, a Sr. Certified I/T Architect, and an IBM Master Inventor.

Documentary – While not available today, there will soon be a documentary series, the Chasing Grace Project, about women in Tech.

The Chasing Grace Project is a documentary series about women in tech. It includes six episodes, each focused on a different topic within the women in tech narrative. From the pay gap, online harassment and female entrepreneurship to access to the best jobs, the decision to leave or stay in tech and the role of male allies, the series illustrate how we pave the way forward. Through story we can call out the adversities women face and illustrate how they’re navigating their own paths. The result? A series of blueprints for other women to find their paths, their way.

This may be something you will want to stay aware of