• DHS recognizes innovators

    On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas recognized DHS employees and other individuals who have been awarded patents by the U.S. Patent Office for their technology advancements and inventions contributing to the homeland security mission. From transportation-related inventions that improve screening and detection capabilities at ports and borders, to inventions that assist the U.S. Coast Guard in air and sea rescue operations, to a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine that received the Secretary’s Exceptional Service Gold Medal in 2014, these inventions have helped to enhance the homeland security mission while adapting to current and evolving threats.

  • Firefighting humanoid robot shows its skills

    In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames. The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy to better assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots.


  • New fog chamber offers testing options which could improve security cameras

    Fog can play a key role in cloaking military invasions and retreats and the actions of intruders. This is why physical security experts seek to overcome fog, but it is difficult to field test security cameras, sensors, or other equipment in fog that is often either too thick or too ephemeral. Until now, collecting field test data in foggy environments was time-consuming and costly. Sandia Lab researchers thought it would be more efficient to develop a controlled-fog environment for sensor testing – and they have developed a fog chamber — one of the world’s largest — that meets the needs of the military, other government agencies, and industry: The chamber is in a tunnel owned by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

  • Studying Louisiana's wetlands -- a natural barrier between land and sea

    NASA recently completed an intensive study of Louisiana Gulf Coast levees and wetlands, making measurements with three advanced imaging instruments on two research aircraft. NASA instruments fly over the Gulf Coast one to three times per year to keep consistent records of ground subsidence — the gradual sinking of an area of land — which can compromise the integrity of roads, buildings and levee systems. Scientists also closely monitor vegetation changes in the coastal wetlands to better understand how to preserve them. The marshlands not only are home to a delicate ecosystem, but also serve as a natural barrier between land and sea.

  • New foam technology to lead to better protective equipment

    Foam. We wear it. We sit on it. We sleep on it. We even use it to protect ourselves. Whether it is a football helmet, hospital bed, knee pad, or body armor, the foam it contains plays a critical role in making that product both comfortable and safe. Can that foam, however, be transformed into something significantly better, safer and more comfortable? An FSU researcher has developed a brand new, high-performing auxetic foam with a unique ability to get thicker, rather than thinner, when stretched. In practical terms, this counter-intuitive behavior, totally opposite to that of conventional foam, leads to many enhanced materials properties including a better and more comfortable fit that adjusts on the fly.

  • NSF awards $12 million to spur an engineering education revolution

    To solve twenty-first century technological challenges, society will rely upon today’s undergraduate engineering and computer science programs and their ability to prepare diverse communities of students with professional skills. The National Science Foundation (NSF) Directorates for Engineering, Computer and Information Science and Engineering, and Education and Human Resources have jointly awarded $12 million to engineering and computer science departments to enact groundbreaking, scalable and sustainable changes in undergraduate education.

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  • Purdue “Skunkworks” targeting engineering education

    Purdue University will create an Engineering Education Skunkworks as part of a national effort to transform how undergraduate engineering is taught in U.S. universities. Purdue’s role is to create the Engineering Education Skunkworks to “spark a departmental revolution” focusing on mechanical engineering. The Skunkworks will allow researchers to fast-track concepts that are most likely to be successful, said Edward Berger, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and engineering education who conceived the concept.

  • Disaster relief robots compete at DARPA Robotics Challenge

    Twenty four teams from around the world have just competed in Pomona, California for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Robotics Challenge, which runs various rescue robot platforms through a vigorous series of tests to learn and develop better systems. DARPA has made the competition even harder for competing teams. The robots could not operate with power chords, meaning that heavy batteries had to be on the board. Also, there could not be safety pumpers or tools for bipedal robots, which still struggled with balance issues. “In a real disaster, there are no ropes to hold you up. The robots have to drive a car to the door, but the hardest part of the ride is getting out of the vehicle without falling,” said Gill Pratt, program manager of the challenge.

  • Giant foam blocks keep approach slabs of bridges from settling

    The majority of the world’s largest cities, often built in areas near water bodies, have soft and compressible soils. For example, a good number of the 52,000 bridges in Texas have bump problems on entry due to settling of the soil under the pavement slabs. A research team at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) is using giant lightweight geofoam blocks to bolster the earth beneath roads and bridges and slow down the settling of roadways and bridges.

  • More than two million California homes at risk as drought continues

    Verisk Insurance Solutions, a Verisk Analytics, has released its 2015 FireLine State Risk Reports, which summarize wildfire risk in thirteen wildfire-prone states. Three new states — Montana, Oklahoma, and Wyoming — are included in this year’s analysis. Among the key findings: There are 4.5 million U.S. homes at high or extreme risk of wildfire, and California ranks first for the highest number of households at high or extreme risk with just over two million — approximately three times the second highest, Texas, with 706,200.

  • A new way of teaching math in schools

    A study has looked at a new way of teaching mathematics in primary and secondary school classrooms, and its ability to enhance learning. The study explored a unique way of delivering a lesson on fractions where teachers provide students with challenging math tasks to work on by themselves or in a group, rather than being instructed on specific solutions. The project found students preferred to work out solutions for themselves, and determine their own strategies for solving problems, rather than following instructions they have been given. The approach could lead to changes to how teachers currently plan their teaching in mathematics, how textbooks are written and how students are assessed.

  • Focusing on how, rather than why, individuals make the transition to terrorism

    Intelligence and counterterrorism officials have spent tremendous effort to understand why people become Islamist terrorists and commit acts of violence. Up till the 1980s, a significant number of terrorism scholars argued that terrorists are “driven” or “pushed” to commit violence because of an internal imbalance or a psychological abnormality rooted inside the individual. In recent years, scholars have suggested that the roots of terrorism are not in the individual, but in the social environment in which terrorists live and act. The debate goes, leading scholars to argue that the concerns of law enforcement officials should be less about why terrorists exist or commit violence, and more about the how, when, and where does the transition to terrorism take place.

  • State-by-state plan to convert U.S. to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050

    One potential way to combat ongoing climate change, eliminate air pollution mortality, create jobs, and stabilize energy prices involves converting the world’s entire energy infrastructure to run on clean, renewable energy. This is a daunting challenge. Now, researchers for the first time have outlined how each of the fifty states can achieve such a transition by 2050. The fifty individual state plans call for aggressive changes to both infrastructure and the ways we currently consume energy, but indicate that the conversion is technically and economically possible through the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies.

  • DHS selects U Illinois for Critical Infrastructure Resilience Center of Excellence

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced the selection of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as the lead institution to establish a new Critical Infrastructure Resilience (CIRC) Center of Excellence (COE). The university will be supported by a consortium of U.S. academic and industry institutions, S&T will provide CIRC with a $3.4 million grant for its first operating year.

  • Best possible antidote to radicalization: Education

    Education is the best possible antidote to radicalization, Professor Louise Richardson told the British Council’s Going Global conference in London last week. Richardson, who was recently nominated as the next vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “Any terrorist I have ever met through my academic work had a highly over simplified view of the world, which they saw in black and white terms. Education robs you of that simplification and certitude. Education is the best possible to antidote to radicalization.”