• STEM educationVideo games for STEM skills, diversity in middle schools

    An interdisciplinary team of researchers is launching an initiative which will use a custom-designed video game to boost computational thinking in middle school science classrooms. The goal is not only to improve educational outcomes, but also to foster gender and racial diversity in computer science and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

  • STEM educationCornell students hope to make the first CubeSat to orbit the moon

    Cislunar Explorers, a team of Cornell graduate and undergraduate students guided by Mason Peck, a former senior official at NASA, is attempting to boldly go where no CubeSat team has gone before: around the moon. The group attempting to make a first-ever moon orbit with a satellite no bigger than a cereal box, made entirely with off-the-shelf materials, and which uses water as a propellant. The Cislunar Explorers take part in NASA’s Cube Quest Challenge, which is offering a total of $5.5 million to teams that meet the challenge objectives: designing, building, and delivering flight-worthy, small satellites capable of advanced operations near and beyond the moon.

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  • STEM educationVirginia Tech’s Thinkabit Lab: Hands-on STEM learning for students, training for teachers

    Virginia Tech and Qualcomm Inc. begin a multiyear collaboration this fall with the launch of the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab at Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church. The Thinkabit Lab offers both teachers and students an engaging learning environment — part lab, makerspace, and classroom – aiming to foster creativity, collaboration, and the critical skills.

  • 9/11: 15 years onHow building design changed after 9/11

    By Shih-Ho Chao

    When buildings collapse killing hundreds – or thousands – of people, it’s a tragedy. It’s also an important engineering problem. For structural engineers like me, that meant figuring out what happened, and doing extensive research on how to improve buildings’ ability to withstand a terrorist attack. Research has found ways to keep columns and beams strong even when they are stressed and bent. This property is called ductility, and higher ductility could reduce the chance of progressive collapse. Mixing millions of high-strength needle-like steel microfibers into concrete – to prevent the spreading of any cracks that occur because of an explosion or other extreme force – creates material which is superstrong and very ductile. This material, called ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete, is extremely resistant to blast damage. As a result, we can expect future designers and builders to use this material to further harden their buildings against attack. It’s just one way we are contributing to the efforts to prevent these sorts of tragedies from happening in the future.

  • STEM educationIncreasing the number of American engineers, scientists

    Over the past several years, the U.S. has ranked low among other nations in numbers of students proficient in math and science, as well as skilled workers in those fields. According to researchers, American students are perfectly capable and interested in entering those fields, but are not being encouraged to pursue a STEM career. The researchers identifies factors that could lead more young students to successful careers in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

  • Disaster recoveryRepairing earthquake-damaged bridge columns in days, not weeks

    In just thirty seconds, a devastating earthquake like the ones that struck Japan and Ecuador can render a city helpless. With roadways split and bridges severely damaged, residents and emergency personnel could be prevented from moving around to rebuild. Normally, it takes weeks to repair the cracking or spalling of columns on just one bridge damaged in an earthquake. Researchers have developed a new process of fixing columns that takes as little as a few days.

  • Infrastructure protectionMicrowave repairs might annihilate zombie potholes once and for all

    By Larry Zanko

    Some potholes are like zombies – they never die. Or at least that’s the perception of much of the driving public, especially as we enter peak pothole season: late winter and early spring. Recurring “zombie” potholes are too often a reflection of the type of method that’s used to patch or “fix” them – many of which are short-lived and only marginally effective. Researchers around the world are working to develop better and longer lasting repair alternatives. Microwave technology is not yet a routine method of repair, and it’s best-suited for potholes in asphalt rather than concrete. But this approach merits further consideration. After all, given our nation’s aging network of roads, zombie potholes will continue to flourish. Microwave repair could be an effective method for keeping them at bay.

  • STEM skillsNew rule permits STEM graduates to stay in U.S. for 36 months

    A new rule published by DHS this week allows foreign students in science and technology to extend their stay in the United States under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. The new rule will go into effect in May, and it will allow STEM graduates to stay and work in the United States for up to thirty-six months.

  • African innovationFour African innovators selected for engineering innovation prize

    Following an open, competitive, application process which saw entries from fifteen countries in sub-Saharan Africa, twelve African entrepreneurs were chosen to receive a package of six months of business training and mentoring from the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering. The four finalists showing the greatest promise have now been chosen, and are in with a chance to become the overall winner. Each will receive at least £10,000 with the grand prize of £25,000 to be awarded at a ceremony in Cape Town on 1 June. A low-cost sustainable water filter system to provide clean and safe drinking water, and a service that allows African mobile phone users to switch easily between multiple mobile networks are among the four African innovations selected by the Academy.

  • Immigrants and S&EImmigrants play growing role in U.S. science and engineering (S&E) workforce

    Immigration is a significant factor in decade-long growth in total science and engineering (S&E) workforce. From 2003 to 2013, the number of scientists and engineers residing in the United States rose from 21.6 million to 29 million. This 10-year increase included significant growth in the number of immigrant scientists and engineers, from 3.4 million to 5.2 million. Immigrants went from making up 16 percent of the science and engineering workforce to 18 percent.

  • ImmigrationImmigrants account for a larger share of U.S. science and engineering workforce

    From 2003 to 2013, the number of scientists and engineers residing in the United States rose from 21.6 million to 29 million. An important factor in that increase: over the same time period, the number of immigrant scientists and engineers went from 3.4 million to 5.2 million. Immigrants went from making up 16 percent of the science and engineering workforce to 18 percent, according to a new report.

  • Coastal resilienceRestoring and sustaining Louisiana’s eroding coast

    Measures taken over the last ninety years to prevent a repetition of the 1927 New Orleans flood — the construction of improved levees, spillways, and dams as well as associated flood and additional navigation management structures designed to contain overflows and manage and stabilize a deep-water channel – have starved adjacent wetlands of the freshwater and sediment needed to stave off the Gulf of Mexico’s rising tides. The resulting land loss across the Delta is leading toward catastrophic collapse. Over the last century, almost 1,900 square miles of deltaic wetlands, an area approximately the size of Delaware, have disappeared from Louisiana. Every hour, a football field-sized swath of land drowns in the Gulf’s advancing tides. A Louisiana independent initiative, with the support and participation of the State of Louisiana and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has called on experts from the private sector to develop and assess new designs for the Lower Mississippi River (below New Orleans). The winning proposals were announced last week.

  • STEM educationStudents race robot submarines in RoboSub competition

    High school and college engineering students from across the globe competed for bragging rights and cash prizes at the 18th International RoboSub Competition, which wrapped up 26 July. The mission theme for this year’s contest played on the theme of the “Back to the Future,” movie trilogy. The individual autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) had to navigate and complete an obstacle course — with tasks like “check the flux capacitor” and “travel through the time portal” — without human or computer interaction by team members.

  • Earthquake-proofingSafer structures to withstand earthquakes, windstorms

    A new cyberinfrastructure effort funded by a $13.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help engineers build safer structures that can better withstand natural hazards such as earthquakes and windstorms. Researchers aim to build a software platform, data repository, and tools that will help the United States design more resilient buildings, levees, and other public infrastructure that could protect lives, property and communities.

  • STEM educationONR helps at-risk, underrepresented youth prepare for STEM opportunities

    Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggest that the U.S. economy will annually create 120,000 new jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree in computer science by the end of the decade. However, only 51,000 degrees in that field are awarded each year. An innovative program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will open the door to professional career opportunities for at-risk and historically underrepresented youth through training in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM).