• STEM educationMiddle school engineers show their skills in electric car competition

    Chicago-area middle school students showcased their engineering talents of at the annual Electric Car Competition this spring. The quest: construct a fully functioning model electric car that could travel a 20-meter track while carrying a two-pound load. The task challenged students to apply the same science and engineering principles used by professional engineers every day.

  • InfrastructureWater-repelling, long-lasting concrete could make potholes disappear

    Water is concrete’s ultimate enemy. Although concrete withstands constant beatings from cars and trucks, water can break it down, pooling on its surface and infiltrating the tiniest cracks. Add freezing and thawing cycles, and it is no wonder roads need frequent repairs. To keep Mother Nature out, researchers have created a water-repelling concrete. The concrete is not only water-repellent – it isdesigned to have a service life of up to 120 years.

  • STEM educationIncreasing awareness of engineering technology as a field of study, employment

    In 2014, there were nearly 94,000 four-year engineering degrees, nearly 18,000 four-year ET degrees, and more than 34,000 two-year ET degrees awarded in the United States. While workers in the engineering technology (ET) field play an important role in supporting U.S. technical infrastructure and the country’s capacity for innovation, there is little awareness of ET as a field of study or category of employment in the U.S., says a new report from the National Academy of Engineering.

  • Planetary securityDeflecting asteroids to prevent their collision with Earth

    On 15 February 2013, an asteroid with a diameter of approximately eighteen meters exploded over the Russian town of Chelíabinsk, producing thousands of meteorites that fell to Earth. Many meteorites hit the ground each year, each with a total mass exceeding one ton. An international project provides information on the effects a projectile impact would have on an asteroid. The aim of the project is to work out how an asteroid might be deflected so as not to collide with the Earth.

  • Infrastructure protectionNew approach calculates benefits of building hazard-resistant structures

    By Anne Wilson Yu

    The southeastern United States was hit hard by weather patterns resulting from Hurricane Matthew in October. Georgia has sustained some $90 million in insured losses to date, and total claims are expected to rise. Florida was spared Matthew’s worst effects, but the state is regularly witness to the destructive power of such storms and there’s a lot at stake: The insured value of residential and commercial properties in Florida’s coastal counties now exceeds $13 trillion. Calculation developed by MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub shows that when building in areas prone to natural disasters, it pays to make informed decisions.

  • Nuclear powerSafer, long-life nuclear reactors: Metal design may raise radiation resistance by 100 times

    The big problem faced by metals bombarded with radiation at high temperatures—such as the metals that make up nuclear fuel cladding—is that they have a tendency to swell up significantly. They can even double in size. In findings that could change the way industries like nuclear energy and aerospace look for materials that can stand up to radiation exposure, researchers have discovered that metal alloys with three or more elements in equal concentrations can be remarkably resistant to radiation-induced swelling.

  • Emerging threatsClimate engineering uncertainties limit its use in slowing climate change

    Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques. A new suggests that the uncertainties associated with climate engineering are too great for it to provide an alternative to the rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

  • STEM educationNSF awards $61 million to enhance understanding of STEM education, workforce development

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) has invested $61 million in new awards in order to continue to achieve nationwide excellence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development. The awards focus on projects that help the educational community understand, explain, and address challenges in STEM learning and participation.

  • InfrastructureSatellite confirmation: San Francisco's Millennium Tower is sinking

    The Sentinel-1 satellites have shown that the Millennium Tower skyscraper in the center of San Francisco is sinking by a few centimeters a year. Studying the city is helping scientists to improve the monitoring of urban ground movements, particularly for subsidence hotspots in Europe. Completed in 2009, the 58-storey Millennium Tower has recently been showing signs of sinking and tilting. Although the cause has not been pinpointed, it is believed that the movements are connected to the supporting piles not firmly resting on bedrock.

  • Infrastructure protectionMood ring materials offer a new way to detect damage in failing infrastructure

    The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that more than $3.6 trillion in investment is needed by 2020 to rehabilitate and modernize the nation’s failing infrastructure. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to establish a $1 trillion infrastructure improvement program when he takes office. An important element in any modernization effort will be the development of new and improved methods for detecting damage in these structures before it becomes critical. This is where “mood ring materials’ comes in. “Mood ring materials” could play an important role in minimizing and mitigating damage to the U.S. failing infrastructure.

  • 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.

  • 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.