Engineering co-op students build robotic bartender to demonstrate motion controller technology
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Motion control robotic machine serving alcoholic beverage from bottle.

by Michelle Cometa, Rochester Institute of Technology

When Teknic challenged a co-op student team from RIT to produce a configurable, automated machine that would use its newest motion and I/O controller called ClearCore, team members responded with a robotic bartender that automates the drink-making process.

Undergraduates from RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering and Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences worked during the summer and fall through required co-op experiences with the company, which manufactures servo motion control components.

“The robotic bartender is a mix of fun and serious engineering,” said Abe Amirana, Teknic’s director.

Integrating high-tech, brushless servo motors, connections to multiple networked devices such as digital and analog sensors, solenoids, LEDs, pneumatics and other hardware devices, the robotic bartender is capable of producing thousands of mixed drink combinations. Users can interact with the bartender through a touch screen interface, browse an extensive menu, vary combinations, and place an order.

“RIT has a really good emphasis on group work and communications – that proved invaluable when working with an inter-disciplinary team trying to complete a sophisticated automated machine of this nature in a short period of time,” said Carter Miller, a mechanical engineering major who expects to graduate this May. He did one block at Teknic as a co-op and recently accepted an offer to work with the company. After graduation, he’ll join its mechanical engineering department.

“My education in 3D solid modeling was also really valuable,” he continued. “The machine space constraints were tight and because we modeled the entire system in 3D CAD, we uncovered several internal interferences which would have delayed the entire program by weeks had they not been caught before releasing parts.”

The team was made up of mechanical, electrical, computer, and software engineering students.

Brandon Key, now a software engineer with Teknic, is a graduate of RIT’s computer engineering program. He and project teammates, Cody Brown and Alex Amari, both computing science majors, were instrumental in coordinating the robotic bartender’s multiple system devices. All three have been hired by Teknic.

“In the software design, we had to deal with multiple input streams—estop, pressure valve, requests from the touchscreen—so the state machine design to time slice everything was critical,” Key said. “My coursework in embedded systems was helpful in this exercise.”

Click here to read the full article on Rochester Institute of Technology

Has the electric car’s moment arrived at last?
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Woman kneeling down to charge her electric car

BY CRAIG WELCH, National Geographic

Joe Biden’s father sold used cars, steeping the future president in the world of combustion engines. The younger Biden washed vehicles on weekends, borrowed a Chrysler off the lot to drive to the prom, and hit automobile auctions to help stock his dad’s dealership. President Biden still owns the green ’67 Corvette his father gave him as a wedding gift, which he told Car and Driver magazine has “a rear-axle ratio that really gets up and goes.”

But if the White House’s resident motorhead gets his way—and that remains a big “if”—we may one day look back on the Biden presidency as the beginning of the end for gasoline-powered cars and trucks in the United States.

Biden is proposing sweeping reforms to the nation’s energy system to tackle climate change. But they aren’t just aimed at greening the electric grid or driving the nation away from coal and natural gas. Transportation accounts for more than a quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions; it’s proven particularly thorny to figure out how to reduce that, given the number of vehicles on the roads. So, Biden is pitching a host of ways to steer the country toward electric vehicles, or EVs.

By nearly every measure, the popularity of EVs and hybrid vehicles is already surging. Yet despite an avalanche of promising news, the shift away from gas-fueled cars remains stubbornly marginal, compared with the scale of the problem, even as global temperature records driven by fossil fuel use are broken year after year. Clean vehicles still account for just 2 percent of cars sold in the United States, 5 percent in China, and 10 percent in Europe—and those are the world’s biggest markets.

“This transition is by no means inevitable,” says Nic Lutsey, with the International Council on Clean Transportation, an independent research outfit that works with policymakers around the world.

Yet analysts, environmentalists, clean-tech experts, and auto industry-backed researchers all say the right mix of regulation, consumer incentives, and research support might just be enough to spur dramatic acceleration. And thus far, these experts agree, Biden seems intent on pulling the right levers.

“The dam is breaking; the tipping point is here,” says Sam Ricketts, a member of the team that authored Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s climate action plan during his presidential run. Many of Inslee’s ideas have since found their way into Biden’s plans. “The question is how fast can the auto industry go,” Ricketts says, “and can it be fast enough to confront the climate crisis?”

That will depend in no small part on what happens next in Washington, D.C.—and whether Biden and the Democrats, who hold the White House and a razor-thin majority in Congress, can even get the pieces into place.

So close, yet so far
Vehicles powered by electricity have been around since the auto industry’s inception—several of the first 19th-century cars were powered by electrons. But their real promise wasn’t apparent until Toyota began globally mass-producing the Prius hybrid 20 years ago. Less than a decade later, Tesla introduced the Roadster, its all-electric sports car, and got a $465 million Department of Energy loan, jump-starting production of its all-electric sedans. The loan has since been repaid, and Tesla is currently worth seven times as much as General Motors.

Today, the trend is impossible to miss. Just since 2016 EVs and hybrid sales have nearly doubled in North America, and in 2018, for the first time ever, sales rose even as gas prices collapsed. Last year, with an economy wracked by COVID-19, electric or partly-electric vehicle purchases rose almost 5 percent over 2019 as auto sales overall declined by 15 percent.

There are electric Hummers, an electric Mustang, and an electric Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and North American car manufacturers plan to triple the number of non-gas-powered models by 2024 to 203.

Battery and motor prices are falling, and the innovation and economies of scale that come into play when companies like Amazon, which plans to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles in coming years, require more mass-produced vehicles almost certainly will drive them down more. Just as solar and wind energy now cost pennies to produce, the cost of buying a fossil-fuel-free car or truck, by some estimates, may match traditional vehicle prices in five years or less. Ford expects that an upcoming electric version of its popular F150 pickup will be vastly cheaper to own, over time, than the gas-powered original.

In all, more than seven million electrified vehicles now travel the world’s streets. Tesla alone has produced more than one million. BMW has sold a half million and hopes to double that by this year. Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, has proposed dozens of electric models.

Click here to read the full article on National Geographic.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins returns safely to Earth after six months in space
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NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is helped out of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft

BY TORI B. POWELL,

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, 42, safely returned to Earth on Saturday after living aboard the International Space Station for six months, according to NASA. Rubins, along with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov, arrived southeast of the town Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, in a parachute landing at 10:55 a.m. local time.

The crew served as Expedition 63-64 and began their mission on October 14 last year.

Rubins became the first person to ever sequence DNA in outer space on her first spaceflight, Expedition 48/49 in 2016. During her latest 185-day mission, Rubins conducted “hundreds of hours” of International Space Station research, including work on the Cardinal Heart experiment which studies the effects of gravity and cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue levels and could further knowledge of heart problems on Earth, NASA reported. Her research also included studying DNA sequencing and microbiology studies.

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

Why Mars? The fascination with exploring the red planet
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A rendering of the planet Mars

By Ashley Strickland of CNN

The mystique of Mars is one that humans can’t seem to resist. The red planet has easily captured our interest for centuries, heavily featured in science fiction books and films and the subject of robotic exploration since the 1960s.

In February, three spacecraft arrived at Mars after departing from different launch points on Earth in July. These myriad missions seek to understand our planetary neighbor and unlock the secrets of its past to prepare for future exploration.
The three missions — China’s Tianwen-1, the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe and NASA’s Perseverance rover — took advantage of an alignment between Mars and Earth that occurs every 26 months, allowing for quicker and more efficient trips when the two planets are on the same side of the sun.
The Hope Probe will stay in orbit for a Martian year — equivalent to 687 days on Earth — to gather data about Mars’ atmosphere.
Tianwen-1, whose name means “Quest for Heavenly Truth,” is orbiting the planet before landing a rover on the surface, with the hope that it can gather important information about the Martian soil, geological structure, environment, atmosphere and signs of water.
The Perseverance rover is searching for signs of ancient life on Mars and will collect samples to be returned to Earth by future missions.
Perseverance also carries the names of nearly 11 million people etched on three silicon chips. She is a robotic scientist exploring Mars on behalf of humanity and is able to share what she sees and hears through 23 cameras, including video, and two microphones.
If three missions arriving at Mars within days of each other seems excessive, imagine explorers seeing Earth for the first time and wanting to understand all aspects of its past, climate, water, geology and life systems. It takes time and different capabilities to explore aspects of an entire planet to know the real story.
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock
The genetic mistakes that could shape our species
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a genetic strand

By Zaria Gorvett

He Jiankui seemed nervous.

At the time, he was an obscure researcher working at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China. But he had been working on a top-secret project for the last two years – and he was about to take to the podium at the International Summit on Human Genome Editing to announce the results. There was a general buzz of excitement in the air. The audience looked on anxiously. People started filming on their phones.

He had made the first genetically modified babies in the history of humankind. After 3.7 billion years of continuous, undisturbed evolution by natural selection, a life form had taken its innate biology into its own hands. The result was twin baby girls who were born with altered copies of a gene known as CCR5, which the scientist hoped would make them immune to HIV.

But things were not as they seemed.

“I was kind of drawn to him for the first five or six minutes, he seemed very candid,” says Hank Greely, a professor of law at Stanford University and expert in medical ethics, who watched the conference live over the internet in November 2018. “And then as he went on, I got more and more suspicious.”

A genetic invention

In the years since, it’s become clear that He’s project was not quite as innocent as it might sound. He had broken laws, forged documents, misled the babies’ parents about any risks and failed to do adequate safety testing. The whole endeavour left many experts aghast – it was described as “monstrous”, “amateurish” and “profoundly disturbing” – and the culprit is now in prison.

However, arguably the biggest twist were the mistakes. It turns out that the babies involved, Lulu and Nana, have not been gifted with neatly edited genes after all. Not only are they not necessarily immune to HIV, they have been accidentally endowed with versions of CCR5 that are entirely made up – they likely do not exist in any other human genome on the planet. And yet, such changes are heritable – they could be passed on to their children, and children’s children, and so on.

In fact, there have been no shortage of surprises in the field. From the rabbits altered to be leaner that inexplicably ended up with much longer tongues to the cattle tweaked to lack horns that were inadvertently endowed with a long stretch of bacterial DNA in their genomes (including some genes that confer antibiotic resistance, no less) – its past is riddled with errors and misunderstandings.

More recently, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London warned that editing the genetics of human embryos can lead to unintended consequences. By analysing data from previous experiments, they found that approximately 16% had accidental mutations that would not have been picked up via standard tests.

Why are these mistakes so common? Can they be overcome? And how could they affect future generations?

Read the full article at BBC.com

WITI Summit, June 22-24, VIRTUAL
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The WITI logo

The WITI Summit, June 22-24 in a VIRTUAL form, is the premier global event for women in technology. Executives, entrepreneurs and technology thought leaders from around the world convene online to build and expand strong connections in a welcoming environment and to foster women’s success in all technology related fields and organizations. 3,000+ attendees from 6 continents. 

 

Use code CBPART21 for $100 discount off the prevailing cost of a full 3-day pass. 

 

Click Here 

Neuralink: We Got a Monkey to Play Pong Using Only Its Mind
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A monkey playing pong on the computer while sucking a smoothie out of a straw in front of a forest backdrop

By Alyse Stanley, Gizmodo

Neuralink, the secretive neuroscience startup co-founded by Elon Musk, has been even more quiet than usual these days. That is, until this week when it released a YouTube video of a monkey appearing to play the classic video game Pong with its mind.

The video stars Pager, a 9-year-old macaque monkey who had a Neuralink implanted in either side of his brain roughly six weeks prior, according to the narrator. And apparently, he loves Pong. Before he learned how to play the game with his mind, though, researchers first conditioned him to use a joystick, rewarding him with “a tasty banana smoothie” through a straw whenever he moved an on-screen cursor to certain lit-up squares on a grid.

While he was maneuvering the joystick and happily slurping up his smoothie, the Neuralink devices in his brain recorded his brain activity, monitoring more than 2,000 electrodes implanted in the region of Pager’s motor cortex that controls hand and arm movements. Researchers could also interface with the devices in real-time by pairing their phones via Bluetooth.

That Neuralink data was then fed into a “decoder algorithm” to train it to predict Pager’s intended hand movements in real-time based on which neurons were firing. Following a short calibration period, the decoder understood Pager’s neural patterns well enough that the joystick was no longer needed. The narrator says that even with it disconnected, Pager continues to move the cursor around using only his mind. He then appears to play a game of so-called MindPong with no joystick insight.

“A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip!!” Musk said in a tweet sharing the video Thursday.

More than four million people have watched it since then, and it’s currently among the top 10 trending videos on YouTube. If you’re interested, Neuralink also shared a video showing what the raw data behind Pager’s neural activity looks like while he’s busy playing.

Musk went on to discuss future plans for Neuralink’s devices in a series of tweets, echoing the video’s narrator that the ultimate goal for this technology is to enable people with paralysis to operate their computer or phone via their mind.

The initial versions of the device “will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,” Musk wrote. “Later versions will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in brain to Neuralinks in body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again.”

Back in August, Neuralink showed a live demo of the Neuralink implant in action, though on pigs rather than monkeys.

“It’s like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” Musk said at the time.

Click here to read the full article on Gizmodo.

Fermilab Experiment Hints at New Fundamental Force of Nature
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nad over head photo of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois

By Ryan Whitwam

Scientists working at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois have made some of the most important discoveries in physics over the years, including the existence of the top quark and characterizing the neutrino. Now, the team working on Fermilab’s Muon g−2 experiment has reported a tantalizing hint of a new type of physics, according to the BBC. If confirmed, this would become the fifth known fundamental force in the universe.

Our current understanding of particle physics is called the Standard Model, which we know is an incomplete picture of the universe. Concepts like the Higgs boson and dark energy don’t fully integrate with the Standard Model, and the Muon g−2 might eventually help us understand why. The key to that breakthrough could be the behavior of the muon, a subatomic particle similar to an electron. The muon has a negative charge, but it’s much more massive. So, it spins like a magnet, which is what points to a possible new branch of physics.

PHOTO: ExtremeTech

The roots of the Muon g−2 experiment go back to work done at CERN in the late 1950s. However, the instruments available at the time were too imprecise to accurately measure the “g-factor” of the muon, which describes its rate of gyration. The Standard Model predicts that muons wobble in a certain way, but the 14-meter magnetic accelerator at the heart of Muon g−2 shows that muons have a different g-factor. That might not sound significant, but even a tiny “anomalous magnetic dipole moment,” as scientists call it, could indicate something mysterious has affected the particles.

We currently know of four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force (nuclear cohesion), and the weak force (radioactive decay). Whatever is causing muons to misbehave in Muon g−2 could be a fifth force, but we don’t know what it is. Even if the team can confirm the result, we won’t necessarily know what this new force of nature does aside from perturbing muons. That part will take much more work. Theoretical physicists have speculated that the new force could be associated with an undiscovered subatomic particle like the Z-prime boson or leptoquark.

Read the full article at ExtremeTech.

Mars helicopter Ingenuity unlocks its rotor blades to prepare for 1st flight on Red Planet
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Blades on the Ingenuity Mars helicopter during the unlocking process, as seen on Apr. 8, 2021

By Meghan Bartels

The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has unlocked its two rotor blades as preparations continue for the vehicle’s first flight, due to occur no earlier than Sunday (April 11).

Ingenuity arrived on Mars Feb. 18 along with NASA’s Perseverance rover, having made the long trek out to the Red Planet tucked inside the rover’s belly. As of April 4, the little chopper has parted ways with Perseverance, preparing to take to the skies during a month-long test campaign. If Ingenuity’s Sunday sortie is successful, it will be the first powered, guided flight on another planet.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU 

“The blades of glory, aka rotor blades of the #MarsHelicopter, have been unlocked and are ready for testing,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California wrote in a tweet posted early today (April 8). “Next, we’ll do a slow-speed spin-up of the blades for the first time on the Martian surface.”

Ingenuity’s flight preparation process has been slow and cautious, in part because the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) helicopter made the journey to Mars in a folded configuration, tucked behind a protective shield.

After the rover dropped that shield and drove to the airfield, the helicopter’s personnel had to order the device to unpack and slowly unfold itself. Then Perseverance had to set Ingenuity directly on the Martian surface and drive away, allowing the helicopter’s solar panels to begin supporting the aircraft.

Unlocking and testing Ingenuity’s blades mark the last major milestones before the helicopter attempts to fly. NASA officials have said they will test the blades first at 50 and then at 2,400 revolutions per minute before the helicopter attempts to fly.

Read the full article at Space.com.

Will.i.am reveals his $299 face mask featuring dual fans, ANC headphones, Bluetooth, and more
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Will.i.am wearing the technology powered face mask with a blue beanie on

By Rob Thubron, TechSpot

What just happened? Will.i.am, best known as the frontman for the Black Eyed Peas, has made several pushes into the world of technology—not all of them successful. But the rapper hasn’t been put off by a few past failures. His latest project is a tech-packed face mask that features everything from noise-canceling headphones to Bluetooth connectivity. It’s also a lot more expensive than most masks: $299.
Created through a partnership with Honeywell, the Xupermask (pronounced “Super mask”) features dual three-speed fans and HEPA filters. That’s the same setup found on LG’s equally Cyberpunk 2077-looking PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier mask.

As Will.i.am was involved in the Xupermask’s creation, it has built-in active noise-canceling headphones for enjoying your tunes while looking like a Fallout character. There’s also a microphone, Bluetooth 5.0, and a magnetic earbud docking system.

Taking a leaf from Razer’s Project Hazel, the Xupermask boasts LED day glow lights, though they’re not of the RGB variety, as is the case with the PC accessory maker’s product. You also get 7-hour battery life.

Click here to read the full article on TechSpot.

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Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  3. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  4. HACU’s 35th Annual Conference
    October 30, 2021 - November 1, 2021
  5. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022