Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hydrogen Pellets Could Obsolete Batteries

    Hydrogen Pellets Could Obsolete Batteries
  • Hydrogen fuel pellets being perfected for military applications are preparing to go commercial, replacing conventional batteries with electricity generating fuel cells.
  • Hydrogen fuel pellets being perfected for military applications are preparing to go commercial, replacing conventional batteries with electricity generating fuel cells.Hydrogen fuel pellets that are cheaper and weigh less than half what batteries weigh could soon be replacing them thanks in part to a new recharging technology.
    Using a Purdue University innovation, General Atomics (San Diego) claims its hydrogen fuel pellets will save the Army $27 million a year and cut a solder's backpack by 10 pounds. In addition, General Atomics' hydrogen fuel pellets could someday be replenished after use by virtue of technology from the guys who invented the atomic bomb—Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
    "Many of the technologies we take for granted in our everyday lives were originally created for military or space exploration purposes," according to the Purdue professor Veeraraghavan Ramachandran. "We've developed a way to use a very stable and safe compound that can release pure hydrogen gas on demand without any toxic or corrosive byproducts."
    Ball-and-stick model of the ammonia-borane molecule, NH3BH3, yields up its hydrogen when heated so it can be converted into electricity by a fuel cell.
    Fuel cells are already available for recharging gadgets, but their cartridges must be discarded when spent. These new hydrogen fuel pellets, on the other hand, hold the promise of reuse by virtue of a new process developed separately at LANL.

    When hydrogen fuel pellets are heated, the hydrogen gas given off is converted by the fuel cell into electricity, potentially replacing traditional batteries in everything from smartphones to laptops to electric cars. Being perfected for the military first, Purdue claims its process is suitable for mass production of consumer models too.
    According to Ramachandran, Purdue's new process for making hydrogen-bearing fuel pellets lowers their price 20 times—from $2 to 10 cents per gram for the active ingredient (ammonia borane). The process locks hydrogen molecules in a safe, stable and compact pellet about the size of a marble. The pellets do not lose their charge, like batteries, but can be stored indefinitely without degradation. General Atomics fashions the pellets into tubes about the size of a flashlight for soldiers to pop into fuels cells where they supply electricity until their hydrogen is exhausted.


    Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen from the air to produce water, and in the process releasing electricity on demand. 
    Separately, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of Alabama, working within the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), claims to have perfected a method of recharging hydrogen fuel pellets, potentially lowering their price even further. Since ammonia borane stores four times more hydrogen than the gas by itself, these fuel pellets pack enough punch to enable vehicles to travel 300 miles before refueling—a milestone the DoE says is a prerequisite to powering commercial vehicles.
    The Los Alamos Labs method regenerates ammonia borane with a "one pot" technique using hydrazine and liquid ammonia. The technique, however, cannot be used on-the-spot like refilling your tank at the gas station. Instead, the tubes containing the spent hydrogen fuel pellets would be removed and replaced with new ones in a matter of seconds. Then the spent tubes would be sent back to the factory for replenishing using LANL's process. 

A Social Net for Plug-in Electric Vehicles

    A Social Net for Plug-in Electric Vehicles
  • Early electric vehicle adopters might get help finding charging locations from altruistic friends.
  • Early electric vehicle adopters might get help finding charging locations from altruistic friends.When WiFi hotspots first appeared on the scene, some groups actively sought out open access sites and compiled lists documenting their locations. Those lists served as a great resource to a traveler in search of connectivity. 
    A similar process seems to be occurring with charging locations for plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs). One difference between the efforts of the groups sharing information about WiFi and today's undertaking is that there is a social networking aspect to the documentation of charging spots. And, of course, there's an app for those people who want to share the information.
    That app is PlugShare, a community-driven EV charging network. The app lists public charging locations. And it also lets EV enthusiasts (including people and companies) offer up their plugs for drivers on the road to use. With regard to sharing an outlet, the thought is that some early EV adopters and those interested in promoting the adoption of electric vehicles would gladly offer assistance to a motorist in need of a charge.
    PlugShare displays public charging stations and outlets made available by individuals and companies. (Source: PlugShare)

    With PlugShare, a user can download the free app, sign up and then see all available plugs in a given region. The displayed plugs would include those offered up by other users and public charging stations. Users can make their home outlets available and provide contact information including a phone number or email address. A PHEV driver in need of a charge can contact a user to access the plug.
    The people behind the app are Armen Petrosian and Forrest North. They were on the Stanford Solar Car team and together they founded Xatori, a startup whose mission is "to create innovative software for electric vehicles and the enlightened electricity grid."
    The two believe the network could help overcome what is called range anxiety, which is the fear of being stranded after draining an EV's batteries. Petrosian is quoted in the New York Times as saying: "There's an artificial barrier to electric vehicle charging. There are outlets everywhere."
    What do you think of this idea? Would you share an outlet with a fellow EV enthusiast? 

Motivational Moment



Money is either a good or bad influence, according to the character of the person who possesses it.

It's true. Money has no character, no personality, no values. Its actions only reflect the desires of its owner. Money can build great hospitals and schools, or it can be gambled away or squandered on meaningless possessions. Money may build museums to house beautiful works of art, it may construct beautiful houses of worship -- or it may be used to create instruments of war and destruction. As you build your personal wealth, make sure you build your character by setting aside a portion of your income to help others. Choose a church, a charity, or a cause that you can enthusiastically support. Then give of your money and your time in support of that cause. The primary beneficiary of such noble actions is always the one who gives, not the one who receives.


Permanent link to this post: Money is either a good or bad influence, according to the character of the person who possesses it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The BDPA Insider - March 27, 2011

The BDPA Insider - March 27, 2011

The BDPA Insider - March 27, 2011

What better way to start the day than with your weekly message from BDPA!

In this issue:  

Click here for the latest issue of "The BDPA Insider":

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by Wayne Hicks
BDPA Columbus chapter member Philena Rush is using her knowledge of virtual reality to create a new venue for computer science training for middle school and high school students in Ohio. We decided that it made sense to create a virtual reality landing place for BDPA inside of Second Life -- the major virtual reality platform on the Internet.

I asked Philena to share some insights on how BDPA supporters who have never been in a virtual reality platform could go to their computer and see what is taking place within BDPA Columbus chapter.

This is what she had to say:

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BDPA member Earl Wilkerson has been named 2010 Outstanding Volunteer for Media General's Richmond headquarters. The award was established to reward the employee who contributed the most time to company-sponsored events in 2010. Earl is shown in this photo accepting his award from Media General's CEO Marshall Morton.

Earl consistently and enthusiastically participated in the volunteer projects conducted last year and his dedication to volunteering led him to be nominated for the Richmond headquarters Employee Involvement Team.

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by Kai Dupe
The other day I became aware of a wonderful piece of children's television programming, a show called Sid the Science Kid.  The show also has a wonderful web site.  My children are 5 and 3 respectively.  We do not allow them to watch too much television but when we do we try focus on educational programming.  They spend a lot of time watching shows such as Blue's Clues and Dora the Explorer on NickJr.

My friend who mentioned the show to me is a principal at an urban elementary school in San Antonio.  He was so excited about using this show as part of the curriculum he immediately ran out on his lunch hour to purchase a DVD of the show.  To his surprise, when he arrived at the local Best Buy store in his neighborhood he learned that they did not carry the DVD. 

Click here for more:


from BDPA Detroit TAC by Cliff Samuels Jr

The Navy has proposed a project to build a swarm of micro-robots with 3D printing capabilities and other high-tech features. The robots could create programmable materials, large structures and even replicas of themselves.

The Navy has proposed a project to build a swarm of micro-robots with 3D printing capabilities and other high-tech features. The robots could create programmable materials, large structures and even replicas of themselves. We've been buzzing about robots a lot in the past year: robots performing emergency triagecleaning up oil spills and even taking over the universe. Now, the U.S. Navy is planning on building a huge fleet of semi-autonomous robots that, among other capabilities, will be able to 3D print.
 
In a proposal released earlier this month, the Department of Defense (DoD) described the development of a "swarm of micro-robotic fabrication machines" that will be able to manufacture "new materials and components."

Click here for more:

from BDPA Detroit TAC by Cliff Samuels Jr
An IBM initiative provides no-charge boot camps to businesses, universities and other organizations for training IT staff on Big Data and other new technologies.

IBM's supercomputer Watson has been making many headlines lately by competing on "Jeopardy!" and helping to make complicated medical decisions. Now the underlying technologies of the Watson computing system are being used to create boot camps for IT and management training.

Click here for more:

Please accept our invitation to join us in the City of the Big Shoulders by registering for the 33rd Annual National BDPA Conference, August 3-6, 2011 at the Hilton Chicago.

Early bird registration for $350 now open!

Click here to register for the 2011 National BDPA Conference today!


Hilton Chicago
720 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Highlights from Maker Faire Detroit 2010



Maker Fair returns to Detroit area on July 30th & 31st, 2011  at the Henry Ford

Kinect Gesture Recognition Empowers Surgical Robots

    Kinect Gesture Recognition Empowers Surgical Robots
  • Purdue University is adapting Microsoft's Kinect gesture-recognition engine to a robotic nurse that can recognize hand gestures and offer assistance to surgeons during operations. The robotic nurse is expected to reduce the time it takes to perform operations.
  • Purdue University is adapting Microsoft's Kinect gesture-recognition engine to a robotic nurse that can recognize hand gestures and offer assistance to surgeons during operations. The robotic nurse is expected to reduce the time it takes to perform operations.
    By adapting Microsoft's Kinect gesture-recognition hardware (originally designed for gaming) with a software development kit (SDK) from PrimeSense Ltd., Purdue University is developing a robotic scrub nurse to assist surgeons and other professionals.
    Human scrub-nurse assistants today hand surgeons the proper surgical instrument when they gesture hand-out palms-up. Purdue's robotic scrub nurse performs the same operation while watching the surgeon through a video camera, offering a hemostat in response to the open-hand gesture. And soon the team plans to add voice recognition, in case the surgeon wants a scalpel, clamp or forceps instead.
    Robots at Purdue University are being trained to respond to gestures when assisting surgeons and other professionals (source: Purdue University photo).

    "Voice recognition gives good performance today, but recognizing gestures has been the weak link for robotic assistants," said Purdue professor Juan Pablo Wachs. "In order to advance the state-of-the-art we added gesture recognition, which we found works much better when using the Kinect."
    The researchers' first-generation scrub-nurse assistant prototype used a standard video camera to recognize gestures. That model worked with simple instructions, such as the hand-out palms-up gesture. However, to indicate different instruments without voice recognition the team had to train the prototype to identify gestures like cutting with index  and middle finger to indicate scissors. These types of complex gestures, however, could be mistaken for normal conversational gestures without Kinect, according to Wachs.
    "Kinect gives us a three-dimensional map of the surgeon's gestures, which allows us to disambiguate between symbolic gestures intended for the robot and those just used during conversation," said Wachs.

    Gesture recognition also allows the surgeon to direct a nearby computer to display images relevant to the current procedure that would otherwise require tapping on the keys of a laptop, thus slowing down the operation and introducing the possibility of infections from bacteria on the keyboard. With gesture recognition, assisted by voice recognition, a surgeon could ask for the "interior view," then flip between X-ray images of the patient with "brush" gestures similar to those used on touch screens to turn pages.
    Beyond surgical assistance, the research team, which includes Purdue doctoral candidates Mithun Jacob and Yu-Ting Li, plans to adapt the system to several other application areas, including coordination of emergency response activities during crisis management and disaster relief, human-robot communications, and entertainment.
    The Purdue University prototype robotic scrub nurse was developed at the School of Veterinary Medicine using anthropometry algorithms that model the physiology of hands, resulting in highly accurate gesture recognition even under difficult lighting conditions, according to the team.
    Funding was provided by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
     

Smarter Multi-Pane Apps Trump Window

    Smarter Multi-Pane Apps Trump Windows
  • Smartphones and touch-screen tablets are spawning a revolutionary new multi-pane-based user interface in apps, from IT to social networking.
  • Smartphones and touch-screen tablets are spawning a revolutionary new multi-pane-based user interface in apps, from IT to social networking.The decision to abandon window-based user interfaces on smartphones and touch-screen tablets has prompted a revolution in user interfaces called multi-pane instead of multi-window. Started by business intelligence apps like Microstrategy's Mobile, the trend was recently validated with Sprint's new Kyocera Echo, which sports a built-in dual-pane user interface based on Android extensions.
    Multiple panes, rather than multiple windows, are already being harnessed by a wide variety of apps, and thanks to the crusading efforts of Sprint, a whole raft of multi-pane Android apps will be announced at the CTIA Wireless conference to be held in Orlando, Fla., this week. The applications are in areas as diverse as productivity, entertainment, social networking and gaming.
    Multi-pane apps can use separate devices to display different panes—here an iPhone controlling the business intelligence graphics displayed on an iPad. (Source: Microstrategy)
    Microstrategy pioneered the multi-pane motif for business intelligence with its Mobile app, which allows a meeting leader to create business graphics on, say, an iPhone and then direct meeting attendees to view them on an iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, BlackBerry, Android or laptop PC.
    Now Sprint's choice of the multi-pane Echo is attracting application developers from every segment of the software market, according to John Chier, director of Corporate Communications at Kyocera.
    "You have a change of culture going on, which is all about multitasking—many people have dual displays on their PCs—and  studies show that over 70 percent of people watching television do something else with another electronic device at the same time," said Kyocera's Chier.
    Kyocera's Echo has a novel hinge that supports the two screens lying flat and uninterrupted, or at an angle to resemble a tiny laptop. Application developers can use the dual panes to run independent apps side-by-side on the two screens, the two displays can be configured to do complementary tasks in an over-under view, or a single app can spread its images across a single large canvas comprising both screens.

    Sprint's Echo, made by Kyocera, shows multi-pane apps on its two built-in displays, here using the top for watching YouTube videos while the bottom screen queues up the playlist. (Source: Sprint) 
    "Multitasking for other smartphones is a matter of toggling between screens, but the dual-screen configuration of Echo gives us the opportunity to do true multitasking on a smartphone with a tabletlike experience," said Atsuhiko Kanda, product manager for the Echo smartphone.
    The most novel multi-pane mode uses the two screens for the same task, such as bringing up a keyboard on the bottom pane while displaying results of typing on the top. Echo's VueQue built-in app demonstrates this mode by allowing users to watch YouTube videos on the top touch screen while using the bottom touch screen to browse, queue and buffer up a video playlist.
     

IT Boot Camps Teach New Ideas and Technologies

    IT Boot Camps Teach New Ideas and Technologies
  • An IBM initiative provides no-charge boot camps to businesses, universities and other organizations for training IT staff on Big Data and other new technologies.
  • An IBM initiative provides no-charge boot camps to businesses, universities and other organizations for training IT staff on Big Data and other new technologies.
    IBM's supercomputer Watson has been making many headlines lately by competing on "Jeopardy!" and helping to make complicated medical decisions. Now the underlying technologies of the Watson computing system are being used to create boot camps for IT and management training.
    In the new program, IT professionals will have free access to 1,200 boot camps onsite, online and at IBM Innovation Centers. The program focuses on "Big Data," which includes all of the information available on the Web, mobile devices, social networks and other public sources of information not integrated into a company's information management platform.
    Because Big Data is a relatively new phenomenon, many IT professionals lack the skills to manage it. In addition to training about Big Data, the IBM boot camps will focus on analytics, data management and open-source technologies like Hadoop.
    IBM has already led several training projects about Big Data, with 8,000 analytics consultants in a network of analytics centers around the world.
    For instance, at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., IBM is working with deans to expand course offerings on Big Data, green IT and analytics. In a statement, Roger Norton, dean of the School of Computer Science and Mathematics, explained, "Watson demonstrated a new standard for an energy efficient computing system that today's companies can use to become more green."
    At MGM College of Engineering & Technology in India, 600 students and faculty members are already certified and trained on Big Data with other IBM technologies.
    "IBM is bringing real-world industry experience to students to keep them in touch with emerging technologies and IT trends such as Big Data," said Professor Nareshkumar Harale, according to a statement. Harale is head of Computer Engineering, MGM College of Engineering & Technology at MGM College. "When universities and businesses collaborate," he explained, "they build the next generation of skilled information technology leaders to create new opportunities, fuel economic growth and solve challenges that can improve the way we live."
    A similar program is in place at Haycarb, a Sri-Lankan-based green tech company that manufactures activated carbon programs. In an effort to reduce IT and energy-related costs, Haycarb enrolled in an IBM boot camp.
    "We had this idea that migrating from one database software to another would eat up a lot of time, money and resources. Instead of having to go off site to take the course, IBM came to us, tailoring the course based on our existing skills and building upon that," said Chinthaka Abeykoon, head of IT at Haycarb. "It is extremely vital to stay current on these technologies that address challenges such as taming growing amounts of data and ensuring database security."
    Perficient, an IBM business partner, also used the boot camps to train its IT teams on new technologies.
    "Companies are amassing up to petabytes of information during peak hours of operations, and they see an opportunity to use this data to gain new insights into their customers and get ahead of the competition," said Arvind Krishna, general manager of IBM Information Management.
    "Uncovering insights hidden among data in existing IT systems, and outside of the firewall in social networks, on clouds and from mobile devices, requires today's IT professionals to possess new skills," said Krishna. "As a result, we expect to see more companies move from Oracle to IBM software to capitalize on Big Data opportunities, and shift the economics from wasteful IT spending to growth investments. Our goal this year is to help 10,000 Oracle Database professionals expand their skills with IBM Software to more rapidly achieve their business goals."
    For more information about the boot camps, click here.
     

SXSW for IT

    SXSW for IT
  • In the annual blur of music, parties and art, consumer apps offer new tricks for tech pros.
  • In the annual blur of music, parties and art, consumer apps offer new tricks for tech pros.No event better captures the mad American mashup of music, film, new media and emerging technology than the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festivals. Held each March in Austin, Texas, the 10-day hipster geekfest wrapped up its 25th uber-cool year on March 20.


    Never heard of SXSW? (For heaven's sake, don't tell anyone, especially your 26-year-old boss.)  Even if you're not into celeb sniffing (Is that Jake Gyllenhaal? Danny DeVito?), striver panels ("What Would Lady Gaga Do?"), buzz-hungry bands (Yuck), awesome fantasy films ("Dragonslayer"), hoodies, chain smoking, skinny jeans or projectile vomiting, you need to know what's happening here, Gramps.
    Microsoft thinks so. It hosted big, as did Google, Samsung, Apple (Apple!), Adobe and many more you would recognize. IBM (sponsor of Smarter Technology) even hosted a two-day Smarter Planet Summit featuring Smarter Cities. And let's not forget this is where Twitter first peeped onto the world stage four long, irritating years ago.  
    Amid the 24 x 10 swirl of sight, sound and socializing, this year's SXSW showcased a number of consumer-oriented tech products with intriguing potential for adoption by IT and enterprises. If "consumerization" wags the tech these days, what better place to look than this event's best in show?
    The following are all winners of 2011 SXSW Interactive awards. In different ways, they suggest interesting professional applications, for organizations of all sizes and interests to perhaps subscribe to, license or emulate. Beyond that, they're just pretty cool. Take a look …
    Best in Show: GrouponWorks—Online discount coupons for collective buying
    You've doubtless seen this latest shopping phenom, maybe even joined online strangers to get big discounts on local restaurants, spas, coffee and goodies. But have you considered how Groupon (or similar) could bring your company's goods (or even IT services) to a wider (or targeted) geography or B2B community?  Resellers, partner programs, branch offices, this means you.
    Breakout Digital Trend: GroupMe—Group messaging and conferencing
    Like Groupon, GroupMe garnered lots of buzz before SXSW. Somewhat ironically, GroupMe is basically a retro "friends and family" calling/texting app. You plunk out a message on your cell phone. Only those in your predefined inner circle can read it, check each other's geo location and photos, or hop on an automatically dialed conference call. Kind of like Facebook, only with people you actually want to communicate with … and it's easier/cheaper than unified communications. Possible IT applications: ad hoc team collaboration, disaster recovery or emergency communications, Happy Hour planning, etc
    Community: iFixit—Free editable online repair manuals
    This is what online tech support and help desks ought to be. From cell phones to iPads to toasters to cars—you name it—iFixit provides nice, clear, friendly help and community support—and even spare parts. Think of this less as a threat to your service revenue and more a way to make customers, partners and resellers love you and your products. Join and start your own.  
    Business: Get Satisfaction—Online customer complaint department
    Speaking of customer love, which is better: customers complaining about you on Facebook etc., or customers complaining to you in ways you can help? It's the latter, of course. Get Satisfaction offers a neat online community builder that helps you soothe customer gripes. The Enterprise version features domain aliasing, SLAs, integration with CRMs and more.

    Student: FeedSpeaker—RSS feed narrator
    A simply way to let your visually impaired employees, customers and others choose and consume global RSS feeds from the BBC, CNN and more via speech/speech recognition and geospatial tracking. Bravo!
    Experimental: MemoLane—Social media timeline
    MemoLane, a finalist, actually didn't win this category. But I liked it a lot and thought it worth including here. Basically, the Web-based app automatically gathers tweets, blog posts, pictures and notes from an individual or group into a neat, graphical timeline. Sort of like a less OCD version of Gordon Bell's ambitious MyLifeBits project. It's fun for ski trips and family vacations. But I also see interesting possibilities as a lightweight, informal group collaboration and documentation tool for organizations. Take a look and see what you think.  
    Kiosk: Unilever—Smile-activated vending machine (SAVM)
    At first glance, this project embodies ingenious "out of the box" thinking about user/machine interfaces. Users walk up to a kiosk, smile broadly and are rewarded with a tasty ice cream—thanks to facial recognition software hidden in the machine. Clever! Delightful! (Somewhat more creepily, the kiosk facial scans also estimate age, gender, mood and God knows what else. If you are, say, a terrorist or escaped con, does that mean your "treat" is a puff of nerve gas?) Even so, the SAVM offers a much-needed fresh approach to interactions that don't require keyboards or even touch. Now if I could just get a business PC with a Wii controller …
    Amusement: The Most Awesomest Thing Ever—Violent animated online chooser

    Basically, you go to a Web page and vote between two things (John Elway or Elvis, for example). The losing choice blows up. Then you see how your choice compares with other players. MATE's creators, Big Spaceship, enthuse: "Only the strongest shall reach the hallowed halls of the Most Awesomest."
    Undergrad idiocy aside, these doofs may be onto something. On the job, "Most Awesome" could be a very fun way to make a wide range of key decisions, from where to go for team lunches to deciding whom to downsize, new markets to enter, etc. It's like a Crazy 8 ball for the new millennia. Plus it's wicked fun.
    Click these links for the complete lists of 2011 SXSW Interactive Awards Winners and Nominees.
    What business uses do you see for the technologies

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Navy to Build a Fleet of Robots with 3D Printers

Navy to Build a Fleet of Robots with 3D Printers


  • The Navy has proposed a project to build a swarm of micro-robots with 3D printing capabilities and other high-tech features. The robots could create programmable materials, large structures and even replicas of themselves.

  • The Navy has proposed a project to build a swarm of micro-robots with 3D printing capabilities and other high-tech features. The robots could create programmable materials, large structures and even replicas of themselves.We've been buzzing about robots a lot in the past year: robots performing emergency triage, cleaning up oil spills and even taking over the universe. Now, the U.S. Navy is planning on building a huge fleet of semi-autonomous robots that, among other capabilities, will be able to 3D print.
    In a proposal released earlier this month, the Department of Defense (DoD) described the development of a "swarm of micro-robotic fabrication machines" that will be able to manufacture "new materials and components."
    Micro-fabrication, or 3D printing, uses a PC and basic manufacturing capabilities to "print" small components. 3D printers are already cheaply and commercially available, with users printing basic objects like jewelry and toys. The process has also been suggested for the creation of space stations in-orbit.
    The Navy's proposed micro-robots would each produce small and even nano-sized building blocks, which could then be assembled into larger structures and materials. In addition to manufacturing, the robots would be capable of performing basic tasks such as "pick and place, dispense liquids, print inks, remove material, join components, etc." They would be able to move efficiently around the workspace and work cooperatively to build structures.
    The robots could be used to repair naval vessels while out at sea—saving time, money and even lives when there is critical damage. (Source: U.S. Navy)
    "The manufacturing platform could be a micro-factory that is capable of building high-value components with small dimensions while consuming fewer resources," explains the proposal. "Its small scale motivates new and different approaches to the means of production, not just shrinking the equipment size."
    In the first phase of the project, robotic engineers will develop proof-of-concept for the manufacturing design. This will include developing hardware for task-specific micro-robots, creating necessary software and developing algorithms. Engineers will also create a cyber-enabled system to operate the robotic factory.
    During the second phase of the project, engineers will build a micro-robotic system and demonstrate its ability to manufacture a prototype complex material system. According to the DoD, the team will also "ensure accuracy in material placement, consistency in product quality, and reliability in production."
    In the third and final phase, there will be a focus on transitioning the technology for critical military use. Engineers will build marketable units and demonstrate the functionality of the technology.
    Popular Science posits that the technology could be particularly useful on Navy vessels to repair damaged components on-site. The system could also create programmable materials or new robots. 
    In addition to critical military uses, the robotic technology could also have commercial application. According to the proposal, "such a manufacturing platform can be used to create super-strong components, ultra-lightweight materials, composite and hierarchical structures, complex part geometries, and/or multi-functional components."
    The robotic project follows the recent theme of technological proposals made by the U.S. government, with other projects including the expansion of broadband access and increasing funding for tech education. 
  • Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    The BDPA Insider - March 20, 2011


    Click here for the latest issue of "The BDPA Insider":

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    WORD PROBLEM: How many teams that were on the "bubble" in 2011 could have benefited from a stronger RPI if other factors such as 'margin of victory' or 'winning percentage of last 5 road games' were included? 

    Read more about Math+Bracketology in this month's print edition of bdpatoday. 

    Click here for more:


    It’s 3 months into the new year and I, along with the rest of the BDPA New York Executive Board, have been working very hard to make sure BDPA is no longer the 'best kept secret' in New York.

    Click here for more:


     
    Members and Friends,

    I enjoyed sharing our progress so far with the Richmond chapter. We talked about the three main areas of member benefits (networking, education, and community). We talked about some of the ways National BDPA and local chapters such as Richmond produce rich programs to serve our stakeholders. We also shared exciting new changes to our on-line member presence spearheaded by National BDPA, and I expressed my commitment to make sure members are informed of all programs and services that will enrich and benefit them. Finally, we shared the status of our Q1 goal execution (making good progress!), volunteer needs, and upcoming events.

    Click here for more:


     
    BDPA Atlanta Members and Friends,

    Every year as part of our community outreach efforts, Atlanta Chapter sponsors a High School Computer Competition Team (HSCC) program. The HSCC program teaches high school students concepts like computer concepts, relational database design, web design (i.e. HTML/CSS, PHP, MySQL etc) tools, teamwork and project management. Our HSCC team meets with a group of dedicated instructors every week for 7 months. At the end of this program, the students are then taken to compete at our National Technology Conference for scholarships and computer prizes.

    Click here for more:


    BDPA Cincinnati chapter, a nonprofit organization made up of racially diverse information technology professionals who advance the careers of African Americans from the classroom to the boardroom, today announced a new officer and member of its board of directors.

    Dalric Webb, an Engineering Information Technology manager at GE Aviation, in Evendale OH, has been appointed to serve as the BDPA Cincinnati chapter vice president of membership management. BDPA Cincinnati chapter is the 8th largest (out of 45) chapters in the nation. Dalric is responsible for the recruitment and retention of members to the chapter.

    Dalric, a retired US Army major, has a wide and diverse background in Information Technology spanning more than 30 decades covering multiple IT related areas including programming, system design, database management, teaching SQL as an Adjunct Professor, webpage design & hosting, IT consultation, and PC repair.

    Click here for more:


    by Clark Thought Leadership
    Have you ever wished you had your Facebook Contacts in an easy to use email address book?

    Well your wait is over! Follow my simple steps with easy and simplicity using Yahoo's email service.

    Click here for more:


    by Kai Dupe
    Yesterday in the midst of South By Southwest (SXSW) in downtown Austin I was part of a Multicultural Youth Study.  I was invited by Maria Madrigal who learned about my work in education and technology with communities of color from my presence on the web.  The goal of the study was understanding how Latino and African Americans identify and relate to technology, fashion, music and content. 

    Click here for more:


    by Ricardo Wilkens
     
    Well, it’s been a few weeks since I became the owner of an HP Slate 500, and I’m still pleased at its performance. In fact, I realized that all the people who I’ve heard say that Windows isn’t meant to be a Touch interface probably haven’t given Windows 7 a fair try. I had low expectations about its ability to provide a decent multi-touch experience, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how it’s been performing so far.  For example:

    Click here for more:


    2011 National BDPA Conference Registration Now Open
    Please accept our invitation to join us in the City of the Big Shoulders by registering for the 33rd Annual National BDPA Conference, August 3-6, 2011 at the Hilton Chicago.

    Early bird registration for $350 now open!

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    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Junkyard Jumbotron Aims to Enhance Idea Sharing

    Junkyard Jumbotron Aims to Enhance Idea Sharing

  • MIT's Center for Future Civic Media has developed software that quickly stitches together random displays to more easily view graphics or other information on what is essentially a large virtual display.A researcher at MIT's Center for Future Civic Media has developed software that lets anyone quickly stitch together random displays to form what is being called a Junkyard Jumbotron. Using the Junkyard Jumbotron, groups of people can more easily view data, graphics or other information on what is essentially a larger virtual display.
    The center hopes the larger display will help people more easily share ideas and build a sense of community in face-to-face settings. That fits in with the center's broad role to support research at MIT to help innovate civic media tools and practices and test them in communities.
    The Junkyard Jumbotron can be created using any combination of devices that run a Web browser. Devices can include monitors, smartphones and tablets.


    The Junkyard Jumbotron (Source: MIT's Center for Future Civic Media)  
    To create the virtual display, a user goes to the Junkyard Jumbotron creation Website to receive a unique URL. This URL is then entered on all the devices that will be used in the virtual display system. Once the URL is entered, each device will display a visual code.
    The next step is to take a photo of all the ensemble of displays exhibiting the codes. The photo must then be e-mailed or uploaded to the creation Website. At this point, software developed by the center analyzes the photo to figure out where all the displays are located.
    After this step, any image that the user desires to display is simply e-mailed to the site, and the software automatically slices up that image and places pieces on the individual devices. This forms the larger virtual image. A user can them manipulate the image on any device zooming and panning across devices.
    The Center for Future Civic Media is testing the Junkyard Jumbotron with children in other countries. (Source: MIT's Center for Future Civic Media)
    The center is already using the Jumbotron technology with school kids in Columbia and Paraguay.
    The Junkyard Jumbotron software is accessible for free from the center. Simply go to the creation site to get started. 
  • Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    10 IT positions ranked by prestige


    10 IT positions ranked by prestige


    Takeaway: People often judge you by your job title — as unfair as that may be. Alan Norton ranks 10 IT job roles based on the degree of respect they command.
    Humans have an innate desire to categorize everything from animals to social status. We do so because it is how our brains simplify and understand a complex world. People may categorize or stereotype you based solely on your job title — your prestige, or respect if you prefer, is determined by your position.
    This class structure within IT is largely unspoken but real nonetheless. I will discuss it here and attempt to rank the following IT functions from most to least prestigious.
    1: Systems analyst
    The systems analyst is admired for his or her expertise in the multiple roles needed to build a successful system. They’re self-supervised and independent, and managers get out of their way and let them do their job. They are envied for their autonomy, high pay, and challenging work. They earn admiration for their high level of education, knowledge, and accomplishments. This unique combination puts the systems analyst at the top of the list.

    2: Programmer

    The programmer enters the room and a hush falls across the crowd. One person with awe and reverence showing on his face whispers in a respectful hush, “That’s the programmer who wrote the AI code!” Okay, programmers may not receive this amount of aggrandizement, but they are typically held in a special place of esteem.
    To the average person, programmers do nothing short of magic. They make the Web come to life with a multitude of useful applications. They create new and strange virtual worlds. They enable computers to do everything from gaming to running essential functions of business. And they do so with mysterious and enigmatic languages known to only those select few who are the keepers of the code.

    3: DBA

    If you have done any database work at all and are fortunate enough to have a database administrator, you will appreciate the workload that the DBA removes from your plate. A smart developer learns early on that a good, experienced DBA is critical to the successful completion of the project. Part art and part science, DBAs’ skills can have a significant impact on the performance of the systems they help develop and support.

    4: Project lead

    Project leads who get their hands dirty and help with all phases of the project lifecycle are respected for their technical as well as their management skills. The role is not given to newcomers. Only those with years of experience make it to project lead. This alone is enough to earn the high esteem of the other project team members.

    5: System admin

    Access rights granted by sysadmins are just a hurdle in the completion their peers’ tasks. Sadly, the other good work they do goes unnoticed, primarily because even IT professionals have no clue what else they are responsible for. And all it takes is one bad experience trying to get system access for a user to lose any admiration for all system administrators.

    6: IT manager

    Unlike other professions, where manager would be at the top of the list, IT managers are hurt by the perception that they don’t do the “real work.” IT managers earn respect for their advancement up the career ladder, but this is offset by their perceived lack of technical skills. It may be unfair ,but managers lack IT cred. In addition, employees believe that their managers may have a general idea of their work but lack a detailed understanding of exactly what they do.

    7: Network admin

    Mention the words network admin to most, and these are the thoughts that are likely running through their head: “Isn’t he the reason I can’t see Facebook and Twitter? Sure, I get a blazing fast connection to the Internet, but what good is that if I can’t get to Youtube? He’s probably reading my email too!” No love there, and the network admin gets no love for the network being up, either — only grief when it goes down.

    8: Reporting specialist

    When you get right down to it, the reporting specialist is nothing more than a glorified cleric, pulling data from the system, putting numbers into charts, and spitting out reams of paper in the process. If you have to deliver charts with bad numbers to your manager, you may need to use this time-honored phrase: “Don’t shoot me. I’m Just the messenger!”

    9: Technician

    Never appreciated until a hardware or system emergency occurs, the lowly technician becomes associated with bad circumstances. You know there’s trouble if the tech shows up. He or she may be given the moniker “hero for the day,” but more often than not, users just want technicians to fix their system and be on their way. The uninformed may compare the technician’s skills to the auto mechanic or the Maytag repairman. Usually in crisis mode, the high stress, low pay, and difficult hours typical of the technician do not garner much prestige.

    10: Help desk analyst

    Help desk analysts are the Rodney Dangerfields of the IT world. The people answering the phone on the help desk get no respect from clients or other IT professionals. They are expected to solve as many problems as possible at tier one but are not paid the wages befitting that level of technical expertise. When the phone rings, there is almost always an unhappy customer on the line. Help desk analysts take unwarranted verbal abuse for circumstances beyond their control and are rarely recognized for their efforts. Their performance is typically measured by the number of calls they take and complete per hour — not exactly a formula for friendly verbal banter, lowstress, and thoughtful problem resolution. Respect? Even Rodney Dangerfield got more respect without the added stress.

    The bottom line

    Much of what I have written is totally unfair to the IT professional. Unfortunately, I believe it’s how many people perceive the IT roles I have listed — and perceptions can be difficult to overcome. While it is true that stereotypes and perceptions often predetermine prestige, it is equally true that prestige can be earned in the most mundane of jobs as well as lost by those in the most respected of jobs.
    Unlike the social classes of Victorian England, where right of birth was the sole determinant of one’s class, the working classes of IT are open to all who are talented enough and industrious enough to achieve them. The reporting specialist, or any other IT role for that matter, can be a stepping stone to a better paying position with higher prestige. For example, I turned my reporting position into a developer’s role by automating the weekly charts. If you are looking to climb the prestige ladder, you can do the same. You only need to be clever enough and wise enough to recognize and seize the opportunities that present themselves.
    I am reminded of the old joke where the body parts get together to decide which is most important and therefore should lead. One of the morals of the story is that all of the body parts are important. If you have a job that is low on the prestige ladder, you should walk proudly with your head held high. You know how hard you work. You know the unique skills required to do your job. You know how important you are to the overall success of the company. Never let anyone, including me, tell you otherwise.