Spotlight: The Maker Movement

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On June 18, 2014, the White House played host to a number of unusual creations at its first ever Maker Faire. Lindsay Lawlor, a self-taught tinkerer from San Diego, displayed his giant robotic giraffe. Iraq War veteran John Lawton from Austin, TX, brought his custom-made furniture and desks he created with the help of his local TechShop, a community manufacturing center. Another entry was a 3-D printed violin created by engineer David Perry of Oregon, who used a tabletop 3-D printer to do it.

Over 100 tinkerers, creators, and inventors displayed their creations that day. They showed that the large availability of design software, open source plans, manufacturing tools like 3-D printers, and other technology is ushering in a new generation of innovators, and a very interested White House is calling it the Maker Movement.

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Mauna Kea Volcano Hosts Robotics Competition

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Recently the University of Hawaii at Hilo hosted a robotics competition that put mining robots from seven universities on the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano. The Robotic International Space Mining Competition was the first of its kind, and was put on by the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration System (PISCES).

The competition showcased robots that were effective miners, able to collect loose material on the top surface of the earth. Teams were judged on mining ability, design/innovation, and operational effectiveness, and a group of West Virginia University students walked away with first place. The competition is expected to continue next year and open up to international teams, but no details on upcoming deadlines or registration information are available just yet.

Google Announces Million-Dollar Engineering Challenge


Google is offering $1 million to anyone who can take a power inverter — a device used to convert energy that comes from solar, electric vehicles, and wind — and shrink it to 1/10th its normal size. Such devices are normally the size of a picnic basket, according to Google’s blog.

It’s called the Little Box Challenge, and it’s being offered in partnership with IEEE. According to the blog, “A smaller inverter could help create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world. Or allow you to keep the lights on during a blackout via your electric car’s battery. Or enable advances we haven’t even thought of yet.” The challenge requires teams to register by September 30, 2014 in order to submit a technical approach and application by July of next year. The grand prize winner won’t be announced until 2016.

NSA Expands College Cybersecurity Program


The National Security Agency (NSA) is reaching out to college students in an attempt to relieve the shortage of cyber security professionals in the U.S. Recently, the agency announced it’s expanding its National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations Program to include five more universities: New York University, Towson University in Maryland, The United States Military Academy, University of Cincinnati and University of New Orleans, according to USA Today. That puts the total number of universities with this designation at 13.

The schools don’t receive NSA funding — instead, they receive liaison personnel who provide research opportunities for students. The designation also makes the schools eligible for some National Science Foundation grants. According to the article, the schools are hoping the designation will attract more students interested in cyber security, as well as recruiters looking for cyber security graduates.

U. Nevada Students Sweep National Concrete Canoe Competition

2014 National Concrete Canoe Competion

Sixteen civil engineering students from the University of Nevada, Reno recently took first prize in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ National Concrete Canoe Competition. It was the second national win for the university, and the ninth year in a row they’ve made it to national rounds, according to a UNR press release.

Their 17-pound canoe, almost 22 feet long and named Alluvium, competed for the highest scores in five different canoe races, the canoe’s aesthetics, a technical paper, and an oral presentation.  Second place in the competition was California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and third place was Université Laval in Montreal.

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