Archive for January, 2018

Low Level Navigation Made Easy for Drones

A drone has always had to fly high over building tops because it didn’t have the ability to navigate through busy streets which would have cars, trucks and bicycles floating through them. Now the researchers at the University of Zurich have come up with an algorithm which will allow drones to fly through streets and handle traffic.

Davide Scaramuzza, Professor for Robotics and Perception at the University of Zurich, was involved in the creation of DroNet. The creation of this algorithm was a joint venture for the University of Zurich with the National Centre of Competence in Research NCCR Robotics. Scaramuzza says that DroNet recognizes static and dynamic obstacles and can slow down to avoid crashing into them. With this algorithm we have taken a step forward towards integrating autonomously navigating drones into our everyday life.

The drone uses a regular camera like that of a smartphone, instead of the standard practice of outfitting drones with super specialized sensors. The feed from the camera is run through the software and allows the drone to navigate without the peril of crashing into buildings, vehicles and pedestrians. This is a science project that will ensure that drones can handle low level navigation within city streets with ease.

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Go Anti Gravity Like a Gecko

The gecko has the ability to climb walls and walk the ceiling without falling prey to the forces of gravity. That’s not something that human beings can claim to do. Researchers at the American Chemical Society are working on a dry adhesive which could make it possible, one day, for humans to defy gravity and climb walls as well.

The research is currently aimed at producing a dry adhesive that will be ultra-sticky but is also simple enough to produce in large batches without being prohibitive in cost. The scientists have been experimenting with a stiff polycarbonate using a nanoimprinting technique to build web-like layers. This allows the material to be strong, and easily replicated.

The first layer was sacrificed after the second and third were applied. Once the first layer is dissolved, an additional set of layers of the adhesive were applied based on the weight it was to support.  In tests where the film was attached and detached repeatedly, the adhesive retained it’s stickiness for 50 cycles.

In the science project the researchers placed a layer of this adhesive film on the feet of a miniature robot and had it climb a slope of 30 degrees incline. The robot managed to stay the path and did not fall off.

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Robots to Weed Your Fields

Weeds are plants that grow naturally and take away the nutrients from the soil. They compete with the plants that you have planted for the limited natural resources in the area. They are the bane of most farmers as they need to be removed carefully from the soil without destroying the legitimate plantation in the region. Weeding is one of the farmer’s most exhaustive tasks.

It can be back breaking work to ensure that a large field is free of weeds at all times. Also spraying herbicides may harm the regular crop and drop it’s yield as well. That’s where the new robotic weeders step in to help with hand weeding and herbicides. Developed by researchers at the University of California, this robot has small blades that can pop up to uproot the weed without damaging the other plants nearby.

Steven Fennimore has been working with the robotic weeder for nearly ten years, and it is now finally ready for commercial application. The robot can tell the difference between a plant and the soil, and is programmed to remove plants that are not part of the original plantation pattern. The robots are still unable to tell the difference between a weed and a legitimate plant, but that’s something for the next science project to take care of.

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Spinal Surgery Made Easier

Spinal surgery is one of the most complicated surgeries for a neurosurgeon to perform. The spine has a number of nerves packed into a small and concentrated area. A single wrong movement can result in causing paralysis or worse for the patient. The idea of creating robots who could perform spinal surgery is not new, however it has been a slow process in the medical field to develop such a robot.

At the BRIDGE program researchers from the University of Bern,  Inselspital, Bern University Hospital and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology have come together to develop a sensor based surgical robot to deal with delicate spinal operations. The robot is set to provide a new level of safety when it comes to performing surgical operations.

As the population of the world ages, degenerative spinal disease is becoming more common. The practice of using pedicle screws to fuse and stabilize functionally unstable vertebrae is an important operation involving the spinal region. The surgery involves drilling ans positioning the screw into the spine and has a 15% failure rate at present.

A statistic that the sensor based surgical robot will be able to change. This science project product has the potential to make spine surgery safer and more effective as a remedy for a large number of people in the future.

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Do Teams Exercise Better Together?

Have you ever been told that exercise is good for you? Most likely all the time. Have you noticed that exercise seems like more fun when you don’t have to do it alone? Perhaps it’s more fun to play with friends rather than simply go to the gym? Or cycling is more fun when you go out with a group of friends rather than simply on your own?

Now there’s scientific proof to support this feeling. Researchers at the American Osteopathic Association conducted a study to check the behavior of group exercise participants. The three parameters of health studied were mental, physical and emotional. It was found that people who exercised with a group regularly showed a marked improvement in all three parameters of health.

This was contrasted with individuals who did the same set of exercises, at the same duration but without a group. These solo exercising individuals got the same physical workout but did not show any improvement in the three parameters of health as perceived by themselves.

Those who exercised in a group shows significant drop in stress levels as well, while the individuals who went for solo exercise workouts did not. The writing is on the wall with this science experiment. If you really want to exercise and accrue it’s benefits start hanging out with a like minded group.

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A Space Holiday

If you are a science fiction fan and have always wanted to see just how the home planet looks from the realms of outer space, here’s your chance to take a short space holiday. Blue Origin is a space exploration company which is looking into developing space tourism. Owned by Jeff Bezos, you may know him as the owner of Amazon, the company recently tested it’s rocket capsule called New Shepard.

The capsule has six reclining seats and allows the passengers to track various aspects of the flight. A large central console holds the escape motor, which is used to propel the capsule away from the rocket booster in an emergency. The capsule will carry the space tourists 100 km above the earth. This will help them experience weightlessness as well as the inky blackness in which the planet floats.

Another company indulging in space tourism is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. A ticket on their SpaceShipTwo can set you back $250,000. While accessing space may be easier when you play space tourist, it will still be at a considerable financial cost. Makes you kind of want to run out and create your own science project on space tourism, doesn’t it?

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