Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bone screws made of--bone!

Since the 19th century, surgeons have been using metal screws and plates to hold broken bones until they could fuse and heal.

However, titanium or steel screws can cause problems--such as infections--and sometimes need to be removed, meaning a second operation.

Now, engineers at the Graz University of Technology have teamed up with a startup called Surgebright to make these screws of human bone.

Called Shark Screws, these are made from donated bone--typed to match the recipient to prevent rejection.

A year after surgery, they don't even show up on x-ray--they are part of the patient's bone.

Surgebright was created in 2016 with the German Institute of Tissue and Cell Replacement.

Other surgical innovations to watch for? Tissue scaffolds and a smart needle to be used in brain surgery.

Can you think of others?

For more info, go to http:/,

Thursday, July 20, 2017

This building builds itself

What if you need a decent-sized building someplace in 10 minutes? Call Ten Fold Engineering, a UK-based company (

Each structure is 689 square feet of space. It can be transported to any site (no foundation needed) by truck.

All you need to set it up is a battery-powered, hand-held drill.

The building, you see, unfurls itself using a low-tech, counter-balanced folding assembly.

The units can be stack on each other or on sloped or uneven ground.

Use them for clinics, beach houses, offices, shops, anything.

Time to move on? They furl back together.

The company even combined some to make a 40-bedroom hotel for a festival.

What do these cost? The company's website promises more info on cost this month.

Oh--and you can see some cool depictions of the buildings unfolding.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Capturing your steps as energy

People walk around public spaces--a lot. A group of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have develop an inexpensive way to convert footsteps to electricity.

Their brainstorm involves using wood pulp and nanofibers in the flooring.

This does not involve the sun having to be out and could work well in high-traffic places  like stadiums or a mall, according to On Wisconsin magazine.

Associate professor Xudong Wang is planning to build a prototype in a high-profile spot on campus...and from there, who knows.

Actually, this is not a new idea...It's being developed elsewhere as well--including England.
Google  Laurence Kemball-Cook, for example. That's him in the picture.

People walk--why let that go to waste? 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Meet Mr. Trash Wheel

That's it--Mr Trash Wheel
I used to love to go to Baltimore's Inner Harbor and poke around, back when I lived in DC.

Anyhow, I read on AwesomeOcean,org, that Baltimore now has a water wheel that sits at the mouth of the Jones Fall River and removes massive amounts of garbage from the water.

Since 2014, Mr Trash Wheel (the name could have used work) has removed over a million pounds of debris from the Inner Harbor.

That comes to 8.9 million cigarette butts, half a million potato chip bags, bottles, and you name it.  and probably things you would not want to name.

It can scoop up 50,000 pounds of trash a day---which is then sent to an incinerator to power Maryland homes.

If the river current does not deliver up enough stuff, it also has solar panels to power it.

A second one is now in the planning stages and money is being raised.

Could work in a lot of situations, right?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

CloudFisher grabs water from fog

Some areas of the world are short on water, but long on fog.

For them, a partnership between Morocco's Dar Si Hmad, a nonprofit, and Germany's The Water Foundation and Aqualonis, called CloudFisher, distills water from fog.

Located in the Atlas Mountains, CloudFisher's huge nets gather up the fog and funnel water into storage tanks, where it is pumped to homes.

The big nets can withstand winds of up t0 120 mph.

Women and children, who foemer spent many horus a day gathering water, now have time for other things.

Cultures are also preserved because tribes and populations do not have to move elsewhere to find water.

The project has been so successful, it has spawned a school and an observatory.

Similar projects gather tiny amounts of rain for cooking, and that water is also used to cool homes.

Cool, huh?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Robot bees

What do you think? More work? (This is the Polish B-Droid.)
Isn't there an old axiom in the aviation industry that a big fuzzy bumblebee is so aerodynamically ill-designed it should not be able to fly? Yet it does.

This came to mind when I read about some mechanical pollinators being developed in Poland and at Harvard--the possible answer, temporary or permanent, to the declining population of honey bees.

Honey bees, wild and domestic, take care of  80% of the world's pollination.  This includes seventy of the top 100 human food crops. No bees, no food--or at least that could happen.

In the US, honey bees have declined from 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million in 2008. That's 60% fewer hives. The cause is called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Now, after four years of work, scientists at the Warsaw University of Technology invented the B-Droid.

A tiny quadcopter, the B-Droid uses onboard cameras and an external computer to plan a flight path over a field.

Dina Spector, writing in the Business Insider (July 7, 2014),  also wrote about a small mechanical pollinator called RoboBees. When tethered to a power supply, they can lift off and hover mid-air using robot wings that flap 120 times a second.

As soon as 10 years from now, the Harvard people say,  RoboBees may be able to fly on their own and communicate like real bees (who use dancing movements to signal great pollinating).

One plus--the RoboBees do not eat and do not need to bring nectar back to the hive. They just pollinate.

But 10 years? Like the larger bumblebee, these seem heavy and clumsy--but they said that one couldn't do the job either--and it does.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Jackpot available for good educational simulation ideas

It's called the EdSim Challenge, a $680,000 contest in search of ways to use simulation in the classroom.

 VR and augmented reality are welcomed. Finalists could get $50,000 to build a prototype. 

The grand prize winner stands to get $430,000. 

Concept proposals are due by next Jan 17, 2017.