Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
March 21st, 2015

Well, it’s Spring here in the U.S.  There’s an old saying that tells us that Spring is when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love.  After the wicked way Old Man Winter treated us this year, and all the *#$! snow shoveling, everyone could most certainly use a dose of a more gentle activity.  Here’s a little science to go along with the emotion…funny enough, this particular article is from the Daily Mail published in the U.K. – where they are renowned for their ‘stiff upper lip’ and cool, dispassionate response to life.  Maybe that’s why it’s a science article and not a sonnet?  The research comes from Professor Xiaochu Zhang of the University of Science and Technology of China

Scan that says it’s true love:

Brain experts say they can tell what stage of

romance someone is at by looking at MRI results


And here’s a little bit about different types of love from BrainHQ

Brain love


And from the city that saw the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, research at the University of Chicago shows A region deep inside the brain controls how quickly people make decisions about love

So, while you’re chasing butterflies and composing songs to celebrate your sweetie this Spring, think about what’s going on inside your head that makes it all so wonderful!



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This article appeared in the Wall Street Journal…  If you don’t have a sibling, maybe Pepper could fill the void for you, too?  Bet he won’t eat the last of your favorite snack like a human little brother!

SoftBank Unveils Pricing


for Humanoid Robot Pepper


By Eric Pfanner

A man poses as SoftBank’s humanoid robot Pepper takes a picture.
Agence France-Presse/Getty Images


SoftBank says it will sell its new humanoid robot, Pepper, at less than the cost of production, but it will charge hefty monthly fees for the pleasure of its company.

The Japanese telecommunications giant plans to offer 300 of the ‘bots to developers, starting this Friday, at an upfront price of ¥198,000 (about $1,660). Monthly fees, however, will range up to ¥24,600 for a three-year contract.

SoftBank, which owns Sprint Corp. and a mobile network in Japan, recently delayed consumer sales of Pepper until the summer, but it plans to offer 300 of the robots to application developers in the meantime.

As of Friday, developers will be able to place orders for the first sizable production run; an undisclosed number of Peppers were previously shipped to encourage developers to create smartphone-style apps for the robots.

The monthly costs comprise a basic service fee of ¥14,800, which will offer cloud artificial intelligence capabilities, using SoftBank’s mobile network. That way, the robots—and app developers—can learn from each other by gathering data on what their owners do with them. SoftBank says about 100 apps will be available as of Friday.

SoftBank will also offer an “insurance plan,” at ¥9,800 a month, providing support and preferential pricing on repairs.

The company envisions Pepper as a companion for the elderly, a teacher of schoolchildren and an assistant in retail shops, among other uses. It is one of a number of robotics projects that are aimed at dealing with labor shortages as Japan’s population ages.


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March 8th, 2015

With so much talk of drones in the media and how they can sometimes be viewed as a threat, it is refreshing to see that some drones are actually saving lives.

From delivering blood….  to search and rescue….  to defibrillation, drones have many different roles when it comes to saving lives.

Here is a good example of how drones with thermal imagery can spot survivors of a disaster much better than could otherwise be found (look closely and you will see the white images moving amongst the rubble):

YouTube Preview Image

Danish firm Sky-Watch, in cooperation with DanChurch Aid, has used airborne thermal imagery to spot people stranded amongst storm debris. The drones can be in the air in a matter of minutes after a disaster strikes, saving lives earlier.

There are signs more drones are coming to developing countries. A team from Delft University of Technology, in the Netherlands, has created a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) with built-in defibrillation equipment. And EPFL is working to set up African drone networks to deliver blood supplies to rural health clinics.

Do you have a need for a drone in the technology you are developing?  Drone Adventures provides the drones for other industries that have a need, so you don’t have to be an expert in drone technology, but can benefit from their expertise.

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blog graphene

The molecular structure of graphene.

So just what is Graphene?  Graphene, the “wonder material”, continues to capture the imagination. A honeycomb of carbon atoms so thin it is considered two-dimensional, graphene is stronger than diamond, more electrically conductive than copper and more bendable than rubber.

The durability of graphene has been a problem until now. There have been recent discoveries leading to methods to bulk manufacture the material. And there are hybrid graphene spin-offs – new substances with special properties of their own.

Here are six ways graphene could extend the longevity of products.

1. Flexible smart cards

A graphene smart card would reduce the billions of credit and other bank cards that exist in this world, as shown by the Spanish company Graphenano. Imagine a single touch-activated card that held all your personal information – credit cards, boarding passes, train tickets, Oyster cards – in one. With everything updated from a computer, a smart card could eradicate enormous amounts of plastic waste.

2. Updatable foldable newspaper

Last September, the Cambridge Graphene Centre demonstrated the first graphene-based flexible display. It could be bent this way and that, while continuing to show digital content. It was a little moment of great significance.

A bendable screen could be used in any number of ways. Like the moving images in the Daily Prophet newspaper featured in Harry Potter, real newspapers could develop foldable graphene templates that are updated wirelessly each day, cutting paper waste dramatically.

3. Electric car batteries

Batteries have long been the Achilles heel of electric cars. Poor charge capacity means that people are less likely to rely on them, and with the lifespan of the battery linked to the lifespan of the vehicle, electric cars often become obsolete and need replacing.

At last, there are plans to introduce a new polymeric graphene battery in 2015. Especially suited to electric cars, this battery is said to have a lifetime four-times longer than conventional hybrid ones and allows vehicles to run as much as 1,000km on a 10-minute charge. Without the need to be replaced, the graphene battery may signal a new era for the electric car.

4. Indestructible smart phones

In America the average lifespan of a smartphone is just two years. Some models fall out of fashion, others are lost, smashed or drowned in water. According to extended warranty service provider SquareTrade, as many as one third of smartphone users damage their handset in the first year of ownership.

For a prevalent product, this signifies enormous waste, yet graphene’s tough properties could change this. A recent experiment published in the journal Science suggested graphene was twice as bullet-proof as Kevlar – the standard material for ballistic armour. Imagine if such a strong material was integrated into smartphone design, replacing the glass or plastic components?

5. Paint

Not so eye-catching, but equally useful is graphene’s use as a paint. Its tough exterior is useful to withstand the wind and rain in outdoor structures, but it also has useful lubricating properties that mean it works in other situations. Applied Graphene Materials in the USA are developing graphene paints that can be used on a ship’s hulls, halting the spread of underwater corrosion and stopping barnacles from adhering to metal.

A similar enterprise is underway in Spain, where Grapheano have mixed together graphene powder and ground limestone to make a paint that they call Graphenstone. In a publicity move they proposed to paint the Valencia opera house that had been damaged by wind erosion just eight years after its completion.

6. Solar panels

Standard solar panels have a lifespan of about 40 years, but become less efficient with time and often have to be replaced. One of the main challenges is exposure to all types of weather.

Scientists at the University of Exeter claim that solar panels could be made much more weather resistant if the indium tin oxide (ITO) currently used was replaced with GraphExeter. Formulated at The Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, GraphExeter comprises several layers of graphene sheets mixed with a separate layer of ferric chloride molecules.

According to a recent press release, GraphExeter is much tougher than ITO and improves on the properties of traditional graphene, able to withstand humidity of 100% and temperatures of up to 150C, all of which promises less waste and huge improvements for the solar panel industry.

WOW – sounds like such a versatile material – and would leapfrog us into the next big technology boost.

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The University of Michigan Ann Arbor is taking driving to roads hitherto untraveled!  They’re testing vehicles in a ‘fake city’ constructed on their campus under the auspices of the Mobility Transformation Center, a partnership with industry and government to lay the foundations for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated mobility.  Read the story straight from the school:

U-M’s cityscape will test driverless vehicles

UMich Mobility

Photo Credit © The Regents of the University of Michigan, Mobility Transformation Center

Called M City, the one-of-a-kind facility will include a network of roads with up to five lanes, intersections, roundabouts, roadway markings, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, bus facilities, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, parked cars, pedestrians and obstacles like construction barriers.


The story is getting play from the UK tabloids as well…   The Fake City Helping Create Tomorrow’s Cars

While it might seem like an image out of a Hollywood movie clip, the advances that are made on this “stage set” are hoping to lead to the implementation of a connected and automated mobility system on the streets of southeastern Michigan by 2021.

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