Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
October 27th, 2015

There is a new metal product that is expected to have far-reaching applications.  While it may take some time for commercial use here on earth, NASA is evaluating its use for space exploration missions as components used to construct rockets.  What makes it unique is that the metal is composed of 99.9 percent AIR.  It is termed to be a micro-lattice material, or an “open cellular polymer structure”.

“The metal was developed by HRL Laboratories, a joint venture involving Boeing and General Motors, and researchers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California Irvine. It weighs only one-tenth as much as carbon fiber, [according to] Bill Carter, the head of HRL’s Sensors and Materials Laboratory.” (Photo credit:  Dan Little, HRL Laboratories LLC)
light metal

the world’s lightest metal


Here’s the posting that Caltech has about this unique material:

Light as a Feather, Stiffer Than a Board


And the post at UC Irvine:

Lighter than a feather and stronger than an ox


Where do you envision this “super light” material will be utilized?  Maybe there’s an invention that you’re already at work on that would benefit from it?  Think of the possibilities…

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October 21st, 2015

There are any number of competitions being held globally to stimulate the minds of budding inventors and planet champions.  Here’s one specifically for Africa from UNESCO, for which the deadline to submit an application is mid-November .

Some of the detail – - There are four programmes within the ANESI Mobility Programme: ANESI’s Student Exchange Programme, Researcher Exchange Programme, University/Industry Joint Training Programme and visiting Fellowship for Outstanding Women Geoscientists. Deadline for applications: 15 November 2015.

UNESCO’s Earth Science Education Initiative in Africa, which aims to support the development of the next generation of Earth scientists in Africa who are equipped with the necessary tools, networks and perspectives to apply sound science to solving and benefiting from the challenges and opportunities of sustainable development, is implemented through ANESI.


Click on the logo below to learn the details:


There’s so much to be done to aid the development of the nations which make up this continent.  Will YOU be a contributor?

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The Penn State Altoona Team has still been hard at work completing the cyber security workbook. In fact, the individual team members have composed summarized updates of the aspects they have been working on for the application.

My name is Whitney Hernandez and I am the team leader on the Cyber Security workbook. I am currently a junior majoring in  security and risk analysis. I came up with this because I became interested in cyber security without any previous knowledge of its concepts or terminology. Once I began taking my introductory courses at Penn State Altoona I felt some of the information should have already been familiar to me. When learning about the smarter planet opportunity I decided to take the idea of introducing cyber security at a younger age and put it into action. Our current focus is establishing the content of each module in detail. In addition, the data model has also been established. To further explain each member has summarized some of their individual work.

First to explain his work thus far is Joshua Clark, a senior at Penn State Altoona majoring in security and risk analysis.


“So far I’ve been working on the data design for the application and investigating the requirements for using Google’s Play Services. The content data model is close to being finished, and I will be transcribing these models into code soon. The user data models will take some more time to complete. They’re currently pending my investigation of Google Play Services and it’s requirements. I have to caution you, that these models are subject to change as the application is implemented. I also made a design decision about how to cache the content data locally inside the application. My idea for this, is versioning the content, which means applying numbers to the content and any changes to it. This will be implemented in the data service backend, and the client will use the version number to check if it needs to grab a new version of the data service. The content will then be stored either as files or in an embedded database. I’m also beginning to work on the data entry website.”

Next, Jessica Seifer a sophomore at Penn State Altoona majoring in security and risk analysis will discuss her accomplishments


“This past week I have worked on the content for modules four, five, and eight. Module four covers cryptography. Cryptography is a broad topic that can often take a lot of time to understand, I tried to focus on the basics. Students will learn a variety of terms, such as encryption and decryption. They will also learn why these concepts are important and how they are beneficial in the different work fields. Near the end of the module, the decoder ring will be introduced and students will learn how a Caesar cipher is created and used. They will then be challenged to decipher a message using a Caesar cipher. Now that they will know how to use one form of encryption and decryption, they can send secret messages back and forth with their classmates! In module five the topic is risk management. A common concept that goes along with risk management is “know yourself, know your enemy.” This concept and its significance will be explained in this module. Next, students will be introduced to the three phases of risk management and partake in a game that uses all three phases in order. The final module that I worked on was module eight, which focuses on threats. Since there is such a broad number of threats I tried to keep the attention on common threats—even ones that students may face in their lifetime. Common types of malware will be introduced as well as the three most common forms of human threats. Key differences between threats are covered in this module as well. After creating the content for these modules, the next step is to come up with visual representations, such as pictures, charts, gifs, and most importantly lesson videos!”

Michelle Colucci a junior majoring in security and risk analysis at Penn State Altoona has also documented her progress with module content development.


“So far, I have been working on two modules for the cyber security workbook application. These topics were focused on components of an information system and firewalls. The topic of firewalls is a difficult topic for even most adults to understand. I am concerned that it will be hard to express what firewalls do without using very technical terms. However, I have been able to compose a general outline for the firewall module. I believe that with the input from my team, we will be able to successfully introduce firewall concepts. Currently my information system outline is complete for that module. Our team leader has introduced us to the tool Storyboard That which will allow us to turn out content scripts into videos. This tool allows us to create animated storyboards that can be used within videos.”

Please continue to follow our blog updates as we continue to create our cyber security application.

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While the term “Climate Change” brings about a host of responses when dropped into casual conversation, there have been many weather events that give credence to the idea that our planet is undergoing some pattern shifts.  Since we don’t have written records that date back to the days of the dinosaurs, we have no way of knowing if the recent changes have occurred at some time previously – and, there was no Social Media to give us instantaneous reports back then either!

With all that being said – whether you believe in the phenomenon of “Climate Change” or not – UNESCO believes that it is important to educate today’s students on climatology so they are prepared for the future.  They have designed a tool for teachers, released earlier this year, so that this topic can be discussed and explored.   Regardless of your position on the politics, knowing about the weather and its effects can not be a bad idea for inclusion in the curriculum.  Read about UNESCO’s publication here:




(If you want a more in-depth look at the content, you can download the publication using the link they provide on the right.)


Learn more about UNESCO’s programs to promote education, diversity, sustainable living and their other global impacts by clicking on the logo:


UNESCO is known as the “intellectual” agency of the United Nations. At a time when the world is looking for new ways to build peace and sustainable development, people must rely on the power of intelligence to innovate, expand their horizons and sustain the hope of a new humanism. UNESCO exists to bring this creative intelligence to life; for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built.

What will your contribution be towards innovation that sustains our home planet?

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Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective, was regularly whipping his trusty magnifying glass out of his greatcoat to examine clues at crime scenes.  In both the printed short stories and novels, as well as on film, his deeper scrutiny of evidence – via the enlargement by lens – was most often followed by an “a-ha!” moment that typically leads to the villian(s)’ undoing.  Now, imagine that every man, woman and child all over the planet could engage in their own “a-ha” moment…not necessarily as a crime-solver, but for the simple pleasure of seeking out answers.

That’s the dream of one Manu Prakash, a professor at Stanford University in California.  He wants everyone to have the tools available to “think like a scientist”!  High-tech usually equates to high dollars to obtain the equipment necessary for scientific study.  School budgets are notoriously strapped in both developed and developing countries.  Professor Prakash and his research mates at PrakashLab have given the every-man a solution – their unit is a print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper:


Foldscope: Microscopy for



Photo credit:


Released in 2014, and much publicized then (check out: Foldscope Is A Paper Microscope That Can Fit In Your Pocket on Inquisitr) and since (take a look at this video posted on the Stanford Medicine Scope blog this June: Microscopes for the masses), the intervening time has been spent making this patented invention available in all corners of the globe.

And take a look at the many uses that have been devised by the folks who were part of their highly successful beta program:

Foldscope Explore: Exploring the Microcosmos


The endless possibilities for exploration and learning and disease control and…  well, what will YOU do with the microscope in YOUR pocket?  Or will you create the next affordable equipment that we can all have access to?  The journey has begun – where will you take it?

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