Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
October 23rd, 2014

With the hazards of Ebola and anti-government protests and genocide being front and center in the news, we sometimes overlook the many organizations quietly operating in the background to bring assistance to those in strife or peril.  I ran across this entity quite by accident as part of my work for university programming.  Maybe your studies will bring you to become part of their efforts? Click on the logo below to learn more…

TIDES stands for Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support. This research project is coordinated at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) at the National Defense University (NDU), which is part of the Department of Defense.

startidesSTAR-TIDES (Sharing To Accelerate Research-Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support) is a research effort that promotes sustainable support to stressed populations – post-war, post-disaster, or impoverished, in foreign or domestic contexts, for short-term or long-term (multi-year) operations. The project provides reach-back “knowledge on demand” to decision-makers and those working in the field. It uses public-private partnerships and “whole-of-government” approaches to encourage unity of action among diverse organizations where there is no unity of command, and facilitates both inter-agency and international engagement.

TIDES has three strategies that frame everything they do:

  • Leverage Global Talent
  • Promote Integrated Approaches
  • Sustain through the Private Sector


There are internships available through the National Defense University – check it out!

2014 Star-Tides interns building sustainable village models. Photo credit: NDU AV.

2014 Star-Tides interns building sustainable village models. Photo credit: NDU AV.


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October 20th, 2014

You may win an afternoon with Astronaut Buzz Aldrin to talk one on one.
The first 250 teams to register for the Giant Leap to Mars Challenge at will automatically be entered into a drawing to win the “Office Hours with Buzz Aldrin” sweepstakes for a chance to video chat with the legendary astronaut. NASA and the Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge want you to design a creative solution that addresses the issues and challenges of a Mars mission including long duration space travel, healthcare, nutrition and quality of life to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and the historic voyage of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.



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The growth study has begun at USF. Environmental Engineering students are researching the direct effects of fertilizer treatments on the growth of rye grass. Students are utilizing different combinations of struvite, MCP, clinoptilite and chabazite to see which fertilizer and/or combination produces the greatest positive difference from the conventional fertilizers used today. Different methods of production were used to make the some of the fertilizers along with different amounts – a half and full dose are used. It is unknown what the specific trends are going to be until more weeks pass, however, there is promise of a good ending in this beginning.

Sprouts emerge a week after planting by USF students

Sprouts emerge a week after planting by USF students

The students involved in this endeavor under the direction of Dr. Sarina Ergas are Adib Amini, Veronica Aponte, John Pilz, Lindsay Guntner and Andres Garcia. Andres Garcia is a high school student who is utilizing his experiences at a research university like USF to sharpen his scientific abilities with hopes of a future career in science. Just as the symbolic growth of these sprouts show promise for interesting results, the students in this study hope to be a part of this until the end. Please follow us as we continue to provide updates on this growth study here on “Students for A Smarter Planet.”

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October 13th, 2014

As pieces and parts have come in over the last several weeks, we continued building up our varied and sundry parts into subsystems that will be demonstrated during our upcoming Alpha demo this week.

Our new motor, courtesy of Bodine and the fine folks at Control Resources: 12 Volts, 14 Amps continuous output:



This monster will generate the necessary torque to turn a fully-loaded 350 pound drum full of compost.

Here it is attached to a power source doing unloaded testing:



And below, the heart that will make this system beat. Because the solar panel and battery system both operate at 12VDC and the Arduino Uno needs less voltage than that to operate, in the interest of reducing heat generation (anything over about 7-9 volts, the Arduino will reduce by way of internal resistance), we’ll be using a DC/DC Buck- Boost converter to reduce supply voltage to the Ardiuno from 12V to 9V. Additionally, this will provide high voltage electrical isolation to protect the Ardiuno from any possible power transients that could be caused from the motor circuit. In the picture, it’s on the left.

On the right is the power MOSFET that will drive the motor itself. The gate signal will be provided from one of the 5V pins on the Arduino board, biasing the MOSFET to “ON” and running the motor.



Next up- more details about the challenges with programming the Arduino to communicate with several components simultaneously.

Thanks for stopping by!

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October 11th, 2014

Not a typo on my part, I assure you.  This story is not about the musical Fab4, but about an actual insect whose scales may give humankind a way to create products in a super shade of white using far less material than we have to now.   This could lead to better computer and TV displays, which are improved by white-light reflectors that use the beetle’s garden-grown technology.

Read the findings of the scientists from Cambridge University in England:

The beetles white album


Cyphochilus beetle (Credit: Lorenzo Cortese and Silvia Vignolini)

Here’s some more detailed info on the actual insect:  Cyphochilus

He’s kind of cute if you squinch your eyes partly closed and don’t think about him crawling on you…  And here’s a transcript of the radio story that drew my attention to this little critter:       AN INSECT WITH A SUPER-WHITE SHADE

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