Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Smarter Planet
October 31st, 2014

While solar panels are far from a new technology, here’s some news that could change the game in a big way.  Imagine being able to collect energy and enjoy the view while doing it!  Guess a new glass cleaning product can’t be far behind – will you be the one to invent it?

Richard Lunt, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Michigan State University, has co-founded a company to develop the product.  He states, “Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there”.

Totally Transparent Solar Cells Could Turn Our Windows Into Solar Panels


Credit for research on this topic goes to:  Michigan State U… Click the pic to visit.  Go Spartans!

Michigan State U

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October 30th, 2014

theguardian has reported that when looking for “renewable energy”, there have been developments in transportation using food waste items.

Hormel Foods reports that it takes one pound of bacon grease to produce one gallon of fuel (4.5 litres), which can cover between 75 and 100 miles on a motorbike. If you happen to be behind the motorbike during one if it’s rides, you can enjoy the scent of bacon during the trip! Careful, it might make you hungry enough to stop along the way for breakfast.

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I’m going to see if research has been done regarding potato peels – like the ones that I frequently discard – maybe they can power my alarm clock :-)


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Wind power is getting a lot of attention in the U.S. (it’s long been used as a significant source of energy in other parts of the globe!)  This isn’t a story about windmills – picturesque as they are.  This is a story about the other extreme – a much more concentrated forced jet of air….and the cost savings to be had through making use of it!!!

Researchers invent


Coin-Sized Turbine


Micro turbine

Researchers at the International Institute of Technology in Genoa have developed a 14-mm microturbine that can produce up to 30 watts of electrical power, exploiting fluid pressure coming from the environment or from industrial plants.


See the Award Recognition for INNOVATION this invention has already garnered!  What other applications can you envision from this tiny power source???

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October 28th, 2014

Take a look around you right now. You may be sitting in front of a computer and, chances are, there’s a phone or some other “smart” device in your vicinity. There have been plenty of conversations about whether or not robots could – or should – be entrusted with life and death decisions.  The United States Office of Naval Research announced a five year, $7.5 million grant to study the possibilities for creating moral robots. The five year program includes researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Tufts, Brown, Georgetown, and Yale Universities.

blog moral robot

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants.

Besides all of the many technological challenges, the prospect of creating robots with morals raises an intriguing question:  whose morals?

The basic idea is to create an infantile robot capable of acquiring moral sensibilities. That might result in a more human-like morality, but engineers have less control over the end result and there are risks in that, as well.

There are many questions about the ethicality of building moral robots, moral dilemmas which we have yet to work out. What’s your take?

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Our team at Smith College is continuing to prepare for our trip to Belize in January. We are working on building a sturdier, waterproof unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). To do this, we bought a new frame and are wiring it to fly with parts from an older UAV. Some pictures of this process are shown below:

Frame Another pic Break down of quad Soldering

We intend to put a cap on our frame and possibly a floatation device on the bottom to make it more waterproof (which will be indispensable as we fly over coral reefs in Belize). Aside from this project, our team is also using a flight simulator computer program to become more proficient at flying quadcopters and fixed wings. Finally, we are planning a training session with a UAV vendor with experience flying in Belize. We’ll have more for you soon!

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