Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience

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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Anyone who has ever seen a cartoon or a horror film where an electronic device gets dropped into a tub in which an unsuspecting bather is relaxing knows that electric current and water don’t generally get along well – in fact the results can be pretty terrible.  And if you’ve spilled a beverage on your computer or handheld device, that too can put a ‘damper’ on your day fairly quickly.

But there are instances where water and technology can co-exist quite harmoniously; and, at Stanford University in California, researchers have come up with a rather fascinating concept – a synchronous computer that operates using the unique physics of moving water droplets.  This is complex stuff – and awesomely COOL!

As stated by Manu Prakash, the theorist and researcher at the helm of the project, “… it opens up a new way of thinking of computation in the physical world”

Just add water


Water clock computer


Read this companion piece published on

Engineers build first-ever water-based computer


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The concept is a rolling classroom; its purpose is to bring hands-on tech education to classrooms and build interest in students for science and math as fun subjects.

Where there’s a spark, there’s a flame – and the blaze is growing!!  This Stanford University (California, USA) rolling classroom is reaching both students and teachers alike…

Read about their beginnings and their continuing journey here:



And if you’re inspired by their success, maybe this is a project you and your fellow students will want to take on at your university!  Click the pic for a guide…



Where will you roll?

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My name is Morgan Abbett and I a fourth-year undergraduate and first-year Masters student in Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. Five fellow Stanford graduate students and I have teamed up on a project through Stanford Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) to collaborate with various partners to design a computer technology center at Parkwood Primary School in Cape Town, South Africa. Parkwood Primary is a resource-limited government school for young learners in the Grassy Park township. Our partner organizations – iExperience, a technology education academy in Cape Town; Bottomup, an education-focused NGO operating in Cape Town; and Parkwood Primary School – are committed to improving computer literacy at Parkwood Primary and in the larger community. The technology center will achieve these goals by providing students and community members access to computers and classes in a secure, beautiful space in which the Parkwood community can take pride.

The Stanford ESW team began work on this project in January 2014 and aims to produce a conceptual design package by early May 2014 and a schematic design package by June 2014. Posts with more details on our progress up to this point are forthcoming.

In June, a team member and I will travel to Cape Town to continue to develop the project on the ground with our partner organizations. The Stanford ESW team is honored to receive support from IBM Students for a Smarter Planet that will make our upcoming travel and in-country partner collaboration possible. Look forward to weekly updates from me and my team, and please comment with any suggestions, contacts, and general interest.

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The Stanford chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, studying in the Architectural Design department are participating in a project to help people in Cape Town build a sustainable facility to bring high tech education to the community.  They will provide a schematic design of the building, help secure funding for construction and develop a sustainable operation plan for the future of the center.  Students for a Smarter Planet is helping them with their travel expenses.

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