Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience


aeclogoWe are excited to announce that we have selected the three teams that will be advancing to the build phase of the competition! Each team submitted a detailed proposal outlining the details of their design including proof of need, expected efficiency, cost, and a construction timeline for their device. The three teams we selected and their corresponding projects are:

Team RAJ: A Peltier Thermoelectric Generator for Recreational Use

Team Gurlz: A Wind and Solar-powered Patio Umbrella

The Dream Team: Solar-powered Hydroponics

Each team will receive $300 to build a prototype of their design. They will have until May 1st to complete their builds where they will then present their designs to a panel of faculty and corporate judges. Judging criteria includes: efficiency, applicability, innovation, and creativity. We are very excited to see the results and  we will provide more updates as the build phase progresses!

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February 26th, 2014

Hello IBM, thank you so much for accepting us into the Students for a Smarter Planet Program! Our team is very excited to join all of the other incredible teams on this website.

My name is Josh, and I am the financial team leader for Apparatus X, an adaptable tool trailer capable of expanding into a workspace, creating a mobile construction site that could be relocated to the site of a natural disaster. Our team is composed of about twenty Architecture and Engineering students at The Pennsylvania State University. We hope to complete the project by the end of this semester, after which it will travel to the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans. Once it arrives, it must expand into a full workspace, storing a wide variety of tools. The trailer will act as a community workspace, facilitating the engagement and education necessary to rebuild a damaged area. The trailer will also be entirely self-sustainable, generating its own power with an array of solar panels on its roof, and using a rainwater collection and purification system to sustainably and efficiently provide water. This system also serves a didactic purpose, demonstrating the possibility to live a green lifestyle. Finally, the trailer must also serve as a micro-living unit, supporting a single resident. The image below shows Apparatus X after it has fully deployed, exhibiting its expandability and multiple work areas.



Apparatus X is divided into three equal sections, displayed in the image below. The first section is the live space, which will contain a kitchen, bathroom, and bed for the resident of the vehicle. The next section is the flex and design space, which will provide a social area for collaborative design. The final area is a work area that provides work surfaces as well as storage space for tools.



Thank you again for accepting us into your program! We are very excited to post updates on our progress, and learn about the projects that all of the other teams are working on!

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There is no doubt that the job market is changing. In this great episode of TED Talks economist Andrew McAfee suggests that mobile humanoid robots might actually take some of our jobs. How is it good news to us? According to McAfee it is a good news, because:
1. Technological progress is what allows us to continue to increase volume and quality of goods while prices go down;
2. Once the androids start doing some jobs we get freed up from drudgery and toil which creates an entirely different society.
“A society where the creators and the discoverers and the performers and innovators come together with their financiers to talk about issues, enlighten and provoke each other”.

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We have amazing new possibilities but they also create some concerns because part of the society will not be able to keep their jobs. It can be solved by encouraging entrepreneurship and teaching students appropriate skills but what can you do in order to have a sustainable career in the Age of Machines?

In a recent article published by Harvard Business Review, Monique Valcour states  that “a sustainable career is dynamic and flexible; it features continuous learning , periodic renewal, the security that come from employability, and harmonious fit with your skills, interests, and values”. Moreover, “a sustainable career is built upon the ability to show that you can fill a need that someone is willing to pay for”.

In my interview with STG CTO for Public Sector Timothy Durniak, when I asked him how he managed to build a successful career with IBM for more than 31 years he said “I knew that it was important to be T- shaped as well as Comb-shaped, that is why I continuously improved my skills”. Along the way he has been a software developer, solution tester, information developer, solution architect, solution trainer, help desk leader, methodologist, process engineer, project manager, infrastructure architect and enterprise architect. Having seen all sides of what it takes to deliver uniquely positioned IT solutions, Timothy Durniak now serves as Chief Technology Officer for Public Sector of the Systems and Technology group focusing on government, smarter cities and education industries within that. He constantly develops new skills based on what value he can bring to the company. The secret of doing so successfully is the method he is using.  He takes an expertise in one set of “teeth” of his “comb” (enterprise architecture, infrastructure architecture, system thinking) and applies it to similar problems in another domain (modernizing social services) thus creating a new portion of the “comb”. which is the perfect example of the comb-shaped thinking.

comb-shaped person

Being Comb-shaped requires broad base with multiple expertise areas which gives the shape of a comb. Those skills are hard to maintain but they would help you to be in charge of your career.

If you would like to craft a sustainable career in the age of Technology and Information:

  • Think of yourself as your own career advisor.  Learn new skills to become specialist in many areas. Craft your career choices based on where technology is going. Don’t get stuck with one specific role;
  • Find ways you could add value to your employer and propose solutions;
  • Seek opportunities to work with people who can teach you something, seek for a mentor who would inspire and direct you the right way.


Guest Editor: Saule Simonaityte

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Most renewable energy technologies have one problem in common: they do not generate power in a constant and reliable way matching the consumers demand. For example, solar panels only generate electricity with sun light during the day and wind turbines only operate when wind is blowing strong. Therefore, with these new sustainable but intermitting technologies, power needs to be stored for times when electricity is not generated.

One possibility to store electricity are batteries. However batteries are expensive, making it financially unattractive to store clean energy. But this fact does not prevent T-shaped people to think about ways how to solve the problem. As described in a Technology Review online article, a possible solution could be smart software that enables batteries for various types of functions, such as regulating voltage levels or trading energy. These different functions generate multiple sources of revenue, making a business case possible.

I find it fascinating how people connect different service systems to create innovative solutions. In this case, the service system of software is used to make the service systems of batteries and renewable energy more competitive. Ultimately, this interdisciplinary thinking could help to make clean energy a success and the world a better place.

Guest Editor (AH)

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July 3rd, 2013

The era of commercial Zeppelin flights ended in 1937, when the Hindenburg caught fire while landing. Yet the dream of airships is alive. Occasionally they can be spoted in the sky, for example at big sport events. In 1996, the German company Cargolifter was founded with the aim to build giant Zeppelins that can carry cargo of up to 160 tons. Apparently the market was not ready for heavy cargo airships. Eventually the company had to file insolvency due to missing funding in 2002.

Now a new promising attempt is made. Areoscraft is “launching a new century of aviation innovation”: YouTube Preview Image

Still Areoscraft has to prove commercial feasibility. If successful, Zeppelins can create a smarter world and potential applications are only limited to imagination. The service system of airships could revolutionize multiple sectors. They could be used to generate electricity from wind turbines in altitudes where wind is constantly blowing. Or they could be used as wireless internet and telecommunication antennas, covering huge areas.

Sounds too futuristic? Not for Google. They are working on balloons exactly for such purpose. But see for yourself: YouTube Preview Image   For what else can we use Zeppelins or Balloons?

Guest Editor (AH)

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