Saturday, October 12, 2013

Videos show the tech in Virginia Tech

As part of last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (ACA and shutdown on campus) on Daily Kos, I included more than half a dozen videos Virginia Tech posted to the university's YouTube channel.  I've already featured two of them in Renewable energy news from campuses on the campaign trail* and Marching band moment.  Here are more, which show off the technology education and research at Virginia Tech.

First, Drones used to explore atmosphere.

David G. Schmale III, an associate professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, conducts research using drones — also called unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs — to explore microbial life in the atmosphere.

Schmale and colleagues have used research drones to track the movement of dangerous microorganisms that surf atmospheric waves. These atmospheric waves collect, mix, and shuffle microorganisms across cities, states, and even countries.

This research has deepened our understanding of the flow of life in the atmosphere, and has contributed unique tools for scientific exploration in the burgeoning field of aeroecology.
One of the points I make to my students is that new instruments are vital to science, as they allow more accurate and precise observations, which feed into the theories behind the science.  Here's to drones contributing to science in that manner, and not just as surveillance and weapons platforms.

Next, Google Car visits VTTI.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has partnered with Google and General Motors to perform research on self-driving vehicles. In early September, a Google Car equipped with this technology visited the VTTI Smart Road. Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Rep. Morgan Griffith were on hand for the event.
We may not get flying cars for the mass market, but another science fiction transportation idea, self-driving autos, looks like it's on its way.

There's more automation news in Robot seeks a brain.

Meet Team ViGIR -- short for Virginia-Germany Interdisciplinary Robotics -- one of two Virginia Tech College of Engineering-based teams competing in the multi-year Robotics Challenge, sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, a subsidiary of the U.S. Department of Defense dedicated to high-tech research.

ViGIR is a collaboration between College of Engineering spin-off company TORC Robotics -- based at Virginia Tech's Corporate Research Center -- the Department of Computer Science's Center for Human-Computer Interaction, and German-based Technische Universitat Darmstadt, a longtime student-exchange partner with the College of Engineering.

The team is building new software and control tools for Atlas, a high-tech robot built by Boston Dynamics, as part of the challenge with the end-goal of creating rescue robots that can easily maneuver disaster scenes and save lives. This robot has been named Florian after the patron saint of firefighters (among other professions).
The significance of the program's name got pointed out at Daily Kos.
"ViGIR" . . . ? Somebody is a Star Trek fan. ;)
Finally, here's Designing and Building a Bridge.

Award-winning designers Keith and Marie Zawistowski, faculty members in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, provide an opportunity for their students to see a project through from conception to building. The most recent class built a bridge in the town of Clifton Forge, Va.
I'm becoming more and more impressed with Virgina Tech as I cover more stories from the school.  Keep up the good work, Hokies.  Your PR campaign is working.

*I've already shown the video in this entry to my students as part of a lecture on how forest resources are natural capital.  One of the uses of wood is as biomass energy, and I just happened to have that handy.  Welcome to blogging as professional development.

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