Latest Posts

  1. NASA Space Systems Engineering Course to Be Offered Online

    In an effort to join the quickly expanding trend of Massive Online Open Courses (or MOOC’s), NASA has teamed up with the Saylor Foundation to provide a 6-week-long, completely free online course to the public entitled “Space Systems Engineering”.

    The course will use real NASA missions as case studies to cover the fundamentals of systems engineering, all while highlighting the integral part the practice plays in the pursuit of successful space flight. Furthermore, coursework will be lead directly by some of NASA space systems engineering’s most accomplished members: project manager Jeff Volosin, mission systems engineer Mike Menzel, and Dr. John C. Mather, who earned the Nobel Laureate in physics for his work on the COBE mission.

    The course is designed for those with all levels of engineering experience, but is also suitably accessible for those who have absolutely no background in engineering. The content is adapted from an existing course taught at the University of Texas, but with streamlined and simplified material that presents a simpler access point to the complicated field. Much of the curriculum is presented through Youtube playlists, with ongoing opportunities to participate in Google+ hangouts with faculty members.

    However, engineers shouldn’t feel as if the course won’t have a great deal of useful information to offer them. In a recent release, Jeff Volosin was quoted as saying, “Whether you are going to be a systems engineer or work with them, you have some background, because every engineer has to work in an area where systems engineering is a part of their life.” Using NASA space missions as a backdrop, the course is poised to provide incredibly useful information that can be applied to systems engineering across any field.

    Students interested in the course can enroll at zero cost until March 3rd, 2014, the day when the first unit of coursework is set to begin. The first unit will break down systems engineering at a basic level, and what impact it has on the aerospace industry. Subsequent units will cover topics in project management, defining a project’s scope, mapping out system requirements, and trade studies. Students will be able to access the materials whenever they like, including after the course ends, making it a great opportunity for aspiring engineers to pick up a solid base of knowledge.

  2. Skins Cells Turned into a Heart?

    By Adam Cronin

    Researchers from Haifa, Israel, have, for the first time, succeeded in taking skin cells from a patient and transforming it into healthy, beating heart tissue that could be used to treat heart failure.

    Lior Gepstein, from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, led the work. “We have shown that it’s possible to take skin cells from an elderly patient with advanced heart failure and end up with his own beating cells in a laboratory dish that are healthy and young—the equivalent to the stage of his heart cells when he was just born.”

    While it may be up to 10 years before we see a start to clinical trials, this is certainly a promising breakthrough in engineering. Because the stem cells are harvested from the skin or blood, instead of an embryo, this approach has also avoided the ethics problems that have nearly halted all stem cell research.

    These “human induced pluripotent stem cells” (hiPSCs) may be capable of differentiating to become any type of cell needed. In this study, they took two men with heart failure—one aged 51, the other 61—and transformed the hiPSCs by adding three genes and then a small molecule known as valproic acid to the nucleus of the cell.

    By growing these new cardiomyocytes in a Petri dish, they developed into heart muscle tissue, which grew together with existing cardiac tissue. Within 24-48 hours, both types of tissue were beating together.

    As a final step, this newly created tissue was transplanted into healthy rat hearts, and it was shown to establish connections with cells in the host tissue. Because this tissue will be derived from the same patient receiving it, Gepstein hopes that rejection of the tissue will not be an issue.

    Interested in following a similar path? If you’d like to discover amazing new technologies, medicines, and treatments or attend engineering school and see where it takes you, you should consider going the same route as Lior Gepstein. Gepstein received his M.D., and then proceeded to obtain a Ph.D. in biophysics and physiology. Johns Hopkins has an excellent pre-med program, and they are also on the “I Want to Be a Doctor… But Wait, I Forgot to Take Science!” list featured on CollegeXpress.

  3. Outsourcing Graduates?

    As companies flock to China to save on growing production costs in the United States, a similar trend has been identified in the engineering industry. Intensive and competitive programs at international universities threaten domestic graduates, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Adam Bruckner, chair of the aeronautical engineering program at the University of Washington, sites shrinking and inferior education opportunities stateside as cause for alarm.

    Nearby aero-giant Boeing is notorious for recruiting from the University of Washington, but many students are graduating with qualifications and grades that the company finds subpar. “We don’t want to just crank people out for the sake of cranking people out. We want to produce good engineers,” says Bruckner of program shortcomings. He notes that educational cutbacks have left students unmotivated and created a bigger divide between the stellar performers and those who merely coast.

    On a recent trip to China to check out Beihang University, a school that specializes in engineering and the aeronautical field, Bruckner saw vast differences in their approach to teaching. Many will go on to work at companies like Boeing. What remains to be seen is how U.S. schools will look to fight back in a time when smart engineers are in greater demand than ever before.

    To read the full interview with Adam Bruckner from the Seattle PI, click here.

  4. Google Getting into TV!

    Google announced news that has the potential to be groundbreaking with their plan to launch Google TV. It promises to blend high definition television with web content, data from their wildly popular Android device, and from the Windows Media Center. Their primary competitor will be Apple TV, which provides a similar service using the iTunes application from Mac.

    Vincent Dureau, the lead engineer on the Google TV project, told the EE Times about what his new technology means for the future of television. Possibilities for the device’s reach are limitless. He says, “We are creating a platform that is completely open. It runs in a web browser so anyone can publish to it. Everything will be open source. That’s how you reach scale. Any vendor can take the source code and make products.” By allowing for outside engineers to work on application creation and expansion, Google TV could revolutionize the marriage of Internet and television.

    Google TV will be powered by an Intel Atom processor, and will be available starting Fall 2010. Sony will also be launching a new line of televisions designed to maximize the technology.

    To read engineer Vincent Dureau’s full interview with the EE Times, click here.

  5. Oil Spill Update!

    Oil Spill As the BP oil spill continues to gush thousands of gallons a day on the heels of failed attempts to halt the leaking well, actor Kevin Costner has come forward to offer a possible new solution. An unlikely source for such technology, Costner has been working for over fifteen years to quietly develop the machine that employs centrifugal force to separate oil and water.

    Costner’s representative and business partner, attorney John Houghtaling, explained the technology to the Los Angeles Times, noting: “The machines are essentially like big vacuum cleaners, which sit on barges and suck up oily water and spin it around at high speed,” Houghtaling said. “On one side, it spits out pure oil, which can be recovered. The other side spits out 99% pure water.”

    The actor developed an interest in water preservation and recovery while filming the ill-fated action flick Waterworld. He has reportedly invested over $24 million into the technology. BP has already begun talks with Costner about utilizing it.

    After tar balls washed up on the Florida Keys, rampant fear that the oil will destroy delicate ecosystems and industries comes closer likelihood. It has already begun to coat Louisiana’s wetlands.

    Read the full story from the Los Angeles Times here.

  6. Engineers Help in Oil Leak

    Surely you’ve heard about the massive oil leak that has been wreaking havoc on the Gulf Coast for the past week. The slick has been spreading quickly, and BP (the company that owns the well) has been doing everything they can think of to stop the spill since efforts to try to shut down the well have failed.

    That’s where engineers save the day.

    A massive dome began its descent 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on Friday to try to cap the well. Though this procedure had been done before, it had never been tried on a well of this size. The containment dome would have collected the leaking oil at the main leak point.

    The workers at BP encountered a problem, however, when hydrates (crystallized gas) clogged the containment dome. Needing to set aside the dome on the sea floor, BP has started work on it’s plan B, a smaller containment dome that they will be able to keep free of hydrates using  hot water or methanol if necessary.

    The oil is gushing at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day and so far an estimated 2.6 million gallons of oil has been spilled. Hopefully, this engineering feat will be able to contain the oil.