Middle Schooler Builds Lead Testing Kit

Nowadays, children have become more eager to explore issues outside of the classroom. Anything from vehicular traffic to eye diseases are inspiring them to create. Next in line as America’s Top Young Scientist is Gitanjali Rao, whose handmade device detects lead contamination in water.

“I had been following the Flint, Michigan, issue for about two years,” [said] Rao… “I was appalled by the number of people affected by lead contamination in water and I wanted to do something to change this.”

The determined seventh-grader, with the help of her engineer parents and local universities, came through with Tethys. Using carbon nanotube sensors, the device can accurately detect lead and send information to any smartphone. She subsequently won the Young Scientist challenge and pocketed $25,000.

“Advice I would give to other kids would be to never be afraid to try,” Gitanjali said. “I had so many failures when I was doing my tests. It was frustrating the first couple of times, but towards the end, everything started coming together.”

Rao intends to invest part of the prize money into developing Tethys. The rest will fund her schooling — bright minds deserve the best education.

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Dutch Startup Using Crows To Clean Cigarette Litter

It’s more than likely that we call groups of ravens an unkindness due to their unforgiving intelligence. A Swedish experiment training birds to earn food rewards had one raven hacking the project entirely. The thoughtful budgie even took the time to teach other birds the secret. Now, startup Crowded Cities is testing the brainpower of crows, using them to pick up litter.

The idea is to train the crows to drop cigarette butts in a ‘Crowbar,’ which scans the item to confirm it’s a cigarette butt, and then gives the crow a food reward to reinforce the behavior.

Considering the amount of cigarette butts that end up on sidewalks annually (about 4.5 trillion), these crows could make a difference. The butts are not only non-biodegradable, but toxic to marine life. For ultimate efficiency, the Crowbar uses a simple give-and-take mechanism.

[Everything] is done with the intention that the crow will fly away and inform others of this system, so that more crows participate in cigarette butt collecting.

Research has found that crows are as cognitive as apes, so the success of the Crowbar should be anticipated.

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Plastic Bottle Air Conditioner Is Electricity-Free

It seems we’ve been underestimating the power of plastic. After the material was repurposed into makeshift lamps in the Philippines, it’s proving there is little it can’t do. Grey Dhaka in Bangladesh is taking plastic to new limits with a plastic bottle air conditioner that is completely electricity-free.

Repurposed plastic bottles are cut in half and mounted on a board or a grid in accordance with the window size with the bottlenecks facing the inside of the house. The board is then installed on the window… Hot air enters the open end of the bottle and is compressed at the neck of the bottle, turning the air cooler before it is released inside the house.

The device, called the Eco-Cooler, can reduce indoor temperatures by up to 5 degrees Celsius. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think regular-running electric air conditioners may now be facing a promising contender.

Today, more than 25,000 households have an Eco-Cooler in their homes. It has been installed in places such as Nilphamari, Daulatdia, Paturia, Modonhati and Khaleya.

Inventor Ashis Paul claims his daughter’s physics tutor inspired the Eco-Cooler. If simple DIY projects can combat climate change at no cost, maybe kids should reconsider paying attention in class.

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Farm Can Grow Vegetables In Freezing Temperatures

As a trend, home gardening is explosive. TerraFarms are a space-efficient choice that use no pesticides and 97% less water. The Ogarden system is completely hassle-free and can grow up to 100 herbs and vegetables a month. However, home gardening isn’t practical everywhere — especially in colder countries. Engineers at the German Aerospace Center are now helping snowed-in communities garden, with an Antarctic farm that can grow veggies below zero.

Called the Eden-ISS, the farm exists inside a climate-controlled shipping container. The greenhouse relies on  a technique called vertical farming, in which food grows on trays or hanging modules under LEDs instead of natural sunlight.

The farm is only 135 square feet and can grow vegetables in huge amounts. Amazing, considering the only means of transportation for produce deliveries is by ship or plane. Researchers plan to grow some 30 to 50 different plant species. In short, the new technology is beating the odds.

Over the past 100 years, Arctic temperatures have increased at nearly twice the global average, making it possible to grow crops in once-desolate places like Yellowknife in Canada and Greenland.

On a more impressive note, temperatures in the area can plunge as low as -100 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t even know it was humanly possible to exist under such conditions. Lesson learned: never underestimate the power of innovation.

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First Robot Passes Medical Exam In China

If robots have become capable of performing complex surgeries, surely they can begin to replace traditional doctors. Such is the case with Xiaoyi, a machine that recently passed China’s medical licensing exam.

“Since 2013, more than half of the questions in the test are about [patient] cases,” [said engineer] Wu [Ji]… “So it’s impossible to purely rely on memorising and searches.”

To earn a score of 456 out of a perfect 600, developers programmed Xiaoyi to link words and phrases. In doing so, the “Little Doctor” learned to reason — an impressive but also intimidating feat.

“What it can do most at present is make suggestions to doctors, to help them identify problems quicker and avoid some risks,” Wu said.

Still, Xiaoyi won’t be flying solo anytime soon. After all, there’s nothing like the reassurance you get from a human being — especially when they’re holding a needle!

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Solar Wallpaper Harvests Energy Using Photosynthesis

It goes without saying that solar is taking over fossil fuels by storm. Communities are fashioning panels into their infrastructure, including a Danish international school that dons a record-breaking 12,000 consoles. To work on making solar power more cost-effective, developers are creating solar blocks. However, scientists from two London universities may have found the most efficient way to incorporate solar power into homes with energy-producing wallpaper.

The solar bio-battery is part of a new type of renewable energy research known as microbial biophotovoltaics (BPV), which make use of cyanobacteria and other photosynthetic algae to convert light into electricity.

Though the process sounds daunting, all you need is a working inkjet printer. Not only is the wallpaper cheap to produce — it works as a disposable and biodegradable power tool. Technology such as biosensors will no longer require bulky devices that suit only a single purpose.

“Imagine a paper-based, disposable environmental sensor disguised as wallpaper, which could monitor air quality in the home. When it has done its job it could be removed and left to biodegrade in the garden without any impact on the environment.”

If that’s what scientists are promising, I sure do hope we won’t have to imagine any longer.

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Smart Belt Helps Parkinson’s Patients Stay On Balance

Parkinson’s is truly a difficult and debilitating disease. There is no known cure, but researchers have made some promising attempts. The use of pig brain cells promotes nerve cell growth and repair. Now, a smart belt and simple phone app may address loss of balance.

The Smarter Balance System takes the form of a special belt that is lined with vibrating actuators. These actuators provide customized rehab programs that map users’ movements in real time using a series of dots which appear on their smartphone displays.

In essence, the wearable acts as a virtual physical therapist. Exercises aim to improve postural stability and patients’ general confidence in completing simple tasks. Overall, the device is a pretty neat assistant.

Data collected by the system is then uploaded to an online server so that it can be analyzed by doctors and physical therapists, who can then adjust the regimen as required.

We have yet to hear word on when the Smarter Balance System will be commercially available. Until then, things continue to look up for patients of all sorts, thanks to wearable technology.

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Electric Dairy Truck Is Powered By Cow Poop

Ever since chancing upon the LooWatt, the phone-charging toilet, it seems there is more to poop than we think. While it may stink, it’s valuable in conducting energy. Organic farmer Albert Straus drives an electric dairy truck powered entirely by methane. In other words, cow excrement.

In a project that ultimately took 8 years to complete, Albert Straus and a local mechanic converted a 33,000 pound International Harvester semi-truck to an all-electric hauler… The truck’s batteries are charged with clean electricity that is generated by the methane gas produced by those same cows’ manure in the farm’s biodigester.

8 years may have been quite some time, but I am certain the wait was worth it. After all, Straus did beat Elon Musk to the punch. Not only is the use of manure as an energy source eco-friendly — it’s cheap, too. In fact, it can save farms up to $50,000 a year.

“What I’ve tried to do is create a sustainable organic farming model that is good for the earth, the soil, the animals, and the people working on these farms, and helps revitalize rural communities.” [says] Straus.

Straus is now working with others on a 20-year carbon farming plan. As for poop-powered vehicles? Straus is set on building a Farmers Market truck. Poop-tastic!

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Smart Contact Lenses Could Document Your Life

Just when we thought space teleportation was way beyond our reach, China figured it out. Now, long-awaited technologies are manifesting all over the world. This includes smart contact lenses that record everything you see.

The lenses would record images while they’re “worn on an eyeball.” The data is recorded on their own storage units.

“In a case where predetermined eyelid closure of an eyelid that is in contact with the lens unit is detected, the recording control unit records the captured image captured by the image pickup unit in the storage medium.”

If you’re a frequent concertgoer, leaving your camera behind could now be the least of your worries. However, while it may be a hassle-free perk for most, others see the device as a potential threat.

“While this really sounds futuristic, at the same time we believe that Sony’s contact lenses can cause a breach of an individual’s privacy. The person would never know that someone with such sophisticated tech can record his/her activities with just a blink of an eye.”

Luckily, Sony has time to mull over its decision, as the lenses are still on patent stage. Do you have an eye out for these smart contact lenses?

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Paper Flashlight Is Cheap And Futuristic

Some inventions, such as this makeshift space camera, are a testament to the ingenuity of the human mind. Others, like the Hyperface, are somewhat trivial but fascinating nonetheless. Is this paper flashlight just as clever? You decide.

Paper Torch is made from a sheet of heavy duty, water-resistant paper that’s typically used on election ballots. [Studio] Nendo then printed a circuit board using metallic ink from AgIC directly onto the paper and glued an LED bulb and two button-sized batteries to it. Electricity flows from the batteries to the bulb through the printed pattern.

If you still aren’t impressed, light intensity changes depending on how tightly you grip the device. Also, rolling either half of the paper inwards allows you to choose between two tints of light. Sweet! But is it more than a party trick?

Nendo sees potential applications for disaster relief and emergencies since the product is compact, does not require complex manufacturing, and is inexpensive to produce.

Aside from eliminating the use of plastic altogether, Paper Torch doesn’t use wire circuitry. With that being said, I’m pretty sure, if anything, we aren’t short on visionaries.

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