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Student Innovation: EnableTalk


Some engineers just can’t wait until they graduate to start innovating. Here’s one recent example: After watching a man with a speech impairment struggle to make a supermarket cashier understand him, three Ukrainian computer science students, who call themselves the QuadSquad, designed gloves fitted with 15 sensors that can understand the hand and finger gestures used in sign language.

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No Toppling This Tower

Tokyo’s new 2,080-foot Sky Tree, the world’s tallest broadcast tower, is projected to draw 32 million visitors a year. But tourists won’t see one of its most striking features – a design intended to survive severe earthquakes and catastrophic winds.

Engineers began by studying soil formation as deep as 1.8 miles and taking meteorological measurements using a radiosonde balloon.

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Invisible Bike Helmet

Who says safety can’t be stylish? Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin, two young Swedish designers, have rethought the traditional bike helmet as an unobtrusive nylon neck-wrap hat operates like a self-deploying air bag to protect your head.

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Olympic Engineering

There’s no Olympic medal for sports engineering. But breakthrough technology is playing a star role at the London games – if you know where to look. The National Science Foundation has teamed up with NBC’s Olympics and education division to create a guide to the split-second timekeepers, wave-reducing pools, high-performance gear, and other feats of technology that let athletes compete at their peak.

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World’s Greenest Office Building?

To get a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum certificate, a building must cut energy use to about half that of a typical structure. That’s tough. What’s tougher? The Living Building Challenge (LBC).

According to Time magazine, the LBC was created six years ago, and to win certification a building must use half the energy of a LEED platinum building and have net-zero energy and water systems. So far, only three buildings have managed that feat, and they’re quite small. However, a six-story, 4,600-square-meter office building will open this fall in Seattle that’s aiming to meet the LBC requirements.

The $30 million Bullitt Center will house the Bullitt Foundation, whose president is Denis Hayes, a former staff director who worked with Earth Day founder Former U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson.

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