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Two flavors of ‘Ice Cream’ to the Space Station!

The Dragon capsule delivered several technologies and experiments (6,4000 pounds of it) to the International Space Station. But it also delivered ice cream to the astronauts on board. So what’s a few scoops, for those folks who travel at 17,000 miles an hour for several months!

Also, in a geeky twist, it is also delivering another flavor, so to speak: ‘ISS-CREAM‘ – the acronym for ISS Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass. It is a balloon-borne instrument that “measures the charges of cosmic rays ranging from hydrogen up through iron nuclei, over a broad energy range.” Clear as mud. (a balloon carrying ISS-CREAM) But very cool, huh?

As for the docking, as I mentioned in a previous post about the robotic arm and the maneuver, it is pretty cool! Humans need robots – and some ice cream now and then.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2017 in Social Media

 

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Technoference and Emojipedia – Part of our evolving vocabulary

While you were not paying attention, a new vocab has been tying up its shoes and sprinting through the techno-social-media crowd. (Sorry I just made up that super-hyphenated word.)

Emojipedia does exist. It’s a place where you could find such things as a ‘Man teacher: medium skin tone’. (Several variants, actually, as seen on Facebook, Samsung devices and Google.) If you’re looking for a person shrugging (not sure why, but…) there are 18 variants, and you’ll find some for world events and animals and such.

I could give you some even more obscure words, especially if you want to flummox someone. Try fudgel. It means one is pretending to work though basically fudging. Or ‘Grok.‘ If you haven’t run into this, I guess you don’t quite grok this post.

 

 

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Rockets, robots and human smarts – Why humans are (still) indispensable

We like to imagine that space travel will one day be managed and dominated by robots. Yet there is plenty of reasons why humans will not be obsolete.

I spotted some clues to this in the latest report of the SpaceX docking of the Dragon capsule with the Space Station.

The report reads:

At that point, astronauts will grapple Dragon using the station’s huge robotic arm, securing the freighter. When the hatches between the two vehicles open, ISS crewmembers will begin offloading the capsule’s cargo, which consists of more than 6,400 lbs. (2,900 kilograms) of food, supplies and scientific hardware.

Indeed, although it involves a robotic device, humans must snag (‘grapple’) the capsule in a way sounds a lot like human expertise involved in bringing a ship to harbor using rope and bollards. It is sometimes noted that self check-out lanes in stores have not made human cashiers obsolete.

The point being, careers in robotics will grow in tandem with some of these technologies. The field of robotics will need –indeed depend on — human expertise in dealing with complexity.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Robotics, Technology

 

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Classroom sans borders, now that Google Classroom is for everyone

I liked the original Google Classroom, for how it simplified how a learners could belong to a ‘class’ even though they may not be in the same building. Or country.

But the latest improvements to Classroom take it further, letting anyone who plans to teach create a lesson and connect with students. I just created a class as an experimentt. It’s a class on Writing and Publishing — the basis for a project this summer.

Lots of potential in how they hand over the tools to engage students, and receive feedback.It’s evident Google is staking its claim on a sector ready for disruption. Especially since Khan Academy has prepared the ground for it.

As the New York Times put it, Google has practically out-maneuvered Apple in the education market. More than half the nation’s primary- and secondary-school students now use Google education apps, it says.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Disruptive, Ed-Tech, Education

 

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Yes, you’re being tracked! Unless you change your phone’s default settings

Have you ever left a restaurant and received a message on your phone asking you to review the service? It’s very creepy. But it’s also what agree to when we use certain phone features or an app. (Sure, the app is ‘free’ but we pay for it by allowing some organization to grab our data, and /or track us.)

If you haven’t already done this, try Google Maps Timeline once you are logged in to Google. It pulls up a map of where you’ve been. It lets you click on each date in the past few weeks, and (if your location setting was on) you’ll see how Google has recorded exactly what time you stopped at any address, and left. So if you crossed a border, it will give you precise times when you passed through the border.

Of course this information is supposedly private. Or at least the Personal Identifiable Information (or PII) is. Of course you could –or rather should do these things:

  • Change your default settings on your phone.
  • Go into Google’s settings and delete your location history.
  • Avoid using clicking on the location icon if you could help it.

But we often forget. Or worse, think this information is harmless.

This is the kind of information that students ought to know. Not just to become paranoid about Google, but to become more aware of our data. Especially when it seems like logging into Instagram and Snapchat is a pre-teen default setting in itself.

 

 

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The Real Moonshot – getting back to the Moon, soon!

While we have been obsessed with Mars, a big project has been underway to revisit the Moon. This little guy below, a Rover being tested by TeamIndus (India), is small compared to some of the Mars Rovers. It weighs just sixteen and a half pounds.

Google created an XPrize challenge, known as Lunar XPRIZE, with a $20 million prize for the team that could do three things:

  • Successfully land on the Moon,
  • Travel 500 meter
  • Transmit images back to Earth.

Five teams are in the running: Israel, US, Japan, India and International team.

Google is known for it’s ‘Moonshots’ –from balloons that could beam down the Internet to remote parts of the world, to autonomous cars, to cancer research. And of course robots.

And it’s being sponsored if you will, by Google.

 
 

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Robotics Olympics highlights. Team Sri Lanka returns

Washington DC’s humidity hovered around 90 percent when the competition began on 16 July. Team Sri Lanka’s four students were sweating bullets for different reasons. In a crowded basement, parked between Senegal and Sudan their 20-wheel steel robot needed some repair work.

The bot that they built in secret in a classroom in Colombo (they called it ‘Area 52’) arrived with a warped axle and damaged omni-wheels. Two hours before departure the airline forced them to repack the 23-kilo microwave-sized contraption into two boxes. The next day the motor failed –not an uncommon problem among teams here.

But they did take on the world! In this competition, designed by FIRST Global like the Olympics, each team worked in ‘alliances’ – groups of three country teams. It was fascinating to watch each team, battling cultural and language barriers (and jet lag and sleep) work through the constraints and perform. My family and I were so proud to be there supporting them.

They did quite well in strategy and design of the bot. In terms of rankings they were placed 138th out of 163 teams – beating the US, France, and Russia. When you consider they had just 9 weeks to prepare for this (many teams had at least 12 weeks), it was quite a feat.

Kudos to coach Dilum Rathnasinghe who took on such an unthinkable task. The team comprised: Ali Anver, Ishini Gammanpila, Vinidu Jayasekera and Akash Gnanam

Here are some images from the 163-team, 157-nation Robotics Olympics.  Read previous post here.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2017 in Ed-Tech, Education, Robotics

 

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