Battle Heat: Competitors vie for a
victory at NI Week's annual Robolab event.
Austin, TXThe palm-sized Lego rover bounces off the wall and rounds a corner, heading towards a corner without side barriers. A standing-room-only crowd wonders whether the high wheels mean it will take the bumpy shortcut, or whether the programmers want their vehicle to take the long, smooth road. Robolab (www.ni.com/company/robolab.htm) was first conceived as a way to get kids interested in engineering, but the applause, sighs, and shouts from NI Week attendees prove that there's a big appeal for adults. Fourteen teams, ranging from teachers to brand new NI employees to college engineers have built vehicles over the course of six hours. Some, like the high school team that has matching team T-shirts, have done this quite a few times, while others prove that whether you're 12 or 50, it's possible to fail in front of a crowd without feeling embarrassed. During the year, when scores of NI employees go to local grade schools to teach kids and teachers how to build and program motorized robots. It's a big thing, with 50 teachers attending a summer course in programming and as many as 500 students and parents coming to NI for the big finale showcase of the vehicles. The focus is on learning, so there aren't any competitions.
More often than not, with the purchase of a sports car comes the sacrifice of any sort of utility. In other words, you can forget about a large trunk, extra seats for the kids, and more importantly driving in snowy (or inclement) weather. But what if there was a vehicle that offered the best of both worlds; great handling and practicality?
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov may have the best rules for effective brainstorming and creativity. His never-before-published essay, "On Creativity," recently made it to the Web pages of MIT Technology Review.
Much has been made over the potentially dangerous flammability of lithium-ion batteries after major companies like Boeing, Sony, and Tesla have grappled with well-publicized battery fires. Researchers at Stanford University may have come up with a solution to this problem with a smart sensor for lithium-ion batteries that provides a warning if the battery is about to overheat or catch fire.
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