Engineering

Surviving typhoons will require smart building – and a cultural shift

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 11, 2013   View Article

As the devastation from Typhoon Haiyan becomes clear, a question lurks on the horizon: How can the world’s most vulnerable communities prepare for increased storminess on a warming planet? Answers range from using nature to weaken surging walls of water to building homes that can withstand buffeting winds. All will require a shift in priorities, experts say.

“The science is very clear about the trends in climate change, and one of the impacts is definitely more intense and potentially more frequent storms,” Imen Meliane, director of the international marine program at The Nature Conservancy in Washington, told NBC News. To prepare for this stormier world, the environmental group advocates increasing the natural protections of coastlines.

‘Crazy’ climate re-engineering could reduce vital rains, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: November 1, 2013   View Article

If global warming gases build up so much that record-setting rains, droughts and coastal floods routinely bankrupt businesses and cities, the world’s economic and political powers may decide to aggressively re-engineer the global climate. One option is to fill the atmosphere with enough sunlight-reflecting particles to restore surface temperatures to pre-industrial levels. If they do, would all be cool?

Absolutely not, according to a new study that asked the question to 12 models forced to simulate the global climate with four times more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than existed in 1850, the start of the industrial revolution. Under such conditions, reflecting sunlight in order to lower temperatures to pre-industrial levels would cause monsoonal rains to drop 5 to 7 percent below pre-industrial levels.

Girl power! 9th grade girls developing electricity-generating desks

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 23, 2013   View Article

A team of 9th grade girls is developing a system of interconnected desks that turns the nervous foot-tapping energy of school kids into electricity to power study lights, laptops and fans. The young students aim to bring the desks to school children in Africa.

“In order to get a good education, one of the basic foundations is electricity,” Rose DelleFave, the team leader at Providence Day School in Charlotte, N.C., told NBC News. “So we decided it would be good to start there and give them that basic tool.”

Pummeled kite surfer dreams up new way to harvest wave energy

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 11, 2013   View Article

Samuel Etherington first hit the waves with a board and kite in hand, the waves hit back with a bruising vengeance. But in learning to harness their power for his kitesurfing adrenaline rush, he found inspiration to design a next-generation wave energy harvester. The contraption scored him a coveted finalist spot in an engineering design competition and could serve as a viable alternative source of energy to boot.

“The waves would just roll and smash over you and then you would tumble and try to get back up on the board and try again and try again,” the mechanical design student at Brunel University near London told NBC News about his early days kitesurfing. “That then really physically hit home. There is a lot of power to be had here.”

CIA said to back study on ways to hack the global climate

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 18, 2013   View Article

The U.S. intelligence community is helping to fund a study that is evaluating ways to cool the global climate, including proposals to pump the skies full of sunlight reflecting particles and build machines that vacuum greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

A final report is tentatively scheduled for release in the spring or summer of 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences, which has convened a committee of science and policy experts to study the issue.

Tornado-proof homes? Up to 85 percent can be spared, expert says

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 21, 2013   View Article

Homes in the direct path of the monster tornado that roared through Oklahoma City suburbs Monday were all but certain to be destroyed. Yet inexpensive construction techniques could have kept up to 85 percent of the area’s damaged houses standing, according to a civil engineer.

The trick is already common along the hurricane-prone Gulf Coast — the use of clips and straps to keep the walls bolted to the roof and the foundation, explained Andrew Graettinger, a civil engineer at the University of Alabama. These parts cost about $1 each.

Student program wins $100K prize for health innovations for developing world

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 1, 2013   View Article

Getting the correct dose of liquid medicine into a syringe is a challenge — just ask any parent treating a toddler’s fever at 3 am. Enter the DoseRight Syringe Clip, a seemingly simple L-shaped plastic gizmo that fits into the barrel of a standard oral syringe to ensure accurate dosages. It was designed by students, and will likely save lives.

The gadget is the brainchild of Rice University’s Beyond Traditional Borders, an engineering design initiative established and run by bioengineering professors Rebecca Richards Kortum and Maria Oden with the goal of developing and improving access to health innovations for the world’s poorest communities. On Wednesday, they were honored with the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Global Innovation.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach