September 2009


Hey all – just wanted to pop in briefly and encourage you to take a look at the “A Day In The Life at MIT” project that is aditl09bgoing on today. Students are photographing their days as they happen. Watch it unfold here: http://adayinthelife.mit.edu/

Tish Scolnik '10 working in Tanzania.

Tish Scolnik '10 working in Tanzania.

Glamour Magazine named Tish Scolnik as one of their Top 10 College Women (video), recognizing her work on mobility issues for the disabled, in the October issue. As a Public Service Center Fellow, Tish has traveled to Africa three times working with wheelchair workshops. Tish designed a three-wheel folding “small-business wheelchair” and five have since been built. Tish is also a member of the Leveraged Freedom Chair team, which designed a long-distance, lever-powered wheelchair that can traverse rugged terrain. Tish is also working with one of her community partners in Tanzania to build a new wheelchair workshop and skills training center.

Tish has helped four disabled entrepreneurs to start small businesses in Tanzania. These pilot entrepreneurs, emplower with their new wheelchairs, began by selling batik and bead jewelry, fixing small electrical goods, and repairing shoes. The shoe repair man has used some of his business profits to help two other disabled entrepreneurs to set-up shoe-shining businesses close to his stall.

Some of the 3-D animation used to recreate battles in Broadside.

Some of the 3-D animation used to recreate battles in Broadside. Click to view trailers.

In the 17th century, New York was known as New Amsterdam and a rivalry existed between the British and Dutch that spanned oceans, continents, and empires and resulted in the fiercest naval war in the age of sail. Two hundred battleships, in miles-long formations, fought to determine who would dominate world trade for the next 200 years. Broadside, a documentary written, directed, and produced by Bruce Twickler ’67, SM ’68, captures this drama using period houses, galleries, gardens, and forts as the backdrop and through carefully researched recreations rendered in sophisticated computer graphic simulations.

The two-hour film will air on public television nationwide beginning in October. But you can be among the first to view it at this premiere event sponsored by the MIT Club of Boston.

  • Date: September 29
  • Time: Screening begins at 7:00 p.m.
  • Location: Kirsch Auditorium, Stata Center (Bldg. 32), MIT campus
  • Cost: $10 for MIT Club members and $15 for non-members; price includes refreshments and pre-screening gathering with Twickler, starting at 6:30 p.m. A Q&A will follow the movie at 9:00 p.m.

Register today with the MIT Club of Boston.

Twickler is president of his own Cambridge-based production company, Docema, which previously released the documentary Damrell’s Fire, about how Fire Chief John Damrell stopped America’s cities from burning down.

Watch trailers and learn about the history of the British-Dutch conflict, ship construction, and more on the film’s Web site.

If you are an MIT graduate you may know some amazing inventors—you might even be one yourself. And now you can nominate someone for the $100K Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability. Or someone could nominate you! Deadline Oct. 3.

Joel Selanikio won the sustainability award last year for a new way to use cell phones for health data collection in rural areas.

Joel Selanikio's EpiSurveyor at work.

The Lemelson-MIT Program honors exceptional inventors with lifetime awards of $500K and a $30K MIT student award each year. The program also hosts a creative Web site packed with stories of inventors, an Inventor’s Handbook, and games and trivia about invention.

The sustainability prize recognizes inventors whose products or processes impact issues of global relevance, as well as issues that impact local communities in terms of meeting basic health needs, and building sustainable livelihoods for the world’s poorest populations. Go to the Website for eligibility and nomination information.

Last year sustainability winner Joel Selanikio won for a new way to use cell phones for health data collection in rural areas.

Photo: Sandia National Laboratories

Photo: Sandia National Laboratories

Boston Dynamics, the MIT spinoff now famous for its quadruped robots, is working on a new urban-surveillance robot that is capable of launching itself more than 25 feet in the air.

The Precision Urban Hopper is semi-autonomous and about the size of a shoe box. It typically relies on four wheels to get around, but a piston-actuated leg that has been likened to an explosive pogo stick allows it to hop over obstacles 40-60 times its own height.

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico originally designed the hopper, which is being funded through the military’s research wing, DARPA. Waltham-based Boston Dynamics was recently awarded the contract for producing the next generation of robots. Delivery is planned for late 2010.

Watch a video of the Precision Urban Hopper:

George Smoot greets fifth graders.

George Smoot greets fifth graders.

American astrophysicist George Smoot ’66, PhD ’71 won $1M on the TV game show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” on Sept. 18. He was only the second person to win $1M on the show and the first man to do so.

Of course, this is not the first prize he’s won. Smoot was awarded a Physics Nobel Prize in 2006. He won the Nobel Prize for his work on Cosmic Background Explorer Satellite (COBE) with John C. Mather that led to the measurement “…of the black body form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation.” This work helped cement the big-bang theory of the universe. According to the Nobel Prize committee, “the COBE-project can also be regarded as the starting point for cosmology as a precision science.”

And he even had fun winning a million dollars. Watch the episode. His final question? “What’s the location of Acadia National Park?”

Fermenting grape juice being tested for sugar and alcohol content, Domaine du Vissoux, Beaujolais. (© Owen Franken/Photographed for the New York Times, September 17, 2007).

Fermenting grape juice being tested for sugar and alcohol content, Domaine du Vissoux, Beaujolais. (© Owen Franken/Photographed for the New York Times, September 17, 2007).

Curious about Owen Franken? View more of his work via the Franken Photo of the Week category, learn more in this profile, read a What Matters opinion column he wrote called “Life in Brownian Motion,” or visit his Web site.

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