Google Science Fair finalist explains squid-inspired underwater propulsion

google-sciencefair-finalist-squid-propulsion

Meet [Alex Spiride]. He’s one of the fifteen finalists of the 2013 Google Science Fair. A native of Plano, Texas, [Alex] entered his squid-inspired underwater propulsion system in the 13-14 year old category.

The red cylinder shown in the image inlay is his test rig. It is covered well on his project site linked above. You just need to click around the different pages using the navigation tiles in the upper right to get the whole picture. The propulsion module uses water sprayed out the nozzle to push the enclosure forward. The hull is made of PVC, with a bladder inside which is connected to the nozzle. The bladder is full of water, but the cavity between it and the hull is full of air. Notice the plastic hose which is used to inject pressurized air, squeezing the bladder to propel the water out the nozzle. Pretty neat huh?

We think [Alex's] work stands on its own. But we can’t help thinking what the next iteration could look like. We wonder what would happen if you wrapped that bladder in muscle wire? Would it be strong enough to squeeze the bladder?

You can see all fifteen finalists at the GSF announcement page. Just don’t be surprised if you see some of those other projects on our front page in the coming days.

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Science and engineering festival comes to DC

If you’re around the Washington, DC metro area next weekend, here’s something for you. It’s the USA Science and Engineering festival, and if you’ve ever wanted to talk to [Adam] and [Jamie] from Mythbusters, [Bill Nye], and several astronauts, this is where you should be next weekend.

This is the second USA Science and Engineering festival. The first festival, brought to bear because of an act of congress. The last festival was highly successful (and fun), so we can’t wait to see the reports from next weekend roll in. This time around, there will be scale models of the Orion Service Module, an F-22 cockpit Demonstrator, and a demonstion of an F-35 taking off vertically. Yep, Lockheed Martin is hosting this festival, but it’s still cool.

Even though the website makes it seem this festival is geared towards children, we’re sure we’d have a blast visiting. Here’s a solution: borrow a niece or nephew and show them what engineering can do.

We have to note you can also visit the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center while you’re in DC. It’s just a short Metro ride (with a bus transfer) from the convention center where the festival will be taking place. We highly recommend the tour of the facility. If anyone knows if you can see the space shuttles Discovery and Enterprise at the Udvar-Hazy center next weekend, drop us a line. We’ll amend our DC ‘look at cool stuff’ recommendations.

Tip ‘o the hat to [Paul] for sending this one in.

Hackers age 14-18 can compete to put their project into space

If you’re between the ages of 14 and 18, or have a child who is, here’s a chance to put a project into space. NASA is partnering with YouTube, Lenovo, and a few other entities for a contest that challenges participants to dream up low-gravity experiments. You can enter as an individual or in teams of up to three people, and may put forth up to three experiment ideas for judging. Getting in on the first round is as easy as recording and uploading a video. You’ll need to state a scientific question or principle you want to test, a hypothesis of what can be learned, and a method for testing it.

As with most of the projects we encounter, the seminal idea is always the toughest part. And since the folks here at Hackaday are too old to enter, we thought we’d propose throwing around some ideas in the comments to get the ball rolling (the contest FAQ says it’s okay to get help from others so we’re not ruining it for everyone). We’ll go first.

It looks like experiments can be Biology or Physics related, and can’t use hazardous chemicals, weapons, or anything sharp. We’d love to see some tests that measure how well electronic sensors work in the microgravity. For instance, can you use a gyroscope sensor reliably in micro-gravity? What about an electronic compass; does it always point toward earth? What about robotic propulsion? We’d love to see a minature ROV swimming through the air like a water-bourne vessel would on earth.

Your turn. Leave a comment to let us know what you’d do if you could enter. Oh, and we’ve also embedded the contest promo video after the break.

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[Easton's] animatronic hand gets 3D printed upgrade

[Easton] as been working with [Jeremy Blum] to come up with the newest version of his animatronic hand. You may remember seeing [Easton's] first animatronic hand, with which he won his regional science fair and made a trip to nations. Since then he’s been working on improvements, and with access to [Jeremy's] Makerbot he harnessed the power of open source design to make his own printed hand, extending a different Thingiverse project.

He’s still using the original sensor glove as a controller. It sends commands to the Arduino controlling the arm via an Xbee module. From there, five servos inside a fiberglass forearm move each finger and the thumb. The video clip after the break gives [Easton] a chance to show off all of the new design features, and finishes with a demonstration of the hand grasping different objects. We had a chance to chat with him briefly. He’s got big goals for himself, aiming to design a prosthetic arm for under $1000. That’s not a career goal… he’d like to get it done this year.

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Google takes Science Fairs global

Teen hackers get ready to compete for cash and prizes. Google, the big G itself, is sponsoring a Science Fair but it’s not in a town near you, it’s online (no surprise there). Project entries will populate the content of a new corner of the Googleverse, with contestants 13-18 competing alone or as a team. The grand prize is a trip to the Galapagos Islands for ten days, but there are also cash scholarships for all of the winners. Check out their promo video for the event after the break.

If you’re a college student who’s too old to be eligible don’t forget to keep your eyes open for details about 2011 Google Summer of Code. Last year’s information is still up, but they usually release the details sometime in the first quarter.

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