Posts tagged Engineering Center
The University of Colorado Police Department has received reports of a high number of thefts during the month of October. Since Oct. 2, UCPD has recorded 15 cases of a suspect or suspects stealing laptops and wallets from common areas or unlocked offices. The thief has targeted academic building offices, as well as the University Memorial Center. The following buildings have seen thefts in recent weeks: Benson Earth Sciences, Continuing Education, Engineering Center, Environmental Design, Imig Music, Koelbel Building, Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, University Theatre, Visual Arts Complex and Woodbury Arts and Sciences. For a Google Map with dates, locations and stolen items, see http://bit.ly/Oct2012CUthefts.
From Oct. 1-18 this year, UCPD has recorded 86 stolen pieces of property. During that same period last year, 68 items were stolen. CU Police have also seen a higher number of bike thefts in recent weeks. In nearly all cases, thieves have cut cable locks.
“Officers will be increasing their presence around bike racks and academic buildings, but we need the public’s help, too,” said CU Police spokesman Ryan Huff. “These are crimes of opportunity. Leaving your valuable items unattended or unprotected makes you a target for theft.”
The Police Department offers the following safety tips:
- Always keep your office locked when unattended. That includes when leaving for lunch or using the restroom.
- In common areas, such as dining facilities, libraries or the University Memorial Center, never leave laptops, mobile phones or other valuable items unattended.
- Record serial numbers of bikes, desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones and other items that could be stolen. If these items are recovered, it is easier to return them to you.
- Register your bike at the CU Bike Stations – east of the UMC or west of the Engineering Center. Register your laptop at the Telecommunications Center, also east of the UMC.
- For more crime prevention tips, see http://police.colorado.edu/crime-prevention-and-safety
A monthlong summer exhibit at the University of Colorado Boulder Art Museum will feature a dynamic new media composition based on innovative robotics technology.
Called “Swarm Wall,” the large-scale interactive piece displays changing fields of color, light and sound that are driven by a distributed form of artificial intelligence.
As many as 70 intelligent “nodes” behind the piece create a swarming effect when they detect movement and communicate it with one another. The nodes exhibit swarm behavior because each performs actions solely based on its own plan and the actions of its immediate neighbors.
The 42-by-12-foot installation is the first product from a new art and technology research group on campus. The group was launched by faculty members Michael Theodore of the College of Music, who received a $44,000 grant from CU’s Innovative Seed Grant Program last year to support the collaboration, and Nikolaus Correll of the computer science department.
Also involved in the Swarm Wall is Ken Sugawara, a visiting computer science professor from Tohuku Gakuin University in Japan who is an expert in animal flocking behavior, the inspiration behind the patterns the wall displays.
The seed grant, which Correll and Theodore say already has helped them attract additional funding, was the first step toward establishing an active lab where students, faculty and professional researchers from various disciplines collaborate on cutting-edge applications of artificial intelligence.
“We’re now calling it the ‘if’ lab because we want to see what happens if artists put engineers in front of tough problems,” said Correll, who is providing space for the growing group within his own robotics laboratory in the Engineering Center at CU-Boulder.
“We want to assemble some basic, inexpensive tools that students can use to explore and to develop new applications of robotics,” Correll said.
Scattered around the lab last week were a collection of small custom circuit boards, electronic panels, items resembling ping pong balls and various other components that are being used to assemble robotic devices.
An assembly of circuit boards connected with bright orange cables also was mounted on a partition in the lab in preparation for the installation of Swarm Wall. Small mechanical arms or flippers waved back and forth as the “brains” behind the Swarm Wall were tested. Sometimes the movement was synchronized, while other times a ripple effect would occur in response to some stimuli.
“Artistic exploration can help computer scientists and engineers to ask questions they wouldn’t have otherwise asked,” said Theodore, who also serves as director of the ATLAS Center for Media, Arts and Performance.
“The difference between arts and science is very diffuse; both want to discover new things,” Theodore said. “The cool thing about art is that we can explore systems that are not of interest to classical funding agencies, but might be so after maturing in a lab like the ‘if’ lab.”
Swarm Wall is one of four pieces in “Michael Theodore: Field Theory,” an exhibition of kinetic sculpture, sound, lighting and works on paper, running June 15 through July 14 at the CU Art Museum. The exhibition is free and open to the public. An opening reception will be held on June 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. For additional information, visitors may call the CU Art Museum at 303-492-8300 or go to http://cuartmuseum.colorado.edu.
Jan. 25, 2012
CU-BOULDER-LED TEAM TO ASSESS DECLINE OF
ARCTIC SEA ICE IN ALASKA’S BEAUFORT SEA
A national research team led by the University of Colorado Boulder is embarking on a two-year, multi-pronged effort to better understand the impacts of environmental factors associated with the continuing decline of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
The team will use tools ranging from unmanned aircraft and satellites to ocean buoys in order to understand the characteristics and changes in Arctic sea ice, which was at 1.67 million square miles during September 2011, more than 1 million square miles below the 1979-2000 monthly average sea ice extent for September — an area larger than Texas and California combined. Critical ocean regions north of the Alaskan coast, like the Beaufort Sea and the Canada Basin, have experienced record warming and decreased sea ice extent unprecedented in human memory, said CU-Boulder Research Professor James Maslanik, who is leading the research effort.
The team will be targeting the Beaufort Sea, considered a “marginal ice zone” where old and thick multiyear sea ice has failed to survive during the summer melt season in recent years, said Maslanik of CU-Boulder’s Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research in CU’s engineering college. Such marginal ice zones are characterized by extensive ice loss and a strong “ice-albedo” feedback.
“Sea ice is lost when the darker ocean absorbs more sunlight in the form of heat in the summers, resulting in potentially thinner sea ice that re-forms the following winter,” Maslanik said. “This positive feedback between heat absorption by the ocean and accelerated melting becomes reinforcing in itself.” Marginal ice zones also are characterized by significant human and marine mammal activity, he said.
There was a record loss of sea ice cover over the Arctic in 2007, he said. “In some areas of the Arctic Ocean the multiyear ice rebounded, but in the Beaufort Sea we did not see that kind of multiyear ice persistence like we used to see,” said Maslanik, who also is a research professor in the aerospace engineering sciences department.
“The biggest question is whether places like the Beaufort Sea and adjacent Canada Basin have passed a ‘tipping point’ and now are essentially sub-Arctic zones where ice disappears each summer,” he said. Such ice loss could be causing fundamental changes in ocean conditions, including earlier annual blooms of phytoplankton, which are microscopic plant-like organisms that drive the marine food web.
The vast majority of climate scientists believe shrinking Arctic sea ice in recent decades is due to rising temperatures primarily caused by human activities that pump huge amounts of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The new $3 million study led by Maslanik, “The Marginal Ice Zone Observations and Processes EXperiment,” or MIZOPEX, is being funded by NASA.
The team will undertake extensive airborne surface mapping using a variety of Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS, comparing the results with data collected by a fleet of satellites from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Japanese space agency. Unlike satellites, small, unmanned aircraft can fly below the clouds, observe the same location continuously for hours and make more precise measurements of sea ice composition and sea surface temperatures. Maslanik and his CU-Boulder team previously used unmanned aircraft to assess ice conditions both in the Arctic and in Antarctica.
The MIZOPEX arsenal also will include floating buoys that measure ocean temperatures. CU-Boulder engineering faculty members Scott Palo and Dale Lawrence and their graduate students are converting miniaturized versions of dropsondes — standard weather reconnaissance devices designed to be dropped from aircraft and capture data as they fall toward Earth — into the buoys that will be deployed by the UAS.
The modified dropsondes, which were developed at CU-Boulder for use in Antarctica, will be combined with CU-designed miniature unmanned aircraft that will land on the ocean near sea ice floes. Such floes are critical to several species of Arctic wildlife, including polar bears, walruses and seals.
The buoys and unmanned craft will collect sea surface and subsurface temperatures to about a meter deep, while the overflying unmanned planes and satellites measure temperatures at the surface, Maslanik said. “We want to know if the warming is just at the ocean surface or if there is additional heat getting into the mixed layers of the upper ocean, either from absorbed sunlight or from ocean currents, that could be contributing to sea ice melt.”
The team plans to gather information over 24-hour cycles to determine how the ocean and ice are reacting to atmospheric changes. “Understanding what’s happening in the water is critical to forecasting what will happen to ice in the near term, as well as in the decades to come,” said MIZOPEX team scientist Betsy Weatherhead of CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
“We’ve never had the data before,” Weatherhead said. “With this new instrumentation, we’ll be able to ask questions and test theories about the drivers of ice melt.”
The MIZOPEX effort involves CU-Boulder, NASA, Fort Hays State University in Kansas, Brigham Young University, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, NOAA, the University of Washington and Columbia University. Ball Aerospace Systems Group of Boulder also is collaborating on the project.
Other MIZOPEX project scientists from CU include Brian Argrow, Sandra Castro, Ian Crocker, William Emery, Eric Frew and Mark Tschudi. Argrow directs the CU-headquartered Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles, a university-government-industry partnership for the development and application of unmanned vehicle systems.
For more information on MIZOPEX visit http://ccar.colorado.edu/mizopex/index.html.
For more information on CU-Boulder’s Research and Engineering Center for Unmanned Vehicles visit http://recuv.colorado.edu/.
Faculty and students at the University of Colorado Boulder will continue to play a significant role in the development of the Dream Chaser, a commercial spacecraft that will be used to carry astronauts to low Earth orbit, thanks to a new $80 million grant from NASA to Sierra Nevada Corp.
The Louisville, Colo.-based aerospace company was one of four companies to receive grants this week from NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program. The grant is a follow-on to Sierra Nevada’s NASA grant of $20 million for the Dream Chaser last year.
Roughly the size of a business jet, the 30-foot-long Dream Chaser is slated to launch vertically on an Atlas V rocket and land horizontally on conventional runways, similar to the much larger space shuttle. The spacecraft is based on NASA’s earlier HL-20 lifting body design.
As part of its continuing development of the Dream Chaser, Sierra Nevada will fund “human rating” research led by CU-Boulder Professor David Klaus of the aerospace engineering sciences department, according to Jim Voss, a CU faculty member and vice president of Sierra Nevada. Human rating research is aimed at developing a methodology for evaluating safety and operational aspects of spacecraft intended to transport crew.
“This is a great industry-academia collaboration that combines providing design input for the Dream Chaser to Sierra Nevada with four related thesis topics being pursued by Ph.D. students in our program,” Klaus said.
Sierra Nevada also will sponsor and fund a continuation of the CU-Boulder graduate student project involving Dream Chaser displays and controls, Voss said. The graduate project is focused on cockpit design and ergonomics evaluation to determine the best placement and type of controls to be used by the crew. The students are being advised by Voss and his colleague Joe Tanner, both of whom joined the CU-Boulder faculty after retiring as NASA astronauts.
Klaus, who heads the aerospace department’s bioastronautics focus area, has set up a laboratory in CU-Boulder’s Engineering Center housing three mock-ups of the spacecraft. One is a full-scale model of the Dream Chaser based on the earlier HL-20 design that is on loan from NASA to Sierra Nevada; another is a 15 percent scale model unit that was used for flight testing last December, and the third is the cockpit section being used to evaluate the layout for instrument displays and controls. A “public day” is being planned so that the community will have a chance to view the project.
“The University of Colorado and Sierra Nevada Corporation have formed a partnership that allows use of the tremendous intellectual resources of students and professors to help develop a commercial human spacecraft, the Dream Chaser,” said Voss. “I’m really pleased to continue the work that was started last year and look forward to more student involvement with this exciting project.”