Top 5 STEM This Week

Click to read about robotic drummers, Apple’s encryption case, humanoids, and more. Shown above are various robots built by the robotics company Boston Dynamics. Image from Boston Dynamics.

By Lauren Yang

Click to read about robotic drummers, Apple’s encryption case, humanoids, and more. Shown above are various robots built by the robotics company Boston Dynamics. Image from Boston Dynamics.
  1. Robotic arm + drummer = three-armed music machine

Engineers at Georgia Tech have developed a robotic arm that listens and plays along to the beat of its drummer. Originally designed for a drummer who lost an arm, this device has been modified to strap onto any drummer. The robotic arm can listen to the current rhythm and tempo and adjust accordingly. In addition, the arm can sense where it is located, meaning it can pinpoint its position relative to the drums and the human arms. Read more here.

In the movie The Martian, Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon), an astronaut stranded on Mars, survives by eating the potatoes he farmed. Growing potatoes on Mars may become more than just fiction, thanks to some experiments NASA is conducting. Photo from The Martian.

2. Potatoes: our next meal on Mars
 NASA is currently testing if potatoes are a viable option for food on Mars by conducting an experiment at the International Potato Center in Peru. To do so, scientists have chosen over 100 types of potatoes and are currently testing them to see if they can survive the harsh Martian environment. The experiment began in January and will end in March. If the experiment is fruitful, The Martian’s Mark Watney and his potato farming system may become a reality. Read more here.

Apple’s refusal to build a backdoor into their products sparked controversy. Creative commons image from Rob Janoff.

3. Apple’s encryption case
 Last week, Apple was ordered by a federal judge to release encrypted data from the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c. On Feb 16, Chief Executive of Apple Tim Cook released a letter stating that the order would force the company to build a backdoor to its devices, which would be very dangerous. Many prominent tech moguls, like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai, have expressed support for Cook’s decision. Others, like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, oppose Cook’s views. “This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case,” Gates said to the Financial Times. Read more here.

Facebook Messenger users may soon be subjected to ads. Creative commons photo from Kārlis Dambrāns.

5. The next generation of humanoid robots
 Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics recently released a video of its latest humanoid robot, Atlas. Weighing around 180 pounds and standing five feet nine inches tall, Atlas can perform a variety of tasks, including picking up objects, walking in snow, and opening doors. Read more here.

Originally published at coa.menloschool.org on February 24, 2016.

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