Sunday, February 20, 2011


I recently chauffeured several high school students around UNT's Discovery Park campus. This was a group of Lake Dallas High School students that were interested in engineering. By the way, if you're a high school teacher or parent of a high school student and you want to take a tour of the campus, let this lady know.

Anyway long story short they got to see our Engineering Technology department, Materials Science department, and a demo of robotics from students in Electrical Engineering. This demo in particular was quite interesting - it demonstrated different applications of fairly common devices and how robotics can be used in - say - a Mars roving environment. This ties into a grant that UNT's electrical engineering students take advantage of. These students are tasked with thinking of and creating feasible Mars rovers or perhaps even asteroid rovers that need to be able to navigate, think, and maneuver a foreign surface. You may be aware of robots that NASA recently sent to Mars to explore the martian surface. As I am told, these robots are controlled manually by humans in Houston. Do you know how long it takes for a transmission to go from Earth to Mars? 10 seconds. A lot can happen in 10 seconds. Try driving a remote control car with a 10 second delay. Not easy. These students are in a bid to develop totally autonomous Mars roving bots.

Try guessing what this bot is made of!

As my title promises, here's a video of a laser. This thing requires ~3000 watts of power!

The laser starts at about :50 seconds

What it's doing is etching someone's name into the casing of their phone. Mind you, they did not stick their whole phone in there, they simply removed the back case. One kid had an iphone and really wanted his name etched into it, but he couldn't ;)

In all fairness, plastic melts pretty well at those temperatures, so it didn't turn out as great as he would have liked. In fact, the plastic casing looks more like it has been shot or something, or a grenade went off next to it. Metallic materials are best for etching. This is not what Material Science is all about mind you, this is just 1 of a million uses and applications of this type of science.