Archive for March, 2010

Chocolate Rotunda Anyone?

The following is reposted from the March 31, 2010 UVa Today:

Curry’s Fabulous New Fabricator Brings Concepts from Digital Blueprint to 3-D Reality

March 25, 2010 — Imagine a desktop printer that produces tennis shoes, chocolate Rotundas, tubing for robots and even human organs. Not pictures of them, but the real deal.

It sounds futuristic, but its time is now. The machine is called a fabricator, and the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia will be the first in the country to integrate this type of technology into its teacher preparation curriculum.

“It sounds like science fiction, but it’s really, really tangible, and it’s really here,” said Cornell University scientist Hod Lipson, who spoke about the machine at Curry on March 4.

User-friendly software creates blueprints for the fabricator, which then pushes out layers of material until the object “prints” right before your eyes.

“You can download a rubber ducky off the Internet, hit the print button, and you will have that thing on your desktop, physically there,” Lipson said.

“Instead of spitting droplets of ink, it will spit out droplets of plastic” — or even organic materials, such as edible ingredients or human cells, to create food or human tissue. (In one study performed at the Stone Clinic in San Francisco, a collagen scaffold was fabricated for use as a template for the regeneration of meniscal cartilage and was successfully tested in 10 patients in an initial, Food and Drug Administration-approved, clinical feasibility trial.)

Lipson demonstrated the machine’s capabilities by producing a chocolate Rotunda for the audience at the Curry Library Innovation Commons, which included U.Va. community members and students from Crozet Elementary School.

“The implications of using the fabricators in the classroom are far-reaching,” said Glen Bull, co-director of the Curry School’s Center for Technology and Teacher Education.

Bull collaborated with Lipson, director of the Cornell Computational Synthesis Laboratory, to design a $1,800 3-D fabricator specifically for Curry and K-12 classrooms.

It was Bull’s vision that identified the potential for learning with the technology being developed for other uses in laboratories across the country.

“Math and science are naturally embedded in the process,” he said. “It empowers children, unleashes creativity and truly engages them to learn about the tools they need to be leaders in the world.”

Many of the students working with digital fabrication have expressed interest in engineering careers as a result of this experience, Bull said.

Lipson spoke at Curry in conjunction with the launch of the Children’s Engineering Initiative in the school’s Innovative Commons, which also debuted a prototype of the machine developed for Curry’s use.

“It’s the first of its kind,” Bull said of the system he calls “Fab@School.” “It will allow students to have the motivating and satisfying experience of taking their concepts from mind’s eye to physical form.”

The fabricator will join other similar machines and computers in the Children’s Engineering corner of the commons, a place where student teachers will be able to learn about the cutting-edge technology.

Fifth-graders from Crozet have been using a 2-D fabricator to print on a cardboard-type material that they then fold and glue to create a range of 3-D objects, including model rockets, castles and dioramas. In conjunction with Children’s Engineering efforts at the Curry School, they attended the March 4 launch.

Of the new fabricator, 10-year-old Trey Harvie said, “We mainly use it for generating 3-D objects for math, which was fun. But we could use it for other subjects like history and social studies.”

Bull, who has been with Curry for 35 years, credits the school’s leadership and a culture that has been cultivated over decades for his success in bringing this kind of leading technology to the community.

“The Curry School is a very unusual place,” he said. “It has a commitment to a culture that supports innovation. We’ve built the community that would support this kind of technology.”

Lipson compares the accessibility of fabricators to the personal computer revolution in 1975.

“No one knew what you could do until the first kits came out,” he said. “The PC was the democratization of information and innovation.” And so is digital fabrication, he said.

Asked about Lipson’s presentation, which highlighted the more exotic uses for the technology – such as tissue replacement – fifth-grader Hanna Clark said, “From what we’ve done, I’d believe just about anything” is possible.

— By Ellen Daniels

The Glamour of Serial Entrepreneurship

The Glamour of Serial Entrepreneurship

Presented by Sandy Lerner, Co-Founder of Cisco Systems and Urban Decay Cosmetics

Thursday, April 1st at 5:00 p.m. in Room 120 at the COMM School

Hosted by:

The Entrepreneurship Group at McIntire aims to create an atmosphere allowing students to cultivate their entrepreneurial plans through interaction with like-minded peers, professors, and established entrepreneurs. Members are provided guidance into the entrepreneurial field through group facilitation, business plan presentations, and participation in entrepreneurial competitions.

For more information, please visit:

Our Guest Speaker:

The entrepreneurial spirit and wide array of business endeavors in  which Sandy Lerner has participated are remarkable.  Ms. Lerner is a  Stanford graduate with a masters in statistics and computer science.  Most notably, she co-founded Cisco Systems and Urban Decay cosmetics.  She is also a successful author, philanthropist, and farm manager.  Additionally, she engaged in the creation of the first router, leading  to the development of the modern Internet.

A Reception will be held in the McIntire Graduate Lounge from 6:30-7:00pm.   All Faculty & Students are invited.

MS Access Short Course

Doing More with MS Access

Sherry Lake
Tuesday, March 30, 2010, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
In the Brown Science and Engineering Library Electronic Classroom

This session will assume a basic understanding of Microsoft Access for development of relational databases, and will take that a step further to focus on higher-level relational databases and specific applications for scientific research.

You can register for this course by submitting a help ticket at

Student Sustainability Project Competition

SEAS Undergraduate and Graduate Students–

Please consider participating in the 2nd Annual Student Sustainability Project Competition described below.  The top 20 submissions will be selected to present their work in the Dome Room of the Rotunda, and a team of judges will select the top three presentations.  Last year’s winner was a SEAS student!

Student Sustainability Competition Poster

More information at

Quantum Dots to Improve the Picture

Quantum Dots Could Radically Increase Quality Of Cellphone Photos.

The New York Times (3/22, B6, Vance) reports on California-based InVisage Technologies, which “has spent more than three years trying to build a proprietary film that coats the image sensors used in cellphone cameras and allows them to capture more light.” The endeavor is “a rare commercial use” of quantum dots. According to Jess Lee, the chief executive of InVisage, “with such technology, the current three-megapixel camera found in the Apple iPhone could be turned into a 12-megapixel camera that works better in varying light conditions.”

The Wired (3/22, Ganapati) “Gadget Lab” blog reports, “A quantum dot is a nanocrystal made of a special class of semiconductors” that “allows manufacturers to have a very high degree of control over its conductive properties, and is about 90% efficient at absorbing light, according to Lee.” InVisage’s design involves the suspension of these quantum dots in a fluid, which it then “spins it onto a layer of silicon [and] adds the required metal circuitry to create a new type of sensor that it is calling QuantumFilm.” A number of sources including the CNET News (3/22, Shankland) “Deep Tech” blog, Technology Review (3/22, Greene) and the Wall Street Journal (3/22, Clark) “Digits” blog also report the story.

Reposted from the March 22, 2010 ASEE First Bell.

NanoDays Open House

The NanoStar Institute is holding its second NanoDays Open House this Sunday, March 28 at Wilsdorf Hall.  Free, and open to the public, NanoDays’ goal is to introduce our local community to concepts and research associated with nanotechnology.  The Open House runs from 2:00 – 5:00 pm, featuring many interactive demonstrations, games, films, posters and multimedia, and construction of the 30 foot nanotube balloon sculpture.  From 5:00 – 6:15, SEAS professors John Bean and Eric Loth will be presenting lay-level talks on “The Incredible Shrinking Transistor” and “The Ultimate Water Slide”, in ChemE 005.

See for more information.  I hope you can come, and bring your family.

Best regards,

Jerry Floro

Matlab Community of Computational Practice

Matlab@UVA Community of Computational Practice

Friday, March 26, from 11:00am-12:45pm
MEC Bldg. Room 205

The Matlab community of computational practice is being established to provide a place, both physically and within the cyber-infrastructure, for members of the local Matlab programming community to get help, exchange ideas, and keep abreast of developments in the use of Matlab for doing computational research.

The community launch event will provide pizza and soft drinks (come early).

Several random drawings will be computed (what else?) for swag donated by the MathWorks (shirts, usb hubs, flashlights).

Short talks will given on:

* Matlab@UVA community collab site to support computational practice
* Scaling up compute/memory intensive Matlab applications for high performance platforms
* Future events

This event is meant to social as well as be informational.

More information about joining the Matlab@UVA community can be found at:

This event is being hosted by the:

University of Virginia Alliance for Computational Science and  Engineering

for questions– please contact:

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