Archive for January, 2011

Football and Technology

Technology Likely To Have Wide-Ranging Impact On NFL In 2020.

In a series of articles about the future of technology and the NFL, the Chicago Tribune (1/29, Farmer) reports, “No one can be precisely sure where technology will take the league in 10 years, and trying to guess is a fun but often fruitless pursuit.” Predictions historically have a spotty record of panning out. So far, “the incredible technological advances have been made in how and where we watch football, and how much information is at our fingertips.” The article considers what “the game look like in 2020” in terms of its scope, its composition, and the technology it will employ. “In many ways, the future is now. At a Pro Bowl practice last week, Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick wore a tiny camera on his helmet and the footage was posted on, giving football fans a chance to see how a play develops from his perspective.”

The Chicago Tribune (1/29, Farmer) reported, “Priya Narasimhan, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and her team of 10 engineering students have developed a ‘smart football’ with a miniature GPS unit and accelerometer, both contained in a half-ounce microchip inside the ball. The chip can measure factors such as ball speed, spin, trajectory and – even when it’s buried under a pile of players – the precise location of the football.” The technologically enhanced football is just one piece of technology the NFL is considering “to make officiating and game timing even more accurate.” The article describes some of the challenges the team faced outfitting the ball with new technology, such as determining a viable power supply and adding technology without altering “the weight, the spiral, the torque or the feel of the football.”

A third Chicago Tribune (1/29, Farmer) article reported football helmet company Riddell “has developed a futuristic system for measuring the severity of hits to the head, and tracking them over the course of the player’s football career.” The company “has specialized helmets fitted with accelerometers that capture, record and measure hits to the head.” Thad Ide, senior vice president of research and product development for Riddell, “said he can envision a day when NFL players wear helmets specific to their positions. So, for instance, an offensive lineman might have extra protection from all the hits he absorbs to the forehead, whereas a receiver might have additional protection to handle a hit to the side of the head.” The Tribune notes that “Riddell is but one of many companies in the ultra-competitive field of developing helmets and pads.”

Reposted from the 1/31/11 issue of ASEE First Bell

Engineering at Sea

Attention: All Adventurous UVA Engineering Students

The MV Explorer will embark from Nassau on May 20th, 2011. Its mission for the ensuing, 26-day voyage to seven countries throughout Central America will be to explore the greatest challenges we face during the 21st century: energy, the environment, hunger, access to clean water, education, human rights…. This will be a truly unique opportunity to learn about and to experience a world quite apart from the one most of us know.

UVA courses you can experience as part of the ‘Engineering A New Tomorrow’ voyage of Semester At Sea, taught by world-class experts (some of them UVA Engineering School faculty), range from sustainable shelter design, food production, renewable energy, and water to the political economics of Central America and global health.

For more information, or to apply, go to There is no deadline for application, but don’t wait too long! You will be notified of acceptance within about ten days following receipt of your application. Contact Prof. Dana Elzey if you need further information or have questions.


Dana Elzey


Dana M. Elzey, Dr.rer.nat.

Associate Professor of Materials Science & Engineering Director Rodman Scholars & SEAS International Programs University of Virginia

395 McCormick Rd. PO Box 400745

Charlottesville, VA 22904-4745



Computer Chess

Studying Deep Blue: The History and Engineering behind Computer Chess By: Lawrence Aung

Article appears in the Vol. 11, Issue 3 edition of Illumin, the undergraduate engineering magazine from the University of Southern California.  View this issue at

What Do You Need to Know?

The Thomas Publishing Company’s has recently established a large set of informational guides to many areas of engineering practice.  Check them out at

Note:  The University of Virginia Libraries is not affiliated with Thomas Publishing or ThomasNet and provides the above link as a public service.  Use any information found at the site at your own risk and discretion.

Are You Research Ready?

The following article is reposted from the January 6,2001 issue of UVa Today Online News:

Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering Helps Make Students and Faculty ‘Research-Ready’

January 6, 2011 — Major research is increasingly complex, collaborative, cross-disciplinary and multi-institutional. Identifying the functions of genes, determining the effects of human activity on long-term climate, calculating the innumerable scenarios of how atoms behave in physics experiments, better understanding how market fluctuations affect economies – all require the use of massive computing resources, and the ability to make use of that power.

“Research is changing drastically. Everything is computerized in the sciences these days. There is a deluge of data that must be analyzed,” said Andrew Grimshaw, director of the University of Virginia Alliance for Computational Science and a professor of computer science in the Engineering School. “The problem is, researchers who are highly skilled in their scientific disciplines may not have the computing skills needed to cope with a rapidly growing data load.

“They need help.”

That is where UVACSE comes in. With a core staff of five computing professionals and a cadre of highly-trained graduate students, UVACSE is helping scientists and scholars across Grounds to better use computing resources to perform complex data analysis, to build and run computer models, and to make use of computer clusters at U.Va. and at computing centers nationwide.

In the last three years, UVACSE staff members have worked with dozens of faculty researchers and graduate students to customize their capabilities for high-end research projects. Several U.Va. researchers are now tapped into some of the most important research sites and databases in the world, including national centers located in Tennessee, Illinois and Texas.

Even data-heavy visual projects in the arts and humanities sometimes require big computing power, said David Germano, associate professor of Tibetan and Buddhist studies in the College of Arts & Sciences and director of SHANTI, the Sciences, Humanities & Arts Network of Technological Initiatives, UVACSE’s sister organization.

“UVACSE has in a short time had a transformative impact on U.Va. by providing strategic resources and support for initiatives across Grounds pursuing research goals that are computationally intensive,” Germano said.

“We’re here to de-mystify computing.” Grimshaw said. “We’re saying to researchers across Grounds, ‘Come to us with your computing challenges and we’ll dedicate some staff expertise and time to you, and we can even facilitate arrangements with the national centers.'”

Using a consulting approach through its “Tiger Teams,” UVACSE offers free assistance, in which technical staff members work with researchers to optimize their capabilities for high-end computing, tailored to specific research problems. Thus far, UVACSE has provided Tiger Team assistance to more than 30 science and science-related projects in several disciplines.

“We provide intensive user support, a focused concentrated effort, to get people quickly through a particular problem and to solve it within a limited time duration,” Grimshaw said.

To compete nationally and internationally with peer institutions, Grimshaw said U.Va. researchers must make full use of the highly capable computing resources available at the University and through connections and collaborations with other universities and national laboratories.

Increasingly, major grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. departments of Energy and Defense are awarded to research teams capable of doing big science with proven high-speed computing capabilities. These capabilities enable and enhance collaborations among highly creative individuals working together to solve the toughest problems facing humanity.

Additionally, collaborations that result in large grants can become economic multipliers for the University and are essential to the continuing economic development of the Commonwealth of Virginia in high-tech fields of industry.

UVACSE resulted from a grassroots effort, beginning more than a decade ago with an ad hoc task force of faculty members from the Engineering, Arts & Sciences and the School of Medicine, all of whom were conducting complex investigations requiring high-end computing. A second task force five years later produced a plan and obtained $250,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation. With further funding from the Office of the Chief Information Officer, UVACSE became an entity, a resource with a staff and a mission to provide computing education and outreach through individual consultations and the management of shared computing resources across Grounds.

“We are here to help our faculty, students and research staff be fully ‘research-ready’ and proficient in computing skills so U.Va., as an institution, can adapt to the new realities of the complex research environment and compete well with our peer institutions,” Grimshaw said.

Astronomer John Hawley, one of the early advocates for a computing resource center, notes that since 2000, the speed of the fastest supercomputer has grown by nearly a factor of 10,000.

“This increase in computational power creates unprecedented opportunities for new ways to solve some of the most important and challenging research problems,” Hawley said. “But the capabilities of these computers now greatly exceed the ability of the average researcher to utilize them effectively. UVACSE creates a collaborative environment where those with discipline-specific knowledge can work with experts in algorithms, programming, data management and visualization. Researchers can focus on what they know best while collaborating with people who know the details of computing.”

For examples of research projects assisted by UVACSE, visit here and click on “exemplar Tiger Team projects.”

— By Fariss Samarrai, Senior News Officer, (434) 924-3778,

Certain Core Competencies Can Help Software Engineers Stand Out

In the “Career Management” blog at Tech Republic (1/21), Head Blogs Editor Toni Bowers writes that, according to CareerCast, software engineer is “the hottest job for 2011.” For those “who would like to know how to stand out from the pack” in this competitive field, Bowers lists “five core skills to help build critical competencies.” The list, created by Bruce Douglas, “Chief Evangelist from IBM Rational,” includes electric vehicle mechanics, probability and statistics, environmental engineering, engineering economics, and ethics.

Reposted from the 1/21/11 ASEE First Bell.

2011 Virginia Redistricting Workshop

Wednesday, February 2


Alderman Library Electronic Classroom

University of Virginia

Digital data, desktop mapping software, and the Internet promise for the first time ever to democratize and to make transparent the 2011 Virginia redistricting process.  Come see for yourself on Wednesday, February 2 as the Scholars’ Lab hosts a hands-on tutorial workshop by Gabriel Hudson of the Virginia Districting Competition project ( This public workshop will be held from 3:30-5:00pm in the Alderman Library Electronic Classroom.  Computer access will be provided on a first-come basis.

All Scholars’ Lab events are free and open to all. No registration is required.

We hope to see you in the Scholars’ Lab! And check out our full calendar of events for the Fall semester at

Autonomous Quadcopters Work Together To Build Structures

Clay Dillow writes in Popular Science (1/19), “Whenever a new video emerges from UPenn’s GRASP lab (that’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception), it’s usually awesome, and this one is no exception.” The video features a team of autonomous quad-rotor helicopters “working from a preset algorithm…constructing a cubic tower structure using specially designed parts that snap together via magnets when placed in the proper arrangement.” The quadcopters “can even judge the quality of their own construction, checking to make sure a piece is properly in place before moving on to the next segment.” Considering potential uses, Dillow writes, “Beyond the obvious applications in automated construction processes, swarms of construction ‘bots could be launched from naval vessels to autonomously construct shelters in disaster-stricken areas or to set up a forward operating base before live troops arrive in a combat zone.”

Reposted from the 1/20/11 ASEE First Bell

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Dexter Palmer reads from his debut novel.

Monday, February 7th, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Auditorium of the Harrison Institute/

Small Special Collections Library

Beautifully written, stunningly imagined, and wickedly funny, The Dream of Perpetual Motion (St. Martin’s Press, 2010; Picador, 2011) is a heartfelt meditation on the place of love in a world dominated by technology.  DEXTER PALMER lives in Princeton, New Jersey. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University.  Following the reading, Dexter will sign copies of the novel, available for purchase through the U.Va. Bookstore.  Sponsored by the U.Va. Library’s Harrison Institute and Scholars’ Lab, the U.Va. Department of English and Creative Writing MFA Program.

For more information, see:

Car “Platooning”

New Scientist (1/18, Graham-Rowe) reported on a road test of an automatic driving system in Sweden that showed “that a single car could join a platoon, be ‘enslaved’ by a lead truck” and become part of a convoy “and then exit safely.” As a result, “discussions are now under way to carry out tests on public roads in Spain next year.” The system, known as “platooning,” was tested by Volvo, “one of the partners of the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) Project” coordinated by the Cambridge engineering firm Ricardo UK, which has “€6.4 million of European Commission money” for it. The system would theoretically let “drivers read a book, surf the net or possibly even have a snooze while behind the wheel.” The SARTRE project aims to operate “platoons on public highways without having to change the infrastructure.”

Reposted from the 1/19/11 ASEE First Bell

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January 2011