Week in Geek 11.14.14

Week in Geek – a roundup of science, technology and pop culture news with commentary each Friday

The most exciting news of the week has been all over the Internet, and i’m sure no one has missed it.

That’s right, a racy photo spread featuring Kim Kardashian is the most intriguing thing that happened in the last seven days. But seriously…


More impressive than the news of Kim’s moon were a number of things related to the sun

Despite some landing difficulties when the Philae craft double bounced, the robotic probe did successfully land on the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet. However, it settled into a shadowed area that blocks the module’s solar panel array from getting enough sunlight to keep its battery going. Scientists are concerned that the battery’s power may not even last through this weekend, but in true human ingenuity fashion they are working on several things to possibly correct the situation. Since you can’t throw a rock without hitting news of this space rock (which itself dwarfs the greater Los Angles area), let’s move on to something that may have slipped under your radar.

That's one big ol' comet!
That’s one big ol’ comet!

The Dutch love their bicycles…and solar energy

Something that has no problem collecting solar energy is the world’s first solar bike lane, which became available for use Nov. 12 in the Netherlands’ suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer. This stretch of road runs 230 ft. and cost $3.75 million, and the country plans to lengthen it to 320 ft. by 2016 in an ambitious plan to one day power everything, like traffic lights and electric cars, entirely using solar panels.

The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) has dubbed the lane as the SolaRoad, and citizens there are excited to use it, considering it a very useful and very cool thing with roughly 2,000 cyclists expected to make their commute on it each day. Hopefully, their appointed spokesperson will eventually get back to me with answers to some of the questions i lobbed their way. If so, you can be sure i’ll share the update.

Installation of SolaRoad in the Netherlands.
Installation of SolaRoad in the Netherlands.

Constructed of crystalline silicon solar cells embedded into concrete and covered by translucent tempered glass, SolaRoad is another piece of the energy puzzle aimed at turning road surfaces into energy harvesters.

Not to be outdone by the SolaRoad is another solar-powered path in the Netherlands. The Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bicycle path was created by artist Daan Roosegaarde and inspired by Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”

The Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bike path.
The Van Gogh-Roosegaarde bike path.

This pathway is constructed of sunlight-absorbing stones that glow at night. It’s part of a larger Van Gogh Cycle Route running 208 miles that connect areas in the Netherlands where Van Gogh was born and raised. The Starry Night path is just over a half-mile long and, like the SolaRoad is part of a big picture effort towards sustainable infrastructure.

“I wanted to create a place that people will experience in a special way, the technical combined with experience, that’s what techno-poetry means to me,” Roosegaarde said in a statement.

But what about in ‘Murica?

Here in the U.S., a similar project called Solar Roadways aims for a first public installation in spring of 2015. This amazing innovation was aided by an Indeigogo campaign that ended in June and had surpassed it’s $1 million goal by more than double.

The co-inventors and co-founders of Solar Roadways even have a link to my home state of Ohio. Scott Brusaw, an electrical engineer, spent over a decade as director of R&D for a manufacturing facility here in the Heart of it All as well as receiving his education from the University of Dayton. Scott has been dreaming of “electric roads” since early childhood, and after serving in the Marine Corps, working in the oil exploration business and learning a great deal of engineering on his own as well as through college, he’s gained the knowledge and experience in electrical skills to make his boyhood dreams into reality. He and his wife and partner Julie have dedicated their lives to the success of the Solar Roadways project and work diligently to make the world a better place to live.

Solar Roadways website has a wealth of information both technical and general about the development of the project as well as where it’s headed. Thankfully, they also have a snappy video for those of us who prefer to get our information verbally and visually. They have a couple of dozen other videos on their channel as well, and perhaps the coolest thing about them is seeing Scott and Julie digging in and doing the work themselves. They’re not philanthropic investors – just a couple doing the best they can to improve their world.

Engineering breakthroughs in my neck of the woods

Students from my alma mater Cleveland State University took first place in the 2014 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Student Design Competition. This contest challenges students to solve chemical engineering design problems, and team members won for their work coming up with an alterative way of making influenza vaccine.

The team of Zakaria Benmerzouga, Jeremy Miller and Andrew Zak put forth a cost-effective way to make the vaccine based on a cell-based method rather than the usual egg-based method.

The 120 nationwide programs invited to join the competition had just over a month to complete their submissions. The CSU team was advised by faculty member Dr. Dhananjai Shah, with members who all graduated in May (with me!) from Washkewicz College of Engineering. The award which includes a cash prize will be presented to the team at the AIChE Annual Meeting in Atlanta Nov. 16-21.

Go Vikes!
Go Vikes!

Another former school of mine, Lakeland Community College, is holding a free event next week called GIS Day on Nov. 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Presented by the Geospatial Technology program, this celebratory event aims to educate visitors about the program and generate interest in the field of geographic information systems – a growing field according to the school’s press release.

According to Lakeland’s geography and geospatial technology department website, GIS captures, analyzes and displays information used for marketing, logistics, risk analysis and more and is used in all levels of government. Environmentalists also make use of the technology to understand things like animal habitats and land changes. It is utilized in natural resource exploration as well as by utilities for emergency response and basically it’s quite a handy informational tool from a geographical perspective.

During GIS Day, visitors can check out exhibits and demonstrations from local professionals who work in this field, visit the school’s geospatial tech lab, get hands-on use of the ArcGIS platform to build their own smart maps and at the very least enjoy free food and refreshments.

Lakeland’s first GIS day in November 2012 saw more than 300 visitors and Katie Kerr, an event instructor who works for a GIS business intelligence company, said she thought the event was phenomenal and looked forward to the next one. By all accounts, it sounds like a pretty cool thing so if you have the time go check it out.

Events such as this and the LeanDog meetup that was the focus of the last Week in Geek are great examples of the sorts of open-to-the-public tech events accessible to anyone with an interest in learning more about emerging technologies or keeping up to date with existing ones. They offer great opportunities to network, pick up new skills or hone the ones you already have and they’re happening quite often in Cleveland and i presume other cities around the country and world. Finding out about them is only a few clicks away!

*     *     *     *     *

Thanks for reading the third Week in Geek addition to visiting The Long Shot. Of course, there were many more exciting things that happened in the world of science, technology and pop culture this week…but these were the ones that most caught my attention. If you have any news you’d like to share, drop me a line and let me know – i try to keep up with stuff but i can’t read everything!

Next week i’ll be visiting another innovative Cleveland tech company to get an inside look at how their breakthrough technology put them in the national spotlight after teaming up with ESPN, and hopefully getting a chance to chat with two brothers and local film fanatics about their quest to give you all you need to know about the movies.

Follow @longshotist on Twitter for frequent shares of related articles and (hopefully) humorous nonsequiters.

Week in Geek will be back next Friday, Nov. 21 and i’d love to see you here! Week in Geek will also be appearing alongside other great blogs at The News-Herald Blogs (click the logo at the top right of the page for the blogroll).

Thanks for reading!


Leave a Reply