Sunday, October 4, 2015

Popular Science Invention Awards

It seemed a bit early, but in May of this year Popular Science magazine published its top 10 choices for the 2015 Invention Awards - a "celebration of independent inventors."

The winners are:
  • A plane that folds into a car
  • Needle-free vaccination
  • A Braille printer born from LEGO
  • Personal pollution monitor
  • Hands-on virtual reality
  • A self-balancing vehicle
  • An artificial reef for any seafloor
  • Medical lab in a music box
  • A printer for circuit boards
  • A frying pan that teaches you to cook

Each invention has a link to a page with a short article about the inventor(s), what the invention does and how it works.

Link to the awards:

The information for 4 of the inventions includes a bullet-point list of "How it Works," with a diagram of the invention. The 4 inventions are the plane that folds into a car, the self-balancing vehicle, the artificial reef for any seafloor, and the medical lab in a music box.

I thought the frying pan that teaches you to cook sounded pretty interesting, but my mechanical engineering students chose to read about the plane-car. The invention, which is called AeroMobil Car, was invented by Štefan Klein and Juraj Vaculik of the AeroMobil Company.

The AeroMobil Car from the company's website

The information under "How it Works" is a very useful example of a short, clear technical description. From the website:
  1. The adjustable wing can optimize its angle of attack for taking off or cruising. This allows for reduced speed and distance during takeoff.
  2. Light materials, including a carbon-composite body over a steel airframe and six-pound carbon wheels, keep weight low.
  3. The prototype's 100-horsepower four-cylinder Rotax 912 engine runs on conventional gasoline, so drivers can fuel up at existing gas stations. (Production models may have a different engine.) 
  4. A robust suspension will enhance on-road performance and enable takeoff and landing on relatively rough terrain.
  5. Avionics from Garmin will include a two-axis autopilot to control pitch and roll. In case of emergency, the vehicle will have a ballistic parachute safety system.

There's more information about the AeroMobil Car on the company's website:

Students could get more information from the website to report to the class. On the website there is also a video (3:52) showing how the car opens to a plane and then flies. There's no narration, just background music. It's actually quite lovely to watch.

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