Tech with a Mind of Its Own

Innovation is the name of the game when it comes to technology, and every day, incredible technological advances are unveiled. New technology has provided us with amazing solutions for a multitude of issues that range from the mundane to life-or-death. While technology often works in tandem with humans, recent innovations are proving that technology has the ability to think and work by itself. In short, humans may soon be out of the picture! From cars that drive themselves, to software that fixes itself, let’s take a look at some recent technologies that have the potential to make humans optional for operation.

Software Self-Repair

Scientists at the University of Utah have developed software that is able to detect and eradicate viruses and malware, as well as automatically repair any damage caused by the malware. The software, called A3, currently works with a virtual computer that imitates the operations of a computer, without actual hardware. A3 can detect new, unknown viruses or malware automatically by sensing when computer operations are incorrect. A3 then stops the virus, determines a code to fix the damage, and learns to prevent the bug from occurring again. Read more here.

Self-Park Electric Cars

Your car is already equipped with many various technologies that are designed to keep you safe when you’re on the road. In the future, your car may do more than notify you when your tire pressure is low or you need to refill your gas–your car might be able to drive and park itself. Researchers at E-Mobile are currently designing electric-powered vehicles that will be able to drive and park independently. The cars will also be able to locate a charging station, and they’ll do it without any human help. Read more here.

Degenerative Bone Disease Detection Gets a Helping Hand

Radiographer shortages in the workforce are further strained by the great deal of time that radiographers must spend outlining bones in x-rays, when that time could be better used to take care of patients. Developers of a new software that is able to automatically outline bones hope that their program will save thousands of hours of manual work for researchers and doctors. Developers of the software believe that automation of the process will enable medical professionals to focus more on drawing proper conclusions and developing treatments for degenerative bone diseases, such as arthritis. Read more here.

Self-Assembly Lab at MIT

Scientists working in the Self-Assembly Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are currently collaborating on creating materials that could one day build themselves. They have already successfully developed wood planks that fold into toy elephants when exposed to moisture, but the future is even more exciting. Researchers are already looking into materials that respond to weather changes, or furniture that assembles itself with a splash of water. Read more here.

Alright STEM lovers, what kind of technology is blowing your mind? Comment below.

Month in STEM: October 2014

October is heading to close, and we’ve got you covered with the latest in STEM news for the month. We’re keeping things a little creepy to celebrate Halloween. From ghostly stars to creepy critters that help solve crimes, here are some of our top picks.

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom

A new report recently came to light about the rapid evolution of a lizard species native to Florida in response to pressure from an invading Cuban species. Scientists have observed and documented this lizard species evolve in the relatively short span of 15 years and 20 generations.

After initial contact with the invasive species, native lizards, called Carolina anoles, began perching higher in trees. From one generation to another, their feet evolved to become better at gripping the thinner, smoother branches found in the higher parts of the trees. Now, their toe pads are larger and there are more sticky scales on their feet.

Researchers believe that the changes are a response to competition for food and living space. It’s also noted that both lizard species have been documented to eat the hatchlings of the other species. Thus, the ability to scale trees at a quicker pace may be the difference between getting to safety and becoming a meal. Read more here.

Under the Sea IconUnder the Sea

New science suggests that if you’re a leatherback sea turtle, staying on the plump size may make it easier to get around the ocean. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Florida Atlantic University (FAU), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have found that long and lean sea turtles are not as efficient swimmers as the ones that are more robust in size. To come to these conclusions, scientists measured the forces that act on a swimming animal and the energy that is expended by the animal to move through the water. After using their measurements and recreating an environment with virtual sea turtles and experimenting with different parameters, they found that rounder sea turtles are able to cover more ground while using up the same amount of energy as their skinnier counterparts. Read more here.


We’re getting into the spirit of Halloween with this creepy video. Dead or alive, a body plays host to all sorts of organisms. There are innumerable types of flora that are naturally found on a person’s skin, as well as inside stomachs, noses, mouths and other body parts. But when a dead body begins to decompose, it also becomes a breeding ground for certain types of bugs that act as decomposers to return the body’s nutrients back to the earth. Knowledge of the life cycles of these bugs can help forensic scientists during crime scene investigation. Watch more here.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations

Miniature human stomachs can now be grown in Petri dishes. By bathing stem cells in a concoction of chemicals that boost growth, scientists have managed to create clumps of gastric tissue the size of a pin head. Like normal human stomachs, the lab-grown stomach globs contain cells that are able to make mucus and pump hormones. Scientists are hoping to use the tissue to further study gastric diseases, such as stomach cancer. Read more here.

Robotics IconSpace

NASA’s Hubble Telescope has picked up the faint glow of stars that were ejected from ancient galaxies that were gravitationally wrenched apart several billion years ago. The “ghost lights” from the dead galaxies are no longer bound to any one galaxy. Instead, the stars drift freely between the nearly 500 galaxies in the cluster known as “Pandora’s Cluster”. By observing the light from the stray stars, scientists have gathered enough evidence to believe that as many as six galaxies were torn apart over the course of 6 billion years. Read more here.

Video Games IconTechnology

A team of scientists and engineers at the University of California recently created a new nanoparticle-based material that has the capacity to convert absorb and convert to heat more than 90% of the sunlight that it captures. It is also able to withstand temperatures of more than 700 degrees Celsius, and has the ability to withstand many years of outdoor exposure to air and humidity. In comparison, current solar absorbers have significantly shorter life spans, and are unable to function at higher temperatures. The type of energy that the material is harvesting is called concentrated solar power (CSP). The sun is still an emerging source of power, but it has a great deal of potential within the alternative energy market. CSP currently produces approximately 3.5 gigawatts worth of power at power plants around the globe, or the equivalent to the energy needed to power more than 2 million homes. Read more here.

Okay STEM lovers, what stories did you enjoy? What stories did we miss this month? We want to hear your thoughts!

This Month in STEM: September 2014

September is wrapping up, and we’ve got your monthly STEM news! Here are some of our favorite stories.

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom

Researchers have discovered a brand new species of poison dart frog in Donoso, Panama. At 12.7 millimeters in length, the freshly dubbed Andinobates geminisae is tiny enough to fit on a fingernail and is distinguishable by its unique call and smooth, bright orange-colored skin. Scientists believe that habitat loss is a significant issue of concern for these newly found frogs, as it appears to only be found in scarce regions of the Panama rain forest. To guarantee the survival of their species, the creation of special conservation plans have been recommended. Read more here.

Under the Sea IconUnder the Sea

Several groups of fish in Antarctica have developed the ability to manufacture their own “antifreeze” proteins in their blood that help them survive in the icy Southern Ocean. Unfortunately, it appears that this evolutionary survival tactic has created some undesirable consequences. Researchers have discovered that the same temperature regulation proteins are helping internal ice crystals that accumulate inside the fish resist melting, even when the temperatures warm. Read more here.

Extreme Weather IconExtreme Weather

At least 36 people have been killed following the unanticipated eruption of Mount Ontake, Japan’s second largest active volcano. The eruption is believed to have stemmed from a kind of steam-driven explosion that scientists say are especially difficult to predict. Ontake had a minor eruption in 2007, but it’s first major recorded eruption was in 1979. Japan is considered by seismologists to be a hotbed of seismic activity. Read more here.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations

Each year, over 2.5 million children die worldwide because they do not receive life-saving vaccinations. To combat this global issue, researchers at Michigan State University are currently developing a fingerprint-based recognition system that has the potential to save babies’ lives through vaccination tracking. Vaccinations are normally tracked by paper documentation. However, keeping track of babies’ vaccinations on paper is highly ineffective in developing countries because they are easily lost or destroyed. Researchers are hoping that, over time, the new electronic registry systems will fix the issues of lacking and lost patient information in third world countries. Read more here.

Robotics IconSpace

Water is crucial for sustaining biological life. Consequently, scientists believe that finding the original source of Earth’s water is crucial for understanding how life-fostering environments are created, as well as estimating the likelihood of finding other environments that have the potential to hold life. Scientists at the Carnegie Institution now believe that the water found on Earth is older than the Sun, and originated in interstellar space. Read more here.

Video Games IconTechnology

Harry Potter fans likely dream of owning an Invisibility Cloak. They may be excited to learn, then, that researchers at the University of Rochester, in New York, have discovered innovative new ways to use complex lenses to hide objects from view, in a process called cloaking. The so-called “Rochester Cloak” is realistically not cloak-like at all. Nonetheless, the cloaking device has been able to successfully make a hand, face, and a ruler disappear from view. Earlier versions of cloaking devices have been complicated and financially unfeasible. This new device breaks the mold, costing researchers little more than $1,000 in materials. The implications for these types of devices are broad, and researchers believe that they can be applied everywhere, from health care to the military. Read more here.

Okay STEM lovers, what stories did you enjoy? What stories did we miss this month? We want to hear your thoughts!

STEM Works Remembers 9/11

It’s impossible to go throughout this day, September 11th, without acknowledging the extent of the impact that the terrorist attacks had on America and its citizens. In the wake of the 13th anniversary of the attacks, those of us at STEM Works wanted to show how STEM has been utilized throughout the aftermath processes of identifying victims, surveying the  damage and rebuilding Ground Zero.

Identifying Victims with Forensics 

After the initial attacks, at least 1,115 out of at least 2,753 victims remained unidentifiable, even after scientists analyzed DNA samples provided by the families of those with missing loved ones who never came home or were never identified. Despite painstaking work over the years from scientists in New York to match bone fragments to an actual identity, restraints in technology left many victims unidentified. However, recent technological advances in DNA testing and forensic identification have given both scientists and families a renewed sense of hope as these DNA tests yield results that would have been impossible 10 years ago. Scientists previously faced the challenge of identifying victims using bone slivers that contained DNA that had been damaged by fire, sunlight, bacteria, or jet fuel. Using the new technology, scientists are able to go back to the same bone fragment and attempt to extract the damaged DNA for testing. Read more here.

Engineering a Better World Trade Center

Considered a testament to the perseverance of the American spirit, the five-year re-construction projects of the new World Trade Center and National September 11 Memorial and Museum are shown in this behind-the-scenes documentary, made by PBS, in cooperation with NOVA, to demonstrate the many various challenges and high expectations that engineers and architects faced to build a stronger, taller, and safer World Trade Center. Watch Engineering Ground Zero

Engineers played a huge role in both clean up and re-building. PBS has also created a number of valuable resources to teach the public about how engineers assisted with rescuing victims, surveying the damage, and preventing unstable structures from falling and potentially injuring more people. Check out these resources here at Engineering the Clean-Up.

Other 9/11 Lesson Plan Resources

  • The National September 11 Memorial & Museum partnered up with New York City’s Department of Education and the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education to develop a different sets of K-12 lesson plans to teach about 9/11. Find them here.
  • Scholastic has created and collected a number of resources to teach 9/11 to the younger kids. Find these resources here.
  • Pearson has created guides and online modules for both elementary and middle school students, parents and teachers. Find them here.
  • McGraw Hill offers a number of activities and lesson plans to teach students about 9/11. Find them here.

Tell us, STEM lovers, how are you choosing to remember 9/11? Comment below.

July 2014 Recap: Exciting STEM News

July has been filled with exciting headlines for STEM subjects. Here’s a summary of some of our favorite stories for the month.

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom/Under the Sea

Scientists from York University have found a new solution to combat a certain species of toxic grass fungus: moose and reindeer saliva! As plants evolve defense mechanisms like thorns or poisonous berries, scientists wondered how moose were able to eat grass that harbored toxic fungus in such large quantities without showing symptoms of illness. The team of scientists collected samples of moose and reindeer saliva and smeared them onto samples of grass that carried toxic fungus. Results showed that the saliva inhibits fungal growth within 12-36 hours. Read article.

Extreme Weather IconExtreme Weather

The heavy drought in California means trouble for locals, who have resorted to extreme measures, like punishing those who water their lawns to often, in an effort to conserve water. The effect of the extreme drought affects more than Californians, though. Those of us who enjoy avocados, almonds, walnuts or any of the other 250 plus agricultural commodities produced in California will be seeing a steep increase in prices as the drought continues to impact agriculture. Watch video.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations/Robotics

3D printing is having a huge moment in STEM as scientists find a multitude of ways for their application. An 12-year-old boy who lost both his arms during a bomb explosion in Sudan is benefitting from this new technology as a 3D printer recently created a new robotic arm that allows him to regain some of his mobility.  Read article.

Robotics IconSpace

New reports show that an exploding asteroid that injured more than 1,000 people with flying glass and debris in Chelyabinsk, Russia last year collided with another asteroid about 290 million years ago before the asteroid chunk headed towards Earth. Scientist believe that the asteroids struck each other at a speed of 3,000 mph. Blasts from the asteroid destroyed buildings as it exploded with a force nearly 30 times as powerful as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima. Read article.

Video Games IconTechnology

No matter where you turn, you can’t get away from technology. This is now literally the case, as a new Indian company has created a shoe equipped with an app and Google maps to help guide the wearer to the right place. The shoe and insole is connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth, and it vibrates to let you know if when should turn left or right. Read article.

Wind Energy IconWind Energy

Powerful winds are nothing new for the residents in “Tornado Alley”, the colloquial term for the area in the U.S. where tornadoes hit hard and often. For those looking to harness wind energy, those strong winds may have an upside,  particularly as wind turbines continue to pop up as a source of generating renewable energy. Read article.

So there, various STEM subject lovers. We’ve got you covered!

Create Your Own App Challenge

Create Your Own App Challenge2Anyone with a smart phone or tablet likely sees the direction that technology is going through the use of apps. Back in the good ol’ days, running a software application on a computer required the use of some kind of external apparatus (who remembers floppy disks that were actually floppy?) Yet now, through the magical click of a button, technology allows us to magically install a HUGE variety of applications quickly and wirelessly.

When this technology first came out, it seemed like an untouchable brainchild of a brilliant group of people—and no doubt it was, minus the untouchable part—and quite mysterious to us laymen. Yet, the truth of the matter is that you do not have to be an MIT-degree-holding software engineer to create an app. People from all over and with a variety of educational backgrounds are plugging into the development of this exciting technology…

And we think you should too!

That is why we are excited to present our very new “Create Your Own App Challenge” scavenger hunt. This hunt will lead you and your students through a basic orientation to the mechanics of the technology created to use apps, an introduction to the many ways that apps can be applied to a number of different interests and subjects, and finally it will lead you to the Verizon Innovative App Challenge. This competition is open to middle school and high school students, and submissions are due December 17th. So, without further ado, we send you off into the sunset (well, the sun is setting somewhere in the world) to learn all about apps and tap into your creative side. Create Your Own App Challenge Scavenger Hunt

Apps help put the “T” in “STEM”

It is hardly news that modern technology has given us access to a breadth of knowledge at a moment’s notice. With organizations and corporations around the world adopting these modern technologies, we are seeing a wider variety of smart phone and tablet apps that give the world access to whole new realms of information and knowledge.  Check out the apps listed below to get some of this knowledge in the palm of your hand!

Aspire Institute’s STEM AppWe had the opportunity to contribute a CSI activity to the STEM App launched by the Aspire Institute this spring. The goal of this app is to provide a daily STEM activity that parents and kids can do together. Aspire wrote a wonderful blog post about this app last April, so rather than reading our second-hand version of this post, you can check it out here!


NASA App for Android and iOSJust when we thought NASA couldn’t get any cooler… The NASA app gives you VIP access to tons of NASA content, including images, videos, NASA television, mission information, news, satellite tracking and much more! And here’s the best part… it’s free!


“Solve the Outbreak” iPad App from the CDCThanks to a follow-up email from Allison Brown, our CDC contact and Cool Jobs professional, we were recently made aware of the CDC’s new “Solve the Outbreak” iPad app. Many jobs are emerging in the field of public health, and this app gives teens and young adults a glimpse into the life of a working epidemiologist. In this interactive, engaging app, you get to decide what to do: Do you quarantine the village? Talk to the people who are sick? Ask for more lab results? Get the app to learn about diseases and outbreaks in an engaging way. Oh yeah, it’s free too.

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Are you looking for a certain type of STEM app but can’t seem to find it? Do you know a technologically-minded student? Why not have that student make the app? Organizations like CoderDojo and TekStart teach students how to develop apps through the use of code. If you know a technologically-minded student who wants to get into coding, check to see if there is an organization like this in your city. After all, there can never be enough STEM-related apps!