Laser Triangulation Sensors
“How can we measure distance using lasers?”
Laser Triangulation Sensors work as follows. A laser that will be reflected will be focused on an object. When this object moves, the reflection is picked up by the installed PSD detector lens, which then uses the voltage reading to find the distance.
Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting
“Can we make energy by just walking on floor tiles?”
The ground floor of a building is typically thought of being statics and unuseful. But can we use our engineering mindset to change this? Well, energy generation often requires some sort of change of state in a system to happen. And in buildings, one change that is always happening is people’s movement. Specifically, people seem to be stepping everywhere to get somewhere. With this motion, pressure is exerted on the ground of a building. And if we take a note from our knowledge of circuits, then we know that we can create an electric current through this pressure with piezoelectricity. Therefore, if we implement piezoelectric tiles in a building, we can create a Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting framework. Researchers at San Jose State University are studying this field, and are hoping to implement a working piezoelectric tile by the end of Spring 2019.
“What happens when there is an unintentional drop in electric voltage in a power supply system?”
What roads were to Rome the electric grid is to modern civilization. Like a heart pumping blood to the rest of the body, the grid ensures that every component receives enough vital supplies. But sometimes, there is not enough voltage to go around, and as a result components will need to take a drop in voltage. This phenomenon is known as a brownout, and can lead to unexpected results like all of the lights in the city dimming down or space heaters losing their practical functionality.
“How can we design a linkage to allow an element to stay in one place on command?”
Linkages are some of the most beautiful contraptions in the science of engineering. However, one problem is that when one part moves, all parts seem to move at the same time.
But does this have to happen?
If we think back to circles, we can see that if we place a line on the radius and revolves it, no matter what direction that link moves the center will stay put. So what if we were to simply put a link’s end on the centerpiece? Well, this is the basic idea behind something known as a Dwell Mechanism. Dwell mechanisms can also be shaped such that they change position when their connecting link moves past a certain angle, as seen in link EF the figure.
The Problem with Battery-Powered Planes
“What do we need to overcome before we make battery-powered planes?”
Although promising, battery-powered planes have a major hurdle to overcome before they make any major traction. As it stands, electrochemical batteries have only 1/60th the energy density of conventional plane fuels. This is further compounded by the fact that such batteries are heavier to equip, meaning more weight on the aircraft and a reduced ability to fly. However, if we can overcome these problems, whether it be through a new type of battery or improved electrical motors, then battery-powered planes are poised to disrupt the entire aviation industry!
“How can we use statistics to describe industrial quality?”
Even with the most perfect manufacturing processes, flaws are expected to happen during production. As such, we need a way to quantify how stable a given industrial output is. So how can we use our engineering mindset to solve this? Well, we know that if an item’s measurements become three standard levels of deviations outside of the mean, then it is probably unusable. So what if we were to create a chart that would graph the average of all measurements for each part with along with the mean and the tolerance levels so we can visually see anything out of the ordinary? Well, this is called an X-bar Chart and the control limits can be calculated by the formula UCL/LCL = (mean of all measurements) +/- 3*(standard deviation of all measurements)/sqrt(number of measurements per sample).
“How can we make planes that do not rely on fuel?”
As it stands, the vast majority of the world’s air travel infrastructure rests upon hydrocarbon-based fuel. However, is there a more sustainable model to this approach? Well, if we use our engineering mindset, then we would be able to see that this jet fuel is fundamentally just energy storage, and that another option is batteries. Therefore, we can create battery-powered planes in place of their traditional alternatives. One caveat is that current battery technologies have 1/60th the energy density of plane fuels, making them a much less viable option.