The Physics behind “Angry Birds”

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Photo credit: Sitename/DAM/005/red_400x400.jpg

by Emily Lehman and Meghan Nay

We are avid Angry Birds fans, so when our physics teacher offered us the opportunity to analyze the validity of physics principles underlying the game, we accepted eagerly. We conducted an analysis to determine whether the mobile application “Angry Birds” followed the principles of physics – specifically, principles of projectile motion.

We videoed the game from the initial launch of a bird to his collision with the pig pedestal. Then, we used Tracker software to collect data of the bird’s motion. Here’s our procedure:

1) We uploaded the video of the red angry bird into the software,Tracker.

2) Using Tracker, we found the horizontal and vertical position vs. time graphs. From there, we found the equation of the best fit line/curve.

3) After obtaining the equation of best fit for the position vs. time data, we took the derivative in order to find the velocity vs. time equation.

4) Then to find the acceleration vs. time equation, we took the derivative of the velocity vs. time equation.

5) Using the position, velocity, and acceleration equations, we were then able to analyze the bird’s motion and compare it to the laws of projectile motion on Earth.

6) Since we don’t know any of the measurements in the video, we established an arbitrary unit of length using the pig pedestal in the video. All equations are based on a unit of length we have called a “pig pedestal.”

Data and Analysis:

Position vs. time data using Tracker. The straight line is the horizontal position vs. time, and the concave-down parabola is the vertical position vs. time.

The graph above shows the position of the bird in the x and y directions. The best fit line for the graph in the y direction is the equation y = -1.882t² + 6.833t + 1.993. To find the velocity of this position graph we took the derivative and found the equation of the velocity in the y direction to be v = -3.764t + 6.833. Also, to find the acceleration in the y direction we found the derivative of the velocity equation and found the acceleration in the y direction to be a=-3.764 pig pedestals/s².

We repeated these steps to find the equations of the position, velocity, and acceleration graphs in the x direction. Which in subsequent order the equations of these graphs are x = 4.637t – 0.0668, v =4.637 pig pedestals/s, and a = 0 pig pedestals/s².


Position vs Time: s(t) = 4.637t – 0.0668

Velocity vs Time: s'(t) = v(t)= 4.637 pedestals/s

Acceleration vs Time: s”(t) = v’(t) = a(t) = 0 pedestals/s²


Position vs Time: s(t) =-1.882t² + 6.833t +1.993

Velocity vs Time: s'(t) =v(t) =-3.764t + 6.833

Acceleration vs Time: s”(t) = v'(t) = a(t) =-3.764 pedestals/s²

We assumed that the Angry Birds game takes place on Earth where the acceleration due to gravity is -9.8 m/s². Using the vertical acceleration from the best fit line, we  set -3.764 pig pedestals/s2 equal to -9.8 meters/s2  which determined the height of the pig pedestal to be 2.603 meters.


Based on our findings, we were able to determine that “Angry Birds” follows the rules of physics for a number of reasons. The acceleration of the bird in the x direction was zero, which is characteristic of an object launched as a projectile on Earth, assuming no air resistance. Also because the position vs. time graph in the y direction closely followed the kinematics position equation, we determined that the Angry Bird is subject to a gravitational force.

We also made some strange or odd discoveries about the game. Using the unit conversion discussed in the Analysis section, we found that the actual size of an Angry Bird is 1.019 meters tall, which is around 3.3 feet. We derived this number from the position vs. time graph in the y direction. We found the acceleration to be -3.764, but this was not meters/second2; the units for this was pig pedestals/second2. By assuming gravity in “Angry Birds” was -9.8, we used conversions to find the height of the pig pedestal. Then, we were able to find the height of the bird, which was 1.1019 meters. Certainly, a bird of this size would be subject to air resistance; however, the data show no force in the horizontal direction!

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Photo credit: 2012/09/16/1226475/242180-rheinmetall-039-s-simulators-in-use.jpg

Determining that one video game followed the rules of physics on Earth opens up many possibilities for real world applications. Virtual simulations have the potential to revolutionize society and many fields of work. For example, virtual simulations are extremely helpful in pilot training or training for warfare. The analysis that we undertook could be used to assess the validity of these simulations and thus gauge their acceptability as effective training tools.

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Incorporating Computer Models into Traditional Physics Labs

Students collecting motion data.

Photo: Students collecting motion data.

In an effort to achieve consistency with current expectations of university physics students in rigorous science and engineering programs, I have implemented laboratory investigations that seek to provide students with opportunities to explore real world motion using modern tools and techniques that are grounded in fundamental physics principles. My goal is for the students to be able to:

  • Observe and video everyday motion and then analyze the video to extract motion data.
  • Apply fundamental physics principles to analyze and describe the motion and then to develop computer models that explain and predict motion based on these principles.
  • Effectively communicate results (the observations, the models, and comparisons between them).
  • Critique their own work and the work of their peers.

My students have completed their first assignment that required that they explore the effects of air resistance by observing the motion of an object dropped from rest and allowed to fall straight down. The students were instructed to choose an object that would be noticeably affected by air resistance. The students selected objects such as coffee filters, Styrofoam lunch trays, crumpled paper, etc., and the adventure began. The students posted their final results on YouTube to allow for peer assessment of their final products.

I was very pleased and impressed with my students’ motivation and ability to meet this challenge. At first, some of them were intimated by working with computer code but quickly became comfortable with this new method of analyzing motion. Some sample student projects are provided below:

Orbital Solar Energy: Powering the Entire Planet

A winning submission to the 2014 ExploraVision competition by Sarah Buelow and Henry Homiller

Solar energy is steadily increasing in popularity because it is readily available and plentiful. Individuals use solar energy to power or heat their homes, but do not generate enough electricity to make a significant impact on reducing our dependence on oil and other nonrenewable resources. If solar energy were harnessed properly, it would be possible to power the entire planet. Solar power could be harnessed more efficiently with a space-located orbital generator that allows for the removal of solar refraction and filtration that occurs in Earth’s atmosphere. Satellite systems can be designed to harness solar energy, but without proper extraction methods, the transfer of energy from space to earth is flawed, and impossible. Available technology requires the use of large and impractical rectifying antenna arrays for this task.  Our proposed design incorporates 3D meta-material lenses capable of focusing radio waves with extreme precision, thus lowering the size of the array required while increasing the transfer efficiency.

Present Technology

The proposed satellite generator takes advantage of several different existing technologies; the foremost is the photovoltaic panel. Photovoltaic or PV panels are in use already, though their fabrication makes them less practical than they could be. PV arrays are designed to capture the energy of light, particularly from the sun, and generate direct current electricity. The basic principle used is that a semiconductor, such as silicon, when bombarded by a photon, can have one of its electrons ejected, allowing it to flow from atom to atom, and generating electrical power. The semiconductor is typically doped with another element to make it P-type or N-type, based on which charge it will carry. When P-type and N-type panels are put together in an array, they acquire a built-in electric field that guides the loose electrons in one direction, generating direct current. When conductive connections are attached to the apparatus, the electrons can be pushed through an available current path by the field. Other modifications can be made, such as non-reflective coating, to maximize light absorption. The largest downside of PV arrays is that they are still expensive; however, solar power technology is one of the most rapidly growing technologies in the world (Toothman, Alduos).

The second chief technology is the receptor of the energy being transmitted to Earth. The rectifying antenna, or rectenna, has been in use for some time. A normal antenna absorbs an electromagnetic wave, typically a radio wave, and transforms its energy into electricity. The distinguishing feature of this particular antenna is that, rather than a radio antenna, which absorbs the electricity purely for information, the rectenna is attached to a rectifier which turns the AC electricity into DC, for use in charging batteries or otherwise powering mechanisms. The use of radio waves being used to send power wirelessly has been demonstrated on a small scale with relative ease, such as a remote control helicopter, and is a rapidly expanding idea (Zhang, Huang).

Third, a new study in the use of meta-materials provides a way to focus electromagnetic waves using negative refraction, allowing for much more focused applications of this form of energy. Designed by researchers at MIT, a copper-plated structured dish can be 3-D printed and used to focus radio waves, defying what traditionally would be expected from the base shape, using the complex structure of the meta-material (Chu). Lastly, the present knowledge of space and orbital mechanics is necessary in order to place the satellite and maneuver it into a geosynchronous orbit, remaining above the same place on the surface.

History of Solar Energy

Photo credit: Pannon Inipi Creations

Photo credit: Pannon Inipi Creations

Solar energy has been used as far back as the times of the Ancient Greeks, Chinese, and Native Americans, although their methods were very primitive. Mainly, these peoples oriented their buildings toward the sun to warm them, not fully understanding at the time how solar energy worked. These peoples also used mirrors and other reflective surfaces to light torches and fires, and, in second century B.C. Greece, used the reflective properties of bronze shields to defend the city by setting enemy ships on fire. The first known solar-powered mechanical device was a steam engine designed by French engineer Auguste Mouchout in 1866, which began the influx in solar inventions over the next fifty years. Inventors such as John Ericsson, Charles Tellier, and Frank Shuman worked on solar energy methods with irrigation, refrigeration, and locomotives. It was not until many years later, in 1954, when researchers at Bell Laboratories developed what has become the modern edge of solar energy – the photovoltaic cell, which is capable of converting light into electricity (ScienceDaily).

Of course, the photovoltaic effect was originally discovered in 1839 by French scientist Edmond Becquerel while he was experimenting with an electrolytic cell. Over the years, solar power slowly improved. Willoughby Smith discovered the photoconductivity of selenium in 1873, and three years later, William Grylls Adams and Richard Evans Day found that selenium produced electricity when exposed to light. By 1883, American inventor Charles Fritts, described the first ever solar cells made from thin strips of selenium. As time passed on, more and more people discovered or proved different methods to harness solar energy into electricity by expanding on photovoltaic devices and photoelectric effect understandings. Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1954 provided the U.S. with successful solar cells, although the efficiency of these early solar cells was a whopping four percent. Hoffman Electronics worked on improving the efficiency, going from eight percent in 1957, to nine percent in 1958, and eventually ten percent in 1959. A year later that efficiency increased by four percent bringing it up to fourteen percent. NASA also jumped on board with solar technology in 1964, with the launch of the Nimbus spacecraft – a satellite powered by a 470-watt photovoltaic ray. Efficiency and cost continued to improve, making solar cells cheaper, and more efficient as time went on. By 1977, photovoltaic manufacturing exceeded 500 kilowatts. Solar energy was added to aircraft, satellites, vehicles, and buildings, and methods for harnessing solar energy slowly improved into what it is today (U.S. Department of Energy).

Future Technology

Our proposition combines several existing ideas: the use of rectennas for wireless power, the use of solar energy production in orbit, and the study of meta-materials. By adding the technology behind the dish produced by MIT, we believe the idea for a wireless orbital solar generator is now reasonable, where it hasn’t been in the past. This opens up an entire new branch of power generation, which, with further development, could future proof the power industry with fully renewable methods of harvesting unused energy. The full task of the orbital generator is to translate energy from the sun into electricity on Earth. The first step is to capture the photons that make up the light coming from the sun by using conventional photovoltaic arrays, converting the energy into electric energy. This electrical energy would power a radio broadcaster, which would use the meta-material dish to create a focused wave that would travel through the atmosphere, reaching the rectenna array connected to the ground relay station. By keeping the orbital component in a geosynchronous orbit, the radio beam would constantly be focused on the rectenna, maximizing the efficiency of this final, most difficult step. The radio beam would then be transformed back into electric current and submitted to the power grid like any other power station.

Breakthroughs Required

The technology, while well on its way, is not quite at the level necessary to make the best use of an orbital solar generator. There are several fields that must be improved first. The study behind solar power is rapidly expanding already, and new, more efficient PV panels are being designed rapidly. Only a short time will need to pass before high efficiency, cheap, and lightweight arrays are available. In addition, the budding science of meta-materials has only just begun, and has no end of room to improve. Better designs than those that currently exist may allow even more precise focusing of radio waves, allowing for an improved efficiency in orbit-to-surface energy transfer, as well as smaller rectenna arrays. The more precise the focusing, the more energy can be successfully transferred, and the less area would be needed both on the ground for the receiving arrays, and in the air as required clear airspace. Along with a more precise electromagnetic broadcast, improvements in orbital control and telemetry will likely be in order. Faster, more accurate commands being sent to the satellite would keep it in the precise position overhead that would be required to be able to process the greatest amount of energy.


Photo credit: green_earth_by_Skivey.jpg

Photo credit: green_earth_by_Skivey.jpg

The primary effect of the orbital solar generator would be, of course, generation of solar energy that would be both more efficient and more reliable. Keeping a geosynchronous orbit has the benefit of allowing greater precision and efficiency of energy transfer, but will cause the recurrence of one of the chief problems of solar panels: night time power generation would be nonexistent. However, the time period for which there would be no power would be significantly less than that of a PV array on Earth. The curvature of the Earth as well as computerized rotation and positioning of the panels would allow the satellite to absorb light for a significantly longer period each rotation. This strategy also allows for the precision in the radio wave transfer. By allotting a small area of restricted airspace, the collected energy is made much more reliable, as clouds and weather will have less detrimental effects on the production of energy. The main negative effect would be the potential interference that the radio wave beam might cause in the surrounding area. The focusing nature of the meta-material dish will lower this, but it is impossible to tell at this stage in the development of the technology to what degree the interference would remain.

The power produced over the years of operation of the satellite would make the cost of materials worthwhile, and its lifespan could be greatly increased by use of space shuttle missions for repair and possible upgrade. The new methods of energy production made available would make a step toward cutting back on fossil fuel consumption and lead in to more reliable, sustainable energy.


Egendorf, Laura K. Energy Alternatives. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2006. Print.

Jones, Susan. Solar Power of the Future: New Ways of Turning Sunlight into Energy. New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 2003. Print.

Toothman, Jessika, and Scott Aldous. “How Solar Cells Work.” HowStuffWorks. Discovery, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2013. <;.

Zhang, Jingwei, and Yi Huang. Rectennas for Wireless Energy Harvesting. Rep. University of Liverpool, n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2013.

“Solar Power.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. 19 Nov. 2013 <;.

United States. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Department of Energy. The History of Solar. 2002. U.S. Department of Energy. 3 Dec. 2013 <;.

Chu, Jennifer. “New Metamaterial Lens Focuses Radio Waves.” MIT’s News Office. MIT, 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.

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Harvesting the energy from friction to create a safer bike

by Dalton Mullinax,  Jonathan Guy, Ryan Koprowski, and Matthew Laczko

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Today, biker safety is often overlooked because many adults travel by car; however, young people without a driver’s license routinely rely on bicycles to travel short distances. For this reason, we wanted to find a way to increase the safety for bicyclists. Lights, being the predominant method of visibility, are absent on many bikes. For our project, we sought to improve biker safety by being able to power the lights on a bike using the friction that exists between the tires and the road. If we could harvest the energy lost due to friction, we could power the lights on the bike, thus improving biker safety.

We propose constructing bicycle tires with polyester-PDMS fiber interwoven within the fabric of the tire. The recent understanding of PDMS with polyester has opened a new door to the realm of attaining energy from frictional forces between two materials. This polyester-PDMS fabric is capable of generating energy from friction produced between the tire and the surface as the bicycle moves.

Today, many scientists around the world experiment with various methods to find ways to convert mechanical energy from two objects rubbing together to electrical energy. Physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia have found use in the triboelectric effect which is when two plastics rub together to create friction that can be harnessed by a triboelectric generator. These triboelectric generators are composed of smaller generators called nanogenerators that aid in the production of electrical energy (Toon). Although these triboelectric generators are small, the polyester piece rubs against a polydimethysiloxane (PDMS) sheet, thus creating friction that can be converted into electrical energy.

One form of this triboelectric generator is the PENG device, which is shown to the very far left in the picture below (Zyga).  This device has been proven to power the LCD screen, shown in the middle of the picture below, for upwards of one minute. Also, the PENG device has partially charged a lithium-ion battery (the image on the right in the picture) (Zyga).

The triboelectric generator uses the Piezoelectric Effect; “the piezoelectric substance is one that produces an electric charge when a mechanical stress is applied” (“Piezoelectric Effect”). The piezoelectric effect happens when a crystal acquires a charge when it is twisted, compressed, or distorted. One of the most useful characteristics of the piezoelectric effects is that is can be reversed easily (“The Piezoelectric Effect”). The figure below shows the forward and reverse motion of the piezoelectric effect.

When the piezoelectric effect material is stressed in forward motion, positive and negative particles shift which helps create an electrical field that can be harnessed through a nanogenerator. But, when the material is reversed, the electrical field does the exact opposite of the forward motion and uses an electrical field to create the piezoelectric effect material which then can be reused to make the forward motion.

Through our design, we are taking a new step toward nanotechnological use of a polyester-PDMS inner ring: we propose constructing bicycle tires with polyester-PDMS fiber interwoven within the fabric of the tire. This polyester-PDMS fabric will generate energy from friction produced between the tire and the surface as the bicycle moves.  This energy will be harvested and transmitted through a cable attached to the axle of the wheel and terminated at a connection on the handlebars of the bike. This terminal connection will then provide energy to the LED lights on the bicycle.

The picture below demonstrates the use of a PDMS with a rubber surface that can be used to create energy by touch. The inset picture shows that even the touch of a feather could set the sensor off and create energy as well as power the device through a triboelectric generator. This picture illustrates the device we will use in the rubber tires of the bicycle and demonstrates how the triboelectric generator will use friction to produce electricity to power the bicycle’s safety lights.


Photo Credit: Zhong Lin Wang, Triboelectric generator

Our idea is to put the sheets of PDMS and polyester into the interior of the bike’s tires. One sheet would rotate with the movement of the bike and the other would rub the other way with the use a counter-rotating piece also in the interior of the bike’s tires. As the bike is ridden, friction would be created between the PDMS and polyester sheets rubbing together. The triboelectric generator would capture this energy so it could power the lights on the bike. Assuming technology is developed that shows how the energy consumed into the triboelectric generator could be released, this new technology could immensely increase biker safety.

Lights added onto a bicycle will improve rider safety and also increase the safety of car drivers around the biker. More bikers will be able to travel at night because their visibility will be increased, allowing their confidence in riding at night to be greater. Plus, all the light energy produced by triboelectric generator is environmentally friendly.


Fan, Feng-Ru, Zhong-Qun Tian, and Zhong Lin Wang. Flexible Triboelectric Generator! Atlanta, GA: Sciverse Science Direct, 10 Jan. 2012. PDF.

Hum, Phillip W. “Exploration of Large Scale Manufacturing of Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) Microfluidic Devices.” Diss. Massachussets Institute of Technology, 2006. Abstract. (2006): 1-56. Print.

“The Piezoelectric Effect.” Nanomotion Piezoelectric Effect. Nanomotion, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2012.

“Piezoelectric Effect.” Piezoelectricity. GSU, n.d. Web. 03 Dec. 2012.

Quick, Darren. “Triboelectric Generator Could Allow Electricity-generating Touchscreens.” Triboelectric Generator Could Allow Electricity-generating Touchscreens. Gizmag, 9 July 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Sihong Wang, Long Lin, Zhong Lin Wang. Nanoscale Triboelectric- Effect-Enabled Energy Conversion for Sustainably Powering Portable Electronics. NanoLetter. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society Publications, 2012.

Toon, John. “Georgia Tech Research News.” Georgia Tech Research News RSS. N.p., 9 July 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Toon, John. “Triboelectric Generator Produces Electricity by Harnessing Frictional Forces.” GT. N.p., 10 July 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.

“The TriboElectric Series.” The TriboElectric Series. N.p., 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 30 Nov. 2012.

Zyga, Lisa. “Pyroelectric Nanogenerator Charges Li-ion Battery with Harvested Energy.” Pyroelectric Nanogenerator Charges Li-ion Battery with Harvested Energy. N.p., 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.

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Physics merges with Biology to Keep the Heart Beating

by Julia Clark, Anna King, and Taylor Kuter

In today’s world, pacemakers are so commonplace, we hardly give them a second thought. Nearly everyone knows someone whose life depends on this device. Despite a wide variety of pacemaker models, they all have the same basic composition, and consist of the same three core parts: a battery, lead wires, and circuitry (How Pacemakers Are Made). All materials used in these parts are biocompatible, so as to be as non-harmful to the body as possible. These components all must meet a series of specifications. The circuitry of the modern pacemaker, which controls the device’s functions, contains an array of sensors, timers, and voltage regulators to control the heartbeat. All controls are generally externally programmable, allowing doctors to make non-invasive adjustments to the pacemaker’s function, if necessary. The lead wires of the device provide the physical stimulation to the heart. Leads are generally thin, insulated electrical wires with exposed ends directly attached to vital points on the heart. Many modern leads are of a “screw-in” variety, securing them to the heart in much the same way as a common screw. The wires are subjected to constant movement caused by the heart’s continuous beating, and therefore must be resistant to fracture. The battery, which powers the pacemaker, must be able to supply 5 volts of power, which is slightly more than what the heart requires for stimulation. The battery must be able to last for a minimum of four years, and must have a predictable life cycle, making it easy for the doctor to know when a replacement battery is necessary. The battery is integral to the pacemaker’s function, and must be replaced after a certain amount of time, depending on the patient. Currently, the only way of replacing the battery is through an invasive surgical procedure.

The need to undergo an operation every ten years in order to replace a pacemaker demonstrates the need for a new design of the pacemaker and how the pacemaker obtains energy. Instead of being run solely on batteries that need to be replaced, we have designed a Hematologic-Electric Pacemaker with batteries that have a back-up power supply that obtains its energy from the natural movement of blood in the patient. The purpose of our device is not to be the power source of the pacemaker but to produce enough energy from the additive that it will charge the batteries of the pacemaker. The capability of having a device that will produce the energy needed to charge the batteries of the pacemaker will eliminate the need for the replacement surgeries of pacemakers.

Our Hematologic-Electric Pacemaker will have the modern pacemaker itself and an additive that is connected by bio-compatible wire that the electrical current will run through. The additive is where the energy is created by the movement of the blood. The location in which the additive will be placed will be a vein. A section of the vein will be cut and our device added in place of the vein with skin grafts to connect the vein to the ends of the device. Stints may be needed in the vein to help support the added weight from the device. We chose the location for the device to be a vein as the pressure within the vein is low but the volume is high (Desai).

Original artwork provided by authors.

Original artwork provided by authors.

The device itself is made up of three chambers. The first inner chamber is in a shape of a barrel. Inside this barrel are propellers which are in the shape of airplane propellers. They are as if two flat surfaces lying horizontally are slightly twisted. The front propeller is made out of a harder bio-compatible material while the back propeller is made out of a more flexible material to create less turbulence in the blood as it re-enters the actual vein. As the blood from the vein travels through the barrel, the movement of the blood causes the propeller blades to spin. The shape of the propellers makes it so the blood can pass through the device freely without a large obstruction in its path. The propellers are connected to the barrel. The barrel is a magnet in which the top half of the barrel has a positive charge and the bottom half of the barrel has a negative charge. Since the propellers are connected to the barrel, the whole barrel moves as one unit. The barrel itself will be enclosed in a thin, bio-compatible membrane. Tightly wrapped around the membrane will be copper wire. To protect the body from exposed wire, the third bio-compatible casing will enclose the wire.
Our design allows the processes of electromagnetism and hematologic-electricity to occur. Electricity is “simply moving electrons” and “some metals, like copper, have electrons that are loosely held; they are easily pushed from their levels” (Intermediate Energy Infobook). The way in which our device creates electricity is similar to the turbine generators today but instead of using a substance like water to spin the turbine, the Hematologic-Electric Pacemaker uses the blood in the vein. The spinning of the barrel, or the spinning of the magnet, causes a magnetic field where the loose electrons in the copper wire, which is wrapped around the membrane of the barrel, are being pushed and pulled by the magnetic field (Intermediate Energy Infobook). The moving electrons in the wire will flow into a connected transmission line which will eventually lead to the pacemaker. There is an AC/DC converter connected to the transmission line just as the moving electrons enter into the line. Since the electrons are rapidly moving back and forth, they are moving in an alternating current. Before the electricity is able to get to the pacemaker, it needs to be transferred into a direct current. The AC/DC converter solves this issue as it converts the alternating current to a direct current so the flow of electrons is in one direction traveling toward the pacemaker.

Photo credit: Web 1/12/2012 via Creative Commons license

Photo credit: Web 1/12/2012 via Creative Commons license

Once the blood is about the leave the barrel, the spinning motion of the propellers will cause the blood to leave the barrel twisting. In order to straighten out and slow down the blood flow, the membrane and the outer casing of the device is extended after the barrel. This extension of casing is called the turbulence reducing chamber. The turbulence reducing chamber solves the problem of the blood having turbulence as it leaves the device, as it allows the blood to regulate itself before it enters into the normal vein again. Inside the turbulence reducing chamber are backflow prevention valves. These valves are in place because as the blood pulses through the vein, there is an inevitable backward suction of the blood that occurs, and the backflow prevention valves make sure the blood will not re-enter into the barrel. Once the blood straightens back out inside the turbulence reducing chamber, it re-enters the actual vein.

“There are about 3 million people worldwide with pacemakers, and each year 600,000 pacemakers are implanted” (Wood, Mark A. and Kenneth A. Ellenbogen). The duration of pacemaker batteries is about 10 years, so every 10 years pacemaker patients have to undergo another surgery to replace the batteries. Our goal is to eliminate the need for replacement surgeries for the batteries of the pacemaker by our Hematologic-Electric Pacemaker.


 Ashesh, Sheetal, Pratik, and Deeba. “History of Pacemakers.” The Physics of a Pacemaker. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

“Benefits and Risks- Pacemakers.” Medtronic. N.p., 22 Sept. 2010. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

“Benefits of the Advances in Cardiac Pacemaker Technology.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 15 Nov. 2012.

Desai, Rishi, M.D. “Arteries vs. Veins – What’s the Difference?” Blood Vessel Diseases. Khan Academy, 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2012.

Heart Rhythm Society. “Treatment and Devices.” Treatment and Devices., 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2012.

“How Pacemakers Are Made.” How Products Are Made. 15 Nov. 2012.

Intermediate Energy Infobook. Electricity. Manassas: The NEED Project, 2012. PDF.

Laursen, Lucas. “Swiss Scientists Design a Turbine to Fit in Human Arteries.” IEEE Spectrum. IEEE Spectrum, 16 May 2011. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.

Mittal, Tarun. Pacemakers — A Journey through the Years. New Delhi: All India Institute of Medical Sciences, 10 Sept. 2005. PDF.

Rhoads, Caroline S., and John M. Miller MD. “What are some Recent Advances in Pacemaker Technology?” EMedicineHealth. 18 June 2009. Healthwise Staff. 15 Nov. 2012.

Webster, Andrew. “Scientists Create Blood Powered Turbine To Power Pacemakers.” PCMAG. Gizmodo, 17 May 2011. Web. 16 Nov. 2012.

“Who Invented the Pacemaker?” Rocket City Space Pioneers. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2012.

Wood, Mark A., M.D., and Kenneth A. Ellenbogen, M.D. “Cardiac Pacemakers From the Patient’s Perspective.” AHA Journals. The American Heart Association, 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

Zax, David. “A Heartbeat-Powered Pacemaker.” MIT Technology Review. 7 Nov. 2012. 16 Nov. 2012.

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Students Take Advantage of Light’s Properties in their “Polar Bear Wear” Design

by Wyatt Miller, Lauren Noblitt, and Amanda Stump

Imagine a coat that utilizes total internal refection to collect heat. We were inspired by the belief that polar bear fur utilizes total internal reflection. We will use this theory along with biomimicry to create this invention. The coat is imagined to be self-heating, and its appearance will be similar to that of an alpaca coat. It will have a high collar to warm the neck and a hood to help the head warm. There will be two perfectly placed pockets to make sure the hands can also stay heated. Also, there will be a zipper in the front that will zip all the way up to the chin. The coat will use an artificial fabric to mimic polar bear fur.

Photo credit: Faux White Fur Jacket. Photograph. The Parka Pages. Web. 12 Jan. 2012.

Our design will mimic the polar bear’s double coat with short hairs that insulate the heat captured by the long hairs that trap the sunlight. Our first product, a jacket, will include a fabric lining of soft cotton and the artificial polar bear fur will utilize a fabric made of millions of fiber optic strands. The fabric will have two layers: short insulating fibers and long sunlight trapping fibers. The long outer layer of fabric will be shaped into tiny, microscopic strand-like tubes. The small tubes will collect sunlight using total internal reflection and create heat that will be insulated by the short fur layer underneath. The whole jacket will have this artificial fur so the humans head, arms, and torso will be consistently heated.


Today, there are many products that use total internal reflection. Some examples are diamonds, prismatic binoculars, flashlight lenses, and lights that use spatial filtering. Diamonds utilize total internal reflection by taking in the light, then reflecting it back onto a surface. “Because diamonds have a high index of refraction (about 2.3), the critical angle for the total internal reflection is only about 25 degrees. Incident light therefore strikes many of the internal surfaces before it strikes one less than 25 degrees and then emerges. After many such reflections, the colors in the light are separated, and seen individually” (Total Internal Reflection: Diamonds & Fiber Optics).

“Prismatic binoculars revolutionized the binocular by using two prisms back-to-back or other arrangements of prisms to rebound light and effectively extend the distance between objective and eyepiece thus compacting the tube while at the same time increasing the ratio of focal lengths between the two lenses, resulting in higher magnification” (Spatz). Flashlights use total internal reflection by using a light bulb as a source of light. The light then bounces off of the lenses located underneath the light bulb. All of these products use total internal reflection for light and sight purposes; our product will use total internal reflection for heating purposes. There are many other great clothing companies today that have clothes that keep you warm as well. These include The North Face, Columbia, Nike and many more. These companies use fake fur; but none of them use fiber optics for warmth. Our product will be the new standard for warmth and winter fashion.


Elliot, Jason. “Facts About Polar Fleece.” Web. 8 Dec. 2011. <;.

Faux White Fur Jacket. Photograph. The Parka Pages. Web. 12 Jan. 2012. <;

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Students Propose Using Body Heat to Power Gaming Systems

by Michael Reece, Erin Motes, Kelsey Lewis, and Nick Meadows

Do you ever get tired of replacing batteries in your game controller?  Well, we do, so we came up with the idea to eliminate those batteries! Harnessing heat energy from the body and transferring it into a thermoelectric generator that powers a video game controller is our proposed innovation. The process requires a normal Xbox 360 controller and thermoelectric generators. The generator would be placed on the insides of handles of the controller and these handles are covered by metal plates. The process would work when someone is playing a game and their body naturally produces heat. The body heat would elevate the metal plates’ temperature and channel that heat to the generators themselves. Each handle will have one generator in it because additional generators would require way to much heat, and the available space inside the controller is limited. In order to reduce the space used, the generators will lie beneath the metal plates which will conduct the heat directly from the palms of the hand into the generators.  The generators would take in the body heat and transform it into electricity that will recharge the battery and make the controller run. The heat would be taken in on the hot side and depart on the cold side.

There has to be enough heat intake because during the process the heat will be used in other areas so the efficiency will be low; therefore, our conductor plates will have to be strong. To make sure that the control stays at normal temperature, the controller’s triggers would have spacing that would allow the generators to push the built-up air through an exhaust thus expelling the excess heat from the controller. This process is a continuous cycle which will precede recharging batteries over time.

The design by itself is going to cause the industry for these generators to sky rocket because all that is needed is one breakthrough for heat energy, and it will be the next air turbine which is now found in virtually anything. The controller is an inexpensive invention because these generators have already been produced at small levels; all that is needed is to implement them into a controller. The equations that go into this are the efficiency level which is limited by the Carnot Cycle, hot side minus cold side. With this all being said, the invention really is quiet simple; it possesses traits that exist today: Xbox controllers and thermoelectric generators.


Autopsy. Digital image. HowStuffWorks. 2003. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.
Devaney, Eric. “Advantage & Disadvantages of a Thermoelectric Generator.” EHow. 27 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012.

Hodes, Marc. A Load-Following Thermoelectric Generator. Tech. Tufts University. Web. 10 Jan. 2012.

“HowStuffWorks Autopsy:Inside an Xbox 360 Controller.” 2003. Web. 11 Jan. 2012.

Ismail, Basel. Thermoelectric Power Generation Using Waste-Heat Energy. Tech. 24 Nov. 2008. Web. 9 Jan. 2012.

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Snyder, Jeffrey. Small Thermoelectric Generator. Tech. The Electrochemical Society Interface, Fall 2008. Web. 10 Jan. 2012.

Thomas, Rani. “Everything I Need To Know About Thermoelectric Generator.” EcoFriend. 18 June 2011. Web. 10 Jan. 2012.

Wustenhagen, Volker. “The Promises and Problems of Thermoelectric Generators.” Advanced Nanotechnology. Web. 2012.

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Friendship Provides Inspiration for Noninvasive Glucose Tester

One of the authors testing her blood sugar.

by Melissa Bishop, Sarah Dew, Amy Evans,
and Katie Jacoby

One of the authors of this article was diagnosed with type 1 or juvenile diabetes recently. She despises having to test her blood glucose constantly, so we decided to research diabetes, understand its causes and treatments, and come up with a way to to address this problem.  Here are our results.

Glucose testing technology has come a long way since diabetes was first discovered. Current blood glucose testing technology uses a small needle called a lancet to prick the finger and test the blood glucose. Although the technology has come a long way, it is still invasive, requiring a small sample of blood to go into a blood glucose meter. This glucose meter is the most accurate current technology; and it is required to be accurate within twenty percent of a laboratory standard. Testing blood glucose levels can be very inconvenient, and many people do not test as much as they should because of this inconvenience. There are also continuous glucose monitors, which are small devices with a needle placed under the skin, designed to test interstitial fluid. These work well to a point, but they can be inaccurate, and they still require a blood glucose test before any corrective action is taken.

The accuracy of many blood glucose monitors is being challenged by the Food and Drug Administration. They believe that they should be more accurate, since there are over 18 million people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the United States who must use these for diagnostic purposes. Individuals living with diabetes are susceptible to seizures, comas, becoming unconscious and even death if this number is not correct. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, so improving glucose testing could help reduce the number of diabetes-related deaths (Harris).

Currently, researchers are finding many alternative ways to test blood glucose, like testing it with tears. The level of glucose in tears is very close to the level of glucose in blood, which is why tears are sweet. The only problem with using tears is that glucose levels rise tremendously in your tears when you are angry, which can give false readings. Another alternative is using glow in dark tattoos applied to the patient. The tattoo does not show up unless a special light is shone onto it. The light causes the tattoo to change color, and an LED screen on the light displays the exact glucose reading. These technologies have potential to be very convenient, but they are still in the very beginning stages of development and it will take years for them to become available to the masses, if they ever are (Davis).

Photo credit: Tidy, Christopher, Glucose Meters. Digital Image. Wikipedia. 6 Mar. 2006. Web. 12 Jan.


Glucose monitors are needed for individuals that have the metabolic disease diabetes. Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in the bloodstream is too high, and the person’s body either does not make enough insulin or has cells that do not correctly respond to the type of insulin made in the pancreas. The glucose will build up and eventually go out of the body as urine, but the cells in the body aren’t getting the amount of glucose needed for energy and growth requirements (Nordqvist).

There are three types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational. A person with type 1 produces no insulin at all. A person with type 2 doesn’t produce enough insulin or the insulin he or she does produce is not working properly. Gestational diabetes is developed just while a woman is pregnant. Type 1 and type 2 are chronic medical conditions, whereas gestational usually ends right after the birth of the child (Nordqvist).

Every type of diabetes is treatable but not curable, yet. Patients with type 1 receive daily insulin, which was discovered in 1921. Patients with type 2 only receive insulin when needed because it is usually treatable with tablets, exercise, and a special diet. People who have diabetes use a glucose meter to measure the amount of glucose in their blood (Nordqvist). Glucose meters have only been around for about 40 years. The earliest meter was used in American hospitals and was called The Ames Reflectance Meter. It was ten inches long and needed to be plugged into an outlet. The first two meters that were actually in-home meters were the Glucometer and the Accucheck meter. There were also test strips that changed color according to the patient’s glucose level, but they lost popularity and are no longer sold (Glucose Meter). Now we have glucose meters that are small and inexpensive; patients can carry them around anywhere. They have to prick their finger and put a small amount of blood on a test strip that is in the glucose meter. The meter then calculates the amount of glucose in the blood and shows it on the screen. This technology has come a long way since color coded strips. It also makes taking blood more discrete and not as embarrassing in public; however, this procedure does leave little marks on the patients’ fingers or wherever they take their blood. It would be a great leap forward if scientists could come up with a meter that does not cause patients to prick their finger.

Future Technology

Glucose testing technology is slowly expanding. The type 2 diabetes rate in the United States is rapidly increasing in correlation with the growing obesity rate; therefore, until a cure for diabetes is discovered, there will be a constant need for a device to measure blood glucose levels. While there are different varieties available on the market, almost all of them involve a finger prick from a needle. Our goal is to create a painless alternative using infrared technology rather than a needle to detect blood sugar levels.

Our proposed design: both fashionable and functional.

Our proposed device will be in the form of a bracelet. People with diabetes are advised to wear medical alert bracelets in case of an emergency in which they would be unable to communicate their health condition to medical personnel. Since these patients already have to wear a bracelet, the bracelet monitor would not be anything extra for them to wear. It will look like a typical medical alert bracelet, except with a clock (making it a watch, as well), a tiny meter, and a charm attached via a wire on an ultra sleek band, giving it both medical and fashion purposes. Hanging off of the meter is the charm that functions as a measuring device with an infrared light. The charm clips to the finger to obtain a reading via infrared technology. There will be a button located on the side of the clock that can be pressed to run a test. When the button is pressed, the infrared light will penetrate through the skin into the blood, and the waves emitted back will signal the glucose level. The face will then change to a display screen, and the blood glucose level will be shown. This device is perfect for those who do not like to be obvious when drawing their blood; it’s very discreet. Also, it should please anybody with a low pain tolerance because it is completely pain free.

One might be surprised that this kind of a product isn’t available on the market right now. Improving glucose testing technology has been on the agendas of many major glucose technology companies for a while now, but it takes a lot of time to test the technology, and many improvements have to be made along the way. This makes the production process extremely lengthy. A device like ours really could change the lives of diabetics.


Research in the treatment of diabetes has come a long way in the past decades.  Recent studies on the use of near-infrared spectroscopy to monitor glucose levels have shown some hopeful results.  This is good news for the possibility of our design, but there are still many breakthroughs that need to be made in order to ensure the success of it.  Scientists still have more work if we ever want to eliminate invasive glucose monitors.

Blood glucose monitors still need blood to calibrate.  In order for our design to limit inconvenience, time between calibrations must be increased.  Two of the many companies researching noninvasive blood glucose monitors with infrared include Glucolight Corp. and OrSense Ltd.  OrSense’s model lasts only 12 hours without calibration. Glucolight’s model can last for about four days between calibrations (DeNoon).  The goal of our design is to minimize the use of blood for monitoring.  To make this design more convenient for the user, the time between calibrations must be as high as possible.

Another aspect of our design that will need to be developed is the size of the monitor itself.  Our design is a bracelet that not only makes a fashion statement and alerts medical personnel of the wearer’s condition, but also functions as a watch and monitor.  Current monitoring devices that use infrared are large and bulky, which is highly inconvenient for the user.  Glucolight’s device, for example, is attached to a monitor that is too large to carry (DeNoon).  The size of the monitor and infrared light must be minimized to fit inside of a watch or bracelet so it can be easily carried around at all times with the patient and be used discreetly to test his or her blood sugar levels.

The most important breakthrough that must be made is an increase in the accuracy of the readings made with the infrared light.  Our design uses infrared light shone through the skin to monitor blood glucose.  Recent studies at MIT’s Spectroscopy Lab show that the IR light works, but it can only go half a millimeter under the skin; it is really reading levels in the fluid surrounding the skin and not the glucose in the blood stream (Dillow).  However, the researchers were able to create an algorithm that can help monitors distinguish between the levels in skin and the levels in the blood stream (Dillow).  Despite this solution, there are still problems to work out with the accuracy.  Blood glucose increases rapidly right after eating, but the fluids found in the skin take longer to catch up to the blood stream’s glucose level (Dillow).  Luckily, researchers came up with a process called “Dynamic Concentration Correction,” or “DCC,” that increased the accuracy on average by 15% and in some cases 30% (Dillow).  The increase in the accuracy in this study is a good sign, but the rate must be higher to ensure the safety of the patients.  Further research and testing must be done to increase the accuracy rate.

The road to a noninvasive way of testing blood glucose is a long one that has been frustrating scientists and patients alike for years; however, current studies look promising, and we are moving closer to noninvasive glucose monitoring technology.  If these small problems can be resolved, our design can become a possibility.

The goals of our design are to change how people with diabetes monitor their blood sugar level by eliminating the painful process of finger pricking and to make testing easier and more convenient for the user.  It may take many years for scientists to work out some of the problems, but hopefully in the future we will be able to end the pain of invasive blood glucose monitors and change how those with diabetes monitor their blood sugar levels forever.


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DeNoon, Daniel J. “No-Prick Blood Sugar Tests Unveiled.” WebMD Diabetes Center: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Tests, and Treatments. WebMD, Inc., 25 June 2007. Web. 01 Dec. 2011.

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