Category: Engineering News Briefs

Engineering News Briefs: Winter 2009

Guitar Heroes helps Prosthetic Patients? 23guitar

That’s right! Researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory are using Nintendo’s Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock game to allow amputees to rock out and get valuable training with prosthetic prototypes at the same time. The game speeds up the calibration process in a more interesting way than previously used methods. Read the entire article by clicking here.

Facebook for Pros

FbDuring Intersession, Hopkins students took a course to design Facebook applications. In Facebook 101, a course taught by computer science graduate students Carol Reiley and Daniel Mirota, students created new applications for the social networking site. The applications ranged from the useful to the frivolous. Read more here.

Engineering Week 2009

Once a year Hopkins lets the engineers run wild for a week. Actually it’s two weeks and they can pretty much do whatever they want the rest of the time anyway. But Engineering Week is always a fun time. One of the competitions in this year’s engineering week was the Tower of Power. Read about the competition here. To see the schedule of events check out this calendar.

Researcher Seeks to Turn Stem Cells into Blood VesselsEngmag-winter09

A Johns Hopkins engineer is trying to coax human stem cells to turn into networks of new blood vessels that could someday be used to replace damaged tissue in people with heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. Read the full story here.

Winter 2009 Engineering Magazine

Click here to review a PDF of the most recent edition of the Johns Hopkins Engineering Magazine. This issue includes stories on a challenge to find new catalysts for fuel cells, a profile of Reeds Wolman ’49 – a true Hopkins legend, and a look at new collaborations between the Whiting School and the Applied Physics Lab.

Engineering News Briefs: December 2008

Batteries NOT Required

Freshman mechanical engineers faced a challenge in their first major design project: how to design, build, and race a functioning model car along an 11-foot curved course complete with obstacles … with just two mousetraps and six rubber bands.  How’d they do it?  Check out this news article and the video above to learn more!

04edlife.walker.190 Two student design projects in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at  Johns Hopkins University have been featured in The New York Times’ Education Life section.  The first is an ICU walker complete with a built-in seat and places to hold medical equipment, designed to allow intensive care patients some mobility even while still tethered to monitors, IVs, and other equipment.  The second is the development of an oral vaccine, in the form of a quick-dissolving strip that is placed on the tongue to prevent rotavirus infections in children. Read more about these innovative designs here and here!

White House Honors for Yu
Michael S. Yu, an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, was honored in a White House ceremony with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.  Yu was recognized for his work towards developing ways to use common collagen to build new blood vessels and detect disease.  Read the Headlines@Hopkins article for more information:

The Power of Touch


Allison Okamura, associate professor and director of Johns Hopkins’ Haptics Laboratory (“haptics” is the ability of people to sense the world through touch), has been featured in the Washington Post for her work in developing touch technology.  The awe-inspiring goal is to capture “the vast array of information we get from feeling our three-dimensional world” and transmit that through technology, in the same way we can with sight and sound.  For the full article, click here!

Engineering News Briefs: October 2008

Who You Gonna Call?
Wire d magazine just named WSE professor Tony Dalrympleto their “2008 Smart List: 15 People the Next President Should Listen To.” A member of the department of civil engineering and an expert in coastal erosion, Dalrymple could educate our next Commander in Chief on what we should do to perpare for “extreme weather” in the coming years, says Wired. His three-point to avoid disaster? (1) Plan the evacuation; (2) Restore the wetlands; and (3) Save the beaches.

Stand Back!

A senior mechanical engineering design team is receiving wide praise for a device that allows utility workers to safely disconnect power lines from residential transformers.

Built at the request of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), the students’ invention consists of a lightweight aluminum frame and a rope and a lever-and-pulley system that’s used to detach a transformer’s power connector. This operation has been known in the past to trigger explosive arcs as far as eight feet from the transformer and cause serious burns and eye injuries. The students’ device, now being tested for field use by BGE, enables workers to disconnect the line from a safe 10 to 12 feet away. Read more here .

Recent Grad’s Riveting Research

Jennifer Hooper McCarty’ 93 began researching the Titanic’s rivets when she was a Hopkins grad student in materials science. She studied the composition of rivets recovered from the ocean floor, created computer models to determine their durability under iceberg-collision conditions, and combed through documents about the ship’s construction.

Ultimately, McCarty determined that in order to save money and meet deadlines, rivets in the Titanic’s bow and stern were forged from iron, not steel. These weaker rivets popped under the stress of hitting the iceberg, causing five or six of the ship’s “watertight” compartments to flood.

In her recent book, What Really Sank the Titanic, MacCarty concludes that had the rivets been stronger, the ship still would have sunk—but not as quickly. Steel rivets would have made for a less sentimental movie, but would have provided enough time for the Carpathia to rescue all of the Titanic’s passengers.

Whiting School of Engineering Video Competition

Throughout this past semester the Whiting School of Engineering organized its first annual WSE Video Competition, the results of which can be viewed at:


11_2This video is about using engineering techniques in all aspects of life, including the kitchen. In this film, gingerbread men are made using engineering techniques. After adding a secret ingredient to the recipe, something goes very wrong. There is a surprise waiting in the oven. (Click video image to watch entire submission.)




Students from the schools of Engineering and Arts & Sciences submitted a total of 12 qualifying videos. Each video is 2 – 3 minutes long and students chose from one of the following themes: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, A Day in the Life, A New Discovery, and How it Works. All videos highlight various aspects of engineering at Johns Hopkins.


22_5The Gracias Lab at Johns Hopkins has developed a relatively easy, precise, and cost-effective process by which the 2D templates of semi-tethered "faces" can self-assemble into controlled 3D structures by utilizing the natural phenomena of surface tension. This video highlights the development, manufacturing process, and proposed functions (cell encapsulation devices and controlled drug delivery carriers) of our self-assembling nanoliter containers. (Click video image to watch entire submission.)


The videos the students created range from humorous depictions of life as an engineering student, to a mock wildlife documentary on the search and capture of the elusive mechanical engineering student, to animated depictions of research and research documentaries on specific projects.

44 Parker has come to the Johns Hopkins University campus in search of the elusive Mechanical Engineering Student also known as a Mech-E. Come along for a wild adventure through out the Homewood campus as our host observes, studies, and attempts to capture one of these amazing creatures. (Click video image to watch entire submission.)



Some groups of students created videos as part of a intersession course offered for this competition by the Digital Media Center. The DMC also assisted other students by providing instruction, workshops, and equipment.

Judges will award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. The public was invited to vote for their favorite video, the People’s Choice Award. Unfortunately voting has closed but please go and check out all the videos submissions at:

Engineering News Briefs: November and December 2007

Issue of Time Magazine Features JHU Chapter of Engineers Without Borders

20071210_107Johns Hopkins University’s Chapter of Engineers without Borders was featured in a Time Magazine article in their December 10th issue. Here is the direct quote from Time:

At Johns Hopkins University, for example, engineering professor William Ball says more than half of his department’s students have signed up with the school’s EWB chapter, which is engaged in long-term work to improve irrigation in rural South Africa. “I know for a fact that many students come here because we talk about this sort of work,” says Ball. “And that’s the kind of student we want to attract.”

Click here to read the full article, and learn more about Professor William Ball by clicking here.

Freshmen Mechanical Engineering Students Compete in “Flippy Car” MecheContest

On December 10, the annual Mechanical Engineering Freshman Design Competition was held. This year’s project? The students had to design a “Flippy Car.” A twist on the usual mouse-trap car: the vehicle had to travel 10 feet, flip over, and then travel another 10 feet, using only the energy stored in rubber bands and mousetraps. Thirteen teams of students, who had worked on their cars for over a month, competed in a single-elimination tournament. Click here to check-out the full details about the Fall 2007 Mechanical Engineering Design Team Project. Click here for even more on MechE Design Projects.

VideoflierthumbEngineering Student Video Competition Launched!

The first ever Engineering School Student Video Competition launched in  December. Students must submit 2-3 minute videos on the topics:

1. “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time”
2. “A Day in the Life”
3. A New Discovery
4. “How it Works”

Cash prizes will be awarded to the best videos in early March and a selection of the videos will be made available on the Engineering School website and on YouTube. Prospective students should check back to see what our creative students come up with. Click here to read the full details of the contest.

Mechanical Engineering Professor Featured in Science Magazine10841thumb

Professor Greg Chirikijian was recently featured in Science Magazine’s story “Making Machines That Others of Their Kind.” The article discusses the professor’s work developing simple robots that can make others like themselves out of a few relatively complex parts. Click here to view Professor Chirikijian’s faculty profile.

Engineering News Briefs: October 2007

A Team of Whiting School Grad Students Competes in Red Bull Soap Box ChallengeSoap_box

Four Materials Science graduate students have teamed together to create a soap box racer and enter it into the Red Bull Soap Box Challenge. The team of JHU students raced their “Timmy the Turtle” racer in Providence, RI on October 13. For more details on the racer, check out the Red Bull Soap Box teams page. Unfortunately, the JHU team did not win, but their “slow and steady wins the race” motto still could help in future competitions.

Hopkins Engineers Discover the Brain is No Longer Needed

After suffering a spinal cord injury, it’s not the severed communication between the brain and limbs that causes restricted mobility, but the severed communication between limbs. When limbs can’t “speak” to each other, walking is impossible. Ralph Etienne-Cummings and his colleagues in Electrical and Computer Engineering have developed a chip that can produce communication between limbs. Their work shows terrific promise for people suffering from spinal cord injury. Read about it in EETimes.


It Took 100 Years, But WSE Researchers Finally Made the Change

The way researchers incubate cells has remained the same for 100 years … Ece2 until recently. This month, engineers in Johns Hopkins’ Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering developed a thumbnail-sized micro-incubator that can culture baby hamster kidney cells over a three-day period. Self-contained and requiring no external heating source, the eco-friendly, low cost unit can easily be moved to different microscopes, imaging devices or other experimental tools without jeopardizing the health of the cell culture. Says Jennifer Blain, one of the students responsible for this breakthrough, “Once it’s set up, you can just walk away!” Read more about this development in a recent Gazette article.

Engineers Without Borders: Students Supply a Remote South African Village with Water

For the second year in a row, a team of undergraduate engineering students from the Johns Hopkins chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled to the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa to Ewbprovide a small, rural village with a water supply and irrigation system. Thanks to the students’ work, the village’s elderly women no longer have to carry heavy loads of water to use for drinking or for their communal vegetable gardens. The student group has plans to implement another water supply project in Guatemala later this year. Learn more about Engineers Without Borders at JHU by visiting their web site.