5 TED Talks Engineers Need to Watch

by Modis on May 11, 2017

engineer watching TED Talks on a tabletReady to think outside of the box about engineering? We’ve got just what you need! These TED talks showcase some of the most exciting developments in engineering today. Learn how engineering is advancing our knowledge and technologies even further while building closer communities and helping to clean up our planet and beyond.

Pollution Eating Robots

Jonathan Rossiter, Professor of Robotics at University of Bristol, UK, has designed a pollution-eating robot, taking inspiration from nature rather than basing it on the human form like most robots tend to do. His biomimicry swimming “Row-bot” generates the electricity needed to power itself by swallowing polluted water and uses a microbial fuel cell to help clean up harmful algae blooms created by pesticide and fertilizer run-off going into the sea. It can also be used to clean up after oil spills.

Next Steps in Nanotechnology

What happens when the chips and transistors that power our mobile devices can’t get any smaller? George Tulevski, a materials scientist and researcher at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, is trying to answer that question in order to develop the next generation of computers. He’s developing nanomaterials using chemical processes that make billions of carbon nanotubes assemble themselves into the patterns needed to build circuits, copying the way natural organisms build intricate, diverse and elegant structures.

Cleaning Up Space Junk

Cleaning up closer to home to combat climate change is the usual environmental issue that comes to mind, but rocket scientist, Natalie Panek, highlights the fact that the way we live today depends on the space environment that our planet spins in. She says that the debris being created by our satellite communication systems (aka space junk) is going to get a lot worse unless we change our behavior. So how can we clean it up? Beyond developing new laws and standards to force us to, Panek advocates for new designs of satellites and their repair in addition to disposable systems rather than just shifting out of action ones into the ‘graveyard orbits’.

Healing Architecture

Co-founder and CEO of MASS Design Group, Michael Murphy explains his vision for buildings that are designed and engineered to be community-centric structures with healing built into their core. One of the projects he highlights here is a hospital he built in Rwanda based on designs specifically developed to address the health problems the medical staff told him were being made word, or even caused, by the previous building. The entire project, and MASS Design Group’s approach to architecture is also based on the ‘Eat Local’ movement in food so that not only the buildings heal but the entire process of creating them rebuilds communities.

Shape Shifters

Forget the keyboard and mouse, interaction designer Sean Follmer at Stanford University’s Media Lab has invented shape shifting technology that he says is going to transform every area of our lives. See the prototypes he’s designed in action in this talk, including a 3D shape-shifting table that enables images to be manipulated by hand so, for example, cityscapes can be built, and be changed, with the swipe of a finger. Other inventions include a phone that turns into a wristband.

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