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Engineering and Technology

Cool Robot of the Week
mini robot
Image: SANDIA NATIONAL LABORATORIES

From a robotic sheepdog that can herd a flock of geese to a minibot that can literally turn on a dime, this site celebrates robotics-related projects and events and the Web sites devoted to them. Each week NASA's Space Telerobotics Program selects a noteworthy site for this distinction. The site is itself simple and straightforward, functioning mainly as a guide. Archived selections going back to 1996 are available, so enthusiasts should find a plethora of sites to inform and inspire them.

Invention Dimension

If you're a would-be inventor with a hot idea, you would do well to stop by this site, hosted by M.I.T. A handbook for inventors answers all those commonly asked questions¿from Is my idea patentable? to How do I prove the idea is mine?¿and even provides information on the commercialization process. If you don't have an invention in mind, you can always look to the featured inventor of the week for inspiration. For further reading the site includes a page of links to sites covering research and development, both at M.I.T. and beyond.

Invention Master Resource List

Whether it's a patent-searching service or venture capital information you seek, this site houses links to all kinds of invention-related resources. Nine categories of links point inventors to legal information, entrepreneurial resources, and invention achievement awards, among other things. And if you want to chat with other inventors, links to discussion groups are provided, too.

Bad Human Factors Designs

If you've ever puzzled over how to work someone else's shower or been baffled by the office photocopier, you'll appreciate this site. Things designed for everyday use, usability engineer Michael J. Darnell tells us, should not require a lot of mental energy, problem solving or instructions. To that end, he has assembled a lengthy list of bad designs that fall into categories such as "things that are hard to remember" and "unexpected placement of controls." But Darnell isn't just complaining¿for each bad design he provides suggestions on how to improve it. Visitors who have their own examples of bad designs are invited to submit them for consideration.

Brad Hein's Nanotechnology Site

Make no mistake: nanotechnology¿the science of building structures and devices atom by atom¿may be the next big thing. This site, created by software engineer Brad Hein, offers a great introduction to the impending revolution, which promises to affect everything from computers to medicine to materials science. Here you'll find a collection of news stories on the latest developments in the field, background information, a list of prominent nanotech scientists, an events calendar and a forum for discussion. The site also features an extensive resources section with links to nanotech-related books, articles, Web sites and research groups. A glossary and search engine make it additionally user-friendly.


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