Need A Robot For That? CMU-Developed Software Helps You Design & 3D Print Them

CMU Robotics Institute assistant professor Stelian Coros was working to find ways to make animated characters navigate their simulated environments, such as in a video game or a movie, when he realized his work could be used to design and virtually test robots. "And what I'm really excited about is moving towards a new paradigm where robots will be able to approach the complexity of biological structures in both form and in function," Coros said. Typically, a robot is designed by engineers and a prototype is built and tested. That design is then sent back to the engineers to be redesigned and the process is repeated until the robot is ready to be sent to a manufacturing facility. Coros said that expensive and time-consuming process works when the goal is mass production. "In that case, the investment is worth it," Coros said. "But I imagine a future where everyone will have a different type of robot that matches their own needs or preferences." The goal is customizable robots made for

Need A Robot For That? CMU-Developed Software Helps You Design & 3D Print Them

Wolf Says Pension Reform Will Trim Liability By At Least $10B

Pennsylvania's unfunded pension liability stands at $70 billion . In other words, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, what Pennsylvania owes in pensions for retired and active state employees and public school teachers is only funded at about 60 percent . Pennsylvania ranks 38th in the country . But now the state Senate has approved pension reform legislation which would change pension plans for new state employees and public school teachers. "It's not the perfect dream act that any one of us would have picked. But it does move us forward," said Gov. Tom Wolf. Retired and current workers and teachers are in a defined benefit plan. Under this legislation , new hires would have three options including a 401(k)-style plan. Wolf said he believes a lot of incoming workers might like that approach. "You might want to work for the state for four years. Well, the old defined benefit plan that took a long time to get vested.. And with a 401(k)-style, it's a lot more portable to the

Defusing A Bomb With A Joystick Isn't Easy, So Pittsburgh Company Creates Scale Robotic Arm

RE2 Robotics first spun out of Carnegie Mellon University in 2001 to build off-road vehicles for the U.S. Department of Defense , but now its researchers are working to develop the next generation of robotic arms. The 40 people who work at the Lawrenceville-based company now focus on building arms for robots used to defuse improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. "These are robotic arms that are placed on things that move through the world," said the company's president, Jorgen Pedersen. "A robot can perceive the world, it can move through the world but when it's time to interact with the world, that's where we come in." Pedersen said RE2 is a leader in "mobile manipulators," and their work is more complicated than simply re-purposing robotic arms used in industrial settings. "[The arm] has to be very lightweight. It has to be compact. It has to be power-efficient," he said. "Because it has to fit on a small robot that's running off of a battery." As the company improved the weight-to

Defusing A Bomb With A Joystick Isn't Easy, So Pittsburgh Company Creates Scale Robotic Arm

Can This Green Method Of Disposing Leftover Drilling Water Beat A Hole In The Ground?

Every day, about 200 barrels of something called produced water bubbles out of each of the roughly 9,600 shale gas wells in Pennsylvania. The water is laced with chemicals and minerals, and since energy companies have been fracking gas wells, they have tried to figure out the best way to deal with it. Several companies ship the water to sites in Ohio where it is injected thousands of feet into the ground. It's a cheap solution – one that Shyam Dighe, president and CEO of AquaSource is trying to beat. "What the competition is, is the hole in the ground in Ohio, not GE or Halliburton," Dighe said. "The drillers will take it to the cheapest disposal site. So with that in mind, three of us started this company with a very laser focus that we have to beat the hole in the ground." According to Dighe, the deep injection wells in Ohio charge $3 to $5 a barrel to take fracking water. Depending on how for that water is shipped, it can add an additional $18 per barrel. The practice has also

Can This Green Method Of Disposing Leftover Drilling Water Beat A Hole In The Ground?

Allegheny County Is 3rd Worst In PA For Number Of Women Running For Office

One day after the inauguration of Donald Trump, women, men and children marched in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the country, including Pittsburgh. Women were encouraged to run for office at all levels: federal, state and local. But was that call to action taken to heart, and was it reflected in the recently held Pennsylvania Primary? Dana Brown, executive director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, said there was only one woman candidate for every two male candidates in Allegheny County. That number could be skewed because it also includes judges of elections at the polling places throughout the county. She spoke with 90.5 WESA's Kevin Gavin about women in Pennsylvania politics. Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. KEVIN GAVIN: Immediately following the inauguration of President Trump and the day after the Women's March, there was great enthusiasm — a call for more women candidates for elected offices at various

Allegheny County Is 3rd Worst In PA For Number Of Women Running For Office

CMU Researchers Find If You Can Paint It, You Can Make It A Touch Screen

Touch screens have become part of our everyday lives, but the technology has its limits. They are always relatively flat and are fixed to another product, like a cell phone or a computer. But researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have figured out a way to make just about any object into a touch sensitive device. "We extracted sensing techniques from medical fields and things like that," CMU Human-Computer Interaction Institute Ph.D. student Gierad Laput said. "Very expensive equipment, million-dollar equipment. And we were like, 'Can we make that cheap?'" Laput and his co-researchers boiled the sensor down to a few electrodes and a computer chip that cost less than $100. They figured out that if you put these electrodes on a sheet of carbon-infused plastic used to keep electronics safe from static electricity during shipping, it's possible to send electric pulses among the electrodes. "You say, 'Hey electrode one, shoot a signal.' And then all the others receive it and then you go,

CMU Researchers Find If You Can Paint It, You Can Make It A Touch Screen

Fitzgerald: Partnership With Peduto Critical To The Region's Development

Among the supporters at Mayor Bill Peduto's primary election night victory party was Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. "We've had a good relationship for a long time," Fitzgerald said. "We talk all the time ... we have a very similar outlook in how we try to govern." Fitzgerald has been county executive since January 2012, two years longer than Peduto has been mayor, and he's looking forward to continuing to work together. "It works better for the region when that happens," Fitzgerald said. Without offering specific instances, he said cooperation hasn't always been the case. "When you have conflict [among local leaders], what typically happens is outsiders, meaning Washington, Harrisburg and businesses, tend to walk away," Fitzgerald said. According to the county executive, federal and state officials considering development projects, and businesses considering locating in the area want to be certain that local leaders are in synch. "We're working smoothly together, and I think

Fitzgerald: Partnership With Peduto Critical To The Region's Development

Scanning Feet Could Be Just The Start For This Pittsburgh Tech Firm

In 2007, Mike Formica had just sold his tech start up and was looking for something to do when he was approached by a group of scientists from The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. They wanted a device that would detect joint swelling in the hands of people who suffer arthritis. Formica jumped on board and started to look for a solution, but wasn't happy with what he found. "In the process of looking around the industry, I learned a lot about how 3-D scanning works and I said, 'You know, I think we can make our own,'" Formica said. "So we spent one weekend, we got a laser line level from Lowes and a digital camera and took a bunch of pictures and made our first 3-D image of a Starbuck's cup." He said it was far from perfect. "It looked like it got melted in the sunlight, but you could tell it kind of looked like a cup," Formica said. Once they improved the tool, Formica quickly realized he had something that would work for other industries and threeRivers 3D was

Pennsylvania Is One Of Few States That Has Partisan Judicial Elections

When voters in Allegheny County go to the poles May 16, they will see the names of at least 14 candidates hoping to become a judge. While it is often difficult for parties to find candidates to run for other offices, it is virtually never a problem to fill the slate with lawyers looking to earn a seat on the bench. So why is that? "Let me just say this, looking back on it, it's probably one of the greatest jobs you can have in this country," retired Common Pleas Judge Robert Gallo, 80, said. "It's an honor, it's a privilege because you are judging your contemporaries and it's a great responsibility when you do it." But it's harder for him to answer a different question: is the system used in Pennsylvania the best system? "Well, I don't know," Gallo said. "What's the alternative?" How Pennsylvania does it At both the trial and appellate level in Pennsylvania, lawyers run for a 10-year term as judge in partisan races, which means they identify as being a Republican, Democrat or third

Pennsylvania Is One Of Few States That Has Partisan Judicial Elections

As Medical Cannabis Implemented, Wolf Says PA Not Ready For Recreational Weed

Pennsylvania is on track to have medical cannabis on dispensary shelves come next April, according to Gov. Tom Wolf. However, the legally permissible forms of medical marijuana might be more varied than originally thought. The law, as passed, allows medical cannabis in pills, oils, topical treatments and liquids. "There is no THC in (those) forms of the marijuana," Wolf said. THC stands for tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the part the creates a high. At the recent World Medical Cannabis Conference in Pittsburgh, state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery) told attendees that he expects the medical marijuana will also be available in a smokeable plant form when the dispensaries open for business. Leach, a prime sponsor of the legislation, said there's a provision that allows and advisory panel to recommend increasing the types of permissible medical cannabis including the leaf form. Wolf said the bill only received legislative approval because it did not include the leaf form of marijuana.

As Medical Cannabis Implemented, Wolf Says PA Not Ready For Recreational Weed

How Democrats Came To Dominate And Strengthen The Role Of Alleghency County Council

On May 16th, Allegheny County primary voters will choose their party's nominees to run for Allegheny County Council. Democrats, who have a two-to-one registration majority in the county, are expected to retain their majority during the general election this November. That leaves Republicans and some critics frustrated. "It's difficult for the minority party to have input," said Dave Fawcett, who used to serve as an at-large member of the council. During his time on council, Fawcett was a Republican; he later became a Democrat. "The only role then that the minority [party] can play is to raise objections or be dissenters." But even critics of county council believe that the system is far better than the government it replaced. "We had the three commissioner system and that had been marked with cronyism and nepotism and wasn't really functioning the way government should," Fawcett said. "[Previously], your three commissioners were your legislative and your executive body all rolled into

How Democrats Came To Dominate And Strengthen The Role Of Alleghency County Council

Park System Is 'Key Part Of A Great City,' Says Outgoing Conservancy CEO

When Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy CEO Meg Cheever looks out of the "living room" of Frick Parks' environmental center, she marvels at what she sees. " When I look out the windows, I see a wonderful park," she said. "I see lots of green trees and nature, sometimes a red-tailed hawk sometimes people enjoying the park and walking their dogs and taking their kids by the hand." Cheever said she's particularly excited about the new Environmental Center, which opened to the public in September , replacing the old facility that had been destroyed by fire in 2002 . The new facility, which generates it's own water and power, is one of 17 major park renovation projects the conservancy has completed. In December 1996, Cheever led a group of citizens concerned about the deteriorating conditions of the city's parks to create the conservancy. More than 20 years later, Cheever announced she will step down as the organization's president and CEO in March. " I think we have a wonderful park system and

Park System Is 'Key Part Of A Great City,' Says Outgoing Conservancy CEO

Fitzgerald Hopes Pittsburgh Will Become A Tourist Destination For China

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, China is the fourth largest international trading partner for the Pittsburgh region, behind Canada, Mexico and Japan.

Fitzgerald Hopes Pittsburgh Will Become A Tourist Destination For China

Moving Nano-particles Can Be Tough, But A Pitt Professor Found A Way

Researchers and laboratory scientists are increasingly trying to move cells and nano-particles through smaller and smaller channels. "You want to get fluid pumped through something that's the width of your hair," said Anna Balazs, University of Pittsburgh chemical and petroleum engineering professor. "So one of the challenges is first just how to pump fluid through and then how to direct particles ... to a specific location." Being able to move extremely small particles with precision and collect them in one location is key to building structures on the nano-scale, as well as collecting particles in large enough quantities for them to be accurately detected by sensors. If lab scientists have to wait for the particles or blood cells to move from point A to point B in a closed system on their own, it could take hours and they might not ever get to point B in concentrations high enough to be detected. Pumps that mechanically create pressure to move fluids, such as blood from a reservoir to

'Ledger' Becomes First Academic Journal Dedicated To Blockchain – The Technology Behind Bitcoin

Nearly every subspecialty seems to have its own academic journal, from one dedicated to " Positivity " – it's a math thing – to one for engineers working in the packaging industry . But until now, there has never been an academic journal for research into blockchain – the technology behind Bitcoin . "It is part economics, part finance, part law, part math, part cryptography, part engineering," said Ledger founder and editor Chris Wilmer. When not editing the peer-reviewed academic journal, Wilmer is an assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh. The first issue of Ledger was published in March. Wilmer pointed out that blockchain has evolved over time. "First people just said Bitcoin, then people started saying cryptocurrencies," Wilmer said. But the term cryptocurrencies still gave the connotation that it was limited to the financial world, he said. "So now people call it blockchain technology," he said. "But who knows what people will call it in 10 years." Many

'Ledger' Becomes First Academic Journal Dedicated To Blockchain – The Technology Behind Bitcoin

South Park Researchers Dissect Concrete To Help Prevent Gas Well Explosions

Seven years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil well blew out, spilling an estimated 210 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Investigators found numerous mechanical and human errors , which led to the explosion at the concrete base of the rig. One of the possible failures included the foamed cement used to line the bore hole. Shortly after the accident, researchers at the National Energy Technology Lab , or NETL , based in South Park, were mandated to become the leading experts in foamed cement. "There was a lot that was assumed about its properties in a well," said NETL Senior Research Scientist Barbara Kutchko. "Down in a well, you've got pressures, you've got temperatures, you've got very different environments than what's up here at atmosphere." Foamed cement is used in about 90 percent of wells in the gulf. It's basically concrete without any rocks or sand that has been laced with soap and injected with nitrogen, just like soda is infused with carbon dioxide. Drillers

South Park Researchers Dissect Concrete To Help Prevent Gas Well Explosions

How To Get Lead Out Of Your Water: Flushing, Filters And Lead Line Replacement

Every day, multiple times a day, Jesse Perkins runs the water in his kitchen sink for about a minute-and-a-half, until it runs cold, indicating that it's fresh water from the main in the middle of his street. He does it before he fills up a glass of water or a pot for cooking "I even try to flush it before I fill my cat's dish," he said, with a laugh. Perkins bought his Lawrenceville home in 2013, gutted it and spent three years fixing it up. As part of the renovations, he replaced all of the interior plumbing with PVC pipe and a flexible plastic called PEX. The one bit of plumbing he didn't replace was the lead service line that carries his water 60 feet from the water main into his house. Perkins got his water tested for lead through PWSA and it came back at 65 parts per billion, more than quadruple the Environmental Protection Agency's action limit . He attended a community meeting held by PWSA in Lawrenceville in January , where Interim Executive Director Bernard Lindstrom told

How To Get Lead Out Of Your Water: Flushing, Filters And Lead Line Replacement

No GPS Signal Indoors? This Pittsburgh Company Has A Way Around That

Figuring out where to find something in a large warehouse or navigating a sprawling campus, like a hospital, isn't always easy. "You know, how do you get from the main door (of a hospital) to a certain department? You're asking 20 people along the way and then you get frustrated," said ARIN Technologies CEO Vivek Kulkarni. "But if there were a way to navigate, like you use Google Maps, that would make life so much easier." ARIN Technologies is working to offer navigation solutions for those kinds of situations. It currently offers a way of tracking workers, equipment and products in a warehouse. In fact, the company began testing its technology as a safety tool this week in a Pittsburgh-area warehouse. It put tracking chips on mobile equipment such as fork trucks and on employees who move about the same place on foot. "Basically we can figure out when a collision is imminent and warn the operator of the mobile equipment or the person, the pedestrian, in that space so they can take

Old Art Crumbling And Falling Apart? The Carnegie Museum Of Art Has A Guy For That

If you have ever wondered how the Carnegie Museum of Art keeps it's collection looking so good, the answer is Michael Belman. Belman is the Objects Conservator for the museum. He evaluates proposed new purchases and checks items coming and going from the collection on loan. But the biggest part of what he does is repair, restore and preserves three-dimensional fine art. Just keeping objects in the gallery dusted is an important first step. He talked to 90.5 WESA's Mark Nootbaar about his process. Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. NOOTBAAR: Where does the process of protecting the artwork start? BELMAN: Our first line of defense is the trained individuals in the galleries who dust the works. Dust is abrasive, it holds moisture. And then we have an outdoor sculpture collection so we're continually washing and then applying protective wax coatings to outdoor bronze. We're painting outdoor sculpture. NOOTBAAR: There is a silver tea service set in your workshop. How

Old Art Crumbling And Falling Apart? The Carnegie Museum Of Art Has A Guy For That

Costa Introduces Bill To Combat The Opioid Crisis By Sending Users To Involuntary Treatment

At the age of 13, Alex Hoffman was already using alcohol and marijuana. By 14, he was on juvenile probation. "I wouldn't stop smoking weed, I wouldn't stop drinking, so I kept failing drug tests and that lead to my first time going involuntarily into juvenile rehab," Hoffman said. It was not his last involuntary commitment. He bounced in and out of programs and jail for years before getting clean three years ago, at the age of 21. He remembered being dropped off at a juvenile facility by his parents on his 16th birthday. "A lot of frustration, a lot of tears, a lot of anger," Hoffman said. "I was tearing the family apart." And when he turned 18, it became even more frustrating for Hoffman's parents because they no longer had any legal control over him. State Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills said after hearing from constituents with similar stories, he introduced legislation that he hopes will help. Senate Bill 391 would create a procedure through which a person could have a family member

Costa Introduces Bill To Combat The Opioid Crisis By Sending Users To Involuntary Treatment