Expo Marks the Spot

If you walked through the MetroTech Center on May 2, you might have seen the massive white tent and assumed a wedding or some other festive occasion was taking place. It was, indeed, a celebration of sorts—a celebration of scientific research, intellectual curiosity, and technological advance.

The occasion was the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Second Annual Research Expo, and the public came out in full force to view and interact with more than 40 hands-on exhibits and demonstrations by faculty members, students, and incubator companies.

If those exhibits are any indicator, in the future we could be wearing strategically designed clothing that will help us burn more calories, sporting GPS-enabled neckbands that will turn us into human compasses, watching our hearts pump in real time thanks to augmented reality, authenticating our Google Glass accounts with gestures instead of passwords, using haptic devices for neuro-rehabilitation, intuitively interacting with humanoid robots, and riding speedily along on friction-free railroad tracks.

How about rocket travel for the general public? “Maybe one day, but right now not everyone gets to go into space,” the students manning the booth that featured a project called “The Satellite” said. In the meantime, however, their experiential, photo-realistic portrait of the Earth might be the next best thing. Combining real-time imagery with remote sensing data from hundreds of satellites, the project results in a breathtaking 3D vision of the planet from the perspective of the International Space Station. (In a poll open to all attendees, The Satellite won the People’s Choice Award.)  

Not every exhibit was exactly hands-on—but all were fascinating nonetheless. Students from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department were displaying a large model rocket they had built. It was capable of being launched 5,000 feet into the air, they explained, a feat that required them to travel to New Jersey to find a safely isolated spot. “You can imagine why we can’t be demonstrating it right here, in the middle of Brooklyn,” they laughed.

Robotics Road Trip
The annual USA Science & Engineering Festival (sometimes called the Super Bowl of STEM) is a national effort to inspire youngsters to become scientists and engineers, and more than a dozen NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering students and professors made the trek to Washington, D.C., in April to do their part.

Manning a booth in the immense Walter E. Washington Convention Center, they showed visitors of all ages how a wind turbine harvests energy, allowed them to control a robot using a tablet computer, taught them about chemical reactions, explained what they could learn from robotic fish, proved that genetically modified enzymes could be used to neutralize toxins, and much more.

Although the festival also featured cast members from shows like Big Bang Theory, House, and Breaking Bad; basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar;  and Bill Nye the Science Guy, we think the biggest stars of the event hailed from right here in Brooklyn.