Hi everyone, excited to be here for my first guest edit! My name is Maya, and I’m a mechanical engineer and project manager based in San Francisco.
Hoping this week’s issue can be a friendly reminder that despite all that’s going on, there are still cool things happening in the world. Stay safe out there!
Planning & Strategy.
- An overview of how data privacy regulations around the world are being loosened in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.
- For the public transit aficionados like myself: The story behind the making of the New York City subway map, and the science behind what makes a great public transit map.
- NASA just shared their plan to build a long-term presence on the moon, and reminds me so much of The Martian that it is hard to process that these lunar bases are scheduled to be established by 2024.
- Interesting insight into Nintendo’s lateral thinking approach to product development, in comparison to the more standard iterative approach. I love this concept of taking existing technologies and using them in less conventional ways to create completely new experiences. I wonder how the hardware world would look different if we all thought about product development using this approach.
Making & Manufacturing.
- In response to the ventilator shortage the FDA has relaxed some of its ventilator regulations, most notably the rules around changing materials and suppliers. This may help fast-track some of the many creative approaches companies are taking to make more ventilators, especially the GM/Ventec partnership, which was also mentioned in last week’s issue. Tesla has also entered the ventilator race by leveraging their design expertise to make a new ventilator prototype using mostly Model 3 parts. However, as they are proposing a completely new design, it will face many more regulatory hurdles, and therefore likely won’t make as much of an impact as the GM/Ventec approach.
- Even though China is starting to return to work, we might see hardware launches delayed for several more months as the rest of the world continues to battle the pandemic.
- A team of researchers in Australia have discovered a promising use case for two common waste materials: steel slag and sewage water. Their study found that when those two ingredients are added to concrete, the resulting mixture is 17% stronger than traditional concrete.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- A cool short story of an engineer’s experience debugging his circuit board on a live Saturn V rocket when it failed right before launch.
- A look at the life cycle analysis of a typical running shoe in comparison to “eco-friendly” sneakers. A bit of a spoiler alert: By far the best way to reduce the carbon footprint of your shoe purchases… is to buy fewer shoes.
Distribution & Logistics.
- Crazy but true: It’s easier for you and me to get masks than for hospitals to get them through their medical supply chains. As a result, some people are taking it upon themselves to work directly with manufacturers in China to get masks in bulk, then donate them to hospitals in need to bypass the hospital supply chain completely.
- 70% of lettuce grown in California is sent to restaurants and other food service companies, and since so many of those companies are shut down right now, demand for lettuce is so low that farmers are not even bothering to harvest their lettuce.
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- Researchers in Germany developed an oh-so-simple, yet genius procedure that allows one coronavirus test kit to analyze multiple samples simultaneously. By testing several samples at a time and only re-testing batches that test positive, Germany estimates that they can increase their testing capabilities by up to tenfold.
- Nuro, an autonomous delivery startup, is now the second company (after Waymo) allowed to conduct driverless testing on California public roads. Unfortunately, the testing isn’t allowed to start until California’s shelter in place has been lifted; I am curious to see how much the demand for driverless delivery changes post-coronavirus.
- In other self-driving car news, researchers at MIT recently published a paper on GPR (ground-penetrating radar) as a new way for self-driving cars to determine their location. Most autonomous vehicles use LiDAR to accomplish this, but it does not work well in snow and rain. GPR is weather-independent because it scans the road and what’s beneath it to look for predetermined localization features.
- In preparation for NASA and SpaceX’s Demo-2 launch next month, the launch pad evacuation drill procedure was tested; it involves essentially taking a ride on a 265-foot zipline.
- In what is perhaps the most educational Kickstarter page I’ve ever seen, a deep dive into the fascinating geometry behind constant width solids.
- I’m currently enjoying Every Tool’s A Hammer by Adam Savage; it’s a cool look into how he thinks about and tackles projects. Also, his positive energy is pretty infectious, and I’m sure we could all use a bit more of that right now!
- My favorite coronavirus tracker, which shows you cases by county so you can get a sense of how the curve is flattening where you and your loved ones are located.