SciTech Roundup, April 5

CMU researchers design conductive silver hydrogel

Choosing the right materials is critical in designing robotic systems, and different applications require different choices. In hard robotics, metals are a mainstay, as they provide rigidity and conductivity — both important properties when working with electrical and mechanical systems. However, incorporating metals into soft robotics is difficult, which means that conductivity is a problem. Recognizing this issue, researchers at Carnegie Mellon have developed a unique silver-hydrogel composite that is deformable and conductive, making it a game-changer for soft robotic systems by achieving a better tradeoff between conductivity and rigidity.

Read more about it here.

Big data accelerates biodiversity research

Big data can hold big insights, and that is especially true when looking at the study of global biodiversity. With the increased digitization of museum datasets on cataloged specimens, there is a large influx of data on biodiversity around the globe, but extracting knowledge from these large volumes of information is a perpetual challenge. To overcome this hurdle, several databases have been created, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Mason Heberling, assistant curator of botany and co-chair of collections at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Scott Weingart, program director for the Digital Humanities at Carnegie Mellon University, applied a machine learning algorithm to a large collection of papers published in the GBIF, showing the need for such databases and discovering some novel trends in global biodiversity studies.

Read more about it here.

New course bridges divide between art and science

While artistic and scientific disciplines certainly have their differences, interdisciplinary collaboration often provides invaluable insight and innovation that would otherwise have never been possible. To better foster this interdisciplinary atmosphere and to show that science and art can have a symbiotic relationship, Rich Pell, an associate professor in the School of Art, and William Hatleberg, a postdoctoral researcher in the Mellon College of Science, have come together to teach a new course called Art and Science that encourages art students to think scientifically and science students to think artistically. Through critical readings and creative projects, the course seeks to manifest the interdisciplinary mindset that is so valuable today.

Read more about it here.