RSSTechnology

Local Cyber Rays move on in US robot contest

| 29/01/2012 | 0 Comments

photo (1).JPG(CNS): A team of five students from year 7 and 8 of Cayman Prep High School have competed in a qualifier First Lego League tournament in Clearwater, FL.  The tournament was the culmination of 5 months of hard work by the team and its coaches.  At the end of the all-day event the team's outstanding performance meant that they advanced to the next round with a coveted 'golden ticket' to the regional tournament in Tampa, FL, on February 4.  The event comprised a mission field with almost 20 potential missions to complete within the 2.5 minute round.  The highest score of three rounds was counted. 

The theme changes every year, with this year being a 'Food Factor' challenge involving clearing bacteria, reversing pollution, safe transport of groceries, harvesting of corn, and elimination of virus to name but a few.

The Cyber Ray's also won the trophy for Best Robot Performance, a significant achievement for the rookie team.  The Cyber rays are Josh Martin, Ryan Kirkaldy, Nick Crawshaw, Mike Boucher and Drew Milgate, and the coaches are Allison Smith (Teacher), David Kirkaldy and Jeff Boucher.

Each mission has to be solved by the students using the NXT-G programming language and only Lego parts and sensors.  The Cyber Rays completed 9 missions consistently and successfully.  There are three additional aspects to the event.  The team also has to research, prepare and present a project on the food safety theme, with the Cyber Rays developing a solution to combat milk spoilage.  Secondly, the robot is judged in a technical session to review the process from start to final robot including lessons learned and changes to the programme.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly the team is judged on its understanding of the FLL Core Values, with the key learning point being to always demonstrate 'Gracious Professionalism' and 'Cooperation'.

Robotics is now a part of the curriculum at Cayman Prep High School using the exciting and varied LEGO NXT programmable brick system and accessory sensors.  The school programme got a big boost in June, 2010, when it sponsored Ms. Allison Smith, ICT teacher and now Cyber Ray coach, in completing five days of training at the National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) in Pittsburgh, PA.

The NREC is part of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, a world-renowned robotics organization.  Ms. Smith, like all students at NREC, was surrounded by real-world robot research and commercialization education and introduced to the Lego robots and NXT-G programme as a part of a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum.  Much of that training has now found its way into the Prep School curriculum. 

"We started informally in September, 2010, as a club for the years 7-9," said Smith.  "In September, 2011, the school introduced robotics into the curriculum for all year 7 students". Cayman Prep High School now has a total of 48 robotics kits (46 Lego and 2 Tetrix kits).

Cayman Prep High School Principal, Sheila Purdom is an enthusiastic supporter of the robotics programmeand delighted at the success the Cyber Rays had at its first international tournament.

"We are also very proud of the Cyber Rays and very supportive of the talent and consistently outstanding effort made by the students, Allison Smith, Jeff Boucher, and David Kirkaldy in preparing for this competition which promotes our gifted and talented ICT students. As the school looks forward to the future, we aim to stay on the cutting edge of educational technology."

Smith added: "It is difficult to teach young students programming techniques as some of the concepts are abstract. The Robotics programme that we offer uses the NXT-G language which allows students to use advanced graphical-based programming tools. The students build their own robots then they write the programs to make the robots work.  In Robotics the programs come alive and it makes a difficult task easier as students are motivated by seeing immediate results."

The First Lego League field kit is a separate kit which you have to pay for when you register for the FLL program.  Jeff Boucher, coach of the Cyber Rays really got the club going by getting the team registered for the Florida FLL qualifier in Clearwater, FL, resulting in the team win and advancement to the regional competition.   FIRST LEGO League is a robotics program for 9 to 14 year olds designed to get children excited about science and technology as well as teachthem valuable employment and life skills. FLL can be used in a classroom setting but can also be used by ad-hoc teams, scouting troops, home school associations or other groups of interested kids and committed coaches. Teams are composed of up to 10 children with at least one adult coach.

On February 4 the Cyber Rays will again travel to Tampa, FL, to represent Cayman in the West Coast FLL Regionals.  The progress of the team can be followed on the team blog www.cayprepnxt.tumblr.com
For more info on the contest go to Website – http://www.usfirst.org/roboticsprograms/fll

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Weststar signs techy deal for key equipment

| 23/01/2012 | 0 Comments

fiber_optics.jpg(CNS): Weststar’s planned move to a fibre-optic infrastructure took a step forward this month the television company said as it has signed an agreement with the leading fiber access systems vendor in North America and the Caribbean – Calix (NYSE: CALX).  The deal means that Calix will provide the equipment connecting the fiber-optic infrastructure to the consumer.  WestStar said it expects to receive the first shipment of equipment in early February.  Jeremy Elmas of Weststar said the firm was selected because of its focus on FTTx equipment, its service record, and because it is a leader in the industry.

Another key benefit to partnering with Calix is the flexibility of its fiber access systems to auto-detect both gigabit passive optical network (GPON)as well as point-to-point gigabit Ethernet technologies, allowing extensive broadband service deployment flexibility and the capability to provide up to 1 gigabit per second (1 Gbps) of broadband service capacity to any subscriber on the network,  he added.

“The Calix equipment allows WestStar room to grow its product and service offerings for years to come,” Elmas said.

It is that level of future-proofing which has made Calix a leader in this type of technology with a wide variety of high profile customers, including 8 of the top 10 wireline service providers in the United State and over 1000 customer globally.

Calix has also completed many projects in the Caribbean, including large announced projects in the Bahamas, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“Calix is honored to be chosen as fiber access solutions provider to WestStar’s ambitious project,” said  John Colvin, senior vice president, North America sales and marketing.

“In moving to an all-fiber infrastructure, WestStar is dramatically upgrading its capabilities and bringing one of the world’s most advanced communications infrastructures to the Cayman Islands. We look forward to working closely with WestStar to bring this network to fruition, and in doing so enable a host of new advanced services for Caymanians,” he added.

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Amazon Kindle releases the Queen’s speech

| 28/12/2011 | 3 Comments

_57585786_queen2011.jpg(BBC): The Queen's Christmas speech has been released as a free download for Amazon's Kindle e-book reader following its broadcast. The retailer secured access to the transcript after approaching the Royal Household with the proposal. The arrangement is an e-book exclusive although the text was also made available at Facebook, the BBC and the Royal Household's official website. Book industry watchers described the move as a "coup" for Amazon.  In addition to this year's speech Kindle owners are able to download the Queen's previous Christmas messages dating back to 1952, the year of her accession to the throne.

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See Queen's Christmas Speech in full here
 

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Google gets US patent for self-driving cars

| 16/12/2011 | 0 Comments

_57353153_googlecarr2.jpg(BBC): The intellectual property rights relate to a method to switch a vehicle from a human-controlled mode into the state where it takes charge of the wheel. It explains how the car would know when to take control, where it is located and which direction to drive in. The search firm suggests the technology could be used to offer tours of tourist locations or to send faulty models to repair shops. The application for Transitioning a Mixed-mode Vehicle to Autonomous Mode was applied for in May, but had been hidden from public view until this week.

The document describes using two sets of sensors. The first identifies a "landing strip" when the vehicle stops. This then triggers the second set which receives data informing the machine where it is positioned and where it should go.

"The landing strip allows a human driving the vehicle to know acceptable parking places for the vehicle," the patent filing says. "Additionally, the landing strip may indicate to the vehicle that it is parked in a region where it may transition into autonomous mode."


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Sustainable Frank Sound home wins architect award

| 06/12/2011 | 0 Comments

nominations_201110 (274x300).jpg(CNS): SeaGrape House a residential project by John Doak Architecture is this year’s winner of the Governor’s Award for Design and Construction Excellence in the Cayman Islands. Selected from a short list of projects where renewable energy and sustainability dominated the finalists. SeaGrape House was described by Doak as a traditional Caribbean style home, which utilised renewable energy resources and set in the undisturbed surroundings of the seagrapes of the Frank Sound beach-ridge. The owner of the house Janet Morse said Doak had designed a plantation style home that featured renewable energy and a beautiful garden.

“The entire team seamlessly incorporated cutting-edge renewable energy and geothermal technologies while maintaining a lush oasis outside,” she said.

The governor also presented a judge’s commendation for excellence in sustainability and the environment award to Lighthouse Point for its commitment to renewable energy.

All of the six projects that were shortlisted were showcased at the awards ceremony at the Governor’s House on Wednesday 30 November.

The Award developed by the Cayman Society of Architects, Surveyors & Engineers (CASE) and the Cayman Contractors Association (CCA), in conjunction with the governor aims to encourage, foster and maintain innovation, sustainability and excellence in the Cayman Islands construction industry.

The projects were judged on whether and to what extent the design and construction of the nominated project displayed the following attributes: Creativity and Innovation, Sustainability and the Environment, Value, Buildability and Cultural Response.

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Technology measures up for on-line shopping

| 28/11/2011 | 0 Comments

body measure.jpg(Reuters): Asaf Moses is in the midst of displaying a new way to measure body dimensions. A virtual instructor prompts him to turn 90 degrees to the left and adopt various poses such as "The Penguin," aimed at capturing over 20 different measurements using a device that many people have embedded in their laptops — a simple webcam. "It's capturing everything that's needed to tailor a shirt to your measurements", said Moses. And it's all online. Shoppers generally flock to malls during the holidays beginning on Black Friday, although in recent years many have headed to the Internet. A recent survey by analytics firm comScore predicted online shopping would increase 15 percent this current holiday season.

Yet buying apparel from a website can cause problems finding the right size, look and fit for your body type and personal tastes. As a result, several technology companies have created new ways for people to size themselves up at home.

Moses, the co-founder of one such technology company from Germany, UPcload, said his system takes just three minutes and generates measurements as accurate as a tailor.

Once measured, shoppers will be able to access their measurements at supporting retailers' websites so they can see, for example, if a size small-sized t-shirt will fit around their chest or be long enough to drape down their torso.

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Local contractors sought to build radar tower

| 15/11/2011 | 8 Comments

RTEmagicC_GematronikHaus.jpg(CNS): The local airport authority has issued a request for proposal for the construction of a four-storey concrete tower that will house the planned Doppler weather radar on part of the former Prison Farm in East End. Two contracts have already been awarded to German companies to manufacture, supply and install the digital radar itself and for the technician. The Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA) said SELEX Systems Integration will make and put up the radar while the Icon-Institute won the bid to provide a Technical Assistant on contract, for the duration of the project.

Reporting to the Cayman Islands Airports Authority (CIAA), the Technical Assistant is responsible for ensuring that all financial and procedural activities of the project are in accordance with the requirements of the European Union (EU) – the scheme’s primary sponsor, the CIAA said in a release from government Tuesday.

The local contract for the concrete tower is now open the CIAA’s Chief Executive Officer, Jeremy Jackson said.  “It is anticipated that the construction tender will be awarded in December and the tower should be completed by July next year, to coincide with the radar’s arrival. The final phase will be the set-up of equipment within the building and staff training.”

He said the facility will benefit the public and airlines by providing accurate weather information to forecasters and pilots and it will also serve the region by filling “a black hole in terms of regional radar coverage,” Jackson added.

Minister for District Administration, Works, Land and Agriculture Juliana O’Connor-Connolly added that the radar station would serve the country’s long-term national interest and described it as “an invaluable opportunity for the Cayman Islands to become an integrated regional player in respect of hurricane preparedness,” she stated.

The early warning system is expected to improve disaster risk management and reduction in the Caribbean region but it has faced some controversy.

The decision to site the radar project at the East end location on the former site of the prison farm was also the site that had been earmarked by CUC as the potential home of Cayman’s first wind farm to address the country’s oil dependency problem and take a first step towards sustainable energy provision.

The government opted to prioritise the radar over the wind farm which is being mostly funded through the European Union which government said had taken the Cabinet office years to secure.

“With increasingly volatile weather we sorely need improved forecasting abilities – something this project will deliver,” O’Connor-Connolly who is also the minster with responsibility for energy, said.

The CIAA and the EU signed a contract for the radar more than two and a half years ago in March 2009, when the EU agreed to provide Cayman with a grant for €4.16 million (about CI$4.6 million) to construct the early warning weather radar. The Cayman Islands Government is making its own contribution to the project by providing the site, the access road, and funding a technical consultancy service from the Caribbean Meteorological Organization.

“Apart from giving Cayman access to real-time local weather information, the radar station will also strengthen regional severe weather forecasting, linking with radar stations in Belize, Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago,” Cayman Islands National Weather Service (CINWS) Director General, Fred Sambula, said. “This means that Cayman will get more accurate, timely and up-to-date information when storms or any other weather systems threaten our area, and, as such, our residents can better prepare.”

According to the central tenders website the four  storey reinforced concrete tower will cover approximately 800 sq ft in and be around  55.5 ft high and the open tender process will end on 2 December details of the bid can be found at www.centraltenders.gov.ky

 

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Baking tray key to Wifi signals issues

| 07/11/2011 | 0 Comments

(Telegraph): Confronted with a weak wifi signal and no mobile reception, a top technologist knew exactly the right solution. Use an old baking tray as an amplifier. Peter Cochrane, formerly the Chief Technology Officer at BT, was on a boat on the Norfolk Broads but unable to get online. By improvising, he could boost a flagging, useless signal to something much more effective. Writing on his blog at Silicon.com, Cochrane explained that the baking tray proved just as effective as an expensive high-gain antenna which he didn’t have.

“My mobile phone is showing one bar of 2.5G and one bar of wi-fi. My laptop isn't doing any better, and a data connection is proving impossible. There are some buildings behind the trees on the other side of the river, and my scanner is showing a number of open access wi-fi opportunities. But all I have is what I carry, and thatdoes not include a high-gain antenna.”

The solution was not, however, to stop and visit a nearby community on land. Cochrane instead used an old baking tray to focus the reception.

“Time to improvise,” he wrote. “A visit to the galley turns up a much-used baking tray. A few simple experiments later and I'm able to locate the direction of the 2.5G base station and the strongest wifi signal. So I now have three bars of wifi and 2.5G by way of the unlikely combination of a baking tray and some judicious positioning.”

 

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Wind most viable alternative

| 27/10/2011 | 69 Comments

(CNS): The chair of the national energy policy sub-committee on renewable energy said that the most viable alternative to Cayman’s current diesel powered electricity is wind. Louis Boucher said that while wind power was not without its problems, turbines were the most likely solution for a sustainable power source in the future. Boucher, who is also the deputy Managing Director of the Electricity Regulatory Authority, said that he was disappointed by the decision to use the site proposed for a wind farm in East End for the government’s Doppler Radar project, but he said there were alternative places on Grand Cayman that could be used.

Boucher was one of a number of the National Energy Policy Committee members who gave a presentation about how the policy is shaping up at a special 'Be Informed' session at the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday afternoon.

He said that the shelving of the wind turbine project in favour of the radar was not good news as “wind is the most viable alternative for the island,” but he believed there were other locations and despite the problems, the committee was still looking for best solution. “We are not done yet. All we have shown you today is just the plain vanilla … but we are working on a whole banana split,” he told the Chamber audience using an ice-cream sundae analogy.

The Energy Policy Committee was formed more than a year ago by government with MLA Cline Gliddenas chair. The backbench West Bay representative gave a brief presentation about the remit of the committee on Wednesday afternoon and the current energy situation in Cayman.

He said the goal was to find sustainable renewable energy sources that reduce the islands’ dependence on fossil fuels and the negative impact of fluctuating world oil prices. The UDP backbencher also pointed to the need to reduce Cayman’s carbon footprint. He said the CO2 emissions per capita last year in Cayman were 10.0086 metric tonnes, higher than Germany’s at 9.5626, which is an industrial nation. Glidden warned Cayman’s emissions would continue to grow without the introduction of a renewable energy source.

Following his brief presentation Glidden departed to another meeting, leaving the various subcommittee members to complete the presentation and handle the Q&A session.

Discussing the remits of the various subcommittees and the broad areas on which they will base their recommendation for the future policy to Cabinet, the presenters gave away very little detail of how this future policy may eventually shape up.

In February this year following comments by the minister, Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, implying an energy policy was already in place, the district administration, works, lands & agriculture ministry, which has responsibility for the energy policy, said that new national energy policy was being drafted at that time by the Cabinet appointed committee headed by Glidden. At today’s Chamber presentation, some eight months later, John Tibbetts, who heads the sub-committee on public affairs, said that the overall committee’s proposals and recommendations would not be going before Cabinet until sometime in the first quarter of next year.

During the Q&A session the committee members did reveal some of the discussions they have had and the ideas they have considered. One was nuclear energy, which is currently against the law in the Cayman Islands. Although the members acknowledged there were related safety issues, the technology of nuclear power was advancing and becoming increasingly safe. The design of smaller plants and reactors would mean that in the future it could become a serious possible source of clean, cheap energy for Cayman.

The issues of liquid gas was also raised because it is both cheap and clean, especially compared to oil, though there would be difficulties regarding the investment required to store the gas and to build the infrastructure to turn it into electricity, more than likely via CUC.

James Tibbetts, who heads up the sub-committee on fuel, confirmed that the committee had examined the idea of an oil refinery. He also told CNS after the presentation that the committee would not be recommending that proposal to government because in order to have the type of facility Cayman would need to refine the products it uses, it would be for too costly a proposition.

The committee members also spoke about other efficiencies and the need to reduce energy use by making buildings, the community and the way we live life more energy efficient. More mixed used development — places where people both live and work cutting down transport use and cost, introducing a public transport plan, the regulation of efficiency and insulation in buildings as well as demanding the use of more efficient air conditioning equipment were also noted by the committee members.

The missing new traffic law was also brought up during the Q& A session which government has said will finally facilitate the use of electric cars on Cayman’s roads, as they are currently illegal.

It was pointed out that the law, which has been promised now for more than two years, continues to be lost “somewhere in the Glasshouse”. Despite constant reassurance from the ministry over the last twelve months that it would be coming to the Legislative Assembly “next month” the law is still nowhere to be seen.

Echoing comments by other government officials for the year, Brian Tomlinson, the director of the NRA said he had recently met with the minster and that the bill was expected to be presented to the legislators “soon” but he did not say how soon.

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New LIME gizmo offers internet freedom

| 25/10/2011 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Local telecommunication operator LIME has launched a personal mobile-broadband router called ‘MiFi’, which creates its own hotspot and allows up to five devices to connect to the internet at the same time.  LIME said the new gizmo is Ideal for small-businesses, individuals, families and small student working groups as it is a light-weight portable modem that works at a distance of up to 30ft and provides simultaneous internet access to Wi-Fi enabled devices such as laptops, tablets, media players, digital cameras and video game consoles.

According to Tony Ritch, General Manager LIME Cayman Islands, the increase of portable internet access devices such as iPads, Blackberry Playbooks and other tablets as well as Wi-Fi enabled smartphones has been driving a demand for wireless internet service.
“As our customers’ appetite for internet-based technology increases, we are ensuring that the services we offer meet their needs and ultimately make their lives easier.  As such, we are proud to partner with Huawei in providing this exciting mobile solution that will give customers wireless internet access on all of these exceptionally popular devices,” he said. 

The ‘Mi-Fi’ router offers 5 hour battery-life and has a built-in antenna, a micro SD card slot and is compatible with over 20 different types of devices. The Huawei® E586, which has sold more than 150 million units worldwide, creates an instant internet hot-spot and facilitates wireless file-sharing. It retails from $97 and customers can add the data plan their choice.

“The full potential of today’s most popular devices can only be experienced through LIME’s superior 4G network and we will continue to offer the technologies that allow our customers to fully utilise even the most sophisticated devices” Ritch added.

The Huawei® E586, utilises the LIME Mobile Data network and offers up to 4G connectivity speed across the island for any Wi-Fi-enabled fixed and portable device. The MiFi device is designed to help bridge the digital divide by providing opportunities to enjoy broadband internet services, regardless of geographic location, LIME said.

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