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March 2010

Another cameo for NI on MythBusters

Posted by eek Mar 31, 2010

slushie collider.jpg


Thanks to the heads up from ChristianL, we made sure to watch the latest episode of MythBusters, where Adam and Jamie test the urban myth of the Soda Cup Killer: can a styrofoam cup filled with various beverages (soda, slushie, or ice) shatter a windshield and inflict harm on an unsuspecting driver if thrown head-on from a speeding car?


How might someone test this scenario without having to fully re-enact the entire scene in real-life? How about a slushie-super-collider?


The team blasted the cups of various contents, moving at super speeds through a make-shift cannon at a piezo-electric load cell, and recorded the high-speed impact data with none other than the NI USB-9234.


With all of this usage of NI tools by the MythBusters team, Systems Engineer David Harding is becoming a regular at their lab. How cool is that?!?


I imagine we'll be seeing more cameos of NI tools in future episodes, so help us keep an eye out.


Watch a clip from the episode where Jamie explains the super-collider setup, inluding a specific shout out to National Instruments and their computer dude, David:


Next Wednesday, March 24th, at 8 pm CST, Discovery will be showing a MythBusters episode entitled "Soda Cup Killer."  The basic premise is to test whether it's possible for a soft drink thrown from a moving car to break a windshield.  In this episode, an NI-9234 was used to acquire and log data from a dynamic load cell at the point of impact.


Robots on Weather Patrol

Posted by jaking Mar 16, 2010

For those of us living in Austin, Texas, (which would be all of your Sweet Apps bloggers), we are well aware of climate change. One day it is 70 degrees and sunny, then the next thing you know it is snowing, Unfortunately, this is a true story.


At the same time, there are good people who study real climate change, like at The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. The team evaluates data from an instrument called the Unmanned Aerial System Ozone (UAS O3) that is onboard one of NASA's Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).


A snowman basks in 70 degree temperatures in front of National Instruments after a bizarre bout of snow.


Given Austin's unpredictable weather, each and every day I am faced with the daunting task of deciding what to wear. While it may look nice outside, there is a strong possibility the temperature is going to increase or drop drastically while I'm in the office, and I will be inappropriately dressed to withstand such unpredictable conditions by 5 p.m.


The UAS O3 faceas a similar predicament. It is sent to different altitudes from different places at different times of the year. Think about it: getting dressed for a Colorado winter is far different from getting dressed for a Texas summer. The UAS O3 has to withstand drastically different environments while still providing highly accurate data recordings.


Before the UAS O3, the NOAA used to collect data on an instrument more than 20 years old, 57 lb, and not Internet-capable. It was time to upgrade to something newer, lighter, and more processing-powerful. The team used NI CompactRIO to command, control, and provide communication fore the UAS O3 because of its rugged versatility - a term I don't use lightly. If you can withstand an unpressurized compartment at 70,000 ft, be deployed to radically different altitudes, and measure atmospheric soot, ozone, nitric acid, and water vapor, among other things, you deserve to be called rugged and versatile.



Sweet Ride on Sweet Apps


Learn more about the UAS O3 instrument and its sweet ride onboard the Global Hawk UAV in the full technical case study.


Written by Alex Masters


Popcorn Powered by LabVIEW

Posted by jaking Mar 10, 2010


Engineering is about more than just solving the world's energy crisis, maximizing the production of Mac and Cheese, and controlling HVACs of solar-powered houses. It's also about the easier things in life, the simple intricacies and wonders that make us giddy and excited about being engineers.


Check out the world’s first Twitter-powered popcorn machine built by Dave Britt and Justin Goeres (who are examples of FUN engineering and ingenuity at its finest, might I add). Twitter is the gun of the machine, the juice that gets it going.


So, how does it work and how does this have anything to do with NI products?


Here's the gist: the dudes developed a LabVIEW program that monitors Twitter for #popcorn, i.e. people who include the hashtag in their Tweets. When #popcorn Tweets are found, the LabVIEW program initiates a LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robot to dispense popcorn kernels into the fancy popper. When more people Tweet #popcorn, the more popcorn we get. Essentially, Dave and Justin have built a machine that can feed the world.


So what was this inspiration for such a unique invention? Aside from trying to win a video contest for the popcorn vendor, I think they just wanted to have fun. And that, I imagine, is one of the many joys of being an engineer: creating things that matter, and/or creating things that may not matter so much but can help you win a stellar video contest. 


Check out the video, which displays an "embarrassingly ghetto," according to Dave and Justin, demonstration of how the system works, along with some catchy background music. You can also read a full write-up of how they built the system using free code from the JKI State Machine,  the EasyXML Toolkit for LabVIEW, and more.



Now, the final thing and the most pressing question in my mind is what did these guys win for their sweet app entered into the video contest?



Yet another result of some eagle-eye LabVIEW spotting. This one comes from @wesrey who caught a glimpse of some LabVIEW front panels in Episode 4 of Google’s short-film series documenting the creation of its Nexus Phone.


Scroll to 1:58 and you can see the LabVIEW Run button toolbar.




The entire video is produced really well and guides you through the assembly and test processes of sophisticated electronics. LabVIEW makes its cameo as part of the “high-precision equipment used for testing during mass production” segment.

Some of the other camera shots of the production facility look strikingly similar to NI’s production facility here in Austin. We’re proud to say NI uses TestStand and LabVIEW to test its own hardware products too.

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