Light Friday: March Madness in the Workplace

Plus: Four-Legged Cheetah Robot and Nano-Scale Printer Both Break Speed Records.


Meet the Fastest Legged Robot

Boston Dynamics’ four-footed Cheetah robot recently set a new land speed record for legged robots by galloping at 18 miles per hour. The previous record was 13.1 mph, set in 1989.

The design and movement of the super-fast robot are patterned after those of fast-running animals in nature. Powered by a hydraulic pump and using a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill, the cat-bot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does.

This kind of machine could be useful in emergency rescue and civilian disasters, not to mention its numerous uses on the battlefield.

Designed in part with a grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), researchers say the robot could reach up to 40 mph with a few tweaks. The current version of Cheetah operates on a laboratory treadmill, but a free-running prototype is expected later this year.

March Madness in the Workplace

In what has become an annual rite of spring, the NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship tournament, commonly known as March Madness, kicked off on Tuesday. And companies around the United States know what that means: slightly decreased productivity, due to workers filling out tournament brackets and entering betting pools.

According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder.com, one in five workers (20 percent) participates in March Madness pools at work. Nearly one in 10 watches March Madness games at the office and 17 percent spend, on average, more than an hour checking scores while on the clock. Meanwhile, based on a random sample of 1,003 men and women, MSN survey findings indicate that 86 percent of respondents plan to devote at least some time during their workday to follow the one-loss-and-your-season-is-over tournament.

“Ultimately, March Madness will not even register a blip on the nation’s economic radar, and even the smallest company will survive the month without any impact on their bottom line,” John A. Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. says. “The company’s internet speeds may be slower, some workers will not respond to e-mails as promptly, and lunch breaks may extend beyond the usual time limits. It’s mostly a headache-inducing annoyance for information technology departments, human resources and department managers.”

In addition to wagering on March Madness, workers shared with CareerBuilder other amusing office pools they’ve bet on in the past, including:

  • How long it would take a colleague to quit;
  • Who would be the first person to drink too much at a company party;
  • When someone would punch out the supervisor;
  • How long the CEO’s fourth marriage would last;
  • What fake illness a coworker would call in sick with;
  • When impending litigation would be filed against the company; and
  • Our favorite, who could grow the best beard in one month’s time.

In the spirit of good sportsmanship, OfficeTeam offers five tips to help workers “keep their heads in the game” during March Madness.

Nano-Scale Printer Breaks Speed Record

Using a high-resolution 3-D printing technology known as “two-photon lithography” – a technique that is normally quite slow – researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have made a major breakthrough in speeding up the process to print tiny three-dimensional objects with incredibly fine details. The university’s high-precision 3-D printer is “orders of magnitude faster than similar devices,” a press announcement states.

Led by materials science and technology professor Jürgen Stampfl, Vienna University of Technology researchers Jan Torgersen and Peter Gruber took the printing process from millimeters per second to five meters per second, setting a world record.

“The new super-fast printing technology relies on a liquid resin filled with photoactive molecules that harden when they absorb two photons from a laser beam. This resin is actually a breakthrough in itself, as it allows a fast-moving, highly focused laser beam to quickly harden the liquid medium in just the right places,” Popular Science notes. “By improving the control mechanism of the mirrors that guide the laser, the team was able to vastly increase the speed with which the laser can blow through the liquid resin, setting with precision layer by layer.”

Image Credit: Vienna University of Technology

The race car in the 3-D image above is about 285 micrometers wide. While small, it is several times the width of a human hair. In the field of two-photon lithography printing, the university’s record-breaking printer is considered a significant step closer to real applications, such as in medicine, and commercialization.

The video below shows the 3-D printing process in real time. Due to the very fast guiding of the laser beam, 100 layers – consisting of approximately 200 single lines each – are produced in four minutes.

 

In advance of tomorrow, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Sláinte.

 

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