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News Clips - October 29, 2010

From October 22 to October 28, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations counted 200 references to the university in worldwide publications. Here is a sample.


Mobile games help Chinese children read
China Economic Review | October 21
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Mobile & Immersive Learning for Literacy in Emerging Economies Project suggest that mobile phone-based games could provide a new way to teach a basic knowledge of Chinese language characters which might be particularly helpful in China's underdeveloped rural areas. Earlier this year, researchers reported that two mobile learning games, inspired by traditional Chinese games, showed promise during preliminary tests with children in Xin'an, an underdeveloped region in Henan province.


A robot lifeguard patrols Malibu | October 25
The final result is a remote-controlled contraption powered by a tiny electric pump called an impeller, which squirts a forceful stream of water, much like the propulsion system on a Jet Ski. Manufactured by Mulligan's startup, a seven-employee company called Hydronalix in Sahuarita, Ariz., Emily can run up to 80 miles on a single battery charge. The device's foam core is buoyant enough to support up to five people, who cling to Emily's ropes until human aid arrives. That's a huge help, considering that strong riptides can yank multiple swimmers out to sea at once. Under such conditions, it can take lifeguards more than half an hour to complete a single rescue mission. "From a technology perspective, [Emily] is quite innovative," says Howie Choset, a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University. "To be able to maneuver such a small craft through choppy waters straight to a drowning victim is incredible."

Education for Leadership

JPL-mentored student robotics team meets the president
NASA | October 27
The FIRST Tech Challenge Inspire Award the students earned is considered the highest honor, because the recipients are viewed as role models for other participants in the competition. The winning team is chosen by the judges for best representing an ideal team, while being a top contender for all other judging categories, and a strong competitor on the field. The mentors include JPL engineers Julie Townsend, Suparna Mukherjee and Jaime Catchen. Three years ago, the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles signed up for FIRST to offer a competitive outlet in the areas of science and engineering. Now, some veterans of the Rock N' Roll Robots are continuing their passion for science and engineering at the college level – Katy Wooten is a college freshman at Carnegie Mellon, Pittsburgh, Pa., studying mechanical engineering, and Taylor Halsey is at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, Calif., studying biotech engineering. Salia Wilson is studying Cinematography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Arts and Humanities

At Pentagon, 'don't ask, don't tell' is back, but under heavy guard
The Christian Science Monitor | October 22
“The writing on the wall is that this policy is going to be repealed,” says Tim Haggerty, a professor who studies the social impact of war and directs the Humanities Scholars Program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “It strikes me as a means of greatly diminishing the number of cases that can be reviewed.” Pentagon officials denied this was the case at a press conference on Thursday. “You all want to find something between the lines here that really isn’t here,” said a senior Pentagon official who was authorized to speak on condition of anonymity. “It is what it is."


Top dialect coach, Don Wadsworth, reflects and inflects
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | October 24
In City Theatre's current production of "The 39 Steps," four actors play 150 (!) roles. That calls for cast members to assume a multitude of accents and voices in quick succession. And that, in turn, calls for Don Wadsworth, one of a select group of acting teachers in the country with special expertise in dialect coaching. A professor of voice and speech at Carnegie Mellon University, Mr. Wadsworth is the go-to-guy for actors appearing on Pittsburgh stages and shooting films in the region. If a Brit or Aussie needs to wipe out his accent, develop a Southern drawl or some Brooklynese, or an American has to find her inner cockney or Australian twang, Mr. Wads­worth is a phone call away - not just here but across the country.

Information Technology

What the Internet knows about you | October 22
Let’s say you’ve been hitting up a burger joint twice a week, and you happen to joke, in a post on Twitter, how all the meat must be wreaking havoc on your cholesterol. Suddenly your health-insurance premiums go up. Now imagine your job is listed on; your vacation preferences linked to Orbitz. Think how this could affect your social standing, or your ability to negotiate a raise or apply for a loan. Finally, what if you could know, based on Web history and location tracking, that a prospective mate had a communicable disease. Wouldn’t you pay to find out? “Most of us just don’t realize the potential consequences of this,” says Lorrie Cranor, a Web-privacy expert at Carnegie Mellon University.


World Statistics Day, Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | October 28
Sometimes being a statistic is fun. To celebrate the first-ever World Statistics Day last week, about 150 people showed up at Carnegie Mellon University's Gesling Stadium to become part of a human histogram. People were arranged in rows according to their height. Shorter people lined up on the left, taller people on the right. In each row, height was increased by an inch. The result was a living, breathing bell curve. Participants then held up pieces of colored paper, showing their sex -- blue for male, pink for female. The event was organized by the Statistics Department's Undergraduate Student Advisory Committee at CMU.