Faster Wi-Fi in the works to transfer data

With a wave of his hand over a homemade receiver, Georgia Tech professor Joy Laskar shows how easily–and quickly–large data files could someday be transferred from a portable media player to a computer or TV.

Poof! “You just moved a movie onto your device,” Laskar says.

While Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have emerged as efficient ways to zap small amounts of data between gadgets, neither is well suited for quickly transferring high-definition video, large audio libraries, and other massive files.

Laskar and other scientists at the Georgia Electronic Design Center have turned to extremely high radio frequencies to transfer huge data files over short distances.

The high frequencies–which use the 60-gigahertz band–have been a mostly untapped resource. Researchers say it could one day become the conventional wireless way to send data over short distances.

Laskar hopes it could soon become a rival to other wireless technologies. Getting government permission to use the spectrum would not be a problem, since that radio band, much like the one used for Wi-Fi, is unlicensed. Because the range will likely be less than 33 feet, interference is less likely and transmissions could be more secure.

A similar short-range technology, known as ultra-wideband (UWB), is just now reaching the market after several years of wrangling between different companies and engineering bodies. (See “New wireless technologies make waves”.) It exploits another unlicensed band, reaching up to 10.3 GHz. Last month, Toshiba Corp. introduced laptops with built-in UWB chips that can communicate wirelessly with a docking station. Other possible uses include transmission of high-definition video.

But the maximum current speed of UWB is about 480 megabits per second, equivalent to a high-speed computer cable but possibly not enough for all applications. Use of the 60 GHz band promises much higher speeds.

“There will be a constant pressure for speed and it will never cease,” said M. Kursat Kimyacioglu, director of strategy and wireless business development at the semiconductor subsidiary of Philips Electronics NV. “We need much faster wireless data networking technologies to make much faster downloads and backups and higher-resolution HD video streaming possible.”

He said Philips is looking at using the technology to eliminate cable bundles, but much more research will be needed. The signals don’t penetrate walls very well and are too easily disturbed by passing people and pets, Kimyacioglu said.

The research is far from over, Laskar said, but he hopes those challenges can be overcome in the next year or so. If so, the hardware for transferring files could be available by 2009, and new TV sets could be built with the chips the next year.

The center has already achieved wireless data-transfer rates of 15 gigabits per second from a span of 1 meter. That would mean a download time of less than five seconds for a DVD-quality copy of The Matrix or other Hollywood movies.

Specialized radios have been sending and receiving high-frequency signals for years, but they’re big and can cost tens of thousands of dollars. The Georgia center’s challenge has been to convert these devices into tiny chips that can be slipped directly into phones and computers. To be competitive with other technologies, Laskar has set his sights on a $5 chip, and so far his researchers have hammered together a few prototypes to show off the technology.

“We don’t want to replace these guys,” says Laskar, pointing at an HD receiver and TV set. “We want to complement them.”

A cheap chip would launch a new round of competition for the technology, said Anh-Vu Pham, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California at Davis.

“The technology is there, it just requires a little more work,” he said. “If the radio can be deployed, you’ll have a lot of applications–from HD-TV to flash drives–without using any type of cable. Once you solve that problem, you open up so many applications.”

The technology could get a big boost if the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a top international association of electrical engineers, decides to create a standard for the spectrum. The group is weighing the decision now and could decide by next year.

“You’re talking about moving gigabits in seconds, your whole iPod library, your whole video library,” said Laskar. “This has the potential of becoming the de facto way of moving this information on and off the devices.”

Links:

Georgia Electronic Design Center

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PBS station makes open educational resources available to teachers

September 5, 2007 — Teachers’ Domain, a web site from Public BroadcastingService (PBS) television station WGBH in Boston, for years has offeredfree educational resources developed from award-winning PBS scienceprograms such as NOVA and A Science Odyssey. Now, the site has launcheda section devoted to Open Educational Resources–downloadable,sharable, remixable video segments, interactive activities, and lessonplans in earth science, engineering, life science, and physical sciencedisciplines. These resources will give educators greater flexibility toshape and use content to meet their own individual needs, WGBH says.All content is free after registering. "Our resources have alwayscorresponded with all state and national education standards, but wehave always wanted to encourage educators make it their own," explainsDenise Blumenthal, director of educational productions at WGBH. "TheOpen Educational Resources collection gives [teachers] the ability tocustomize our content to fit their curricula." This special collectionwill represent a third of the resources currently available onTeachers’ Domain, WGBH says, which covers all key topics in science andsoon will expand into the humanities, too.

http://www.teachersdomain.org

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College Board 2008 Inspiration Awards

The Inspiration Awards celebrate America’s most improved highschools. Inspiration Award-winningschools improve their academic environment and help their students achieve thepromise of a higher education. Winningschools initiate unique programs and create partnerships among teachers,parents, community organizations, and local businesses to help more studentsattend college. Schools should be ableto demonstrate significant and consistent growth across the entire studentpopulation in participation in rigorous curricula, such as the AdvancedPlacement Program (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB); participation incollege preparatory coursework; and the percentage of students accepted to two-or four-year institutions of higher education.

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Student Achievement Grants

The purpose of these grants is to improve the academicachievement of students in public schools and public institutions of highereducation in any subject area(s). Proposed activities should engage students incritical thinking and problem solving in order to deepen their knowledge ofstandards-based subject matter. Publicschool teachers in grades PreK-12,public school education support professionals, or faculty or staff at publichigher education institutions are invited to apply. Preference will be given toeducators working with economically disadvantaged students and members of NEA.

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Be a Fan of Special Olympics

Youth Service America and SpecialOlympics are teaming up to offer grants of $1,000 to Student Councils whoattended the National Association of Student Councils National Conference inJune 2007. This opportunity is for students only. Fifteen grants will be awarded to studentcouncils to design a service project in collaboration with their local SpecialOlympics Program that integrates student council members and Special OlympicsAthletes.

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2008 Harris Wofford Awards

Youth Service America is pleased to announce the 2008 HarrisWofford Awards, sponsored by State Farm Companies Foundation. Established in2002, the prestigious Harris Wofford Awards were created to honor formerSenator Harris Wofford. The awardsrecognize extraordinary achievements in three categories: youth, organization,and media for actively contributing towards and making service and service-learningthe common expectation and common experience of every young person in America.

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State Farm Good Neighbor Service Learning Grant

With the support of the State FarmCompanies Foundation, Youth Service America is offering the annual State FarmGood Neighbor Service-Learning Grant for youth across the United States and Canada(in Alberta, Ontario,and New Brunswickonly). These grants of up to $1,000 support youth (ages 5-25), teachers, orschool-based service-learning coordinators in implementing service-learningprojects for Global Youth Service Day 2008.

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AVerVision Video Contest

Teachers, administrators, or students are asked to create a10-20 minute video describing original and interesting classroom lessons andapplications with their document camera. Classes without a documentcamera can submit a video describing the difficulty of using traditionalpresentation technology in the classroom. Four new AVerVision documentcameras will be awarded, one to each of the third, second, first and GrandPrize winners. The video itself shouldbe no longer than 20 minutes, and must showcase classroom applications andlessons using a document camera, or the difficulty of using traditional presentationtechnologies. Only one video per classroom will be accepted, and it mustbe submitted on a CD or DVD, and mailed to AVerMedia Technologies in Milpitas, Calif. The grand prize winner will receive an AVerVision SPC300 Premium PortableVisual Presenter. First prize will receive an AVerVision300AF, secondprize will receive an AVerVision150, and third prize will receive anAVerVision130. Videos will be judged on originality, creativity ofproduction, and creativity of the actual classroom lesson plan or applicationrepresented.

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Digital Media and Learning Competition

This competition will award $2million in funding to emerging leaders, communicators, and innovators shapingthe field of digital media and learning. The competition is part of MacArthur’s$50 million digital media and learning initiative that aims to help determinehow digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play,socialize, and participate in civic life. Innovation Awards will support learning entrepreneurs and builders ofnew digital environments for informal learning. Winners will receive $250,000or $100,000. Knowledge Networking Awardswill support communicators in connecting, mobilizing, circulating ortranslating new ideas around digital media and learning. Winners will receive a$30,000 base award and up to $75,000.

This competition will award $2million in funding to emerging leaders, communicators, and innovators shapingthe field of digital media and learning. The competition is part of MacArthur’s$50 million digital media and learning initiative that aims to help determinehow digital technologies are changing the way young people learn, play,socialize, and participate in civic life. Innovation Awards will support learning entrepreneurs and builders ofnew digital environments for informal learning. Winners will receive $250,000or $100,000. Knowledge Networking Awardswill support communicators in connecting, mobilizing, circulating ortranslating new ideas around digital media and learning. Winners will receive a$30,000 base award and up to $75,000.

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Starboard Summer School Sweepstakes

This program is designed to encourage lesson sharing amongK-12 educators via the Hitachi Software online Educators Resource Center. A strongsupporter of open educator resources, Hitachi Software will offer prizes to the10 most interactive and educational lesson plans, as determined by athird-party panel of judges. Teachers shouldvisit the Educators Resource Centeronline and upload their lesson plan designed to optimize the use of aninteractive whiteboard and/or LCD projector. Lesson plans will be judged on five criteria: Interactivity (35percent), Educational Quality (30 percent), Presentation (20 percent),Creativity (10 percent), and Multiple Lessons Submitted (5 percent). Atthe end of the entry period, a third-party panel of judges will choose 10prizewinners. One lucky first place winner will receive a Hitachi 50″ PlasmaTV. One second place winner will receive a Hitachi 42″ Plasma TV. Three thirdplace winners will receive a Hitachi Hybrid 8GB camcorder. Five fourthplace winners will receive a Hitachi Software StarBoard BT-2G wireless freedomtablet.

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