By John D. Sutter, CNN
(CNN) - Watching the Olympics, which kick off in earnest Friday with the opening ceremony in London, is more fun when you know the stories behind the Games.
No doubt, sports broadcasters will hammer on plenty of rags-to-riches, against-the-odds backstories about the Olympic athletes. (You can also find plenty of them on CNN's London 2012 page). And that's all good. But knowing the technological underpinnings of the Games is perhaps just as intriguing.
Here's a quick look at 10 of the most interesting tech stories to watch at the London Olympics:
By Olivia Smith, Special to CNN
New York (CNN) - Imagine wallpaper that does work for you and for your electronics. Wallpaper that doesn’t only protect your walls, but also protects your health, equipment and data.
Researchers at France’s Institut Polytechnique de Grenoble have worked with the Centre Technique du Papier to develop Wi-Fi-blocking wallpaper. The product, also known as metapaper, claims to selectively filter, reduce or reflect electromagnetic waves.
Metapaper not only protects against intruders stealing Wi-Fi from buildings, but also ensures that signals inside a building are more secure and stronger, the group says. Benefits include data security for companies or people that need dependable Wi-Fi. The wallpaper can also be used to create quieter spaces for places like hospitals and movie theaters. FULL POST
Editors note: Ayah Bdeir is an engineer, artist and inventor of littleBits, which is a next-generation, electronic version of the LEGO. With littleBits, Bdeir hopes to change the way kids learn about science and technology.
By Ayah Bdeir, Special to CNN
(CNN) – A few years ago, if you had asked me why littleBits - the LEGO-like electronic building blocks that are the basis for my company - mattered, I would have told you why I thought they mattered. I always thought academic disciplines were overrated and really disliked people who took themselves too seriously. Supposedly, engineers build functional things, designers make objects look pretty, business people market stuff and then consumers are left to do the purchasing. That segmented system has made for tons of bad products and unhappy people. With littleBits, I had a hunch we could throw that all in the air and reshuffle the pack.
Now, if you asked me again why littleBits matters, I can tell you how I know it matters. Every day we receive e-mail from kids, retired engineers, stay-at-home moms and fine-arts teachers saying littleBits inspired them. They say they never thought they were creative or they could be a "techie." They say they dusted off their electronics books, or modded their instruments, or started taking their kids to robotics camps. They send us pictures of projects they've made and share plans for bigger ones they dream of.
By Poppy Harlow, CNN Correspondent
Editors note: Ayah Bdeir is the founder and inventor of littleBits, a new electronic kind of LEGO that snaps together to create just about anything. Watch Poppy Harlow’s full interview with Ayah on CNN's “The Next List” this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
Growing up I was never that into science, math or engineering. I was (and admittedly still am) a total type A personality, did well in school, and did well in my math and science classes. But outside of my advanced chemistry class in high school I never really pushed myself in math or science.
I wish I had.
You see, women are drastically under-represented in math and science in the United States. A recent Commerce Department study found that women hold only 25% of jobs in science, math, technology and engineering (or STEM) but make up 48% of the U.S. workforce.
The number of jobs in STEM is projected to increase by 17% from 2008 to 2018. And college grads in STEM careers make an average of $74,000 a year – 26% more than their non-STEM counterparts. The point is – STEM jobs are good paying jobs, and not enough women have them.
By Dan Ogola, Special to CNN
Editor's Note: Dan Ogola is the founder and director of the Matibabu Foundation, a organization in Eastern Africa creating jobs and opportunity through healthcare. Founded in 2006, Matibabu has offered health services to over 60,000 Kenyans. It recently opened the community’s first hospital, a state-of-the art facility drawing new businesses to one of the country’s poorest regions.
As a result of a CNN profile on "The Next List," Matibabu Foundation got invited to the recent Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale University by the event organizers, Unite for Sight. As Social entrepreneurs, myself and Dr. Fred Okango expanded the scope of the trip to include contact with potential partners. Our goal was to espouse our vision of a healthy, productive, and prosperous society in Western Kenya through the efforts of an empowered community and strengthened systems.
We travelled the length and breadth of the United States from New York, to Yale University in Connecticut, to Boston and Washington D.C., to Atlanta and South Carolina, and finally to the west coast, visiting both San Francisco and Los Angeles.
By Heather M. Higgins, CNN
New York (CNN) – Daylight pours in a large northern exposed window and bounces off the grape-colored walls of a 13’ x 10’ office that is part of the 5500 square foot arts and science co-operative called Collab.
The six employees who work shoulder-to-shoulder at this lower Manhattan startup are designing tiny, brightly colored electronic squares. However, these Lego-like modules are much more than the next hot toy on the market – they’re encouraging young boys and girls to learn about science, engineering and basic circuits.
“The idea is that we want to make every single electronic interaction in the world into a ready to use brick,” says Ayah Bdeir, 29, founder and CEO of littleBits, a company that has been selling their product for less than a year.
One of the people collaborating to advance this mission is Krystal Persaud, 23, a 2010 graduate of Georgia Tech who interned for three months before being hired as a full-time junior industrial designer on June 1st. Persaud, who has always been into art and painting, pushed herself to pursue a degree in industrial design.
Her skills were tested at a recent workshop she titled ‘Techno Jungle’ – a littleBits Saturday class to inspire children to build animals whose tails spin and eyes light up.
“Krystal impressed me when I met her on Skype by her project ‘The Closed Loop,’ Bdeir said. “She grew weary of superficial sustainability solutions and embarked on a self-imposed project over several months where she was not going to produce any waste, and instead was going to live with her trash. I hired Krystal because, like us, she wants to change the world, she is starting from within, and most importantly, she knows how to have fun doing it.”
Editors note: CNN's "The Next List" will profile Ayah Bdeir, founder of the company littleBits, on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
By The Next List Staff, CNN
(CNN) - In an effort to inspire and equip the next generation of innovators, Ayah Bdeir has created what she says is the next-generation Lego. Called littleBits, her tools, which are not affiliated with Lego, aim to change the way kids learn about science, engineering and basic circuits.
Each littleBits is a pre-engineered electronic module that snaps together with tiny magnets to create just about anything: light, sound, sensors, power, switches and different types of displays. There is no limit to what a person can create, Bdeir says. FULL POST
By Richard Galant, CNN
(CNN) – Years before Bill Nye became the Science Guy, he was a mechanical engineering student at Cornell University, where he took a course with astronomer Carl Sagan.
Sagan, who was instrumental in the planning of NASA missions to other planets and became widely known for his research, writing and public television series, was one of the founders of the Planetary Society. And his student dutifully signed up to become a member.
"I've been a member for over 30 years. And now I'm the head guy, it's quite odd," a surprised-sounding Nye told CNN in an interview in March at the TED2012 conference in Long Beach, California.