Mainland High School
Suitable for a Disaster: ISTF 08-1835
Component One
Prepare a 200- to 300-word history about the National Critical Technology (NCT) technical application your team has selected to solve a local or national problem.
Information and communication is the National Critical Technology most often associated with our ability to thrive as a country. We have seen this throughout history as the communications media changed from word of mouth to print to where we are today with electronic media of various types providing a platform for the rapid exchange of information around the block and around the world. As more and more people get involved with developing technology to better communicate, we have run into problems associated with different companies developing different technology that is not able to readily communicate with other forms of technology.
  • Customary vs Metric units of measurement

    When comparing the United States to other countries we find that our way of doing things is sometimes very different. A prime example of this would be Metric System vs. Customary Units. In the U.S. we use Customary Units, so when we want to use something from Europe, it causes a great inconvenience. For example, if you own a BMW in the United States all your bolts and parts will be in metric, while your tools will be in Customary. It would be very expensive to invest in tools for both systems.

  • Cell phone network/infrastructure

    As we all know in the U.S. it doesn't really matter which cell phone carrier you use, whether it be Verizon, Sprint/Nextel, AT&T, or T-Mobile you can still get a hold of whoever you need to. However if you happen to take a trip outside of the United States if you even get service, the charges you will have after making a call will be monumental. According to "the tangle of incompatible standards for [cellular] phones in the world is similar to the jumble of the conflicting television standards around the world- only worse."

  • Electricity standards

    When sitting in your home on your laptop, or cell phone or any other electronic device for that matter, you are probably not thinking about local power distribution standards. When you take a trip to the United Kingdom however, there are several things may you need. In the UK, standards are very different than they are here. To convert your electronics, you may need a plug adapter, a phone jack converter, or a voltage converter.
FEMA is currently soliciting proposals to increase the interoperability of its 16 agencies with the following Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Grant Program.

A total of $12,357,500 is available for competitive grants to eligible state, local, or tribal governments' principal EOCs. State Administrative Agencies (SAAs) must apply on behalf of eligible applicants. Applications are due to DHS/FEMA from the SSAs on Feb. 27, 2009.

Cite three detailed examples of research done in the past 3 to 5 years which focused on the NCT technical application your team selected. Include:
       the funding agency,
       the principal investigator's name, and
       the institution where the research is or was being conducted.

Before we present our three grants, we would like to highlight a patent application made by Betty Eng, Kofi Cobbinah, and Janna Kimel on January 1st, 2009 to the United States Patent and Trademark Office which we feel is a cornerstone to our project's success.
  • #20090005016 Apparatus and Method to Maintain a Continuous Connection of a Cellular Device and a Sensor Network.

    Their invention provides a continuous, passive connection between a medical sensor and a wireless network. Their intended purpose is to supply medical assistance and remote monitoring for senior citizens in their homes.

    In our project, we need to "track and monitor people" even when they are not actively engaged in the communication process. Typically there are packets of data that are sent back and forth which would be lost if the active communication was inadvertently or purposefully terminated. An action or data query would then be needed to re-establish the connection; this must be initiated by the user. Our system is different because even if the first responder is incapacitated or unable to signal, our suit would still continuously send and recieve information to the base station.
Now for our three grants: our first grant illustrates the need for telecommunications to constantly step up to the needs of people in remote locations. The second grant shows how nanostructures can be inexpensively manufactured and also used to address power production for portable, personal electronic devices. Our third grant provides evidence of the United States Army's interest in the research and development of smart textiles.
  • In 2007, TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) was awarded $100,000 from Qualcomm for winning their BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless) challenge to create a public service application in one of the five areas: health care, education, public safety, governance and the environment. Dr. Arun Pande submitted the application for this grant and is heading the research. The application is designed to educate and advise farmers through mobile devices and capitalize on the growth of mobile phone usage in rural areas. The BREW application works on a 3G network. TCS is continuing to build their innovation solutions for this application.

  • In 2007, The Division of Mathematical Science at NSF awarded a three-year grant to the Experimental Design for Achieving Consistent and High Yield in the Controlled Synthesis of Nanostructures at Georgia Tech, in the amount of $546,278. This grant was awarded to C. F. Jeff Wu to find a way to make nanostructures cheaply, quickly and consistently. They have developed a technique that originates from a combination of statistical theory and fundamental laws of physics, using zinc oxide nanowires.

    Image courtesy of newswise

    The zinc oxide nanowires can generated an electric current. These wires, when woven into shirts and jackets, allow the wearer's body movement to power portable electronic devices. These fibers can also be woven into structures such as curtains and tents that capture energy from wind motion, sound vibration, and other mechanical energy.

  • Also in 2007, a significant Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) $7.5 million-grant funded by the Army Research Office was awarded to Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VPI) in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, and Drexel University. Their goal is to use ionic liquids to develop electromechanical devices and high performance membranes that could help power fuel cells and smart clothes. The Ionic Liquids are large organic salts that offer charge and liquidity at room temperature and won't evaporate at high temperatures. The principal investigator, Dr. Tim Long of VPI and Dr. Karen Winey of the University of Pennsylvania are co-directors of the Inions Liquids in Electro-Active Devices (ILEAD) located at the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute at Virginia Tech. In addition to the universities involved, there are currently six industrial collaborators: DuPont, IBM Almaden, Kraton Polymers, NextGen Aeronautics, BASF, and Discover Technologies.
Based on the research your team has done, explain how the NCT application chosen has advanced scientific knowledge.
Telecommunication has come a long way since Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call and Marconi sent the first telegraph (wireless) message. Instant messaging and Internet browsing are no longer restricted to having access to a computer connected by an ethernet wire to the Internet. Walk down a crowded street and note how many people you see doing something on a cell phone. It almost goes without saying that the cell phone has found its place in our everyday life.

Image courtesy of Health News Image courtesy of

For most people, the inability to contact any person at any time would result in a significant loss of productively. Most people do not even ponder whether there are incapatibilty issues, they just assume that their telecommunications devices are interoperable. Cellular providers usually allow communication between same network callers for free, but, in certain contracts, they allow free calls to anyone from any network listed on their calling plan. Even video-conferencing with 3G-phones is becoming an everyday occurrence for many people, allowing them to work from home and other previously inaccessible locations.

Image courtesy of TFTS

Interoperability is arguably one of the most critical aspects in disaster situations. If a group in need can not communicate, or to those providing help, human and material resources will be difficult to allocate. Perhaps the best civilian-level example of current interoperability is dialing 911. In February, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice suggested that police officers have a single number for emergency situations. In 1968, AT&T announced that "911" would be the universal emergency number. Instead of needing to call the correct number of the fire department, police department, or ambulance, you can now call one number and the proper authorities will be notified. This service greatly expedites the rescue process making it more efficient. When natural or manmade disasters occur over a larger scale, interoperability becomes not just important, but crucial.

Interoperability just means that there is a system in which measurements and functions can be reciprocated. Apple introduced an application to easily install 32-bit releases of WindowsXP on to their Mac, called Boot Camp. Apple's operating system Leopard, in conjunction with Boot Camp, allows Mac users the ability to run Windows applications on their laptops in a separate partition this allowing Mac users the best of both worlds.

Interoperability in shipping has also adjusted to today's global market. The wide diversity of railroad track gauges, barge waterway routes, and transoceanic cargo ships, has lead to the rise of large metal containers that have specific dimensions. These dimensions are compatible to trucks and trains. This makes for faster transitions from type to type of transportation. Thus another perfect example of interoperability between countries by sea to land.


CIO - Qualcomm Announces Wireless Reach BREW Application Funding Winners

Dispatch Magazine On-Line - History of 911

Drawbridge to Europe Inc. - What is a GSM phone?

Fiber-based nanotechnology in clothing could harvest energy from physical movement

Georgia Research Tech News- Power Shirt: Fiber-based Nanotechnology in Clothing Could Generate Electricity by Harvesting Energy from Physical Movement

German Way - Cell Phones in Europe

India PRwire- Tata Consultancy Services Wins the Grand Prize in QUALCOMM's Wireless Reach BREW Application Funding Program

Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute at Virginia Tech

Metric versus U.S. Units

National Emergency Number Association - 9-1-1 Facts

National Science Foundation- MSPA-MPS: Experimental design for achieving consistent and high yield in the controlled synthesis of nanostructures

Newswise Science News - Power Shirt Generates Electricity from Physical Motion

Photonics - Project Aims to Create New Materials, Nanodevices


Slow travel - Bringing your electronics to europe

US Patent & Trademark Office - #20090005016

Wireless - What is BREW?

World Standards - Electricity around the World

FEMA - Get Disaster Information

FEMA - FY 2009 Emergency Operations Center Grant Program

U.S. Government Affairs Committee

Health News - Conflicting studies on possible health threats - Safety council urges ban on cell phone use while driving

Verizon Wireless copies Alltel's My Circle

TFTS - Apple iPhone Video Recording and Video Conferencing

Mac OS X Leopard

The New York Times - Technology - run Windows and Mac OS Both at Once

Port25 - Shipping Containers and Standardization

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