Watch: High-tech timber erected at UMass

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High-tech wood panels known as cross-laminated timber (CLT) are replacing concrete slabs on the UMass Design Building. Featuring three to nine layers of lumber glued together, CLTs are like plywood on steroids. (Courtesy ReTHINKWood)

In October we wrote about a revolutionary project using “mass timber” at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Now that it is actually being erected, the Suffolk Construction team managing the project invited us to the job site to interview the folks responsible for this first-of-its-kind structure.

Arriving on a perfectly sunny day, it was hard to miss the building rising from the campus. Massive large timber columns, beams and panels form a structural frame that is strikingly solid and beautiful. The “high-tech wood” is light, sustainable and aesthetically pleasing. It’s not your typical composite material. You can actually see the grains in the columns that will ultimately be left exposed inside the 86,000-square-foot UMass Design Building.

Don’t forget to reread our original post to learn more about this innovative building and the wood construction movement …

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Super Bowl shuffle: Stadiums of the future will feature interactive and civic spaces

Now that Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos have won Super Bowl 50 in Levi’s Stadium, we wanted to take a moment to consider what the stadium that hosts Super Bowl 100 might look like.  

To say that the differences between Sunday’s Super Bowl and the first Super Bowl played 49 years ago were dramatic is clearly understated.

The 200-foot-by-48-foot 13HD LED video board high above the action was a stark contrast to Super Bowl I’s electronic scoreboard at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The halftime show featuring Coldplay, Beyoncé and Bruno Mars obviously had a ridiculously higher production value than trumpeter Al Hirt performing with marching bands from the University of Arizona and Grambling College. And Sunday’s four-hour game was so much longer than the first Super Bowl thanks to countless commercial breaks and instant replays. 

Otherwise, most fans at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. essentially observed the “Big Game” the same way their parents and grandparents might have in 1967: from a static seat.

But that paradigm between a seated spectator and the playing field is shifting. And that shift will only become more dramatic during the course of the next 50 Super Bowls as new innovations begin to challenge the way we spectate sports. So in the afterglow of historic Super Bowl 50, we are exploring what the “fan experience” might look like in the stadiums of the future. Continue Reading ›

MIT students win Hyperloop competition

In November, we posted a story about SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk’s proposed supersonic transportation network called Hyperloop. This past weekend, Musk’s dream for the Hyperloop took another important step toward becoming a reality.

Elon Musk’s futuristic Hyperloop transportation promises to rocket pods through an above-ground steel tube at speeds of more than 750 miles per hour, allowing passengers to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just 35 minutes. That’s faster than the one-and-a-half hour flight and nearly six-hour drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. 

But how will these pods actually look and move through the tube, and how will they hit these incredible velocities without their passengers feeling any sensations of speed? Last year, Musk decided to leave these not-so-minor details to some of the world’s most innovative and forward-thinking colleges and universities as he launched a world-wide competition for the best pod design.

The judging took place this past weekend … and we have a winner!

Congratulations to the team of 25 brilliant and innovative students from MIT who took home the first place prize in the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition at Texas A&M University on Sunday.

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MIT’s winning pod design features “a passive magnetic levitation system that incorporates two arrays of 20 neodymium magnets,” according to the team’s website. (Photo courtesy of MIT)

 

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The 25-member MIT team includes students specializing in aeronautics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and business management. (Photo courtesy of MIT)

The MIT team’s pod design beat out 160 competing teams from 27 universities charged with creating the future capsule for the Hyperloop system. The remainder of the top 5 finishers included Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, University of Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and University of California (Irvine).

“It’s great to see our hard work recognized, and we are excited to have the opportunity to continue to push this technology one step closer to reality,” members of the MIT Hyperloop Team told the Boston Globe.

The judges were impressed by MIT’s 551-pound pod covered in carbon fiber and polycarbonate sheets. Accelerating at 2.4 Gs, the pod is designed to use magnets so it can levitate 15 millimeters above the track as it glides on a cushion of air. A fail-safe braking system was incorporated into the design, “meaning if the actuators or computers fail, the system will brake automatically,” the team wrote on its website.

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