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Veteran asteroid miners launch First Mode

First Mode lab
A wide-angle view provides an unusual perspective of First Mode’s new lab space. (First Mode Photo)

Planetary Resources was assimilated into the ConsenSys blockchain venture months ago, but a troop of engineers who used to work for the asteroid mining company is seeking out new frontiers with a new company called First Mode.

And this time, asteroids aren’t the final frontier.

“First Mode is working with industries on and off the planet to do design and creative engineering work, but also to build hardware and build solutions that get deployed around the solar system as well as a lot of harsh and challenging environments here on planet Earth,” Rhae Adams, vice president of strategy and business development, told GeekWire.

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Plasmonic modulator could lead to new chips

Electro-optic modulator
Artist’s rendering shows an electro-optic modulator. (VCU Illustration / Nathaniel Kinsey)

Researchers have created a miniaturized device that can transform electronic signals into optical signals with low signal loss. They say the electro-optic modulator could make it easier to merge electronic and photonic circuitry on a single chip. The hybrid technology behind the modulator, known as plasmonics, promises to rev up data processing speeds.

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UW’s nano institute is open for business

Nano institute opening
Among the dignitaries cutting the ribbon for the University of Washington’s Institute for Nano-Engineered Systems are institute director Karl Böhringer; Nena Golubovic, physical sciences director for IP Group; Mike Bragg, dean of the UW College of Engineering; and Jevne Micheau-Cunningham, the institute’s deputy director. (UW Photo / Kathryn Sauber)

University of Washington officials used a scaled-up scissors this week for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that celebrated scaled-down science: the opening of the Institute for Nano-Engineered Systems, or NanoES.

The institute, housed in the $87.8 million Nano Engineering and Sciences Building, will focus on nanoscale frontiers in energy, materials science, computation and medicine.

“The University of Washington is well-known for its expertise in nanoscale materials, processing, physics and biology — as well as its cutting-edge nanofabrication, characterization and testing facilities,” Karl Böhringer, the institute’s director, said in UW’s account of the Dec. 4 opening reception. “NanoES will build on these strengths, bringing together people, tools and opportunities to develop nanoscale devices and systems.”

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Six tips for fostering women in engineering

Woman engineer
Women engineers don’t need to join the “bro club.” (© Chombosan via Fotolia)

BELLEVUE, Wash. — The title of the panel was “Women in Hardware,” but the focus turned out to be more about the organizational software to support women at startups.

Five women engineers shared tips for getting ahead in a traditionally male-dominated field during today’s panel, conducted at One Bellevue Center as part of Techstars Startup Week Seattle.

The first tip is to embrace the engineer label, even if you don’t have an engineering degree.

“Being an engineer is just something I did not know I could become,” said Clarissa San Diego, the founder of Seattle-based Makerologist.

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Junior engineers score big with golf club project

Image: Adam Clark
Boeing engineer Adam Clark helped design Callaway’s golf clubs. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

EVERETT, Wash. – When experts at Callaway Golf sought Boeing’s help to improve their golf clubs’ aerodynamics, Boeing turned to a special breed of engineers: recent hires with a hunger for projects off Boeing’s beaten path.

Some of the engineers didn’t even play golf before they took on the challenge – but now they’re learning.

The result of the collaboration is Callaway’s XR-16 line of drivers, which sport a pattern of chevron-shaped “trip steps” to optimize the aerodynamics of a golf swing. Computerized analysis helped the engineers tweak the club’s shape ever so slightly: By making the air flow just a bit more turbulent at a key point, the engineers reduced the drag encountered during the swing.

“We’ve obviously been working on this problem for many years,” said Evan Gibbs, Callaway’s senior manager for research and development for woods. But for the XR-16, Callaway had only a few months to up their aerodynamic game. That’s why the company turned to Boeing’s engineering-savvy duffers.

The unusual collaboration is arguably the highest-profile success story for Boeing’s Opportunities for New Engineers program, also known as ONE.

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