This latest installment of Sweet Apps comes from Clemson University. We first got wind of this from a story on (and was subsequently covered by Engadget).

It’s what would happen if Shaquille O’Neil and Sir Isaac Newton friended each other on Facebook:

A Clemson-student chapter of the Structural Engineers Association, led by professor Scott Schiff, collaborated with the Clemson Athletic Department to create measurement and analysis system that rates the intensity of slam dunks made by the Clemson basketball team. The system essentially takes measurements from accelerometers placed on the basketball hoop and turns that data into a slam dunk meter that is then displayed on the Clemson jumbotron. Talk about structural health monitoring, huh?

The slam dunks measured by the system peak around 30 g’s. Compare that to the typical 5 g’s you’d experience on a roller coaster and you get an idea of the magnitude of force these superstars dunk with.

Oh yeah, and the students used LabVIEW to acquire and display the data. Check out the video and you’ll see the screen shots of their front panel. Booya!

Side note: In writing this blog post, I was compelled to include the following picture, as it reminded me of Morgan’s post on talking elephants.

Who knew they could shoot some hoops as well? And just think of the intensity of Dumbo’s slam dunk. Through the roof!

Our Northern Europe Office sent over an article where NI was featured. The headline (translated) is something like “Joining a Listen When Elephants Talk.” I love animals (no doubt this will become more noticable as my posts continue), so natually, I was stoked.

Talking elephants, though?

This is all I could think of:

Remember that little French elephant?

Well, Denmark doesn’t have Babar after all these years, but they do have a new language laboratory in the Copenhagen Zoo, where they can listen and understand elephants communicating with each other.

NI and Brüel & Kjær Sound & Vibration (B & K) Copenhagen donated a system that can record, analyze and play back the sounds of elephants and other animals with some Brüel & Kjær hardware and LabVIEW.

Elephants make sounds to say things like “follow me” or “want to mate?” (clearly, animals are much more direct than we humans are). They can communicate with low-frequency vibrations because not only are their ears sensitive, but their feet are as well, feeling vibrations through the ground.

Here is where it gets weird:

So, the girl elephants don’t always want to communicate. Sometimes they play hard-to-get, or are just giving each other the cold shoulder. Sheesh girl elephants, I would never do that.

You know how the zookeepers get them to talk? My guess would be just to poke them with a stick, or offer them a glass of wine (that seems to always work with me). Nope. Guess again. Throw them some boy-elephant poo at them. That’s right. Read it again. They throw the boy-elephant poo at the girl elephants. Throw some crap at them and they will get to talking.I can’t imagine what those conversations are about.

Next steps for the researchers involve trying to understand communication between the mother and her baby during child birth.

**Animal friendliness note: The zoo is making sure not to cause any stress to the animals by monitoring their sound!

You can also read the full article. I hope you are from Denmark, because it is in Danish and I can’t figure out how to get Google Translator to translate it. I am sure you can.


More about the application:

Brüel & Kjær developed a microphone that can capture low frequency sounds that elephants use to communicate with each other. Elephants essential communication sounds have frequencies that are typically between five and 20 Hz, and can only be captured by humans as vibrations.

With an analog-to-digital converter, sounds pass from the microphone to a PC and then with NI LabVIEW, sounds can be played and displayed graphically so that researchers can study patterns of animal sounds and analyze them.

Morgan’s Post on remote monitoring of the medical clinic construction in Malawi reminded me of another, very cool way LabVIEW users are making the world a better place.

This one does not need much explanation. Kudos to the students at Penn State putting together such a powerful video for a such a powerful solution.

My background is in writing, not so much in engineering. Ok, not at all engineering. The closest I came to engineering before working at NI was when a friend of mine made a cheesecake from Cooking for Engineers. The cheesecake was one of the best I have ever had, but I couldn’t bring myself to read the copiousinstruction manual recipe that divulges the secrets of recreating it.

However, over the past three years, I have grown a fondness for engineers. My co-blogger friend, Emilie, can easily put together a LEGO Mindstorms robot, or tell me how a clock works or what in the world this is all about. She also knows more acronyms than a government lobbyist in a controversial state. And that impresses me.

Anyhow, I sprend a lot of time reading stories accounts case studies about what engineers are doing with NI products. Some of them, though I know are crucial to the technological advancement of this great country, I find horridly boring. I think my ignorance puts up a barrier between me and said applications (see how I did not link to any applications? Because at least I am decent at communicating, I know that doing so would be career-limiting). No, really. There are so many applications that are so far over my head that I hand them to Emilie and tell her I am not sure about them. She reads them, explains how great they are, and then I am on my merry way. Ignorance deflected, and I then have a new appreciation for something I once thought boring.

However, there are some case studies that are initially touching.

Some applications that I just can’t quit reading. Like this one:

Engineers at a University in Scotland are working with Malawi Polytechnic school to create mobile health clinics, and they’ve created a facility where they can actually create these mobile clinics, as well as perform routine maintainence and make sure the clinics are using enercy as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.

At the remote health clinic manufacturing facility, mobile clinics or other mobile organizations can be manufactured, outfitted with appropriate interior equipment, and equipped with solar, wind, or microhydroelectric generating equipment. Currently, one remote health clinic facility is located in Makata, a small village in Malawi.

Engineering that results in deliciuos cheesecake, I get. Engineering that results in providing medical care in remote areas to those who wouldn’t otherwise receive it, I also get.

You can read the full case study here:

As a company full of male engineers, it’s no surprise that a fellow employee happened to be watching Spike TV last week and noted an interesting show. It’s a conversation topic that is shared amongst practically any social gathering of engineers:

Who would win in a fight to the death?
(Insert your historical warrior figure here) vs. (insert other warrior here)


A 2 hour- 45 minute conversation ensues, chock full of citations, estimations, equations and perhaps even re-enactments to judge which historial warrior is the deadliest. Oh yes, it gets extremley geeky.

Spike TV has created a show to tackle such a question: Deadliest Warrior. I happened to catch last week’s episode: Ninja vs. Spartan. It’s a lot like Myth Busters; lots of lab experiments to measure and analyze the fatality of the warrior weapons and the ruggedness of their armor. Piercing, stabbing, clubbing and impailing is tracked with accelerometers, high-speed cameras, gyroscopes, and strain gauges. Of course, it can get a little messy; most of the experimental runs are conducted on jello-like human test dummies and real pig cadavers. Mmm, delicious.

There’s a lot of data analysis that goes into determining who would win. What better tools to quickly and easily acquire and analyze massive amounts of sensor data? LabVIEW and DIAdem, of course. Watch the show and you’ll see our software on their laptop screens. Everytime you see the data being displayed, you are looking at NI software.

See for yourself (and see if you would agree with the outcome; I didn’t want to spoil it for you)

It’s cool when we find NI technologies used in everyday life. Take, for instance, the Seattle Monorail. The Aegis Group used LabVIEW and Compact FieldPointto build a structural health monitoring system to ensure reliable operation of Seattle’s public transportation facility.

Here’s how it works:

The cFP monitoring system acquires vital sensor measurements like acceleration, dynamic breaking, throttle position, and track position. Then, using a custom state machine software architecture written in LabVIEW, the system analyses the raw data and displays it to the monorail engineers. They can diagnose any displayed current spikes, which are the leading cause of drive shaft failures.

So for all of you who take the Seattle Monorail, sit back and enjoy the ride. you can rest easy knowing you will not share the same fate as Homer Simpson and the residents of Springfield. If only Lyle Lanley had sold them a monorail system that had incorporated the test solution from the Aegis Group.