Posts Tagged ‘ walking ’

Dad’s Flying Drone Gives New Meaning to ‘Helicopter Parenting’

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

A Vermont father, Paul Wallich, has devised an innovative, if controversial, way to fulfill his duty to accompany his son during the quarter-mile walk. More from NBC News:

“It’s those Vermont winters that provided motivation for the project. ”If I am walking my kid to the bus stop in December and January, I would really rather not be doing that,” Wallich told NBC News.

The drone is a quadcopter that he built from store-bought parts. He strapped on a smartphone with a video-chat app so that he could watch his son from the comfort of his warm home.

The trick was to get the drone to follow his son. After exploring a few possibilities, Wallich put a GPS beacon in his son’s backpack, and employed navigation software that tells the drone to stay an arbitrary distance from the beacon.

It worked … up to a point.

“Vermont, as it turns out, is a really bad place for doing this kind of thing because you have hills and you have trees,” Wallich said. “Hills mean that the altitude control gets a lot more complicated and trees mean you have to do obstacle avoidance.

“If my kid is walking along the road and there is a branch overhanging the road, the quadcopter will gleefully run smack into it.”

There are potential fixes, such as sonar for collision control. By flying the quadcopter closer to his son — about 15 feet off the ground — he could program it to maintain altitude with respect to the ground instead of following GPS coordinates.”

Drone photo by Paul Wallich, via NBC News

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Organized Sports Found to Help Teens Manage Weight

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

It won’t surprise anyone that a new study has found that exercise helps teens–or anyone–maintain a healthy weight.  But this study, published in the journal Pediatrics, has found some specific fitness habits can have a more marked effect, including walking or biking to school and participating in high school team sports, more than one if possible.  The New York Times reports:

Though the spread of childhood obesity in the last decade has spurred health authorities to ramp up their efforts to promote youth activity, the new findings are among the first to demonstrate that walking or riding a bike to school actually has an impact on weight gain among high school students. The study also found that while school-based exercise can reduce or stem weight gain, it is sports participation in particular that makes a difference. Physical education classes, the researchers found, did not reduce or prevent weight gain, likely because they do not offer students the same level of regular, challenging exercise as competitive sports.

“I think being a part of some kind of team or organization gives kids the opportunity to have moderate to vigorous activity consistently,” said Keith M. Drake, an author of the study and a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hood Center for Children and Families at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “I think a lot of time physical education requirements are not that strict. Kids are not in P.E. that often, and when they are, the physical activity is not that strenuous.”

Image: High school athletes, via Shutterstock.

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Scientists: Baby Humans, Rats, Cats Learn to Walk Using Similar Neurons

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Baby human beings and a number of other animals share the neural mechanism in the brain that allows them to walk, new research published in the journal Science has found.  The development of human locomotion branches off from the other animals, which include cats, rats, and guinea fowl, as the animals mature, with larger-brained animals such as humans taking longer to learn to walk independently than smaller-brained animals like rats.

The “stepping instinct,” where a newborn baby automatically lifts his or her feet when they are rested on a surface, was found by researchers to have its roots in a neural pathway that is also found in the animals studied.  Researchers say that the discovery can help further the development of tools to rehabilitate people who are paralyzed or otherwise cannot walk.

“We have a common history … a common ancestral network, which originated locomotion in the first animals, the first vertebrates,”  study co-author Francesco Lacquaniti, scientist at the University of Rome Tor Vergata in Italy, told CNN.com.  “Mother nature did not discard what it had. It does not scrap hardware,” he added. “Indeed, the adult locomotion of adults is unique. But it seems to derives from common ancestry, as for the other animals.”

Image: Baby walking, via Shutterstock.

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