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Rat Trap Could Combat NYC's Incredible Infestation

Someone finally built a better mousetrap. Also, 3D-printed Lamborghini goes for test drive and flying fish robot can fly out of the water.

Father & Son Team Test Drive 3D-Printed Lamborghini

In July 2019, we brought you the story of physicist Sterling Backus and his 11-year-old son Xander who are building a 3D-printed, full-scale Lamborghini in the garage. 

The Backus family has spent nearly 20 months on the project. This week, Sterling took the car out for a test drive -- is was a brief one as it's not exactly street legal yet. Overall, the test was a success. 

The car sprung a bit of a leak during the short drive, but at least he had a fire extinguisher in the passenger seat in case anything when awry. 

The kids even jumped in for the final stretch around the driveway. 

Right now, the only 3D-printed parts on the car are the dash and the skull-shaped gear shifter. However, after Backus looks for leaks, he plans on welding the frame together and putting the 3D-printed body panels back before they start the bodywork. 

Now that the car is running, it appears that Backus is still on schedule to visit local schools with the car by next spring. If this doesn't get kids interested in STEM, I'm not sure that anything will. 

Follow the team's progress on Facebook and YouTube.

Flying Fish Robot Glider

Researchers from Imperial College London have created a flying fish robot that launches out of the water and glides through the air. "Flying fish" seems like a stretch. Maybe call it a water-compatible glider.

The bio-inspired robot can travel more than 85 feet through the air after takeoff. The craft could be useful for several applications, mainly collecting water samples after floods or monitoring pollution. 

Previous attempts at a craft that can transition from water to air have failed because takeoff takes too much power to propel the small robots. 

This team's system uses 0.2 grams of calcium carbide powder held in a combustion chamber. The lone moving part on the robot is a pump that draws in water to create a reaction in the enclosure. The reaction creates a burnable acetylene gas that ignites, expands, and sends the craft airborne. It generates a force 25 times the robot's weight. 

The robot has so far survived tests in a lab, lake and wave tank. The robot is not only capable of taking off in rough conditions, but it can also make multiple jumps by refilling the tank with water. In the future, the Flying Fish could land, take a water sample, and then take off to another area. 

Next, the team plans to test the robot in more hazardous real-world locations like offshore energy platforms and to monitor the ocean. They've also partnered with Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology to build new vehicles using the technology.

Humane Trap Drowns 30-40 Rats at a Time

New York company Rat Trap says that it has the most humane way to solve the Big Apple's rat problem/infestation. The company created battery-operated traps that lure rats up a ladder and onto a platform that drops them into a solution that quickly knocks them out before drowning them. 

According to the company, the Ekomille is more humane, because other solutions like poison are harmful to area predators, children, and the elderly, and it takes days to kill them. This solution does it in a few seconds and holds them in a tank that can hold 30 to 40 rats at a time. 

New York City reportedly has a rat population of roughly 2 million brown rats, about a quarter the size of the human population. Brown rats can grow to 20 inches long and weigh 2 pounds. So far, only one rat has been too big for the Ekomille. Over the summer, one of the rats captured in a Brooklyn pilot project was so big that it broke the spring mechanism. 

The rat trap has a tamper-proof enclosure that mounts to a wall either indoors or outdoors. The trap uses sunflower seeds and nuts as bait, so the user doesn't run into any problems with poisons -- this includes the non-toxic, alcohol-based solution in the vat. 

The design has been in use in Europe for more than ten years, trapping as many as 80 rats each month, in everything from factories to agribusinesses. 

The Ekomille costs $300 to $400 to buy and maintain, but if it continues to work well in Brooklyn, it could soon find its way around the rest of the city. 

But what's the best-case scenario? We have 2 million dead rats to dispose of? 

This is Engineering By Design.

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