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ing to bring these subjects to life, Emanuela Ughi began bringing wooden blocks and small, handmade structures into the classroom to illustrate concepts of math and science to her students ­ and not just talk about them. "In my everyday professional life, I'm a researcher in geometry at the University of Perugia, in Italy, with interests in finite fields and rigidity of graphs. But since childhood I have been fascinated by wood and the possibility of making things," she explains. In 1998, this fascination led her to create if itkonen has her wish, we can soon put our cell phone chargers in the drawer permanently. mathematical models using wood, plexi-glass and wool treads to better bring her own images of mathematics across to her students. Ughi claims she started the activity simply to make her lessons more fun, but within a few years she had designed and built a travelling exhibition entitled Giocare con le costruzioni: la matematica che esiste (literally meaning "To play at building things: mathematics of the real world"). Teaching these number-oriented subjects, first from concrete activities, then through abstractions, continues to be her approach. "My technique is useful in encouraging weak students, or people who do not believe in their own capacity to understand," says Ughi. "But at the same time, it also challenges the skilled ones." PerFectinG a traDition Weaving has been around for centuries, so one could easily think that if there was a way to improve this technology, it would have been invented years ago. But, as Kadi Pajupuu will tell you, this is not the case. The Estonian inventor has created an adjustable weaving reed, called AdRe. "It's designed to adjust the density of the warp threads in groups while weaving, providing new possibilities for structures and patterns," she explains. "A friend of mine uses a method of wavy lines of weft in her tapestries to get various structures. This led me to think about how to implement this idea into weaving looms," Pajupuu says. She first built a weaving reed that enabled her to push weft threads so that they could form wavy lines, but found this process to be too complicated. "During this project, I realized that adjusting warp thread density during weaving could also give fascinating results, and later started to think about different methods in which this could be done," she says. The Ah-ha moment was born. Pajupuu has provided the reed to a small number of weavers, but has bigger plans. "I intend to distribute it to a wider network as soon as the trial period is over and once I've worked out a faster production method. While my product remains a tool for hand-weavers, it can be developed for industrial use as well ­ but this is another story." aBoVe alessandra luchini's invention uses a novel application of substances called hydrogel nanoparticles to detect cancer before symptoms appear. FEBRUARY 2010 Blue WinGS 61

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