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Design Engineering’s Top 10 favourite stories of 2018


2018 was a year full of turbulence, uncertainty and a slew of stories that made us exclaim “holy heck Batman!” more than a few times. As the year comes to a close, Design Engineering has taken some time to reflect on the stories we’ve written or had the pleasure of hosting on our website and social media.

As such, we’ve decided to write up a Top 10 of our favourite stories of 2018. The one big caveat is that none of them are ranked in a way that would imply a “worst” or “best” connotation. Instead, it’s a curated list of what we thought stood out to us as an editorial team and what our analytics told us you enjoyed the most. Please enjoy, and from our family to yours, have a happy new year!

Awesome experimental plane flies silently, may lead to quiet drones
Star Trek-Inspired drone produces thrust by applying a strong electric field to the air.
https://www.design-engineering.com/experimental-plane-flies-silently-1004032091/Top 10 2018

This one came out of left field for us (which seems to be the norm) and are we ever happy it made it did. It seems like our audience loved it as well since it was our top-rated story on Google Analytics for 2018. And what’s not to love? No propellers or jets power this beauty, just good ol’ electricity and a hefty dose of engineering. Inspired by Star Trek no less! Live long and prosper.

Ashored Innovations creates ropeless trap to help with marine animal entanglement
It’s a two-pronged system they refer to as Modular Ocean Based Instrument (MOBI) and the Automated Tracking and Location Aggregation System (ATLAS).

Top 10 2018

A diagram of the MOBI system. (All photos and videos courtesy of Ashored Innovations)

This one started out as most of our features do: skimming the morning news and earmarking interesting stories to follow-up on. Beginning back in August there were games of phone tag, and a lot of hurry up and wait as the Ashored team went through a patent process on their ropeless fishing trap. But after a few great interviews, the story came together, making the cover of our November/December joint issue. Give it a read!

UBC’s $100 ultrasound sensor heralds cheap, wearable diagnostic device
Canadian researchers say their low-power, flexible PolyCMUT transducer could be woven into a wearable ultrasound device and powered by a cell phone.

Top 10 2018

UBC PhD candidate Carlos D. Gerardo holding his polyCMUT transducer that promises to usher in cheap and portable ultrasound imaging devices. (Photo credit: Clare Kiernan/UBC)

What’s so great about stories like these is the potential impact the project has on the wider public. Design Engineering always welcomes the chance to write pieces like these and we’ve done more than a few in 2018. We have plans to keep up with UBC in 2019 and write any stories as updates to the project roll in. Also try saying “ultrasound transducer” three times fast.

“Floating backpack” focuses on engineering to make your daily commute easier
HoverGlide backpack’s “Suspended-Load Technology” reduces perceived weight carried.

Top 10 2018

Some of our favourite stories are when engineering makes the leap into popular culture, and in this case, into commuter culture. We’ve all been there, right? A sore back or shoulders after a long day of lugging around your stuff. And having surpassed their Kickstarter goal to the tune of $$246,065 HoverGlide is trying to help solve the problem. We loved writing this one!

The first AI robot is happily floating around Earth, solving a Rubik’s cube
CIMON relies on facial recognition software to communicate with everyone on board the International Space Station.

Top 10 2018

CIMON sports a smile face and can understand English.

Upon first reading about CIMON, we couldn’t help but smile – and I mean c’mon just look at that face! There were a few really cool engineering space stories we had the chance to write this year and the audience seems to love them! CIMON was due to return to Earth in December, so who knows, maybe a follow-up story is in the works?

Canada is going bonkers for low Earth orbit satellites
The recent $52 million in funding for NorthStar Earth and Space Inc’s 40 satellite cluster, is just the latest in an aerospace boom that’s poised for launch.

Top 10 2018

Photo courtesy of ESA

First off, bonkers is such a great word. With that out of the way, writing this story was a crazy experience. The amount of R&D that’s happening within the field of satellites is staggering and DE will probably have a story or two in 2019 dealing with cool new developments that might arise. For now though, let’s try not and think about the possibility of those thousands of satellites falling to Earth (nothing to worry about, we promise).

Ford rolls out largest adoption of exoskeleton technology to date to help prevent worker injury
75 ExoVests will be distributed across 15 plants internationally, including China in the coming months.


Top 10 2018


2018 was a turbulent year for the automotive industry to say the least. And with a lot of negativity surrounding the business side of things, it was nice to write a positive story about the large-scale adoption of technology that’s proven to help workers at the forefront of it all. Exoskeletons have been around for a while, but 2018 seemed like the year where things really took off and manufacturers like Toyota are getting into the game.

Canadian engineer’s one-man drone-like “Flyer” nears commercial release ***
The Kitty Hawk Flyer, a personal aircraft designed by Todd Reichert, allows 20 minutes of VTOL flight time at up to 20 mph.

Top 10 2018

Any time entrepreneurial engineers are able to get their projects off the ground (see what we did there?) Design Engineering is excited to write about them. The Kitty Hawk Flyer is one such project and with backing from Google co-founder Larry Page, we can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for the electric one-man drone.

Closing the Engineering Gender Gap
Why women disproportionately opt out of engineering’s education and career pipeline.

Top 10 2018

Young woman working in a robotics workshop.

Unfortunately, the lack of women in engineering was still a giant issue in 2018. On the flip side, Design Engineering had Dr. Mary A. Wells wrote a fantastic piece about why women disproportionately opt out of engineering’s education and career pipeline. Part editorial, part fact-based assessment of the engineering landscape, Wells’ insight was a great addition to our 2018 lineup of stories.

Eight-legged cell phone “airbag” designed to save expensive digital devices
The spring-loaded design pops open when sensing acceleration and folds back into a slim compartment on the back of your device.
There are some stories are just too cool to pass up and this eight-legged cell phone airbag was certainly one of them. We reached out to creators Philip Frenzel and Peter Mayer after catching a brief glimpse of the device on Reddit. Frenzel, a university student in Germany, was accommodating and friendly throughout the interview process – and their Kickstarter campaign officially launched last week.

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