This past Friday, April 28th, was National Superhero Day. According to the dictionary
, a superhero is defined as, “a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers; also, an exceptionally skillful or successful person.” When I was a kid, my favorite superhero was Superman. He was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. There was also an ever worldly characteristic of Superman based on his alter-ego, Clark Kent. This mild-mannered journalist who would disappear into a phone booth and re-emerge as Superman to save the day was amazing. While, Superman is great, I’d like to touch on the second half of the dictionary definition – the idea of an exceptionally skillful or successful person. In modern times, we are all looking for heroes to save the day. I’d argue that we have no clearer example of exceptionally skillful persons than those who write the lines of code or develop the technology-based products to make the world a better place.
By now, we have all heard about the alarming decline if the honeybee population
. Bees play an important role in the pollination of a wide variety of crops. Instead of simply accepting the status quo, Eijiro Miyaka, a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, has designed an insect-sized drone capable of artificial pollination
. While the challenges to introducing the technology are enormous, the initial research is a great step in the right direction to solving a problem that could impact us all.
3D Printed Heart
Surgeons in Miami noticed an abnormality in a 4 year old girl’s heart. Using advanced technology, they were able to create a 3D Printed model of her heart using CAT & MRI scans
. With this physical model in place, the surgeons were able to wrestle with how exactly to conduct the operation. Instead of having to make the decision real-time while the child was on the operating team, the team came up with a plan before she ever entered the operating room which ultimately saved them 2 hours and gave them higher confidence in their approach. While the current use case is helping doctors better prep for complicated medical procedures, the goal is that one day organs may be 3D printed to help save lives for those in need.
Analyzing diseases using Big Data
Reducing accidents on the roadways
One of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the modern era is vehicle accidents. Our love affair with the automobile combined with the fallibility of the human being to safely control these heavy, powerful machines results in thousands of deaths each year. The self-driving car is projected to change that – estimates are that this innovation could save 300,000 lives in the US alone
. If we achieve even a fraction of those savings, the effort would be well worth it.
One of the biggest commonalities to all the examples above is that they are all really, really difficult. Similar to the challenges Superman faced when he needed to save the day, modern day technologists are taking on really difficult problems with no clear solution. However, what connects these modern day superheroes with the ones that were idolized in comic books of the past is that they dive right in and keep pushing until the job is done. Let’s continue to push those young people who are curious and interested in entering this space because we could all use more heroes!