Articles by Michelle Z. Donahue

Purdue University’s INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering works with pre-school, school-age, college undergrads, engineers and parents to test and rate science- and tech-themed products.

The Ten Best STEM Toys to Give as Gifts in 2019

Stretch young learners’ minds with everything from card games to robotic spheres

Cormac Hondros-McCarthy, Lauren Shum, Parth Sagdeo and Ted Zhu celebrate their successful top prize spot at the Make for the Planet Borneo hackathon in Kuching, Malaysia in June 2018.

This Lobster Trap Aims to Protect Endangered Whales — and Fishers’ Livelihoods

A team of engineers is designing a low-cost, lineless, self-surfacing lobster trap that would prevent right whale entanglement

The Magformers Sky Track was a favorite for testers.

The Ten Best STEM Toys to Give as Gifts This Year

Experts and kids of all ages recommend these tech toys, which inspire year-round curiosity

In 2015, John T. Unger embarked on a project to recreate 14 of Eustachi’s drawings in life-size mosaics.

Art Meets Science

This Artist Redefines a "Chiseled Body"

Life-size and hyper-detailed, these anatomical mosaics draw on ancient inspiration

The Ten Best STEM Toys of 2017

Kid tested and parent approved, these tech toys stand out for holiday wish lists

The inherent flexibility and adaptability of the Shotgun Chameleon House in Houston grew from designer Zui Ng’s desire to create an economically and environmentally sustainable house. The exterior staircase serves as a separate entrance for potential renters.

What the Housing Market in America Needs Is More Options

From granny pods to morphing apartments, the future of shelter is evolving

"We were joking that we could do some kind of a comedy about organ printing," says Zach Weinersmith. "What if there was this world where every part of your body is disposable? Everyone could act way more dangerously."

Ten Technologies That Will Change Our Lives, Soonish

A scientist and admired cartoonist explore how today’s research is becoming tomorrow’s innovations in a new book

Georgia Tech engineers Glaucio Paulino and Jerry Qi show two of their 3-D printed "tensegrity" structures that fold flat and build themselves up with heat. These are just proofs of concept, but Qi and Paulino predict that structures like this could be used to build space habitats or heart stents.

The Innovative Spirit fy17

Print, Then Heat for Self-Assembling Space Stations

With special ‘memory’ polymers, stents and space habitats could one day build themselves

A young padawan asks astrophysicist Erin Macdonald a question at a Future Con panel. This year, Smithsonian's Future Con took place as a special programming track within Awesome Con, leading to a number of serendipitous moments like this.

When Cutting-Edge Science Meets Science Fiction, It Packs the House

At Future Con, fans of sci-fi, fantasy and comics met the researchers and engineers who are bringing their stories to life

The latest iteration of the four-legged LEMUR exploration robot clings to a test rock surface in Aaron Parness’ lab in a recent test of its microspine capabilities.

Think Big

A New Generation of Interplanetary Rovers Is Crawling Toward the Stars

These four-legged, wheel-less robots will explore asteroids and the frigid outer worlds of our Solar System

Smart Startup

These Flowers Come Straight From the Farm to Your Door

By cutting out the middleman, this startup is aiming for better bouquets and a greener flower industry

Australia Wants to Streamline Its Border Control Using Biometrics

The country envisions a system that would eliminate the need for paper passports or identity cards for a number of the 35 million who visit each year

SPS-ALPHA concept and visualization

Future of Energy

What's Next for Solar Energy? How About Space

Scientists are closer than ever to making the far-out concept of a space-based solar collection system a reality

Some researchers are trying to harness the energy from huge storms.

Future of Energy

Can We Capture Energy From a Hurricane?

Loaded with power, massive storms may be another conduit for renewable energy

Albina Yard, a 16,000-square-foot office building in Portland, uses wood, not steel and concrete, as its structural support.

Age of Humans

Move Over, Steel: The High Rises of Tomorrow Are ‘Plyscrapers’

Light, strong and renewable, wood may change how tall buildings are built

Maria Zuber, first woman to run a NASA spacecraft mission, says she has a "genetic predilection" to explore space.

Life in the Cosmos

This Scientist Seeks Out the Secret History of Other Worlds

Maria Zuber has spent her career enabling discoveries beyond Earth. She says the best is yet to come

Imagine a meta-memorial of the National Parks that projects high-definition video and recordings in metro stations, examining the role of wilderness in times of social inequality and ecological change.

The Innovative Spirit fy17

What Will Future Monuments in the Nation's Capital Look Like?

Changing times and tastes leave little room for monolithic marble on the Mall

Not only does it cost the Mint more to make a penny than it's worth, but making the penny has an environmental cost, too.

Age of Humans

How Much Does it Really Cost (the Planet) to Make a Penny?

All that copper and zinc for a coin most people throw away--what's the sustainable solution?

Trachymolgus purpureus

Enjoy Face Time with Seven of Earth's 3 to 5 Million Mite Species

A Smithsonian collection of some one million species of mites is receiving its up close and personal

Future is Here festival attendees heard from visionaries in a wide range of fields.

Future Is Here Festival

How to Make Science Fiction Become Fact, in Three Steps

Speakers at <em>Smithsonian</em> magazine's "Future is Here" festival said be patient, persistent, but never, ever pessimistic