News Archives: December, 2016

NASA sending UMaine prototype to the International Space Station

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A wireless leak detection system developed by graduate students at the University of Maine will be part of the International Space Station. It will be the first hardware from UMaine, at least in recent memory, that will function in space for a long period of time, according to the UMaine researchers.

The prototype leak detection system, which was tested by NASA in the inflatable lunar habitat and Wireless Sensing Laboratory on the Orono campus, could improve the safety of astronauts on the ISS and in other space activities, according to a news release from the university. Leaks causing air and heat loss are a major safety concern for astronauts.

Electrical engineering graduate students Casey Clark and Lonnie Laborite developed the prototype and performed safety tests at NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The project was funded by a three-year, $100,000 NASA grant received by Ali Abedi, a UMaine professor of electrical and computer engineering, to help develop the technology through the Maine Space Grant Consortium in 2014. The project was one of five in the nation to receive funding from NASA–EPSCoR for research and technology development onboard ISS. Vincent Caccese, a UMaine mechanical engineering professor, also collaborated on the project.

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FOA: NSF INCLUDES

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NSF INCLUDES supports efforts to create networked relationships among organizations whose goals include developing talent from all sectors of society to build the STEM workforce. This initiative seeks to improve collaborative efforts aimed at enhancing the preparation, increasing the participation, and ensuring the contributions of individuals from groups that have traditionally been underrepresented and underserved in the STEM enterprise: women, persons with disabilities, African Americans/Blacks, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Native Pacific Islanders, and persons from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Significant advancement in the inclusion of these groups will result in a new generation of STEM talent and leadership to secure our nation’s future and long-term economic competitiveness.

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EVENT: Discover STEM -- volunteers needed!

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Discover STEM is a week-long series of events hosted by the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.  Each day, students from underserved 4th through 8th grade classes across Albuquerque and beyond visit the museum to spark their interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through hands-on activities and interaction with the region's leading science and engineering professionals. 

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There’s an antidote to America’s long economic malaise: College towns

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Lee County, Ala., lost 7,000 jobs in industries from textiles to tires to fitness equipment when Chinese competition invaded America. Vacant storefronts dotted downtown Opelika, the county seat, and disability claims soared as older workers with limited skills struggled to find new jobs.

Instead of merely surviving, though, Lee County is now thriving. Its unemployment rate of 4.7% in October was slightly lower than for the U.S. as a whole. Since 2001, the east-central Alabama county has added 14,000 jobs, five times the growth rate in the rest of the country.

Why has Lee County been so resilient? One of the biggest reasons is that it is home to a major college town.

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Oceanic 'Heat Sink'

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A new multi-institutional study of the so-called global warming “hiatus” phenomenon — the possible temporary slowdown of the global mean surface temperature (GMST) trend said to have occurred from 1998 to 2013 — concludes the hiatus simply represents a redistribution of energy within the Earth system, which includes the land, atmosphere and the ocean.

In a paper published today in Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, lead author Xiao-Hai Yan of the University of Delaware, along with leading scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and University of Washington, discuss new understandings of the global warming “hiatus” phenomenon.

In particular, the researchers point to the prominent role played by the global ocean in absorbing the extra heat from the atmosphere by acting as a “heat sink” as an explanation for the observed decrease in GMST, which is considered a key indicator of climate change.

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RFP: FY17 NASA Cooperative Agreement Notice EPSCoR ISS Flight Opportunity

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Education, in cooperation with the International Space Station (ISS) Research Office, NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD), Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate  (HEOMD), Science Mission Directorates (SMD), Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), and NASA’s ten centers (including JPL), solicits proposals for the NASA Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) International Space Station (ISS) Flight Opportunity. Each funded NASA EPSCoR proposal is expected to establish research activities that will make significant contributions to the strategic research and technology development priorities of one or more of the Mission Directorates, and contribute to the overall research infrastructure, science and technology capabilities, higher education, and economic development of the jurisdiction receiving funding. 

This Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN or solicitation) is for current or previously funded EPSCoR projects that are mature enough to design a research experiment or develop research experimental hardware to the point that it can be safely flown on the International Space Station (ISS).  Each funded NASA EPSCoR proposal is expected to perform scientific and/or technical research in areas that support NASA’s strategic research and technology development priorities and contribute to the overall research infrastructure, science and technology capabilities, higher education, and economic development of the jurisdiction receiving funding.  

NASA EPSCoR is moving to a two year procurement cycle.  As a result, jurisdictions responding to this Cooperative Agreement Notice (CAN) may submit up to two proposals.  It is anticipated that three (3) to five (5) awards for FY 2017 and three (3) to five (5) awards for FY 2018 of up to $100,000 to be expended over a three-year period of performance may be made under this CAN in accordance with regulatory guidance found at Title 2 CFR Part 200 Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards as adopted and supplemented by NASA through Title 2 CFR Part 1800: Federal Agency Regulations for Grants and Agreements - NASA.  The exact number of awards depends on the available EPSCoR Research Budget.

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Seismically active Kathmandu region in store for larger earthquake

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An earthquake much more powerful and damaging than last year's 7.8 magnitude quake could rock Kathmandu and the Himalayan Frontal Fault, an international team of seismic experts has concluded. The unsettling news comes after field research and analysis in the year following the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, which killed 9,000 people and destroyed 600,000 structures throughout the region. 

Geophysics professor and director of the Center for Neotectonic Studies, Steve Wesnousky of the University of Nevada, Reno, has been studying the Himalayan Frontal Fault for 20 years. He was one of the first scientists into the region to assess the geophysical impacts following last year's quake. His latest research was published in the Elsevier science journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 

"We conducted a number of paleoearthquake studies in the vicinity of Kathmandu in the past year, digging trenches and studying soils and faultlines looking back over the past 2,000 years," Wesnousky said. "Coupled with the historical record, it's apparent the faults are capable of earthquakes far greater than the Gorkha earthquake." 

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Brown’s influential biomechanics X-ray technology grows ever more powerful

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It’s right there in the word “discovery” — the idea of removing whatever cover may obscure a particular phenomenon from observation. And that’s exactly what Brown University’s X-ray Reconstruction of Moving Morphology technology does to reveal the inner workings of people and animals.

With two recent papers describing powerful new software and a way to track muscle contractions, XROMM can do even more than before. And as a result, so can the dozens of labs across the globe that have descended from XROMM’s innovations over the last 10 years.

The coolest things we’ve seen with XROMM are things you just absolutely can’t see from the outside,” said Beth Brainerd, director of the XROMM Technology Development Project and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown. “XROMM is exciting because we can see what’s happening inside animals.”

For one example, Brainerd cited turtles. Earlier this year, she and a team led by Clemson biologists Richard Blob and Christopher Mayerl published a study in the Journal of Experimental Biology showing that pond turtles swing their hips when they walk, much like people and other vertebrates do. No one had ever seen that before.

Brainerd and professor and co-director Stephen Gatesy first developed the system with seed funding from the University’s Office of the Vice President for Research. Over the last decade, Brainerd, Gatesy and students and collaborators from around the world have published papers revealing the secrets under the fur, scales or skin of alligators, dogs, rats, frogs, pigs, ducks, geckos, fish, bats, iguanas and — using birds as proxies — dinosaurs.

The range of animals is really part of the fun,” Brainerd said.

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