7 months ago

4 ways Alabama universities are driving aerospace advances

Innovative research that is guiding the future of the global aerospace industry is happening in university laboratories and classrooms across Alabama.

Space exploration, rocket engines and deep space outposts are just a few of the topics currently being studied by instructors and students in projects supported by government agencies, private companies and other stakeholders in the sector.

“Alabama educators are raising up a highly-skilled workforce that will tackle the toughest challenges that lie ahead for this industry,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“They, and their students, are also making important contributions right now, with groundbreaking research that is informing the latest developments in spaceflight, aircraft design and the discovery of new frontiers.”

Here’s a look at how Alabama universities are driving advances in the aerospace industry, focusing on just four projects involving researchers and their students.

IMPROVING ROCKET ENGINES

Auburn University is poised to be a key player in improving the performance of liquid rocket engines, following a $5.2 million NASA grant to develop additive manufacturing products and techniques.

The grant is part of a three-year contract that extends the longtime partnership between the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence, which is housed at Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Auburn engineers have been instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its space exploration goals for decades, said Christopher B. Roberts, the engineering school dean.

“This new collaboration between NASA and our additive manufacturing researchers will play a major role in developing advanced rocket engines that will drive long-duration spaceflight, helping our nation achieve its bold vision for the future of space exploration,” he said.

The latest research, part of NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology (RAMPT) project, is focused on developing and manufacturing regeneratively cooled thrust chamber assemblies for liquid rocket engines.

The results will be made available to the private sector as well.

Project manager Mike Ogles, director of NASA programs at the engineering school, called the contract “a giant leap towards making Alabama the ‘go to state’ for additive manufacturing.”

“We look forward to growing our partnership with NASA, industry and academia as we support the development of our nation’s next rocket engines.”

SUPPORTING SPACE EXPLORATION

NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation have selected the University of South Alabama to help shape the next chapter of space exploration.

Ten teams from schools across the country, including USA, are designing systems, concepts and technologies to potentially support NASA’s deep space exploration capabilities, including an orbital lunar outpost serving as a “gateway” to deep space.

USA engineering professors Grant Glover and Samuel Ross, along with their undergraduate students, are working on two separate projects for NASA.

Russ’ project focuses on automation and power management of an unmanned biological laboratory for the gateway, able to function with minimal support from a crew or mission control on Earth.

“Our students are building a robotic station that will grow plants and provide lighting, nutrients and water,” Russ said. “The robot will plant, monitor and harvest the plants and send back status reports, and the automated system will control the lighting, water and nutrients. They are building a complete system to do this from scratch, including constructing the robot, the plant-growing pods and the control system.

“In other words, we want to develop a station that can run unmanned for years and grow crops in space,” he added.

Meanwhile, Glover’s team is evaluating two custom-synthesized ionic liquid solutions for capturing carbon dioxide in a closed-air revitalization system. Since most of the air for astronauts is recycled within their spacecraft or habitat, a key part of this process is the removal of exhaled carbon dioxide.

ROBOTICS EXPERTISE

For the fifth year in a row, students at the University of Alabama dominated a national robotics hosted by NASA.

The 60-member Alabama Astrobotics team took grand prize in the 2019 Robotics Mining Competition, which is designed to foster innovative ideas and solutions that could be used during NASA journeys to the Moon and Mars.

While this year’s NASA contest was held virtually, instead of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, there was a separate Robotics Mining Challenge held at UA. In it, teams showed how a robot they built could autonomously navigate and excavate simulated lunar and Martian soil.

The UA team beat 27 other robotics teams from across the nation and won several top awards.

The projects make students better engineers, said Dr. Kenneth Ricks, adviser for the team and a UA professor.

“They go through a full design cycle with budget and schedule limitations, much like what they will encounter in industry. The students also benefit from the relationships they create with companies looking to hire good engineering graduates. This networking aspect is a significant advantage,” he said.

PRESERVING HISTORY

The University of Alabama in Huntsville has a robust resumé when it comes to aerospace research. But one of its latest projects is focusing on preserving the industry’s history for generations to come.

UAH’s M. Louis Salmon Library Archives and Special Collections was awarded a Council on Library and Information Resources Recordings at Risk Grant to modernize and protect a variety of media related to the Apollo program.

The $18,775 grant is one of 20 given nationwide to digitize, make accessible and preserve 186 film reels, nine audio reels and 53 audiocassettes tied to Apollo and support operations. The trove includes oral interviews with people who worked on the program, as well as home movies related to it.

“These materials are at high risk of loss from media obsolescence and physical degradation,” said Drew Adan, UAH archivist and primary investigator for the grant. “The Recordings at Risk grant enables us to migrate the information they contain from an outdated and unstable analog format to digital files we can preserve and share with researchers.”

The grant is also timely, as 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first manned mission to the Moon.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

13 hours ago

Goat Island Brewing is an Alabama Maker concocting interesting beers

Their slogan is “Life is too short to drink baaad beer” and Goat Island Brewing Co. is doing its part to produce nothing but good brews in Cullman.

Started by a couple of homebrewing friends, Goat Island has added a head brewer, who is a microbiology major with no homebrewing history. The result is an array of tasty beers that are finding a following in northern Alabama.

“People across the board love all of our beers,” said Mike Mullaney, president and co-founder of Goat Island Brewing. “If you want to come in and have a whole bunch of good, variety of craft beers that have a lot of flavor, try us out.”

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Goat Island Brewing is an Alabama Maker of interesting beers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The brewery is open to community events and fundraisers in Cullman.

“I like the fact that we are kind of a cultural community center,” Mullaney said.

With seven beers on tap – excluding a seasonal or a small batch – there is always something for any beer drinker. The Blood Orange Berliner Weisse is the bestselling beer on tap, and keeping up with the demand has been a little challenging. A new canning line should help.

The growth is welcome, but the beer has to be the star.

“We always emphasize quality and making sure everything we put out of here is up to the highest standard,” said Paul White, head brewer and operations manager.

Goat Island Brewing Company

The product: Craft beer.

Take home: A growler of Blood Orange Berliner Weisse.

Goat Island Brewing Co. can be found online and on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

15 hours ago

Renew Our Rivers kicks off 21st year

The third decade of Renew Our Rivers (ROR) gets underway in February with the first of the year’s 32 cleanups of Alabama rivers and waterways. If last year is any indication, there will be more volunteers and more trash removed in 2020, said Mike Clelland, ROR coordinator.

Since 2000, when the program began, 122,000 volunteers have collected almost 16 million pounds from waterways and shorelines in the South. In 2019, more than 5,000 volunteers removed almost 450,000 pounds of trash, including old boats, mattresses, tires, appliances and other unsightly items, a 4% increase over the previous year’s haul.

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“We not only picked up more trash in 2019. We also had more volunteers,” said Clelland, an Environmental Affairs specialist for Alabama Power who helps coordinate the cleanups with multiple partners. “Twenty years in and the enthusiasm and participation remain strong. I fully expect 2020 to be just as successful as 2019, if not more so.”

An Alabama River cleanup in Autauga County on Feb. 15 leads off this year’s schedule, which concludes the first week of November at Lake Martin.

Volunteers elevate Alabama through Renew Our Rivers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Renew Our Rivers began in 2000 with a cleanup by Alabama Power employees along the Coosa River at the company’s Plant Gadsden. It has grown to become one of America’s largest river cleanup initiatives, with the help of community partners, volunteers and organizations.

“Alabama is a beautiful place with extraordinary natural resources,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power vice president for Environmental Affairs. “Protecting those resources, while providing reliable, affordable electricity for our customers, is at the heart of our company’s mission. The commitment by Alabama Power employees to Renew Our Rivers remains strong, but we couldn’t do it without the support of our community partners across the state who support the effort year after year.”

Renew Our Rivers is one of many initiatives in which Alabama Power partners with others to promote conservation and environmental stewardship in communities across the state. The 2020 schedule of Renew Our Rivers cleanups is below. For updates to the schedule, visit alabamapower.com/renewourrivers.

2020 Renew Our Rivers Schedule

Feb. 15: Alabama River

Contact: John Paul O’Driscoll at 334-850-7153

or johnpaulod@juno.com

 

Feb. 29: Bankhead Lake (Warrior River)

Contact: Ronnie Tew at 205-908-4857

 

March 7: Lake Eufaula (Chattahoochee River)

Contact: Brad Moore at bmooreless@gosuto.com

 

March 14: Valley Creek (Spring)

Contact: Freddie Freeman at 205-424-4060, ext. 4188

or ffreeman@bessemeral.org

 

March 21: Lake Mitchell (Coosa River)

Contact: Mike Clelland at 205-354-9348

 

March 28-April 4: Logan Martin (Coosa River)

Contact: Bud Kitchin at 256-239-0242

 

March 28: Minor Heights Community at Village Creek

Contact: Yohance Owens at 205-798-0087

or yohancevilcreek@yahoo.com

 

March 28-April 4: Lay Lake (Coosa River)

Contact: Judy Jones at 205-669-4865

 

April 11: Lay Lake at E.C. Gaston Plant (Coosa River)

Contact: Tanisha Fenderson at tfender@southernco.com

 

April 4: Cahaba River

Contact: David Butler at

info@cahabariverkeeper.org

 

April 14-15: Mobile River (Plant Barry)

Contact: Bo Cotton at 251-331-0603

 

April 18: Lake Jordan (Coosa River)

Contact: Brenda Basnight 334-478-3388

 

Date TBD: Plant Miller (Locust Fork)

Contact: TBD

 

April 22-23: Smith Lake (Winston County)

Contact: Allison Cochran at 205-489-5111

 

April 24: Smith Lake (Cullman County)

Contact: Jim Murphy at 205-529-5981

 

April 25: Weiss Lake

Contact: Sam Marko at 404-626-8594

 

May 1: Plant Gorgas (Mulberry Fork)

Contact: John Pate at 205-686-2324

or johpate@southernco.com

 

May 15: Lake Seminole

Contact: Melanie Rogers at mlrogers@southernco.com

 

May 16: Chattahoochee River (Plant Farley)

Contact: Melanie Rogers at mlrogers@southernco.com

 

May 18-19: Smith Lake (Walker County)

Contact: Roger Treglown at 205-300-5253

 

Aug. 8: Holt Lake (Black Warrior River)

Contact: Becky Clark at 205-799-2449

 

Aug. 14: Plant Miller (Locust Fork)

Contact: Madison Maughon at 205-438-0150

or mtmaugho@southernco.com

 

Aug. 15: Valley Creek

Contact: TBD

 

Aug. 15: Upper Tallapoosa River

Contact: Lex Brown at 256-239-6399

 

Sept: 8-9: Smith Lake (Walker County)

Contact: Roger Treglown at 205-300-5253

 

Date TBD: Village Creek

Contact: Yohance Owens at 205-798-0087

 

Sept.18: Smith Lake (Cullman County)

Contact: Jim Murphy at 205-529-5981

 

Sept. 24: Smith Lake (Winston County)

Contact: Jim Eason at msgjeason@yahoo.com

 

Oct. 2-3: Lake Demopolis

Contact: Jesse Johnson at 334-289-6160 or 251-238-1257

 

Oct. 13: Dog River (Mobile County)

Contact: Catie Boss at 251-829-2146 or clboss@southernco.com

 

Oct.17: Lake Mitchell (Coosa River)

Contact: Dale Vann at 205-910-3713

 

Oct. 20-22: Lake Harris (Tallapoosa River-Lake Wedowee)

Contact: Sheila Smith at 205-396-5093

or Marlin Glover at 770-445-0824

 

Oct. 26-31: Neely Henry Lake (Coosa River)

Contact: Lisa Dover at 256-549-0900

 

Nov. 6-7: Lake Martin (Tallapoosa River)

Contact: John Thompson at 334-399-3289

or 1942jthompson420@gmail.com

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Time-lapse video of Birmingham’s new downtown interstate bridges

The new Interstate 59/20 bridges through downtown Birmingham are scheduled to open within the next few days, 12 months after they were closed for replacement.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) announced Jan. 13 the contractor, Johnson Brothers Corp., would have the bridges completed and ready to open no later than Jan. 21. The interstate bridges were closed to traffic Jan. 21, 2019, as part of ALDOT’s phased repair plan for the more than 45-year-old bridges.

Alabama Power recorded the demolition and construction of the western half of the bridges from a 17th-floor window overlooking the junction of the bridges with I-65. The 12-month recording was condensed into a one-minute time-lapse video.

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Time-lapse video of Birmingham bridges replacement from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was scheduled for Friday, Jan. 17 at 2:00 p.m. Once the bridges reopen to traffic, ALDOT says crews will spend the rest of 2020 repairing detours and completing work around the bridges. Plans to develop public space underneath the bridges are not yet finalized.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

19 hours ago

Roby: More flexibility for America’s working parents

The American workforce has witnessed considerable change in dynamics during the 21st Century: it is more diverse than ever before.

Statistics consistently show the percentage of U.S. families with at least one working parent is on the rise, and it’s no secret that today’s working parents struggle to balance the demands required of them by their jobs and their children.

Time is the most precious resource, especially for mothers and fathers who are putting forth their best efforts to manage families while simultaneously excel in their careers. These hard-working parents deserve and need more choice and flexibility in their daily schedules in order to accomplish both. As a working mom myself, I understand the challenges parents face in managing these responsibilities. I always say that Congress cannot legislate another hour into the day, but we can update our laws to allow more choice and fairness in how employees choose to use their time.

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As the dynamics of the workplace have changed over time, our policies that govern the workplace have not adapted to keep up with these changes. I am proud to again introduce the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2020. This piece of legislation offers compensatory time, or “comp time,” benefits in lieu of cash wages for overtime, allowing private-sector workers the same opportunity that currently exists in the public sector.

This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and removes an outdated and unnecessary federal restriction on the use of comp time in the private sector for hourly employees. Comp time would be completely voluntary for the employer and employee with strong worker protections to prohibit coercion. This is the same legislation I have introduced numerous times, and it passed the House on several occasions. This change in law would provide more flexibility for working moms and dads who need more time to manage their families.

Think about it this way: should a working dad be forced to use all of his vacation time to be involved in his child’s school? Should a military mom have to take sick leave in order to make sure her child is properly taken care of? Whether it’s a parent coaching a child’s sports team, caring for a sick or elderly family member, or getting children to and from school and extracurricular activities, family responsibilities often require parents to take time away from work.

As times have changed, so have demands on our time. This is one proposal that would offer private-sector American workers more freedom and more control over their time in order to spend it the way they choose. This piece of legislation is about the working moms and dads across the country who value their time. I am honored to introduce this bill again in order to show my support for all of the working parents across our nation and to hopefully make life a little easier for the moms and dads in our American workforce.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

20 hours ago

Alabama hunter grants wishes for kids

Jeff Carter didn’t have a plan in 2011 when he started Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic, an organization that takes sick kids on a weekend hunting trip in northwest Alabama.

“At that time I really didn’t know what it looked like,” Carter said. “The Lord put it on my heart and he called me to do this. We stepped out on faith.”

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Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic grants wishes for kids from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Carter’s faith paid off. The event, now in its ninth year, has grown from a hunting trip for one child into an extended weekend experience for three kids at a time. The kids are selected through the United Special Sportsman Alliance, all recovering from a life-threatening illness, such as cancer, or a life-altering disorder like autism.

“This is just an opportunity that God has given us to be able to give these kids and their families a chance to get away and get their mind off of a lot of what they’ve been dealing with,” Carter said.

Beau Terry, 18, is one of the young people hunting in this year’s classic. Terry said he was thrilled to get the chance.

“It’s kind of like having a lot of uncles around,” Terry said. “It means a lot.”

In addition to the hunting trip, the kids are given hunting clothes, a DVD video of their weekend and a canvas picture. Carter said their smiles are a blessing to him and his volunteers.

“It’s awesome,” Carter said. “When God calls us to do something, there’s no sense in worry about how much and how, just step out on faith and roll with it because he’s got it figured out already. He will provide.”

For more information about the Pine Hills and Oak Hollars Child Classic, visit the organization’s Facebook page here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)