The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

3 months ago

Turning air into drinking water

(USA/Contributed)

The University of South Alabama is part of a groundbreaking project that seeks to produce potable water from the atmosphere, potentially opening new water sources to everyone from overseas troops to residents of the world’s driest lands.

General Electric Research, the research and development wing of the U.S. conglomerate, has received a $14.3 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for the project.

“The goal of this collaborative project is to produce a device capable of producing enough daily water for 150 people while still small enough and light enough that the device could be lifted by four people,” said Dr. T. Grant Glover, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at South.

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Researchers from UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago are also a part of this effort.

The idea of making water from air isn’t completely new; devices already exist using dehumidification technology, except they’re bulky, require lots of electricity and are useless in arid climates.

The key to the success of this new technology is something called metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs invented several years ago by Dr. Omar Yaghi, who is heading up the UC Berkeley team and who first conceived of using MOFs to collect water from air.

These MOFs adsorb molecules, attracting them to coat their surface rather than absorb molecules, meaning they enter inside something.

“The adsorbent technology does not require that all of the air be cooled to condense water, rather, the water is filtered from the air, which provides a significant energy savings over a dehumidifier, Glover explained.  “Only with the development of MOF adsorbents has collection of water from air become more feasible.”

Glover’s team at South will be responsible for measuring how quickly the water adsorbs in the MOFs.

“My group has specialized instrumentation that allows us to understand not just how much water can be stored on the MOF, but how long it will take to fill and empty it,” he said.

Experts from the University of Chicago led by Dr. Laura Gagliardi will complete molecular simulations and will work with GE to utilize artificial intelligence guided molecular screening tools.

Meanwhile, GE will lead the overall system integration of the materials, modeling and AI tools, and will design the 3D printed heat exchanger and ensure sorbent integration into the device.

This technology also could eventually help alleviate water shortages globally. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 1.1 billion people do not have access to water with approximately 2.7 billion experiencing instances of water scarcity.

“Everyone involved with the project recognizes that this device would have broad impacts on these populations,” Glover said.

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)

5 months ago

USA band members participate in national championship performance

(USA/Contributed)

The University of South Alabama will be a part of college football’s 2021 national championship game. Not on the field, but virtually.

Seven members of the Jaguar Marching Band will be performing in the College Band Directors National Association Intercollegiate Marching Band. They will join nearly 1,500 performers from 200 bands in 45 states and Puerto Rico, all working together to produce a virtual college marching band show.

“There was a ‘call for performers’ asking for band directors across the country to nominate their students to be a part of something special, something that has never been done before,” said Dr. Jason Rinehart, South’s director of athletic bands and associate professor of music.

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Rinehart says he chose the students based on leadership abilities and representation from the various sections in the band. All seven of his nominations were selected to participate.

“I knew that I had selected very strong candidates,” he said. “I’m always saying that the students we have here at South Alabama can stack up against any school in the country, and I was right!”

The members of the Jaguar Marching Band selected are Grant Skinner, junior, drum major; Cecelia Prentiss, senior, assistant drum major; Michaela Rader, senior, feature twirler; Sam Goecke, junior drumline; Tyler Butler, senior, trumpet; Israel Valenzuela, senior, saxophone; and Victoria French, senior, piccolo.

“After learning about what this experience has to offer, I knew it would be a great opportunity to showcase the talents of not only members of the Jaguar Marching Band, but of musicians around the country that have most likely had their marching season affected due to the ongoing pandemic,” Skinner said.

The Intercollegiate Marching Band will perform “End of Time” by Beyonce in a video that will premiere online on the Intercollegiate Marching Band YouTube channel.

“This is going to be a historical performance,” said Dr. Mark Spede, president of CBDNA and the director of bands at Clemson University. “In this unusual year when bands have been unable to perform their traditional pregame and halftime shows during college football games, we are pleased to offer this opportunity.”

All band members were required to learn the music, then record and submit a video of themselves performing it. Those videos were edited together into the final product.

“I had a great experience being a part of the virtual band,” French said. “I am looking forward to seeing the final product and witnessing the wide variety of band members come together to create this show.”

COVID-19 has canceled many activities, but the virus allowed people to get creative and expand opportunities for band members across the nation.

“With the creation of this video, hundreds of students have been given the opportunity to perform at one of the nation’s most popular sporting events,” Butler said. “That is a pretty special opportunity as a musician.”

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)

6 months ago

University of South Alabama building digital history lab

(USA/Contributed, YHN)

Two years ago, the University of South Alabama received a $467,419 grant from the U.S. Department of Education International Studies and Foreign Language Program to expand existing programs in international studies and modern and classical languages and literature.

That grant continues to pay dividends as it funds several different initiatives, including about $20,000 seed money to build a digital history lab.

“A digital lab is crucial for so many reasons. Whether our students take jobs in museums and education, or related fields like law, history majors need a digital skill set to compete in the modern workforce,” said Dr. Mara Kozelsky, professor of history. “Further, we know that consumers increasingly demand historical information on-line. A digital lab will allow us to train our students to become leaders in the next era of the information age.”

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Kozelsky added that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the need to invest in digital resources.

“When classes went on-line last March and this fall due to COVID, we learned that many of our students did not have computers,” she said. “Many only had tablets or their cellphones to complete highly complex assignments.”

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, eighteen percent of Alabama households do not have computers and thirty-one percent do not have internet access.

“There will always be a need for university investment in digital labs and computer labs,” Kozelsky said. “Even if the state makes gains in expanding internet access and equipping students with computers, technology will continuously evolve beyond our students’ ability to afford.”

The digital lab is expected to be ready for the fall 2021 semester. Initially it is believed the grant will be enough to fund room renovations and between 10-12 computer stations. Donations will help fill gaps the grant cannot cover as well future expansion. It also has the potential to benefit the entire student body since all students must take a history course before graduation.

“The lab will also be available to other departments for scheduling digital humanities classes. Our goal is to make it of widest possible benefit,” Kozelsky said.

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)

6 months ago

Gosa family pledges $5 million to South Alabama’s Mitchell College of Business, College of Nursing

(University of South Alabama/Contributed)

University of South Alabama alumni Jake and Pat Gosa have pledged $5 million to the University, to be split evenly between the Mitchell College of Business and the College of Nursing. The announcement was made at the USA Board of Trustees meeting on December 3, 2020.

“The Gosas are an amazing couple who recognize how educational opportunity can change the trajectory of a student’s life in positive and profound ways,” said Margaret Sullivan, vice president of development and alumni relations at USA.

Jake Gosa experienced firsthand how an education can change a life. After serving as a 1st lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he enrolled at South and earned a marketing degree in 1973, becoming the first person in his extended family to finish college. He began his career in sales and marketing with various companies before joining American Woodmark, a kitchen and bath cabinet manufacturer, where he eventually rose to become CEO.

“I always felt the University prepared me well for the future,” Gosa said. “They held up their end of the bargain, and I’m happy that we can give back to them.”

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The Gosas have been generous supporters of the University. Dr. Bob Wood, dean of the Mitchell College of Business, emphasized the impact the Gosa’s donations make in the lives of students. “This transformational gift will positively impact countless business and nursing students in the years to come and allow them to complete their degrees without the overriding concern of the cost of tuition,” Wood said.

Gosa met his wife, Pat, while attending South. She spent her career as a registered nurse and, together, they want to provide opportunities in the healthcare field.

“The College of Nursing is so honored and grateful to Jake and Pat Gosa for their generous gift to ensure more South Alabama graduates are working in nursing practice to provide comprehensive healthcare to patients,” said Dr. Heather Hall, dean of the College of Nursing.

Gosa hopes that current USA students will become supporters of the University in the future. “You’re going to restart your life after graduation,” Gosa said. “You can create any life you would like; you just need a plan. I encourage you to look back at what the University of South Alabama meant to you, and remember your roots.”

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)

7 months ago

University of South Alabama leads program to address wastewater treatment

(USA/Contributed, YHN)

The University of South Alabama will lead on a pilot program funded with a $710,000 grant from Columbia World Projects to address wastewater treatment in the rural Black Belt of Alabama. The project aims to demonstrate that better wastewater treatment systems can yield health, economic and environmental benefits for rural communities in the United States and around the world.

“The lack of wastewater management in the rural Black Belt is fundamentally a public health issue,” said Dr. Kevin White, professor and chair of the USA department of civil, coastal and environmental engineering. “It’s also about the lack of a critical developed world infrastructure that allows for economic growth and development, environmental protection, and public health protection.”

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The project is a collaboration between South, the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina, the University of California, Irvine, communities in Alabama’s Black Belt region, the Consortium for Alabama Rural Water & Wastewater and state and federal officials.

White has studied wastewater treatment for 25 years and has been able to bring academia, government officials, state agencies and the private sector to the table to address the problem connected with poor infrastructure.

In addition to the initial award, Columbia World Projects will match up to $5 million raised separately. White and his colleague Dr. Mark Elliott, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at the University of Alabama recently submitted a $5 million proposal to the United States Department of Agriculture they hope can be used as a match.

“Finally, with some projects funded, we are beginning to make a difference,” White said. “If not for COVID-19, many onsite systems would have been installed in the spring. But soon both onsite and clusters of homes in Hale, Wilcox, and Marengo counties will have functional sewer.”

Alabama’s Black Belt historically includes 17 counties that stretch from southwest of Tuscaloosa across the state to the Georgia line southeast of Auburn. Named for its dark impermeable soil that does not support standard septic systems.

The project calls for installing and testing new wastewater treatment systems at select pilot site clustered and decentralized, connecting neighboring homes or businesses in a single system that collects, treats and re-uses water, reducing the cost of upkeep.

Data on how to adopt such treatment systems will be collected and published on an open-source platform, so that governments and rural communities worldwide can benefit from what is learned.

“I think we are on our way to making good things happen. Better public health protection, better environmental health protection, better economic development outlook,” White said.

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)

8 months ago

The ride of a lifetime

(University of South Alabama/Contributed)

Growing up off Dauphin Island Parkway in Mobile, love and support were in large supply for Jaysum Hunter even if money was not. But at age 6, he received a bicycle as a surprise gift, and it was memorable.

“That bike gave me a sense of freedom and purpose,” Hunter said.

His grandmother played a major role in Hunter’s life, emphasizing a strong work ethic and willingness to help people. After graduating from B.C. Rain High School, he spent one year away before his desire to be closer to home took over and he transferred to South and the Mitchell College Business.

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“I always admired and respected business leaders, so it was only fitting to study business administration, plus I wanted to understand the stock market,” Hunter explained.

He also decided he need a bike to get around campus. Shocked by the high prices of quality bicycles, Hunter bit the bullet and decided if he was going to spend that much money, it was going to be a commitment — he rode it everywhere during his time at South.

Following graduation in 2009, he started his career and eventually landed a job in Chicago as a financial analyst for a large healthcare company. The job was fine, but Hunter wanted more—knew he should be doing more—to inspire and motivate others.

“In May, after a long and exhausting fast, the Huntertale idea was born. I knew this idea was given by God as a test and testimony,” he said. “I wanted to do something cool that I could share with my kids and grandkids.”

That something needed to be epic, something inspiring. That’s when he went back to his bike. Hunter had been riding some but was spending most of his time sitting at his desk. He decided to quit his job, get into shape, and make the 1,000-mile trek from his home in Chicago to his hometown of Mobile.

“My family and friends were worried because they thought I would be a victim of racism due to our current political climate,” Hunter said. “Someone almost persuaded me to not take the trip, but as soon as I laid my head on the pillow, I remembered my motivation.”

Hunter wanted to use his social media savvy to promote, not only his ride but also the businesses he visited along the route and share ideas with others. But first, there were plenty of details to iron out. He thought he might be able to make it in 10 to 14 days before thinking better of it and decided to extend the trip to 21 days.

His business partner insisted he map out a detailed route and she would update his progress on his website jaysumhunter.com.

“Doing this and putting it out to the world made it real and at that point I was all in,” he said.

After 45 days of hard training and preparation, he felt confident about the trip. On Aug. 3, he set off on his journey, making his way south but the road took its toll.

“The toughest part was being exposed to the sun all day and becoming mentally and physically fatigued after seven days, knowing you have two more weeks to go,” he said.

It wasn’t all hardship, Hunter experienced many memorable moments including crossing the Ohio River from Illinois into Kentucky, seeing wildlife along the route and the amazement of people when they learned what he was doing. He allowed himself the comfort of a hotel bed each night and savored every moment he was able to coast downhill giving his aching legs a much-needed break.

Finally, on Day 21 Hunter pedaled into Mobile and into the teeth of Tropical Storm Marco that was lashing the area. Perhaps a fitting end to a difficult endeavor.

“I was planning a grand celebration of me taking a photo with the bike over my head, but after biking in the tropical storm I just wanted a hot shower and to see my grandma,” he said.

Back in Chicago, Hunter is looking to restart his career, confident of his future knowing he can step far outside of his comfort zone and succeed. He also has a great story to tell.

(Courtesy of the University of South Alabama)