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.

1 month ago

Auburn professor pens new book on Neil Armstrong, travels globe to discuss ‘First Man’

James Hansen, professor emeritus at Auburn University and author of “First Man,” is releasing a second book in October, “Dear Neil Armstrong: Letters to the First Man from All Mankind.

AUBURN — James Hansen vividly recalls how the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon brought Americans and the world together. Five decades later, the author of “First Man”—the only authorized biography of Neil Armstrong—is continuing to tell the story of that unifying moment in history by giving talks around the globe and through a new book that’s set to launch in October.

“I’m putting the finishing touches on a book that is going to be published with selected letters to Neil Armstrong,” said Hansen, professor emeritus at Auburn University, of the upcoming book titled “Dear Neil Armstrong: Letters to the First Man from All Mankind.”

Through letters written by people all over the world to Armstrong, Hansen said readers can learn more about the astronaut who was the first to step foot on the moon.

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“What’s interesting about this book is what we can learn from reading the types of letters that were written to Armstrong not just immediately after Apollo 11 but for the rest of his life,” Hansen said

Hansen said nostalgia for the moon landing is high, especially with this weekend’s 50-year anniversary of Armstrong taking his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” And this week, that excitement can even be seen in Langholm, Scotland—where Hansen was invited to attend celebratory events surrounding the big moment in history. The location has a unique connection to Armstrong as it’s his ancestral town.

“Neil went there in 1972 to great fanfare and enjoyed himself a lot, so I thought that would maybe be the most unique and interesting place to actually be on the day of the anniversary itself,” Hansen said.

After Hansen wraps up his stay in Scotland, he will then focus not only on his new book, but also in exploring a documentary on moon rocks, many of which have gone missing over the years.

“From six [moon] landings, something like 850 pounds of moon rocks were brought back and deposited in what was known as the Lunar Receiving Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center in Houston,” he said.

Many of the rocks are still there, while a number of them were parceled out to researchers and lunar scientists around the world.

NASA recently announced that it would be unsealing some of the samples that have been preserved since the Apollo missions. Hansen said in the early 1970s, when the rocks were being brought back, NASA chose to seal some of the rocks so that future generations, with access to better technology and instrumentation than was available then, could study the rocks.

Hansen said he believes the rocks will continue to be parceled out over time as better technology comes available or another mission to the moon brings back more rocks.

“Until that happens, these are pretty precious commodities,” he said. “You need to save some of them for future scientific generations.”

Each story surrounding Apollo 11 has always held a fascination for Hansen, who remembers the day history was made.

It was on a summer Sunday between James Hansen’s junior and senior years of high school when Armstrong took his first steps on the moon. Hansen was gathered in the living room of his family’s home watching it on one of only two televisions in the house.

“The landing took place itself in the mid-to-late afternoon, depending on your time zone,” he said. “I was watching a baseball game, and actually the baseball games were recognizing it and everyone stood up at one point and prayed for the Apollo astronauts and then when it was announced that they landed, it was on the scoreboard and they stopped the game and everyone applauded.”

As the landing neared, he and his family turned to CBS, where Walter Cronkite was covering the event. It was well before the days of VCRs and DVRs, so the only way Hansen could capture what was happening on the screen was to take a picture of it with his Polaroid camera.

“That was important memorabilia and a lot of people did that. The moon walk itself took place about three hours after they landed. That was in the early evening and lasted until late in the evening. I was old enough that I didn’t have to have special permission from my parents to stay up and watch it all but a lot of smaller children did and I’ve heard a lot of stories from people over the years about where they were and how their parents let them stay up or they woke them up in time to hear Neil Armstrong say, ‘One small step,’” he recalled.

And while nostalgia is high today about the moon landing and how it unified the world in a shared monumental accomplishment, the historian in Hansen also recalls how the lead up to the landing wasn’t always met with full public support.

“They look back at nostalgia to this era when the moon landings happened and just sort of assumed that the American public, which was footing the bill because this was a U.S. federal government project, that the public was overwhelming in support of the moon landing program,” he said.

Hansen said that while the American public supported space programs on the whole, they weren’t demanding that moon landings take place.

“It was really the politicians within the context of the Cold War and the race with the Soviets in space that drove the project, and then the American people just kind of went along with it and didn’t oppose it too actively,” he said. “But, when they were polled, they didn’t seem too supportive.”

Even today, Hansen said there still are those who ask him if the landing really happened.

“We just can’t get past that,” Hansen said. “For some reason, there are people who just question it. I think everybody likes a good conspiracy theory but the evidence for the moon landing having been real is so tremendously overweighing anything that’s questionable. It’s a little upsetting but as a historian I find it interesting that people continue to believe or disbelieve things that are clearly believable or unbelievable.”

He said many people think we only went to the moon one time.

“There were actually six missions, Apollo 11-17,” he said. “There would have been seven landings if Apollo 13 had not had its emergency.”

When a malfunction in an oxygen tank on the service module exploded, Apollo 13’s crew was fortunate to make it back to Earth, but the lunar landing did not happen on that mission.

“If you’re questioning, ‘Did the moon landings actually happen?’ it’s not just questioning one, it’s questioning six of them,” he said.

Hansen is on his own mission to tell the story of what did happen and through his books and talks he is doing all he can to keep that moment in history alive.

“I feel a responsibility to the story and to Armstrong and to historical accuracy,” he said.

(Courtesy Auburn University)

4 months ago

Auburn University partners to train others statewide in fight against opioids

(AF Medical Service)

AUBURN, Ala. – Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy and the Alabama Department of Mental Health have joined forces in the battle against opioids, creating the Opioid Training Institute.

In 2017, there were 422 overdose deaths involving either prescription or illicit drugs in Alabama, an average of more than one per day, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Opioid Training Institute addresses this crisis in a series of 16 one-day, free training programs spanning the state from May through September. The programs are divided evenly with eight aimed at health care professionals, such as physicians, pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists and veterinarians; and eight focused on community members, such as educators, social workers, guidance counselors, behavioral health specialists, counselors, faith-based community leaders, state and local leaders and law enforcement.

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“We know that many factors led to Alabama’s unfortunate position as a leader in opioid use in the United States. Accordingly, we know that a variety of strategies are necessary to address the opioid problem in Alabama,” said Brent Fox, associate professor with the Harrison School of Pharmacy. “The Opioid Training Institute will allow us to convene a diverse group of experiences, expertise and perspectives to advance the fight against opioids in our state.”

The opioid epidemic is one that knows no neighborhood, class or age and impacts every sector of the state, including health care, education, business and local government. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin, as well as prescription pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl. These drugs work by binding to the body’s opioid receptors in the reward center of the brain, diminishing pain as well as producing feelings of relaxation and euphoria.

Because of the variety of uses, one could come into contact with opioids from street drugs to prescription drugs. The problem is one that affects all socioeconomic statuses. It is for this reason that such a broad spectrum of people, from health care to law enforcement to leaders in the community, are needed to fight the problem.

“Opioid use disorder impacts those from the teen years to the older populations in our state. In 2017, more than 47,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses and in Alabama we see the need for education to reach everyone that may have the power to evoke change for our communities,” said Karen Marlowe, assistant dean of the Harrison School of Pharmacy. “Understanding the risk factors for opioid use disorder and overdose in your school, community and place of worship may help someone to connect with the appropriate resources in their community. We also hope to start more conversations across different professions to share information about programs that already exist in communities across the state.”

The programs begin May 20-21 with sessions for community members in Birmingham. Other stops around the state include Mobile/Baldwin County, Huntsville, Cullman, Montgomery, Auburn, Dothan, Troy and Tuscaloosa.

All sessions are free and preregistration is preferred. Speakers at the events include those from health care, law enforcement, government agencies and others. For health care professionals, continuing education credit is available.

“Mental health is an important piece in the fight against the opioid crisis and partnering with the Alabama Department of Mental Health allows us to combine our areas of expertise and have a greater reach in the state of Alabama,” said Haley Phillippe, associate clinical professor with the Harrison School of Pharmacy. “We are very thankful for the opportunity to work with ADMH.”

For more information and registration, visit AlabamaOTI.org.

 

11 months ago

U.S. Attorney General visits Auburn University to examine opioid crisis and public safety threats

(Auburn University)

The nation’s top law enforcement official, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, visited Auburn University on Friday to examine two Auburn initiatives designed to protect the public—one focused on the national opioid crisis and the other involving the world’s most advanced detector dogs.

Sessions was briefed on Auburn’s approach to effective opioid response and treatment at the Harrison School of Pharmacy.  Harrison School of Pharmacy is working to combat the national opioid epidemic through innovative and collaborative research, teaching and outreach programs spanning detection, prevention, treatment and emergency response.

“We’ve got to confront the opioid crisis,” Sessions said while at Auburn. “It’s the number one surge in deaths in America. Opioids alone are responsible for the declining life expectancy of Americans. The deaths we’re seeing – it’s that large. So, we need lifespans going up, not down. And you’re right here on the cutting edge of many of the key things that can help us reduce that threat to America.”

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Auburn’s Harrison School of Pharmacy has a one-of-a-kind forensic chemistry program with a history of working with the Department of Justice to ensure law enforcement can anticipate and detect new drugs that are being abused.  Among other solutions, the school also has developed a Naloxone rapid response program, and its collaborative education of healthcare providers, state law enforcement and emergency response serves as a model for the nation.  Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is an opioid overdose reversal medication.

Also on Friday, Sessions visited Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine for a look at its Canine Performance Sciences program, which is internationally known as the preeminent provider of canine detection technology.

“It’s classic of Auburn’s practical contribution to making this a better world,” Sessions said after examining the canine program. “We need to protect this country from terrorist attacks.  How do you do it? One of the best systems whatsoever is these fabulous dogs. They’re training them. They’re raising them. They’re breeding them. They are the best dogs in the world.”

The Auburn-led program is widely recognized by government and industry and supports a national initiative to advance canine sensor capabilities for the interdiction of chemical, biological and explosive threats to public safety and national security.  Auburn is using its wealth of research talent and capability across campus to provide a blueprint to breed and train the best detector dogs in the world.  One example of a recent university-wide collaboration is the use of MRI scanning to study dogs’ brain activity to possibly pinpoint—prior to expensive training—whether dogs can become top detectors.

In 2015, Auburn was granted a patent for its Vapor Wake® technology that applies the physics of fluid dynamics in which people in motion leave an aerodynamic plume in their wake. Vapor Wake® dogs can detect hand-carried and body-worn explosives in persons and follow the plume of vapor and chemical particulates entrained in the person’s wake until the target is identified. The dogs are trained for 15-18 months, compared to only two to four months for standard explosive detection dogs.

Auburn University President Steven Leath thanked Sessions for his visit and said he looked forward to continued collaboration on such areas of vital national importance.

“We’re pleased to show the Attorney General how Auburn is leading the way on key initiatives that protect the public,” Leath said. “Teaming with government leaders, we are advancing research toward life-saving solutions that include a focus on the national opioid epidemic and making our public spaces safer with the world’s most advanced canine mobile detection system.”

(courtesy of Auburn University)

1 year ago

Auburn University named to 2018-2019 Military Friendly® School list

(Auburn University)

As a staff sergeant in the Air Force, Houston native Melissa Villanueva was stationed throughout the world, from Kuwait to Indonesia, serving in communications and later as a medic. These days, Villanueva has shifted her medical focus to helping animals and her location of choice is Auburn University, which recently received national recognition as a Military Friendly School.

“I have taken classes at different campuses throughout my military career, and I can say Auburn has been the best place so far,” Villanueva said. “Auburn’s ranking is high when it comes to military friendliness.”

Villanueva joined the Air Force in August 2005 “because I wasn’t sure about going to college and I wanted to travel away from home.” She was deployed to Abu Dhabi and Kuwait and her initial job was as a satellite communications technician and involved her setting up antennae for communication access for large groups. Six years into her communications role, she had the opportunity to change paths and chose to go into the medical field, working as a medic in both the clinical and inpatient settings.

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“My experiences in the field of medicine sparked my interest in animal medicine,” she said, adding that “once my enlistment was at its end I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in animal medicine.”

Enter Auburn and the university’s connection to Villanueva’s love for animals. Villanueva said she always knew she wanted to work with animals and applied to three universities, including Auburn, which she determined is “one of the best schools to study animal science.”

Villanueva was accepted to Auburn in 2016 and quickly learned it also was a top university for military students.

“Auburn’s Veterans Resource Center has been such a blessing to me since I’ve been here,” she said. “The center is a place I can go to and feel comfortable in, whether it be to study, use a computer or even just talk to someone who can relate to the transition from military to civilian life.”

Villanueva said it was no surprise to her that Auburn was recently named to the 2018-2019 Military Friendly School list that will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine.

Auburn is one of just 941 schools nationwide to receive the designation, which was based on extensive research using public data sources from more than 8,800 schools nationwide, input from student veterans and responses to a survey of participating institutions. Ratings combine survey scores with the assessment of an institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, degree advancement or transfer and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

Paul “Puck” Esposito, director of the Auburn University Veterans Resource Center and a retired Navy captain, said it’s great to have Auburn listed as a Military Friendly School but his office works hard daily to go even further, providing service above and beyond the standards of such rankings and offering a “holistic approach” for the military clients they serve.

“There’s so much more to it that doesn’t go into that rating that we offer,” he said, adding that everyone on his office’s staff has past military experience or is the spouse of a veteran.

According to a brochure about the Auburn University Veterans Resource Center, or AUVRC, which services a total of 1,100 clients, the center’s mission is to “assist, transition and support veterans, guardsmen, reservists, active duty, military dependents and survivors who receive federal Veteran Affairs educational benefits in all aspects of benefits, both campus and community.”

The Veterans Resource Center offers tutoring services, a student textbook library, an annual veterans golf classic and even a professional clothing locker with dress clothes available to help military students better prepare for interviews or presentations.

“They can come in and pull from the clothing locker and if they need it, they can keep it,” said Meg Ford Alexander ’86, a VA certifying official and outreach coordinator in the Veterans Resource Center.

Alexander said a major part of the center’s appeal is how it reconnects those who have or are currently serving in the military.

“We’re a big family uniting that population,” she said.

Villanueva agrees.

“Along with the AUVRC staff, fellow student veterans have become my family here in Auburn,” Villanueva said. “When I moved here, I did not know anyone from Auburn or even from Alabama at that. The AUVRC staff are so welcoming and create such a great environment to help veterans feel at home. I am so thankful to have them here for support.”

The center even offers an Auburn Warrior Orientation and Learning, or A.W.O.L., program, which provides a veteran-specific orientation session that helps military students not only find their classes but also such resources as financial aid. The Veterans Resource Center participates, among other programs, with the post 9/11 G.I. Bill and the Yellow Ribbon program.

Additionally, military students can follow the AUVRC on Facebook (@Auburnvrc) and can become members of the Auburn Student Veterans Association, or ASVA, which is a chapter of Student Veterans of America, or SVA. The 501(c)3 group represents veterans transitioning from prior military service into higher education.

“Veterans comprise a unique and integral part of the student body within Auburn University, and we aim to help them acclimate to a new culture when they have a very different perspective on life,” said Kyle Venable, president of the Auburn Student Veterans Association. “Our goal is to help student veterans connect with one another on campus for camaraderie, to share information about local community veteran resources and to create a culture within the local community that supports veteran academic success and leads to future employment.”

As for Villanueva, she plans to graduate in December with her bachelor’s degree from the College of Agriculture, majoring in animal science muscle foods. Her goal is to then earn a master’s degree in animal nutrition. In the meantime, Villanueva said she will do all she can to promote Auburn and its Veterans Resource Center.

“The AUVRC staff is caring and makes sure the Auburn student veterans are taken care of,” she said. “There are so many resources and information that can be used there in the center, but also it is a great place of camaraderie.”

(Written by Preston Sparks.)

(Courtesy Auburn University)