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 weeks ago

UAH hockey program receives $10K gift from former Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has announced former Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer has made a gift of $10,000 to the UAH Charger hockey program. This commitment was made in person on the UAH campus.

“We are so grateful for Ms. Spencer and her gift to the hockey program,” says Dr. Cade Smith, UAH Director of Athletics. “As we work to better fund this program for the future, it is so important to have community support from people like her. We are truly grateful for this generous gift.”

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A longtime supporter of both UAH and the Huntsville community, Spencer served as the 66th mayor of Huntsville for three terms from 1996 to 2008 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce in 2007. A resident of Huntsville since age seven, she graduated from Huntsville High School and holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Alabama. Spencer was the first woman mayor of Huntsville and the first woman mayor of one of Alabama’s four largest cities. Before becoming mayor, she was a teacher in the Huntsville City School System.

(Courtesy of UAH)

3 weeks ago

UAH College of Nursing receives $100K gift from Bryant Bank

(Michael Mercier/UAH)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has announced Bryant Bank has made a gift of $100,000 to the UAH College of Nursing for this year. This current disbursement to the college is an annual gift as part of a total pledge of $3 million over 30 years. Bryant Bank’s continuing commitment to UAH nursing goes to support a nursing scholarship plan called Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program (EPNP).

“The UAH College of Nursing is so appreciative of the support Bryant Bank has shown us over the years and for continued support in the future,” states Dr. Marsha Howell Adams, dean and professor of the UAH College of Nursing. “This scholarship has had a major impact on the lives of our nursing students by promoting their ability to be successful in our nursing program.”

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Established in 2014, EPNP is an honors program offered by the College of Nursing to highly qualified students who enter UAH as freshmen and declare nursing as their major. Through this program they may take all the lower division nursing coursework on the UAH campus and are guaranteed placement in upper division nursing courses.

“This scholarship has been a major source of support for a number of our EPNP students,” Dr. Adams says. “EPNP provides students an opportunity to have enriched freshman and sophomore years in the UAH Honors College in preparation for admittance into upper division nursing coursework.”

“Today, we are very proud to provide another $100,000 gift to the UAH College of Nursing for the ‘Excellence in Nursing’ scholarship program,” says Ken Watson, Bryant Bank Huntsville Market President. “Including this contribution, Bryant Bank has now given $700,000 over the past seven years to help UAH recruit outstanding undergraduate nursing school students. UAH College of Nursing students are not only high achievers academically, but also become very important members of our healthcare community upon graduation. We are grateful for this opportunity to support UAH and the College of Nursing, and we have a deep appreciation for the development of the students who declare nursing as their preferred academic and career path.”

About Bryant Bank: Founded in 2005 by Paul W. Bryant, Jr., Bryant Bank’s vision is to see every Alabamian experience a financially stable future and live in a thriving community. Bryant Bankers put care into action to help Alabamians invest in their full potential every day. The Bank offers 16 branches and one loan production office in five of Alabama’s six largest markets and employs over 260 bankers. Bryant Bank provides personal, business, and mortgage banking services, as well as Treasury Management Services, Correspondent Banking, and Capital Markets.

(Courtesy of UAH)

2 months ago

UAH and Calhoun announce creation of Dual Nursing Degree Program

(UAH/Contributed)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), part of The University of Alabama System, announced a partnership between the UAH College of Nursing (UAH CON) and Calhoun Community College (CCC) Nursing to offer a Dual Nursing Program which will begin admitting students for spring 2021.

The UAH CON/CCC Dual Nursing Degree Program provides students the opportunity to obtain both an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) simultaneously in five semesters of full-time study. Through this program of study, students admitted to the Dual Nursing Program will graduate with an ADN from Calhoun Community College and a BSN from the UAH CON. The ADN will be offered on the Calhoun Campus, while the BSN Coursework is offered completely online through the UAH College of Nursing.

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“This collaboration will help move the nursing profession forward by working to meet one of the Future of Nursing recommendations, to promote seamless academic progression so that nurses can achieve higher levels of education, including knowledge, abilities and skills,” says Dr. Marsha Howell Adams, Dean and Professor of the UAH College of Nursing.

Through a virtual ceremony, administrators from both institutions signed a formal agreement allowing students to attend UAH and Calhoun simultaneously. Included in the signed documents was a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) as well as the course pathway schedule that is required to complete the program.

“The established pathway is extremely important, as it will make the course selection process easier for students to remain on track and complete the program,” says Dr. Lynn Hogan, Calhoun Nursing Department Chair.

The year 2020 has been dubbed the Year of the Nurse by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Nurses Association (ANA). In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report entitled The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health which addressed the following recommendation: to increase the number of BSN-prepared nurses to 80% of the workforce by 2020. Many healthcare organizations require a BSN as minimal preparation to practice nursing.

The Dual Nursing Degree Program offers a number of additional advantages to students. A BSN degree is necessary to continue to graduate school for advanced practice degrees, such as nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioner, nurse educator, nurse administrator and nurse researcher. The program also will provide students interested in nursing an advantage over their peers from other programs as they enter the job market.

“I’d like to thank Dr. Burke and our counterparts at Calhoun Community College for their role in helping us to forge this important alliance,” says UAH President Dr. Darren Dawson. “This new partnership highlights the innovative ways our two institutions are working together to provide our students with a wonderful pathway to the finest nursing education we can offer. The dual program will ensure that we continue to supply our regional healthcare providers and organizations with the most qualified nurses as well.”

“I am most appreciative of the long and very successful partnership Calhoun and UAH has established over the years and the many academic options we are able to provide our students,” says Calhoun Interim President Dr. Joe Burke. “With the signing of this brand-new program, we are not only helping our students to achieve their academic goals more quickly, but we are providing our communities with well-trained and educated healthcare professionals.”

According to the MOU, students that plan to enter the program must be highly motivated and are held to the highest standards. In total, the program consists of nine semesters and is split between the two institutions. Students will complete their general education courses at Calhoun, which consists of four semesters, and will complete their last five semesters, focused on nursing, at UAH.

“The unique thing about this program is that we use one curriculum,” Dr. Hogan explains. “The faculty at Calhoun and UAH are working very closely to ensure the learning process is seamless, and that students won’t have any issues when they transition to UAH to complete their final semesters.”

Students interested in the new degree program will pay tuition and fees according to the rates in place at UAH and Calhoun. Financial aid is also available at both institutions to those who qualify.

To learn more about the program, please visit https://www.uah.edu/nursing/degree-programs/adn-bsn-dual-nursing or www.calhoun.edu/dualnursing. For additional questions, please contact Laura Mann at 256-824-6742.

(Courtesy of UAH)

2 months ago

UAH awarded $3.7 million Department of Defense grant

(DOD/Contributed, YHN)

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), a part of The University of Alabama System, has been awarded a $3.7 million Department of Defense (DoD) grant under the Defense Manufacturing Community Support Program (DMCSP) by the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). As part of the Alabama Defense Advanced Manufacturing Community (ADAMC), UAH is tasked with utilizing this grant to undertake a $6.2 million project to focus on the visibility, workforce training and adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies in the region, with an emphasis on the modernization of aviation, missiles and ground vehicle systems.

This award follows a competitive selection process culminating in Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment’s designation in August 2020 of six Defense Manufacturing Communities (DMC). UAH served as the lead for proposal development and grant funding and will act as the spokesperson presenting the consensus opinion of the consortium, as well as coordinating strategy implementation for the ADAMC that has just been designated as a DMC.

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The ADAMC comprises 22 counties that will focus on supporting and growing the capabilities of the defense industrial base (DIB) in Alabama. UAH will lead the ADAMC to pull together existing programs throughout the region, as well as establish a facility for the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation and Integration Center (AMIIC) in Huntsville.

A key objective of this strategy will be to support visibility, awareness, technology adoption and workforce development and education in advanced manufacturing technologies that are vital both to current needs and future requirements to enhance the readiness and modernization of U.S. Army aviation and missile weapon systems. This DMC encompasses the majority of aerospace and defense manufacturing, defense installations and associated industries in the region.

The implementation strategy to achieve these goals consists of two Enabling Activities, including:

  • The National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) will establish the initial operation of the AMIIC facility.
  • UAH will be responsible for examining needs, gaps and barriers to effective workforce development and technology adoption.

The implementation will be further supported by three Thrust Areas, each with a lead organization:

  • UAH will develop new and enhance existing education and workplace development programs.
  • Auburn University will conduct pilot technology adoption projects with industry.
  • The University of Alabama will be responsible for initiating a technology development program.

These efforts are designed to strengthen the innovation and manufacturing base in designated DMC Communities, a consortium composed of members of academia, defense industry, nonprofit organizations and State and local government organizations. This presents a revolutionary step forward for the region with regard to positioning the DoD presence within a rich environment of industry, academia and DIB Small-to-Medium Manufacturer (SMM) expertise, benefitting Army Modernization priorities through product, process, human capital and the STEM educational experience.

The combination of achieving DMC status and the subsequent enhancement of advanced manufacturing capabilities will strengthen Alabama’s DIB and further contributions to the DoD, positioning Alabama for continued growth and retention of its defense installations. The State has a strong history in manufacturing and is growing exponentially in advanced manufacturing-related jobs.

To achieve these program goals, the ADAMC will implement an execution model that drives interaction and collaboration amongst partners. The educational process will begin early in K-12, with a focus on STEM needs and manufacturing education, and carry forward through both two-year and four-year academic career paths.

Industry will have the opportunity to engage prospective students and employees at multiple levels, while demonstrating product and process advancement on key technologies. The existing, displaced and military veteran workforce, in collaboration with local and state programs, will be able to undergo retraining, skills enhancement or continuing education/certification to reenter the workforce or obtain position advancement.

By working collaboratively with government, industry and academia, existing education programs will benefit as new workforce development programs are created to supply a pipeline of qualified and capable individuals.

This award is one of six DoD grants announced across the country totaling $25 million made by the OEA. The awards derive from Fiscal Year 2020 appropriated funding and leverage an additional $12.6 million in non-Federal funding for a total investment of $37.6 million to enhance critical skills, research and development and small business support.

The OEA works with states and communities to help them respond to changes driven by the DoD throughout the U.S. Some are home to military bases, while others manufacture the products and provide the services necessary for national defense. The Office leverages the capabilities of state and local partners through grants and technical assistance to enhance readiness of installations and ranges as well.

For more information, please contact Brian Tucker in the UAH Office for Operational Excellence at  256.824.2697 or email brian.tucker@uah.edu.

(Courtesy of UAH)

6 months ago

UAH scientists brave curses, spooky anomalies to unravel secrets at Skinwalker Ranch

(Prometheus Entertainment/Contributed)

Two intrepid explorers from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), Matt Turner, who holds a doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, and Aerospace Engineering graduate Kaitlin Russell, visited an extraordinary place last summer to perform experiments for a research team participating in a docu-series called “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch.”

The name of the place alone conjures up creepy thrills for dedicated fans of the paranormal. Situated in northeastern Utah, this 512-acre parcel of picturesque desolation is famed as a hotspot for everything from poltergeist phenomena and crop circles, to UFO sightings, dangerous electromagnetic forces, dancing fireballs, and cattle mutilations.

If that’s not enough, the ranch is also said to be cursed by an ancient Navaho spell that summons terrifying werewolf-like shapeshifters called ‘Skinwalkers’ to menace interlopers.

Featuring UAH PhD Aerospace Engineer and Astrophysicist and TV veteran, Dr. Travis Taylor, the program is produced by Prometheus Entertainment and airs on the History Channel Tuesday evenings at 9 p.m. (CST).

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“The billionaire Brandon Fugal has been investigating the ranch since he bought it in 2016,” Dr. Taylor says. “His first three years was a plan of observation only. When he decided to move to the next phase, he asked the History Channel what that should be. History asked Prometheus, who produces The Curse of Oak Island, Ancient Aliens, The UnXplained, The Tesla Files, and others, for History to talk with Mr. Fugal about next steps. Prometheus knew me from those other efforts and had me come meet with Mr. Fugal and the team. They were very intrigued by the ideas I brought to them (although maybe nervous in becoming active with the ranch rather than just observing), and in the end they asked me to come in and lead a new phase of research.”

Given his UAH background, it was natural for Dr. Taylor to look to homegrown expertise for help when it came to investigating Skinwalker Ranch.

Dr. Turner and Russell both support the STEM Projects Advancing Research & Collaboration (SPARC) Lab division of the Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP). As a Principal Research Engineer, Dr. Turner focuses on supporting contracts for the Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) and NASA, while Russell is a Research Associate who works primarily with the CubeSat (U-class spacecraft) miniaturized satellite program.

“[Matt] and I had graduate classes in AE together,” Dr. Taylor says. “Funny, he was also on my second PhD committee. I trust Matt’s work and pretty much daily work with him on other space program experiments.”

When a complementary set of measurements were required, it was again an easy choice for Dr. Taylor to tap the wealth of talent available at his alma mater.

“Kaitlin is an employee of SMAP that works on my space efforts also,” he says. “I have seen her work for a couple years now and am impressed with her enthusiasm and academic rigor.”

The particular expertise Dr. Turner brings to the show is in ballooning, while Russell brings a wealth of experience in amateur rocketry. To avoid audience spoilers, the precise details of their stays on the ranch are a closely guarded secret protected by a non-disclosure agreement. In general, they involved measuring the bizarre electromagnetic anomalies that plague the property.

“I’ve known Travis for 20 years,” Dr. Turner says. “We had grad school classes together at UAH. He wanted to do some testing out there that he couldn’t do by himself. That’s how it evolved. I’ve never launched a rocket; they don’t trust me with propellants,” he says, laughing. “That’s Kaitlin’s thing. But I’ve launched a couple hundred balloons. That’s what I did. And then Kaitlin came after me and launched her rockets.”

“I asked a room full of undergrad and grad students if they’d be interested in designing and building rockets for some experiments,” Dr. Taylor adds. “And Kaitlin is the one that took the initiative and did it. And she did a great job!”

“While I was a student at UAH I got into rocketry,” Russell says. “Not just the smaller kit rockets, but the ones you take out for certification. We did small model rocket type things [on the ranch], but they were heavily modified. I didn’t provide the instrument part, I just provided the ride.”

Dr. Taylor knew from personal experience that his two colleagues would be walking into a truly unique setting that could present serious challenges to the investigators, including potentially perilous conditions.

“I was excited to offer them an opportunity to get to see the very guarded location and what might be experienced there,” he says. “I was also a bit apprehensive and nervous, as the place can be quite dangerous. I warned them as best I could, but until you are there and exposed to the place, you truly don’t take the warnings serious. I didn’t. Believe me, I do now!”

Both of the new investigators did their best to prepare for operating in a place with such a foreboding reputation. “I started doing some research,” Dr. Turner says. “And then actually made a conscious decision to stop, because I wanted to make a measurement without any kind of preconceived notion about the results. I was expecting this very medieval type thing,” he goes on, making a spooky Twilight Zone noise and chuckling. “And when I got out there, they had trailers for television crews and stuff – it was very ‘business.’ I mean, it was a ranch, so there were dirt and animals, but it was not as mystical as I anticipated.”

Russell agrees. “I expected it to be creepier. I had never been in that area of the country. I was just taking in the sights, saying, oh, that’s cool, I want to go walk on the mesa! I’d never done anything like this before, and the whole TV crew thing was very new to me.”

For the TV novices, filming proved challenging, with a tightly packed schedule of activities. Though, like the underwater portion of an iceberg, most of the footage will never be seen.

“My first day alone we were outside doing stuff for a good 10 hours,” Dr. Turner says. “It was probably like two-and-a-half total days of filming. They got hours and hours of footage that I’m sure they didn’t use. There were multiple cameras working the whole time. It was all unique and kind of surreal.”

Both investigators had to adapt on the fly when adjustments were needed in a hurry.

“The stuff I did dovetails into stuff Kaitlin did,” Dr. Turner says. “What Kaitlin did is much more complex. She needed more time to prepare, and there was more hardware as well.”

“Not being able to know certain things until I was out there was kind of stressful,” Russell says. “There were a lot of on-the-field modifications before they got launched.”

Discussing what it was like to be on camera while trying to do the science, she grins, saying, “I’m still stressed! What is it going to look like? What are they going to put in there?”

Dr. Turner had his own qualms about being under the constant watchful eye of the TV lens.

“Absolutely! It was very intimidating and nerve wracking,” he says. “There were several times where they would say, let’s do this or measure that, or let’s change this to do this. And you’re like, okay, I’ve got to change everything about this payload now, and we’re out here in the middle of nowhere. Having 50 people looking at you with cameras the whole time and knowing this is costing money while you’re doing it is just asking you to sweat.”

Dr. Taylor offers a more seasoned perspective. “I am used to the cameras now, as I’ve done this type of experiment for years,” he explains. “But it does put a bit of pressure on you to be successful!”

Both of the newcomers appreciated having a friend who is also a TV veteran on the scene to lean on and enthusiastically power them over any bumps in the road.

“It was very high-energy,” Kaitlin says with a smile. “‘Let’s get this data,’ ‘let’s look at the data,’ ‘this doesn’t look right,’ that sort of thing.”

“It’s always a crazy ride with Travis,” Dr. Turner adds. “We’ve worked with him professionally at UAH for years. He’s data driven, which is why you’ve got to be on your toes. If something anomalous happens, you’ve got to say, let’s figure this out, and you’ve got to be able to change gears on the fly. Which is good, and I’m sure it’s great TV, because Travis is very inquisitive. But sometimes you’re like, ah! I don’t have all my stuff! I’m not ready to take that measurement!” he says, laughing. “So it’s always that kind of a ride.”

Dr. Taylor says he has learned to value the process when it comes to experimenting.

“I like having the cameras around from a scientist standpoint, in that it helps me document every little thing we do,” he explains. “Even with all the cameras, every now and then we do something that gets missed, and I can’t figure out how to reproduce it.”

One of the most exciting aspects of a docu-series is depicting how the cast deals with challenging setbacks, adding drama and fun for the viewer. “But from an engineer’s perspective, I like things to be just boring and predictable and for everything to work out,” Dr. Turner says. “That’s not always the case, especially when you’re in the field. I had several things that went wrong, and I’m curious how they are going to show that. Ultimately we made some good measurements.”

Asked if he sensed anything otherworldly at work, he says, “I had something occur with a sensor that has never happened before or since. So that was strange, and has yet to be explained. I’m an engineer: if I can’t measure it, if I can’t see it, then prove it to me. But something happened out there that’s never happened before.”

Russell hints her visit produced chilling surprises as well. “We had like two things happen,” she says. “One of them happened multiple times. But yeah, there was some weird stuff, and I can’t explain it.”

Dr. Taylor has seen enough of these mishaps and oddities to convince him something truly uncanny, whether curses or cosmic forces, is afoot on the property.

“In some cases, it was because the ranch affected the camera equipment and caused them to fail,” he says. “I know that’s hard to believe, but it happens all the time out there for no reason we’ve been able to find yet. Just ask Matt where that balloon went once it reached a mile high? As far as we can tell, it just disappeared!”

“I wasn’t creeped out,” Dr. Turner says. “Something happened that bothered me. That’s one of the reasons Kaitlin was out there – she can make more thorough measurements than I can. Because of all the mishaps and the anomaly that occurred, I’m insanely curious how they are going to put it all together.”

In describing her brush with the eeriness of Skinwalker Ranch, Russell offers yet another take. “Ours wasn’t reading-based, it was like stuff we visually saw that I couldn’t explain,” she says. “I don’t know if one of them was captured on film. It happened really quickly.”

Did the UAH colleagues ever fear for their safety?

“Not any more than being in southern Tennessee or northern Alabama, out in the woods,” Dr. Turner says. “We had a mishap with a balloon, where we were separated from it, and had to try to cross streams. But I never really thought I was in danger.”

Russell finds that kind of thing exciting. “But my sense of danger isn’t like…it’s not really regular,” she says, laughing. “I go sky diving. I like scuba diving, caving. I like exploring.”

“She fires off rockets a lot, so she’s got a high bar,” Dr. Turner says with a smile.

Would either of them ever do it again?

“I’d love to go back,” Dr. Turner says. “It’s a beautiful area. It was fun, it was hectic. I don’t know if I could do it as much as Travis. They work insane hours. But I really like being outdoors.”

Russell agrees. “It would be neat to go back and see more.” But when it comes to future TV stardom, she has certain stipulations: “I prefer shows like that where it’s mostly science-based. I am no actor!”

(Courtesy of University of Alabama in Huntsville)