1 month ago

NASA head visits Alabama public high school, praises ‘incredible teachers,’ ‘amazing’ students

ARAB — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) visited Arab High School on Friday, speaking with students, faculty and local elected officials about all things space.

First on the agenda was meeting with the school’s student robotics team that is competing in NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race, an annual competition in which student teams from around the country design, build, program and then operate their very own robotic moonbuggy.

The team’s teacher told Bridenstine that for him, “It’s not a job, it’s a calling.”

This type of passion was evident in the students and faculty when visiting with Bridenstine and Aderholt, as well as a contingent of NASA employees, some from the nearby Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, who were accompanying the administrator.

This included a starring appearance by Ricky Arnold, an active astronaut who has spent time on the International Space Station, among other missions.

The next stop on the tour was another robotics team at the school, this one annually competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition. This is a “legacy team” for NASA, as it was funded by the agency for the first three years of its existence from 2004-2007. Now, operating for 15 years, it has become a nationally respected program, winning the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award at last year’s regional and advancing to the world championships. 25,000 students across American participate in this competition. And while not receiving funding from NASA anymore, several employees of NASA and/or Marshall Space Flight Center do help the team out as mentors and volunteers.

Bridenstine, while speaking with the students on the team, turned to Aderholt and said, “We at NASA believe in this (supporting student robotics efforts) so much because of the benefit we get from it, from young folks that get involved and end up working in either industry that supports NASA or working directly for NASA.”

“We actually invest about $4,500,000 annually into the FIRST Robotics program,” he advised.

This was a major focus of NASA’s visit to Arab High School — emphasizing the value of STEM education and the pathways to high-quality, fulfilling careers that come from these types of classes and programs.

Bridenstine explained to the students on both teams that the work they were doing for their respective competitions “very closely mimics the kind of projects that NASA does.”

This builds real-world skills and prepares them realistically for STEM and technical jobs.

Bridenstine also offered words of encouragement.

“These kids here … could very well one day be building the robots that we put on Mars,” he stressed.

“I think you’ve got some future NASA employees right here,” Arnold chimed in.

“Yeah, no doubt,” the administrator responded. “No doubt.”

‘You guys are doing amazing things here’

While speaking to a more comprehensive group of Arab High School students shortly afterward in the school’s media center, Bridenstine shared some of the things NASA is working on now, things he told the students they could soon be directly involved in.

“I’ve heard wonderful things about this high school,” he remarked, adding that what he saw Friday affirmed what he had been told beforehand. “Clearly you guys are doing amazing things here.”

“Maybe, one day, NASA will be able to enlist you in some of the projects that we’re working on,” Bridenstine said.

The biggest project, perhaps, that NASA has on its plate was handed down directly from President Donald Trump: the Artemis program, which will see Americans return to the Moon, the first woman step onto the surface of the Moon and eventually see the first human voyage to Mars.

Much of the work on Artemis is actually being done at Marshall Space Flight Center, and Bridenstine, after leaving the high school in the Sand Mountain area, traveled up to Huntsville to announce even more goods news for north Alabama’s space industry — Marshall will lead the lunar lander program for Artemis now.

However, before leaving Arab High School, he left the students with more words of inspiration.

“I think if we were able to find life (microbial life) on another planet … if we can discover that, I think it’s going to change how we think, it’s going to change what we want to go discover and, of course, humanity will go further into the solar system than ever before,” Bridenstine concluded.

STEM — ‘Alabama has some really amazing programs’

Bridenstine and Aderholt also spoke to the members of the media present, sharing their enthusiasm for modern space exploration — and what the future could hold with students like the ones in Arab.

They both reiterated how educational tools like the robotics and STEM programs they witnessed on Friday help prepare students for real careers. The administrator added that at Arab High School and others like it, he hopes NASA can “inspire” students to travel the STEM pathway.

“When we talk about what it’s going to take for the United States of America to lead in the future, we’ve got to have folks entering the STEM educational programs — all across the country,” Bridenstine advised. “And of course, Alabama has some really amazing programs, some really amazing folks.”

Speaking with State Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) afterward, Bridenstine stressed how important state-federal partnerships are to NASA.

Legislators like Kitchens and State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) strongly supporting workforce development — whether it be technical training or STEM education — is important to build the highly skilled pipeline that keeps NASA and places like Marshall Space Flight Center running.

Kitchens told Yellowhammer News, “A lot of these things are teaching the kids what it’s like in a real-world application. Not only seeing it in the classroom, but being able to actually go out and be career-ready once they graduate high school.”

“Marshall Space Flight Center is so important to this area and this whole district, they have such an economic impact that kids are able to see and hopefully inspire them to be the next engineer or astronaut or whatever they want to be,” he added.

One important component that allows for successful STEM and workforce development programs like this, especially in rural areas like Marshall County, is having high-quality broadband in place. Scofield has recently led the charge in the legislature to expand rural broadband access across Alabama.

Speaking to Yellowhammer News, he called workforce development efforts “critical.”

“We’ve made every effort to invest in it here on the local level,” Scofield explained. “We’ve done that for the past nine years, and we’re really seeing the results firsthand here.”

“When we hear the administrator for NASA ask what these young people want to do and they say, ‘Precision machining,’ well that investment has paid off,” he continued. “That’s creating great opportunities for these young people.”

Scofield concluded that workforce development must continue to be invested in on the state and local levels.

You can view a tweet thread from the event, including photos and video clips, here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Brad Mendheim for state Supreme Court

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) on Monday announced its endorsement of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Brad Mendheim in the Republican primary for place two on the court.

Mendheim was first appointed to the state’s highest court by Governor Kay Ivey in 2018. He lost election to a full term to that office in the 2018 election cycle but was appointed to a different vacancy, place two, on the Supreme Court by Ivey earlier this year.

In a statement, AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson said, “We are proud to support Justice Mendheim in his race for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court.”

“His conservative judicial philosophy along with a proven track record earned over 20 years make him the right person for the job,” he concluded.

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Prior to his appointment to the Supreme Court by Ivey, Mendheim was a circuit judge for Houston and Henry counties from 2009- 2018.

Before his election to that office, he served as district judge of Houston County from 2001-2008 and as an assistant district attorney, making him uniquely qualified as a former prosecutor and trial judge.

“I am honored to receive the support of Forest PAC, a group which has a long reputation of supporting conservative leaders in the state of Alabama,” Mendheim emphasized.

He advised, “My judicial philosophy is simple: to follow the Constitution and rule with impartiality, and I pledge to continue that as long as I am privileged to serve. It is not our role on the Alabama Supreme Court to bring a political agenda to work, and I strongly believe that groups such as the Forestry Association recognize that all who come before our court deserve two things: a fair review of the facts and ultimately, for the rule of law to be upheld.”

During his judicial career, Mendheim has presided over more than 300 jury trials.

He graduated with a BA from Auburn University and went on to receive his JD from Cumberland School of Law. Mendheim and his wife, Michelle, have been married for over 24 years. They are the proud parents of three sons: Connor, Ryan and Carson. They are long time members of First Baptist Church of Dothan, where Brad is a Sunday school teacher and deacon.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Alabama’s Tony Cochran launches new initiative to help grow small businesses

After 40 years of business advising, Alabama-based businessman Tony Cochran is excited to announce the creation of Team Delta3, LLC.

Team Delta3 will essentially offer a premier business boot camp, taking on the task of educating business owners on best practices for success with a focus on the three key ways to grow their businesses.

In a statement, Cochran explained, “For over four decades I have watched business owners who are very good at their respective craft, struggle to be successful.”

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He is the president of CK Business Solutions, PC, a consulting and accounting firm headquartered in Albertville.

Roughly 20 years ago, Cochran changed his focus from delivering traditional business, tax and accounting advice to one of helping business owners find solutions to everyday problems. His passion for helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, develop repeatable processes and face the modern-day challenges in an increasingly competitive world has led him to be a part of an elite group of business advisors.

“Many universities, small business incubators and consultants have tried various ways to help businesses grow,” Cochran outlined. “Our approach at Team Delta3 is to take proven techniques and present them in a concentrated, focused ‘Boot Camp’ style environment so that each participant leaves with the tangible game plan needed to grow their business into a thriving enterprise.”

Beyond his own successful advisory businesses, Cochran has been recognized by a number of organizations for his leadership and civic contributions.

He is a board member of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) and previously served on its executive committee. Currently, Cochran is a member of the 30th (XXX) class of Leadership Alabama, chairman of the board of the Albertville Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the board of his church, founding chairman of the Albertville City Schools Foundation, board member of the North Central Alabama Girl Scouts and in 2002 received the Citizen of the Year Award the highest award given for community service in his hometown. He also holds the designations of CPA and CMGA.

However, the impressive involvement does not end at the Alabama state line for Cochran.

Later this month, he will be a VIP at the Living Legends event in New York City.

Living Legends brings together the top business consultants in the United States to exchange ideas and develop a nationwide network of renowned consultants in marketing, internet sales, branding, growth and general business. These include people such as Martha Stewart, Michael Gerber and Clint Arthur.

As a VIP, Cochran will be internationally recognized for his skills and contribution to business clients throughout the course of his career.

“For someone who calls Sand Mountain home, having the opportunity to be a part of an event as large in scope as Living Legends is an incredible honor. I look forward to integrating concepts and collaborators from Living Legends into the new venture of Team Delta3 and our BootCamp experience,” Cochran concluded.

“BootCamp” participants can expect intensive training during the course of the three-day event. Concepts related to market growth, key performance indicators and applied metrics will be developed for each business. These indicators will be the drivers that provide owners measurable results.

Find out more here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Bradley Byrne previews attacks that are sure to come against Tommy Tuberville

Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville is the frontrunner in the GOP primary race for the right to take on United States Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) but eventually, the attacks will come.

U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) may have been showing how Tuberville’s opponents are going to take him on in the near future at a meeting of the Tennessee Valley Republican Club on Saturday morning.

Byrne touched on the carpetbagger allegation without mention Tuberville, saying, “I’m from here, not from wherever else. I love Alabama and know what we need to get done.”

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Later he added, “I didn’t come back here to run because it’s convenient. I love this state and I love fighting for Alabama. And that’s exactly what you’ll get with me – a fighter.”

This is hardly a new tact for Tuberville’s detractors, and it may be effective because Alabama is a very proud state that loves its homegrown products.

Byrne further questioned Tuberville’s reason for running.

I’m not running for this seat because I got bored and needed something to do,” he said while touting his service to Alabama. “I’ve spent most of my life serving. I want to help the people of this great state.”

But it wasn’t all attacks for Byrne on Saturday morning. The congressman also touted his experience in Washington as the most important for Alabamians to support his candidacy.

“It’s more about being able to sit in a room and get things done for your state. I know how to do that, and I’ll be able to keep getting things done for Alabama,” he explained.

Byrne would mention the Space Force command and praise North Alabama as the perfect place for it while adding, “There is nowhere in the country better equipped for it, and as your senator, I’ll continue to fight every day to see that we get things like this done.”

How an argument about experience and effectiveness works in 2020, and in the era of Trump, remains to be seen.

What is clear, is that the issues Byrne is talking about on the campaign trail now will continue to be heard as long as Tommy Tuberville is an untraditional and inexperienced candidate with an apparent lead in the polls.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

13 hours ago

Tuberville: Alabamians ‘trust football coaches a heck of a lot more than they trust politicians’

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a 2020 Republican U.S. Senate candidate in the Yellowhammer State, on Monday appeared on Fox Business’ “Varney & Co.” to discuss his support of President Donald Trump and the state of the race to unseat Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Tuberville reiterated his belief that “President Trump has saved this country.”

He said he was unsure who the president will support in Alabama’s GOP senatorial primary, if anyone, but emphasized Trump’s support “goes a long way in the state.”

Tuberville also reaffirmed that he will not take his salary if elected to the U.S. Senate.

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“[W]e’ve got to get away from the career politicians,” Tuberville remarked. “I’m not an establishment [candidate], I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m not taking a salary. I want to do it for the right reasons.”

The guest host then asked the former college football coach if his ties to Auburn might dissuade some Crimson Tide fans from voting for him.

“You know, before I decided to run, I did my due diligence,” Tuberville responded. “I went across the state talking to people about this.”

“And you know, at the end of the day, the people of Alabama — they trust football coaches a heck of a lot more than they trust politicians,” he continued. “So, I’m going to get as many (University of) Alabama votes. I’m going to get Auburn votes.”

“We need something strong, you know. We need people who make decisions for the right reasons. And they trust football coaches in this state, I promise you that,” Tuberville concluded.

Watch:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Mondays for Moms: Let them be little

Let them be little

I was rocking my littlest one to sleep this weekend when out-of-the-blue stressful thoughts began savagely invading my somewhat peaceful brain …

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What about those dishes, Erin? You forgot to clean the kitchen table after lunch.

When are you ever gonna get to all those baskets of laundry that are piling up like garbage piles on trash day? 

And how about those windows that have prehistoric fingerprints on them from when the babies were just that … babies … ahhh!

Then, my little girl’s hand gently stroked my arm. She had no clue that her simple gesture soothed her over-stressed momma instantly.

Today, I am rocking my little girl comfortably in our glider tucked away from the crazies of the real world. But, one day I’ll be rocking nervously back and forth in my bed waiting to see the lights from her car pour onto my comforter signaling she has made it home safely once again.

Today, I am cutting the edges off of my toddler’s toast to make sure she enjoys every bite. But, one day, I’ll be desperately avoiding cutting the “helicopter mommy” cord on her wedding day wishing more than anything to be “slaving away” on the heart-shaped PB&Js in the kitchen again.

Today, I am hoping she doesn’t scream “mommy” one more time while I hide under the dining room table searching for any amount of sanity that might be miraculously hidden under there. But, tomorrow, I will be giving any amount of money to hear her say my name each time a need arises in her precious adult life.

Today, I am folding her sheets and towels only to discover her playing hide and seek tucked deep in the laundry basket among all the dryer sheets and warmth. But, one day, I’ll be reluctantly walking the aisles at Target with her shopping for dorm linens, shower shoes and bath caddies.

Today, I am reading her bedtime stories and singing soft little tunes as I have the privilege of tucking her in. But, one day, I’ll be reading her name on a graduation pamphlet and fighting back tears as I sing hymns of congratulatory praise for her accomplishments.

So the laundry, the dishes and the tidying can take a seat. All those chores can be done when I get around to it … whenever that may be.

Because right now, I’m gonna let her be little. And soak up every last minute of it.

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.