The Wire

  • Three takeaways from Alabama’s Runoff Election

    Excerpt:

    With Alabama’s primary election runoffs now in the books, here are three takeaways from the results.

    North Alabama has spoken.
    When this election cycle began, it became evident that north Alabama saw a window of opportunity to increase its influence.  The results from the Republican primary runoff have shown the electorate in that area of the state was eager to flex its muscle.

    Will Ainsworth pulled out an impressive come-from-behind victory in the Lt. Governor’s race. Steve Marshall enjoyed a resounding win in his bid to retain the Attorney General’s office.

  • On Roby’s win: One false media narrative dies, a new one is born

    Excerpt:

    Like Lucy van Pelt of Peanuts comic strip fame repeatedly pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he lines up to kick it, Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) once again has shown you can’t beat her in a Republican primary.

    Similar to when she defeated “Gather Your Armies” Rick Barber in the 2010 GOP primary and “Born Free American Woman” Becky Gerritson in the 2016 GOP primary, Roby defeated former Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright for a second time on Tuesday night, this time by a whopping 36 points.

    Heading into yesterday, many national media reporters were sent into Alabama’s second congressional district looking at the possibility that Roby might have to answer to a revolt for not sticking with then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on the infamous Billy Bush weekend during the 2016 presidential campaign.

  • Mo Brooks Wins FreedomWorks’ Prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award

    Excerpt from a Rep. Mo Brooks news release:

    Tuesday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks, a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide. Only members of Congress who score better than 90% on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award. Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top 4% of all Congressmen in 2017.

    Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017. If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great. I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

3 days ago

Auburn University making Alabama ‘go-to place’ for additive technologies

(Auburn University)

Additive technologies commonly referred to as 3-D printing are revolutionizing the manufacturing industry, giving engineers and designers new methods to create custom parts in aerospace and other industries.

Auburn University is moving toward its goal of being a leader in this game-changing technology. It’s making strategic investments to broaden its capabilities in additive manufacturing and building partnerships with organizations such as NASA and companies including GE Aviation.

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 Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Auburn’s concentration on additive manufacturing is positioning the university’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering as a national leader in this field.

“Additive manufacturing represents a significant breakthrough that will reshape how manufacturers produce all kinds of products, and it’s critical that Alabama’s workforce is prepared for this technology,” Secretary Canfield said.

“Auburn University is laying the foundation to ensure that we’re fully ready for future advances.”

That includes supporting the Alabama delegation at the Farnborough International Airshow near London next week.

Larry Fillmer, executive director of the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, or ARTF, and Cary Chandler, director of business development for ARTF, will be available to meet with aerospace companies to discuss potential opportunities for collaboration with Auburn on projects to advance applied research in additive manufacturing and workforce development.

The overall objective is long-term economic growth for Alabama.

‘GO-TO PLACE’ FOR ADDITIVE

Auburn has hired additional faculty with expertise in additive manufacturing and now has more than 20 faculty members involved in the field. In addition, the university has spent over $8 million on teaching and research equipment, including 3-D printers and instrumentation such as a world-class fatigue testing laboratory and an X-ray computed tomography non-destructive testing center.

The moves have paid off.

Auburn has been involved in sponsored additive manufacturing research programs from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, and private industry, among others.

An important step for Auburn was the 2016 creation of the Center for Industrialized Additive Manufacturing, with a $1.5 million NIST grant to help small manufacturers use additive manufacturing for reliable production of metal parts.

For Tony Overfelt, professor of materials engineering, who was the inaugural leader in the additive manufacturing focus at Auburn, the center representedan opportunity to propel Alabama to a leadership role in additive manufacturing and spur workforce development by immersing students in the new technology.

“As we launched our efforts in 2016, one of our long-term goals was to make the state of Alabama the go-to place for additive manufacturing,” he said.

And Auburn intends to lead the way.

“The creation of the Auburn University Center for Industrialized Additive Manufacturing helped position Auburn at the forefront of this growing field of research,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“This reaffirms our college’s commitment to advancing research in manufacturing, which is vital to the state of Alabama and the nation.”

NASA ALLIANCE

Meanwhile, Auburn’s additive manufacturing link to NASA has grown particularly strong.

The university and the space agency signed a cooperative agreement focusing on additive manufacturing in late 2017 and together they formed the National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence, or NCAME.

In January 2018, Auburn President Steven Leath visited Huntsville to see first-hand Auburn’s extensive involvement with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

While there, Auburn-trained engineers working in NASA’s additive manufacturing center showed Leath where they are constructing flight hardware for the Space Launch System, or SLS, using innovative 3-D printing technologies. The SLS is NASA’s Mars rocket, now under development.

“The rapidly expanding field of advanced manufacturing requires new skill sets, or, in other words, a new workforce of highly trained specialists,” Leath said. “Auburn is educating and training a growing number of engineers to meet that need—working hand-in-hand with our industry and government partners to ensure they have what they need to bring these technologies out of the lab and into the workforce.”

“Joining forces with NASA and creating NCAME elevates Auburn’s additive manufacturing program even higher. We believe that our joint efforts in AM research and workforce development will help take the U.S. back to the moon and ultimately to Mars,” said Nima Shamsaei, associate professor in mechanical engineering and director of NCAME.

In March 2018, ASTM International, a global standards organization, selected the Auburn-NASA partnership, along with EWI and the U.K.-based Manufacturing Technology Centre, or MTC, as the winners in a global competition for its first Center of Excellence focusing on additive manufacturing. EWI is a leading engineering and technology organization, and MTC develops innovative manufacturing processes and technologies.

The goal for these organizations and their partners is to create a global innovation hub that advances technical standards, related research and development, education, training and more.

“It’s clear that this new center has the potential to shape the future of industries like aerospace, auto, medical and more,” said Katherine Morgan, president of ASTM International.

Shamsaei, who is Auburn’s lead in the Center of Excellence, says, “As a primary mechanism for standards-related research, the ASTM Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence seeks to close knowledge gaps and encourage innovation.”

The ASTM Center of Excellence will be housed in the Gavin Engineering Research Laboratory, a $22 million project being completed on campus this summer with 60,000 square feet of labs and office space for work on additive manufacturing of metals, as well as advanced polymers and composites.

GE AVIATION

The university has also built a strong partnership with GE Aviation, a leader in additive manufacturing that operates a manufacturing plant in Auburn where jet engine fuel nozzles are produced using additive manufacturing techniques.

Last year, GE selected Auburn as one of just eight universities in the world to participate in their groundbreaking academic program focusing on 3-D printing research and education initiatives.

In addition, students in Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering have worked with the company’s engineers on a number of real-world design and testing problems.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 month ago

Auburn researcher: Biofuels are still an important component of our energy mix

(S. Taylor)

During the last 15 years, biofuels have been a hot topic in the energy production world. You could hardly turn on the television or radio without hearing about the latest research and benefits of biofuels, which can be produced from agricultural and forest residues and dedicated energy crops. In fact, to help encourage the development of biofuel technologies, Congress provided tax breaks and incentives for companies that produced and sold biofuels.

Times have changed, though, and biofuels are not a front-page story today. Presently, natural gas is the darling of the electrical power industry for baseload operations. It’s clean, relatively inexpensive and readily available. Many power plants and manufacturing facilities are converting their old boilers to burn natural gas. Natural gas is on a high and there’s no forecast to determine when it will come down.

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But for a moment, let’s reexamine biofuels, as they can still play an important role in our state’s energy production and economic development. According to the Energy Institute of Alabama, our state ranks fifth in the nation for electricity generation from biomass-based fuels. Biomass consists of plants or plant-based materials such as agricultural crop residues, forest residues, or dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass or fast-growing trees. These various sources of biomass can be used not only for generating electrical power or making liquid transportation fuels like gasoline or diesel fuel, but they can create a wide array of co-products like plastics and adhesives.

Here at Auburn University, we are conducting research to maximize the usage of biomass for conversion to biofuels and valuable co-products. While most people think of corn-based ethanol when biofuels are mentioned, researchers at Auburn are advancing the technology to convert grasses, pine trees and hardwoods to gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels. And to make the fuel production process more economically feasible, we are developing a suite of co-products
that can be produced at the same time.

Through grants from Alabama Power Co., the Electric Power Research Institute, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we have been addressing many of the challenges in using biomass to create renewable biofuels and electrical power. One of the greatest challenges with biomass-based fuels is logistics. Forest and agricultural biomass is usually scattered and is difficult to collect and transport cost-effectively using traditional
harvesting machines and trucks. In projects sponsored by the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, we have developed innovative and efficient ways to collect and transport the biomass from its original site to a power plant, refinery, or manufacturing facility. Other research is developing biochemical and thermochemical methods to convert the biomass to liquid fuels, chemical products, and electrical power.

Auburn researchers are also tackling the challenge of capturing gases emitted from landfills. Currently, it’s cheaper to flare the landfill gas than it is to clean and transport it to another location for re-use. Our faculty have developed methods to remove unwanted sulfur from the gas which then makes the gas valuable for production of electrical power or liquid fuels.

Additional research has developed smaller-scale, more cost-effective reactors that can convert this gas to gasoline and diesel. Once these processes have been perfected, it will not only allow electric utilities and fuel producers another viable option in clean fuel choices, but the resulting new industries will open the door for more employment opportunities, particularly in our rural areas where forest and agricultural biomass is produced.

As you can see, these are exciting times for Alabama’s energy industry. We are continuing to  expand our diverse energy base, while finding new ways to utilize resources already in place. Biomass and the resulting biofuels can and will continue to play an important role in adding to our resource mix. To learn more about Alabama’s reliable, clean, affordable energy resources, visit the Energy Institute of Alabama.

Dr. Steven Taylor is a professor and associate dean for research at the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University.

1 month ago

Tiger Cage Accelerator helps turn new business concepts into business startups

(Auburn University)

“It’s a tour guide into the business world.”

That’s how Matthew Hanks, a doctoral candidate in kinesiology, described the new Tiger Cage Summer Accelerator Program for Auburn University student-led startups. “It’s assuming you know very little about starting your own business, then guiding you through it,” said Hanks, one of 12 students from eight business startups involved in the first-year program.

The Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator — located in the Auburn University Research Park — is operated and managed by the Harbert College of Business. The eight-week crash course welcomes students into the world of startups by teaching:

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–How to protect intellectual properties
–Pricing strategies
–Marketing and sales strategies
–Competitor analysis
–Product development
–Communications skills
–And, of course, how to make the perfect pitch to investors

“The purpose is to accelerate their business ideas and turn them into business startups,” said Harbert College Director of Entrepreneurship Strategy Lou Bifano, former vice president for business development at IBM. “In eight weeks, we compress the amount of time it takes to provide them with a set of learning experiences to try to minimize the mistakes they might make and to increase the probability that they are going to be successful in launching a business.”

Bifano isn’t alone in this adventure. The Tiger Cage Accelerator has brought on three long-time business professionals as Entrepreneurs in Residence who serve as mentors for student startups.

“What’s so exciting is the infrastructure of this program is really coming into place and this is not just a Harbert College of Business initiative,” said Entrepreneur in Residence Scott McGlon, who has helped build and manage startups for the past 20 years. “This a university-wide initiative to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

McGlon joins Kevin Sandlin, who specializes in helping startups in the Atlanta area, and Zilliant CFO Phil Fraher, who brings venture capital expertise.

“We bring in the real-life scenarios that these startups will go through,” McGlon added. “We are trying to prepare them for what’s going to be taking place and keep them on track with milestones we outlined for them. Really, it’s all the way through execution. Whether it’s a marketing plan, a social media plan, customer discovery – everything that you could imagine that a startup is going to go through.”

The summer program received a boost from a $1 million permanent endowment established by 1982 Harbert College alum Benny M. LaRussa and his wife, Lynn.

“We piloted the program last summer. It is great to have the resources and assistance to scale it up,” said LaKami Baker, Managing Director of the Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship.

The program format is a set of interactive lectures each morning with periods in the afternoons for business plan and communications skills work. “A cornerstone is being able to communicate verbally, communicate in writing, and being able to inspire people that this is a great business idea,” Bifano said.

For example, Michael Knotts, a doctoral student in industrial engineering, credited the accelerator for vastly improving his communications skills with would-be clients. “We’re learning to conduct what we call problem interviews,” said Knotts, who claimed his method of metal-additive manufacturing is less expensive and faster than existing products. “We’ve already gone out to different industries where we think that there’s a problem, or a need, where our product fits. We’ve gotten fantastic feedback.”

McGlon is excited to see the fruits of the accelerator already beginning to pay off. “Three businesses have a high probability of securing patents,” he said. “We’ve discovered that over the past few months, one has already generated revenue and has great momentum.”

Three of this year’s Tiger Cage business pitch competition finalists received spots in the accelerator. ESCAPE Therapy, a specially-fitted electrotherapy garment, won the Tiger Cage competition and $50,000 in funding and services to help launch the business. Hanks, a member of the ESCAPE Therapy team, is already seeing the benefits.

“None of us were business-minded individuals as our concept was founded on our passions,” he said. “The next hurdle for us was trying to figure out the nuances into getting this thing to actually take off.”

Dawn Michaelson, a doctoral student in consumer and design sciences and fellow ESCAPE Therapy team member, explained how that happened. “We’ve been taken through the process of making sure that our experiences and the people that we have talked to for our product are actually part of a larger customer segment,” she said. “There really are a lot of injured patients with the same experiences (need), so we know that our product will be viable in the marketplace.

“The Accelerator has shown us what we need to plan for next. On Fridays, we are asked, ‘Where are you with your company?’ ‘How are you progressing?’ ‘Where do you need help?’ The program is helping us structure our company with our product, but it’s also helping us with the company formation. We’re getting help on both angles.”

Olivia Cook, doctoral student in public administration and public policy, and co-founder of Snippety-Snap, a camera phone stand and integrated mobile app, said, “We are getting a better understanding of how to go out there and figure out who our customers are. With this – it’s helping us fine-tune our ideas and our product that we’re trying to bring into this big world.”

(Courtesy of Auburn University)

1 month ago

Auburn University research team discovers Zika-transmitting mosquito species in Alabama

(P. Smith)

Auburn University researchers have discovered the presence of Aedes aegypti — the primary mosquito that transmits Zika virus, yellow fever and other flaviviruses — in Alabama.

After a 26-year absence of the mosquito, Sarah Zohdy, Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Assistant Professor of Disease Ecology, and wildlife sciences undergraduate student Victoria Ashby have discovered the species in Mobile. Ae. aegypti was thought to have been eliminated from the state.

“Our CDC-funded research has not only allowed for the detection and molecular confirmation of the mosquito in the state, but over the last year we have documented the spread of the mosquito from central Mobile to all of Mobile County,” Zohdy said.

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The study was conducted from July 2016 to September 2017. Mosquitoes were collected twice a month from the grounds of various tire shops, gas stations, abandoned buildings and open containers quantified to estimate larval abundance. A total of 1,074 mosquitoes were collected, with Ae. aegypti being detected most commonly in the 36606 ZIP code of southwest Mobile, where there were more open containers than any other area in the city.

Since 1991, Ae. aegypti was thought to have been displaced in Alabama by another container-breeding mosquito, Ae. albopictus, because Ae. albopictus larvae are better competitors with resource-limited habitats and the males are capable of mating with Ae. aegypti and rendering the females sterile. Despite these advantages, Mobile is the ideal habitat for Ae. aegypti reintroduction or for remnant populations to persist because the city’s maritime traffic and its diverse mix of urban, suburban, rural and industrial environments allow the mosquito to find different habitats where it can either escape from Ae. albopictus or have the competitive upper hand.

The detection of Ae. aegypti confirms that Alabama residents could be at risk to contract several mosquito-transmitted diseases. “This work demonstrates that citizens of Alabama may be exposed to the mosquito vector of Zika, chikungunya and Dengue fever viruses,” Zohdy said.

Zika virus spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Female mosquitoes become infected by ingesting microbes from a person’s blood while biting them and then passing those microbes to the next person’s blood stream. Once infected, the mosquito is then thought to remain infected and able to pass on the virus throughout the remainder of its life, about two to four weeks. During this period they may take three to four blood meals, biting up to four or five people during their lifespan. Ae. aegypti is particularly problematic because it will also bite during the day and is very adaptive to different environments.

Specific geographic areas of greatest risk are correlated to the existence of the Aedes species. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has developed estimated-range maps using models that predict potential geographic ranges where the Zika-transmitting mosquitoes would likely survive and reproduce based on local and historical records and suitable climate variables. According to the 2017 maps, the Zika-transmitting mosquito species are very likely to exist throughout the southeastern U.S. and as far west as California and as far north as Delaware.

Despite Alabama being an ideal habitat for mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus, very little mosquito surveillance data has been collected from around the state. Zohdy said that because of its research efforts and the discovery of Ae. aegypti, her team is now working with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

According to the CDC, 449 symptomatic Zika virus disease cases were reported within the U.S. in 2017, with three reported in Alabama and two in Georgia. The majority of cases were instances of travelers contracting the disease from affected areas. Seven cases were acquired through presumed local mosquito-borne transmission — two in Florida and five in Texas.

Zohdy’s team is conducting research in all 67 counties in Alabama to determine how widespread Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus are across the state.

In an effort to crowd-source mosquito surveillance data around the state, Zohdy’s research team has partnered with Prakash Lab at Stanford University to develop and implement an app called “Abuzz,” which will allow Alabama residents to record the sound of a mosquito flying. From this recording, the app can identify the species of mosquito and whether that species could potentially carry a disease by the sound of the buzzing of its wings.

Once deployed, the app can empower volunteer “citizen scientists” to participate in mosquito surveillance to help researchers increase the volume and locations of data collection. “Alabama has had little mosquito surveillance in the past, and we hope this app can change that to make it the best-sampled state in the nation,” Zohdy said.

Zohdy and her team also surveyed Mobile residents to gain insight about their perceptions of Zika virus and the best ways to target mosquito prevention. Of those responses, 70 percent reported a moderate to very high density of mosquitoes in their home and more than half of those surveyed said they feel concerned to extremely concerned that they or a family member might contract Zika virus.

“To help mitigate the threat of the Zika virus it is critical to understand local knowledge and behavioral factors related to exposure to the mosquitoes,” said Wayde Morse, an Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences associate professor of human dimensions, who participated in the research efforts.

The results of the research were published April 5 in the Journal of Medical Entomology, a scientific journal that historically publishes important information regarding mosquito surveillance. “Having this research published is a good way to reach people who study mosquitoes and other disease vectors,” Zohdy said.

Victoria Ashby, a sophomore studying wildlife sciences with a pre-veterinary medicine concentration, has worked with Zohdy’s research team for more than a year and leads fieldwork efforts. “My fieldwork has consisted of biweekly trips down to the Mobile Bay area in order to aspirate for adult mosquitoes and collect larvae using larval dip cups at 25 different sites in 12 ZIP codes,” she said.

After graduation, Ashby plans to attend graduate school to continue on the path of disease ecology research and later attend veterinary school. “I have a strong interest in veterinary epidemiology and public health and throughout my time so far at Auburn, my involvement in the disease ecology lab with Dr. Zohdy has really shaped my academic interests and ambitions,” she said.

Though Zika virus is primarily spread by infected Aedes species mosquitoes, the disease can also be transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person or from an infected pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or at birth.

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika, but the CDC recommends the best way to avoid contracting the disease is to protect yourself from mosquito bites by these tips.

–Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
–Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
–Take steps to control mosquitoes inside and outside your home by minimizing standing water in containers in and around the home.
–Treat your clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.
–Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Always follow the product label instructions. When used as directed, these insect repellents are proven safe and effective even for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Do not use insect repellents on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years old.
–Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.
–Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air-conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
–Prevent sexual transmission of Zika by using condoms or not having sex.

Report suspected illness or learn more about mosquito-borne disease prevention methods.

Read more about Zohdy’s research findings with the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Learn more about the Abuzz app.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Auburn beats NC State for 1st super regional since ’99

(Auburn Athletics)

Josh Anthony drove in five runs and Auburn earned its first super regional appearance since 1999 by pulling away to beat North Carolina State 15-7 on Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament.

Edouard Julien homered and had two RBIs for the second-seeded Tigers (42-21).

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They swept three games in Raleigh to advance to a super regional matchup against the winner of No. 1 overall seed Florida’s regional.

Anthony had an RBI double in the second inning, a run-scoring single an inning later and a three-run double in the eighth for Auburn, which had 16 hits and scored eight unearned runs on five errors by N.C. State.

The Tigers scored seven runs in the final two innings.

Shane Shepard hit a three-run homer in the eighth for the top-seeded Wolfpack (42-18), and Brock Deatherage drove in two runs for N.C. State.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

 

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2 months ago

Auburn University named Alabama’s first Bee Campus USA

(Pixabay)

Bee Campus USA recently announced Auburn University as the first university in Alabama to be certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, designed to marshal the strengths of educational campuses for the benefit of pollinators.

The university joins a group of 39 campuses nationwide aiming to raise awareness of pollinators, food production, native plant species and integrated pest management, all while stimulating the nation’s economy through species protection and the services that those efforts support.

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“Imperiled pollinators are responsible for the reproduction of 90 percent of the world’s wild plant and tree species,” said Phyllis Stiles, Bee Campus USA director. “Auburn University is a stellar example of the influence educational institutions can have on their students and the broader community. Their talented faculty, staff and students offer an invaluable resource for Alabama residents in seeking ways to manage ornamental landscapes in more wildlife-friendly ways.”

These efforts enable Auburn’s faculty and staff to bridge the academic and operational divide to create new opportunities in research, instruction and extension related to pollinators and environmental health.

The Auburn Bee Campus USA Committee began as an informal working group in early 2017 focused on unifying the multifaceted, pollinator-related efforts already underway on campus. The committee now serves as a network of representatives from the academic, extension and operational areas of the university.

“It really was a team effort and a testament to the forward, sustainable thinking of many folks on campus,” said Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and member of the Auburn Bee Campus USA Committee.

To receive the Bee Campus USA designation, Auburn must uphold seven commitments focused on protecting pollinators and their habitats, along with promoting awareness of the roles they play and how others can join efforts to support them.

The student organization Auburn for Bees is transforming campus awareness as the members educate students about the importance of bees and work directly with the Auburn University Laboratory of Insect Pollination and Apiculture, also known as Williams’ “Auburn Bee Lab.”

“This designation is an excellent step toward the protection and education of bees, and I’m proud to see Auburn follow in the steps of other big schools participating in Bee Campus USA,” said Kressie Kornis, president and founder of Auburn for Bees. “Spreading awareness is the easiest step a person can take if they would like to contribute to this cause.”

Auburn for Bees established Beeducation, a new program in which students travel to local elementary schools and talk to children in the Auburn community about bees.

“Seeing how passionate children are about the bees through Beeducation makes me wish older generations like mine had that positive and inquisitive attitude toward bees,” said Kornis. “I know I was never taught about bees in school, and I think this is how that begins.”

Other members of the Auburn Bee Campus USA Committee include representatives from the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture; the Department of Geosciences; the Department of Horticulture; Tiger Dining; Facilities Management; Campus Planning and Space Management; and the Office of Sustainability.

More information is available online.

(Courtesy of Auburn University

2 months 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)

2 months ago

Auburn grad becomes rising star as designer at Victoria’s Secret

(C. Cameron/Facebook)

Christine Cameron will meet someone at the office and they’ll talk shop and eventually they’ll ask which New York design school she went to. Parson’s? Pratt?

“I’ll be like, ‘no, I went to Auburn”’–as in Auburn University in Alabama, as in home to what in recent years has quietly become one of the top fashion programs in the country.

“It’s definitely something that catches people by surprise, because I guess people from Alabama don’t move to New York that often, and I can’t blame them because I kind of miss Alabama,” Cameron says. “But everyone here has been super welcoming to me.”

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And why wouldn’t they be? Christine Cameron is good for business.

Last summer, on the strength of her senior lingerie collection, Cameron landed an internship in New York at Victoria’s Secret that doubled as her final course credit at Auburn. She designed accessories for the company’s popular Pink line, and shadowed anyone who replied “sure” to the emails about wanting to learn as much as possible from people just like them.

Now she is just like them.

Last August, the Monday after graduation, the Lake Mary, Florida native flew back to the Big Apple, walked past the paparazzi-stalking models (like occasional Auburn fan Martha Hunt) outside the Victoria’s Secret entrance on Broadway, and settled into her own cubicle. The internship with Pink had turned into an on-site contract gig for the company’s Very Sexy collection. No more flip flops and water bottles. Less than a week out of college, she was designing bras and teddies for North America’s leading retailer of women’s intimate apparel in the hopes that maybe, just maybe it might one day turn into a full-time position.

It didn’t take long.

In February, Cameron was named Assistant Designer of Bras & Lingerie for the Dream Angels collection. The women wearing the wings. The big time.

It basically started with a doodle.

She laughs.

“I sketched a lot on the bottom of my to-do lists and pinned them all up on the walls of my cubicle in hopes that someone would see them and let me design something.”

One of those sketches was a teddy. Sheer. Plunging neckline. Adjustable Y-back strap. Her boss saw it.

In March, everyone who walked inside the company’s flagship store on 5th Avenue, the largest Victoria’s Secret store in the world, saw it.

The week it was released, the Wildflower Lace Plunge Teddy was Victoria’s Secret’s fourth best-selling piece of lingerie.

“It was the most wild experience to walk in the store and see something that I designed, something I sketched on a to-do list, end up in the store,” Cameron says.

“It doesn’t feel real to be honest.”

But it is real, and it’s getting more real by the day.

Cameron’s second design, the Wildflower Lace Bodysuit, hit stores last month. It’s currently the company’s 6th best-selling lingerie piece. Her first, meanwhile, has moved up to No. 3 and was briefly the season’s No. 1 trending piece on VictoriasSecret.com. She has another design due out later this year.

“It’s kind of been a wild ride,” she says. “It felt like an unattainable goal, so I feel really lucky to have my dream job less than a year out of college.”

Cameron credits her meteoric success not only to Auburn’s increasingly impressive fashion program, but also to all the Yankees she works with.

“There’s a really strong group of women that work here,” she says. “Everyone has been great. They’ve been super-supportive.

“But they think think it’s funny I say ‘y’all.'”

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Opelika hosts premiere of new Melissa McCarthy movie

(Life of the Party/Facebook)

Hollywood rolled out the red carpet in Opelika as college students and residents had the chance to see the premiere of Melissa McCarthy’s new film.

Local media report that Auburn University was awarded the world premiere of “Life of the Party.”

Students showed their school spirit to land the premiere, which took place on Monday at a theater in Opelika. The movie is set to open in all theaters on May 11.

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McCarthy and her husband, director Ben Falcone, gave a $25,000 gift to Auburn University’s performing arts center for the naming of the stage door. Auburn said in a news release that Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema matched the donation for a total $50,000 gift.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

3 months ago

Auburn students win $50K toward electrotherapy garment to aid injury rehabilitation

Team members include doctoral students, from left, Dawn Michaelson, consumer and design services, Matt Hanks, kinesiology, and Sarah Gascon, kinesiology. (AU/Flickr)

Auburn University students who developed a personalized electrotherapy garment to aid injury rehabilitation earned $50,000 in funding and services as winners of the fourth annual Tiger Cage student business pitch competition.

Presented by Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, Tiger Cage identifies and rewards the best early-stage products, services and business concepts that emerge from Auburn students.

ESCAPE Therapy — the business concept of doctoral students Sarah Gascon, kinesiology; Matt Hanks, kinesiology; and Dawn Michaelson, consumer and design services — walked away with the grand prize, edging three other finalists on April 6 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.

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Teams presented their ideas to a panel of industry judges in a manner similar to “Shark Tank.” Judges included Delphinus Medical Technologies CEO Mark Forchette, River Bank & Trust CEO Jimmy Stubbs, Frontier Labs co-founder Sean Cook, Tara Wilson Agency CEO Tara Wilson and MartinFederal Consulting CEO Corey Martin.

Wilson, a 1997 Harbert College finance graduate, said the judges had a “tough decision” choosing the winner.

“The team that won has an innovative idea and product that has the ability to be scalable and I think that was a big differentiator,” she said. “This team can continue to go on in these competitions and their product will be viable to a larger group of people in the end.

“Tiger Cage certainly shows me that Auburn has put together a great group of intelligent students who are thinking about innovation and entrepreneurship. I was very impressed with all four teams.”

ESCAPE Therapy’s prize rundown included the $25,000 cash grand prize, $15,000 in donated services from Allegiance Merchant Services and $10,000 in legal services from Bradley Boult Cummings. Gascon, ESCAPE Therapy’s CEO, certainly understands the potential market for her concept — athletic trainers and physical therapists. She is an aspiring 2020 Summer Olympic Games competitor, training at Auburn University with Team USA Handball.

“Usually, physical therapists require you to do some physical therapy at home and they give you instructions,” Gascon explained. “What happens is the patient says that they are going to do the rehab, but they don’t. They are really visiting the therapist only seven to 10 sessions. In reality, to receive a full recovery they need more than that. Our garment works in conjunction with the physical therapist. The patient can take it home and they can use it while they are also doing the rehab exercises.

“We are bridging the gap between a physical therapist and a patient.”

Winning second place was Snippety Snap — public administration and public policy doctoral candidates Olivia Cook and Courtney Haun — which developed a public cellphone stand and integrated mobile app that allows users to take photographs in popular locations. The team took second place, winning $10,000 in prize money, $10,000 in donated services and another $1,000 by earning the People’s Choice Award.

Enki Engineering took third place and $6,000 for its idea to produce a spiral engineering calculation notebook. Team members were junior supply chain management major Terran Ray, junior software engineering major Garrett Raab and sophomore marketing major Jackie Litschewski.

Finishing fourth and winning $4,000 was Savor, a mobile app concept focusing on the reduction of food waste. The team consisted of junior business major Evan Walker, senior software and aerospace engineering major Rain Li and computer science graduate student Abhishek Jariwala.

Gascon described ESCAPE Therapy’s Tiger Cage journey from a business idea in September to the 2018 champion as “very long.”

“At the start of it, it was just an idea that we wrote on paper,” she said. “We didn’t know how to write an executive summary and we didn’t know what a business model was. We knew nothing in terms of how to operate a true business.”

Then Gascon smiled and said, “But we are doctoral students and are very high achievers. We had to learn all of the different aspects of how to build and develop a business — and we perfected our craft. It’s remarkable that we were here [in the finals] because we think about the first few months and it was just an idea and we didn’t know what we were doing. Now, we have business people coming up and talking to us. We received a lot of mentoring from Dr. [Lakami] Baker. That really helped direct what we wanted to say, how we wanted to say it and what we want to think about in terms of having a successful business. This is our next adventure after school and we’re looking forward to hitting the ground running.”

ESCAPE Therapy already has a list of potential customers.

“A lot of my Team USA teammates are saying, “When will this come out? We want it right now!” Gascon said.

3 months ago

WATCH OUT: Disease-carrying ticks widespread across Alabama

(M. Finney)

As a turkey hunter, I am keenly aware of the threat posed by sneaking through the Alabama woods. And I’m not talking about the danger of encountering a member of the serpent family.

I’m talking about something much, much smaller but possibly just as harmful.

It’s the family of ticks that turkey hunters dread each spring, and the prevalence of disease-carrying ticks is becoming more evident each year.

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Emily Merritt, a research associate at Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, has been working on a project, with funding assistance provided from the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson) through the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF), since 2015 to determine the species of ticks in Alabama and their ranges.

Merritt said a study on ticks and tick-related illnesses hadn’t been done since the early 1990s, and it was very limited in scope.

The study that started in 2015 was to update and expand that research to include field collection sites for ticks.

“We collected ticks once a month for a year,” Merritt said. “We were all over the state. We also worked with WFF wildlife biologists to collect ticks off of deer for all three years and with the USDA (Department of Agriculture) to get ticks off of raccoons for two years.”

The most commonly collected ticks included the Lone Star tick, the Gulf Coast tick, the black-legged tick (aka deer tick) and the American dog tick.

The Lone Star tick is the most common tick in Alabama and can transmit a host of diseases, including the alpha-gal red meat allergy, Southern rash disease (a Lyme-like illness), tick paralysis and spotted fever diseases that are closely related to Rocky Mountain spotted fever. A white dot in the middle of the tick’s back is the reason for the Lone Star name.

“We found that the Lone Star tick and the Gulf Coast tick are the most aggressive,” Merritt said. “They hunt down their prey. Some ticks sit and wait, but the Lone Star and Gulf Coast ticks will actively seek out hosts. Turkey hunters complain that when they’re hunting they can actually see ticks crawling to them. Usually, that’s the Lone Star tick. I’ve also heard it called the turkey tick.”

Merritt said the Lone Star tick is found primarily in hardwood stands, while the Gulf Coast tick, which is a little larger and transmits similar diseases, is found primarily in more open areas with shrubs.

“The Gulf Coast tick likes areas like new clear-cuts, and they are found in controlled burn areas,” she said. “These are harsh, hot environments where you don’t often find ticks, but the Gulf Coast tick loves it.”

The tick that has gained the most notoriety because of its association with Lyme disease is the black-legged tick.

“It is the main culprit for spreading Lyme disease, but it also can spread other illnesses, like anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis and tularemia,” Merritt said. “We find black-legged ticks equally in pine and hardwood stands.”

Merritt said the American dog tick also can transmit all the diseases associated with the other tick species.

“As the name implies, they bite dogs a lot,” she said. “We find them in people’s backyards, especially if they’ve got a nice, green lawn and a nearby wooded area. Obviously, people’s dogs are at risk. If their kids play in the backyard or if you’re gardening or landscaping in the yard, people can come in contact with the American dog tick.”

At one time, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insisted that Lyme disease was limited to the Northeast U.S., with a concentration of the disease around Lyme, Conn. In recent years, the presence of Lyme-like disease (Lyme borreliosis) has been acknowledged in Alabama.

“Lyme disease refers to one specific bacteria,” Merritt said. “Lyme borreliosis indicates there is a host of similarly related bacteria that cause illness in Alabama.

“Another thing we hear from doctors is there is no Rocky Mountain spotted fever here. That’s not true at all. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has been tracking this. The problem with the CDC and other health agencies is they don’t consider it much of an issue down here. But it definitely is an issue.”

In fact, a graphic from ADPH shows that spotted fever-type illnesses have skyrocketed in recent years compared to the other tick-related illnesses.

“People are getting sick from ticks down here,” Merritt said. “So it’s counterproductive for those agencies to say it’s rare. If you are an outdoors person your chances of coming in contact with these ticks is pretty decent. There is definitely a risk.

“One of the reasons I’m trying to get the word out, and when we publish our research (later this year), is we really need doctors to recognize that these tick-borne illnesses are here in Alabama.”

One aspect of Merritt’s research includes a survey conducted through the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The survey was sent to hunters and anglers to ask about their experiences, knowledge of and costs associated with ticks and tick-borne illnesses.

For those who spend time outdoors, Merritt said the project research found that the most effective deterrent for tick attachment is a spray that contains permethrin.

“You don’t apply it to your skin,” Merritt said. “You spray it on your clothes, boots, hats, socks, backpacks, basically any fabric. When I go camping, I spray my tents and tarps with it. Depending on what brand you get, it will last anywhere from two weeks or two washings to six weeks and six washings.

“More so than bug spray, we found that the products with permethrin significantly reduced the amount of ticks we encountered. It also works well on other biting insects like chiggers and mosquitoes.”

Although the likelihood of contact with ticks is higher during the warmer months, Merritt said the insects are active year-round in Alabama.

“Be on the lookout, not only on pets, but your children, your loved ones and yourself,” she said. “If you go outside, there is the potential to come in contact with ticks. When you come back inside, check your clothes and gear immediately to see if there are any crawling ticks on you, your pets or children. Then take it a step further and check your body thoroughly for ticks. If you need to use a mirror or a partner, do that. Ticks can hide in all sorts of areas that are hard to see.

“And the longer a tick is attached, the better the chances are to get a tick-borne illness if that tick is harboring that illness.”

If you do find a tick attached to your body, Merritt said don’t haphazardly try to remove the insect.

“Don’t try to pick it off with your fingers or burn it off with a match or anything like that,” she said. “Get tweezers and get as close to the skin as you possibly can. Firmly grasp the tick where it attached to your body and start pulling with steady, even pressure until it eventually releases. It might be uncomfortable and a little painful, but you want to get that tick off as soon as you can.”

Merritt said tick-borne illnesses may cause symptoms as early as a couple of days, but symptoms could also occur as late as a couple of months after the exposure.

“If you start to experience flu-like symptoms, like aches and pain, or you see an expanding red rash, sometimes spotted and sometimes circular, you need to see a doctor,” she said. “It’s normal for a bite to be red, but if you see an expanding rash or it seems to be spreading to other parts of your body, that’s a clear indication that you do have a tick-borne illness.”

Merritt said if the tick is found it can be saved for testing by taping it to an index card, placing it in a freezer bag and storing it in the freezer.

“But don’t wait for test results,” she said. “If you think you have a tick-borne illness, your doctor should go ahead and start treatment. For most tick-borne illnesses, that involves treatment with antibiotics. For tick paralysis, it’s removal of the tick. For the alpha-gal allergy there is no treatment. You just have to avoid eating red meat, and that’s terrible.”

For more information, go here or this website, the Alabama Lyme Disease Association’s website.

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

4 months ago

Apple CEO to receive human rights award in Birmingham

(CNBC/YouTube)

Apple CEO Tim Cook is being honored by a civil rights group in his home state of Alabama.

Cook will receive the 2018 Human Rights Award from the Birmingham Metro Southern Christian Leadership Conference for his advocacy for equality and safety in the workplace.

The organization will present the award at a banquet on Wednesday in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

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King was the founding president of the SCLC in 1957.

Cook will also participate in a student symposium about civil rights, education and innovation at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Cook was born in Mobile, Alabama, and graduated from Auburn University. He has been chief executive of Apple since 2011.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

4 months ago

Auburn University formally installs its 19th president

(Auburn University)

Auburn University in Alabama has officially installed its new president.

News outlets report that Steven Leath was installed as the university’s 19th president Thursday.

He was hired in March 2017 and succeeds Jay Gogue, who held the post since July 2007 before retiring last summer.

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Leath says Auburn intends to hire over 500 tenure-track faculty by 2022. He says that transformational hiring plan will facilitate will facilitate scholarship growth, improve faculty-student ratios and enhance their partnership capabilities.

Leath says they recently completed the most successful fundraising campaign for a university in the history of Alabama.

Leath says sources for funding new facilities and expanding existing ones will be considered a collaboration with their development partners and Gov. Kay Ivey, who was in attendance and is an Auburn graduate.

(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

8 months ago

Alabama universities provide new business incubators to launch young entrepreneurs

The Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator celebrated its official ribbon cutting in October. (Image: Auburn University)

 

 

Alabama universities are providing new launch pads for entrepreneurs and their innovative business ideas across the state.

Several new incubators have opened or are in the works, and all of the projects have the potential to help spin out new jobs and investment for local communities.

At the University of Alabama, the Technology Villages program has kicked off with two partner cities – Cullman and Fairhope – and the goal of creating entrepreneurial hubs that will fuel tech business growth.

The program is a “unique bend on economic development” that will be especially useful in small and rural communities that don’t have a lot of money to spend on business recruiting efforts, said Dr. Rick Swatloski, director of UA’s Office for Technology Transfer.

“Successful communities are required to continue to aggressively recruit new companies, but also diversify to support vital new small company growth that represents over half of new jobs created in the United States today,” he said. “We look forward to communities, private companies, federal agencies, individuals and Alabama corporations joining the University in this critical job creation mission.”

The Technology Villages program assists communities in building and operating storefront technology-focused incubators. In Cullman, the city has renovated a 2,200-square-foot space for its Village in the downtown business district, and in Fairhope, BBVA Compass has pledged space for the Village, also downtown.

The goal of the centers is not to be traditional incubators; rather, they will function as start-up resource hubs for distance learning and consultant support. The university also will provide business development services, including help with research, patents and contract manufacturing strategy.

“Both communities have secured initial funding for the program, and identified the location,” Swatloski said. “The next critical step for both will be the hiring of a director to oversee the day-to-day operations. Additionally, the communities are continuing to identify additional key partnerships to help ensure the sustained success of the program.”

Technology Villages is based on a five-year pilot program conducted by Clemson University in five South Carolina cities. In the first 18 months of that initiative, programs in Bluffton and Rock Hill created more than a dozen companies and nearly 70 new jobs.

TIGER CAGE ACCELERATOR

Meanwhile, Auburn University recently opened the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator, a 2,700-square-foot space at the Auburn Research Park that provides student-led startups with office and meeting space, along with access to mentors.The facility is a collaborative effort between the Harbert College of Business’ Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship and the Auburn University Research and Technology Foundation.

Harrison Evola is a recent Auburn graduate and founder of FetchMe, a concierge delivery service that has experienced significant growth over the past year.

Evola has been using the incubator space for his business operations, and he has also participated in Auburn’s Tiger Cage student business pitch competition.

“The Tiger Cage center is so helpful,” he said. “I have a place to meet with employees, keep my work stuff, work 24/7 and I’m surrounded by other kids who have ambition like me as well.”

The idea for FetchMe was born when Evola was a teenager working for Papa John’s Pizza, where he did everything from making and delivering pizzas to washing dishes and helping customers.

“I liked interacting with people, and I thought it would be cool to own my own business. I took that thought and applied it to FetchMe,” he said.

The startup, which delivers restaurant food, groceries, snacks, coffee and more, made its first delivery a year ago. Today, the firm does 1,500 orders per month and has partnered with more than 25 restaurants in the Auburn area, with plans to expand further. A complete list of partners and services can be found at FetchMeDelivery.com.

INVENTION TO INNOVATION

At the University of Alabama in Huntsville, construction is underway on the D.S. Davidson Invention to Innovation Center (I²C), which will serve as an incubator for entrepreneurs and new business development in the region.

The three-story, 46,650-square-foot building is expected to be complete by early 2019, and it features easy access to UAH’s College of Business, as well as the university’s library, engineering, and science and technology facilities.The facility’s mission is three-fold: stimulating growth of new and existing science and engineering high-tech companies; catalyzing formation of a resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem in the northern Alabama and south central Tennessee regions; and building partnerships with various entrepreneurial ecosystems and hubs to create pathways that empower, ignite, and motivate the community to make ideas happen.

“I²C facility and programs will support entrepreneurs on building scalable, investable, high-growth, technology-focused businesses that will serve as catalysts for economic development and regional innovation,” said Rigved Joshi, who oversees strategy, programming, partnerships and daily operations at the center.

The incubator is named for Huntsville businesswoman and philanthropist Dorothy S. Davidson, who made a $5 million gift to UAH in support of the project. Other funding came from the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Innovation Fund, Madison County Commission, City of Huntsville, UAH Foundation and U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration.

Davidson, who is chief executive and board chairman of Huntsville’s Davidson Technologies Inc., said she knows how hard it is to start a business when you don’t have the support you need. Most people fail, she added, not because they don’t have the technological expertise but because they lack business skills.

In the new incubator, small business owners will benefit from the university’s expertise and the close proximity of peers at Cummings Research Park.

“They won’t necessarily compete with the businesses in Huntsville, but they will be coming out with innovative ideas to improve what’s already here with help from the university,” Davidson said. “That will make the incubator an open door to creating small businesses, giving those with innovative ideas a place to go, get set up, and develop more technology.”

(By Dawn Azok, courtesy of Made in Alabama)

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9 months ago

Auburn Student Develops Algorithm that Detects #FakeNews

Photo courtesy of Auburn University
Photo courtesy of Auburn University

According to Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, a doctoral candidate in business analytics is a part of a research team that has developed an algorithm that can detect fake news. Ross Gruetzemacher and the Auburn research team will present their findings before judges at the Teradata University Network Analytics Challenge in Anaheim, Ca. on Oct. 22-23.

According to the college’s press release, social media platforms have recently launched offensives against bots and individuals that deliberately push false news stories, misinformation, and hoaxes into the public sphere. While politicians have stressed the possibility of this “fake news” swaying elections, there is also evidence that it can sway financial markets.

Recently, a false headline suggesting that Google was planning on purchasing Apple for $9 billion began to circulate around the internet. While the headline was simply a hoax, Apple’s stock made a minor jump as the article made its rounds. JPMorgan Chase has suggested that this could be due to the fact that only 10 percent of daily stock trades are performed by humans. The rest are conducted by computer algorithms that can scan news headlines for trading tidbits. When fake news is spread, that artificial intelligence could be lead to make a bad decision.

“We have been collecting Twitter data nonstop since about March,” said Gruetzemacher on training the algorithm. “We generate topic clusters from real and fake news and use it to classify news stories as either real or fake.”

“Specifically, the study of fake news is significant to ensure the integrity of political and civil discourse in this country and throughout the world,” he said. “It’s significant to provide everyone with true information and to not confuse people with the dissemination of fake news as, or portrayed as, a legitimate news article.”

The algorithm could be a huge asset for social media platforms in the near future, as more and more people being to rely on social media and the internet as their main news source.

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9 months ago

Suspended Auburn Assistant Basketball Coach Released On 100K Bond

Photo from AuburnTigers.com
Photo from AuburnTigers.com

Suspended Auburn Associate Head Basketball Coach Chuck Person has been released from federal custody on a $100,000 bond.

As we reported earlier, Person was arrested by federal officers after the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York charged himself and four other collegiate basketball coaches with fraud and corruption. Federal officials claim that Person’s accepted payments from a sports agent in exchange for access to Auburn players.

As part of an extensive investigation, four coaches from different organizations were arrested. Speaking to the serious nature of their crimes, Joon H. Kim, acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York said, “Coaches at some of the nation’s top programs were taking cash bribes, managers and advisers were circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company were funneling cash to families of high school recruits.”

Person is currently suspended without pay from his role at Auburn University. As part of his bond, he has surrendered his passport and is only allowed to travel to New York for court appearances.

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9 months ago

Auburn Students Recognized for Smartphone Vital Sign Monitoring Technology

Original photo courtesy of Auburn University. Alterations (Auburn logo) made by Yellowhammer
Original photo courtesy of Auburn University. Alterations (Auburn logo) made by Yellowhammer

Two graduate students and their faculty advisor from Auburn University have been recognized for their demonstration of the “SonarBeat” vital sign monitoring system. Xuyu Wang, Runze Huang, and Shiwen Mao, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, developed the groundbreaking technology, which uses wireless signals to monitor respiration and heart rates. They were awarded the Best Demo award at an international conference hosted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

“We have been working on this system for over a year,” said Shiwen Mao, engineering professor and director of the Wireless Engineering Research and Education Center. “We use a Wi-Fi signal and acoustic signal to detect respiration and heart rates of a patient. Rather than using sensors that attach to the chest or clip to your fingertips, the technology is contact-free, low-cost, easy to deploy, and suitable for long-term monitoring of a patient’s conditions.”

“The signal hits on the chest of the patient—there is a chest movement induced by breathing and the movements of the heart—and the wireless signal changes,” he said. “Those chest movements change the feature characteristics of the signal, and we have a wireless receiver which picks up the reflected signal to detect the small variations induced by the movements. We are then able to make accurate estimates of respiration and heart rates.”

According to the university, the app has been tested in a living room, office space, and crowded theater. The next step is to pursue partnerships with researchers in medical schools to test the full medical potential of the technology.

Mao said the technology could be used in the home to assist those who are living alone. The monitored data can be used to detect anomalies and send an alert to the doctor or patient. The app could also be used to warn a drowsy driver if they are about to fall asleep. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of this new technology is its ability to penetrate obstacles. Theoretically, the technology could be used in disaster situations to detect survivors trapped under rubble.

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10 months ago

Small Town, Big Style in Alabama

Newbern Fire Station and Town Hall by Rural Studio (Facebook)
Newbern Fire Station and Town Hall by Rural Studio (Facebook)

Once the epitome of the crushing poverty so characteristic of the rural south, this town in Hale County has since become a hotbed for design and innovation. According to Architecture Design Magazine, students in Auburn University’s architecture program, Rural Studio, have been transforming the small town of Newbern into an architectural haven since 1993.

The students have been building and designing structures that not only improve the lives of residents, but add a modern edge to a town filled with mobile homes and antebellum houses. The students have produced a shimmering polycarbonate firehouse, constructed a town hall out of cypress timbers, and renovated an unoccupied bank into a public library. Newbern’s former librarian, Alfreda Howard, says that visitors “marvel at the creativity inside.”

The Rural Studio program was the brain child of Samuel Mockbee, a Mississippi-born architect who set out with a goal of rallying students to build for the poor. Affectionately known as “Sambo,” Mockbee set out to create houses for lower-income families in the community. However, these houses were not just normal houses. Mockbee and his students used all kinds of materials from carpet tiles to tires to construct their contemporary housing.

The lack of building-code enforcement in Hale County allows students to experiment and test the limits of their creativity. They work in teams to create drawings and physical mock-ups of their designs, which are then rigorously tested by faculty and architecture critics. “You have to show that you deserve to build,” says Xavier Vendrell, an architect from Barcelona who joined the faculty in 2013.

Andrew Freear has carried on Mockbee’s legacy since his death in 2001. When the community requested that the program’s focus shift toward public buildings, Freear did just that. Students now design everything from schools, to senior centers, to animal shelters. “We tend to be suckers for scrappy underdogs,” Freear  explained.

One of the biggest triumphs of the program is the renovation of the 600-acre Perry Lakes Park. Once closed for decades, the students have turned the park into a must-see attraction. Throughout the park, students constructed an elegant bridge, a pavilion for events a performances, and a perch made from the armature of an old fire tower.

Along with the program’s architectural ambitions, Rural Studio hopes to redevelop the community’s local agriculture. The area has become barren in terms of produce, and students believe that fresh fruits and vegetables would benefit everyone in Newbern.

The students and the program remain a central piece in the culture of Hale County. Unlike many architects who take on a project from afar, Rural Studio has invested into the community from day one. “We don’t fly in and fly out,” Freear says. “We’ve dug ourselves in here, and we live surrounded by our projects.”

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10 months ago

Two Auburn University Bus Drivers Charged with Rape

Auburn Police have arrested two employees of First Transit, the operator of Auburn University’s Tiger Transit bus system, on charges of rape and sodomy. Tony Martin Patillo (51) and James Don Johnson, Jr. (32) were arrested in relation to a sexual assault that occurred late Friday night on a Tiger Transit bus operated by the two men.

According to The Plainsman, the Auburn Police Division responded to a report of a male exposing himself while standing over a female at approximately 11:50 p.m. Friday. Police found Patillo near the side of the roadway and detained him, but were unable to locate the victim at the time. Patillo was arrested on four counts of public lewdness and taken to the Lee County Jail.

After further investigation, it was determined that the victim, who was incapacitated at the time, boarded a Tiger Transit bus late Friday night. She was then allegedly sexually assaulted in the back of the bus by Patillo, while Johnson drove the bus and engaged in actions to perpetuate the crime. Both were subsequently charged with first-degree rape and first degree sodomy. Johnson was arrested at his Auburn residence on Saturday.

According to Auburn University Campus Safety and Security, the assault occurred on a Tiger Ten bus that runs from downtown Auburn to several off-campus housing locations from 10:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. The service is provided as a safe way for students to get home after a night out.

“Our top concern is the well-being of the victim, and we cannot stress in strong enough terms our shock and distress over this despicable act,” Campus Safety said in their statement. “We immediately provided support and all available resources to the victim and continue to do so.”

The Tiger Transit buses are not operated directly by the university. Rather, First Transit is contracted to employ drivers and provide transit services for Auburn students. According to their website, First Transit performs background checks, drug screenings, and requires licenses for all its drivers. In fact, part of its agreement with Auburn University requires it to perform background checks on all drivers.

On Monday, the university released a statement regarding the incident, saying that it was evaluating its relationship with the transit operator.

“Two arrests have been made resulting from a sexual assault that occurred early Saturday morning.

Auburn University is working with the City of Auburn Police Division in their investigation. Our top concern is the well-being of the victim, and we cannot stress in strong enough terms our shock and distress over this despicable act. We immediately provided support and all available resources to the victim and continue to do so.

The suspects were employees of First Transit, the contractor hired by Auburn to provide late night transportation service for students. The contractor is required to conduct thorough background checks on its employees and has terminated the employment of both suspects. We are evaluating the future of the University’s relationship with First Transit. As this is the subject of an ongoing investigation, further questions should be directed to the Auburn Police Division.”

Patillo is being held on a $127,000 bond, while Johnson is held on a $125,000 bond. Auburn Police say the investigation is still ongoing.

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10 months ago

Auburn University Awarded $4.7 Million Cybersecurity Grant

Auburn University has been awarded a $4.7 million grant by the National Science Foundation to address the shortage of public sector cybersecurity professionals, according to a news release put out by the university. The grant is an extension of NSF’s CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program that funds a student’s education in the cybersecurity field in return for service to a government agency after graduation.

Auburn plans to use the grant to recruit more students from underrepresented populations and raise cybersecurity awareness throughout Alabama communities. Christopher Roberts, Dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering stressed the impact of the grant on Auburn’s program:

“In recent years, there have been many high-profile cyberattacks on our nation’s institutions, underlining the importance of Auburn’s education and research initiatives in this area. This funding from NSF will support our work in preparing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals so they are capable of addressing this ever-evolving threat.”

Auburn offers its Scholarship for Service program to students studying computer science, software engineering, computing engineering, wireless engineering, and electrical engineering. David Umphress, director of the Auburn Cyber Research Center, said that the university strives to provide students with “real world, hands on experience” both inside and outside of the classroom. “Every summer, they have to participate in an internship at some type of public employment, such as the Department of Homeland Security, NSA, CIA, FBI or places like that,” Umphress said.

Auburn hopes to ensure that at least half of its SFS recipients are from underrepresented populations. The program plans to work with the Alabama Power Academic Excellence Program, 100+ Women Strong within the College of Engineering, Auburn’s Office of Accessibility, and Auburn’s Veterans Resource Center.

Auburn also hopes to carry its work outside of the classroom and into Alabama communities. “We’re distinguishing ourselves from other SFS schools by embracing our land-grant heritage,” Umphress said. “For the next five years, we’re going to be partnering with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System to try to work with the citizens of Alabama to better understand cybersecurity.”

Auburn and its research programs are one of only 19 National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations designated by the National Security Agency. To learn more about Auburn’s SFS programs, click here.

RELATED: Montgomery Hosts Air Force Cyber Security Conference

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11 months ago

Recapping Auburn’s Softball Allegations

Courtesy of Auburn Athletics
Courtesy of Auburn Athletics

According to ESPN, Auburn University President Steven Leath confirmed that the school has launched a “comprehensive review” of its softball program following allegations of inappropriate conduct under former coach Clint Myers and his son, former assistant coach Corey Myers.

Corey Myers resigned March 30, following allegations from five players who provided administrators with text messages from a teammate’s phone that they believed to be in an inappropriate relationship with the assistant coach. All of the five players who brought the allegations have since left the team.

Perhaps most troubling in these events is that the five players told ESPN that “Auburn officials responded to the presence of the texts by imposing a three-hour ‘quarantine,’ in which members of the team were kept in a room and told to delete the messages.”

This “quarantine” was prompted by the team’s refusal to board a bus with the player who they felt was engaged in “intimate” text messages with Corey Myers. One of the players told ESPN, “We said that if she gets on, we’re staying off…It was a team decision.”

The five players told ESPN that the school’s Executive Associate Athletic Director, Meredith Jenkins, told them they could be arrested for taking the text messages from the other player’s phone and they and ordered them to delete the messages.

The investigation has been ongoing for close to a year but it has received renewed attention following a Title IX complaint by former player Alexa Nemeth that read, in part: “Coach Clint Myers knowingly let his son Corey Myers have relations and pursue relations with multiple members of the team.” In July, Nemeth’s attorney also said in a letter to Auburn and Governor Ivey that Auburn’s softball program was “toxic” and “lacked any kind of institutional control.”

At the beginning of the week, Governor Kay Ivey issued a statement to ESPN and to Auburn’s general counsel that read: “Governor Ivey fully supports President Leath, and is sure that Auburn University will fully protect all its student-athletes.”

Following his son’s departure last spring, head coach Clint Myers retired on Aug. 24, saying he did so in hopes of “spending quality time with my wife, my children and my grandchildren.” A previous article by AL.com noted that Myers had been offered a contract extension but Leath said that was “totally false.”

This week, AL.com reported that it received a statement from Auburn University that read, in part:

“ESPN has written an important story about our softball team. It’s a serious matter. As a university that cares deeply about our student-athletes, we have taken this seriously since the first concerns were raised. An investigation was promptly launched when allegations were made. While we don’t by policy or law comment on personnel issues or issues related to students, any suggestion that Auburn Athletics or university administration didn’t take it seriously or didn’t act in the best interest of student-athletes is simply false.

“While the law requires us to protect the privacy of our students, tying our hands about what can be said publicly, there is a reason changes took place with the coaching staff. As much as we may want to give more details, we have been approached by some of the student-athletes involved, directly asking us to protect them because they don’t want their names made public. Once the facts were established, changes to the staff quickly followed. Honoring the student-athletes requests for privacy while taking necessary disciplinary action is not an easy line to walk when the media asks legitimate questions, but we did the right things at the right time for the right reasons.

“At all times, Auburn University will protect its students, obey privacy laws, and deal with anyone on staff who violates our high standards.”

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1 year ago

Saban and Malzahn Appointed to SEC Committee to Address Recruiting Issues

Auburn football coach Gus Malzhan and Alabama football coach Nick Saban
Auburn football coach Gus Malzhan and Alabama football coach Nick Saban

HOOVER, Ala. — Auburn Tigers Head Football Coach Gus Malzahn and Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban will serve alongside two other SEC coaches and two athletic directors on a committee that will help the conference deal with numerous recruiting issues. Specifically, they will deal with the fallout of the NCAA’s latest rule changes.

“Really it’s saying that we have concerns about the new recruiting package that was adopted and you’ve probably read and heard of those concerns by our football coaches,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said at SEC Media Days this week.

Other committee members include Missouri coach Barry Odom, Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason, Florida AD Scott Stricklin, and Arkansas AD Jeff Long. Some of the NCAA rule changes the committee will address include new dates for national signing day, heightened summer camp regulations, and the restrictions on schools hiring “people close to a prospective student-athlete” for two years before and after that student’s enrollment at the school.

The latter rule change has struck coaches as unfair to future colleagues working to make it into the college ranks. “It’s a death sentence to any high school coach wanting to coach college (football),” Malzahn told the Montgomery Advertiser. “It’s not fair.”

Saban has been equally critical of the new rules and stated that they make it tough on student athletes who typically relied on having coaches help them out with summer camps. He also feels that NCAA is working to “close loopholes” that have helped his teams over the years.

Both Alabama and Auburn have big matchups at the beginning of the season. The Crimson Tide takes on Florida State in Atlanta in the opening weekend’s marquee matchup, while Auburn takes on reigning national champion Clemson in week two.

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1 year ago

Auburn, UAB Working to Schedule a Non-Conference Football Game

AUBURN, Ala. — With UAB’s football program returning this season, the athletic department has a big-time future opponent on its mind: the Auburn Tigers. According to reports, both UAB and Auburn have a shared interest in playing a non-conference game in the future. However, the parties have yet to find a date that works for both teams.

The Tigers and Blazers last faced off in a 29-0 Auburn rout back in 1996. Jay Jacobs, Atheltic Director for Auburn University, told Al.com that he would like to see another matchup between the in-state schools. “We’ve had conversations with them,” Jacobs said. “We’d love to play them again if we can work it out on the schedule, but finding a common date is often difficult to do sometimes.”

Auburn has some prominent non-conference opponents in the upcoming years, including PAC-12 powerhouses Washington and Oregon. Add in the contracts the school has with Southern Miss, Kent State, Tulane, and Liberty and it is not tough to see why scheduling UAB any earlier than 2020 is a difficult task.

Even without Auburn, the Blazers have plenty of top-notch SEC competition coming down the pike. Over the next three seasons, UAB will travel to play the Florida Gators, Texas A&M Aggies, and the Tennessee Volunteers.

The UAB Football Team was controversially eliminated back in December of 2014 as one of the several programs cut within the Athletic Department. Officials from the University announced in 2015 that the program would return for the 2017 season following community outrage and increased financial support for the team.

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1 year ago

What lies ahead for the Alabama and Auburn softball teams after winning their regionals

Alabama wrapped up regional play on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Minnesota. That was after the Tide had beaten the Gophers the day before by the same score. They now prepare to face number one overall seed Florida in the Super Regional round of the NCAA Softball Tournament. This will be the first matchup between the Gators and Tide this season.

Auburn is the seventh overall seed in the tournament. The Tigers went 3-0 in their region to get to Super Regional action. After opening with an 11-0 thumping of East Tennessee State on Friday, Auburn beat California on Saturday (4-3) and again on Sunday (8-2) to claim their regional. Because they are one of the top eight seeds in the tournament, the Tigers will have the opportunity to host their Super Regional series. Their opponent will be Oklahoma, and it will be a rematch of last year’s Women’s College World Series finals in which the Sooners came away victorious. Auburn beat Oklahoma 3-2 in this year’s season-opener on February 9th.

The Tide and Tigers weren’t the only SEC teams to make the Super Regional round. Altogether, eight teams from the league made it, which is half of the Super Regional field. This is the second time the SEC has sent eight teams, and it is the only conference in history to accomplish that. Texas A&M travels to Tennessee; Ole Miss heads to UCLA; LSU is playing Florida State; and Kentucky will face Oregon.

The Super Regional round consists of eight separate best-of-three series. These will take place Thursday through Sunday. Then, the eight winners of the NCAA Super Regionals will advance to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

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