1 year ago

University of Alabama wins fourth straight championship — in robotics

Make it four in a row.

University of Alabama students who competed in a NASA robotics contest came away with the top prize again, making it four straight years for the team from UA to win.

Alabama Astrobotics took the top prize at the NASA Robotic Mining Competition, besting student teams from more than 50 other institutions in the challenge to build a robot capable of navigating and excavating simulated Martian soil, or regolith.

Made up of about 65 students from across eight disciplines including engineering and computer science, Alabama Astrobotics is the only team to win more than once in the nine-year history of the NASA contest, placing first in 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017 and, now, 2018.

“Our team is just like a football team, you have seniors who graduate at the end and you have new people coming in at the beginning, so every year it’s a completely different team,” said team lead and electrical engineering student Max Eastepp. “For us to be successful this year says a lot for this team and says a lot for how we adapt to new challenges each year.”

Eastepp, a native of New Orleans, said teamwork is critical as students worked from July through the contest this month to design the robot and tackle the new problem NASA presented this year.

Contest organizers revised the rules and rubrics this year to reflect the discovery that water ice is prevalent throughout the Red Planet. The challenge is to mine the precious icy regolith, simulated with gravel in the contest, since water ice will provide oxygen, water and fuel for future off-world colonists.

What that meant for the contest, though, is no points were awarded to teams for digging the top foot of regolith. Teams earned points for collecting the gravel 12 inches below the surface.

UA’s robot mined more of the gravel than any other team in the contest, with many teams failing to mine any gravel.

Also, Alabama Astrobotics was the only team with a robot that competed entirely autonomously, meaning the robot used computer programming to guide itself, mine and deposit the soil and gravel without any directions from students during the contest.

The team placed first in five of nine categories: mining, autonomy, systems engineering paper, efficient use of communications power and outreach reports. In all, the students won $11,000 for use on next year’s robot.

Dr. Kenneth Ricks, team adviser and associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, said the team’s consistent success comes from a culture of sticking to a plan – meeting deadlines, testing thoroughly before competition and paying attention to detail.

“We know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done,” he said. “If our students buy into that process, they know they will have opportunities to be successful.”

The team received funding from the Alabama Space Grant Consortium, NASA, DyneticsFitz-Thors EngineeringCrank N Chrome and the university.

(Courtesy of University of Alabama)

12 hours ago

On this day in Alabama history: Camp McClellan was established in east Alabama

July 18, 1917

Shortly after the United States entered World War I, the War Department established Camp McClellan as a rapid mobilization base and permanent National Guard facility. More than 27,000 men were training at the east Alabama base by the end of 1917. Camp McClellan was originally named in honor of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, and was renamed Fort McClellan in 1929. During World War II, nearly 500,000 military personnel trained there. After being put in custodial status following the war, it was reactivated during the Korean War and Cold War era. The focus shifted to chemical weapons training during and after the Vietnam War. The fort survived one round of military base closings during the 1990s, but it was finally shut down in 1999. The site has shifted to private use as well as for Alabama National Guard training.

38

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 hours ago

Ainsworth in Huntsville: Alabama is ‘the aerospace capital of the world’

Wednesday, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) presented Dr. Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. with the 2019 Thomas R. Hobson Distinguished Aerospace Service Award for a lifetime of exemplary achievement in the aerospace field.

The award presentation came during the Aerospace States Association’s annual dinner, which was held in Huntsville at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

Ainsworth is currently chair of the association, which is a national nonpartisan group composed of lieutenant governors, gubernatorial-appointed delegates and associate members from aerospace organizations and academia.

In remarks shared with Yellowhammer News, Ainsworth honored Alabama’s space legacy, recognizing Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary this week.

459

“Throughout each of the past six decades, Alabama and the Marshall Space Flight Center have created the engines that rocketed man into the heavens,” he said. “It’s here that Dr. Wernher Von Braun and his committed team of scientists and engineers birthed the Saturn V rocket that took men to the Moon and allowed them to place a U.S. flag on the lunar surface.”

“For those reasons, it’s altogether appropriate that we gather in this state and this city for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission,” he continued. “We are fortunate to have Buzz Aldrin, an original moonwalker and living American legend, join us during this conference.”

The conference is set to last through the rest of the week, with attendees working on publicly policy related to the aerospace industry and advocating for their home states.

“The work we do here this week will bring the stars and planets closer to the earth and ensure that future generations are privy to the same dreams and inspirations that the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Shuttle, and Space Station eras provid-ed to generations prior,” Ainsworth told the crowd.

Alabama is set to play a big role in ongoing and future space exploration, as Ainsworth emphasized in an interview with WHNT on Wednesday.

“I was just talking with some industry leaders who are here and they are talking about expanding the existing industry,” he the lieutenant governor said. “I think a lot of new industries are looking here. And the reason why is we are the aerospace capital of the world. I think when you look at our tax environment, with the workforce we are training, Alabama is open for business in aerospace, no doubt.”

Speaking with WZDX, Ainsworth referenced the Artemis program, with companies like United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Alabama set to make history in the very near future.

“Today I had an opportunity to tour ULA where they are building rockets that will literally send our next astronauts to the Moon, and when you look at just the president’s commitment to going back to the Moon, and when you look at potentially the future of going to Mars, it’s an exciting and energetic time in the aerospace industry right now,” Ainsworth advised.

RELATED: Aderholt celebrates Apollo 11, calls for SLS to stay on schedule

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn.

13 hours ago

Apollo 11 is now problematic?

Right now, Alabama, along with the rest of America, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. A mission that culminated in man walking on the moon and fulfilled the vision put out by President John F. Kennedy that it would be done before the end of the 1970s.

In normal times, this would be a time for celebration and unity. Americans from all sectors and political parties would drop their swords and join together to consume media of trying times and magnificent accomplishments.

330

Unfortunately, this is Trump’s America and because of that, the overarching theme that must pulse through every aspect of American culture, which is dominated by the media and their Democrats, is the simple undeniable and universal belief that America sucks.

It’s racist, stupid, sexist, stupid, homophobic, stupid, Islamaphobic, stupid and stupid.

Our soccer team believes it. Our celebrities believe it. Our politicians believe it.

And the news media is going to feed it to us non-stop.

For example, Werhner Von Braun was a Nazi, therefore his accomplishments on this matter are unworthy.

Another example: The space program had too many men, therefore it was problematic.

Another argument is Soviet Russia had more firsts (or something), so America should have focused less on accomplishing the mission and more on diversity.

Who is this for? What American wanted this? Who is the consumer for this news?

Inhabitants of American newsrooms and their woke superfans online.

This was not one outlet, one reporter, one editor — it is across the board.

These are major American media outlets and they cannot resist the urge to scold their fellow Americans for, in this case, the perceived sins of the past.

This is why people hate the media as a whole.

They aren’t offended, they aren’t going to write a letter, they aren’t going to demand someone be fired.

Your average American is sick of this nonsense. They roll their eyes and go on about their business.

This is why people don’t trust them. This is why they are called things like the “enemy of the people” and people applaud it.

This is how you got Trump.

President Donald Trump is the embodiment of the people who are sick of this crap.

And every time the people who work in these newsrooms and under these “legendary” banners write these articles try to scold Americans for some clearly arbitrary offense of the day, or the past, they might as well drop a dollar into Trump’s reelection campaign.

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

14 hours ago

Doug Jones’ approval rating continues to fall

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to lose popularity as 2020 draws nearer.

Morning Consult on Thursday released its polling numbers for the second quarter of 2019, showing Jones’ net approval rating 20 points lower than the first quarter of 2018 when he entered the U.S. Senate.

117

The polling was conducted from April 1 through June 30 and measured registered voters. The results showed 39% of respondents approved of Jones’ job performance, while 37% disapproved and 24% were undecided. The margin of error was 1%.

In contrast, Senator Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) net approval rating is 15 points higher than Jones’, with 46% approving and only 29% disapproving of Alabama’s venerable senior senator.

Jones’ net approval rating has dropped three points since the beginning of the year.

Another poll conducted in April went deeper than Morning Consult’s approval rating surveys, showing that Jones faces nearly insurmountable demographic barriers to reelection.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn.

14 hours ago

Alabama couple turns racist graffiti message into opportunity to respond to hate with love

Jeremy and Gina Miller, an interracial husband-and-wife real estate team in the Birmingham metro area, were shocked on Wednesday to discover a racial slur painted on one of their “For Sale” signs at a local property.

ABC 33/40 reported that “NO N***R” was painted on the Local Realty sign in large white letters.

However, the Millers are responding to this hateful incident purely with love, guided by their faith, according to The Trussville Tribune.

“I think that God has been preparing Gina and me for a long time, in ways that we never would have expected, to touch a lot of people,” Jeremy told the newspaper.

361

The Millers, who live in Clay, will not be pressing charges on the individual responsible for the racist graffiti, whose identity is at this time unknown.

“We would love to know who did it because if we find them, we will show them mercy,” Jeremy advised. “I don’t think anything good comes from pressing charges. That’s not the message here.”

The couple hopes to use the incident to unite their community and lift others up.

“We just got a message on Facebook yesterday about how God spoke to him through my post and our response,” Jeremy told The Trussville Tribune. “It encouraged him to see us responding through love and not through retaliation.”

“When something like this occurs, you can love back instead. We want to unite people,” he added.

Jeremy also wants people to know the racist incident is not representative of their community.

“This is not indicative of the people in this area,” he emphasized. “It happens everywhere and they don’t always say it to your face.”

Perhaps the toughest part of the incident personally for the Millers has been trying to tell their children what happened.

“Having to explain to them what happened with the sign has been a little frustrating,” Gina noted.

The Millers are also using this incident as a learning opportunity.

“We tell [our children] all the time, hurt people, hurt people,” Jeremy explained. “I tell them that even adults do mean things sometimes. When you’re angry, you’re not nice to other people… We want to respond in love when maybe that person hasn’t received such things.”

Jeremy stressed a constant message of love.

“It (racism) is not dead and it probably won’t die for a very, very long time, but we as a culture and society have to keep perpetuating the message of loving one another,” he remarked. “If someone’s hurting and they lash out at you, you don’t have to respond negatively.”

The defaced sign has been replaced with a fresh one that includes both Jeremy and Gina’s headshots.

Read more here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn