Science & Technology
Unanimous, Bipartisan Vote Puts Iowans First Bill would level playing field for farmers to generate renewable energy PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Gregg Heide   
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 09:47

As it heads to a possible vote in the full Iowa Senate, farmers and clean energy advocates in Iowa are touting the benefits of a farm-focused wind energy bill passed in a rare unanimous and bipartisan vote by the Iowa Senate Agriculture Committee (eight Democrats and five Republicans).

The measure, Senate File 372, would require utilities to pay Iowa farmers the same rate for electricity that they pay themselves for wind from their own assets. It establishes a “feed-in tariff” for distributed wind generation on agricultural land, changing current policy so that Iowa farmers can receive income for wind energy that they supply back to the grid.

“These senators should be applauded for putting Iowans first,” said Gregg Heide of the Iowa Farmers Union. “This is a common-sense measure that protects our rural heritage and maximizes our renewable energy economy at the same time. We hope their colleagues in the Legislature show the same commitment to Iowa’s farmers.”

Federal law requires utilities to connect small renewable generation facilities to the grid. Iowa, however, does not require utilities to offer feed-in tariffs. Currently, a mix of state and federal laws allows Iowa utilities to pay individuals a lower price for electricity than what they pay themselves for energy from their own wind farm assets. This financial disparity all but financially locks out many farmers who could otherwise participate in Iowa’s robust renewable energy economy.

“This could be a win-win for Iowa – homegrown renewable energy that strengthens and diversifies our rural economy,” said Ed Woolsey of the Iowa Renewable Energy Association (I-Renew).

Senate File 372 passed the Senate Agriculture Committee on March 7. The legislation is currently eligible for a floor vote by the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate. If enacted into law, it would be the first legislation of its kind in the Midwest, and one of only a handful of similar laws nationally. Under the measure, Iowa farmers could ultimately generate up to a collective 60 megawatts annually.


Governor Quinn Launches Cyber Challenge PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Richard Martin   
Monday, 01 April 2013 12:27

Competition Connects Veterans and Students with Careers in Cybersecurity

CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by the Cyber Aces Foundation to announce the Illinois Governor’s Cyber Challenge, a statewide competition that will fill mission-critical jobs in the emerging cybersecurity workforce. The announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to increase public safety and help Illinois residents find employment. The Cyber Challenge is designed to provide a pathway of learning and workforce training for Veterans and students.

“As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, the threat to our nation’s cybersecurity continues to grow,” Governor Quinn said. “Connecting our highly-skilled Veterans and students with these 21st century jobs is a solid way to increase national security and create another pathway to employment.”

Illinois is one of the first states to hold a Cyber Challenge. Federal officials are quickly expanding cybersecurity forces to counter evolving threats from abroad. For example, the Defense Department’s Cyber Command plans to increase its workforce to 4,000, up from 900. Private sector opportunities in cybersecurity are also rapidly expanding. Currently, cybersecurity careers are the second-fastest growing positions in information technology (IT). They also are among the most secure and the highest salaried in the IT field.

The Cyber Aces Foundation is utilizing Governors’ Cyber Challenges across the country to help identify individuals will the necessary skill set for cybersecurity jobs in order to help meet the growing demand for the profession.

“Similar to our shortage of fighter pilots at the start of World War II, we now have a critical shortage of skilled cyber defenders,” Cyber Aces Founder Alan Paller said. “And like the pilot training programs of that era, Cyber Aces initiatives, such as the Illinois State Championship, are how we will create the specialists we need.”

The cyber initiative includes advanced online training in cybersecurity at no cost to Illinois residents, a special Veterans Cyber Camp for the top performing Veterans and the championship competition to identify the state’s top cyber talent for public and private sector opportunities.

To ensure Veterans know of this opportunity, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) will use its system to contact more than 20,000 Veterans. is the state’s help-wanted job board that helps employers identify new hires, and ensures that business owners are aware of available state and federal tax incentives as well as other programs designed to help grow our economy.

Veterans who believe they have the skills and aptitude for cybersecurity are invited to take a free entry-level education and testing program that focuses on fundamentals with emphasis on three critical modules: networking, operating systems and system administration. A tutorial is included in each module and registration is open today. The quiz competition is April 16-29. Top-performing Veterans will be invited to the Summer Cyber Camp. Another entry-level testing competition will occur in the fall and be open to Veterans, students and other job seekers. A state championship event featuring top-performers from both quiz cycles will occur in the spring.

About Cyber Aces

The Cyber Aces Foundation is a not-for-profit working to discover talent and provide a pathway to employment in critical cybersecurity jobs. The foundation challenges students, Veterans and jobseekers with training and competition, develops their abilities with cybersecurity education and prepares them for cybersecurity careers. It is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit

About U.S. Cyber Challenge:

U.S. Cyber Challenge (USCC) is a program of the National Board of Information Security Examiners (NBISE), a 501(c)(3) organization, and has the mission to significantly reduce the shortage in the cyber workforce by serving as the premier program to identify, attract, recruit and place the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. USCC's goal is to find 10,000 of America's best and brightest to fill the ranks of cybersecurity professionals where their skills can be of the greatest value to the nation.


Governor Quinn Launches Blue Waters Supercomputer at University of Illinois PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Erin Wilson   
Friday, 29 March 2013 09:13

State Invested $60 Million to House Largest and Fastest Supercomputer on Any University Campus

URBANA-CHAMPAIGN – Governor Pat Quinn today joined the National Science Foundation, officials from the University of Illinois and other state and business leaders to launch the Blue Waters Supercomputer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Today’s announcement comes as part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to drive the Illinois economy forward and ensure that the state’s universities are at the forefront of 21st century science. The largest and fastest supercomputer on any university campus in the world, Blue Waters will offer unprecedented capability for advanced science and engineering applications.

“The University of Illinois continues to be a national leader in innovation, research and engineering progress throughout the world, and today’s launch of Blue Waters will allow users to process some of the largest and most challenging problems in science and engineering,” Governor Quinn said. “This revolutionary supercomputer will also provide opportunities for private industry, serving as a powerful economic engine by allowing the development of less costly prototypes.”

The state of Illinois invested $60 million to construct the Petascale Computing Facility that houses Blue Waters. The National Science Foundation funded the purchase of the computer itself, investing an estimated $350 million to purchase the hardware, pay for five years of support services, power and cool the computer, and provide their own staff to support the system and work with scientists who use it.

Blue Waters is a collaborative effort of the United States Congress, the National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois and the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation. It is the most powerful system supported by the National Science Foundation, and gives the university a unique opportunity to perform groundbreaking research that would otherwise be impossible.

“Blue Waters is a truly extraordinary computing system that will enable the nation's researchers, as well as our innovative companies, to achieve breakthroughs in a broad range of science and engineering,” Thom Dunning, director of the university’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications said. “Blue Waters is also a unique resource for the University of Illinois and the state of Illinois, enhancing the path-finding role that Illinois has played in supercomputing for more than 25 years."

“For 146 years the U of I has been bringing solutions to the grand challenges of the world,” University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise said. “Each of our new discoveries has built on the ones before it, creating a chain of knowledge and experience that informs and drives the next idea. Blue Waters represents the next link in that unbroken chain,”

Blue Waters completes quadrillions of calculations every second and is designed to help researchers find insights buried in massive quantities of data. This has crucial applications for astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering. Blue Waters can simulate how the cosmos evolved after the Big Bang, help design new materials at the atomic level, forecast the behavior of hurricanes and tornadoes, assist with genetic mapping to combat disease and simulate complex engineered systems like the power distribution system and experimental aircraft.

Blue Waters is part of the University’s National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). It was built from Cray hardware, operates at a sustained performance of more than 1 petaflop (1 quadrillion calculations per second) and is capable of peak performance of 11.61 petaflops (11.6 quadrillion calculations per second). It would take one person millions of years to complete this many calculations with just a calculator. The system also provides “big data” capacity: 1.5 petabytes of working memory, 26 petabytes of disk and 300 petabytes of tape storage.

“Our university and our state will share an enduring link to the life-changing breakthroughs that Blue Waters yields, discovery that holds promise for accelerating medical advances, predicting the behavior of catastrophic weather events and producing more food to feed a growing world,” Ed McMillan, a member of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees said.

The system is now available for the NCSA’s industry partners, a group of 26 companies and organizations that includes ADM, BP, Boeing, Caterpillar, Dow, GE, John Deere, Procter & Gamble and Rolls Royce.

In commemoration of today’s announcement, the governor also proclaimed March 28, 2013 as Blue Waters Supercomputer Day in Illinois.


Governor announces Iowa’s National Youth Science Camp Delegation PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Office of the Governor of the State of Iowa   
Monday, 11 March 2013 12:42

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry Branstad announced today that Adam Michael Zaccone and Maya Frances Amjadi have been selected as the two most promising young scientific leaders in Iowa’s 2013 high school graduating class.  At the invitation of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia, they will participate as delegates in the 50th year of the National Youth Science Camp held near the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia.  Dylan T. Beyhl (Davenport), Macy Lynnae Murray (Keokuk), Eva Shelton (Williamsburg), and Megan Marie Valentine (Dubuque) have been selected as alternates.

Adam Michael Zaccone, of Harlan, is ranked first in his class at Harlan Community High School where he is captain of the football, wrestling and soccer teams and is active in vocal and instrumental music.  Adam was Mayor and State Party Chairman runner-up at Hawkeye Boys State.  He has participated in summer engineering and robotics programs at Iowa State University, University of Iowa and Kansas University.  Adam aspires to become an engineer and then enter politics.  In his nomination letter Adam wrote, “I think that blending the understanding of science and politics is a unique skill that I have the aptitude and desire to pursue…The amount of science based majors in elected positions is staggeringly small.  People with science based educations are able to help make important scientific decisions that affect our world.”

Maya Frances Amjadi, of Cedar Falls, is ranked first in her class at Cedar Falls High School.  Last summer she completed a paid internship at the University of Northern Iowa Center for Social and Behavioral Research.  At Cedar Fall High School she is Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, a leader of the school’s film festival and on the school Tennis and Speech teams.  Maya is also a World Food Prize Global Youth Institute Borlaug Scholar.  Maya, who plans to become a physician, wrote “…of my many interests I know I want to study math and science because they are the most compelling to me.  I believe they are my best tools for doing the most good in the world.”

Established in 1963 as a part of West Virginia’s Centennial Celebration, the National Youth Science Camp is an annual summer forum where two delegates representing each state exchange ideas with leading scientists and other professionals from academic and corporate worlds.  Lectures and hands-on research projects are presented by scientists from across the United States who work on some of the most provocative topics in science today - topics such as fractal geometry, the human genome project, global climate change, the history of the universe, the fate of our rain forests, and robotics.  Delegates to the NYSC are challenged to explore new areas in the biological and physical sciences, art, and music with resident staff members.  Delegates also present seminars covering their own areas of research and interest.

The National Youth Science Camp’s diverse academic program is complemented by an outdoor recreation program, which leverages the Science Camp’s location in the Monongahela National Forest. The Science Camp’s outdoor program offers backpacking, caving, rock climbing, mountain biking and kayaking.

Maya and Adam will be flown to Charleston, West Virginia, on Wednesday, June 26, and will return home on Saturday, July 20, 2013, after participating in this innovative educational program.  The National Youth Science Foundation®, based in Charleston, West Virginia, covers all expenses, including travel.  More information is available online at and


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Energy Efficiency - Now This is Fun! PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Mark Luger   
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 13:09

Alliant Energy Sends a Positive Message to Students and Families

Minneapolis, MN (March 4, 2013) – Elementary school students will enjoy a fun and educational live theatre performance that teaches them and their parents how to be more energy efficient. The National Theatre for Children (NTC)will perform for students in Fairfield, Dewitt and Cedar Rapids on March 11th and 12th.  The performances are sponsored by Alliant Energy.

The Energized Guyz is a multiplatform energy efficiency program featuring live, professional actors, classroom curriculum and homework assignments.  Parents and teachers also benefit from these dynamic theatrical shows because the performances get their students focused on good energy efficiency habits such as turning off the lights when leaving a room, using CFL light bulbs and unplugging rechargers when not in use.  The program focuses on the following educational concepts:

  • How electricity and energy are made
  • Uses of energy
  • Ways energy is wasted
  • How to conserve energy

Students Test Higher When Linking Natural Resources and Electricity

Studies have shown that linking the need for energy resources to the ways electricity is wasted may help children understand the need for behavior changes, according to Ryan Bliss, project director at RIA, an Oregon-based behavior research firm with expertise in energy-related projects and energy audits. Based on a research study conducted with 30,000 students involved in a similar NTC educational program, “The increased test scores among students who received the NTC curriculum are highly suggestive that in-school energy education helps children learn concepts that can influence behaviors,” Bliss says. “Quality education is crucial to understanding the need to change behavior, and we are seeing increased test scores across all ages, all grades and in both urban and rural schools.”

Dynamic Teaching Platform

“Live theater is a dynamic teaching platform, especially when combined with curriculum activities, in-class discussion and homework assignments that engage parents,” affirms Ward Eames, president of NTC, an organization that has been bringing energy, environmental and social programs to U.S. schools for over 35 years.   Bliss agrees.  “Even young students can understand that they have energy choices.  And the younger they begin learning, the more likely students will retain these concepts throughout their life.

The Energized Guyz features two professional actors who play a variety of characters like the super hero “Nikki Neutron,” his boss “U.R. Fired,” fellow superhero friend “Thunderstorm,” “Bert the Dirt Expert” and the devious villain “The Sneaker.” The performance is action packed with high energy comedy and audience interaction.  Students cheer on and learn from the program’s hero, Nikki Neutron, who needs to stop The Sneaker from wasting all the energy in town.  The show comes complete with professionally designed sets, props and costumes.

About Alliant Energy

Alliant Energy provides electric service to 525,000 customers and natural gas service to 233,000 customers in more than 700 communities throughout Iowa and southern Minnesota  Alliant Energy is committed to providing the energy and exceptional service its customers and communities expect – safely, reliably, and affordably. For more information, visit or call 1-800-ALLIANT (800-255-4268).

About The National Theatre for Children

NTC is the largest touring educational theatre company in the world. Since 1978, NTC has successfully tackled one important issue after another including: financial literacy, electrical safety, water conservation, health care, smoking prevention, recycling, wise energy use, renewable energy, nutrition, and bullying prevention, (to name a few). Our educational outreach programs are entirely underwritten by corporate, non-profit and governmental sponsors who want to be associated with delivering healthy-living messages to students and their families. NTC performs approximately 7,000 times a year throughout the country, actively engaging 2.8 million students and parents through its programming.


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