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  • Science & Technology
    Ames Team Wins Regional National Science Bowl Competition, Secures Spot in National Finals in Washington, D.C. PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Science & Technology
    Written by Dirk Fillpot   
    Monday, 27 January 2014 11:47

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz today announced that a team of students from Ames was among 11 teams of middle and high school students who won their regional competitions for the 2014 National Science Bowl this past weekend and are advancing to the National Finals in Washington, D.C., in April.

    “The National Science Bowl challenges students to excel and heightens their interest in fields vital to America’s continued scientific advancement,” Energy Secretary Moniz said. “Congratulations to these students for advancing to the National Finals. I wish them the best of luck in the competition.”

    The National Science Bowl brings together thousands of middle and high school students from across the country to compete in a fast-paced question-and-answer format where they solve technical problems and answer questions on a range of science disciplines including biology, chemistry, Earth and space science, physics and math.

    The teams that won their qualifying regional competitions this past weekend and are advancing to the National Finals are:

    Arkansas:  

    Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock  

    California: 

    Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon

    Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies in Los Angeles

    Hawaii:

    Maui High School in Kahului

    Iowa:

    Ames High School in Ames

    Massachusetts:

    Greater Boston Science & Math Team in Andover

    Minnesota:

    Wayzata High School in Plymouth

    New Mexico:

    Los Alamos High School in Los Alamos

    New York:

    Ward Melville High School in East Setauket

    Washington:

    Science Infinity Club in Bellevue

    Wisconsin:

    Appleton West High School in Appleton

    A series of regional middle school and high school tournaments are being held across the country from January through March. Winners will advance to April’s National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., for the final middle school and high school competitions.

    The top 16 high school teams and the top eight middle school teams in the National Finals will win $1,000 for their schools’ science departments. Prizes for the top two high school teams for the 2014 National Science Bowl will be announced at a later date.

    The high school team that won the 2013 National Science Bowl received a nine-day, all-expenses-paid science trip to Alaska, where they learned more about glaciology, marine and avian biology, geology and plate tectonics. The second-place high school team at the 2013 National Science Bowl won a five-day, fully guided adventure tour of several national parks, which included a whitewater rafting trip.

    More than 225,000 students have participated in the National Science Bowl since it was established in 1991, and it is one of the nation’s largest science competitions. Approximately 14,000 students competed in the National Science Bowl last year and more are expected to participate this year.

    DOE’s Office of Science manages the National Science Bowl Finals competition. More information is available on the National Science Bowl website:http://www.science.energy.gov/wdts/nsb/.

     
    7th Annual Quad City Engineering and Science Council (QCESC) All Ages Bridge Building Contest this Friday or Saturday at the Putnam Museum PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Science & Technology
    Written by Christine Cournoyer   
    Monday, 27 January 2014 10:11

    Reminder:  There is still time to pre-register and participate in the 7th Annual QCESC & ASCE Battle of the Bridge Contest this coming Friday or Saturday(January 31st or February 1st) at the Putnam Museum in Davenport.  This is a very fun, very well run event for all ages.  Currently we have 4 openings on Friday & 24 openings on Saturday.   The event webpage is updated regularly to show the teams that have signed up and the current number of openings.  Teams can continue to pre-register until we are full.  No pre-work required to participate.  All of the necessary materials and tools are provided along with support from local engineers including members from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

    Complete event details including the on-line pre-registration form which only takes a few minutes to fill out are available at:

    http://www.qcesc.org/Bridge_Building/Battle%20of%20Bridges.htm 

    All ages of participates are welcome. A team may consist of one, two, three orfour people. All members of the team must be signed up on the registration form. Teams will be categorized as follows:

    • Elementary (grades 4-6)
    • Middle School (grades 7-8)
    • High School (grades 9-12)
    • College (Ages 18-22, or enrolled in post-secondary degree program)
    • Family (any combination - kids, adults, seniors)

    If you have any questions, please contact If you have any questions, please contact e-mail  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or The Putnam Museum’s  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

    Other Upcoming QCESC Events:

    • ·          31Jan – Deadline for submitting a nomination for the annual ESC Awards including STEM Teacher of the Year along with the Engineer and Scientist of the Year.  
      Link to further information Awards will be announced at the annual QCESC Banquet scheduled for 20Feb with further details to be announced.
    • ·          8 Feb – 3rd Annual Quad City FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Regional Qualifer with 24 Teams with students age 14-18 from 3 States including 7 from the Illinois Quad Cities scheduled to participate.  Volunteers are needed to support the event with no previous experience required for many of the positions.  High school and college students are welcome to volunteer along with adults. Link to Volunteer (all Iowa events)  Volunteers are also being sought for the State of Iowa Championship in Iowa City on Feb 22 and the new North Super Regional in Iowa City on  3-5Apr with teams from 13 states competing. 

      We plan to make volunteer assignments this week for the 8Feb QC event so register to volunteer soon.  We will continue to accept volunteers until we are full.

     
    Grassley, Harkin Join Bipartisan Group in Calling on EPA to Revise Renewable Fuel Standard PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Science & Technology
    Written by Grassley Press   
    Friday, 24 January 2014 11:15

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin today were among a bipartisan group of 31 Senators who sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy. The letter is part of an ongoing effort to urge the agency to make changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) 2014 rule.  The Senators share concerns that the EPA’s proposed rule will discourage investment and hurt job growth and rural communities across the country.  

       

    “The EPA is proposing a major step that reverses the momentum on biofuels,” said Grassley. “The progress made toward energy diversity and independence will slip away if the EPA succeeds.  The sentiment from almost one-third of the U.S. Senate is the proposal needs revision. We want the EPA to reconsider.  The President as a supporter of biofuels should weigh in as needed.”    

       

    “The intent of the RFS is to steadily increase contributions from biofuels in our transportation fuels markets to enhance our nation’s energy security, protect the environment, and create jobs,” said Harkin. “The proposed rule, requiring less biofuel in 2014 than in 2013, goes against this intent and is a significant step backward.”  

       

    The EPA’s proposed rule would set the biodiesel target at 1.28 billion gallons, which is below current industry production levels of around 1.7 billion gallons.  It would also reduce the total biofuels target to 15.2 billion gallons.  This is 1.34 billion gallons below the 2013 target of 16.55 billion gallons, and almost 3 billion gallons below the 2014 statutory target of 18.15 billion gallons. 

    The following Senators also signed on to the letter: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dan Coats (R-IN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Udall (D-CO), Ed Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

    The full text of the letter is below:

    January 22, 2014

    The Honorable Gina McCarthy

    EPA Administrator

    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

    1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

    Washington, DC 20460

    Dear Administrator McCarthy:

    We are writing to share serious concerns regarding the EPA’s proposal for the 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS.) Congress passed the RFS to increase the amount of renewable fuel utilized in our nation’s fuel supply. The Administration’s proposal is a significant step backward – undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption. Further, the proposed waiver places at risk both the environmental benefits from ongoing development of advanced biofuels and rural America’s economic future. We urge you to modify your proposal.

    The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) provides the EPA with significant authority to adjust to shifting conditions over the 15-year life of the policy. In any given year, EPA can adjust the advanced biofuel and total biofuel volumes based on anticipated production. While EPA has used the authority to adjust biofuels levels in the past based on anticipated production levels, your proposal, for the first time, adjusts the 2014 overall volumes based on criteria not clearly identified in the law below anticipated production levels of biofuels and even below previous years’ RFS levels. 

    Further, defining the “blend wall” as blends of E10 and then waiving RFS requirements beyond the blend wall creates significant barriers to future biofuels growth. Lack of infrastructure remains one of the key hurdles to further deployment of biofuels into the market. Limiting RFS to levels that can be met with existing infrastructure eliminates incentives to invest in the technologies and infrastructure necessary to meet our domestic policy goal of increasing biofuels production and use.

    If the rule as proposed were adopted, it will:

    • Replace domestic biofuel production with fossil fuels, contributing to a greater dependence on foreign sources of oil and reduce our energy security.
    • Increase unemployment as renewable fuel producers cut back production.
    • Halt investments in cellulosic, biodiesel and other advanced renewable fuels. Rolling back the RFS will, potentially strand billions of dollars of private capital;
    • Undermine the deployment of renewable fuels infrastructure throughout the country;
    • Threaten the viability of the RFS, thereby solidifying an oil-based transportation sector and lowering consumer choice at the pump.

    With these concerns in mind, we request that EPA revise the proposed 2014 RVOs in a manner that promotes investments in the next generation of biofuels and the infrastructure necessary to deploy those fuels into the market. Without a revised proposal, the EPA’s rule will bring severe economic consequences, and prevent the growth of the renewable fuel sector.

    Thank you in advance for your consideration.

    -30-

     

     
    Army Corps, Woolpert Conduct Unmanned Aerial Test Flights PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Science & Technology
    Written by Jocelyn Hodson   
    Tuesday, 21 January 2014 16:16

    DAYTON, Ohio (January 9, 2014)… Woolpert, a national geospatial, architecture and infrastructure firm headquartered in Dayton, announced it has conducted an unmanned aerial system (UAS) joint test flight at Wilmington Air Park with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Mobile District. The test was conducted to determine the viability of using Woolpert’s Altavian Nova Block II unmanned aerial system (UAS) accompanied by a metric camera system for upcoming USACE Mobile District mapping projects.

    The USACE Mobile District has partnered with Woolpert to use the larger UAS because it is more stable and, accompanied with the metric camera system, allows for repeatable, calibrated performance which results in high-resolution data and more accurate imagery.

    “Using an accurate, high-resolution metric camera system with a UAV, we can continue to explore the many applications and benefits of unmanned aerial technology,” said Clint Padgett, Chief, Spatial Data Branch, USACE Mobile District.

    Despite the FAA’s recent announcement of its six UAS test sites, which did not include Ohio in its selection, the USACE Mobile District will continue to work with Woolpert to further develop operational concepts for upcoming 2014 UAS data collection efforts.

    “The Dayton Development Coalition sees UAS as an industry with high growth potential. The entire Dayton Region is positioned to capitalize on future opportunities regardless of the FAA designation,” said Jeff Hoagland, President & CEO, Dayton Development Coalition. “Woolpert and other DDC members are poised to benefit.”

    Through its partnership with Sinclair Community College, Woolpert was able to conduct the test flight using Sinclair’s Certificate of Authorization (COA) granted by the FAA. A COA is currently required in order for organizations to operate a UAV until the FAA opens the air space for commercial use of UAVs.

    The recent test flight was a necessary step in USACE Mobile District’s plans to continue to lead growth of domestic UAS technology use for science applications and reliable, safe and efficient data creation.

    About Woolpert

    Woolpert, ranked by Engineering News-Record as a top national design firm, provides professional design, geospatial and infrastructure services to clients in the public and private sectors. Founded in 1911, Woolpert’s innovative design approach and commitment to the creative application of technology have grown the firm into a leader in the consulting industry. With more than 600 professionals in 22 offices located throughout the U.S., Woolpert’s collaborative and multidisciplinary approach is driven by great people, great clients and great projects. For more information on Woolpert, visit Woolpert’s website. For insight on industry trends and emerging topics, visit our Thought Leaders blog.

    ###

     
    Hacking & ID Theft: Are You Next? PDF Print E-mail
    News Releases - Science & Technology
    Written by Ginny Grimsley   
    Monday, 20 January 2014 14:26

    At least 110 million consumers were affected by the hack involving Target and Neiman Marcus retailers. Whether or not millions more will have their identities manipulated and finances ruined within the coming months due to more breaches of security at other stores is anyone’s guess, says identity theft recovery expert Scott A. Merritt.

    “By necessity, I became an expert on identity theft. My information was stolen in 2006, and in repairing the damage, I learned some not-so-obvious ways we can all protect against identity theft in the first place,” says Merritt, CEO of Merritt & Associates (scottamerritt.com) and author of  "Identity Theft Do's and Don'ts."

    Merritt’s problems began quickly. While disputing financial charges and dealing with resulting business problems, in 2007 he was stopped for a traffic violation and arrested on a false outstanding felony warrant. He immediately knew why.

    “I had to enlist my U.S. congressman and convince the state police, NCIC, FBI and Secret Service that I didn’t commit the felonies. For a few years, I had to prove that the prints did not match the false record in question. After legal action, however, I was able to have this corrected.”

    Unfortunately, the millions affected by the recent hacks may be dealing with similar repercussions in the years ahead, he says.

    Before you become a victim of identity theft, Merritt offers seven ways to guard against it.

    • Understand how and where it happens. Identity theft is like being robbed when you are away from home; most thefts occur in places where you do business every day. Either a place of business is robbed, a bad employee acts improperly or a hacker breaches the office through the computer.

    • Secure your wallet’s information. Photocopy everything in your wallet: photos, credit cards (front and back), membership cards – everything. Put the copies in the order the cards are arranged in your wallet, staple the pictures and place them in a strong box or safe.

    • Make sure your information is consistent. For all of your identity and financial documents, make absolutely sure, to the smallest detail, that all of your personal information is accurate and consistent! Discrepancies such as using your middle initial on some documents, and not others, or having different addresses, can wreck havoc in proving your identity, and can compromise your credit score.

    • Secure your digital habits and data. Change your passwords at least twice a year on a non-scheduled basis – don’t be predictable. Have a strong firewall if you shop online, and only access sites that are protected by a strong firewall and high industry standards. Access accounts of a financial nature only from your personal computer.

    • Protect your banking information. While in the bank, keep account numbers and other data out of sight, and avoid stating account numbers, Social Security numbers and similar information out loud. When planning a bank visit, have items such as deposits and withdrawal slips prepared in advance.

    • Account for your interactions with vendors. Every time you speak to someone with whom you do business, write down the time, date, name and the purpose or outcome of the call. If an identity theft occurs on the vendor’s end, you will be able to reference these prior conversations effectively. Be sure to note any animosity or reluctance from the vendor.

    • Don’t carry around your birth certificate or Social Security card. Unless it’s necessary, keep those vital items in a safe, or at least a firebox. If you know someone is going to need a copy of your tax returns or your driver’s license, for example, make the copies ahead of time. This avoids the need for a firm’s employee to leave the room with such information.

    “Of course, you can greatly reduce being a victim of such recent hacks that occurred at the major retailers by using cash more often,” he says. “But if you’re going to use credit, use a card from a national bank or a national credit union and never a debit card, no exceptions.”

    About Scott A. Merritt

    Scott A. Merritt is the CEO and sole stockholder of Merritt Ventures, Inc., doing business as Merritt & Associates and author of "Identity Theft Do's and Don'ts." He has more than a decade of experience in the real estate industry, financial planning, insurance, investment services, and has more than a decade in mortgage services, all under the umbrella of Merritt Ventures. Merritt holds a life, accident and health insurance license, and a principal associate real estate broker’s license. He has an associate degree in pre-law, a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a certificate in computer information systems. He has personally represented himself and won in court hundreds of times to, in part, clear his record from the ravages of identity theft.

     
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