Science & Technology
Students will be transported in environmentally-friendly Propane Vision school buses this fall. PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Erin Lake   
Friday, 27 June 2014 11:04

Madison, WI (June 26, 2014) – Following the trend throughout North America, propane autogas school bus popularity is rapidly growing in the state of Wisconsin.  Successful Wisconsin-based contractors Lamers Bus Lines and Badger Bus are increasing their alternative fuel bus fleets while decreasing the fleets’ carbon footprint.

Lamers Bus Lines has been providing bus transportation since 1944 and serves over 25 school districts and 60,000 students across the state.  The company recently added 41 new Blue Bird Propane Vision school buses, expanding its impressive propane fleet to 59 units.  Transporting students from Milwaukee Public Schools, these buses feature Blue Bird’s extended range 100-gallon fuel tank and will travel approximately 8,900 miles per year.

One reason for the new propane autogas school bus deployment is fuel savings.  In the past year, Lamers Bus Lines has saved over $14,000 in fuel costs by switching to Blue Bird Propane Vision buses, and the number of new propane buses is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. The company is currently installing an onsite 30,000-gallon fueling dispenser that will service the new Milwaukee propane autogas buses.

“Our propane buses have been completely trouble-free,” said Allen Lamers, president of Lamers Bus Lines. “We’ve had no issues what-so-ever on them and the deployment has been smooth. We received comprehensive training from our local dealer, Wisconsin Bus Sales, along with Roush CleanTech and our local propane provider.  From all aspects, the buses are logical, simple and require minimal adaptation.  Propane autogas is a great option for school buses and we couldn’t be more pleased with our fleet.”

With over 1,300 school buses, Lamers Bus Lines is looking to add more Blue Bird propane autogas buses to its expansive fleet.  “We are very happy with our Propane Vision school buses.  We recently had a grueling winter.  Throughout the record-breaking temperatures, the buses performed outstandingly and we had no mechanical issues.  From our drivers, to our techs, to the community, everyone loves these buses,” said Paul Mennen, regional area manager for Lamers Bus Lines.

Another established Wisconsin contractor, Badger Bus, has been successfully operating propane autogas school buses for the past two years.  The contractor is set to receive 16 new Blue Bird Propane Vision buses, expanding its total propane fleet to 20.  The new propane buses will be utilized to transport students in Madison Metropolitan School District.

With a 2,000 gallon propane autogas tank onsite, refueling is convenient and affordable.  Badger Bus is currently paying $1.19 per gallon for propane autogas, a significant savings over its diesel price of $3.48 per gallon.  The buses travel between 12,000 to 14,000 miles each year, allowing fuel savings to accumulate quickly with an average annual fuel savings of over $3,500 for each bus they operate.  Given the cleaner operation, environmental benefits and savings experienced, Badger Bus has future plans to add more propane autogas buses to its fleet.

“Badger Bus has been known for its reliable transportation since our founding in 1920.  Our experience with Blue Bird’s propane autogas buses has been a very positive, economical experience.  Our drivers love the power and quiet operation, our technicians love the ease of service and simplistic engine, and the domestic, affordable fuel provides us with even greater benefits,” said John Meier, co-owner of Badger Bus.  “Overall safety is of paramount importance with the students we transport and the safety and environmental benefits of these buses further strengthen our partnership with the community.”

The Blue Bird Propane-Powered Vision and Micro Bird, equipped with the ROUSH CleanTech propane autogas fuel system and a Ford 6.8-liter engine, meet all Environmental Protection Agency certifications.   The buses feature 60 percent less carbon monoxide, 12 percent less carbon dioxide, 20 percent less nitrogen oxide and up to 25 percent less greenhouse gases than gasoline.

“Blue Bird is delighted that Lamers Bus Lines and Badger Bus are realizing terrific cost savings and environmental benefits from our industry-leading, propane-powered school buses,” said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation.  “Together with Roush CleanTech and our local dealer, Wisconsin Bus Sales, Blue Bird will continue to provide comprehensive training and service support to contractors and school districts throughout Wisconsin.”

To learn more about Blue Bird’s line of propane autogas buses, please visit www.blue-bird.com or visit your local Blue Bird Dealer.

 
Williamsburg, Iowa, Team takes Runner-up at national LEGO contest PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Michelle Heard   
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 13:41

The Robotic Raiders, a FIRST® LEGO® League team from Williamsburg, Iowa, earned runner-up prize for their invention, Cyclone Survivor Board Game, last night at the 2014 FIRST® LEGO® League Global Innovation Award ceremony, at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, Va. They received $5,000 from XPRIZE and support from Edison Nation to help them take their invention to store shelves.

RUNNER-UP – Cyclone Survivor Board Game by the Robotic Raiders of Williamsburg, Iowa

Cyclone Survivor is an educational board game that uses federal and local information to educate players on how to prepare for, survive and recover from a tornado. The object of the game is to collect miniature Emergency Gear to place in the player’s Emergency Kit. The interactive tool can be customized to help educate students learn about other natural disasters such as ice storms, earthquakes or hurricanes.

As part of the 2013-2014 NATURE’S FURYSM Challenge, FIRST LEGO League teams (youths ages 9-16) in nearly 80 countries were asked to explore natural disasters and develop innovative ways to mitigate the effects of these often devastating events. Teams were then encouraged to submit their ideas for a chance to win the fourth annual FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award.

“These students continue to amaze me with their ideas and passion for helping others. When young people are given a platform and support for exploring answers to today’s pressing social problems, they are able to create innovative solutions that will ultimately improve lives,” said Kamen, who is also president of DEKA Research & Development. “Today, they have shown that solving problems together is a fun, rewarding adventure.”

FIRST LEGO League partners with Award Sponsors to advance a common goal: fostering innovative problem-solvers. XPRIZE was Presenting Sponsor of the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award for the fourth consecutive year. XPRIZE attracts the world’s top innovators and supports them in tackling the grand challenges faced by society.

“XPRIZE is honored to be the Presenting Sponsor of the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award,” said Alan Zack, senior director, Marketing & Communications, XPRIZE. “All of the finalist teams here today have proven that through competition you can create great results. Each of you came together as a team to produce something, and this teamwork was vital to your success. You may go on to solve the grand challenges, whatever they may be – and when you do, you will be doing it as part of a team.”

The FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award Partners in Innovation Sponsors include: Booz Allen Hamilton, John Deere, Rockwell Collins, International Association of Emergency Managers, and Qualcomm. Edison Nation is the Go-To Market Sponsor to help winning teams take their product from idea to store shelves. The FLL Global Innovation Award is presented in cooperation with the National Building Museum and the USPTO.

For more information about FIRST LEGO League and the Global Innovation Award, please visit http://www.firstlegoleague.org/challenge/fllglobalinnovationaward.

 
Dean Kamen Recognizes Students for Innovative Solutions to Manage Effects of Natural Disasters in Fourth Annual FIRST® LEGO® League Global Innovation Award Contest PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Michelle Heard   
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 13:39

Team from Massachusetts Takes Top Prize for Balloon-Based Notification Sign

MANCHESTER, N.H., June 3, 2014 – Students’ creative ideas for how to prepare, stay safe, and rebuild following natural disasters became award-winning inventions at the fourth annual FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) Global Innovation Award ceremony, held at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Va. Dean Kamen, inventor and founder of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization that inspires young people’s participation and interest in science and technology, honored three FIRST® LEGO® League teams for their contemporary solutions during the ceremony which included parents, kids, Coaches, patent experts, Sponsors, and natural disaster experts.

 

More than 500 FIRST LEGO League teams across the globe submitted their inventions for the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award, presented by XPRIZE.  A panel of expert judges reviewed the submissions, narrowed the list to three finalists, and then selected a winning team and two runner-up teams. The winning team received a cash award of $20,000 and the two runner-up teams each received $5,000.

 

WINNER – Balloon-Based Notification Sign by The Brain Busters of Sherborn, Massachusetts

The Balloon-Based Notification Sign indicates where to find aid after a natural disaster, when traditional infrastructure is not available. The large sign is suspended from a helium balloon that can be seen from very long distances and deployed in high winds, snow storms, and extreme cold.    

 

RUNNER-UP – Cyclone Survivor Board Game by the Robotic Raiders of Williamsburg, Iowa

Cyclone Survivor is an educational board game that uses federal and local information to educate players on how to prepare for, survive and recover from a tornado. The object of the game is to collect miniature Emergency Gear to place in the player’s Emergency Kit. The interactive tool can be customized to help educate students learn about other natural disasters such as ice storms, earthquakes or hurricanes.

 

RUNNER-UP – Tsunami Evacuation System by RobotTec of Santiago, Chile

The Tsunami Evacuation System appraises disorientation and not knowing where to go in a tsunami, and changes the current signage by replacing it with retro-reflectors on roads and adding LED lights that will flash in sequence. Retro-reflectors would be placed on major streets in order to be seen by many people and emit three-color LED lights: red for high risk area, yellow for relatively rough area, green for out of risk. Lights would be powered by small photovoltaic panels on each site and connected to national systems to activate automatically to events that could cause a tsunami.

 

As part of the 2013-2014 NATURE’S FURYSM Challenge, FIRST LEGO League teams (youths ages 9-16) in nearly 80 countries were asked to explore natural disasters and develop innovative ways to mitigate the effects of these often devastating events. Teams were then encouraged to submit their ideas for a chance to win the fourth annual FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award.

 

“These students continue to amaze me with their ideas and passion for helping others. When young people are given a platform and support for exploring answers to today’s pressing social problems, they are able to create innovative solutions that will ultimately improve lives,” said Kamen, who is also president of DEKA Research & Development. “Today, they have shown that solving problems together is a fun, rewarding adventure.”

 

FIRST LEGO League partners with Award Sponsors to advance a common goal: fostering innovative problem-solvers. XPRIZE was Presenting Sponsor of the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award for the fourth consecutive year. XPRIZE attracts the world’s top innovators and supports them in tackling the grand challenges faced by society.

 

“XPRIZE is honored to be the Presenting Sponsor of the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award,” said Alan Zack, senior director, Marketing & Communications, XPRIZE. “All of the finalist teams here today have proven that through competition you can create great results. Each of you came together as a team to produce something, and this teamwork was vital to your success. You may go on to solve the grand challenges, whatever they may be – and when you do, you will be doing it as part of a team.”

 

The FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award Partners in Innovation Sponsors include: Booz Allen Hamilton, John Deere, Rockwell Collins, International Association of Emergency Managers, and Qualcomm. Edison Nation is the Go-To Market Sponsor to help winning teams take their product from idea to store shelves. The FLL Global Innovation Award is presented in cooperation with the National Building Museum and the USPTO.

 

For more information about FIRST LEGO League and the Global Innovation Award, please visit http://www.firstlegoleague.org/challenge/fllglobalinnovationaward.

About FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®)

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an international program for 9 to 16-year-old children (9 to 14 in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) created in a partnership between FIRST and The LEGO Group in 1998 to get children excited about science and technology and teach them valuable employment and life skills. Using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technologies and LEGO Education materials, children work alongside adult Coaches to design, build, and program autonomous robots and create an innovative solution to a problem as part of their research project. After eight intense weeks, the competition season culminates at high-energy, sports-like tournaments. Like any other organized “sport,” teams also fundraise, create a team identity, and go on field trips.

The LEGO Group, Founding Partner of FIRST LEGO League, has supported the growth and success of FIRST LEGO League through ongoing funding and donations for more than a dozen years as the program has grown into a global competition. In the 2013-2014 FLL season, the program reached nearly 300,000 youth worldwide.

About FIRST®
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $20 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC® ) for Grades 7-12; FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL® ) for Grades 4-8; and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) for Grades K-3. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org.

 
Iowa Student Inventors Could Win $20,000 PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by Michelle Heard   
Monday, 02 June 2014 10:51

A group of student inventors from Iowa is set to participate in the fourth annual FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award program for a chance to win a $20,000 cash prize! The Robotic Raiders of Williamsburg, Iowa is one of three FIRST LEGO League teams (from a pool of more than 500 teams from around the world) selected to present their innovative creations June 3 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria, VA (outside of Washington, DC). The winning team will get a $20,000 cash prize to use toward bringing their invention to market. Each of the two runners-up teams will get $5,000 each to continue development of their inventions.

FIRST, a not-for-profit founded by inventor Dean Kamen, challenged FIRST LEGO League participants, students ages 9-16 from around the world, to explore natural disasters and develop innovative ways to help people prepare, stay safe, and rebuild following these events

The Robotic Raiders invented a Cyclone Survivor Board Game, an educational board game that uses federal and local information to educate players on how to prepare for, survive and recover from a tornado.

 
USDA Announces Funding for Advanced Communications Technology in Rural Areas PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Science & Technology
Written by USDA Office of Communications   
Thursday, 22 May 2014 15:29

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that USDA is accepting applications for grants to enhance telecommunications and broadcast services in rural areas.

"This funding will help small, rural communities across the country gain access to communications technologies to improve health, education and other services," Vilsack said. "It will help open doors to the global marketplace. It will deliver specialized medical care and educational services. It will ensure that public television stations can fully convert to digital signals and transmit public safety, health, educational and cultural programming in isolated areas."

The funding is available from the Community Connect Grant Program, the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program, and the Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program.

Through the Community Connect Grant Program, USDA plans to provide up to $13 million to fund broadband in unserved areas to support economic growth and deliver enhanced educational, health care and public safety services. Awardees must serve an area where broadband does not exist, provide a community center with broadband access, and offer broadband service to all residential and business customers. Details are on page 29405 of today's Federal Register.

USDA has had many successes through this program. Since it was created in 2003, USDA has approved more than $142 million in more than 240 Community Connect projects to bring broadband service to rural communities that lacked it.

For example, Rural Development awarded @Link Services, LLC a $544,164 Community Connect Grant to provide broadband services to Lima, Okla. Many institutions there have benefited, including the new volunteer fire department, the K-12 school, and the new community center.

Also in a notice in today's Federal Register, USDA is making available up to $19.3 million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program grants to fund access to rural education, training and health care resources. The DLT program finances telecommunications-enabled equipment and advanced technologies for people who live and work in rural areas. Since 2009, USDA has invested almost $150 million in the program. These investments complement other USDA efforts to improve rural communications.

Details of Distance Learning funding being made available today are on page 29399 of the Federal Register.

In the Public Television Station Digital Transition Grant Program, USDA will provide up to $2 million as part of the Department's continued support of rural telecommunications and broadcast services. Funds can be used to acquire, lease or install equipment or software to complete the transition to digital broadcast signals.

While rural stations broadcast their main transmitter signal digitally, many also have translators serving small communities or isolated areas, and these still need to transition from analog to digital. Some rural areas also need fill-in translators, in cases when the signal reception from a main transmitter is lost. These Public Television grants will support those stations to ensure all rural households and businesses receive public television station transmissions. Details are on page 29409 of the Federal Register.

USDA will offer special consideration to Community Connect and Distance Learning and Telemedicine applications that contain at least one end-user site within a trust area or a Tribal jurisdictional area.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities.

USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users)


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