Regions Grant Gives KTECH’s Virtual Reality Workforce Initiative Real-Life Implications

Virtual reality goes real-time at KTECH thanks to a $42,000 grant from the Regions Foundation, the nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank. The money will fund virtual reality equipment for KTECH’s new Virtual Reality Workforce Development Training initiative.

Founder and CEO Lee Marshall formed KTECH as the workforce training and development arm of her Kids to Love Foundation. Because workforce readiness is a top priority for Regions Bank, its initiatives naturally align with KTECH.

“It has never been more important to connect with people wherever they are,” said Marta Self, executive director of the Regions Foundation. “That’s exactly what VR does, and what KTECH is doing. This is about empowering students with new tools to help them prepare for successful and rewarding careers.”

The grant is an extension of Region’s work to prepare people in Huntsville and Madison County for advanced manufacturing and high-tech jobs.

KTECH introduced the use of virtual reality technology this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as a 3D Virtual Tour recruitment tool. Students were able to explore KTECH’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) facilities while living under stay-at-home orders.

It introduced a new way of seeing what KTECH is about and gave virtual viewers an up-close look at instructors demonstrating how the equipment works. It also shows the instructors conducting KTECH training, so it puts the student right there in the workplace and classroom.

KTECH has been on the edge of innovation. It targets foster kids who have aged out of the foster care system, and also is a training vehicle for anyone in the community who can use the skills, including veterans.

They offer hands-on, interactive, one-on-one instruction and certification training in mechatronics, robotics, soldering and solid edge modeling. All four skills are in high demand in the advanced manufacturing industry.

After students receive their certification, KTECH connects its graduates with good-paying jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Now VR is incorporated into the Mechatronics classes, further enhancing the student’s classroom experience in preparation for future careers.

VR technology creates a 3D simulated environment that prepares students for a range of vocational and tech-based careers. Students can both learn a STEAM skill and experience the job environment in which they will find themselves upon completion. It supplements in-person training with remote learning from anywhere.

“Students use VR headsets to experience face-to-face interactions with realistic avatars for a more immersive experience in learning than workers have ever been able to do before,” said Marshall. “During COVID-19, we knew we had to pivot to propel our students forward, and Virtual Reality was the obvious choice.

“Cutting-edge virtual reality technology is used throughout KTECH and helps students pursue self-guided discovery in areas such as mechatronics, hands-on skills development, and more.”

According to several career-oriented websites, VR is ranked in the top five fastest growing technology careers, alongside cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

“We are thankful the Regions Foundation sees how this Virtual Reality technology will advance our KTECH students,” said Marshall. “Putting state-of-the-art technology into the palm of a student’s hand, no matter where they are, is critical to the learning and workforce training process. Adapting and expanding digital offerings allows KTECH to grow in a ‘post-COVID’ world, preparing the workforce of the future.”

Sean Kelly, Huntsville market executive for Regions Bank. said, as the local economy recovers from COVID-19, more companies will discover the positive workforce climate available in Huntsville.

“KTECH and the Virtual Reality program will serve as important components to the success of the Tennessee Valley,” said Kelly. “We all benefit – individuals, businesses and communities – when we ensure the workforce is trained, prepared and ready to succeed.”

 

Huntsville Chosen to Test Google Fiber’s 2-Gig Service

Google Fiber is looking for a few good people to test its new 2-Gig service.

According to a blog from Google Fiber’s Amalia O’Sullivan, director of product management, the company is testing the service next month in Huntsville and Nashville.

“Game changers, super users, and families who need more from their internet can join the Google Fiber Trusted Tester program to be among the first to put the extra speed to use,” O’Sullivan wrote. “Our testers help us make sure we’re launching the best products and services possible for our customers, and we appreciate their help!”

To apply to be a Trusted Tester (having a Google Fiber account is required), visit https://goo.gle/2GzPgau

The 2-Gig service costs $100 per month, that includes a new Wi-Fi router and Wi-Fi mesh extender. Google Fiber’s 1-Gig service is $70 per month.

O’Sullivan wrote the demand has increased due to the number of people working from home and students taking classes online because of the pandemic.

“This year has made this need for more speed and bandwidth especially acute, as many of us are now living our entire lives — from work to school to play — within our homes, creating unprecedented demand for internet capacity,” she wrote. “At $100 a month, it’s double the top download speed of our 1 Gig product (with the same great upload speed) and comes with a new Wi-Fi 6 router and mesh extender, so everyone gets a great online experience no matter where they are in the house.”

O’Sullivan said 2 Gig will roll out to all of Google Fiber’s Nashville and Huntsville customers this year, with plans to launch the service across most of the company’s Google Fiber and Google Fiber Webpass cities in early 2021.

 

Intersect Development Group Moving Forward on $35M Huntsville 565 Logistics Project

Atlanta-based Intersect Development Group has closed on a 47-acre tract for three buildings in a planned 400,000 square-foot industrial park.

The Huntsville 565 Logistics project will have a ground-breaking in the fall. The first phase of 144,500 square feet is scheduled to be completed in 2021. The Huntsville 565 Logistics park expects to be home to more than 300 workers and represents an investment of some $35 million.

The facility is designed to meet the needs of the growing e-commerce industry and local logistical/service requirements.

The site is adjacent to GE Aviation, the Target distribution center, Polaris Manufacturing and the Mazda Toyota plant.

“This is an exciting time for the Huntsville business community and its workers who will benefit from this new investment,” Intersect founding partner Scott Brown. “With the closing process completed, we look forward to beginning construction quickly and developing this new Class ‘A’ business park that will support hundreds of jobs in the local community.”

SAIC Adding Innovation Factory Hub

SAIC is adding an Innovation Factory Hub to its Huntsville site, expanding its presence and support to local customers.

This marks the latest expansion of SAIC’s Innovation Factory network where the Department of Defense and other federal government agencies can evaluate new technologies and accelerate delivery of modernized systems.

SAIC’s Innovation Factory is a nationwide network of physical and virtual environments to quickly build, test, and deploy solutions and then enhance them through customer collaboration. Innovation Factory hubs connect SAIC’s innovators and toolsets, startups/tech companies, and the customer.

The Huntsville Innovation Factory Hub will be integrated into SAIC’s Innovation Factory network and showcase uniquely focused technologies enabling end-to-end analysis, experimentation and engineering focused on digital engineering with modeling and simulation and rapid prototyping capabilities.

“As we have witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the requirement for true digital transformation has never been greater. This expansion to SAIC’s longstanding presence in Huntsville with a new Innovation Factory Hub allows us to support emerging needs, while also leveraging our solutions and company-wide expertise – developed over four decades supporting local customers,” said Jim Scanlon, SAIC executive vice president and general manager of the Defense Systems Group. “With all sectors rapidly implementing technology to meet and conduct business virtually, our new Innovation Factory Hub will enable our Huntsville-area customers to accelerate solutions to meet their mission requirements.”

 

Hexagon to Unite GIS Solutions for Huntsville Utilities

Huntsville Utilities has chosen Hexagon’s geographic information system to consolidate the utility’s GIS solutions into one. The new GIS will serve as the foundation for building and managing Huntsville Utilities’ electric, gas, water and fiber infrastructure.

Huntsville Utilities has partnered with Hexagon for three decades to provide utility services to Huntsville and Madison County. With Hexagon’s GIS solutions providing a single source of location-based information, Huntsville Utilities will have real-time data for the operations, engineering and accounting teams to help provide service to the more than 330,000 customers.

“Where we go and what we do in the next 20 years is based on foundational decisions such as our GIS core,” said Wes Kelley, CEO of Huntsville Utilities. “With Hexagon’s solution, we have a single source of information for our physical assets, a trusted platform upon which we will build all our solutions.”

Applications of the new GIS system include outage management workflows, preventive maintenance strategies and more. Users of the new system will be able to design and maintain information about the utility’s assets via the web and mobile devices, which extend the solution into the field to make critical decisions.

“We’re honored Huntsville Utilities selected Hexagon’s GIS solutions,” said Steven Cost, president of Hexagon’s Safety & Infrastructure Division. “We are proud to be part of Huntsville Utilities’ path forward, not only as a technology provider, but also as a partner in the development of our local community.”

Army Intercept Targets Using Northrop Grumman Technology Developed in Huntsville

When Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy visited Huntsville a few weeks ago, it was not to chop watercress.

One of his stops was to thank Northrop Grumman’s Huntsville team for its success in developing the Integrated Battle Command System, a weapons system that will give U.S. troops a technological advantage over the enemy, anywhere in the world.

“It’s not a question of whether or not we might get there,” he told more than 500 Northrup Grumman employees at IBCS manufacturing headquarters in Huntsville. “We have to get there.”

And get there they did – twice in fact over the past couple of weeks with two successful flight tests of the ICBS system.

Northrop Grumman developed IBCS with the Army as cornerstone of its integrated air and missile defense modernization program.

Primarily a Huntsville program, more than 500 of Northrop Grumman’s approximately 2,000 employees in the Huntsville area are involved in IBCS work, including Agile software development; the system’s overall design; and program management and foreign military sales. They also manufacture hardware at the Wall Triana facility, including the Engagement Operations Centers and Integrated Fire Control Network relays.

Furthermore, the Army’s IAMD Program office is at Redstone Arsenal.

Troops prepare for test to intercept incoming cruise and tactical ballistic missiles. (Photo/Northrop Grumman)

The first of two planned operational IBCS flight tests, both were conducted at White Sands Missile Range by the Army 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment.

Both were also part of the IBCS Limited User Test which is several tests simulating realistic battle operations and place performance stresses on the systems.

The first test’s defense included an Air and Missile Defense task force including two battery and one battalion engagement operations centers; two Patriot and Sentinel radars; and three Patriot Advanced Capability 3  launchers connected at the component level to the IBCS Integrated Fire Control Network.

The test began when two “enemy” cruise missile were launched and flew at a low altitude through a mountain range. IBCS fused real-time data from all sensors into a single, accurate composite track for each threat.

In response, two PAC-3 missiles controlled by IBCS were launched and intercepted the cruise missiles.

IBCS sensors extend the battle area, engage threats providing 360-degree protection, increasessurvivability by enabling early detection and continuous tracking, and deliver the capabilities to defeat an increasingly complex threat.

“We are extremely pleased with how IBCS performed during this flight test,” said Kenn Todorov, vice president and general manager, combat systems and mission readiness, Northrop Grumman. “We have been working on an extraordinary command and control system in partnership with the Army, and our goals are the same – to get this capability into the hands of the warfighter as soon as possible.”

IBCS tracked and engaged incoming cruise and tactical ballistic missiles during test. (Photo/Northrop Grumman)

The second IBCS test a few days later intercepted a high-performance, high-speed tactical ballistic missile ) target and a cruise missile target. It demonstrated the system’s ability to acquire, track, identify and engage diverse targets from various locations, speeds and altitudes.

Their defense consisted of two battery and one battalion IBCS engagement operations centers, two Patriot and two Sentinel radars, and four launchers with a mixture of PAC-2, PAC-3 and interceptors connected to the IBCS fire control network.

“I would like to recognize how exceptionally proud I am of the soldiers of the 3-43 ADA Battalion,” said Maj. Gen. Rob Rasch, Army Program Executive Officer, Missiles and Space. “This formation’s laser focus and steadfast dedication, starting with New Equipment Training last year through this LUT live fire, will ultimately transform the Air and Missile Defense fight for our joint formations.

“It’s been amazing to watch our soldiers’ ability to successfully track, engage, and destroy multiple targets in a highly-complex live fire operational test, further demonstrating the IAMD’s game-changing technological advantage. As we continue to fine-tune system performance in order to fully demonstrate system requirements in the Initial Operational Test & Evaluation in Fiscal Year 2022, we maintain high confidence for success due to the great leaders and soldiers of the 3-43, who will ultimately become the first-ever IBCS-enabled battalion.”

The flight test commenced with the target missiles being launched from different areas toward the Army defenders at the controls of IBCS. The tactical missile traveled on a ballistic trajectory, while the cruise missile surrogate flew a low-altitude course. Using data from the multiple radars and ICBS, the soldiers launched a PAC-2 to intercept the cruise missile and a PAC-3 to intercept the ballistic missile. Both targets were intercepted.

“These two back-to-back successful test events are a testament to the commitment and partnership between the great men and women of the Army’s operational and acquisition communities and Northrop Grumman’s program team,” said Todorov. “We are committed to the mission of the Army and look forward to continuing that partnership in getting the game-changing IBCS capability into production and fielded.”

Northrop Grumman employs a workforce of 90,000 worldwide.

Sanmina on Cutting Edge of COVID-19 Detection Research

Sanmina Senior Engineer Robert Newberry has more than 30 patents in research and development to his credit in a distinguished career that has spanned 25 years and two countries.

He has been at the forefront of developing non-invasive methods to measure blood type, sepsis infection, insulin and glucose levels.

In late February something new came along that changed the course of the innovative groups he leads at Sanmina — the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Today, he’s spearheading research for a non-invasive device that could speed the detection process of possible COVID-19 infection. Sanmina has released a preprint paper, or one that has not been formally reviewed, and Newberry recently discussed his research.

If things go as hoped, Sanmina will produce a device that would be used like a blood-pressure monitor and could be used in a doctor’s office or emergency room. It would reveal indicators that could give health providers an early warning of possible viral infection within minutes. It would lessen patients’ possible exposure in settings where the virus might exist.

“We’re not looking at the antibodies, but we’re looking at the reaction of the different immune system components, the different organs, and our device allows us to do this, basically within five minutes,’’ said Newberry, a graduate of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. “So, this is the core mission of what we’re trying to accomplish, as well as trying to address the long-standing problem of patients going septic in the hospital.  Sepsis is the cause for about 50 percent of hospital deaths worldwide.

“It is an extremely severe problem and a lot of people have been studying this for quite some time. We’ve been doing research along this line. I am leading the research team. We have a number of patents that my team and I have been filing as we develop this technology.’’

Newberry said his teams have been “researching non-invasive optical sensing for the past several years, and it’s related to postdoc symmetry. We don’t use invasive techniques such as drawing blood. We monitor  data derived from a finger sensor  that produces signals to measure changes in circulation and other changing parameters.’’

Complex signals in the bloodstream, he said, reveal complex signals for detection and trends in a person.

“We’re working with … Dr. Evangelos J. Giamarellos-Bourboulis,” Newberry said. “He is the president of the European Septic Shock Society. We started a clinical trial to see if we could detect early sepsis, which you might be aware of is a form of an infection that goes out of control and makes organs dysfunctional. And so, we’ve been doing a lot of monitoring with our device in a clinical setting, and this was all going along just fine and then the pandemic hit.

“At that time, what we knew was that nitrous oxide, which is produced by the body, has three different synthetic forms, and one of those forms tends to amplify at a high rate prior to someone getting organ dysfunction beyond acceptance, which is sepsis. Our clinical data indicates that somewhere between two and six hours before a clinical diagnosis of sepsis, signals with our device can provide a pre-warning of sepsis. And this is fundamentally what our research is about.’’

Newberry’s long history of researching sepsis makes him an obvious candidate to explore COVID-19.

“In the worst case-patients with COVID-19, it leaves a pathway to sepsis,” he said. “So, when you hear about a patient with a severe case, normally they’ll go from the hospital ward to the ICU and they’re actually struggling with sepsis. In nearly every case this is what happens. The care providers in the hospitals are trying to fight this. In a fast-track study, we actually monitored known COVID cases in hospitals in Europe.

“We took a certain cohort of those patients and we were able to confirm, both with gold standard methods using the blood plasma and our sensor, that nitric oxide is greatly amplified prior to the severe condition of COVID-19. This is part of the results that have been summarized in the paper that you might have seen on the preprint. What we’re trying to discover is if we can identify three different sub-cohorts of COVID-19. We’ve already tested symptomatic patients that are hospitalized, but we’re trying to determine with our device whether we can tell if asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people are sick and provide an indication.’’

Sanmina is primarily a global contract manufacturer that builds products for other partners.

“We’ve been trying to get this technology to the next level of readiness so that a partner can deploy this solution,’’ Newberry said.

Newberry said he couldn’t offer a possible launch date for the device.

“I would say that our research that’s published is state of the art,’’ he said, “but I’m not able to comment about a timeframe.’’

Huntsville No. 2 for Career Opportunities in COVID-19 Recession

We’re not No. 1, but No. 2 is pretty good.

In a recent study, Huntsville ranked No. 2 among the best places for career opportunities in the COVID-19 recession . SmartAsset analyzed 200 of the largest metro areas across seven metrics related to employment, income and access to professional development through higher education or career counseling.

Huntsville placed in the top 10 of the study for two different categories: It had the sixth-lowest unemployment rate in May 2020, at 7.6 percent, and the eighth-highest income growth over a career, at 30.47 percent.

While the metro area finishes in the bottom half of the study for its low number of career counselors and post-secondary teachers per 1,000 workers, it ranks within the top 50 for its relatively small drop in total employment over the past year (-7.26 percent) and its relatively high 2019 median income (almost $42,000).

The top 10 according to SmartAsset are: College Station-Bryan, Texas; Huntsville; Gainesville, Fla.; Lincoln, Neb.; Champaign-Urbana, Ill.; Provo-Orem, Utah; Tallahassee, Fla.; Boulder, Colo; Tucson, Ariz.; and Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz.

SmartAsset is a financial technology company that provides personal finance advice on the web. The company offers free and personalized tools for personal finance decisions around homebuying, retirement, taxes and more.

 

Drake State Unveils Initiatives to Enhance Learning Process

The fall semester at Drake State Community & Technical College begins Aug. 17 and will include online classes, hands-on training and two new quality initiatives to maintain effective learning. 

Hands-on training and in-person instruction will be limited to labs and assessments that cannot be done online, and courses in which students significantly benefit from the classroom setting. All in-person instruction will be in small groups of five or less and will adhere to COVID-19 state requirements and CDC guidelines. 

“With programs like nursing, HVAC and advanced manufacturing it was necessary for us to find a way to conduct hands-on course requirements,” said Dr. Carolyn Henderson, dean of instruction. “We had to be innovative and flexible so we could continue to serve those students.” 

It was equally important for the college to look at ways to make its online classes and virtual student services as effective as in-person. Over the summer, administrators, faculty and staff implemented two significant quality initiatives to help ensure their students’ educational experience is not diminished in the hybrid model – e-certification for online classes and Caring Campus designation. 

“Our students expect quality instruction and a meaningful college experience,” said Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims. “With our e-certification initiative and Caring Campus designation, we plan to not only meet those expectations, but to exceed them.” 

Full-time faculty have completed online course delivery training modeled after the nationally recognized Quality Matters standards. Quality Matters is a faculty-driven review process that ensures the quality of courses offered in an online or blended format. Instructors will use strategies learned during their training to strengthen the remote learning experience. Once completed, courses can be submitted through a peer-review process for official certification. 

“Aligning with Quality Matters standards will make our online course offerings the highest possible quality,” said Alice Raymond, Office of Innovation and Program Success director and Health Sciences Division chair. “I am wowed by the enthusiasm of the faculty in taking on this very demanding course.” 

Drake State is one of 10 community colleges across the U.S. selected for the Institute for Evidence-Based Change (IEBC) Caring Campus Initiative. The program’s objective is to increase student retention and success by helping students over- come non-academic barriers to success and building a strong connection between students and the College. 

Staff are participating in training sessions with IEBC coaches to learn how to use process mapping, student engagement strategies and other intentional practices to strengthen student support services and advance the College’s student success agenda resulting in positive outcomes for students. 

“We’re thrilled to have been selected by the IEBC to participate in this innovative and intentional approach to student engagement,” said Dr. Nicole Bell, interim dean of Student Services. “It’s exciting to see the impact it can have on our students and their academic success.” 

Davidson Receives Gold Boeing Performance Excellence Award

Davidson has received a 2019 Boeing Performance Excellence Award.

The Boeing Co. issues the award annually to recognize suppliers who have achieved superior performance. Davidson maintained a Gold composite performance rating for each month of the 12-month performance period, from October 2018 to September 2019. This year, Davidson is one of only 62 suppliers to receive a Gold level Boeing Performance Excellence Award.

“To be selected as a Gold supplier for Boeing is quite an honor,” said Davidson President John Holly. “We take great pride in the quality of our performance and the criticality of the mission. We are truly honored by this recognition.”

Davidson has received the honor every year since 2009 as the company continues its relationship with Boeing in Huntsville. Performance excellence is fundamental to the success of both companies and Davidson is dedicated to meeting the high-performance standards necessary to meet customer expectations and remain competitive in the global economy.  

“For over 21 years Davidson has had the honor of serving The Boeing Company on the GMD Program as one of our most important customers,” said Joey Leary, senior vice president Eastern Operations, Davidson. “We are honored and grateful to accept this award and look forward to doing our best to continue to support this vital national defense mission.”