South Huntsville Library: The Future of Libraries at the Sandra Moon Campus

With more than 20 years of continuous growth and service to South Huntsville, the Bailey Cove Library is bursting at the seams.

Research has shown that over the past year, more than 2,000 library cards were issued; more than 10,000 programs attended; and nearly 7,000 people used the public computers – JUST at Bailey Cove branch alone.

Housed in the converted space of an old hardware store, the library opened its doors in 1997. At a mere 10,000 square feet, the library has long since outgrown its space.

The issue of space resulted in plans being drafted for a 40,000 square-foot, high-tech community library and event space. The new library will be at Huntsville’s new Sandra Moon Community Complex on the old Grissom High School campus. When finished, it will be four times larger than the Bailey Cove Branch Library.

At a recent South Huntsville Business Association meeting, Huntsville-Madison County Public Library Capital Campaign Director Caroline Kennedy presented plans for the new library, unveiling the Fuqua and Partners masterful conceptualization.

“It will be a gigantic, state-of-the-art library, with lots of light and glass,” Kennedy said. “This is the future of libraries, what new libraries are going to be. It will be Class-A facility; there will be after-hours special events with separate access, event rental space, areas for classes, private study rooms, and meeting space.

“The library will continue to offer free meeting space for nonprofit groups. There will be a full-service catering kitchen, areas for food trucks, and outdoor events. It will be a real boost for the redevelopment of South Huntsville.”

As part of the state-of-the-art technology, there will be a dedicated “Maker’s Space” which will have a 3D printer, large format printer for sign and banner making, and sewing machines. Planned design features include plenty of natural light, an open/bookstore-style floor plan, art gallery, Friends of Library bookstore, a coffee shop with inside entry and an outside walk-up and outdoor, patio seating, indoor fireplace, and a children’s garden.

“The new library will be more user friendly and accessible to patrons,” said Kennedy. “Books will still be organized by Dewey system, but also by ‘neighborhood,’ sort of like what you would find at (bookstores).”

Construction is scheduled to take about 18 to 24 months with an opening date in early 2021. For more information, visit huntsvillelibraryfoundation.org/south

NASA, Blue Origin Agreement Signals Rocketing Growth of Commercial Space

Officials from NASA and Blue Origin have signed an agreement that grants the company use of a historic test stand as the agency focuses on returning to the Moon and on to Mars, and America’s commercial space industry continues to grow, according to a statement Wednesday from the space agency.

Under a Commercial Space Launch Act agreement, Blue Origin will upgrade and refurbish Test Stand 4670 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville to test its BE-3U and BE-4 rocket engines. The BE-4 engine was selected to power United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket and Blue Origin’s New Glenn launch vehicle – both being developed to serve the expanding civil, commercial and national security space markets.

“This test stand once helped power NASA’s first launches to the Moon, which eventually led to the emergence of an entirely new economic sector – commercial space,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. “Now, it will have a role in our ongoing commitment to facilitate growth in this sector.” 

Constructed in 1965, Test Stand 4670 served as the backbone for Saturn V propulsion testing for the Apollo program, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. It was modified to support testing of the space shuttle external tank and main engine systems. The facility has been inactive since 1998. 

“We’re excited to welcome Blue Origin to our growing universe of commercial partners,” said Marshall Center Director Jody Singer. “This agreement ensures the test stand will be used for the purpose it was built.”

NASA identified the 300-foot-tall, vertical firing test stand at Marshall as an underutilized facility and posted a notice of availability in 2017 to gauge commercial interest in its use. Blue Origin responded and a team was commissioned to begin exploring the proposed partnership. 

“I am thrilled about this partnership with NASA to acceptance test both BE-4 and BE-3U engines at Test Stand 4670, the historic site for testing the Saturn V first stage and the space shuttle main engines,” said Bob Smith, chief executive officer of Blue Origin. “Through this agreement, we’ll provide for the refurbishment, restoration and modernization of this piece of American history – and bring the sounds of rocket engines firing back to Huntsville.”

Under the agreement, Blue Origin will pay for the investments it makes to prepare the test stand for use, as well as any direct costs NASA incurs as a result of Blue Origin use of the stand, maximizing the value derived from taxpayer investment in government facilities.

Blue Origin will manufacture the engines at its new facility under construction in Cummings Research Park.

What’s Hot in Huntsville? #LinkedInLocalHSV, That’s What!

For those of us using LinkedIn, how many actually meet contacts face-to-face and have a discussion over coffee? In most cases, only a handful, and it’s likely that those are people we already know. What if we could meet up with those local contacts that we only know at the virtual level?

A group of local businesspeople hope to make those in-person connections a reality: Enter LinkedIn Local.

Getting its start in Australia, LinkedIn Local has quickly grown into a global movement. LinkedIn Local wants to put the “social” back into social media by hosting events where people could meet their online connections – offline. What began as a hashtag movement in 2017, LinkedIn Local has grown exponentially and is currently hosted in more than 300 cities worldwide.

Last fall, Huntsville joined the global community of LinkedIn users taking online relationships offline. #LinkedInLocalHSV came about after a Friday morning networking event.  A handful of local influencers met to brainstorm and came up with a way to make #LinkedInLocalHSV a reality, right here in the Rocket City.

After the initial brainstorming session, Mike Bean, Gary Choukse, Jared Wasdin, Angela Graham, Brad Wallace, Pam Marmon, and Carla Stiles soon formed a board and quickly got to work in developing #LinkedinLocalHSV.

Built on the concept of authenticity, respect, and collaboration, #LinkedInLocalHSV is a great opportunity to connect in an informal business context, to build strong, long-lasting relationships, all in your local community.

Presented quarterly, the second LinkedInLocalHSV event was recently held in the UAH Student Services Building.

“Thus far, we have sold out both events and we are in the planning stages of our next event,” said board member Carla Stiles. “It’s a great event for our growing community to get people to meet. We have over 100 people attend the events.

“This is great way for those that are new in the community to come and meet other businesses in the area.”

IronMountain Finds a Solution to its Growth – Location, Location, Location

In its new location on Voyager Way in Cummings Research Park, IronMountain Solutions has a lot to celebrate.

IronMountain Solutions has moved all its operations under one roof.

For the fourth consecutive year, IronMountain Solutions has been named as a contender for the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce’s Best Places to Work award. Businesses that create an excellent workplace culture through employee engagement, strong leadership, and excellent communication are not only measured through anonymous employee surveys, but also publicly recognized by the Chamber.

It’s no secret that IronMountain Solutions is a great place to work. As a rapidly growing enterprise that specializes in an impressive array of defense industry-based systems, security, solutions, and support, IronMountain Solutions fosters a dynamic, collaborative work culture with a highly focused vision of continuous growth. Because of this, the company was literally busting at the seams.

After spending the last decade as a tenant in a smaller facility, operations are now all under one roof, along with capacity for future growth, at its new facility on the corner of Old Madison Pike and Voyager Drive.

IronMountain Solutions President/CEO Hank Isenberg sees more great things to come for his company.

“It’s a big deal,” said Corporate Communications Manager Tiffany Morris. “In our previous location, we were spread across two different suites. We would have to trek across the campus, which made for a nice walk on a pretty day, but not so nice in bad weather.

“Our new facility is updated, new, and bright. And it’s great being all together, we can walk over to someone’s office and talk face-to-face.”

Shannon Drake, the company’s corporate community relations coordinator, said she welcomes the change of scenery – inside and out.

“We can do more with interior design and office configuration,” she said. “We’ve gained five conference rooms. Two of them are large training rooms that can accommodate 50 to 60 people. We also have state-of-the-art technology and secured access.

“The added conference rooms allow for in-house trainings and ‘all-hands’ meetings, without having to rent off-site meeting space. It’s also really exciting to be part of Cummings Research Park.”

“The same mindset that has kept us growing for the last 12 years will help us continue to be successful for years to come and that’s operating with extreme customer focus,” said company President/CEO Hank Isenberg. We strive to hire technically and tactically proficient employees, build sincere relations, and find ways to constantly improve our work atmosphere.

“As long as we keep doing what’s right for our customers and employees, I see only more great things for Iron Mountain Solutions for many years to come.”

Auburn Receives $5.2M NASA Contract to Improve Liquid Rocket Engine Performance

AUBURN — NASA has awarded a $5.2 million contract to Auburn’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering National Center for Additive Manufacturing Excellence, it was announced Monday.

The three-year contract is to develop additive manufacturing processes and techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. The contract is the latest expansion of a longstanding public-private partnership between Auburn and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

“For decades, Auburn engineers have been instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its space exploration goals,” said Christopher B. Roberts, dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “This new collaboration between NASA and our additive manufacturing researchers will play a major role in developing advanced rocket engines that will drive long-duration spaceflight, helping our nation achieve its bold vision for the future of space exploration.”

The research and development covered under the new contract is part of NASA’s Rapid Analysis and Manufacturing Propulsion Technology (RAMPT) project, which focuses on evolving lightweight, large-scale novel and additive manufacturing techniques for the development and manufacturing of regeneratively cooled thrust chamber assemblies for liquid rocket engines.

“This partnership with Auburn University and industry will help develop improvements for liquid rocket engines, as well as contribute to commercial opportunities,” said Paul McConnaughey, deputy director of Marshall Space Flight Center. “The technologies developed by this team will be made available widely to the private sector, offering more companies the opportunity to use these advanced manufacturing techniques.”

NCAME will support the RAMPT project in creating a domestic supply chain and developing specialized manufacturing technology vendors to be utilized by all government agencies, academic institutions and commercial space companies.

Auburn and NASA established NCAME in 2017 to improve the performance of parts that are created using additive manufacturing, share research results with industry and government collaborators and respond to workforce development needs in the additive manufacturing industry. The center is also one of the founding partners of the newly established ASTM International Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence at Auburn.

Leading Auburn’s team as principal investigator for the RAMPT project is Nima Shamsaei, NCAME director. Serving as project manager is Mike Ogles, director of NASA programs in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“This contract is a giant leap towards making Alabama the ‘go to state’ for additive manufacturing,” Ogles said. “We look forward to growing our partnership with NASA, industry and academia as we support the development of our nation’s next rocket engines.”

BitBros Helping New Digital Currency to Grow Here – Bitcoin by Bitcoin

It’s a sound bet that not many, if any, Huntsvillians or passersby know that there’s a horde of miners gathered in the industrial park off Jordan Lane.

No one could blame them. These aren’t the light-on-the-helmet, overall-wearing type from most imaginations. These are the new age variety. They’re not even human.

Miners are an integral part of the decade-old bitcoin industry, and a new Huntsville company has powered up many miners (OK, computers) in town. The company, BitBros LLC., has been up and running since last year but held its grand opening in January following a power upgrade that brought 2.5 megawatts of power to the Blockchain and Crypto Mining Association outfit.

“Each of those miners is crunching algorithms all day,” said Matthew Rizzio, a Hazel Geen and UAH graduate who is also CEO and one of three founders of BitBros. “When it solves an algorithm is when you get paid, by bit.”

Confused? Here is how bitcoin is defined: a digital currency in which a record of transactions is maintained and new units of currency generated by the computational solution of mathematical problems, and which operates independently of a central bank.

There it is, right?

“It took me a year to understand it,” said Rizzio, who graduated with degrees in marketing and supply chain management from UAH in 2014.

Rizzio is one of three founders of BitBros. There’s also his brother and COO Christopher Borgosz, who grew up in Birmingham, attended John Carroll Catholic High School and the University of Alabama and still lives in the Magic City. And there’s the CTO, Josh. He goes by the moniker Jmo, and hails from Illinois and met Rizzio at UAH.

In the bitcoin business there are: Blockchains (a ledger of records stored on an encrypted network of computers); cryptocurrency (digital currency used to pay for using the blocking or for exchanging currency; ASICs (chips than handle a specific, single encrypted algorithm); and the aforementioned miners.

Rizzio said the most difficult part of launching BitBros is waiting for people to get over the learning curve of what bitcoin is about.

“Historically, it takes about 20 years for new technology to catch on,” he said. “Like the Internet.”

But, he added, the company has heard good feedback since its January launch.

“We expect Huntsville to be a great location,” he said. “With so many engineers and people working in technology, there’s a large underground regarding the industry.”

Researchers Use AI to Predict Life of Batteries

LOS ALTOS, Calif. — Wouldn’t it be nice if battery manufacturers could tell which of their batteries will last at least two years and sell those to mobile phone makers, and which will last for 10 years or more and sell those to electric vehicle manufacturers? New collaborative research published in Nature Energy shows how they could start doing that.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the Toyota Research Institute discovered that combining comprehensive experimental data and artificial intelligence revealed the key for accurately predicting the useful life of lithium-ion batteries before their capacities started to wane.

After the researchers trained their machine learning model with a few hundred million data points, the algorithm predicted how many more cycles each battery would last, based on voltage declines and a few other factors among the early cycles. The predictions were within 9 percent of the actual cycle life. Separately, the algorithm categorized batteries as either long or short life expectancy based on just the first five charge/discharge cycles. Here, the predictions were correct 95 percent of the time.

This machine learning method could accelerate the research and development of new battery designs, and reduce the time and cost of production, among other applications. The researchers have made the data —the largest of its kind—publicly available.

One focus in the project was to find a better way to charge batteries in 10 minutes, a feature that could accelerate the mass adoption of electric vehicles.

En route to optimizing fast charging, the researchers wanted to find out whether if it was necessary to run their batteries into the ground. Can the answer to a battery question be found in the information from just the early cycles?

“Advances in computational power and data generation have recently enabled machine learning to accelerate progress for a variety of tasks. These include prediction of material properties,” said Dr. Richard Braatz of MIT. “Our results here show how we can predict the behavior of complex systems far into the future.”

Generally, the capacity of a lithium-ion battery is stable for a while. Then it takes a sharp turn downward. The plummet point varies widely, as most 21st century consumers know.

“The standard way to test new battery designs is to charge and discharge the cells until they die. Since batteries have a long lifetime, this process can take many months and even years,” said co-lead author Peter Attia, Stanford doctoral candidate in Materials Science and Engineering. “It’s an expensive bottleneck in battery research.”

Huntsville’s WZDX Fox 54 Under New Ownership

TEGNA has entered into an agreement with Nexstar Media Group to acquire 11 television stations in eight markets, including eight Big Four affiliates, for $740 million in cash.

Huntsville’s WZDX Fox 54 is among the TV stations in the purchase.

TEGNA owns 49 television stations and two radio stations in 41 markets. It is the largest owner of top 4 affiliates in the top 25 markets, reaching approximately one-third of all television households nationwide.

CFD Research Awarded $24M NASA Contract

CFD Research has been awarded a small business prime contract for the Vertical Lift Technology Development program at NASA Ames Research Center. It is the company’s first major service prime NASA contract.

The five-year Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract has a ceiling value of $24 million.

CFD Research and its team of subcontractors will provide aeronautical engineering, research, and development for vertical lift technology development. Air traffic management development is also included to assess and integrate new operating procedures for efficiency and safety.

“The VLTD award marks a major milestone for CFD Research on two key fronts: it is our first major service prime contract for NASA and our first major service prime contract outside of Huntsville,” said COO/Vice President Steve Cayson. “It emphasizes our strategic goal to leverage our core research and development capabilities into on-site support for government customers.”

Huntsville-based CFD Research was founded in 1987 and provides work for government and commercial customers.

“CFD Research is honored to be selected for this highly competitive award and looks forward to continuing and growing our long and successful partnership with NASA’s prestigious Ames Research Center,” said President/CEO Sameer Singhal. “The award builds on CFD Research’s services growth of the last few years and provides opportunities to increase that growth significantly.”

Urban Engine Salutes Women in Technology, Female Entrepreneurs

Urban Engine, a local nonprofit organization aimed at accelerating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics)-focused innovation and entrepreneurship through education, announced a series of free events that will celebrate women in technology and showcase female entrepreneurs in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

The series of events includes:

  • Wednesday, March 6: Women in Tech-themed Co-Working Night at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – A schedule of one-hour technical workshops ranging from software and web development to digital marketing will be led by women in partnership with Women Who Code Huntsville.
  • March 14: 32/10 Speaker Series at The Camp at MidCity, 5901 University Drive, 5:30 p.m. – Amanda Latifi co-founder/CEO of the Los Angeles-based shopping application, HaftaHave.
  • March 20: Google “I am Remarkable” Women’s Empowerment Workshop at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – Led by Lauren Johannesmeyer, city manager of Google Fiber Huntsville.
  • March 27: “Her-story” Panel at Huntsville West, 3001 9th Ave., 6 p.m. – Featuring Joanna White, Governmental Affairs liaison for the Huntsville Area Association of Realtors; Emilie Dover, co-founder/president of Rocket City Digital; and Jessica Barker, president of the Huntsville/Madison County chapter of Alabama New South Coalition.

Urban Engine is celebrating women in technology and female startup founders to bring awareness to equity in STEAM careers and startup opportunities.

National data indicates women make up less than 20 percent of U.S. tech jobs while owning about 40 percent of all businesses. But, for those working on technology businesses, only 17 percent of venture-backed capital is invested in women-led startups.

For more information, visit https://www.urbanengine.org/events/wemonth.