Alabama A&M Partners with Apogee for Campus Wi-Fi Services

As it sprints toward its milestone 150th anniversary, Alabama A&M University is planning for the future with investment in cutting-edge Wi-Fi across its campus to facilitate student learning, research capabilities, collaboration, and security.

The university has named Apogee, the only managed-services provider focused solely on higher education, to provide wireless service for more than 6,900 students and faculty throughout every academic building and area, including the 972-acre Winifred Thomas Agricultural Research Station in Hazel Green.

Founded in 1875 by a former slave, Alabama A&M is a Historical Black College and University and a traditional 1890 land-grant institution. A dynamic and progressive institution committed to academic excellence, AAMU prepares students not only to excel in their careers, but also to succeed at life.

“One of our 2021 strategic goals was to drastically improve our Wi-Fi offering to meet the needs of the university in a world that is more connected than ever before,” said Alabama A&M President Dr. Andrew Hugine. “Our mobility dependence has increased exponentially over the past decade. With the average number of wireless devices jumping from 1.5 to five or more per user, keeping up with this demand in-house has become impractical given our staff and budgets.”

By partnering with Apogee for managed services, A&M will be able to improve connectivity, reliability, performance, IT service and support, and financial predictability, while freeing administrators from the hassles of equipment and network refreshes and giving them the gift of time and energy to focus on important strategic campus initiatives.

Students, faculty, and researchers will return to campus in Spring 2021 to a significantly improved digital experience with the new, state-of-the-art, high-speed, and reliable Wi-Fi network in all four colleges and at the research station.

AAMU’s new Wi-Fi network, which will connect seamlessly with the existing residential network, will provide blended learning opportunities for students to connect to live lectures remotely and view recorded lecture material online. It will foster increased collaboration between peers and teachers for better student outcomes and higher student satisfaction ratings.

And it will let AAMU students feel connected whether in a classroom, studying remotely or elsewhere on campus. They will also have instant access to Apogee’s 24/7/365 support via phone, chat, text, and email. In addition, it will provide real-time location analytics to understand facility utilization and ensure campus safety.

“In response to COVID-19 and growing parental concerns over school-related emergencies, we needed to have the system be able to accurately locate users and devices across the campus as part of our life safety planning and contact tracing strategies,” said Dr. Damian Clarke, Chief Information Officer.

The new managed campus network provides a predictable funding model, comprehensive support, SLA-driven performance metrics, and regular equipment refreshes and to ensure the network is always up-to-date and modernized.

AAMU’s search for a technology partner led them to choose Apogee because of the company’s experience and track record delivering high-speed, cutting edge Wi-Fi to so many universities across the nation.

“Apogee’s proposal met or exceeded AAMU’s expectations across technical requirements, service and response times, and fiscally,” said Clarke. “We look forward to a mutually-beneficial partnership.”

“One of the foundations of our business is helping colleges and universities harness technology to drive their strategic initiatives,” said Matt Loecke, executive vice president of Sales at Apogee. “We are honored to welcome this prestigious school amongst our established HBCU partnerships, and believe that like their peers, AAMU will come to rely on Apogee’s commitment to technological and operational excellence to lay the foundation for their students’ academic success and quality of life.”

Booz Allen Innovation Center at Stovehouse Will Put Technology on Display

Booz Allen Huntsville Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson: The innovation center “is a chance to show off some of our extraordinary talent.”

This winter, visitors to the historic Stovehouse will be able to watch innovation in progress through the glass “storefront” of the new Booz Allen Innovation Center overlooking the grassy courtyard of the reimagined factory. On display will be the company’s vast 3D printing capabilities and other additive manufacturing technologies.

Plans for the innovation center were first announced in June, but a live groundbreaking event followed by a virtual tour of the renovated 6,400 square-foot facility was recently carried on Facebook with Mayor Tommy Battle; Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Chair Kevin Burns; City Councilman Bill Kling; the Booz Allen Innovation Center Program Manager Emily Jones; and Booz Allen Huntsville Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson.

“This new innovation center is a celebration of one of Huntsville’s longtime investors, and a key member of the Huntsville regional growth initiative,” said Burns.

The 3D printing space will act like a “storefront” in front of the windows overlooking the Stovehouse courtyard. Guest office space will be on the right.

“It’s a really big day for Booz Allen, opening this innovation center,” said Hudson. “We have been a part of Huntsville, really from the very beginning when Wernher von Braun was still a director at MDA (Missile Defense Agency). He reached out to Booz Allen to try and figure out how to get the funding to kick off the U.S. missile program here.

“We have grown as a company supporting MDA and NASA since then and grown into the huge company, we are today because of it, and more recently, because of our support for the DoD (Department of Defense) as well.”

The innovation center is a way for Booz Allen to showcase its engineering expertise in a customer and community collaborative environment. The center will feature a reconfigurable layout based on client work and technology requirements, including additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

“Huntsville’s newest innovation space is well on its way to being finished,” said Kling. “Booz Allen’s Innovation Center will provide a cutting edge and a welcoming environment in support of Booz Allen and their customers here in Huntsville.

Taking part in a “groundbreaking ceremony” are Kevin Burns, 2020 Chair Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce; City Councilman Bill Kling; Emily Jones, Booz Allen Innovation Center Program Manager; Lincoln Hudson, senior vice president, Booz Allen Huntsville; and Mayor Tommy Battle

“It will definitely have some very cool features.”

Hudson said the goal is to change as little as possible of the original factory space, while making it as flexible as possible to meet the company’s needs.

Entering the building from the Stovehouse courtyard, Booz Allen customers and Stovehouse guests will find the space open and conducive to social distancing.

The 3D printing space is in front of the windows and on full display. Across from it are guest offices for Booz Allen customers already using that technology.

Off to the right is a large, reconfigurable open space that can be used for multiple purposes and events with desks and tables and chairs.

In the far right corner is a main conference room that includes a soundproof, video-quality environment for customers and clients.

This multi-purpose open space is reconfigurable and will include a main conference room with a soundproof, video quality environment.

“Everything behind the front pillar as you enter the building will be on wheels,” said Hudson. “We will have some carts and toolboxes for light integration work, a lot of work with training in virtual environments such as cockpit controls. We manufacture some training environments and will definitely be demonstrating how we integrate technologies into those different virtual environments.”

They will also have a recruiting area and will hold staffing events.

“It is a chance to show off some of our extraordinary talent,” said Hudson.

Booz Allen plans to be open in time for a February leadership meeting scheduled at the Innovation Center.

“Innovation is what has made Huntsville what it is today,” said Battle “On behalf of the 205,000 people in the city of Huntsville, I thank you for making Huntsville part of your home.

“As we continue to grow, we are proud this is happening here in our community.”

South Huntsville Companies Host Private Topping Out Ceremony

Freedom Real Estate and Capital, Invariant and Torch Technologies hosted a Topping Out ceremony for their multi-tenant facility in South Huntsville.

Due to COVID restrictions, the event was held privately Friday. In building construction, topping out is a builders’ rite traditionally held when the last beam is placed atop a structure during its construction. The completion date for the facility at 4040 Chris Drive is set for early next summer.

Joining Freedom CEO Bill Roark at the ceremony were Huntsville Madison County Chamber CEO Chip Cherry, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Invariant Director of Advanced Technology John Montgomery, Torch Technologies Senior Director Brady Porter and Turner Construction’s Project Executive Brandon Tucker.  Turner raised the final beam atop the structure.

“Congratulations to our design and construction partners for keeping the project on schedule and moving forward safely during COVID,” said Freedom’s Director of Capital Projects Lee Holland.

The design is led by Arcspace Studio and construction is led by Turner Construction. The project has achieved 25,000 work hours to date with no lost time accidents or injuries.

The 4040 Chris Drive Development is 92,000 square feet and will feature a mix of office, research and development labs, light manufacturing, assembly, and integration space along with a high bay.

Stellar Group Named to Advisory Board for Drake State Space Construction Research Program

A nine-member advisory board has been named to oversee Drake State Community  & Technical College’s new Frontiers Research Program.

The Frontiers Research  Program was established after Drake State was selected by NASA’s Marshall Space  Flight Center as a partner to develop 3D printing technologies to support the Artemis  mission

The Frontiers Advisory Board, made up of technical experts, NASA officials and  community leaders will provide guidance to the research team throughout the year long project. 

“NASA is calling on us to help develop construction techniques suitable for use on the  moon,” said Dr. Pat Sims, president of Drake State Community & Technical College. “Our advisory board has the expertise to help guide our efforts as we complete this  significant work.” 

In addition to the advisory board, the Frontiers Research team will be supported by  representatives from NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and ICON, a construction technologies company leading the 3D space construction research efforts for NASA. 

Drake State is the first community college and only Historically Black community college to receive a cooperative agreement award from Marshall’s CAN opportunity since its inception in 2013.

The Frontiers Research Program team – which consists of students, instructors and administrators from the college’s Engineering Design program  – will test 3D-printed concrete structures to help develop construction techniques for building landing pads, roads, and other large structures on the Moon. 

Frontiers Research Program Advisory Board Members 

Joe Fitzgerald – Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for Alabama 

Jeff Haars – Vice President and Deputy Program Manager, Jacobs Space Exploration

Laura Hall – State Representative (D) District 19 

Larry Lewis – Cofounder and President, PROJECTTXYZ, Inc. 

John Mankins – President, Artemis Innovation Management Systems 

John Meredith – President Pro Tem, District 5, Huntsville City Council 

Raymond Pierce – President and CEO, Southern Education Foundation 

Ritchie Whorton – State Representative (R) District 22 

Lisa Williams – Cofounder and President, 3D Research Corp.

Evan Jensen – ICON

Jason Ford – ICON

Dmitri Julius – ICON

TVA, Origis Energy to Power Google Data Centers with 100% Renewable Energy

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority confirmed Monday that the new 100-megawatt solar facility in Obion County, Tenn., will supply carbon-free energy to Google’s data centers in Clarksville, Tenn., and Hollywood, Ala., in Jackson County.

Florida-based solar developer Origis Energy is using TVA’s nationally recognized Green Invest program to develop the solar farm.

The Green Invest program helps customers like Google meet their long-term sustainability goals with new renewable energy projects. In the past two years, Green Invest has generated $1.4 billion in economic activity in TVA’s service area.

“TVA’s Green Invest can deliver clean, reliable renewable energy at a competitive price – stimulating growth across our seven-state region and giving our region a competitive advantage through public power,” said Chris Hansen, TVA vice president, Origination and Renewables.

Through a long-term power purchase agreement, Origis Energy will own and operate the plant, using industry leading land stewardship techniques. The project will create more than 300 construction jobs, with additional employment for 8-10 fulltime operations and maintenance staff. Origis plans to have the solar facility operational by the end of 2022, pending environmental reviews.

“This Tennessee solar milestone is another demonstration of the success of TVA’s Green Invest partnership,” said Johan Vanhee, Origis Energy chief commercial officer and chief procurement officer. “Such utility innovations are helping Google reach its aim to be the first major company to operate carbon free by 2030. We are very pleased to add 100 megawatts to this goal while contributing to the economic development of Obion County.”

To power the data centers, Google had already purchased a total of 266 megawatts of power generated by multiple solar farms linked into the TVA electric grid.

“Google is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy and our goal is to run our business on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030,” said Reid Spolek, with Data Center Energy Strategy at Google. “Working with TVA and Origis through Green Invest will help move us closer to this goal.”

Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of four other major Green Invest deals TVA completed this year: General MotorsVanderbilt UniversityKnoxville Utilities Board and Facebook.

“TVA is a job creator, and we are looking for creative ways to use our solar programs to bring high-paying jobs to the communities we serve,” said Hansen. “By integrating public-private partnerships with clean energy, we can make our region the premier destination for businesses that want to achieve their sustainability goals.”

HTSI, DC Capital Form Strategic Partnership

Hill Technical Solutions has formed a strategic partnership with DC Capital Partners to enhance HTSI’s ability to expand its capabilities and customer base.

Huntsville-based HTSI is a provider of systems engineering and integration, advanced technology development, systems architecture design and analysis, and hypersonic design and testing solutions for the Missile Defense Agency, Army, Navy and Air Force.

HTSI is a two-time “Best Places to Work” employer in Huntsville and a four-time Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company.  

“This is an exciting time for HTSI as we join the DC Capital family of businesses,” Stacey Hill, HTSI’s CEO, and Brad Hill, HTSI president, said in a news release. “Our company and our employees have always been focused on our customers’ missions and our partnership with DC Capital will allow us to continue to grow and provide exceptional service to our growing list of customers across U.S. government agencies.

“This partnership will also provide our employees with more personal and professional development opportunities as we continue to expand our business and our capabilities.”

Founded in 2010, HTSI’s expertise includes engineering support to the Army mission dating back to the mid-1980s. HTSI supports the Missile Defense Agency, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, Army CCDC Aviation and Missile Center,  Army COE (Department of Defense Supercomputing Resource Centers), and the Air Force in system assessment, hypersonics, cybersecurity, information technology, modeling and simulation, and test.

“HTSI is an exceptional company with an extremely talented management team and a highly skilled and experienced eam of subject matter experts,” said Thomas J. Campbell, founder and managing partner of DC Capital. “We look forward to our partnership with Stacey and Brad Hill and their team as we all work to support our customers in the development of the next generation of defense systems. Our goal is to continue to grow the company and expand existing capabilities to provide even more advanced solutions to our customers.”

DC Capital Partners is a private equity investment firm headquartered in Alexandria, Va., focused on making control investments in middle market, U.S.-based government services and engineering and consulting services businesses. 

“DC Capital looks forward to partnering with Stacey and Brad and the HTSI management team to execute the strategic plan that we have developed and to continue the growth of HTSI that this management has begun,” said Jeffrey C. Weber, a partner at DC Capital. “HTSI plays a critical role in the defense of our country and our goal is to continue to attract world class employees who can broaden the role that HTSI plays in providing solutions to its existing customers and help the company expand to other U.S. government customers.”

Huntsville Companies Among Fortune Best Small & Medium Workplaces

Playing on a national stage, three Huntsville-based business have landed on Fortune’s Top 100 Best Small & Medium Workplaces 2020 in the country.

All three companies – Intuitive Research and Technology Corp., PeopleTec and Canvas – were recognized by Fortune magazine as top performing companies. To be eligible for the ranking, they must also be Great Places to Work-Certified companies, meaning at least 70 percent of the companies’ employees report a consistently positive experience working at their company.

Earning a spot of the list is based on confidential survey feedback representing more than 189,000 employees working at small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the United States.

Intuitive, an aerospace engineering and analysis firm in Cummings Research Park, is ranked the highest on the list at No. 5. Ninety-eight percent of Intuitive’s employees say it is a great place to work, compared to 59 percent of employees at a typical U.S.-based company.

“It is a true testament to the Intuitive culture and our employees that we have been honored as Best Workplace in the Nation nine years in a row, all nine years in the top five,” said Intuitive President Vergenia Shelton. “Receiving this honor reflects what is most important to Intuitive … Our employees are the driving force to our success, which is why we invest so heavily in our people. It has always been our priority to provide a workplace where employees are proud of where they work and excited about what they do.”

Also in Cummings Research Park, PeopleTec. is ranked No. 9. The employee-owned small business got its start in Huntsville in 2005 to help provide and retain a highly skilled workforce throughout the area. The No. 9 ranking came with a 98 percent employee satisfaction rate.

“Our unique culture and our commitment to the Warfighter creates a second home for our employee-owners, where trust is high, and everyone feels welcome,” PeopleTec CEO Terry Jennings said.

Coming in at No. 35, Canvas provides services and technical solutions for federal and commercial customers. The company finished with the highest positive employee rating from among the three at 99 percent.

“Canvas is proud to be recognized by our employees for creating one of the best small business workplaces,” said CEO Jami Peyton. “Our high-trust culture has not only helped us navigate a challenging 2020, but also continued to propel Canvas forward in the best way possible. We simply couldn’t be a Best Small Workplace or Great Place to Work without our incredible employees.”

Great Place to Work is a global people analytics and company culture research firm. Certification is based on responses to employee questionnaires based on the extent to which employees trust leaders; the respect with which people are treated; the fairness of workplace decisions; and how much camaraderie there is among the team.

The Event that Almost Wasn’t: Huntsville Science Festival Goes Virtual

Leave it to 2020 to throw a wrench in things.

In the Huntsville area, which prides itself on creativity and innovation, shifting gears has been the norm. 

Shifting gears. And that’s exactly what Huntsville Science Festival has done. By migrating to the virtual platform, the event is ready to roll.

In its inaugural year, Huntsville Science Festival/PPG STEAMfest 2020: Science at Home is a weeklong celebration of science, highlighting all things STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). 

From Oct. 24-31, participants can learn about astronomy, backyard biology, umbrella rockets, killer kudzu, dinosaurs, squirrels, genetics, robots, music, food, and beer!

All events are free and open to the public. Presentations will feature speakers from a variety of organizations; HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Innerspace Brewing, RadioBro, Von Braun Astronomical Society, Leonardo Project LLC, and more.

As an affiliate of MIT’s Science Festival Alliance, Huntsville Science Festival is only one of two national science festivals that has survived COVID.

The event was initially scheduled to be hosted at the Von Braun Center. Then, along came the pandemic. As a result, the Las Vegas Science Festival, now in its 10th year, has been postponed to 2021. The Atlanta Festival canceled midweek. 

Huntsville’s Festival was teetering on cancellation, as well.

“We were considering that” said Joe Iocuzzo, event organizer. “Then, decided that we could make it a virtual event.” 

The festival kicks off with the Von Braun Astronomical Society Astronomical Day and its “Astronomy for Everyone.” In this presentation, participants will be virtually transported to the VBAS Observatory to see live viewing through telescopes! 

“The Science Festival is not just for kids,” said Iocuzzo. 

A few of the presentations that may pique the interest of the grown-ups include Innerspace Brewery’s “Beer: Sudsy Science.” Participants will learn that there’s more to beer than what meets the eye, or the tastebuds.

Heidi Kizer from the Bakingtist will present “Baking Science: Bread Balloon Bonanza.” Kizer, a “sourdough bread-slinging, pastry-providin’, and MegaCookie-making baker” will demonstrate how science can be delicious and nutritious. 

And for those squirrel lovers among us, there’s “Squirrely Personalities: Amazing Facts About Those Backyard Critters” presented by Dr. Amanda Kelly of the College of Charleston. 

All events can be accessed through the festival website. Although some of the presentations are previously recorded, there will be live Q&A sessions after each presentation.

Several of the classes require supplies. Free kits are available at any of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library branches. Due to limited supply, calling ahead for availability is highly recommended. Curbside pick-up will also be available.

In addition to the presentations, there will be an auction in support of the Science Festival Alliance. Items include an original painting by paleo artist Dr. Julius Csotonyi, one of the foremost scientific illustrators in the world; a coin with embedded art by Dr. Alexandra LeFort, a planetary scientist and artist; and book by Iocuzzo, “Last Day of the Dinosaur Mummy.” 

For information, visit huntsvillescience.org/

 

Banking Industry Sees Digital, Mobile Services Increase During Pandemic

With the onset of the global pandemic, businesses rolled up their collective sleeves and grimly faced the arduous task of shifting gears.

And financial institutions quickly found themselves in the spotlight. When it comes to continued access to money, whether it be a loan, savings, or one’s paycheck, everyone feels the effect when that access is hindered.

The banking industry with its customers faced technological hurdles and economic hardships. But banks stepped up with solutions to protect their customers and employees as well as keeping themselves insulated against financial catastrophe – such as the crash of 2008.

“The current COVID pandemic focused a spotlight on the importance of providing uninterrupted services to all customers, including, personal, business and government,” said Tim Singleton, senior commercial lending manager for Bank Independent. “In many ways, the banking industry became hyper-vigilant preparing for multiple unknown economic factors.”

If one thing is certain, COVID-19 has been an accelerant for increased consumer usage of digital banking technologies.

Although most banks were already invested in digitalized and mobile banking services, the pandemic quickly prompted many of non-to-low-end digital users into the age of mobile banking.

Many banks, which had mobile banking tools and were already maintaining digital relationships with customers, had to quickly adjust to a sudden increase in demand for mobile services.

According to data collected by Fidelity National Information Services, April 15, 2020 witnessed a 145 percent spike in the average daily traffic for mobile banking platforms, as compared with the March’s numbers. Along with the uptick in traffic, new registrations for mobile banking apps jumped 207 percent.

“Wells Fargo has seen increased digital and mobile logins, mobile deposit volume, checks deposited using mobile devices and online wire transfers since COVID-19 started,” said Stephen Norris, regional bank president for Wells Fargo. “All of this translated into more digital banking access and transactions than ever before.”

For Wells Fargo, those numbers are significant when compared 2019’s second quarter statistics. For April 2020, digital logins were up 21.5 percent, mobile deposit dollar volume was up 108.3 percent, and online wires transactions were up 49.6 percent. There were also 31.7 million checks deposited using mobile devices, which was a 35.9 increase over a year ago.

Naturally, there were learning curves and the need for increased bandwidth capacity.

“Our IT department ensured an uninterrupted workflow for our team members who suddenly found themselves working remotely,” said Singleton. “The robust features built into Sync Mobile and Online found popularity with our customers.”

Bank Independent’s loan processing teams shifted gears by using the digital signature platform, in lieu of traditional signatures to close documents.

Since the pandemic exploded, customers have significantly changed how they do their banking. According to an FIS survey, 45 percent of consumers said they started using some form of mobile wallet following the pandemic’s onset. Once comfortable with usage, it is seen as another option, in addition to the face-to-face banking.

However, there are customers who prefer the return of “brick and mortar” banking.

“I think the industry will scramble to find the balance between digital and personal,” said Singleton. “Our customers have voiced their desire for things to return to ‘normal.’

“We have a plan in place that will accommodate our customers in a manner that is safe and secure for both the customer and our team members.”

 

 

 

Dynetics Unveils Lunar Lander Module Mockup

Dynetics recently unveiled a test version of its full-scale lunar lander that the company hopes will take people to the moon.

The Dynetics test article will be used for initial evaluations for NASA’s Artemis program,, Dynetics said in a statement. The Dynetics team will use the test article for analysis, crew module accommodations, placement and orientation of various components and overall habitability.

The mockup includes the crew module, autonomous logistics platform for all-moon cargo access, ascent and descent propellant tanks and deployable solar arrays. This low-slung design could allow for easier and safer access to the lunar surface.

The full-scale lunar landing system mockup will be used for testing for NASA’s Artemis program. (Dynetics Photo)

“Our team is pleased to bring this system to life,” Kim Doering, Dynetics Vice President of Space Systems, said in a statement. “Our reusable, sustainable approach is ready to support a safe and successful hardware delivery for NASA’s mission.”

The focus of the test article rests on crew interfaces, enabling the team to test crew activities within the module. The flexible design is readily reconfigurable, allowing the human systems integration team and flight crew to review and provide feedback on early concept designs and execute quick-turn iterations.

The test article was constructed just three months after the start of the contract and was built and delivered in collaboration with LSINC, a Huntsville-based subcontractor.

Huntsville-based Dynetics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Leidos, is competing with  is one of three prime contractors selected to design a lander for the NASA’s Artemis Human Landing System Program managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Dynetics; SpaceX; and The National Team, led by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, were awarded contracts in April totalling $967 million to build the landing systems.