Afghan Girls Celebrated at Global Robotics Event

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Making it to Washington was the real challenge for some of the 163 teams from around the world.

As the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge – a STEM exposition featuring teenagers from 157 countries – wound down Tuesday evening in Washington, a deafening roar took over DAR Constitution Hall as more than 150 countries’ flags waved in the air during a closing ceremony that celebrated collaboration, innovation and engineering excellence.

It made no difference which team’s name was called: Hundreds of students and mentors from the 163 teams cheered just as loudly for their competitors as they did for their allies. Over the past few months, each team built a robot based on the same kit and then brought it to the July 16-18 FIRST Global Challenge, which had a water security theme. The nonprofit FIRST was founded by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, to promote global collaboration in science, technology, engineering and math.

The friendly atmosphere at the “Robotic Olympics” made it clear that organizers and teams alike viewed the event as a challenge rather than a competition. For some, half of that challenge was getting to the nation’s capital.

Afghanistan’s team made headlines this month when its visa requests were denied twice and the group almost missed the competition, until President Donald Trump intervened last week to urge State Department authorities to reconsider. The five girls were granted entry to the U.S. less than a week before the competition, leaving the team to scramble to find flights and plan the trip, team mentor Alireza Mehraban said. Still, he said they were relieved when they heard they’d be allowed to attend the competition after all.

The Afghan girls, who won a silver medal for courageous achievement during the awards ceremony (the gold went to South Sudan), were not the only team that overcame barriers to compete at the FIRST Global Challenge.

The Gambian team, made up of two girls and three boys, was also initially denied entry to the U.S., but ended up making its way to Washington. Team member Fatoumata Ceesay said they continued working on their robot while they waited in limbo, unsure if the State Department would reverse its decision.

The refusal rate for temporary visas into the U.S. was about 74 percent for those coming from Afghanistan and about 70 percent for Gambia in 2016, according to State Department statistics.

“I truly believe our greatest power is the power to convene nations, to bring people together in the pursuit of a common goal and prove that our similarities greatly outweigh our differences,” FIRST Global President Joe Sestak, a former congressman and U.S. Navy admiral, said in a July 12 statement. “That is why I am most grateful to the U.S. government and its State Department for ensuring Afghanistan, as well as Gambia, would be able to join us for this international competition this year.”

Continue onto U.S. News & World Report to read more about the Global STEM competition.

TECH EXPO – Virtual Hiring Event

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TECHEXPO Top Secret, the Nation’s premier producer of professional job fairs for the defense & intelligence industry, has proudly announced that they are launching a Virtual Hiring Event for Security-Cleared professionals. For over 25 years, TECHEXPO has consistently produced the leading cleared in-person hiring events for the most sought-after positions in IT, Engineering, Cyber Security, and a multitude of other industries.

During these unprecedented times, TECHEXPO understands the need for both job seekers and employers to be able to interview for open positions, all while practicing social distancing. Through this virtual Hiring Event, TECHEXPO provides a safe way to interview from the comfort of each individual’s own home or office. The distinguishing feature that sets TECHEXPO apart from the rest is the ability for job seekers and recruiters to conduct full interviews via live video, in addition to text chat.

The TECHEXPO Virtual Hiring Event will be held on May 14th and will be for professionals with any level of active security clearance.

The event will run from 12 PM – 5 PM EDT.

Some of the top defense & technology companies have already confirmed their participation in this event, including Deloitte, L3Harris, Amazon Web Services, Boeing Intelligence & Analytics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman Technology Sector, AT&T Government Services, Leidos and many more! “We are thrilled that so many top tier companies have stepped up and are participating in these virtual hiring events!” states Bradford Rand, CEO of TECHEXPO Top Secret.”

The team at TECHEXPO also produces the Official Cyber Security Summit series throughout the nation and Canada, whereby some of those conferences are going virtual with a monthly “Cyber Summit Power Hour” held throughout the USA. Details: www.CyberSummitUSA.com

Companies looking to recruit security-cleared talent safely and efficiently can secure their virtual booth by contacting Bradford Rand, CEO of TECHEXPO, at BRand@TechExpoUSA.com / 212-655-4505 ext. 223.

Security-Cleared Professionals, Transitioning Military and or Veterans are encouraged to explore & interview for hundreds of jobs all across the country.

To view the growing list of companies recruiting and to register to attend as a job seeker, please visit TechExpoUSA.com

The First Pharmacy to Add Drones for Delivery

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A drone holding a small UPS package flies in front of a CVS Pharmacy

CVS, in an effort to ensure proper medication is easily available to those who need it the most, has been utilizing in-store pickup, drive through services, and free delivery to distribute their prescriptions. But for the first time in history, in partnership with UPS, one CVS pharmacy will start delivering medication in a new way—by drone.

The Villages, the largest retirement facility in the United States, located in central Florida, will begin receiving their prescription medications from CVS via drone delivery starting in early May and is expected to continue until the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Drone delivery will enable more social distancing of especially susceptible members of the community and decrease the chances of infection on both sides. The drones will only be flying a half-mile distance to a separate location and transported by truck from there.

Though this technology is rarely used presently, this isn’t the first time that drone delivery has been tested. In fact, drone delivery was first utilized by UPS to make deliveries to WakeMed’s flagship campus in Raleigh, North Carolina, and at UC San Diego in California. These deliveries, as well as the ones that will be made in Florida, adhere to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 rules and have permission to be utilized during the pandemic.

Deployment of delivery drones during the pandemic could potentially open up to possibilities of drone delivery in the future and among other CVS pharmacies.

To read the full press release, click here

Diversity in STEAM Snapshot: NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program

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The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program is a comprehensive training program for aspiring minority and female pit crew members. The program focuses on instilling the fundamentals, discipline and confidence required to be a top athlete on a NASCAR pit crew. The program includes weekly hands-on, over-the-wall position training and coaching for tire changers, tire carriers, fuelers and jackmen, as well as weight training, agility and footwork programs.

The program’s objective is to create a pit crew development program designed to identify, coach, train and develop minority athletes who possess the skill, ability and attitude to be successful as a pit crew member into elite levels of the sport.

To offer this opportunity to young men and women all across the nation, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program launched a development and recruitment tour in May of 2016. Diversity in STEAM Magazine got the chance to speak with Dawn Harris, Senior Director, Multicultural Development for NASCAR, more about the Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program and the impact it’s had on the racing industry:

How did the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Program get its start?

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program began in 2004 and is an academy-style development program for female and multicultural drivers and crew members who have the potential and determination to succeed at the highest levels of NASCAR.

What kinds of duties/tasks do the athletes assist with in the pit?

The pit crew is a team of five athletes who jack the car, change tires, refuel gas and adjust parts in a matter of seconds to keep or propel the driver closer to the front of the race.

What do those who participate like most about the program?

Most NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program participants like the comradery and exposure they receive as being part of the program. The pit crew program bodes a 100-percent placement rate, so it’s more than likely that they’ll be placed on a team or will be pitting in the ARCA series or NASCAR national series within a couple of years of graduating from the program.

How do you evaluate the success of the program?

The success of the program is evaluated by how many athletes are placed on teams in NASCAR and how many student-athletes have become interested in the program over time.

How do you select your athletes/drivers for the program?

As far as the pit crew program, NASCAR and Rev Racing scout athletes at different colleges and universities where they host preliminary combines. From there, standout athletes invited to the national combine that takes place in May and a selection is made on who advances to the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program, a six-month development program with NASCAR and Rev Racing. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Youth Combine and Driver Combine are a little different. An application process is involved, and a voting committee decides who is selected for the combine.

How does this program help these drivers progress in their NASCAR careers?

The driver program helps drivers compete in lower series’ where they can showcase their talent and eventually move up to the national series NASCAR teams. It gives them a platform for growth as many teams are constantly looking to fill seats on their rosters and searching for up and coming talent. These series include NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, ARCA Menards Series and US Legends’ Car Series. Drivers also get support with media training and physical fitness training.

Can you share any part of the success of the program?

There are three drivers competing at the highlight level of NASCAR in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series who have come from the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program, such as the most recent NASCAR winner at Dover International Speedway, Kyle Larson, Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez. That speaks volumes to the success of the program because they started from the bottom and have worked their way to the top.

What impact has the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program had on the racing industry?

Since 2004, the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program has introduced more women and minorities to the sport than ever before. It’s shown that there’s more people to reach in diverse communities that also have a love for racing but may not have seen a viable career option.  This program is helping to change the narrative about diversity in racing. Not only does it start on a driver level but reaches every part of the industry from the office to the crew members to the tracks and teams.

How significant was it to have both Daniels and O’Leary participate in the Daytona 500?

Very significant. That was the first time two women graduates from the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Pit Crew Development Program went over the wall on the same team at the Daytona 500. It signifies a turning point in the industry as women become more athletic and break down barriers in a traditionally male role. We want NASCAR, on and off the track, to reflect the diverse makeup of our country.

What other participants can you share with us from the Drive for Diversity program being featured in even more key races in the future?

As mentioned before, Kyle Larson is currently competing for a championship in the top series. Bubba Wallace and Daniel Suarez are also competing at the highest level of the sport. Isabella Robusto is a youth driver who’s been successful on and off the track. She competes in Legends’ cars, but she has dreams of making it to the top level. Participants from the pit crew program include Kenyatta Houston and Johnathan Willard who work for race teams and pit full time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

What other aspects of diversity would you like to share with us about your program and/or general diversity efforts NASCAR has made, is making and will be making?

Recently, NASCAR hosted the 2019 Sports Diversity and Inclusion Symposium in Daytona Beach, Fla. at Daytona International Speedway. The event gathers diversity and inclusion practitioners from top U.S. sports leagues to engage in meaningful dialogue and share best practices around D&I efforts across the industry.

 

Please visit https://hometracks.nascar.com/drive-for-diversity/ for more information on NASCAR Drive for Diversity.

NASA engineers in Pasadena area develop ventilator tailored to needs of COVID-19 patients

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NASA Engineers pictured at laboratory

The engineers at NASA have developed a high-pressure ventilator prototype specifically tailored to help coronavirus patients, according to the agency.

It’s called VITAL, or Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally.

And after passing a critical test at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York earlier this week, NASA is hoping for fast-track approval of the ventilator in the coming days so it can be used to help coronavirus patients.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Pasadena area developed the ventilator, which can be built quickly using fewer parts, most of which are available in current supply chains, the agency said. But it won’t compete with the existing supply chain for ventilators.

“We were very pleased with the results of the testing we performed in our high-fidelity human simulation lab,” said Dr. Matthew Levin, director of innovation for the Human Simulation Lab and associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine, and genetics and genomics sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine, in a statement.

“The NASA prototype performed as expected under a wide variety of simulated patient conditions. The team feels confident that the VITAL ventilator will be able to safely ventilate patients suffering from Covid-19 both here in the United States and throughout the world.”

The prototype works like traditional ventilators, where sedated patients rely on an oxygen tube to help them breathe. But it’s built to last three or four months unlike ventilators in hospitals that were designed to last for years and help patients with other medical issues. The engineers hope that more traditional ventilators can be freed up for patients with the most severe cases of coronavirus if VITAL is put into place.

The innovative ventilator was also designed to offer more oyxgen at higher pressures than typical models because Dr. Levin said some of the patients he’s treating needed that capability.

“Intensive care units are seeing Covid-19 patients who require highly dynamic ventilators,” said Dr. J.D. Polk, NASA’s chief health and medical officer, in a statement. “The intention with VITAL is to decrease the likelihood patients will get to that advanced stage of the disease and require more advanced ventilator assistance.”

It was also designed to be flexible with easy maintenance, meaning it can be used in the diverse settings hosting field hospitals, including hotels and convention centers.

“We specialize in spacecraft, not medical-device manufacturing,” Michael Watkins, JPL director, said in a statement. “But excellent engineering, rigorous testing and rapid prototyping are some of our specialties. When people at JPL realized they might have what it takes to support the medical community and the broader community, they felt it was their duty to share their ingenuity, expertise and drive.”

Rising to the challenge

Engineers like Stacey Boland stepped up, driven to do anything they could to help. The last 40 days have taken everything they had to make VITAL. The team worked long hours each day, which bled over into nonexistent weekends.

Boland is a project system engineer developing the MAIA instrument, the Multi-Angle Imager for Aerosols that will characterize particulate matter in air pollution. The instrument could provide the data that helps medical professionals determine what types of pollution correlate with negative health outcomes.

On MAIA, Boland has worked with epidemiologists to determine the data they would need from the mission.

On VITAL, Boland acted as the operations lead to create a communication pathway between engineers, designers and visualization specialists with doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and intensivists (board-certified physicians providing special care for critically ill patients). Translating between the different professions to put everyone on the same page was a challenge, but one she enjoyed.

Operating during a pandemic meant that they were relying on calls, sending images and video conferencing to make a product in real time. Medical professionals called in on their lunch breaks, still in scrubs, describing what they were seeing in patients and what they would need VITAL to do.

A limited staff worked in person on the hardware, while the rest of the team video conferenced in. Boland was literally writing the instruction manual for how to operate VITAL as it was being built.

For Boland, it’s personal. Her sister is a hospitalist nurse practitioner at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport in Mississippi. She would call her sister, send her pictures and ask questions as they worked on the device, and her sister would send feedback in real time.

Boland calls it the experience of a lifetime, working on a team that was able to find camaraderie through their singular desire to create something helpful during such a challenging time.

When they encountered obstacles while working on VITAL, there was no sleeping on decisions that needed to be made, Boland said. Normal coping mechanisms were tossed out the window, and they worked through issues in real time to overcome the next challenge.

It’s been an adrenaline rush, working on a ventilator in such a short time, and the team wished it were under better circumstances. But the VITAL team was driven to help.

“I am not a medical device engineer, but when I hear someone on the front line needs something, I want them to have it,” Boland said. “We want to be there for them. It’s been a blessing and a privilege to have something so challenging and yet so relevant to be working on.”

Leon Alkalai, a technical fellow at JPL, manages the office of strategic partnerships. In recent years, he’s been leading a small effort to build relationships with the medical engineering community. He joined the VITAL team in a leadership role and helped establish communication between JPL and Mount Sinai, the FDA and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Alkalai said the FDA has been extremely supportive. And the doctors at Mount Sinai were interested in partnering together on VITAL after he reached out and shared the idea.

The collaboration between NASA and the FDA and medical professionals is an example of how institutions with different areas of expertise are coming together to create solutions for the pandemic.

“We’re rocket scientists and engineers, we know how to land on the moon and Mars,” Alkalai said. “But building a medical device is new. We were humbled by that challenge to do something we’ve never done before for a good cause. It goes against our culture to do something quickly in a domain where we’re not experts. But it fits with the JPL mantra: ‘Dare Mighty Things.’”

Currently, the California Institute of Technology, which manages JPL, is conducting outreach to find manufacturers for VITAL.

A helping hand

Additionally, NASA is trying to help fill the gaps due to shortages of other medical equipment in local communities, like Antelope Valley, California. One new device is the Aerospace Valley Positive Pressure Helmet, which can be used to help treat coronavirus patients with minor symptoms so they don’t have to use a ventilator. It functions more like a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine, commonly used to treat sleep apnea, the agency said.

It has already been successfully tested and submitted to the FDA for emergency-use authorization. Meanwhile, 500 are currently in production.

The device is the result of a collaboration between NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California partnered with Antelope Valley Hospital, the City of Lancaster, Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company, Antelope Valley College and members of the Antelope Valley Task Force.

Continue on to KTLA News to read the complete article.

The State of Diversity in Sports

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By Jaeson “Doc” Parsons

“There’s no crying in baseball!” These are the words of the gruff, belligerent coach, Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks in the iconic film, A League of Their Own. While this line has become its own “league” in terms of popularity, the movie brought to light a deeper issue – diversity in sports – a topic that still resonates into the new millennium.

One hundred years ago, diversity in sports was unheard of—in fact, it was prohibited. Not until Jackie Robinson was drafted into the Brooklyn Dodgers did baseball finally start down the road toward diversity. He was followed by other minorities including Roberto Clemente, who became the first Latin-American player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. The baseball our grandfathers knew has dramatically changed due to diversity, and now more than 40 percent of players are non-white. However, much of this diversity is still not reflected in the front-office as much as it is on the field.

According to Renee Tirado, Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Chief Diversity Officer, “There’s no sugar-coating this. There’s a lot to do.” In an article published on NPR.org, across the entire league only 188 women are in an operations role, which include positions such as scouting and contract negotiations. Since the league was founded, not one woman has been in a general managers’ position and only three have risen to assistant.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The MLB has created two programs which are meant to equalize this disparity among the genders. One such program is the Diversity Pipeline Program which, “seeks to identify, develop and grow the pool of qualified minority and female candidates for on-field and baseball operations positions throughout the industry.”

Baseball isn’t the only major sport looking to focus on diversity, as the National Football League has been looking to diversify their workforce as well. For example, the San Francisco 49ers education consulting venture, EDU Academy, and their “Play Like a Girl” (PLAG) non-profit, have partnered to provide high-impact STEAM and sports programs tailored specifically towards young girls. Their efforts have engaged more than 250,000 K-8 participants in the San Francisco area over the past five years. In addition, the NFL, in partnership with the Black College Football Hall of Fame, hosted a summit earlier this year for assistant coaches both at the college and pro levels. The goal of this summit, according to an article published by Axios, “is to strengthen the development pipeline for coaches of color on the offensive side of the ball, where the NFL currently lacks diversity.”

The NHL is another sport looking into diversity and while hockey is one of the most internationally diverse sports on the planet, its racial diversity is far behind all other North American sports leagues. But the NHL is working to change this by launching its Hockey Is for Everyone program in 1998, which celebrates diversity of race, gender and sexuality in the sport throughout the month of February with league wide events. And its Learn to Play program, launched in 2016, provides free ice time and equipment in an effort to reach lower income and inner-city communities.

Other sports organizations, such as the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), have also been looking to diversity their ranks. Golf and the PGA have long been considered behind the curve in terms of diversity and much of their efforts on diversity were focused primarily on player development programs. However, the PGA saw this wasn’t enough and they have been working towards focusing more on the workforce, which provides two million jobs in an $84 million industry. In addition, the PGA made a landmark investment of $2.5 million over the next five years in diversity efforts, which started with the PGA Works Fellowship and has grown to include scholarships and career events. This program offers entry-level employment for recent college grads, providing them with critical hands-on experience in operations and administration.

Similar to golf, tennis has struggled with diversity but in 2017, at the US Open, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) hosted the sixth annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit which is the annual conference of the Diversity and Inclusion in Sports Consortium. By hosting this summit, the USTA sought to use this as a launching point for their own efforts focusing on the development and growth of tennis across all cultures. During this summit, D.A. Abrams, USTA’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer stated, “We are proud to gather and share best practices on utilizing Diversity and Inclusion to not only grow and expand our sports, but use D&I as a key strategy to ultimately succeed in our business units”. Extending the tradition, the USTA hosted their second Diversity and Inclusion summit during this year’s US Open, with the focus of this being the role of supplier diversity in helping to strengthen community engagement efforts.

Not to be left out of this continuing trend, NASCAR has also become more focused on diversifying its sport through efforts such as the Drive for Diversity program, created by former champion driver, Joe Gibbs, in 2003. Graduates of this program are competing at the highest level today, which include Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr; Daniel Suarez, the first Mexican-American driver; and Aric Almirola, the first Cuban-American driver; in the Cup series. In addition to NASCAR’s efforts to diversify their professional drivers, they are sponsoring programs for increased diversification within their pit crews. One such program began in May of this year, the NASCAR Diversity Pit Crew Combine, held in Concord, NC. This competition placed 12 college athletes from very diverse backgrounds against each other in order to claim their chance to train as a NASCAR pit crew member.

One sports league that’s ahead of the game in terms of diversity is the National Basketball Association (NBA), and many other leagues are looking to follow suit. Focusing on diversity led to the hire of its first female head coach, Lindsey Harding of the 76ers. The NBA’s culture of inclusion is, as one owner says, “light years ahead of all other North American leagues.” This diversity shows both on the court and off as this sport continues to be extremely popular and financially successful.

Change is slow and diversity efforts take time, but ensuring the opportunity is there is what these programs are all about. Almirola put it best during an interview with the Kansas City Star last year: “I feel like as an athlete we all just want one shot, one opportunity, and if you get that shot and that opportunity, then it’s up to you to go and make the most of it.”

 

A Quick Chat with Kellan Barfield

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Kellan Barfield discusses her booming tech company, SOURCE EXPLORER, with Diversity in STEAM Magazine.

How did you develop the platform for SOURCE EXPLORER?

I started by interviewing Life Science Professionals about what their needs were when searching for a supplier. I observed a common theme. They were tired of hearing from vendors that they “can do it all,” when they want a specialist who has a proven track record of the exact services they’re looking for. I used this feedback to create a search engine that pulls up vetted, reviewed, and relevant supplier profile matches for their needs. This allows them to begin a new supplier relationship with trust from the start, knowing their project is not a “guinea pig” for a supplier who is just hoping for business. They are a valued client who will have experts working with them side-by-side, making the best recommendations and achieving the highest quality results.

What is your biggest challenge in running a woman-owned pharma company?

This isn’t specific to serving pharmaceutical companies, but it’s much harder for women to find funding for any new venture. Most investors are men, and there is an echo chamber of male voices reinforcing bias. There are still both men and women who have questions about whether or not women are “stable enough” to invest in, or if they’re “at risk” of taking time off for the same family commitments men have. A fellow female founder I know well was asked by a male bank representative if perhaps “her daddy could co-sign” a loan when she had plenty of collateral and $800k of orders from Walgreens in her hand. This kind of thing happens every single day. It’s real.

How is your company impacting the life sciences community?

Life Science projects are so important—this is how we get treatments to patients. So, there’s a sense of urgency to get them started. But when I managed $30M+ commercial budgets for pharmaceutical companies like Alcon and Gilead just a couple of years ago, I had multiple projects where it took up to four months just to find the suppliers I wanted to include in an RFP. And that’s before we actually go through the process of receiving and reviewing proposals and pitches. It’s months and months before progress can be made that way.

I saw a need—because it was my own—and I addressed it with SOURCE EXPLORER. It’s much easier and faster to do everything from searching to sourcing, even requesting work samples and following updates from favorite suppliers. The easier it gets, the faster vital projects get started, and the closer we get to helping people who need medical intervention.

What other goals would you like to accomplish?

Ultimately, it’s all about achieving greater patient outcomes. My way of accomplishing this is to support the people making it happen. Life Science Professionals work hard, often navigating and juggling so many factors, priorities, and processes that it would make your head spin. With SOURCE EXPLORER, I’ve taken one of those processes down to minutes, connecting them with the suppliers they need when they need them. But there’s so much more support this industry needs, even if it’s just a laugh. Ultimately, I would like to continue investing in making SOURCE EXPLORER the go-to place where Life Science lives.

What advice would you give young women looking to get into the pharma/life sciences industry?

Build relationships within the industry before you think you need them. Use platforms like LinkedIn to connect with people in your classes, at your internships, and who are already established in Life Sciences. Stay in touch with them as you develop in your education and career, and get to know how you can support them in their goals whenever possible. Relationships will get you farther than your degree alone.

Beyond Innovation: Using the Power of Sport to Advance STEM Education

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A speaker for Beyond Innovation stands on stage addressing a large crowd

With millions of jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) going unfilled year after year, Beyond Innovation, an initiative of Beyond Sport, and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, brought together hundreds of the world’s most creative and innovative leaders to collaborate on leveraging the universal power of sport to help inspire young people’s interest in STEM education.

Diversity in STEAM Magazine attended Beyond Innovation, held from November 14–15 at the historic Dodger Stadium, where events and sessions focused on helping achieve targeted UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or Global Goals) in line with larger global efforts by 2030.

Kicking off the day was Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation Nichol Whiteman, who has been instrumental in leading the Foundation’s efforts to positively impact the local Los Angeles community. She brought their game-changing “Bigger than Baseball” philosophy to the forefront.

“The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation recognizes that STEM is essential to addressing poverty, inequality, and so much more,” Whiteman said. “As the role of sports continues to grow in advancing STEM, we will focus on a global view to create opportunities for all. Beyond Innovation is just the start of our desire to be leaders, collaborators, and strategic investors in direct programs, education, and experiential learning for millions of Los Angeles youth.”

Following her remarks, Beyond Sport Founder and President Nick Keller provided additional context on the importance of working together to achieve the UN SDGs. “STEM can and is playing a crucial role in addressing the world’s timeliest issues, however, the tech revolution is being centered with those in a place of privilege,” he said.

The first panel led by inspiring women leaders dove into STEM’s role in addressing gender equality. According to recent statistics, only one in five countries achieve what is classed as “gender parity,” with women making up 45–55 percent of researchers.

Panelists included Dr. Liz Hicks, founder & principal of LA Unified School District – Girls Academic Leadership Academy; Dr. Katherine Bihr, VP of Programs & Education, TGR Foundation – A Tiger Woods Charity; Jen Regan, chief sustainability officer, We Bring It On; and Leticia Andueza, associate executive director, New Economics for Women.

“The pathway from elementary school to college STEM careers—girls keep falling out of that pathway… When I first went out to recruit for our school, our girls didn’t know what an engineer was. I think what’s so important is to have women, women of color, and companies inviting these young girls in so that they can see what it’s like to be in a place like Google, like SpaceX. What it’s like to be an innovator so that they have that idea in their heads,” Dr. Hicks said.

Dr. Bihr continued, “Many of us that are teachers taught like we were taught. But the world has changed so rapidly…we have a disconnect. We’re trying to help educators teach more authentic ways for kids to learn about content. We need to connect what’s happening in the real world to today’s classroom. We need to show the connections from school to career sooner.”

The day continued with a series of panel discussions, including Using Tech to Address the Climate Crisis (UN SDG 13), Developing Innovative School STEM Curriculum for Quality Education (UN SDG 4), and Improving STEM to Help Generate Sustainable Cities and Communities (UN SDG11). Headlining those conversations were Dr. Bihr, Melanie LeGrande from the MLB, Jesse Lovejoy of 49ers EDU & Museum, Dr. Emily Church of XPRIZE, and Chris Rougier, STEM curriculum developer, Loyola Marymount University—to name a few.

Beyond Innovation was supported by Host Partner, Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, Supporting Partner, 49ers Foundation; Official Partners SAP and EVERFI; and International Media Sponsor, ESPN.

For more information on the action-packed event and Beyond Sport, visit beyondsport.org, and to read about the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, visit dodgers.com/ladf.

Source: Beyond Sport

Photo Credit: LOS ANGELES DODGERS FOUNDATION

Jim Ryan and the Wheelie 7: A Game Changer for Mobility

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Jim Ryan, male, sitting in his HOOBOX Robotics' Wheelie 7 wheelchair in his living room, smiling for the camera

By Jaeson “Doc” Parsons

The date of March 30th, 2016, will be forever etched into the mind of Jim Ryan. That day, while vacationing in Maui with his wife, Isabelle, a wave struck him in waist deep water, driving him into the sea floor. He surfaced, unconscious and unresponsive. In that split second, Ryan was paralyzed, becoming a quadriplegic from his C4 vertebrae down. In that moment, his life was changed forever.

Ryan is not alone. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, nearly 288,000 people in the United States are living with spinal cord injuries, and there about 17,700 new cases each year.

For those with movement-limiting conditions like Ryan, getting around can exact a terrible toll on quality of life and autonomy. A 2018 study found that physical mobility has the largest impact on quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries. Mobility is often enabled through caregivers or through a motorized wheelchair with complex sensors placed on the body that require special education to operate.

With this in mind, technology company Intel partnered with robotics company Hoobox to create the first-ever artificial intelligence-powered wheelchair that translates facial expressions into freedom of movement.

Using a combination of Intel hardware and software, Hoobox developed ‘The Wheelie’—a wheelchair kit that utilizes facial recognition technology to capture, process, and translate facial expressions into real-time wheelchair commands, finally providing individuals such as Ryan with autonomy, regardless of the physical limitations they’re facing. This system is a kit which can be installed on any motorized wheelchair system and, at under 7 minutes for installation, is relatively easy to implement.

Like many individuals suffering from spinal cord injuries, Ryan was using a conventional motorized system, one that uses a head array to translate gestures into movement.

“Before the Wheelie I drove my wheelchair with the head array. It is like a horseshoe around my head with five buttons that I used to turn left, right, forward, back, and change modes,” Ryan said. “Because of the head array, I am unable to look left and right. Nor can I wear hats of virtually any type. The hats get in the way of my buttons.”

Hoobox saw this limitation and found a way through it. By incorporating AI and a camera, the Wheelie 7 operates without invasive body sensors, providing users with independence and control over their location. It translates 11 different facial expressions into wheelchair commands in real time with 99.9% accuracy. And its performance improves over time as the algorithm learns to recognize the user’s expressions, allowing for increased freedom of movement.

“The Wheelie allows me to turn my head left and right and wear any hat I want,” said Ryan, who was introduced to Hoobox’s Wheelie through a group in Vancouver. He is one of more than 60 individuals who are testing the new technology to help Hoobox developers understand their needs and requirements.

Since being introduced to the Wheelie 7, Ryan has improved not just his mobility, but his lifestyle as well.

“I now can look left and right, up and down. I can wear a sun hat or baseball hat in the summer and nice winter hat or hoodie in the winter,” he said.

As technology continues its march forward with advances in AI systems, the limitations on mobility for those suffering from debilitating injuries like Ryan are beginning to see a transformation.

Wheelie 7 is a game changer in improving access to mobility solutions for those with conditions resulting from nearly 500,000 spinal cord injuries per year. But through continued research and development by companies such as Intel and Hoobox, and with the help of individuals such as Ryan, mobility is becoming a reality.

“For a person like me it gives a tremendous amount of freedom,” he said. “By using facial expressions instead of head movements, the Wheelie allows me more freedom and comfort in my wheelchair. And for anyone else with limited movement like me, it can be at true asset.”

Black Role Models Play Large Role in STEM Retention for African-American Women

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A new study led by India Johnson, an assistant professor of psychology at Elon University in North Carolina, finds that a major factor to increase the retention rate of Black women in STEM fields is to have African-American role models who will serve as mentors.

According to the research, Black women earn only 2.9 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees in the United States. This is far below the rate of White women, despite the fact that White women and Black women are equally likely to express an interest in STEM fields at the beginning of their college careers.

Researchers showed prospective students photographs of laboratory scenes at a fictitious school of science and technology and profiles of faculty members. Black students showed a greater likelihood of considering the fictitious school if a Black professor was shown or profiled. This was particularly true for Black women.

Co-author Ava Pietri, an assistant professor of psychology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis stated that “women who feel like they belong are more likely to enter and stay in STEM, so lack of belonging may be one reason for women of color’s lack of representation.”

Researchers also surveyed Black women at a four-year predominantly White four-year college and at a historically Black college. The women at the HBCU reported that they had on average two or three Black women role models in STEM fields. At the predominantly White school Black women reported either zero or one Black role model.

The researchers also found that White faculty members who went out of their way to encourage Black women students also had a positive impact. The authors concluded that although increasing representation of women of color in STEM is the best way to improve belonging, building tools to help White men or White women become better allies for Black women in STEM will also produce positive results.

The full study, Exploring Identity-Safety Cues and Allyship Among Black Women Students in STEM Environments, was published on the website of the journal Psychology Women Quarterly.

Source: The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

3D Printing Masks for Healthcare Workers

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The State of Delaware and its healthcare organizations are preparing for a surge of COVID-19 cases. Cyber Streets uses technology to tackle community-wide issues on a regular basis and now it’s making 3D printed masks for healthcare workers who don’t work directly with COVID-19 patients. The masks can supplement N95 masks if hospital supplies run out.

Cyber Streets members, including Dover Cyber Ninjas from the Sankofa Inner City Cultural League, and supporters from the Sussex County STEM Alliance and Selbyville Library are using 3D printers to produce masks throughout the community. Several of their printers were funded through a grant from the Verizon Foundation. Founder Rob Bentley says as of Friday, the University of Delaware RDL lab in Lewes is starting production too.

The masks are made out of PLA plastic, which is a fully biodegradable thermoplastic polymer consisting of renewable raw materials. Bentley says it’s a popular 3D printing material for additive manufacturing. He says he combined different templates from the medical community to make the masks and that each one can be custom scaled and printed to fit anyone. His goal is to empower others to use technology and to join the fight against COVID-19.

“They’re social distancing,” Bentley says. “This gives them something to fight for. Now we have our families and our home-school communities reaching out and literally helping the front lines.”

Bentley loaned a 3D printer and filament to the Berberians in Rehoboth Beach a couple days ago.

“The filament goes on the inside of the mask and then you take this other piece, you push it right through, and it snaps right into place, so it creates a filter in the front,” says Jack Berberian. “You put it on your face and you’re breathing through the filter in the center.”

12-year-old Grace Berberian is in charge of plugging in the USB with the template to set up production.

“There’s settings once you plug it in,” says Grace. “We print them two at a time because we want to help as soon as possible.”

It takes 4 or 5 hours to print each mask. Printing two at a time takes about 8 hours. The masks have to be fit tested to each person who wears one. Bentley says they’re primarily produced for Beebe Healthcare and that several have already been tested for hospital employees and home nurses who don’t work directly with COVID-19 patients.

“We’re asking them to use these masks to tell us if these are things we can use in more critical situations down the road and we’re asking people who want to try them out, so that we can see just how effective they are, just how comfortable they are when the time comes,” says Beebe Healthcare President and CEO Dr. David Tam.

If the supply of N95 masks runs out, Beebe can use the 3D printed masks as supplements.

“It really is a critical aspect of making sure that we have the crisis requirements or resources and also reassurance to our staff so that when things get bad, we will not be like other cities or other communities that have to resort to garbage bags over their head,” says Dr. Tam. “We have these other capabilities to make sure they are safe.”

Ezra Williams is a technology instructor with both Cyber Streets and the Sankofa Inner City Cultural League, but this is a project he’s never seen done before.

“We followed the instructions Rob had given us and they were really simple to follow, so this for me was very straight-forward and fun,” says Williams. “It allows for my son and I to come together to talk about 3D printing.”

Continue on to WBOC News to read the complete article.