Overcoming the STEM Opportunity Gap
LinkedIn
National STEM-STEAM Day

By Donald E. Bossi, President of FIRST

Our communities – and our classrooms – are more diverse than ever before. In fact, Generation Z and Millennials, who make up nearly half (48 percent) of the United States’ population, are more multicultural in their race and ethnic compositions than previous generations. As demographics continue to shift, so does the opportunity to build a uniquely diverse and innovative workforce – one that can truly address the challenges facing today’s world. However, for this to happen, the faces in the professional pipeline must change and mirror those of our schools and neighborhoods.

As educators, parents, and business leaders, we have a responsibility to offer all students – especially those who are underserved and underrepresented in STEM – equitable opportunities and pathways to success as contributing members of the workforce. It’s no secret that employers are looking for young talent with STEM skills and digital literacy. Moving forward, nearly every career – whether in product development, manufacturing, marketing, or the arts – will be more reliant on tech skills. By 2021, 69 percent of U.S. executives expect to choose job candidates with data science skills over those without. The students best prepared to fill these roles and find success after graduating high school will be those who experience meaningful STEM engagement opportunities throughout their K-12 years.

The foundation of any prosperous society lies in providing accessible advancement opportunities for its citizens. For today’s students, hurdles abound, whether financial, cultural, or geographic. Our responsibility is to ensure all kids have access to the tools they need to secure sustainable, living-wage jobs. Critical to accomplishing this is early exposure to high-quality, hands-on, STEM learning experiences that engage and inspire students. An example of where this type of early exposure is already being offered and is making an impact can be seen in the efforts of a nonprofit organization that I lead called FIRST. FIRST offers a progression of programs beginning at age 6 and continuing through high school that engages kids in a series of mentor-guided robotics competitions and innovation challenges, connecting STEM learning to exciting, real-world activities. In addition to STEM exposure, students in FIRST programs meet mentor role models and learn about innovation, entrepreneurship, and 21st-century skills like teamwork, collaboration, and critical thinking. Research has shown FIRST programs are game-changers for kids, opening them up to a world of opportunity. Additionally, STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants help make these programs available and accessible to underserved communities and underrepresented students, while committed supporters also make more than $50 million in scholarships available annually to graduating FIRST seniors to pursue higher education.

Schools are also recognizing the value that curriculum and environmental changes can have in making a positive impact on student advancement. Across the country, school systems are working hard to ensure all kids feel welcome, have a voice, and receive an equal shot at finding success. In a model worth emulating, a Ypsilanti, Michigan-based school with a large population of underserved students created STEM-centric programs based on the concept and ethos of FIRST. Since making this format change, the school’s graduation rate has jumped from 69 percent to 97 percent. Daily attendance is up from 84 percent to 92 percent, and suspensions have plummeted from 35 percent to the low single digits. At Ypsilanti STEMM Middle College, the STEM-focused curriculum is making tangible differences in the lives of students. One young man overcame a troubled home life to become valedictorian of his class, while another student, dealing with the emotional ramifications of her mother being deported, found a place to explore her interest in science. Thanks to the school’s changes and new concentration on STEM, students can pursue their passions in an affirming environment and gain the skills they’ll need in the modern workforce.

The responsibility to empower students from diverse backgrounds to succeed doesn’t rest solely on nonprofits and schools; it also falls on companies. As a management consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton understands this, having recently refreshed its values to include “Collective Ingenuity” or the ability to harness the power of diversity. Booz Allen Hamilton reflects Collective Ingenuity in its hiring practices, its community-support efforts – including supporting many FIRST teams – and how it approaches client challenges. They and other companies have a critical role to play in bolstering diversity in STEM, whether by providing scholarships to underserved and underrepresented students, offering relatable mentors for female and minority students, or awarding internships to students who otherwise wouldn’t have those prospects. They realize we shouldn’t be leaving talent on the table and are taking the necessary steps to ensure we don’t.

Together, businesspeople, educators, and nonprofit leaders can ensure we aren’t ignoring the potential of our diverse student population when it comes to STEM outcomes. That starts with investing in your community: Get to know the young faces in your local schools and neighborhoods. Find out what they need for success, and connect them with resources and youth-serving programs – like FIRST – that can help them get there. We need kids of all backgrounds, capabilities, and social circumstances to contribute and participate in addressing the world’s toughest challenges. With equitable access to opportunity, relevant mentorship, and engagement, any student can build a foundation for a bright future.

A History of AAPI Representation in ‘Star Wars’
LinkedIn
STAR WARS, BRITISH RELEASE POSTER WITH AMERICAN STYLE C DESIGN, TOM WILLIAM CHANTRELL, 1977

By Keith Chow, The Nerds of Color

The month of May holds a special place in the hearts of Asian American and Pacific Islander Star Wars fans. For starters, May has been AAPI Heritage Month since 1990, though it originally began as “Asian Pacific Heritage Week” when it was proposed in Congress by Representatives Frank Horton and Norman Y. Mineta in 1977. That’s right, 1977. You know what else debuted in May 1977?

Before the last three Star Wars movies — Episodes VII and VIII, plus Rogue One — became staples of the Holiday Movie Season, every other film in the Saga was a May release. (This year, Lucasfilm finally returns to tradition when Solo: A Star Wars Story debuts in theaters on May 25). Also, “Star Wars Day” falls every May the Fourth, so naturally, May is Star Wars Month by default. So what better way to honor both AAPI Heritage Month and Star Wars then by going through the history of AAPI representation in the Galaxy Far, Far Away?

The Original Trilogy

The Hidden Fortress (1958)

It’s no secret that the filmography of Akira Kurosawa had a huge influence on George Lucas’ space opera. Kurosawa’s 1958 film The Hidden Fortress is perhaps the most obvious. Beyond the narrative echoes between the two stories, Lucas had intended to rhyme Star Wars and Hidden Fortress even more by casting the legendary Toshiro Mifune, one of Kurosawa’s frequent collaborators and the star of Hidden Fortress, as either Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi. Sadly, Mifune turned down the role, and it would be more than two decades before an Asian face would be seen in Star Wars — not counting Nien Nunb or Lieutenant Telsij (the first Asian actor to speak a line of dialogue in any Star Wars movie), of course.

Twenty years later, in the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi, Dalyn Chew became the first actor of Asian descent to have any significant screen time in a Star Wars movie. In an extended musical number inserted into Jedi, Chew plays Lyn Me, one of the backup dancers at Jabba’s Palace. Sure, she doesn’t really have any lines, but she did get more than four seconds of screen time and an action figure!

The Prequel Trilogy

When Lucas returned to the franchise in the late ’90s to tell the backstory of Darth Vader, he also forgot to cast AAPI actors in any significant roles. Aside from Dhruv Chanchani as Ani’s friend Kitsterthe only other Asian-coded characters in The Phantom Menace are the Neimoidians and Queen Amidala’s wardrobe. Speaking of Padme’s fetish for Oriental wear, perhaps the filmmakers were trying to make amends for the original queen’s fashion by casting actual Asian and Pacific Islander actresses like Ayesha Dharker and Keisha Castle-Hughes for subsequent Queens of Naboo?

Ayesha Dharker as Jamilia in Attack of the Clones (2002) & Keisha Castle-Hughes as Apailana in Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The prequel Attack of the Clones in 2002 was also responsible for the most significant AAPI casting decision to date. In addition to several blink-and-you’ll-miss-them AAPI Jedis, veteran Maori actor Temuera Morrison was chosen to play Jango Fett. Not only was Jango the most heavily marketed character of the prequel sequel, casting Morrison had ripple effects in terms of representation throughout the Saga.

Because Jango was the source for all of the Clone Troopers, that meant beloved characters like Captain Rex from the animated Clone Wars were also coded as Pacific Islander. More significantly, Daniel Logan was cast as the pre-pubescent Boba Fett, meaning the man underneath that iconic helmet from the Original Trilogy was also Maori. A point made even more clearly when Lucas had Morrison redub all of Boba Fett’s lines for all future digital and blu-ray releases of the trilogies and allowed Logan to reprise the role on Clone Wars.

Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett & Daniel Logan as Boba Fett in Attack of the Clones (2002)

The Force Awakens & Rogue One

In 2012, the Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm and the rights to Star Wars from George Lucas for just over $4 billion. This acquisition signaled a new era in the Star Wars franchise, promising a continuation of the Saga stories but also an interconnected universe of movies, television, comics, and everything in between. Production on the sequel trilogy — the long-promised Episodes VII through IX — began soon after when J.J. Abrams, the man who reinvigorated the moribund Star Trek movie franchise, was brought on to direct the first new Star Wars movie in a decade.

In the run-up to The Force Awakens, Abrams and the Lucasfilm brain trust were asked about Asian representation in the future of Star Wars during a Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con, to which the director famously responded, “Go Asians!”

When The Force Awakens finally premiered, the promise of more AAPI characters in Star Wars was realized… sort of. While TFA featured more AAPI actors than all previous six films combined, none of them could be considered major characters.

For instance, the buzz surrounding the announcement that stars from The Raid, the cult martial arts classic from Indonesia, was going to be in the film as the fearsome Kanjiklub was soon met with indifference once audiences figured out their screen time would be severely limited. Other actors like Ken Leung (as Admiral Statura) and Jessica Henwick (as Resistance pilot Jess Pava) wouldn’t fare much better since their scenes are also glorified cameos.

Ken Leung as Admiral Statura with Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa in The Force Awakens (2015)

Click here to read the full article on The Nerds of Color.

Looking at Environmental Protection Through the Lens of Disability
LinkedIn

By Alliah Czarielle, Hemophilia News Today

Climate change has been a hot topic in our circles lately. We feel it very much in the Philippines, where hot summers in the months of April and May have quickly turned into a season of strong typhoons and dangerous floods. Recently, a major typhoon hit the province of Leyte, causing a tragic landslide.

Individuals can only do so much to “save” our planet (and humanity) from the drastic effects of climate change. But we can make a difference by doing little things. We can boycott single-use plastics if we’re in a position to do so, lower our energy consumption, and deal with waste appropriately through proper separation and recycling.

Of course, having a disability factors into the equation about how much one can do to help the earth. Many people with disabilities must resort to less eco-friendly practices in order to address health issues and to thrive, although that’s not to say disabled people can’t take steps to be eco-friendly.

For instance, my husband, Jared, infuses factor products to treat his hemophilia. This procedure involves single-use plastic tubes, metal needles, and glass bottles.

According to a 2019 National Geographic article, one expert estimated that 25% of the waste generated by U.S. healthcare facilities is plastic. This is because the equipment used to treat patients needs to be sterile, and plastic serves that need well.

When my mom was ill with cancer, she needed to drink from plastic straws due to the limitations she had. And by the time she was bedridden, she needed to use disposable adult diapers.

In Japan, a country with a rapidly aging population, adult diaper waste is a growing concern, as The New York Times reported last year. Used diapers are likely to end up in incinerators, like most of the country’s waste. Compared with other types of waste, diapers require more fuel to burn, leading to costly waste management bills and high carbon emissions.

To help alleviate this problem, the Japanese town of Houki converted one of the town’s incinerators into a diaper recycling plant, which in turn produces fuel for a public bathhouse, the Times reported. This, in turn, helps to lower natural gas costs. Japan is fortunate to have the resources to come up with this creative solution.

Since there are limitations to taking steps to protect the environment when accessing or providing healthcare by people with disabilities or those who work at treatment centers, I offer the following suggestions.

If you can afford to, avoid single-use plastics.
If using single-use plastics cannot be avoided, be mindful of how often you use them and how you dispose of them. Seek out alternatives to the plastic bags you use for shopping or carrying things. At home, stock up with multiple-use, high-quality storage containers.

Leave single-use plastic products to the ones who really need them to live. This includes people with disabilities, older people, and babies, for example.

Avoid fast fashion.
I am guilty of patronizing fast fashion — which refers to the mass production of high-fashion clothing trends — because I like dressing up. My clothing budget is quite low, hence the temptation for cheap clothes from chain retailers.

According to a 2019 article by Insider’s Morgan McFall-Johnsen, the fashion industry is responsible for producing 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.

What percentage of clothing in your closet do you actually wear? Think about it, and try not to buy more than you would actually use. Instead of shopping for new clothes, why not shop at secondhand stores or learn to rework old clothing into more modern styles?

Jared’s entire collection of clothes fits into just one drawer. This makes his wardrobe easier to organize. He wears a “uniform” of plain, minimalist T-shirts with classic denim jeans or shorts. When I first met him in college, he still wore clothes from as early as sixth grade! He only updated his wardrobe when he built up muscle as an adult and needed to switch to clothing a few sizes bigger.

Jared doesn’t go out as often as I do, and bleeding episodes occasionally force him to stay at home. He also considers himself more of an indoor type. So he doesn’t think he needs many clothes.

But even if one’s lifestyle is active or outgoing, we can find some perspective from people like Jared. After all, how many clothes do we really need? As my drawers are now filled to the brim with clothes, I actively try to avoid buying new ones. Furthermore, I now support a local seamstress instead of buying from retail chains. The sewing takes time, but the outcome is often top quality and looks great. It’s also more eco-friendly, and I get to support someone’s livelihood.

Click here to read the full article on Hemophilia News Today.

IOScholarships Launches New Superheroes Podcast & Blog to Encourage More Diverse Students to Pursue Careers in STEM
LinkedIn
five superheroes in different costumes

IOScholarships, a platform that provides access to scholarships worth over $48 million for diverse students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers is launching a new Superheroes Podcast. The host of the series is María Trochimezuk, founder of IOScholarships, well known for her work as a spokesperson for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and her passion to increasing opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM.

In the podcast, María Fernanda interviews STEM students and experts to learn about more about their path to STEM, what kind of thinkers they are, and the unique benefits of a multicultural approach to careers in STEM. Episodes are 10 minutes on average.

“We are thrilled to be launching the first IOScholarships Superheroes Podcast. Not only it is exciting to hear from the innovators of the future, it’s also inspiring to hear how they overcame obstacles and how their ethnic background is so unique for doing incredible things in the STEM field,” said María Trochimezuk, founder of IOScholarships.

IOScholarships blog provides comprehensive bilingual articles on financial wellness, career tips and some of the most important issues related to STEM. The platform features the scholarship of the month, internship, and job opportunities.

Some of the May featured scholarships and career opportunities include the Olay Face STEM Scholarship open to female sophomores of color, majoring in a STEM field and the Intel Scholarship which helps STEM undergraduate and graduate students of color.

Data shows that roughly 20% of whites and students of color declare STEM subjects as their majors entering college, but nearly 40% of minority students change their majors and more than 20% left school without earning a degree.  As a result, while Blacks, Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Hispanics collectively form 27% of the population, but they account for only 11% of America’s science and engineering workers.

“This data is what fuels IOScholarships. It is imperative that we raise awareness of the benefits of diversity in STEM if we want to build a robust STEM pipeline,” said María Trochimezuk.

The new redesigned website, developed by Diego Wuethrich, head of operations at IOScholarships, makes easier for students to look for scholarships and financial wellness resources and provides a refreshed “digital front door” for students interested in IOScholarships’ community. Also, the logo was powered by creative designer Andrea Leon-Grossman who has more than 15 years of creative experience with proven success in developing visual campaigns and delivering results.

The superheroes were created by talented IO Scholar, Matthew Rada who is an aspiring 2D character designer and storyboard artist.

IOSCHOLARSHIPS SUPERHEROES POWERS

  1. SCIENCE
    1. Sofia ~aka~ C O M P O U N D
      1. She combines elements, chemicals and other components to create medicine to heal any ailment.
  1. ENGINEERING
    1. Eli ~aka~ S T R U C T U R E
      1. He has the power to create machines and devices that help build and clean our environment. He works closely with Compound, Techno, Ink and Algorithm to make our world safer.
  1. TECHNOLOGY
    1. Tasha ~aka~ T E C H N O
      1. She has the power to create connections and communicate to people from anywhere in the world wherever she may be.
  1. ART
    1. Inigo ~aka~ I N K
      1. He has a beautiful singing voice and creates stories and paintings that entertain and give joy to people. He also creates awareness and empowers everyone to express themselves through art.
  1. MATH
    1. Amelia ~aka~ A L G O R I T H M
      1. She comes up with the right equations and absolute numbers that can solve any mathematical-related problem. She also aids, supports and enhances the powers of techno, compound, structure, and art to make the world a better place.

 

The IOScholarships Superheroes podcast debuts May 3rd, 2022 at 5:00 p.m. PT and can be found at https://ioscholarships.com/podcast. To receive the newsletter/blog please email info@ioscholarships.com.

The challenge of gender bias: experiences of women pursuing careers in STEM
LinkedIn
Clockwise from top left: Nayeli Stopani Barrios, Jessica Becker and Larissa Sanches (not shown: Elise Murphy)

By WiSE students Nayeli Stopani Barrios, Jessica Becker, Elise Murphy and Larissa Sanches, Nevada Today

Women pursuing STEM careers have faced many challenges in the past, and they continue to do so today. In the past, many of these challenges were built into the framework of our public and private institutions and our legal system. Women, for example, were not allowed to attend college and earn a college education until 1840, when Catherine Brewer was the first woman to earn a bachelor’s degree. Gaining a graduate degree wasn’t possible until 1849, when Elizabeth Blackwell earned her medical degree (U.S. News, 2009). Without access to higher education, women had no chance of gaining enough experience and expertise to secure a job of any significance, let alone a career in STEM.

Barriers limiting women’s access to higher education were not eliminated in the mid 1800s with the brave actions of Brewer and Blackwell. The historical prejudices that denied women access to higher education in that century are present today in the minds of many who serve as members of college admissions committees and hiring authorities. According to a study conducted by researchers at Yale University, when provided with identical application materials across all applicants, both male and female faculty rated the male applicants more competent and more employable than female applicants (Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Handelsman, 2012). Despite holding comparable levels of experience or knowledge, men are consistently chosen over women.

It is an unfortunate truth that gender bias can present challenges even in the circumstance of a woman being identified as the best candidate for a given position and the hiring process initiated. Across the full spectrum of hiring levels – from entry level to executive level – the salary or wage offered to women can reveal gender bias. According to the Stanford School of Business, the entry level salary for a male employee is on average more than $4,000 higher than their female coworkers (Stanford Business, 2021). Because women are less likely to be awarded promotions, the wage gap between women and their male coworkers becomes larger and larger over time. A paper published by the Pew Research Center concluded that, in STEM fields, men earn 40% more than women (Fry, Kennedy, & Funk, 2021). This significant gap in earnings between women and men in the STEM field leads to significant differences in the ability of women and men to pay off debts incurred as part of their undergraduate and graduate education and to establish a solid financial footing as they move through their peak earnings years and into retirement.

Barriers women face in the workplace go far beyond those associated with lower pay and reduced opportunities for career advancement. The impacts of gender bias and discrimination are even greater when a woman holds the identity of mother or primary caregiver for another family member. A study conducted at the University of California, San Diego revealed that “43% of women in STEM careers left their full-time job within 4-7 years of having their first child…compared to 23 percent of new fathers” (Cech & Blair-Loy, 2019). Women are often forced to choose between being an important contributor to the STEM field and being a mother, while men are allowed to be both without having their professional commitment or parenting abilities called in question. In fact, in a study conducted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, one third of private sector employers reported that they believe that women who are pregnant or new mothers are “generally less interested in career progression” (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2018). Women are often overlooked for promotions and, without prospects for growth within their company, many women pursue jobs at different companies, and sometimes within different employment sectors, that allow for professional growth.

Women who hold a non-white racial identity sometimes experience even more extreme forms of workplace bias and discrimination, including having to rise to higher hiring and workplace performance requirements than their white male and female coworkers, being paid lower salaries than their white male and female coworkers, having to assert their rightful status within the workplace more often than their white male and female coworkers, and experiencing less support from women co-workers than white women. Joan Williams, Katherine Phillips, and Erika Hall published a study that examined the prevalence of gender bias among women of color in the workplace (Williams, 2020). These researchers investigated prejudices in women’s daily work life by conducting in-depth interviews with women of color and administering an extensive battery of questionnaires to a diverse group of women working in STEM. Findings from their study and a thorough review of the literature revealed four unique types of bias that influence the ways women of color are regarded in the workplace (Ngo, 2016). One of the identified biases is the Prove It Again bias. This bias is considered to be in effect when men are hired and/or offered advancement opportunities based on their potential, while their women coworkers are hired and/or offered advancement opportunities based on ratings of their current performance and historical successes. Some experience of the Prove It Again bias is reported by nearly 65 % of women, with as many as 77% of Black women in STEM reporting experience with this particular form of gender bias (Williams, 2020).

The Maternal Wall bias arises out of the belief that women lose their ability and commitment to work after having children. Nearly two-thirds of scientists with children said that parental leave influenced their coworkers’ views of their commitment to the workplace (Williams, 2020). Interestingly, women scientists without children are impacted by their coworkers views of womanhood and parenting; they report being expected to work longer hours to compensate for work that is not being performed by coworkers who have taken maternity leave. Many everyday workplace experiences challenge women’s very presence as contributing STEM professionals. Among women holding professional STEM positions, 32% of white women and nearly 50% of women who identify as Black or as Latina report being mistaken for administrative or custodial staff. These biases have significant implications for the success of women of color and all women working in STEM settings.

Harassment in the workplace can take many different forms and can be targeted towards anyone holding any position within a given organization. That said, harassment often plays out in the context of power hierarchies; persons of higher professional rank and power are more able than persons of lower professional rank and power to use their professional power in ways that meet the definition of workplace harassment. (Wright, 2020). Sexual harassment appears to be a particular frequent form of workplace harassment. Holly Kearl, Nicole Johns, and Dr. Anita Raj authored a report of findings from a national study of sexual harassment and assault occurring in workplaces across the United States (Kearl, Johns, & Raj, 2019). According to their report, 38% of women and 14% of men have reported experiencing sexual harassment at work. Much of what can be considered “the STEM education and workspace” has been and continues to be male dominated. Although the gap is decreasing, women still make up only 28% of the STEM workforce (AAUW, 2021).

Click here to read the full article on Nevada Today.

A Latina creates a platform to provide scholarships for STEM students
LinkedIn
María Trochimezuk created the IOScholarships platform last year to provide access to scholarships and boost more Latino and other students in STEM careers.

By Edwin Flores

A Latina has created a platform to provide access to scholarships worth almost $38 million for Latinos and other students interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.

María Trochimezuk, 47, created IOScholarships after noticing the amount of scholarship money that went unrewarded due to the lack of applicants. The free platform gives STEM students in high school and college a place to find scholarships, internships, work opportunities, financial education and resources based upon GPA, merit and financial background.

The aim, said Trochimezuk, is to help students graduate college debt-free while boosting the number of Latinos and other students of color pursuing STEM degrees and careers.

“I always had a vision that I wanted to create a platform that would be a community,” said Trochimezuk who is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. “It’s a first of its kind because we are focusing on underrepresented and underserved students, African American, Latinos, Asian American, Native American and also we have scholarships for DACA students.”

Trochimezuk said the platform, part of the National Scholarships Provider Association (NSPA), has helped provide access to nearly 11,000 students about a diverse range of STEM scholarships that are available from foundations and corporations.

She founded the platform last March, first investing her personal savings and then securing funding for the project through a grant provided by Google’s Ureeka PowerUp program, which supports Latino-owned businesses.

In 2000, Trochimezuk moved to the U.S. on a postgraduate scholarship in marketing and public relations at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and later was selected to be a part of Stanford’s prestigious Latino entrepreneurship initiative.

She worked on public education campaigns for Google and other financial institutions that focused on Latino community support.

Through her experiences, she witnessed how much scholarship money was undistributed because students were not applying. Yet Trochimezuk said she was able to pay off her entire education with grants and scholarships.

Over the last decade, the number of scholarships awarded to students has increased by 45 percent. Yet, the NSPA estimates $100 million in scholarships go unawarded each year due to the lack of applicants.

“We opened opportunities for students with scholarships that now are going to Stanford or MIT — these are brilliant, diverse students, they’re Latino, Black students. And it’s very important that companies pay attention to this workforce because these are the innovators of the future,” she said.

Despite making up 17 percent of the total workforce across all occupations, Latinos account for 8 percent of all STEM-related jobs.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

Identical twin sisters marry identical twin brothers: Meet their babies
LinkedIn
identical twin siblings Jeremy and Briana (on the left, we're pretty sure) are parents to Jax, and Josh and Brittany are parents to Jett.salyerstwins / Instagram

By , TODAY

Identical twins Briana and Brittany, 35, married identical twins Josh and Jeremy Salyers, 37, and now they’re introducing the world to their babies, who are so genetically similar that the cousins are more like brothers.

“You’ve heard the term Irish twins and you’ve heard identical twins and fraternal twins,” Briana Salyers told TODAY Parents. “But we have quaternary twins.”

The Salyers are parents to Jett, who turned 1 in January, and Jax, who will turn 1 in April, and the cousins share more than the same first initial. Their unique situation makes them genetic brothers.

“They were born to identical twin parents less than nine months apart,” Brittany Salyers explained. “Twins married to twins who both have babies at the same time.”

Since identical twins share the same DNA, the children of two pairs of identical twins are legally cousins, but genetically more similar to siblings.

The sisters shared they had both discussed the possibility of quaternary twins.

“We were hoping that we would have overlapping pregnancies so that this would happen. We thought it would be really cool,” Briana said. “There’s only 300 quaternary marriages known in the history of the world.”

The couples, who share a joint Instagram page, posted the interesting scientific fact alongside a photo of the young boys side-by-side.

“Jett and Jax: Cousins, Genetic Brothers, and Quaternary Twins!” the caption read.

The couples married in a joint ceremony at the 2018 Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. Brittany and Briana met Joshua and Jeremy at the Twins Days Festival the year before and their fairy tale weddings were captured on camera for TLC.

Both families live under one roof in Virginia and run a wedding venue site together.

“It was something we all four wanted and when we got engaged, we all wanted it that way,” Brittany told TODAY of the unconventional living arrangement. “It’s something that’s very nice. (Josh and Jeremy) understand the twin bond like we do. We get to have a lot of together time.”

Sharing their compelling journey online doesn’t come without negative commentary for the families.

“We try to ignore sociopathic stalker comments and just focus on the positive,” Brittany said. “Some people think we are really strange and others think it’s really amazing. We’ve gotten a lot of support and interest and we’ve been grateful for that.”

As for future babies, the couples are undecided.

“We are debating if we should go for one more pregnancy each or not,” Briana said. “We will make a decision pretty soon. The babies are still pretty young (and) we are trying to wait a little longer to see what to do.”

Click here to read the full article on TODAY.

Five ways AI is saving wildlife – from counting chimps to locating whales
LinkedIn
A family of chimpanzees photographed in the Congo basin. An AI algorithm enables analysis of up to 3,000 camera trap images an hour

By The Guardian

There’s a strand of thinking, from sci-fi films to Stephen Hawking, that suggests artificial intelligence (AI) could spell doom for humans. But conservationists are increasingly turning to AI as an innovative tech solution to tackle the biodiversity crisis and mitigate climate change.

A recent report by Wildlabs.net found that AI was one of the top three emerging technologies in conservation. From camera trap and satellite images to audio recordings, the report notes: “AI can learn how to identify which photos out of thousands contain rare species; or pinpoint an animal call out of hours of field recordings – hugely reducing the manual labour required to collect vital conservation data.”

AI is helping to protect species as diverse as humpback whales, koalas and snow leopards, supporting the work of scientists, researchers and rangers in vital tasks, from anti-poaching patrols to monitoring species. With machine learning (ML) computer systems that use algorithms and models to learn, understand and adapt, AI is often able to do the job of hundreds of people, getting faster, cheaper and more effective results.

Here are five AI projects contributing to our understanding of biodiversity and species:

1. Stopping poachers
Zambia’s Kafue national park is home to more than 6,600 African savanna elephants and covers 22,400 sq km, so stopping poaching is a big logistical challenge. Illegal fishing in Lake Itezhi-Tezhi on the park’s border is also a problem, and poachers masquerade as fishers to enter and exit the park undetected, often under the cover of darkness.

The Connected Conservation Initiative, from Game Rangers International (GRI), Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife and other partners, is using AI to enhance conventional anti-poaching efforts, creating a 19km-long virtual fence across Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. Forward-looking infrared (FLIR) thermal cameras record every boat crossing in and out of the park, day and night.

Installed in 2019, the cameras were monitored manually by rangers, who could then respond to signs of illegal activity. FLIR AI has now been trained to automatically detect boats entering the park, increasing effectiveness and reducing the need for constant manual surveillance. Waves and flying birds can also trigger alerts, so the AI is being taught to eliminate these false readings.

“There have long been insufficient resources to secure protected areas, and having people watch multiple cameras 24/7 doesn’t scale,” says Ian Hoad, special technical adviser at GRI. “AI can be a gamechanger, as it can monitor for illegal boat crossings and alert ranger teams immediately. The technology has enabled a handful of rangers to provide around-the-clock surveillance of a massive illegal entry point across Lake Itezhi-Tezhi.”

2. Tracking water loss
Brazil has lost more than 15% of its surface water in the past 30 years, a crisis that has only come to light with the help of AI. The country’s rivers, lakes and wetlands have been facing increasing pressure from a growing population, economic development, deforestation, and the worsening effects of the climate crisis. But no one knew the scale of the problem until last August, when, using ML, the MapBiomas water project released its results after processing more than 150,000 images generated by Nasa’s Landsat 5, 7 and 8 satellites from 1985 to 2020 across the 8.5m sq km of Brazilian territory. Without AI, researchers could not have analysed water changes across the country at the scale and level of detail needed. AI can also distinguish between natural and human-created water bodies.

The Negro River, a major tributary of the Amazon and one of the world’s 10 largest rivers by volume, has lost 22% of its surface water. The Brazilian portion of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, has lost 74% of its surface water. Such losses are devastating for wildlife (4,000 species of plants and animals live in the Pantanal, including jaguars, tapirs and anacondas), people and nature.

“AI technology provided us with a shockingly clear picture,” says Cássio Bernardino, WWF-Brasil’s MapBiomas water project lead. “Without AI and ML technology, we would never have known how serious the situation was, let alone had the data to convince people. Now we can take steps to tackle the challenges this loss of surface water poses to Brazil’s incredible biodiversity and communities.”

3. Finding whales
Knowing where whales are is the first step in putting measures such as marine protected areas in place to protect them. Locating humpbacks visually across vast oceans is difficult, but their distinctive singing can travel hundreds of miles underwater. At National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (Noaa) fisheries in the Pacific islands, acoustic recorders are used to monitor marine mammal populations at remote and hard-to-access islands, says Ann Allen, Noaa research oceanographer. “In 14 years, we’ve accumulated around 190,000 hours of acoustic recordings. It would take an exorbitant amount of time for an individual to manually identify whale vocalisations.”

In 2018, Noaa partnered with Google AI for Social Good’s bioacoustics team to create an ML model that could recognise humpback whale song. “We were very successful in identifying humpback song through our entire dataset, establishing patterns of their presence in the Hawaiian islands and Mariana islands,” says Allen. “We also found a new occurrence of humpback song at Kingman reef, a site that’s never before had documented humpback presence. This comprehensive analysis of our data wouldn’t have been possible without AI.”

Click here to read the full article on The Guardian.

New spinal cord stimulation study puts people with paralysis on their feet again
LinkedIn
a man who could have a spinal cord injury is sitting in front the camera

Michel Roccati lost the ability to walk after a motorcycle accident in 2017, when he had a complete spinal cord injury. But today, equipped with an electrode device implanted on his spinal cord, Roccati can enjoy the simple things again: standing at a bar for drinks with friends, taking a shower without a chair and even strolling through the town with a walker.

“I am free,” said Roccati, who is from Italy. “I can walk wherever I want to.”
Roccati was one of three men between the ages of 29 and 41 to participate in the STIMO clinical trial, led by Dr. Jocelyne Bloch from Lausanne University Hospital and Grégoire Courtine of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. The results of the study were published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine.
The participants had 16-electrode devices implanted in the epidural space, an area between the vertebrae and the spinal cord membrane. The electrodes receive currents from a pacemaker implanted under the skin of the abdomen.

All the patients in the trial had a complete loss of voluntary movement below their injuries. Two also had a complete loss of sensation. But with the devices in place, the researchers could use a tablet computer to initiate unique sequences of electrical pulses, sent to the epidural electrodes via the pacemaker, to activate the participants’ muscles.

Other studies have anecdotally seen movement soon after surgery to implant similar devices, but this is the first study to report that all participants independently could take steps on a treadmill just a day after surgery, the researchers say.

“It’s a very emotional moment, because [patients] realize they can step,” Bloch said.

Researchers have been looking into electrical stimulation to the spinal cord for three decades. This study redesigned technology originally used to alleviate pain to target spinal nerve roots.

Previous studies out of the University of Louisville have shown that people who were completely paralyzed but still had sensation could walk again with several months of rehabilitation through electrical stimulation to the spinal cord. The STIMO trial found that within a week of their surgeries, all three participants could walk independently with the use of body-weight support from parallel bars and an overhead harness.

“For the first time, we have not only immediate effect — though training is still important — but also individuals with no sensation, no movement whatsoever, have been able to regain full standing and walking independently of the laboratory,” Courtine told CNN.

Dr. Nandan Lad, a neurosurgeon at Duke University, said this “very exciting work gives a new treatment option for tens of thousands of patients that have spinal cord injury and don’t really have other options.” Lad is leading a clinical trial in this area of research in the US and was not involved in the new study.
The Swiss team has been able to observe immediate results through important changes in the structure and implantation of their electrode device. The electrode array used in the STIMO trial, made by Onward Medical, is wider and longer than the array most commonly used in similar studies. According to Bloch, this new electrode array allows access to a broader area of the spinal cord to stimulate both trunk and leg muscles.

The investigators developed an algorithm to optimally place the electrode array, running tests during the surgery to measure muscle activity after delivering pulses. The precise neurosurgical placement of the electrodes is key to the study’s ability to stimulate the necessary muscle groups in the legs so quickly, Lad said.

The STIMO trial also introduces a new method for initiating and sustaining movement. To begin stimulation, previous studies have relied on participants’ intent to move and the brain signals that follow. In the new study, a timed sequence of stimulations is generated using motor responses to different jolts of electricity. These pre-established sequences trigger movement and attempt to mimic the natural pattern of muscle activation needed to walk.

Susan Harkema, a professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery who led the Louisville studies, said it’s encouraging to know that two types of stimulation can generate movement patterns through human spinal circuitry, indicating that some function is retained, even with complete injuries.
“But I don’t think we have enough evidence yet to know the best way to stimulate for the best outcomes,” Harkema told CNN.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

This is the space graveyard where the International Space Station will be buried
LinkedIn
Image of the international space station hovering over the Earth's atmosphere. The ISS will be moved to the Space Graveyard in the year 2030.

By Katie Hunt, CNN

Three thousand miles off the coast of New Zealand and 2,000 miles north of Antarctica, Point Nemo is so far from land that the closest humans are often the astronauts on board the International Space Station — that orbits 227 nautical miles above Earth. It’s precisely this remoteness that explains why the ISS, once it’s retired in 2030, will end its days here, plummeting to Earth to join other decommissioned space stations, satellites and space debris. This is the world’s space graveyard.
Spacefaring nations have been dumping their junk in the area around Point Nemo, named after Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea,” since the 1970s.

Also known as the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility or South Pacific Ocean Uninhabited Area, the exact coordinates of the world’s most remote spot were calculated by Canadian-Russian engineer Hrvoje Lukatela in 1992.

More than 263 pieces of space debris have been sunk in this area since 1971, including Russia’s Mir space station and NASA’s first space station Skylab, according to a 2019 study. They’re not intact monuments to the history of space travel but are likely fragmented debris scattered over a large area.

“This is the largest ocean area without any islands. It is just the safest area where the long fall-out zone of debris after a re-entry fits into,” said Holger Krag, Head of the Space Safety Programme Office at the European Space Agency.

Point Nemo is beyond any state’s jurisdiction and is devoid of any human life — although it’s not free from the traces of human impact. In addition to the space junk on the seafloor, microplastic particles were discovered in the waters when yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race passed through the region in 2018.
Best practice

Space junk such as old satellites reenter the Earth’s atmosphere on a daily basis, although most of it goes unnoticed because it burns up long before it can hit the ground.
It’s only larger space debris — such as spacecraft and rocket parts — that pose a very small risk to humans and infrastructure on the ground. Space agencies and operators must plan well in advance to ensure that it falls to Earth in this far-flung bit of ocean.

In the case of the International Space Station, NASA said the ISS will begin maneuvers to prepare for deorbit as early as 2026, lowering the altitude of the space lab, with it expected to crash back to Earth in 2031. The exact timings of the maneuvers depends on the solar cycle activity and its effect on Earth’s atmosphere.

“Higher solar activity tends to expand the Earth’s atmosphere and increase resistance to the ISS’ velocity, resulting in more drag and natural altitude loss,” NASA said in a newly published document outlining plans for decommissioning the ISS.

Space agencies and commercial operators must also notify authorities in control of flights and shipping — usually in Chile, New Zealand and Tahiti — of the location, timing and dimensions of the debris fall-out zones. Around two flights per day pass through the air space, said Krag. These authorities produce standardized message sent out to air and sea traffic.

A bigger problem than the spacecraft that end up in Point Nemo, said Krag, is chunks of metal rocket stages and spacecraft making what’s known as an “uncontrolled reentry” into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Existence of Earth Trojan Asteroid Confirmed – Could Become “Ideal Bases” for Advanced Exploration of the Solar System
LinkedIn
Using the 4.1-meter SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) Telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile, astronomers have confirmed that an asteroid discovered in 2020 by the Pan-STARRS1 survey, called 2020 XL5, is an Earth Trojan (an Earth companion following the same path around the Sun as Earth does) and revealed that it is much larger than the only other Earth Trojan known. In this illustration, the asteroid is shown in the foreground in the lower left. The two bright points above it on the far left are Earth (right) and the Moon (left). The Sun appears on the right. Credit: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine, Acknowledgment: M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab)

BY ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITIES FOR RESEARCH IN ASTRONOMY, Sci Tech Daily

The SOAR Telescope, part of NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, has helped astronomers refine the size and orbit of the largest known Earth Trojan companion.

By scanning the sky very close to the horizon at sunrise, the SOAR Telescope in Chile, part of Cerro-Tololo Inter-American Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, has helped astronomers confirm the existence of only the second-known Earth Trojan asteroid and reveals that it is over a kilometer wide — about three times larger than the first.

Astronomers have confirmed the existence of the second known Earth Trojan asteroid and found that it is much bigger than the first. An Earth Trojan is an asteroid that follows the same path around the Sun as Earth does, either ahead of or behind Earth in its orbit. Called 2020 XL5 the asteroid was discovered by the Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope in 2020, but astronomers were not sure then whether it was an Earth Trojan. The SOAR Telescope operated by NOIRLab in Chile helped confirm that it is an Earth Trojan and found that it is over a kilometer across — almost three times bigger than the other Earth Trojan known.

Using the 4.1-meter SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) Telescope on Cerro Pachón in Chile, astronomers led by Toni Santana-Ros of the University of Alicante and the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona observed the recently discovered asteroid 2020 XL5 to constrain its orbit and size. Their results confirm that 2020 XL5 is an Earth Trojan — an asteroid companion to Earth that orbits the Sun along the same path as our planet does — and that it is the largest one yet found.

“Trojans are objects sharing an orbit with a planet, clustered around one of two special gravitationally balanced areas along the orbit of the planet known as Lagrange points,”[1] says Cesar Briceño of NSF’s NOIRLab, who is one of the authors of a paper published today in Nature Communications reporting the results, and who helped make the observations with the SOAR Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, in March 2021.

Several planets in the Solar System are known to have Trojan asteroids, but 2020 XL5 is only the second known Trojan asteroid found near Earth.

Observations of 2020 XL5 were also made with the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona and by the European Space Agency’s 1-meter Optical Ground Station in Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

Discovered on December 12, 2020, by the Pan-STARRS1 survey telescope in Hawai‘i, 2020 XL5 is much larger than the first Earth Trojan discovered, called 2010 TK7. The researchers found that 2020 XL5 is about 1.2 kilometers (0.73 miles) in diameter, about three times as wide as the first (2010 TK7 is estimated to be less than 400 meters or yards across).

When 2020 XL5 was discovered, its orbit around the Sun was not known well enough to say whether it was merely a near-Earth asteroid crossing our orbit, or whether it was a true Trojan. SOAR’s measurements were so accurate that Santana-Ros’s team was then able to go back and search for 2020 XL5 in archival images from 2012 to 2019 taken as part of the Dark Energy Survey using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope located at CTIO in Chile. With almost 10 years of data on hand, the team was able to vastly improve our understanding of the asteroid’s orbit.

Although other studies have supported the Trojan asteroid’s identification,[3] the new results make that determination far more robust and provide estimates of the size of 2020 XL5 and what type of asteroid it is.

“SOAR’s data allowed us to make a first photometric analysis of the object, revealing that 2020 XL5 is likely a C-type asteroid, with a size larger than one kilometer,” says Santana-Ros. A C-type asteroid is dark, contains a lot of carbon, and is the most common type of asteroid in the Solar System.

The findings also showed that 2020 XL5 will not remain a Trojan asteroid forever. It will remain stable in its position for at least another 4000 years, but eventually it will be gravitationally perturbed and escape to wander through space.

2020 XL5 and 2010 TK7 may not be alone — there could be many more Earth Trojans that have so far gone undetected as they appear close to the Sun in the sky. This means that searches for, and observations of, Earth Trojans must be performed close to sunrise or sunset, with the telescope pointing near the horizon, through the thickest part of the atmosphere, which results in poor seeing conditions. SOAR was able to point down to 16 degrees above the horizon, while many 4-meter (and larger) telescopes are not able to aim that low.

Click here to read the full article on Sci Tech Daily.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Danaher

Danaher

Alight

Alight Solutions

Leidos

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. USPAACC’s CelebrASIAN Business + Procurement Conference 2022
    May 25, 2022 - May 27, 2022
  4. From Day One
    June 14, 2022
  5. NABA 2022 National Convention & Expo
    June 21, 2022 - June 24, 2022
  6. From Day One
    June 22, 2022

Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022
  3. USPAACC’s CelebrASIAN Business + Procurement Conference 2022
    May 25, 2022 - May 27, 2022
  4. From Day One
    June 14, 2022
  5. NABA 2022 National Convention & Expo
    June 21, 2022 - June 24, 2022
  6. From Day One
    June 22, 2022