Race car driver Jessi Combs, known as the ‘fastest woman on four wheels,’ dies while trying to beat record
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Jessie Combs seated in race car before a race

Race car driver Jessi Combs, who earned the title of the “fastest woman on four wheels” after she set a record with a jet-powered car, died Tuesday while trying to beat a land speed record, officials said.

Combs died Tuesday in Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon, the Harney County Sheriff’s Office said. She was 39.

“She was a brilliant & to[p]-notch builder, engineer, driver, fabricator, and science communicator, & strove everyday to encourage others by her prodigious example,” said Adam Savage, former co-host of the TV show “Mythbusters.”

Combs appeared in multiple episodes of the show, while host Kari Byron was on maternity leave. She also appeared as a host in shows such as “All Girls Garage” and “Overhaulin’.”

Combs became the fastest woman on four wheels in 2013 at the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger, when she set a record of 398 mph.

In October, Combs set a new top speed of 483.2 mph in a shakedown run.

On Tuesday, she was attempting to go faster when she crashed.

“On August 27, 2019 at approximately 4:00PM the Harney County 911 Center received a call reporting that a jet car attempting to break a land speed record on the Alvord Desert had crashed leading to one fatality,” the sheriff’s office said.

Her resume was full of firsts: the first woman to place at any Ultra4 event; the first woman to compete in The Race of Gentlemen event.

Savage also tweeted “I’m so so sad, Jessi Combs has been killed in a crash. She was a brilliant & too-notch builder, engineer, driver, fabricator, and science communicator, & strove everyday to encourage others by her prodigious example. She was also a colleague, and we are lesser for her absence.”

Her dedication to women’s empowerment in the automotive industry was also significant. She has a line of women’s welding gear with Lincoln Electric, as well as an online collaborative dedicated to empowering and educating women through industrial skills, called the RealDeal.

Continue on to CNN News to read the complete article.

Finding Yourself and Your Community when You Are Black in STEM
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A Black scientist wearing a lab coat closeup

Antonio T. Baines knows what it’s like to feel alone in the lab. He lived it while getting his doctorate. “I was in this Ph.D. pharmacology/toxicology graduate program, and there was nobody who looked like me when I first got there,” he says.

At the time, Baines, who is African American, was studying at the University of Arizona. He entered his graduate program with a friend, who was also Black. “She was in the master’s program,” Baines says, “but we were the only two.”

Now, as an associate professor and a cancer researcher in the Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at North Carolina Central University, he is working to change such situations. He mentors, he teaches, and he is a spokesperson and advocate for the next generation of students of color coming into the sciences.

“I think representation is so important—you need to see folks who look like you, no matter who you are, and others need to see that, too” Baines says. “If you don’t ever see it, then, is it possible?”

This discussion is part of a speaker series hosted by the Black Employee Network at Springer Nature, the publisher of Scientific American. The series aims to highlight Black contributions to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) a history that has not been widely recognized. It will cover career paths, role models and mentorship, and diversity in STEM.

Read the original article at Scientific American.
California Tech Hub Bitwise Industries Raises $50 Million In Quest To Diversify The Workforce
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professional shot of Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr standing side by side smiling

When Jake Soberal founded tech hub Bitwise Industries alongside Irma Olguin Jr. in 2013, the “volume of injustice” for impoverished communities of systemic poverty rang at a medium decibel. Since then, the noise has noticeably increased.

“Trump gets elected, and now the volume is quite high. Then there’s a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, and now the volume is deafeningly loud,” Soberal, 35, says. “There is no waiting [for our company]. Going slow is not an option. This is work that desperately needs to be scaled.”

Image: Jake Soberal and Irma Olguin Jr. were frustrated by the limited career prospects in their hometown, and wanted to find a solution. Photo Courtesy of Bitwise Industries

Bitwise Industries, which trains tech workers in marginalized communities, develops software and invests in tech-friendly real estate, announced today that it has secured $50 million in Series B funding from Kapor Capital, JPMorgan, Motley Fool Ventures and ProMedica. To date, Bitwise has raised $100 million at a valuation Forbes estimates at roughly $200 million.

A third-generation Mexican American and the first in her family to go to college, Olguin told Forbes in June that she’d been working to make coding instruction available to disadvantaged members of her local community when she met fellow Fresno, California, native and intellectual property lawyer Soberal. They teamed up to find a “fundamentally different way to rebuild American cities.”

In 2013, the pair established Geekwise Academy, the coding and tech skills boot camp arm of Bitwise. The downtown Fresno institution offers classes in website building and programming languages like HTML and JavaScript to people of all ages. In California alone, Bitwise has trained roughly 5,000 people, with more than 80% of them finding gainful technical employment.

Olguin and Soberal later launched Shift3 Technologies—a software development division that builds apps and custom programs for small and medium-sized businesses—to boost the hiring pipeline for Geekwise alumni.

Bitwise’s third business-line is investing in commercial real estate. In California, the cofounders have developed and leased 450,000 square feet of previously blighted, long-forgotten buildings, transforming them into coworking spaces, restaurants, theaters and other desirable commercial real estate.

With a 2020 revenue that Forbes estimates at $40 million, the company has expanded its three-pronged model from Fresno to Bakersfield, Merced and Oakland. With the new funding, Olguin and Soberal hope to move into markets outside California, starting with Toledo, Ohio.

“For the first time we can start thinking about what an equitable recovery looks like,” says Olguin, 40. “What does it actually mean to rebuild an American city coming out of the pandemic, and coming out of this age of justice? Bitwise can deliver to the world and to the cities a diverse and inclusive technology workforce, where those high-wage, high-skilled jobs now are creating and endeavoring to bolster that local economy.”

Read the complete article at Forbes.

Scientists clone the first U.S. endangered species
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close up image of a brown ferret peaking throght a tube

Scientists have cloned the first U.S. endangered species, a black-footed ferret duplicated from the genes of an animal that died over 30 years ago.

The slinky predator named Elizabeth Ann, born Dec. 10 and announced Thursday, is cute as a button. But watch out — unlike the domestic ferret foster mom who carried her into the world, she’s wild at heart.

“You might have been handling a black-footed ferret kit and then they try to take your finger off the next day,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service black-footed ferret recovery coordinator Pete Gober said Thursday. “She’s holding her own.”

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP

Elizabeth Ann was born and is being raised at a Fish and Wildlife Service black-footed ferret breeding facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. She’s a genetic copy of a ferret named Willa who died in 1988 and whose remains were frozen in the early days of DNA technology.

Cloning eventually could bring back extinct species such as the passenger pigeon. For now, the technique holds promise for helping endangered species including a Mongolian wild horse that was cloned and last summer born at a Texas facility.

“Biotechnology and genomic data can really make a difference on the ground with conservation efforts,” said Ben Novak, lead scientist with Revive & Restore, a biotechnology-focused conservation nonprofit that coordinated the ferret and horse clonings.

Black-footed ferrets are a type of weasel easily recognized by dark eye markings resembling a robber’s mask. Charismatic and nocturnal, they feed exclusively on prairie dogs while living in the midst of the rodents’ sometimes vast burrow colonies.

Even before cloning, black-footed ferrets were a conservation success story. They were thought extinct — victims of habitat loss as ranchers shot and poisoned off prairie dog colonies that made rangelands less suitable for cattle — until a ranch dog named Shep brought a dead one home in Wyoming in 1981.

Scientists gathered the remaining population for a captive breeding program that has released thousands of ferrets at dozens of sites in the western U.S., Canada and Mexico since the 1990s.

Lack of genetic diversity presents an ongoing risk. All ferrets reintroduced so far are the descendants of just seven closely related animals — genetic similarity that makes today’s ferrets potentially susceptible to intestinal parasites and diseases such as sylvatic plague.

Willa could have passed along her genes the usual way, too, but a male born to her named Cody “didn’t do his job” and her lineage died out, said Gober.

When Willa died, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sent her tissues to a “frozen zoo” run by San Diego Zoo Global that maintains cells from more than 1,100 species and subspecies worldwide. Eventually scientists may be able to modify those genes to help cloned animals survive.

Read the original article on NBC News.

13 Practical Ways To Help Employees Adapt To New Technology
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collage Forbes Human Resources Council

Tech continues to play a larger and larger role in businesses and industries of all stripes. As companies bring on more and newer technology to help improve productivity, employees who were initially trained on older systems or who are new to a higher-tech workplace may struggle to keep up or even resist using the new tech at all.

Giving your team the support they need to learn and leverage new tech is a win-win situation for everyone. Below, 13 members of Forbes Human Resources Council share tips for effectively introducing new tech tools to your team members.

Take a multi-pronged approach.

Implement a range of training systems, from written instruction to live video training, to accommodate different work styles and preferences. It’s important that executives lead by example by using the technology themselves and reminding employees of support and resources available on a regular basis. – Neha Mirchandani, BrightPlan

2. Create a sandbox for employees.

The one important strategy in any major wave of change is the willingness to create a sandbox for the employees. For any new tech—or non-tech—strategy to succeed, an appetite for and acceptance of failures and mistakes are required. People learn when they know their mistakes won’t cost them their jobs. They are more open to bigger challenges if there is an allowance for a learning curve. – Ruchi Kulhari, NIIT-Technologies

3. Implement annual skills evaluation.

Annual skills evaluation programs are a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated. Digital transformation requires core competencies for virtually any job to evolve. By evaluating skill levels and skill gaps, your organization can easily identify ways to ensure employees are keeping up with the competition. Employers must constantly update employee skills to match the pace of innovation. – Sameer Penakalapati, CEIPAL Corp.

Read the full article at  Forbes.

Kenyan Woman’s Startup Recycles Plastic Waste into Bricks That Are 5x Stronger Than Concrete
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black female engineer holding a brick recycled from plastic

An absolutely brilliant young woman in Kenya has started a company manufacturing bricks from plastic waste.

Nzambi Matee says she was “tired of being on the sidelines” while civil servants struggled against plastic waste in the capital city of Nairobi, so the materials engineer created a product that is 5 to 7 times stronger than concrete.

Founder of Gjenge Makers, which transforms plastic waste into durable building materials, Matee also designed the machines that manufacture the bricks in her factory.

Getting dumps of plastic low and high-density polyethylene and polypropylene from local packaging plants for free, Gjenge Makers produces a variety of different paving stones after the plastic polymer is heated and mixed with sand.

“There is waste they cannot process anymore; they cannot recycle. That is what we get,” Matee told Reuters.

The result is a line of versatile building materials pressed via hydraulic machine into different thicknesses, that sell in a variety of colors that cost an average of $7.70 per square meter.

Read the original article at Good News Network.

Why Representation Is So Important In The STEM Industry
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Black girl in the science engineering class

The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry as a whole has a lot of work to do when it comes to adding diversity to its field.

As a Black female meteorologist, I didn’t see myself growing up. Often times, that led to doubt and frustration. But little did I know it was also becoming part of my purpose — giving little girls who look like me an opportunity to see themselves.

The lack of diversity doesn’t only exist in the meteorology field. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry as a whole has a lot of work to do when it comes to adding diversity to its field.

According to an analysis by Undark, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Black students in a STEM field peaked in the early 2000s and has been falling ever since.

Abi Olukeye is the founder and CEO of Smart Girls HQ, an organization helping to bridge the gender and resource gap for girls in STEM.

It was support at home,” Olukeye said. “They also felt that their teachers or parents were not supportive of their choice in a STEM career much more than the other students did.”

Olukeye said exposure is key to encouraging more girls into STEM.

According to a recent study conducted by The Girl Scouts, 48% of African-American girls are more likely to know someone in a STEM career compared to 61% of Caucasian girls.

Only 18% of African-American girls have one or both parents in a STEM career compared to 29% of Caucasian girls.

“I think, honestly, it’s exposure as early as possible,” Olukeye said. “But it’s also the intentional safe space to experiment.”

As a mother of two daughters, she pushes her girls to experiment.

It’s not uncommon for me to walk into my freezer, open my freezer and to see a baggy of lotion that’s been frozen because they want to see what happens when you freeze lotion,” Olukeye said.

Read the original article at WCNC.

Biden Plans To Replace Government Fleet With Electric Vehicles
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Photo of a white tesla on the road with factory in the background

President Joe Biden plans to replace the government’s fleet of cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the U.S., he said Monday when signing a new “Buy America” executive order.

The government is a major purchaser of vehicles. However, replacing such a fleet with American-produced EVs will be costly and take time. There are currently only a handful of all-electric vehicles being assembled in the U.S. Tesla, General Motors and Nissan Motor produce EVs domestically, while Ford Motor and others have announced

(Image Credit – Gene Blevins, Reuters)

plans to do so.

“The current offerings are pretty slim, but the industry’s about to unleash an avalanche of new product, and a lot of it built in North America,” Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research, told CNBC. “Just about every U.S. plant is going to have a hybrid or electric product.”

It’s unclear whether Biden’s plan includes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which use a combination of EV motors and traditional internal combustion engines. When discussing the plans, he referred to the new fleet being made up of electric vehicles “that are net zero emissions.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The “Buy America” executive order did not directly address the purchase of electric vehicles.

As of 2019, the U.S. government had 645,000 vehicles that were driven 4.5 billion miles and consumed 375 million gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, according to the General Services Administration (GSA). About 35% of those vehicles were operated by the U.S. Postal Service, according to GSA.

Read the full article at CNBC News.
NASA Pays Tribute to Fallen Heroes with Day of Remembrance
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memorial stone for NASA Fallen Heroes

NASA will honor members of the NASA family who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery, including the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, during the agency’s annual Day of Remembrance Thursday, Jan. 28. This year’s NASA Day of Remembrance also marks 35 years since the Challenger tragedy.

“NASA has a unique culture that is fueled by possibility, set on a path to the next giant leap for humanity, and guided by its history,” said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “The lessons of our past are the enduring legacy of the brave women and men who did not put limits on what could

(Image Credit – NASA/Bill Ingalls)

be achieved, and we all recognize the honor of being counted among them as part of the NASA family.”

Jurczyk will lead an observance at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which will begin with a traditional wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, followed by observances for the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia crews.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this year’s event will be limited to invited guests and closed to media.

Various NASA centers also will hold observances on the Day of Remembrance. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, attendance will be limited at these events, and CDC-recommended health and safety protocols – including physical distancing and face coverings – will be followed.

Kennedy Space Center, Florida
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, in partnership with The Astronauts Memorial Foundation, will host a Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Space Mirror Memorial at Kennedy’s Visitor Complex with limited in-person invited guests. The ceremony will feature remarks by Kennedy Center Director Bob Cabana, as well as retired space shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach, and Astronauts Memorial Foundation President and CEO Thad Altman. The ceremony will livestream at 11 a.m. EST on Kennedy’s Facebook account.

Johnson Space Center, Houston
NASA’s Johnson Space Center will hold a commemoration at the Astronaut Memorial Grove with limited in-person invited guests. The ceremony will feature remarks by Johnson Center Director Mark Geyer, as well as Cheryl McNair, widow of Challenger astronaut Ronald McNair, NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, and former Johnson Center Director George Abbey.

Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will observe Day of Remembrance with a prerecorded observance featuring remarks from Marshall Center Director Jody Singer, NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore, and a moment of silence. The event will appear on Marshall’s YouTube channel and will be shared on the center’s social media account.

Glenn Research Center, Cleveland
NASA’s Glenn Research center will observe Day of Remembrance with a virtual observance for Glenn staff only.

Video and still images of various agency observances will be available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/mediaresources

The agency also is paying tribute to its fallen astronauts with special online content at:

https://www.nasa.gov/dor

Images and multimedia from this year’s events will be added following the events.

Read the original article at NASA.

Why Big Data Is Failing Women In STEM And How To Fix It
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Black woman leaning against the wall working on the computer wearing black

Big Data dominates our economy. Yet, we don’t have consistent, standardized and real-time data on the jobs driving that 21stcentury-Big Data economy: science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Walmart can tell you how many of anything are in a given store or warehouse at any moment. Apps track your heartrate and your phone tracks your location at any moment. C-suite executives monitor everything in their organizations daily. In the labyrinth of sources, the government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data seems to be the most detailed, but it’s relative; it’s not even clear exactly which jobs they include.

“Where data comes in is to put greater pressure on educational institutions and on employers to monitor what they’re doing and be held accountable if they lose women, if they keep losing women, or keep not getting women in the first place,” Ariane Hegewisch, Ph.D., Program Director Employment & Earnings at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told me. She added that it’s important to see the racial data as well, because, “it does impact women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds very differently.”

The devil’s in the definitions: “There is no standard definition of a STEM occupation.”

A big part of the problem is defining these jobs. The BLS lists all occupations and you need to mine their breakdown to find what you want. The BLS defines STEM jobs as: “Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) occupations include computer and mathematical, architecture and engineering, and life and physical science occupations, as well as managerial and postsecondary teaching occupations related to these functional areas and sales occupations requiring scientific or technical knowledge at the postsecondary level.”

Read the original article at Forbes.

Is Tesla really worth $500 billion?
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graphic of elon musk with pink and orange background and tesla label

By Rory Cellan-Jones for BBC News

It was the week when Elon Musk soared past Bill Gates to become the world’s second richest person, as Tesla’s value topped $500bn.

On Tech Tent, we ask just why investors think the electric car company is worth so much more than it was a year ago. At the beginning of 2020, Tesla was valued by the stock market at around $80bn – and even then, sceptics thought that was a high price for a business that was barely profitable.

(Image Credit – Getty Images)

Throughout the year its shares have soared, and its valuation climbed above $500bn on the news that the business was going to be included in the S&P 500 index of leading companies.

Just to put that into context: Tesla is now worth more than Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, GM and Ford put together.

‘You’re being too rational!’

I’ve done some back-of-the-envelope calculations and those businesses, some of which are undoubtedly ailing, made a combined profit of more than $50bn last year.

This year, Tesla is on course to make something like $1bn. So to believe the current valuation, surely you have to have some confidence that its technology and its market dominance will deliver a 50-fold increase in profits over the not too distant future?

“You’re being too rational!” Passion Capital’s Eileen Burbidge told me when I put it to her that Tesla’s sky-high share price simply didn’t add up.

“All it means is that the people who are buying the stock at this price believe they’re going to be able to sell it at a higher price.”

Eileen’s work as a venture capitalist is all about putting a value on companies which are at a much earlier stage than Tesla – and she tells Tech Tent that this is often a similarly irrational process, dependent on the mood in the wider market, and not just the qualities of individual businesses.

Tesla’s many fans will rightly point out that it has sent the automotive industry in a new direction, has unique battery technology with many other applications, and has a visionary leader.

But that was all true at the beginning of 2020 when it was worth a mere $80bn.

A short-term bet

“There are clearly no business fundamentals that point to a five-six times increase in its valuation just since the beginning of the year,” Eileen Burbidge told me. But she returns to her point that investors are making a short-term bet.

“I would like to think that the markets are fundamentally rational at the end of the day. I think the question is one’s time horizon. These buyers – they really believe they’re going to be able to sell at a higher price. And so far, by the way, they’ve been right.”

It is foolish to try to apply too much logic to short-term moves in shares. When asked by his editors why prices were rising, one legendary Fleet Street stock market correspondent used to reply “more buyers than sellers”, giving the opposite answer when the market was falling.

Just like a bottle of 1945 Burgundy, or a Picasso, or a tiny flat in London or San Francisco, Tesla’s “value” is whatever someone is willing to pay for it, however irrational the price may seem.

Nevertheless, one person who should know said months ago that the electric car company was overvalued, tweeting on 1 May: “Tesla stock price is too high imo”.

Who says? Well, it was Elon Musk himself – and the tweet knocked $14bn off the company’s value.

Since then, the share price has increased fourfold – but, hey, what does he know?

Read the original article at BBC News.

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Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  3. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022