WITI Summit, June 22-24, VIRTUAL
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The WITI Summit, June 22-24 in a VIRTUAL form, is the premier global event for women in technology. Executives, entrepreneurs and technology thought leaders from around the world convene online to build and expand strong connections in a welcoming environment and to foster women’s success in all technology related fields and organizations. 3,000+ attendees from 6 continents. 

 

Use code CBPART21 for $100 discount off the prevailing cost of a full 3-day pass. 

 

Click Here 

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins returns safely to Earth after six months in space
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NASA astronaut Kate Rubins is helped out of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft

BY TORI B. POWELL,

NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, 42, safely returned to Earth on Saturday after living aboard the International Space Station for six months, according to NASA. Rubins, along with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov, arrived southeast of the town Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, in a parachute landing at 10:55 a.m. local time.

The crew served as Expedition 63-64 and began their mission on October 14 last year.

Rubins became the first person to ever sequence DNA in outer space on her first spaceflight, Expedition 48/49 in 2016. During her latest 185-day mission, Rubins conducted “hundreds of hours” of International Space Station research, including work on the Cardinal Heart experiment which studies the effects of gravity and cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue levels and could further knowledge of heart problems on Earth, NASA reported. Her research also included studying DNA sequencing and microbiology studies.

Click here to read the full article on CBS News.

Why Mars? The fascination with exploring the red planet
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A rendering of the planet Mars

By Ashley Strickland of CNN

The mystique of Mars is one that humans can’t seem to resist. The red planet has easily captured our interest for centuries, heavily featured in science fiction books and films and the subject of robotic exploration since the 1960s.

In February, three spacecraft arrived at Mars after departing from different launch points on Earth in July. These myriad missions seek to understand our planetary neighbor and unlock the secrets of its past to prepare for future exploration.
The three missions — China’s Tianwen-1, the United Arab Emirates’ Hope Probe and NASA’s Perseverance rover — took advantage of an alignment between Mars and Earth that occurs every 26 months, allowing for quicker and more efficient trips when the two planets are on the same side of the sun.
The Hope Probe will stay in orbit for a Martian year — equivalent to 687 days on Earth — to gather data about Mars’ atmosphere.
Tianwen-1, whose name means “Quest for Heavenly Truth,” is orbiting the planet before landing a rover on the surface, with the hope that it can gather important information about the Martian soil, geological structure, environment, atmosphere and signs of water.
The Perseverance rover is searching for signs of ancient life on Mars and will collect samples to be returned to Earth by future missions.
Perseverance also carries the names of nearly 11 million people etched on three silicon chips. She is a robotic scientist exploring Mars on behalf of humanity and is able to share what she sees and hears through 23 cameras, including video, and two microphones.
If three missions arriving at Mars within days of each other seems excessive, imagine explorers seeing Earth for the first time and wanting to understand all aspects of its past, climate, water, geology and life systems. It takes time and different capabilities to explore aspects of an entire planet to know the real story.
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock
The genetic mistakes that could shape our species
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a genetic strand

By Zaria Gorvett

He Jiankui seemed nervous.

At the time, he was an obscure researcher working at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China. But he had been working on a top-secret project for the last two years – and he was about to take to the podium at the International Summit on Human Genome Editing to announce the results. There was a general buzz of excitement in the air. The audience looked on anxiously. People started filming on their phones.

He had made the first genetically modified babies in the history of humankind. After 3.7 billion years of continuous, undisturbed evolution by natural selection, a life form had taken its innate biology into its own hands. The result was twin baby girls who were born with altered copies of a gene known as CCR5, which the scientist hoped would make them immune to HIV.

But things were not as they seemed.

“I was kind of drawn to him for the first five or six minutes, he seemed very candid,” says Hank Greely, a professor of law at Stanford University and expert in medical ethics, who watched the conference live over the internet in November 2018. “And then as he went on, I got more and more suspicious.”

A genetic invention

In the years since, it’s become clear that He’s project was not quite as innocent as it might sound. He had broken laws, forged documents, misled the babies’ parents about any risks and failed to do adequate safety testing. The whole endeavour left many experts aghast – it was described as “monstrous”, “amateurish” and “profoundly disturbing” – and the culprit is now in prison.

However, arguably the biggest twist were the mistakes. It turns out that the babies involved, Lulu and Nana, have not been gifted with neatly edited genes after all. Not only are they not necessarily immune to HIV, they have been accidentally endowed with versions of CCR5 that are entirely made up – they likely do not exist in any other human genome on the planet. And yet, such changes are heritable – they could be passed on to their children, and children’s children, and so on.

In fact, there have been no shortage of surprises in the field. From the rabbits altered to be leaner that inexplicably ended up with much longer tongues to the cattle tweaked to lack horns that were inadvertently endowed with a long stretch of bacterial DNA in their genomes (including some genes that confer antibiotic resistance, no less) – its past is riddled with errors and misunderstandings.

More recently, researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London warned that editing the genetics of human embryos can lead to unintended consequences. By analysing data from previous experiments, they found that approximately 16% had accidental mutations that would not have been picked up via standard tests.

Why are these mistakes so common? Can they be overcome? And how could they affect future generations?

Read the full article at BBC.com

Neuralink: We Got a Monkey to Play Pong Using Only Its Mind
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A monkey playing pong on the computer while sucking a smoothie out of a straw in front of a forest backdrop

By Alyse Stanley, Gizmodo

Neuralink, the secretive neuroscience startup co-founded by Elon Musk, has been even more quiet than usual these days. That is, until this week when it released a YouTube video of a monkey appearing to play the classic video game Pong with its mind.

The video stars Pager, a 9-year-old macaque monkey who had a Neuralink implanted in either side of his brain roughly six weeks prior, according to the narrator. And apparently, he loves Pong. Before he learned how to play the game with his mind, though, researchers first conditioned him to use a joystick, rewarding him with “a tasty banana smoothie” through a straw whenever he moved an on-screen cursor to certain lit-up squares on a grid.

While he was maneuvering the joystick and happily slurping up his smoothie, the Neuralink devices in his brain recorded his brain activity, monitoring more than 2,000 electrodes implanted in the region of Pager’s motor cortex that controls hand and arm movements. Researchers could also interface with the devices in real-time by pairing their phones via Bluetooth.

That Neuralink data was then fed into a “decoder algorithm” to train it to predict Pager’s intended hand movements in real-time based on which neurons were firing. Following a short calibration period, the decoder understood Pager’s neural patterns well enough that the joystick was no longer needed. The narrator says that even with it disconnected, Pager continues to move the cursor around using only his mind. He then appears to play a game of so-called MindPong with no joystick insight.

“A monkey is literally playing a video game telepathically using a brain chip!!” Musk said in a tweet sharing the video Thursday.

More than four million people have watched it since then, and it’s currently among the top 10 trending videos on YouTube. If you’re interested, Neuralink also shared a video showing what the raw data behind Pager’s neural activity looks like while he’s busy playing.

Musk went on to discuss future plans for Neuralink’s devices in a series of tweets, echoing the video’s narrator that the ultimate goal for this technology is to enable people with paralysis to operate their computer or phone via their mind.

The initial versions of the device “will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs,” Musk wrote. “Later versions will be able to shunt signals from Neuralinks in brain to Neuralinks in body motor/sensory neuron clusters, thus enabling, for example, paraplegics to walk again.”

Back in August, Neuralink showed a live demo of the Neuralink implant in action, though on pigs rather than monkeys.

“It’s like a Fitbit in your skull with tiny wires,” Musk said at the time.

Click here to read the full article on Gizmodo.

Fermilab Experiment Hints at New Fundamental Force of Nature
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nad over head photo of Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois

By Ryan Whitwam

Scientists working at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois have made some of the most important discoveries in physics over the years, including the existence of the top quark and characterizing the neutrino. Now, the team working on Fermilab’s Muon g−2 experiment has reported a tantalizing hint of a new type of physics, according to the BBC. If confirmed, this would become the fifth known fundamental force in the universe.

Our current understanding of particle physics is called the Standard Model, which we know is an incomplete picture of the universe. Concepts like the Higgs boson and dark energy don’t fully integrate with the Standard Model, and the Muon g−2 might eventually help us understand why. The key to that breakthrough could be the behavior of the muon, a subatomic particle similar to an electron. The muon has a negative charge, but it’s much more massive. So, it spins like a magnet, which is what points to a possible new branch of physics.

PHOTO: ExtremeTech

The roots of the Muon g−2 experiment go back to work done at CERN in the late 1950s. However, the instruments available at the time were too imprecise to accurately measure the “g-factor” of the muon, which describes its rate of gyration. The Standard Model predicts that muons wobble in a certain way, but the 14-meter magnetic accelerator at the heart of Muon g−2 shows that muons have a different g-factor. That might not sound significant, but even a tiny “anomalous magnetic dipole moment,” as scientists call it, could indicate something mysterious has affected the particles.

We currently know of four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force (nuclear cohesion), and the weak force (radioactive decay). Whatever is causing muons to misbehave in Muon g−2 could be a fifth force, but we don’t know what it is. Even if the team can confirm the result, we won’t necessarily know what this new force of nature does aside from perturbing muons. That part will take much more work. Theoretical physicists have speculated that the new force could be associated with an undiscovered subatomic particle like the Z-prime boson or leptoquark.

Read the full article at ExtremeTech.

Mars helicopter Ingenuity unlocks its rotor blades to prepare for 1st flight on Red Planet
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Blades on the Ingenuity Mars helicopter during the unlocking process, as seen on Apr. 8, 2021

By Meghan Bartels

The Mars helicopter Ingenuity has unlocked its two rotor blades as preparations continue for the vehicle’s first flight, due to occur no earlier than Sunday (April 11).

Ingenuity arrived on Mars Feb. 18 along with NASA’s Perseverance rover, having made the long trek out to the Red Planet tucked inside the rover’s belly. As of April 4, the little chopper has parted ways with Perseverance, preparing to take to the skies during a month-long test campaign. If Ingenuity’s Sunday sortie is successful, it will be the first powered, guided flight on another planet.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU 

“The blades of glory, aka rotor blades of the #MarsHelicopter, have been unlocked and are ready for testing,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California wrote in a tweet posted early today (April 8). “Next, we’ll do a slow-speed spin-up of the blades for the first time on the Martian surface.”

Ingenuity’s flight preparation process has been slow and cautious, in part because the 4-lb. (1.8 kilograms) helicopter made the journey to Mars in a folded configuration, tucked behind a protective shield.

After the rover dropped that shield and drove to the airfield, the helicopter’s personnel had to order the device to unpack and slowly unfold itself. Then Perseverance had to set Ingenuity directly on the Martian surface and drive away, allowing the helicopter’s solar panels to begin supporting the aircraft.

Unlocking and testing Ingenuity’s blades mark the last major milestones before the helicopter attempts to fly. NASA officials have said they will test the blades first at 50 and then at 2,400 revolutions per minute before the helicopter attempts to fly.

Read the full article at Space.com.

Will.i.am reveals his $299 face mask featuring dual fans, ANC headphones, Bluetooth, and more
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Will.i.am wearing the technology powered face mask with a blue beanie on

By Rob Thubron, TechSpot

What just happened? Will.i.am, best known as the frontman for the Black Eyed Peas, has made several pushes into the world of technology—not all of them successful. But the rapper hasn’t been put off by a few past failures. His latest project is a tech-packed face mask that features everything from noise-canceling headphones to Bluetooth connectivity. It’s also a lot more expensive than most masks: $299.
Created through a partnership with Honeywell, the Xupermask (pronounced “Super mask”) features dual three-speed fans and HEPA filters. That’s the same setup found on LG’s equally Cyberpunk 2077-looking PuriCare Wearable Air Purifier mask.

As Will.i.am was involved in the Xupermask’s creation, it has built-in active noise-canceling headphones for enjoying your tunes while looking like a Fallout character. There’s also a microphone, Bluetooth 5.0, and a magnetic earbud docking system.

Taking a leaf from Razer’s Project Hazel, the Xupermask boasts LED day glow lights, though they’re not of the RGB variety, as is the case with the PC accessory maker’s product. You also get 7-hour battery life.

Click here to read the full article on TechSpot.

Partnership Aims to Engage 1 Million Girls in STEM Opportunities
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young girl looking through microscope in science class

The Intel Foundation and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation have joined STEM Next Opportunity Fund and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to launch the Million Girls Moonshot.

The effort is designed to engage one million school-age girls in the U.S. in STEM learning opportunities over the next five years. The organizations will provide grant funding and in-kind resources to Mott-funded afterschool networks in all 50 states to increase access to hands-on, immersive STEM learning experiences.

“The Million Girls Moonshot will help girls from diverse backgrounds develop this same engineering mindset, and I’m thrilled at the way it continues the legacy of Intel’s founders and their passion for advancing STEM,” said Dr. Penny Noyce, founding board chair, STEM Next Opportunity Fund.

Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation, added, “We’re delighted that the Intel and Moore Foundations will join us in an effort to promote gender equity by empowering girls through STEM learning opportunities.”

Just as the original moonshot united the nation behind a common goal and dramatically advanced scientific achievement, the Million Girls Moonshot aims to create a national movement to change the trajectory of women and girls in STEM. Led by STEM Next Opportunity Fund, the program will tap a wide range of funding and programmatic partners, including NASA, Qualcomm Incorporated, Technovation, National Girls Collaborative Project, CSforALL, JFF, Techbridge Girls, STEMconnector and Lyda Hill Philanthropies.

“Every girl deserves access to high-quality education to achieve their dream career, regardless of their ZIP code or family’s socioeconomic status,” said Gabriela A. Gonzalez, deputy director, Intel Foundation. “The powerful synergies from collaborating with other organizations who share these values achieve a larger collective social impact to advance gender equity and parity in STEM fields, and more important, elevate girls’ future prospects for a better quality of life.”

Closing the Gender Gap in STEM is Critical for Our Nation’s Future

Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, comprising just 16 percent of engineers. Black and Latina women have even less representation, at approximately two percent each. With economic projections pointing to a need for one million more STEM professionals than the country will produce at its current rate over the next decade, engaging and keeping more girls in STEM pursuits will be critically important for solving our nation’s most pressing challenges.

“We’re happy to be inaugural partners in the Million Girls Moonshot and its all-hands-on-deck effort to break down the systemic barriers that exist for girls in STEM,” said Janet Coffey, Ph.D., program director, Science, for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. “This generation of young people will be the COVID-19 generation. By fostering an engineering mindset and a spirit of scientific exploration, curiosity, and discovery, we can empower them to build a better world.”

Afterschool Programs are Important for Engaging, Keeping Girls in STEM

Over the past several decades, afterschool and out-of-school programs have developed expertise in providing the kind of immersive, hands-on learning experiences that are critical to helping students gain fluency in STEM subjects. This school year, the opportunity is even greater as students and families face many more hours outside of the traditional classroom. From running STEM activities virtually and distributing STEM kits to students, to offering small-group, in-person services on remote school days and during traditional afterschool hours, afterschool programs have stepped up to keep students engaged and learning. The potential for impact is enormous: The nation’s 100,000 afterschool programs serve more than 10 million young people.

To support programs as they pivot to meet students’ needs, the Million Girls Moonshot will provide afterschool networks with technical assistance, educational resources, access to Intel’s She Will Connect partners and mentorship from STEM experts, including Intel employee volunteers. The initiative leverages more than $300 million in investments made by the Mott Foundation in the past two decades to advance afterschool programs and systems, including the development of afterschool networks in all 50 states, as well as Mizzen by Mott, an app that provides afterschool educators free access to high-quality content.

The Million Girls Moonshot welcomes a diverse group of cross-sector partners to join in expanding its reach, sustainability and impact. Learn more at MillionGirlsMoonshot.org.

Source: STEM Next Opportunity Fund

Women Of Color Lead Gender Equality In STEM Education
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Dr. Karidia Diallo in a laboratory setting at the CDC, in front of an ABI DNA Analyzer

By Rhett Power, Forbes

The numbers are encouraging but there is more work to do.

Latina women have closed the gender gap in technical college-entrance exams, and African American women outnumber men 3-to-2 in those exams. After decades of research showcasing women of color behind both men of color and White women, new UC Berkeley research highlights encouraging data in which women of color are making progress in STEM education.

The UC Berkeley analysis showcased these two groundbreaking trends utilizing Advanced-Placement (AP) college-entrance exams in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Among African American students, AP STEM exams taken by women represented the overwhelming majority over men. Among Latinx students, the number of men and women was roughly equal; nationally, women took 66,382exams and, men took 66,703 exams per year.

The research, conducted by Nobel-prize-winning author Dr. Daniel Kammen, Dr. Caroline Harper, and researcher Vanessa Thompson, presents patterns that are surprising given that women of color have continued to be alarmingly underrepresented in many STEM fields. Both of these trends of gender equality showcase strengths among African American and Latinx AP students that could translate to insights for increased gender equity in other STEM contexts.

I sat down with Dr. Caroline Harper and Vanessa Thompson recently to discuss their work and findings. Watch full interview here.

Rhett Power: Can you tell us about some of the exciting results from your research, some of the highlights you think are important?

Vanessa Thompson: “We’ve found that Latina women have closed the gender gap in technical college entrance exams, and African American women outnumber African American men three to two in those same exams.

“It’s really interesting because when we look into the pipeline, it can indicate some larger trends later down the road. After decades of research showing women of color behind, this shows a context that counters the traditional narrative, which is interesting. The reason that we look at research like this is that increased women and minorities in STEM is correlated with having more revenue and productivity in the workplace, so it’s important to understand what the numbers are telling us.”

Power: Dr. Harper, I want to ask you. You’ve done a lot of work on racial and gender equity. Why is diversity in STEM crucial, and what makes you encouraged by this report and by this research?

Dr. Caroline Harper: “Thank you, It’s all about perspectives and experiences, and how we see problems, and how we look to solving those problems or coming up with solutions that last sustainably across all communities. If we talk about diversity, we’re really talking about finding ways to really reach a new consensus but also finding new ways to actually deal with real problems, like as we see right now, the things that are happening in Texas, the recent freeze that happened. Issues like climate change are impacting communities of color, and those same people can provide solutions. Or if with talk about the pandemic. It’s a woman of color who leads the research on the vaccination, so we’re talking about finding ways to address new challenges, and that’s why diversity matters. Women of color can help find solutions to our biggest problems and bring different experiences and perspectives to that work.”

Power: I understand that advanced placement courses (AP) in high school have become more broadly available in the country? Is that why we see this increase, or is it because there’s more of a focus on it? Are we counseling kids better these days? What do you attribute to this increase of women of color in STEM fields?

Thompson: “The answer is it’s both demand and supply when it comes to, particularly, AP. AP’s been working to make their tests more inclusive and offer them at more high schools, so we see an increased supply and increased ability to take AP exams. We also see higher demand as universities increasingly want to see AP exams on an entrance appilications.”

Power: Is there a correlation between your AP courses’ grades versus what you major in in college and what you choose career-wise?

Thompson: “Yeah, so the confidence related to a higher score in the AP exam increases your chances that you’ll major in that subject up to five percent, so that becomes interesting, especially with some of the more common majors like biology and computer science. If you get a higher score in those, you’re much more likely to pursue them later in life.”

Power: Dr. Harper, when you get to college, and you have that STEM AP background, what are the colleges doing differently nowadays than maybe they were before? Are we better at getting young people through college and helping place people in jobs?

Dr. Harper: “For students, particularly students of color, to feel successful and comfortable in those spaces, it helps to have faces that look like them, that teach to their learning styles, that teach in ways in which resonate on how they form solutions, so it’s representation in the classroom that matters. The other piece that we are doing is making sure the students are prepared and have the opportunity to develop relationships so that not only are they doing their classwork, but they’re also finding fellowships, internships with large scale employers, major industries that really give them the space to translate what they learned in the classroom into the workforce.”

Power: Dr. Harper, How does this research counter the traditional narrative of women of color in STEM?

Dr. Harper: “Great question; the reason is that people don’t talk about it very much. We’ve always assumed that women of color weren’t interested in STEM or didn’t have the aptitude when that’s not true. The talent is there. We know for a fact that girls generally show a stronger aptitude for STEM fields in middle school, much more than boys. Then of course, social things happen where they become uncomfortable or feel like an outlier, and nobody wants to be that person, so they pursue something different.”

“By the time you get to AP, though, what we find is that the more increase in access because AP hasn’t been traditionally available in schools of color so this push for the research and advocacy to get more of those tests available to prepare students has also helped this conversation.”

As you talk about this narrative, you now are seeing this be changed because those AP test scores substantiate it, but you know, the idea of women being interested in it, we see on the big screen, with Hidden Figures, and this helps the momentum for tech and STEM.”

“I’m hoping to see that there is an increase in confidence of black women in particular, that we are talking about, the reality is that from 1995 to 2004, 46% of black women who pursued STEM degrees came from HBCUs. So I hope that this research will give some credence to the kind of work you are doing to get to the stage where they can compete. Still, I hope that this proves that these people are very well qualified, with unbelievable experiences, and capable of doing the work. I’m hoping to see more doors open in corporate America.”

Power: With the decline of young men going to college, it seems to me that in five or ten years, there are going to be more women in the workplace. It’s going to force some of this change, and some of the systemic change, culture change, in organizations, it’s going to kind of force it, isn’t it?

Thompson: “I think that one of the challenges that we see going forward, though, is who’s going to be hired and promoted? We see many women at the bottom of organizations, which is true with almost every STEM profession and profession in general. In test, women are outscoring men in math, science, and technology in general. Still, when we go to high-performing spaces like advanced placement or STS, a big science competition that’s very competitive, the number of women drops significantly. Then when we choose the finalists for STS, the number of women drops even further.”

“I think that there needs to be a societal culture change. Even though we’re seeing more women go to college, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to see more women CEOs, so I think there needs to be a lot of work done to help women and women of color to get into the C-suite.”

Power: You’ve spent a lot of time on this research. What are you encouraged by, and what worries you the most? And bring out your crystal ball and say, “This is what I think we’re going to see in a few years from this.”

Click here to read the full article on Forbes.

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Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
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    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  3. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
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Upcoming Events

  1. Commercial UAV Expo Americas, Las Vegas
    September 7, 2021 - September 9, 2021
  2. 2021 ERG & Council Conference
    September 15, 2021 - September 17, 2021
  3. Wonder Women Tech
    October 26, 2021 - October 29, 2021
  4. HACU’s 35th Annual Conference
    October 30, 2021 - November 1, 2021
  5. AEC Next Technology Expo & Conference, International Lidar Mapping Forum, and SPAR 3D Expo & Conference
    February 6, 2022 - February 8, 2022