Leland Melvin’s Making Space Inclusive
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featured cover story Leland Melvin is pictured in a collage of photos with crewmembers and reading books to children

Interview and Story By Brady Rhoades

On a day he’ll never forget, astronaut Leland Melvin saw 24 sunsets in 24 hours. He flew over his hometown of Lynchburg, Va., and thought of his family, his modest and healthy upbringing; seven minutes later he was over Paris.

It wasn’t lost on him that he was African-American and his crew members included women, Russians, people from all walks of life.

“It made me contemplate my existence,” he said. “My faith was stronger, more magnified, and doing it with people we used to fight against.”

An Unusual Route
Melvin, 57, and, in his post-astronaut career, a prominent advocate for STEAM, did not take the usual route to space. He was a wide receiver in the NFL, but he suffered a career-ending injury and Act II of a remarkable life journey was on.

Since childhood, he’d been interested in engineering, though he was known for his exploits on the gridiron. He starred at his high school, at University of Richmond and, in his short stint in the pros, for the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys.

Along the way, he earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in materials science engineering.

It’s been said that luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity.

Melvin’s post-NFL opportunity came at a job fair. A recruiter tracked him down and told him, “You’re coming to work at NASA.”

A Team Player

This was in the 1980s. Melvin said his mental image of NASA involved white men with crew cuts. He wasn’t far off. “Historically, NASA has been myopically focused on a certain mindset,” he said. He became part of a sea-change in the world’s most esteemed space organization.

“The biggest part of succeeding in a NASA culture is to be a team member,” he said. “Just like sports and mathematics. That’s why diversity is so important. You look at things in a different way. To work at NASA, you have to allow yourself to be heard.

Reading Is Fundamental and NASA teamed up for an African American History Month celebration. Leland Melvin, a former astronaut and NASA's Associate Administrator for Education shares his experiences travelling in space and read-aloud the book, The Moon Over Star by author Dianna Hutts Aston in Washington, D.C.
Reading Is Fundamental and NASA teamed up for an African American History Month celebration. Leland Melvin, a former astronaut and NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education shares his experiences travelling in space and read-aloud the book, The Moon Over Star by author Dianna Hutts Aston in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: (Photo by Marvin Joseph/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)

People sometimes don’t speak up because they’ve been marginalized.”

Melvin started his career in aerospace working in the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch at NASA Langley Research Center in 1989. In 1994, he was selected to lead the Vehicle Health Monitoring team for the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle program. In 1996, he co-designed and monitored construction of an optical nondestructive evaluation facility capable of producing in-line fiber optic sensors.

He became an astronaut in 1998, after sustaining a traumatic ear injury during underwater training exercises and, eventually, being cleared to fly despite his lifelong impairment.

He flew two missions – 565 hours of total log time – on the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129. The STS-122 mission was accomplished in 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds, and traveled 5.2 million miles in 203 Earth orbits. The STS-129 mission was completed in 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits.

Associate Administrator for Education and Astronaut Leland Melvin talks with school children during the “Build the Future” activity where students created their vision of the future in space with LEGO bricks and elements inside a tent that was set up on the launch viewing area at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

While in space, he completed a football pass to another astronaut. He also took hundreds of jaw-dropping photographs.

Mission Possible
After hanging up his space boots, he was appointed head of NASA Education and served as the co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM} Education Task Force, developing the nation’s five-year STEM education plan. Leland was the United States’ representative and chair of the International Space Education Board, a global collaboration on learning about space.

He uses his life story as an athlete, astronaut, scientist, engineer, photographer and musician to help inspire the next generation of explorers to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STEAM} careers.

The STS-122 and Expedition 16 crewmembers gather for a photo in the International Space Station.
The STS-122 and Expedition 16 crewmembers gather for a photo in the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

One of his mantras is, “Data over bias.” Bias separates people. Data-sharing brings them together and leads to advances in STEAM and in society.

Space exploration, he said, is about “going someplace you haven’t been and getting over your biases.” It’s a universal win-win, or what he calls “Mission Possible.” And Melvin trusts it will lead to even bigger things. “We’re not going to have a colony on Mars, but we are going to have a human outpost,” he said, preferring the latter term.

Starring in the NFL and flying in outer space are two colossal endeavors. He’s the only human being to do both. He’s also authored two books, “Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances” and “Chasing Space: Young Reader’s Edition.” He’s an accomplished photographer (visit LelandMelvin.com for images}.

On the same website, he gives kid-friendly lessons on, among other things, how to build a rocket racer and how to dissolve the coating on your candy in a really cool way.

He plays the piano in his spare time. And he loves his dogs, who appear on the cover of both his books.

Space shuttle Atlantis crew mission specialists Leland Melvin (R), Rex Walheim (2nd R), European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Hans Schlegel (2nd L) of Germany and ESA astronaut Leopold Eyharts (L) of France outside the Operations and Checkout building on February 7, 2008 as they board the Astrovan to launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Space shuttle Atlantis crew mission specialists, including Leland Melvin (R), outside the Operations and Checkout building  as they board the Astrovan to launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Photo Credit: (STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images)

During his interview with Diversity in STEAM Magazine, he was busy feeding his dogs. We asked him what this world- renowned astronaut, explorer, athlete, photographer and teacher has learned from his pups.

“Presence,” he said. “We need to live like our dogs. Chill. Get something to eat. Yawn. Smile. Be like your dog.”

Speaking of presence, he drives home the importance of looking up and around as much as looking down at your devices. Imagine, for instance, an astronaut so fixated on the instruments inside the vessel that he or she forgets to appreciate the majesty of outer space. On a recent hiking trip, Melvin witnessed several young adults busy on their digital instruments.

“Right out there in nature!” he laughed. “There’s a balance between tech and digging your feet into Mother Earth.

At 17, she was her family’s breadwinner on a McDonald’s salary. Now she’s gone into space
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Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced he'll be on board a spaceflight next month, in a capsule attached to a rocket made by his space exploration company Blue Origin. Bezos is seen here in 2019.

By Jackie Wattles, CNN

A rocket built by Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin carried its fifth group of passengers to the edge of space, including the first-ever Mexican-born woman to make such a journey.

The 60-foot-tall suborbital rocket took off from Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas at 9:26am ET, vaulting a group of six people to more than 62 miles above the Earth’s surface — which is widely deemed to make the boundary of outer space — and giving them a few minutes of weightlessness before parachuting to landing.

Most of the passengers paid an undisclosed sum for their seats. But Katya Echazarreta, an engineer and science communicator from Guadalajara, Mexico, was selected by a nonprofit called Space for Humanity to join this mission from a pool of thousands of applicants. The organization’s goal is to send “exceptional leaders” to space and allow them to experience the overview effect, a phenomenon frequently reported by astronauts who say that viewing the Earth from space give them a profound shift in perspective.

Echazarreta told CNN Business that she experienced that overview effect “in my own way.”

“Looking down and seeing how everyone is down there, all of our past, all of our mistakes, all of our obstacles, everything — everything is there,” she said. “And the only thing I could think of when I came back down was that I need people to see this. I need Latinas to see this. And I think that it just completely reinforced my mission to continue getting primarily women and people of color up to space and doing whatever it is they want to do.”

Echazarreta is the first Mexican-born woman to travel to space and the second Mexican after Rodolfo Neri Vela, a scientist who joined one of NASA’s Space Shuttle missions in 1985.

She moved to the United States with her family at the age of seven, and she recalls being overwhelmed in a new place where she didn’t speak the language, and a teacher warned her she might have to be held back.
“It just really fueled me and I think ever since then, ever since the third grade, I kind of just went off and have not stopped,” Echazarreta recalled in an Instagram interview.

When she was 17 and 18, Echazarreta said she was also the main breadwinner for her family on a McDonald’s salary.

“I had sometimes up to four [jobs] at the same time, just to try to get through college because it was really important for me,” she said.
These days, Echazarreta is working on her master’s degree in engineering at Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at NASA’s famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. She also boasts a following of more than 330,000 users on TikTok, hosts a science-focused YouTube series and is a presenter on the weekend CBS show “Mission Unstoppable.”

Space for Humanity — which was founded in 2017 by Dylan Taylor, a space investor who recently joined a Blue Origin flight himself — chose her for her impressive contributions. “We were looking for some like people who were leaders in their communities, who have a sphere of influence; people who are doing really great work in the world already, and people who are passionate about whatever that is,” Rachel Lyons, the nonprofit’s executive director, told CNN Business.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Disney’s ‘Strange World’ to Feature First Gay Teen Romance in Animated Feature Film
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Disney’s upcoming adventure film “Strange World” will feature a gay teen romance —making it the first animated feature film produced by Disney to do so.

By Denver Sean, Love B Scott

The film, which is scheduled to open on Nov. 23, will follow three generations of a family of explorers and take viewers “to a place of infinite mystery unlike anything you’ve ever seen,” according to a trailer released by the studio earlier this month.

Several Hollywood powerhouses have been confirmed as part of the voice cast, including Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Dennis Quaid and Jaboukie Young-White.

On Friday, Disney screened three sequences from the film at the 2022 Annecy International Animation Film Festival, one of the world’s most important festivals for the film animation industry that takes place in the city of Annecy, in southeast France.

In one of them, Ethan (Young-White) flirts with a boy named Diazo in front of his friends, who tease him in a friendly way.

His father, Searcher Clade (Gyllenhaal), later joins in and embarrasses him in “an overeager show of acceptance,” as the scene is described by Variety.

Emmy Award-winning producer Matthieu Saghezchi, who also saw the sequence, wrote on Twitter that the scene is “very endearing” and it’s “treated as the most natural thing in the world.”

“The scene describes the son being very shy in front of his boy crush, and his dad comes in and says “so nice to meet you! my son talks about you all the time” and further embarrasses his son,” Saghezchi wrote. “Very cute.”

The refreshing nod to inclusivity comes as “Lightyear,” the much-anticipated “Toy Story” spinoff, was reportedly banned in 14 countries over a brief same-sex kiss.

The Disney-Pixar computer-animated adventure film starring Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz Lightyear features a kiss between Alisha, voiced by the actress Uzo Aduba, and her wife Kiko.

On Monday, the United Arab Emirates announced that the film would not be shown in the country “due to its violation of the country’s media standards.”

According to Reuters, at least 13 other countries in Asia and the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and Lebanon, have also banned the film.

“Lightyear,” which opens in 4,200 North American theaters this weekend, is expected to make between $70 million and $80 million.

Click here to read the full article on Love B Scott.

Disability Inclusion Is Coming Soon to the Metaverse
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Disabled avatars from the metaverse in a wheelchair

By Christopher Reardon, PC Mag

When you think of futurism, you probably don’t think of the payroll company ADP—but that’s where Giselle Mota works as the company’s principal consultant on the “future of work.” Mota, who has given a Ted Talk(Opens in a new window) and has written(Opens in a new window) for Forbes, is committed to bringing more inclusion and access to the Web3 and metaverse spaces. She’s also been working on a side project called Unhidden, which will provide disabled people with accurate avatars, so they’ll have the option to remain themselves in the metaverse and across Web3.

To See and Be Seen
The goal of Unhidden is to encourage tech companies to be more inclusive, particularly of people with disabilities. The project has launched and already has a partnership with the Wanderland(Opens in a new window) app, which will feature Unhidden avatars through its mixed-reality(Opens in a new window) platform at the VivaTech Conference in Paris and the DisabilityIN Conference in Dallas. The first 12 avatars will come out this summer with Mota, Dr. Tiffany Jana, Brandon Farstein, Tiffany Yu, and other global figures representing disability inclusion.

The above array of individuals is known as the NFTY Collective(Opens in a new window). Its members hail from countries including America, the UK, and Australia, and the collective represents a spectrum of disabilities, ranging from the invisible type, such as bipolar and other forms of neurodiversity, to the more visible, including hypoplasia and dwarfism.

Hypoplasia causes the underdevelopment of an organ or tissue. For Isaac Harvey, the disease manifested by leaving him with no arms and short legs. Harvey uses a wheelchair and is the president of Wheels for Wheelchairs, along with being a video editor. He got involved with Unhidden after being approached by its co-creator along with Mota, Victoria Jenkins, who is an inclusive fashion designer.

Click here to read the full article on PC Mag.

Mayim Bialik: Going Full STEAM Ahead
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Mayim Bialik collage of pictures

By Brady Rhoades

Mayim Bialik, best known as the current host of Jeopardy! and as Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler in the smash series The Big Bang Theory, is an honest-to-goodness Renaissance woman.

She’s a neuroscientist, a mother, an animal rights activist and mental health advocate.

An author, actor, game show host and, with the release this spring of As They Made Us, a movie director.

And she’s not done yet.

The Renaissance Woman

In the tradition of Renaissance women from all eras, Bialik is ever diversifying her ambitions, her skill-set, her scope. They’re grounded in science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Bialik said she didn’t take to science until her teens, when a tutor helped her build a model of a cell out of Styrofoam.

“I could touch that Styrofoam cell,” she told ScienceNewsforStudents. “It was just amazing. It was amazing that it thrilled me the way looking at art thrilled me.”

Nowadays, she added, “I try to put a positive face on STEM and a female face in STEM.”

Bialik, 46, who is modern Orthodox Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, earned a bachelor of science degree in neuroscience and a doctor of philosophy degree in neuroscience from UCLA. Her dissertation was titled, “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome.” We’ll break that down later.

The Cast Of “The Big Bang Theory” Places Their Handprints In The Cement At The TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX Forecourt held on May 1, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

She started her acting career as a teen, with roles in Pumpkinhead and Beaches, as well as guest appearances on The Facts of Life, Beauty and the Beast and Webster. In 1994, she earned a major role in Woody Allen’s comedy film, Don’t Drink the Water. She also played the title character of the NBC sitcom, Blossom.

She worked steadily in Hollywood for the next decade before landing her role on The Big Bang Theory, in which she played Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler. She was nominated for Emmy awards in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 and won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in 2015 and 2017.

In 2021, it was announced that Bialik would host the primetime version of Jeopardy! After Mike Richards stepped down from hosting the syndicated version of the show, Bialik started hosting that version, too, sharing duties with Ken Jennings. Moving forward, it’s unclear how producers will handle the hosting situation, but Bialik said it’s a joy working on the show.

“One of my biggest challenges is I’m so impressed that people know the answers that they’ve asked me to tone down how excited I am when people get them right, which I think is a great note to get,” she told Daily Beast.

Advancing STEAM Through Activism

She also hosts a podcast, Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown, that focuses on debunking the misconceptions surrounding mental health and neurodivergence with the help of friends, guest experts and media personalities.

Bialik is a vegan and a founding member of the Shamayim V’Aretz Institute, a Jewish organization that advocates for the ethical treatment of animals.

Another cause close to her heart is increasing opportunities for girls and women to pursue STEAM educations and careers.

Actress Mayim Bialik attends Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) fundraising telecast in Hollywood
Actress Mayim Bialik attends Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) fundraising telecast in Hollywood. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/ABC, Inc via Getty Images)
“It’s an incredibly enlightening way to view the world once you’ve been trained in STEM,” Bialik has said. “It’s a smart career choice, and it’s a creative and exciting lifestyle to be a scientist.”

Bialik has written books — such as Girling Up: How to be Strong, Smart and Spectacular — geared toward empowering girls and women, partnered with toy companies to create STEAM-friendly toys for girls and teamed with DeVry University and the HerWorld Initiative to get high school girls excited about STEAM, among other ventures.

“I love encouraging young women to embrace the sciences,” she has said.

What’s her advice to parents and counselors?

“Educate ourselves by using the resources in libraries and online to find new ways to understand our world. Also, encouraging kids to see the hidden STEM opportunities all around them. When we cook or bake, it’s math and chemistry. When we observe weather patterns or even changes in our body, these are all wonders of the STEM awareness kids naturally have!”

Bucking the Stereotypes

Remember her dissertation? In case you scientists, or budding scientists, are wondering what “Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative and satiety behaviors in Prader–Willi syndrome” means, here’s a breakdown: Abstract Prader–Willi Syndrome is a neurogenetic disorder that causes obesity. The hypothalamus regulates aspects of the nervous system. “Satiety” refers to satiated, or absence of hunger. So Bialik was intrigued by the links between the nervous system, consumption behaviors and obesity in those who deal with Prader–Willi Syndrome.

A mouthful, for sure. But interesting, yes?

The cast of Blossom pose for a portrait
The cast of Blossom pose for a portrait. (Pictured L-R: Finola Hughes, Mayim Bialik, Joey Lawrence, Jenna Von Oy, Courtney Chase and Ted Wass) (Photo by Ron Davis/Getty Images)
Bialik, it seems, bucks easy, simplistic stereotypes, intersecting her social, emotional passions and strengths with the two roles she’s most famous for: actor and scientist.

Has the film she’s directed furthered that tendency? That’s up to viewers to decide, as is a thumbs-up-or-down.

The movie centers on a divorced mother juggling her family’s needs and her own quest for love. Dustin Hoffman, Candice Bergen and Simon Helberg star.

“It’s very vulnerable,” she told TV and radio host Ryan Seacrest. “It’s not an autobiography, but it’s totally things that are based on my life and some things did happen and other things didn’t and… here we go!”

Here’s a passage from film critic Christy Lemire’s review in RogerEbert.com: “As They Made Us is most effective in its gentle, intimate, everyday moments, and Bialik mercifully refrains from melodrama…”

Lemire continues, saying the film is clearly a personal debut effort for Bialik, but she shows enough confidence behind the camera to make you curious about whatever other stories she has to tell.”

Which provokes, for Bialik fans, a pressing question: What’s her next chapter?

For people with disabilities, AI can only go so far to make the web more accessible
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AI technology

By Kate Kaye, Protocol

“It’s a lot to listen to a robot all day long,” said Tina Pinedo, communications director at Disability Rights Oregon, a group that works to promote and defend the rights of people with disabilities.

But listening to a machine is exactly what many people with visual impairments do while using screen reading tools to accomplish everyday online tasks such as paying bills or ordering groceries from an ecommerce site.

“There are not enough web developers or people who actually take the time to listen to what their website sounds like to a blind person. It’s auditorily exhausting,” said Pinedo.

Whether struggling to comprehend a screen reader barking out dynamic updates to a website, trying to make sense of poorly written video captions or watching out for fast-moving imagery that could induce a seizure, the everyday obstacles blocking people with disabilities from a satisfying digital experience are immense.

Needless to say, technology companies have tried to step in, often promising more than they deliver to users and businesses hoping that automated tools can break down barriers to accessibility. Although automated tech used to check website designs for accessibility flaws have been around for some time, companies such as Evinced claim that sophisticated AI not only does a better job of automatically finding and helping correct accessibility problems, but can do it for large enterprises that need to manage thousands of website pages and app content.

Still, people with disabilities and those who regularly test for web accessibility problems say automated systems and AI can only go so far. “The big danger is thinking that some type of automation can replace a real person going through your website, and basically denying people of their experience on your website, and that’s a big problem,” Pinedo said.

Why Capital One is betting on accessibility AI
For a global corporation such as Capital One, relying on a manual process to catch accessibility issues is a losing battle.

“We test our entire digital footprint every month. That’s heavily reliant on automation as we’re testing almost 20,000 webpages,” said Mark Penicook, director of Accessibility at the banking and credit card company, whose digital accessibility team is responsible for all digital experiences across Capital One including websites, mobile apps and electronic messaging in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada.

Accessibility isn’t taught in computer science.
Even though Capital One has a team of people dedicated to the effort, Penicook said he has had to work to raise awareness about digital accessibility among the company’s web developers. “Accessibility isn’t taught in computer science,” Penicook told Protocol. “One of the first things that we do is start teaching them about accessibility.”

One way the company does that is by celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day each year, Penicook said. Held on Thursday, the annual worldwide event is intended to educate people about digital access and inclusion for those with disabilities and impairments.

Before Capital One gave Evinced’s software a try around 2018, its accessibility evaluations for new software releases or features relied on manual review and other tools. Using Evinced’s software, Penicook said the financial services company’s accessibility testing takes hours rather than weeks, and Capital One’s engineers and developers use the system throughout their internal software development testing process.

It was enough to convince Capital One to invest in Evinced through its venture arm, Capital One Ventures. Microsoft’s venture group, M12, also joined a $17 million funding round for Evinced last year.

Evinced’s software automatically scans webpages and other content, and then applies computer vision and visual analysis AI to detect problems. The software might discover a lack of contrast between font and background colors that make it difficult for people with vision impairments like color blindness to read. The system might find images that do not have alt text, the metadata that screen readers use to explain what’s in a photo or illustration. Rather than pointing out individual problems, the software uses machine learning to find patterns that indicate when the same type of problem is happening in several places and suggests a way to correct it.

“It automatically tells you, instead of a thousand issues, it’s actually one issue,” said Navin Thadani, co-founder and CEO of Evinced.

The software also takes context into account, factoring in the purpose of a site feature or considering the various operating systems or screen-reader technologies that people might use when visiting a webpage or other content. For instance, it identifies user design features that might be most accessible for a specific purpose, such as a button to enable a bill payment transaction rather than a link.

Some companies use tools typically referred to as “overlays” to check for accessibility problems. Many of those systems are web plug-ins that add a layer of automation on top of existing sites to enable modifications tailored to peoples’ specific requirements. One product that uses computer vision and machine learning, accessiBe, allows people with epilepsy to choose an option that automatically stops all animated images and videos on a site before they could pose a risk of seizure. The company raised $28 million in venture capital funding last year.

Another widget from TruAbilities offers an option that limits distracting page elements to allow people with neurodevelopmental disorders to focus on the most important components of a webpage.

Some overlay tools have been heavily criticized for adding new annoyances to the web experience and providing surface-level responses to problems that deserve more robust solutions. Some overlay tech providers have “pretty brazen guarantees,” said Chase Aucoin, chief architect at TPGi, a company that provides accessibility automation tools and consultation services to customers, including software development monitoring and product design assessments for web development teams.

“[Overlays] give a false sense of security from a risk perspective to the end user,” said Aucoin, who himself experiences motor impairment. “It’s just trying to slap a bunch of paint on top of the problem.”

In general, complicated site designs or interfaces that automatically hop to a new page section or open a new window can create a chaotic experience for people using screen readers, Aucoin said. “A big thing now is just cognitive; how hard is this thing for somebody to understand what’s going on?” he said.

Even more sophisticated AI-based accessibility technologies don’t address every disability issue. For instance, people with an array of disabilities either need or prefer to view videos with captions, rather than having sound enabled. However, although automated captions for videos have improved over the years, “captions that are computer-generated without human review can be really terrible,” said Karawynn Long, an autistic writer with central auditory processing disorder and hyperlexia, a hyperfocus on written language.

“I always appreciate when written transcripts are included as an option, but auto-generated ones fall woefully short, especially because they don’t include good indications of non-linguistic elements of the media,” Long said.

Click here to read the full article on Protocol.

A specialized video game could help children on the autism spectrum improve their social skills
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Child with Autism spectrum playing video games

By Emily Manis, PsyPost

Are video games the future of treatment for children on the autism spectrum? A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders suggests they could be. Video game-based interventions may be a cheap, easy, and effective alternative to face-to-face treatment.

Many people on the autism spectrum have trouble with social skills, which can lead to adverse effects including isolation and social rejection. This can put them at a higher risk for anxiety and depression. Interventions often consist of building social skills, which can utilize a myriad of techniques. Previous research has experimented with using video games as a tool for this type of intervention but did not have a control group. This study seeks to address limitations of past research and expand the literature on this topic.

Renae Beaumont and colleagues utilized a sample of 7- to 12-year-old children in Queensland with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Participants had to refrain from other treatment during the duration of the study. Seventy children participated, including 60 boys and 10 girls. They were randomly assigned to either the social skills video game condition or the control condition, which was a similar video game without any social or emotional skill component. (The social skills video game is called Secret Agent Society.)

Parents were asked to rate their children on social skills, emotional regulation, behavior, anxiety, and also rate their satisfaction with the program. Participants completed 10 weeks of their program and completed post-trial measures. Six weeks later they completed follow-up measures.

Results showed that the social skills intervention was successful, with the children in that condition showing significantly larger improvements in their social and emotional skills. These positive results were maintained during follow-up a month and a half later. Parents of children in the control condition noted improvements as well, but not as much as in the experimental condition. This could be due to the increased time spent with the children. The results did not show any significant effects of the intervention on the children’s anxiety but did show a reduction in behavioral issues.

Though this study took strides into understanding if video game-based social and emotional treatment is effective, it also has limitations. Firstly, the parents were the raters and are susceptible to bias. This is shown by the improvements perceived by parents of children in the control group. Additionally, there was a very uneven gender split in the sample, which could lead to skewed results.

Click here to read the full article on PsyPost.

Young L.A. Latina wins prestigious environmental prize
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Nalleli Cobo wins prestigious environmental prize

By Edwin Flores, NBC News

At age 9, Nalleli Cobo was experiencing asthma, body spasms, heart palpitations and nosebleeds so severe she needed to sleep in a chair to prevent herself from choking on her own blood.

Across the street from her family’s apartment in University Park in South Central Los Angeles was an oil extraction site owned by Allenco Energy that was spewing fumes into the air and the community around her.

After speaking with neighbors facing similar symptoms, she and her family began to mobilize with their community, suspecting that was making them sick. They created the People Not Pozos (People Not Oil Wells) campaign. At 9 years old, Cobo was designated the campaign’s spokesperson, marking the start of her activism and organizing career.

In March 2020, Cobo, the co-founder of the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, helped lead the group to permanently shut down the Allenco Energy oil drilling site that she and others in the community said caused serious health issues for them. She also helped convince the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to unanimously vote to ban new oil exploration and phase out existing sites in Los Angeles.

After pressure from the community and scrutiny from elected officials, Allenco Energy agreed to suspend operations in 2013. The site was permanently shut down in 2020, and the company was charged in connection with state and local environmental health and safety regulations. There are ongoing issues around cleaning and plugging up the oil wells.

Cobo co-founded the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition in 2015 to bolster efforts against oil sites and work toward phasing them out across the city.

That year, the youth group sued the city of Los Angeles, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act and environmental racism. The suit was settled after the city implemented new drilling application requirements.

Cobo, now 21, was recognized Wednesday for the environmental justice work that has spanned more than half her life. She received the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, which is awarded annually to individuals from six regions: Europe, Asia, Africa, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America.

“I did not want to answer the phone because it was an unknown number,” Cobo, who was getting bubble tea when she received the call about the prize, told NBC News in a Zoom interview Wednesday. “I didn’t even know I was nominated. I started crying.”

During the 1920s, Los Angeles was one of the world’s largest urban oil-exporting regions. More than 20,000 active, idle, or abandoned oil wells still reside in the county, and about one-third of residents live less than a mile from an active oil site.

Studies have shown that living near oil and gas wells increases exposure to air pollution, with nearby communities facing environmental and health risks including preterm birth, asthma and heart disease.

Click here to read the full article on NBC News.

GOOGLE IS WORKING ON A NEW TECH THAT CAN READ YOUR BODY LANGUAGE WITHOUT USING CAMERAS
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Google corporate office. Google recently found time crystals that can change the computer world

By Tech 2

There is no point in denying it, but automation is the future. Imagine a world where your TV pauses the movie or the show that you’re watching when it senses that you’ve stood up to fetch a fresh bowl of popcorn, and resumes playing the content when you return. Or how about a computer that senses you’re stressed out at work and starts playing some mellow and relaxing tunes?

Well, as futuristic as these ideas seem, most of these things are happening now. However, one of the biggest reasons why it hasn’t taken off with a bang, is that these systems use cameras to record and analyse user behaviour. The problem with using cameras in such systems is that it raises a ton of privacy concerns. After all, people are actually paranoid about their computers and smartphones, keeping an eye on them.

Google is actually working on a new system, that records and analyses users’ movement and behaviour, without using cameras. Instead, the new tech uses radar to read your body movements and understand your mood and intentions, and then act accordingly.

The basic idea for the new system is, that a device will use radar to create spatial awareness, and will monitor the space for any changes, and then send out instructions in compliance with what the user would want the system to do.

This isn’t the first time that Google has played with the idea of using spatial awareness-based stimuli for its devices. In 2015, Google unveiled the Soli sensor, which used radar-based electromagnetic waves to pick up precise gestures and movements. Google first used the sensor in Google Pixel 4, when it used simple hand gestures for various inputs, like snoozing alarms, pausing music, taking screenshots etc. Google has also used the radar-based sensor, in the Nest Hub smart display, to study the movement and breathing patterns of a person sleeping next to it.

Studies and experiments around the Soli sensor are now enabling computers to recognize our everyday movements and make new kinds of choices.

The new study focuses on proxemics, the study of how people use space around them to mediate social interactions. This assumes that devices such as computers and mobile phones have their own personal space.

So when there are any changes in the personal space, the radar picks this up and sends out instructions. For example, a computer can boot up, without you needing to press a button.

Click here to read the full article on Tech 2

‘Sharkcano,’ Active Pacific Ocean Volcano Where Sharks Live in Acidic Water, Erupts: NASA
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Sharkcano erupting in the middle of the ocean

By KC Baker, Yahoo!

Stranger things have happened, for sure. But this could be a first for many.

According to scientists, an active underwater volcano in the Pacific has started to erupt, spewing smoke and ash — plus, quite possibly, fragments of the highly adaptable sharks that live inside it — sky-high into the atmosphere.

NASA recently released satellite images showing the Kavachi Volcano, located near the Solomon Islands in the Pacific, east of New Guinea, spouting huge plumes of water from the crater that has been dubbed the “Sharkcano.”

No, not Sharknado, the goofy Syfy franchise starting Ian Ziering, Tara Reid and a host of celeb guest stars — including Gary Busey, Olivia Newton-John, Bret Michaels, Jackie Collins and Real Housewives mainstay Cynthia Bailey — battling great white sharks flying through the air.

No, this is “Sharkcano.”

The volcano earned this memorable moniker in 2015, when scientists were shocked to find two species of sharks, including hammerheads, living — and thriving — in the hot, acidic, sulfur-laden water in the crater, located deep in the ocean, according to NASA Earth Observatory.

Using a baited drop camera nearly 150 feet inside the crater, the scientists also saw bluefin trevally, snapper, sixgill stingrays, jellyfish and silky sharks living in this extreme environment, the researchers wrote in a 2016 Oceanography article, “Exploring the ‘Sharkcano’: Biogeochemical observations of the Kavachi submarine volcano (Solomon Islands).”

“Populations of gelatinous animals, small fish, and sharks were observed inside the active crater, raising new questions about the ecology of active submarine volcanoes and the extreme environments in which large marine animals can exist,” the scientists wrote in 2016 in the article.

The January 2015 expedition to the Kavachi Volcano, which is about 15 miles south of Vangunu Island in the Solomon Sea, “was serendipitously timed with a rare lull in volcanic activity that permitted access to the inside of Kavachi’s active crater and its flanks,” the scientists wrote.

Click here to read the full article on Yahoo!.

World’s fastest passenger jet goes supersonic in tests
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The upcoming aircraft is described as "the world's fastest and longest-range purpose-built business jet."

By Tamara Hardingham-Gill, CNN

The race to resume supersonic passenger flights decades after the retirement of Concorde was offered a glimmer of excitement on Monday when plane manufacturer Bombardier revealed high speed achievements while confirming the launch of its new business jet.

The Canadian company said the in-development Global 8000 will be “the world’s fastest and longest-range purpose-built business jet.”
With a capacity for up to 19 passengers, a range of 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 kilometers) and a top speed of Mach 0.94, the upcoming plane is expected to enter service in 2025, according to a statement from Bombardier.

The news comes after a Global 7500 test vehicle broke the sound barrier during a demonstration flight last May, achieving speeds of more than Mach 1.015.

The aircraft, accompanied by a NASA F/A-18 chase plane, also became the first Transport Category airplane to fly supersonic with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) as a result of the flight, says Bombardier.

“The Global 8000 aircraft leverages the outstanding attributes of the Global 7500 aircraft, providing our customers with a flagship aircraft of a new era,” Éric Martel, president and CEO for Bombardier, said in a statement released on Monday.
Flight testing for the Global 8000 has already begun on Global 7500 flight-test vehicles. Bombardier says the upcoming aircraft will also have a cabin altitude equivalent to 2,900 feet.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

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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. Diversity Alliance for Science (DA4S) Geo Cluster
    June 27, 2022
  4. Business Beyond Barriers Conference + Expo
    July 14, 2022
  5. The 2022 NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference Heads to Las Vegas!
    August 2, 2022 - August 5, 2022
  6. 44th Annual BDPA National Conference
    August 18, 2022 - August 20, 2022