Drake Task Force to Recommend Firm to Board
In today’s meeting, the Drake Task Force chose to recommend HDR Engineering Inc., to the Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) Board as the firm to conduct a Study of Alternatives Related to the Potential Decommissioning of the Martin Drake Power Plant.
The Task Force received six proposals and created a short list of three firms to give oral presentations at today’s meeting.
HDR Engineering Inc. was selected based on the following criteria:
· Most Relevant Expertise
· Depth of Knowledge of Martin Drake Power Plant
· Understanding of Effort and Implementation
· Superior Risk Analysis
· Management and Staffing
Task Force co-leads, Brandy Williams and Val Snider, will present the recommendation to the CSU Board during the April 9 City Council meeting.
HDR Engineering Inc. is headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., with five offices in Colorado, including Colorado Springs.
The Colorado Springs office is on Briargate Parkway.
In the eight months since online education site Coursera started up, some 2.5 million people have used it to take university-level classes in everything from computer science to Aboriginal culture.
Courses generally range from six to 10 weeks, and there are hundreds to sign up for. You can, for instance, study music improvisation with jazz legend Gary Burton, take artificial intelligence or equine nutrition classes from the University of Edinburgh, or explore the social context of mental health and illness with University of Toronto professor Charmaine Williams.
While I haven’t personally taken any classes yet, a friend who’s a math professor in Europe recently posted online about the experience:
“I have never seen online math presentations quite like the ones in my class. (The University of Pennsylvania professor who teaches the class estimates it takes 20 hours to produce each 15 minute lecture.) While it seems you can take a class and do nothing more than watch the videos and get something out of it, in reality these courses — or at least the one I am taking — are not meant for the casual learner. My class is broken up into 5 topics, each topic consisting of a series of lectures. Each lecture is a 15 minute video. There are a total of 57 lectures in all. So we are talking a real commitment.
“In addition, each lecture includes a homework assignment that is automatically corrected upon submission. Videos often require multiple viewings in order to fully get the material and do the homeworks. In addition, there is an exam at the end of each topic. There is a deadline for taking exams and handing in homeworks. There will also be a final. The homeworks have taken me about an hour apiece. I expect a lot of the students are spending much more time than I am.
“At the moment you cannot get course credit, at least nothing that will transfer to another university. But once that day comes, I think you can say farewell to a great deal of the clunky distance education programs out there.”
Warning: The following video from Dr. Elsa Barkley Brown will make you want to take her course:
The futurist inventor — who’ll be speaking this evening at CSU-Pueblo as part of its free Distinguished Speakers Series — made headlines last month when he was hired by Google to a high-level position where he’ll essentially be teaching its machines how to think. (Read our Indy interview for more on that Google gig, among other things.)
But while the name may still be new to some, the controversial scientist's theories have been of interest to Animus Invidious for a while now. In fact the local musician sought Kurzweil’s permission to use excerpts from his writing as the basis for his 2009 track “Rampant Misconception.”
“I thought he was cool when he responded directly to an email inquiry about using some text of his in a song via text-to-speech synthesis,” says the electronic musician. “Afterwards I Wikipedia'd him and realized he helped develop that very same technology.”
You can listen to the track below.
Meanwhile, note that doors open at 6:30 p.m. for this evening’s talk, which will be held at Hoag Recital Hall. (Our Seven Days to Live write-up contains more event details.) Organizers tell us that, due to an anticipated overflow crowd, a live feed will also be simulcast in the university’s Life Sciences Auditorium.
Gee, I might have decided to be a scientist if there were cool things around when I was kid to motivate me like the Science On a Sphere I saw today at the Space Foundation. Although it's hard to do it justice with my little camera, here's a shot of it.
The Space Foundation held a grand opening today for the Northrop Grumman Science Center at the foundation's new headquarters at 4425 Arrowswest Drive.
The center was funded with a $375,000 donation from Northrop Grumman and features a replica of the moon module built by the defense contractor.
Lon Rains, director of strategic communications for Northrop Grumman, says such investments are made to advance educational programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). "These are exciting careers," he says before the dedication. "Things like this really grab their interest. This is about making sure we give opportunities so the next generation of dreamers can build things in space. They think it's our destiny."
Already, 350 students from the area have toured the facility during soft openings in the past few weeks, says Iain Probert, the foundation's vice president for education. Fourteen classes from kindergarten to high school have experienced the center, which is open for field trip bookings. "The children were blown away," he says. "The teachers were blown away."
The centerpiece of the exhibit is the sphere, a dynamic spherical projection system developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that uses special software and satellite imagery to render dramatic, full motion views of the Earth, sun, moons and planets, the foundation says in a press release.
"The Space Foundation has long dreamed of creating a space where we can offer students and visitors an extraordinary educational experience. Northrop Grumman made it possible for us to do this very quickly and in a spectacular way," Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham said in a news release. "We are thrilled that, through this collaboration, we are offering teachers and students a compelling platform for STEM education and we are launching a new visitor destination in northwest Colorado Springs at time when the community needs it."
More shots of features in the exhibit:
Dave Neumann, owner of Neumann Systems Group, which developed the NeuStream emissions control technology being installed on coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant, is exploring moving his business elsewhere.
In an exclusive interview with the Indy, Neumann says Councilman Tim Leigh's crusade against his company and his efforts to kill Colorado Springs Utilities' contract with Neumann Systems could lead to the loss of 60 jobs and a multimillion-dollar benefit of the city receiving a cut from the firm's gross sales.
"You can't have somebody out there that is just hammering away and damaging your company," Neumann says.
For the past four months, Leigh has called Neumann's technology "unproven" and "experimental," and challenged the roughly $120 million contract's fairness to ratepayers. Neumann says Leigh has told him the opposition to his technology has been mounted at the behest of Mayor Steve Bach. (We have contacted the mayor's office and will update if and when we receive a response.)
The latest tirade from Leigh came in his so-called "market report," in which he again challenges the technology has the most economical available.
"My colleagues agreed to undertake and study Drake issues at yesterday’s [Wednesday's] CSU Board meeting," writes Leigh, who didn't attend the meeting. "They did not go far enough. We must stop the Neumann spend at Drake now. If there were less costly other options available previously, we must find out if there still are. We don’t have the answers and until we do, we can’t continue to spend, spend, spend."
Springs Utilities officials have repeatedly said the Neumann technology is a third cheaper than other options available today, and energy chief Bruce McCormick reiterated that position today in an interview with the Indy.
"The damage that's been done to our company by Tim Leigh and the feedback we've gotten from prospective customers is unreal," Neumann says. "We're being very badly hurt by the mayor and Tim Leigh."
Although Neumann wrote a letter threatening Leigh with a legal action if he didn't stop disparaging his company with untruths, and said Leigh has "opened himself up to incredible liability," he says he believes it's bad policy to sue a City Councilman.
Neumann says he's met with officials in another state and has a meeting next week with a governor in another state. He also wants to meet with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to explore possible locations in other parts of Colorado.
If Neumann leaves, he'll vacate 45,000 square feet of space on Elkton Drive and the possibility of ultimately occupying 150,000 square feet when his manufacturing operation gears up with orders.
But if the city honors the contract and allows the technology to become functional on Drake, Neumann Systems will stay put, he says. Other utilities are eagerly awaiting a full build-out on Drake to be assure the technology works. The NeuStream has been shown by multiple tests and multiple examinations by experts to work in a test on 20 megawatts of power production. Because the technology is simply an add-on for larger loads, Neumann and Utilities are confident of its efficacy, he says.
"We have been treated great [by the city] up until the last three to four months," Neumann says. "I think we've constructed this win-win partnership with the city and we're delivering low cost emissions control to the city, cleaning the air. Up until that point when the mayor and Leigh decided to take down the Drake plant and us along with it, it's been great. We've had a tremendous opportunity here. There are great people on Council. I think very highly of the vast majority of the people on City Council."
He says Leigh's commentary has led potential customers to question the system. If the city succeeds in driving away his business, it would miss out on a cut of gross sales in a firm that holds 36 patents in nine countries and is working with international distributors.
"There's an awful lot in the works here," he says. "It's a waste of our effort if we're going to be in a community that has a few people who are trying to run us out of town."
Leigh says via email: "Nothing could be further from the truth! I'm an entrepreneur and I love other entrepreneurs. The norm for a business like Mr Neumann's is to let the free market fund his experiments, not unaware ratepayers who can't afford venture capital style risks. If Neumann's stuff proves to be as good as he says, I will be labeled the town clown for questioning it and him, and (rightfully so). That he lashes out in this manner continues to fan my flame of suspicion."
From the listings desk: Colorado State University-Pueblo just unveiled this year's Distinguished Speaker Series lineup, and as usual, it's quite impressive. Past years brought the likes of Nontombi Naomi Tutu, Sherman Alexie, Meghan McCain, Ray Nagin (and, puzzlingly, Bruce Jenner), and this year continues the trend. Best of all, the lectures are still free and open to the public.
Aug. 22: Jack Hanna, animal celebrity and zookeeper extraordinaire. Hanna revolutionized zoo habitats for animals by transitioning the Columbus Zoo from cage-like enclosures to "habitat environments" during his tenure there as zoo director. Hanna, of course, is also the host of various TV shows, programs and a frequent talk show guest.
Oct. 3: Eric Thomas, a "hip hop preacher" whose experiences growing up in Detroit has lead him to reach out to high-risk students of color. Despite dropping out of high school, Thomas eventually gained his GED and completed a masters degree (he's working on a PhD in educational administration.) Thomas is now a senior minister at A Place of Change Ministries, the founder of Break the Cycle I Dare You, and works at an undergraduate retention program at Michigan State.
Jan. 23: Ray Kurzweil, one of the nation's top inventors, Kurzweil has made huge leaps in communication products, "the principal developer of the first CCD flat-bed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition." He is also a recipient of the coveted $500,000 MIT-Lemelson Prize and the 1999 National Medal of Technology.
Feb. 20: Angela Davis, a longtime social activist, Davis spent 18 months in jail and was placed on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted List" in the 1970s. Today as an educator, Davis continues to fight for strengthening communities, and thereby working to end "social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination." A scholar and educator, Davis currently teaches at the University of California - Santa Cruz.
March 13: Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science at CSU, Grandin works on the dual fronts of animal welfare and autism advocacy. As a woman with high-functioning autism, Grandin not only invented a "squeeze machine designed to calm hypersensitive people" but lobbies for humane livestock handling processes. Grandin has appeared in: Forbes, The New York Times, and People, as well as NPR and the Today Show. In 2010, HBO released an award-winning semi-autobiographical film about Grandin starring Claire Danes.
For more information on the series, visit colostate-pueblo.edu/StudentActivities/DistinguishedSpeakersSeries
I don't have an iPhone, but the fact that I don't carry around a clamshell anymore means I'm definitely improving on the technology front. (Never mind that the clamshell broke.)
Anyway, I'll be looking forward to this app, or some derivative of it, making its way to Android. It's the free Artfinder app, which supplies not only gallery and museum listings, but maps them, saves your favorites, and best of all, uses image-recognition software to match a snapshot of a piece of art and retrieve the work's information for you.
There's also an Art of the Day e-mail blast that sends images of paintings with a quick paragraph on their background. May's selection appears promising: "The Death of Marat" by David, "The Fog Warning" by Homer, "Judith" by Klimt and "Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird" by Kahlo (which includes a link to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's website, where this work is currently on display.)
By now, you may have noticed that today's Google "doodle" is a bite-sized synthesizer honoring electronic instrument pioneer Robert Moog's 78th birthday.
But what you might have overlooked is the degree of functionality it has. The working keyboard is just the beginning; there are also a couple dozen control knobs to tweak envelopes, filters, oscillators and a bunch of other stuff that'll make you sound very space-age.
If all that weren't enough, there's also a miniature "reel-to-reel" tape deck that has four tracks, so you can multitrack your own minor masterpiece and then share it with others.
Just one drawback: Birthdays last but one day, and so does this ingenious little plaything. So go here and check it out while you can.
And, while you're at it, here's an excellent video that'll teach you how to use it, while also giving you a quick lesson in the basics of music synthesis. Have fun!
As an IndyBlog reader, chances are good that you're also on Facebook.
Chances are also good that you'll experience the same shudder of recognition I got this morning when Dangerous Minds posted this four-decade-old panel by underground cartoonist Robert Crumb.
Actually, since this has been out there on Facebook for hours, several of your friends have probably reposted it, which means you're already processed it and moved on .
In any case, now that we've seen Crumb's vintage view of a social media future, here's his sentimental take on America's past:
From the land of wheat and the Wizard of Oz comes help from the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center in Hutchinson, Kan., in helping the Springs-based Space Foundation get its visitors center project off to a good start.
The Cosmosphere is loaning a collection of 1970s-era Soviet space artifacts, which will be displayed at its headquarters at 4425 Arrowswest Drive.
Since the foundation moved last year into the building, it's been gradually settling in and has a generous amount of space to dedicate to a visitors center and museum.
The Russian items will be on display for three years starting Aug. 1, after making an appearance at the National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor, which closed on Thursday.
On display will be one of the few Lunokhod lunar rovers ever to be displayed outside of the former Soviet Union; a half-scale model, constructed in the Soviet Union, of the Luna 16 Robotic Probe, the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil to Earth, and a prototype of a Sokol (Falcon) Space Suit-K, a pressure suit that was used for on-ground engineering and thermal vacuum tests during Soviet cosmonaut training.
The foundation said in a press release:
"Initially, we will place these three extraordinary artifacts, which the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center has so generously loaned to us, in our extended lobby area," said Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham. "Then, we'll move them into the El Pomar Space Gallery, as part of the first phase of development of our visitors center.
"We're particularly excited because these artifacts represent a rich part of space history that few Americans have been exposed to," he continued. "We are very pleased to be able to display some of the meaningful contributions the Soviet Union made to space exploration."
The Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center is a museum and educational facility in Hutchinson, Kan., that displays and restores spaceflight artifacts and offers educational programs and camps. It is one of only three museums to display flown spacecraft from Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions, and it has the second-largest collection of flown Soviet and U.S. space artifacts in the world. In addition to being a destination, the Cosmosphere also sponsors traveling exhibits and loans artifacts to other museums and organizations. For more information, go to www.cosmo.org.
"These artifacts on display in our booth at the National Space Symposium are exemplary of the unique and inspiring collection accumulated during our 50-year history and housed at the Kansas Cosmosphere," said Richard Hollowell, interim president & CEO of the Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center. "We are excited to continue our mission of honoring the past and inspiring the future of space exploration by sharing these fascinating artifacts with visitors to the Space Foundation through an annually renewable three-year loan agreement.
In a related development, industry leader Northrop Grumman Corp. has donated $375,000 to create a science center and teaching lab at the Space Foundation's headquarters.
The press release explains:
To be known as the Northrop Grumman Science Center, the facility will include a Science on a Sphere™ laboratory and a teaching facility that will be used for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs for teachers and students and for community education outreach efforts.
The Northrop Grumman Science Center is the first major component of the Space Foundation's visitors center, which is under development at 4425 Arrowswest Drive in Colorado Springs, Colo. Construction will begin immediately and the new center is expected to open as early as this fall.
"This generous gift from Northrop Grumman makes it possible for the Space Foundation to realize our vision of an interactive destination for formal and informal public and private education - advancing STEM in the exciting context of space exploration, development and utilization," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. "We envision a facility where children and adults can participate in highly interactive learning opportunities in multiple disciplines, including astronomy, physics, mathematics, geography, environmental sciences, planetary sciences and biology."
The Northrop Grumman Science Center will have both lecture and laboratory facilities that can be used for pre-kindergarten through graduate-level courses, educator professional development and educational multimedia events and presentations for the general public.
"Northrop Grumman is honored to partner with the Space Foundation to create this exciting new educational facility for the Rocky Mountain region that will help lead the next generation into space," said Gary Ervin, a corporate vice president of Northrop Grumman and president of the company's Aerospace Systems sector. "STEM education initiatives like this are critical for today's children to become tomorrow's leaders in space. They are the future stewards of our nation's leadership in technology to keep both our economy strong and our residents secure while advancing our understanding of the world around us."
The Center will extend the reach and capabilities of the Space Foundation's education enterprise, which offers space-themed, standards-based education programs to teachers and students. Programs include Space Across the Curriculum teacher professional development courses, STARS science enrichment programs for schools, New Horizons community programs that combine school-based education programs with community events and lectures, Audience with an Astronaut sessions for schools, school and youth tours of major space industry exhibits, including those at the National Space Symposium, lesson plans and teaching resources and a NASA Educator Resource Center.
Since then, I've heard from a number of others who are, for the same reason, facing reduced data speeds.
While yesterday's post offered some tips on how to cut back on data usage, I've since been made aware of a more comprehensive New York Times article.
Although the piece originally ran in 2010, it's full of useful suggestions, including some little-known suggestions on how to extend battery life.
Did you know, for instance, that streaming music will use up more battery life at higher volumes? (So if you're listening to Rhapsody on a trip to Denver, it helps to turn DOWN the volume on your phone and turn UP the volume on your car stereo system.)
Anyway, I'd go into more of them here, but I wouldn't want to deprive the Times of a few potential page hits. So if you're interested in preserving both battery life and data speeds, check out the article here.
I've always wanted to be in the top 5 percent of something, and now I am.
A text from AT&T this morning delivered the good news: "Your data use this month places you in the top 5% of users."
Unfortunately, the rest of the message appeared less promising. "Use Wi-Fi to help avoid reduced speeds."
Yes, it turns out that I am a "data hog," the pejorative term reserved for those of us who've pushed past the newly instituted limits on AT&T's "unlimited" data plan. From this point forward, if I exceed 3 gigs of data usage during a one-month billing period, I'll be "throttled" back to a speed the company would rather not specify.
Granted, I have felt vague pangs of guilt as I imagine a landfill somewhere overflowing with my spent data. But a more pressing concern, as someone who's become dependent on streaming music, is the prospect of spending the next 24 days listening to songs start, stop and stutter as the cache slowly reloads.
Fortunately, it's turned out to be not as dire as all that. I called AT&T today and discovered that my billing cycle actually begins on the 9th of the month, rather than the 1st. (Everyone's varies, the say.) In other words, I've barely gone over my limit.
Plus (and here's where this post may have some actual use-value), there are a bunch of ways to cut back on your data usage that don't involve hiding your iPhone.
• If you're in a wi-fi zone — whether that's at home or a coffee shop — be sure to switch over from 3G and the meter will stop running.
• Even when you put your iPhone to sleep, a lot of apps continue to toil away in the background, including Pandora and my beloved MOG. Facebook is especially diligent, since it's off looking for your friends' latest lolcats even as you busy yourself with something useful.
• To prevent that from happening during periods of non-use, you can close each app individually, power off the phone, or put it in airplane mode. Just remember that the latter means your phone won't ring when you get a call or message. (Of course, coworkers might appreciate that.)
Find more suggestions, along with a space-age "data calculator," right here.
It's like Foursquare for sex. Sort of.
In order to normalize and popularize responsible condom-wearing, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest has kicked off a new "Where did you wear it?" campaign (Tagline: Safe sex happens. Find out where!") with the distribution of 55,000 condoms whose wrappers bear QR codes.
They're asking individuals to scan the codes with their smartphones, then add details online about the experience, including gender, partner's gender, age, relationship status, general location, why you used a condom, and how the sex was (from "Ah-maz-ing" to "Things can only improve from here.")
You don't have to have a QR-coded condom to check in. And according to the online interactive map, folks all across the U.S. have been participating, including those in our very own Colorado Springs.
One such couple in the Springs reports:
An under 20 guy and a girl whose relationship is just for fun and have already talked about safer sex and STDs used a condom in the bedroom to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. It was great— can’t wait for round 2.
Really, it's probably just a matter of time before a company like Sir Richard's Condoms jumps on this and starts giving away mayorships.
The spray actually uses nanoparticles and is superhydrophobic. That means it repels water and keeps a surface completely dry and stain free. While it may keep steel dry, Ross also realized it could be sprayed on products to keep them clean, and also keeps objects free of bacteria and ice. The company even claims you can spray an iPhone with NeverWet and it becomes waterproof.
NeverWet is being turned into a consumer product and will see a release next year, but we should also start seeing it applied to products too. Shoes that can’t get dirty, ovens that don’t need cleaning, and clothes you never need to wash hopefully (a personal dream of mine).
Watch the video: There's a cool bit about stacking water molecules, besides other things that may make your head asplode.
My days of chemistry are long behind me, but after a reading about atoms in Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything last night, it's fondly coming back to me (sans flunked tests).
We're talking about the interface of chemistry and physics here, the strange structures of atoms and their behaviors, things like clouds of probability, the Schrödinger Wave Equation and math so complex as to prove fundamentals like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. I'm tripping up over fractions these days.
All that said, while tooling around on the webs to refresh myself on orbitals, I found the Dynamic Periodic Table, probably the funnest thing I've ever seen today.
The DPT loads quickly and has multiple tabs and mouse-over options for revealing facts about the elements. From the basics of atomic number and weight, to the temperature at which each changes from solids to liquids to gasses, it's easy to navigate. A Wikipedia tab even gives encyclopedia information, in case you wanted to know what molybdenum is known for.
Likely, those of us no longer studying this field will have no inclination to review isotopes or learn a bit about all those scary elements that sit in two pull-out rows below the box proper. And yes, the site isn't at all new, but given the variable behavior of time in the world of quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity, I'd say that's a good enough pass.
But if you want to be ultra-Zen about it, and get super-trippy, there's this: