University of Maine researchers will design and test a wireless leak detection system for the International Space Station (ISS) that could lead to increased safety on the ISS and for other space activities, as well as on Earth in the event of gas and oil leaks at industrial plants.
The project was one of five in the nation to receive funding from NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) for research and technology development onboard ISS.
Ali Abedi, a UMaine associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, was awarded a three-year, $100,000 NASA grant through the Maine Space Grant Consortium in Augusta, which consists of higher education institutions and nonprofit research organizations that are actively involved in aerospace-related research and education.
“We are very excited to be selected among the only five groups in the nation to conduct a flight test on ISS,” Abedi says. “This will be a great training experience for our students to learn how to take a prototype out of the lab, and not only to the field but also to space.”
Leaks causing air and heat loss are a major safety concern for astronauts, according to Abedi.
“It is important to save the air when it comes to space missions; find the leak and fix it before it is too late,” he says.
Abedi’s project involves the development of a flight-ready wireless sensor system that will be able to quickly detect and localize leaks based on ultrasonic sensor array signals. The proposed system is fast, accurate and capable of detecting multiple leaks and localizing them with a lightweight and low-cost system, Abedi says.
“Our goal is to push the boundaries of hardware and software in order to design a highly accurate, ultra-low-power and lightweight autonomous leak detection and localization system for ISS,” he says.
The lab prototype was developed by UMaine Ph.D. student Joel Castro and postdoctoral fellow Hossein Roufarshbaf as part of a previously funded NASA EPSCoR project and was tested on UMaine’s inflatable lunar habitat, located in the Wireless Sensing Laboratory (WiSe-Net Lab) on campus. The new funding will allow researchers to make the system more rugged and revise it for a microgravity environment through testing at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, and then onboard the ISS over the next two to three years.
The testing and verification of the system in a microgravity environment will help determine how well the system performs in space, as well as on Earth.
“Leak detection methods developed for extreme space environments will push the limits of current technology for ground-based leak detection at home and in industrial plants,” says Abedi, who directs the WiSe-Net Lab. The lab conducts research on wireless communications ranging from coding and information theory to wireless sensor networks and space applications, as well as houses the NASA’s lunar habitat.
Vince Caccese, a UMaine mechanical engineering professor, and George Nelson, a former astronaut and current director of ISS Technology Demonstration Office at the NASA Johnson Space Center, also are involved with the project.
Proposals from the University of Kentucky, Lexington; Montana State University, Bozeman; University of Nebraska, Omaha; and the University of Delaware, Newark also were funded. Other research includes improving spacewalking suits by incorporating self-healing polymers that are tested against micrometeor impacts.
Contact: Elyse Kahl, 207.581.3747
A new pepper variety has been developed with a high capsinoid content to make it less pungent while maintaining all the natural health benefits of the fruit, according to researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Maine.
The researchers — Robert Jarret from the USDA/Agricultural Research Service in Griffin, Georgia, and Jason Bolton and L. Brian Perkins from the University of Maine School of Food and Agriculture — developed the new small-fruited Capsicum annuum L. pepper through traditional breeding methods in an effort to make the health benefits of hot peppers available to more consumers.
In hot peppers, capsaicinoids are the compounds associated both with their signature heat and health benefits, which include being a source of antioxidants. But that pungency can limit their use in foods and pharmaceuticals.
Capsinoids, closely related compounds of capsaicinoids, provide the same benefits without the pungency.
Starting in 2006 with a USDA seed grant, Perkins, a UMaine assistant research professor and director of the Food Chemical Safety Laboratory, and Bolton, then a food science graduate student, screened about 500 subspecies of Capsicum annuum. They forwarded their data to Jarret, who selected those with the highest concentrations of capsinoids.
Jarret then began to classically breed the selected varieties at the USDA facility in Georgia. Perkins screened the results and they repeated the process, selecting the best capsinoid producers from each generation.
The culmination of their work is germplasm 509-45-1. The peppers are very small, with each plant producing up to 1,000 peppers. According to Perkins, there will likely be additional selection to prepare the plants for marketability, both as a food product and for medical experiments.
Currently, small quantities of seed are available from the USDA for research purposes.
Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745
Reuters and the Portland Press Herald cited information on the state’s blueberry industry from the University of Maine in articles about a lawsuit alleging labor violations during the state’s 2008 wild blueberry harvest. The Reuters article states Maine harvested nearly $70 million worth of wild blueberries in 2012, and the industry depends on migrant labor to harvest the native crop, which grows on about 60,000 acres of fields, according to UMaine. The Press Herald reported the industry’s economic impact in Maine was about $250 million in 2007. Chicago Tribune carried the Reuters report.
Keri Kaczor, of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and coordinator of Maine Healthy Beaches, spoke with SeacoastOnline about the health of Maine’s beaches following the release of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s annual report on the water quality at beaches throughout the nation. Maine Healthy Beaches is a partnership between the UMaine Extension/Sea Grant, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and local municipalities. The statewide organization is dedicated to monitoring and keeping beaches clean. Kaczor said despite Maine’s low rank in the NRDC report, there are plenty of beaches in the state with nearly spotless records, and most of those beaches are in state or national parks where there is little to no development.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering a youth 4-H club focusing on entomology from 9 to 11 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, Aug. 4–20, at the UMaine Extension office, 28 Center St., Machias. Activities are designed to teach youth ages 8–10 about the environment through bugs. Cost is $10 per child; registration is limited to 10. For more information, to register or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.255.3345 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Linda Silka, director of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for Part 1 of its “Innovation in the Maine Economy” series. Silka spoke about the importance of innovation for the state’s future and the latest Maine Policy Review, which focuses on innovation in Maine’s economy.
The Portland Press Herald reported the number of out-of-state students enrolling at University of Maine System schools is on the rise. The University of Maine is one of four of the system campuses that is seeing an increase in the number of out-of-state students, who pay almost three times more in tuition than in-staters. So far this year, the flagship Orono campus has seen a 13.5 percent increase in out-of-state enrollments for this fall when compared to last fall. Jimmy Jung, vice president for enrollment management at UMaine, said out-of-state recruiting efforts by officials are “paying off quite well.” The Associated Press published a report citing the Press Herald article, which was carried by The Washington Times, Maine Public Broadcasting Network, WABI (Channel 5), SFGate and The Republic.
Rich Kent, an associate professor of literacy education at the University of Maine, spoke with the Portland Press Herald for an article about Sam Morse, an 18-year-old skier from Carrabassett Valley Academy who is a member of the U.S. ski development team. According to the article, Morse has been writing journals since childhood and believes the practice makes him a better
Alpine skier by allowing him to reflect on and improve his skills. Kent, who wrote, “Writing on the Bus: Using Athletic Team Notebooks and Journals to Advance Learning and Performance in Sports,” is a leading proponent of journal writing. He has a resource website and works with college coaches to establish journal training among their teams. Kent was introduced to Morse in 2011 by Morse’s English teacher at Carrabassett Valley Academy. “Sam’s writing is huge,” said Kent. “I’ve never seen such a package of writing. In Sam’s writing you see evidence of planning.” Kent added he believes writing gives Morse a psychological advantage over other skiers.
The Bangor Daily News reported Karen Cole, the current executive vice president of the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce, will take over as the associate director of the Collins Center for the Arts at the University of Maine. “She brings a lot of experience in marketing and in the arts, and she is deeply connected to the Bangor area and the university,” said Danny Williams, executive director of the CCA. “She’s familiar with the landscape and the Bangor scene, and I think she will help the Collins Center position itself appropriately in the new and ever-shifting landscape.”
Barbara Murphy, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator and gardening expert, was a guest on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s “Maine Calling” radio show. The show focused on gardening advice and touched on topics such as soil conditions and crops gardeners should expect to see ready by July.
The Bangor Daily News published the opinion piece, “Eliot Cutler has a leadership problem,” by Tony Brinkley, an English professor at the University of Maine.
A celebration of the life of Associate Professor of Theatre Sandra Hardy will be held Saturday, Aug. 9 at 2 p.m., Minsky Recital Hall, Class of 1944 Hall. A reception will follow in Miller’s Café in the Collins Center for the Arts. Hardy unexpectedly passed away June 19 in Connecticut. She was 76. In her 26-year career at UMaine, Hardy taught acting and literature of the theatre, as well as drama in education. She directed many theatrical main stage productions at UMaine, including her final musical, “Grease,” this past February. Hardy’s obituary is online.
University of Maine researchers Mick Peterson and Christie Mahaffey are featured in an article in Forbes about horse racetrack safety. Peterson, executive director of the nonprofit Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and Libra Foundation Professor at the College of Engineering at the University of Maine, is slated to make a presentation at The Jockey Club’s fifth Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit held July 8-9 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Peterson and Mahaffey, an affiliated researcher with the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory and a doctoral candidate in interdisciplinary engineering at UMaine, analyze racetrack samples and maintenance data from around the United States and make models of how horses’ hooves interact with various surfaces.
They started working with Aqueduct Racetrack in New York after 31 horses died on its surface in 2012 (three per 1,000 starts). In 2013, 21 horses died (1.77 per 1,000 starts). Thus far in 2014, Forbes reports that nine have died. “The lives of horses and riders are on the line here. We have to keep working on it,” Peterson says in the article.
WLBZ2 (Channel 2) reported the University of Maine will institute changes in its stalking and relationship abuse policies in the wake of “Not Alone: The First Report of the White House Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault” released in April 2014.
The Morning Sentinel noted that Sara Poirier of Winslow, a political science major at Saint Joseph’s College, attended Maine New Leadership, a free, nonpartisan public leadership education program for college women at the University of Maine. The annual program, sponsored by the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at UMaine, teaches participants skills and provides networks to empower them to become civic and public leaders.
The Pen Bay Pilot advanced the University of Maine Page Farm and Home Museum’s Heritage Day Camp for youth to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 7–11. The hands-on camp, titled Pathways to the Past, will immerse children ages 7 to 11 in activities representative of 19th-century Maine. Cost is $65 for museum members, $75 for nonmembers. To register, call 207.581.4100.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension Professor Jane Haskell specializes in strengthening skills of group facilitators so meetings can be conducted effectively and efficiently. Fishermen and graduate students are among her more than 400 clients.
This summer, Haskell, who has authored a national facilitation-training curriculum, is working with members of Wabanaki Nations.
She’s also researching how to buoy skills of facilitators who assist refugees. Specifically, she’s studying how American-born, English-speaking facilitators and group leaders ask for feedback from refugees who have recently arrived in the United States.
Refugees, she says, may not have positive experience with regard to giving comments in a formal group setting and may not understand the concept from a Western perspective or framework.
Haskell and a colleague who specializes in immigration and refugees issues are exploring how to best partner with refugees so that their perspectives are heard and understood in Maine.
The 6th Annual Backyard Locavore Day, sponsored by University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Cumberland County, will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9, in six gardens in Brunswick and Freeport. This self-guided tour will be held independent of the weather.
Learn do-it-yourself strategies for becoming a locavore — a person who eats food locally grown and produced. Demonstrations and talk topics include vegetable and square-foot gardening, backyard composting, greenhouses, beekeeping and backyard poultry. Each garden session will feature food-preservation methods, including drying, hot water bath canning and making herbal vinegars and jam. Complimentary food samples will be provided. UMaine Extension Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver Volunteers, as well as homeowners, will answer questions.
Cost is $15 for those who register in advance, $20 the day of event and free for children younger than 12. Registrants will receive a booklet with a map and descriptions of each site. Proceeds benefit UMaine Extension’s Cumberland County Food Preservation Program. Online registration and information are available at umaine.edu/cumberland/programs/locavore. Also, for more information, or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.781.6099, 800.287.1471 (in Maine), or email email@example.com.
The University of Maine Page Farm and Home Museum’s Heritage Day Camp for youth 7 to 11 years of age will be held July 7–11. At the hands-on camp, titled Pathways to the Past, children are immersed in activities considered fundamental for survival in 19th century Maine, including gardening. Cost for the camp, which runs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., is $65 for museum members/$75 for nonmembers. To register or to request a disability accommodation, call 207.581.4100.