People Should Find A Safe Storm Shelter During Thunderstorm

Storm Shelters in OKC

Tuesday June 5, 2001 marked the start of an extremely fascinating time in the annals of my cherished Houston. Tropical storm Allison, that early summer daytime came to see. The thunderstorm went rapidly, although there was Tuesday. Friday, afterward arrived, and Allison returned. This time going slowly, this time in the north. The thunderstorm became still. Thousands of people driven from their houses. Only when they might be desired most, several leading hospitals shut. Dozens of important surface roads, and every important highway covered in water that was high.

Yet even prior to the rain stopped, service to others, and narratives of Christian compassion started to be composed. For a couples class, about 75 people had assembled at Lakewood Church among the greatest nondenominational churches in The United States. From time they got ready to depart the waters had climbed so high they were stranded. The facility of Lakewood stayed dry and high at the center of among the hardest hit parts of town. Refugees in the powerful thunderstorm started arriving at their doorstep. Without no advance preparation, and demand of official sanction, those 75 classmates started a calamity shelter that grew to hold over 3,000 customers. The greatest of over 30 refuges that could be established in the height of the thunderstorm.

Where help was doled out to those who’d suffered losses after Lakewood functioned as a Red Cross Service Center. When it became clear that FEMA aid, and Red Cross wouldn’t bring aid enough, Lakewood and Second Baptist joined -Houston to produce an adopt a family plan to greatly help get folks on their feet quicker. In the occasions that followed militaries of Christians arrived in both churches. From all over town, people of economical standing, race, and each and every denomination collected. Wet rotted carpeting were pulled up, sheet stone removed. Piles of clothes donated food and bed clothes were doled out. Elbow grease and cleaning equipment were used to start eliminating traces of the damage.

It would have been an excellent example of practical ministry in a period of disaster, in the event the story stopped here, but it continues. A great many other churches functioned as shelters as well as in the occasions that followed Red Cross Service Centers. Tons of new volunteers, a lot of them Christians put to work, and were put through accelerated training. That Saturday, I used to be trapped in my own, personal subdivision. Particular that my family was safe because I worked in Storm Shelters OKC that was near where I used to live. What they wouldn’t permit the storm to do, is take their demand to give their religion, or their self respect. I saw so a lot of people as they brought gifts of food, clothes and bedclothes, praising the Lord. I saw young kids coming making use of their parents to not give new, rarely used toys to kids who had none.

Leaning On God Through Hard Times

Unity Church of Christianity from a location across town impacted by the storm sent a sizable way to obtain bedding as well as other supplies. A tiny troupe of musicians and Christian clowns requested to be permitted to amuse the kids in the shelter where I served and arrived. We of course promptly taken their offer. The kids were collected by them in a sizable empty space of flooring. They sang, they told stories, balloon animals were made by them. The kids, frightened, at least briefly displaced laughed.

When not occupied elsewhere I did lots of listening. I listened to survivors that were disappointed, and frustrated relief workers. I listened to kids make an effort to take advantage of a scenario they could not comprehend. All these are only the stories I have heard or seen. I am aware that spiritual groups, Churches, and lots of other individual Christians functioned admirably. I do need to thank them for the attempts in disaster. I thank The Lord for supplying them to serve.

I didn’t write its individuals, or this which means you’d feel sorry for Houston. As this disaster unfolded yet what I saw encouraged my beliefs the Lord will provide through our brothers and sisters in religion for us. Regardless how awful your community hits, you the individual Christian can be a part of the remedy. Those blankets you can probably never use, and have stored away mean much to people who have none. You are able to help in the event that you can drive. You are able to help if you’re able to create a cot. It is possible to help in the event that you can scrub a wall. It is possible to help if all you are able to do is sit and listen. Large catastrophes like Allison get lots of focus. However a disaster can come in virtually any size. That is a serious disaster to your family that called it home in case a single household burns. It is going to be generations prior to the folks here forget Allison.

United States Oil and Gas Exploration Opportunities

Firms investing in this sector can research, develop and create, as well as appreciate the edges of a global gas and oil portfolio with no political and economical disadvantages. Allowing regime and the US financial conditions is rated amongst the world and the petroleum made in US is sold at costs that were international. The firms will likely gain as US also has a national market that is booming. Where 500 exploration wells are drilled most of the petroleum exploration in US continues to be concentrated around the Taranaki Basin. On the other hand, the US sedimentary basins still remain unexplored and many show existence of petroleum seeps and arrangements were also unveiled by the investigation data with high hydrocarbon potential. There have already been onshore gas discoveries before including Great south river basins, East Coast Basin and offshore Canterbury.

As interest in petroleum is expected to grow strongly during this interval but this doesn’t automatically dim the bright future expectations in this sector. The interest in petroleum is anticipated to reach 338 PJ per annum. The US government is eager to augment the gas and oil supply. As new discoveries in this sector are required to carry through the national demand at the same time as raise the amount of self reliance and minimize the cost on imports of petroleum the Gas and Oil exploration sector is thought to be among the dawn sectors. The US government has invented a distinctive approach to reach its petroleum and gas exploration targets. It’s developed a “Benefit For Attempt” model for Petroleum and Gas exploration tasks in US.

The “Benefit For Attempt” in today’s analytic thinking is defined as oil reserves found per kilometer drilled. It will help in deriving the estimate of reservations drilled for dollar and each kilometer spent for each investigation. The authorities of US has revealed considerable signs that it’ll bring positive effects of change which will favor investigation of new oil reserves since the price of investigation has adverse effects on investigation task. The Authorities of US has made the information accessible about the oil potential in its study report. Foil of advice in royalty and allocation regimes, and simplicity of processes have enhanced the attractiveness of Petroleum and Natural Gas Sector in the United States.

Petroleum was the third biggest export earner in 2008 for US and the chance to to keep up the growth of the sector is broadly accessible by manners of investigation endeavors that are new. The government is poised to keep the impetus in this sector. Now many firms are active with new exploration jobs in the Challenger Plateau of the United States, Northland East Slope Basin region, outer Taranaki Basin, and Bellona Trough region. The 89 Energy oil and gas sector guarantees foreign investors as government to high increase has declared a five year continuance of an exemption for offshore petroleum and gas exploration in its 2009 budget. The authorities provide nonresident rig operators with tax breaks.

Modern Robot Duct Cleaning Uses

AC systems, and heat, venting collect pollutants and contaminants like mold, debris, dust and bacteria that can have an adverse impact on indoor air quality. Most folks are at present aware that indoor air pollution could be a health concern and increased visibility has been thus gained by the area. Studies have also suggested cleaning their efficacy enhances and is contributory to a longer operating life, along with maintenance and energy cost savings. The cleaning of the parts of forced air systems of heat, venting and cooling system is what’s called duct cleaning. Robots are an advantageous tool raising the price and efficacy facets of the procedure. Therefore, using modern robot duct isn’t any longer a new practice.

A cleaner, healthier indoor environment is created by a clean air duct system which lowers energy prices and increases efficiency. As we spend more hours inside air duct cleaning has become an important variable in the cleaning sector. Indoor pollutant levels can increase. Health effects can show years or up immediately after repeated or long exposure. These effects range from some respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cancer that can be deadly or debilitating. Therefore, it’s wise to ensure indoor air quality isn’t endangered inside buildings. Dangerous pollutants that can found in inside can transcend outdoor air pollutants in accordance with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Duct cleaning from Air Duct Cleaning Edmond professionals removes microbial contaminants, that might not be visible to the naked eye together with both observable contaminants. Indoor air quality cans impact and present a health hazard. Air ducts can be host to a number of health hazard microbial agents. Legionnaires Disease is one malaise that’s got public notice as our modern surroundings supports the development of the bacteria that has the potential to cause outbreaks and causes the affliction. Typical disorder-causing surroundings contain wetness producing gear such as those in air conditioned buildings with cooling towers that are badly maintained. In summary, in building and designing systems to control our surroundings, we’ve created conditions that were perfect . Those systems must be correctly tracked and preserved. That’s the secret to controlling this disorder.

Robots allow for the occupation while saving workers from exposure to be done faster. Signs of the technological progress in the duct cleaning business is apparent in the variety of gear now available for example, array of robotic gear, to be used in air duct cleaning. Robots are priceless in hard to reach places. Robots used to see states inside the duct, now may be used for spraying, cleaning and sampling procedures. The remote controlled robotic gear can be fitted with practical and fastener characteristics to reach many different use functions.

Video recorders and a closed circuit television camera system can be attached to the robotic gear to view states and operations and for documentation purposes. Inside ducts are inspected by review apparatus in the robot. Robots traveling to particular sections of the system and can move around barriers. Some join functions that empower cleaning operation and instruction manual and fit into little ducts. An useful view range can be delivered by them with models delivering disinfection, cleaning, review, coating and sealing abilities economically.

The remote controlled robotic gear comes in various sizes and shapes for different uses. Of robotic video cameras the first use was in the 80s to record states inside the duct. Robotic cleaning systems have a lot more uses. These devices provide improved accessibility for better cleaning and reduce labor costs. Lately, functions have been expanded by areas for the use of small mobile robots in the service industries, including uses for review and duct cleaning.

More improvements are being considered to make a tool that was productive even more effective. If you determine to have your ventilation, heat and cooling system cleaned, it’s important to make sure all parts of the system clean and is qualified to achieve this. Failure to clean one part of a contaminated system can lead to re-contamination of the entire system.

When To Call A DWI Attorney

Charges or fees against a DWI offender need a legal Sugar Land criminal defense attorney that is qualified dismiss or so that you can reduce charges or the fees. So, undoubtedly a DWI attorney is needed by everyone. Even if it’s a first-time violation the penalties can be severe being represented by a DWI attorney that is qualified is vitally significant. If you’re facing following charges for DWI subsequently the punishments can contain felony charges and be severe. Locating an excellent attorney is thus a job you should approach when possible.

So you must bear in mind that you just should hire a DWI attorney who practices within the state where the violation occurred every state within America will make its laws and legislation regarding DWI violations. It is because they are going to have the knowledge and expertise of state law that is relevant to sufficiently defend you and will be knowledgeable about the processes and evaluations performed to establish your guilt.

As your attorney they are going to look to the evaluations that have been completed at the time of your arrest and the authorities evidence that is accompanying to assess whether or not these evaluations were accurately performed, carried out by competent staff and if the right processes where followed. It isn’t often that a police testimony is asserted against, although authorities testimony also can be challenged in court.

You should attempt to locate someone who specializes in these kind of cases when you start trying to find a DWI attorney. Whilst many attorneys may be willing to consider on your case, a lawyer who specializes in these cases is required by the skilled knowledge needed to interpret the scientific and medical evaluations ran when you had been detained. The first consultation is free and provides you with the chance to to inquire further about their experience in fees and these cases.

Many attorneys will work according into a fee that is hourly or on a set fee basis determined by the kind of case. You may find how they have been paid to satisfy your financial situation and you will have the capacity to negotiate the conditions of their fee. If you are unable to afford to hire an attorney that is private you then can request a court-appointed attorney paid for by the state. Before you hire a DWI attorney you should make sure when you might be expected to appear in court and you understand the precise charges imposed against you.

How Credit Card Works

The credit card is making your life more easy, supplying an amazing set of options. The credit card is a retail trade settlement; a credit system worked through the little plastic card which bears its name. Regulated by ISO 7810 defines credit cards the actual card itself consistently chooses the same structure, size and contour. A strip of a special stuff on the card (the substance resembles the floppy disk or a magnetic group) is saving all the necessary data. This magnetic strip enables the credit card’s validation. The layout has become an important variable; an enticing credit card layout is essential in ensuring advice and its dependability keeping properties.

A credit card is supplied to the user just after a bank approves an account, estimating a varied variety of variables to ascertain fiscal dependability. This bank is the credit supplier. When a purchase is being made by an individual, he must sign a receipt to verify the trade. There are the card details, and the amount of cash to be paid. You can find many shops that take electronic authority for the credit cards and use cloud tokenization for authorization. Nearly all verification are made using a digital verification system; it enables assessing the card is not invalid. If the customer has enough cash to insure the purchase he could be attempting to make staying on his credit limit any retailer may also check.

As the credit supplier, it is as much as the banks to keep the user informed of his statement. They typically send monthly statements detailing each trade procedures through the outstanding fees, the card and the sums owed. This enables the cardholder to ensure all the payments are right, and to discover mistakes or fraudulent action to dispute. Interest is typically charging and establishes a minimal repayment amount by the end of the following billing cycle.

The precise way the interest is charged is normally set within an initial understanding. On the rear of the credit card statement these elements are specified by the supplier. Generally, the credit card is an easy type of revolving credit from one month to another. It can also be a classy financial instrument, having many balance sections to afford a greater extent for credit management. Interest rates may also be not the same as one card to another. The credit card promotion services are using some appealing incentives find some new ones along the way and to keep their customers.

Why Get Help From A Property Management?

One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the revenue of your rental home would be to engage and contact property management in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. If you wish to know more and are considering the product please browse the remainder of the post. Leasing out your bit of real property may be real cash-cow as many landlords understand, but that cash flow usually includes a tremendous concern. Night phones from tenants that have the trouble of marketing the house if you own an emptiness just take out lots of the pleasure of earning money off of leases, overdue lease payments which you must chase down, as well as over-flowing lavatories. One solution while removing much of the anxiety, to have the earnings would be to engage a property management organization.

These businesses perform as the go between for the tenant as well as you. The tenant will not actually need to understand who you’re when you hire a property management company. The company manages the day to day while you still possess the ability to help make the final judgements in regards to the home relationships using the tenant. The company may manage the marketing for you personally, for those who are in possession of a unit that is vacant. Since the company is going to have more connections in a bigger market than you’ve got along with the industry than you are doing, you’ll discover your device gets stuffed a whole lot more quickly making use of their aid. In addition, the property management company may care for testing prospective tenants. With regards to the arrangement you’ve got, you might nevertheless not be unable to get the last say regarding if a tenant is qualified for the the system, but of locating a suitable tenant, the day-to-day difficulty is not any longer your problem. They’ll also manage the before-move-in the reviews as well as reviews required following a tenant moves away.

It is possible to step back watching the profits, after the the system is stuffed. Communicating will be handled by the company with all the tenant if you have an issue. You won’t be telephoned if this pipe explosions at the center of the night time. Your consultant is called by the tenant in the company, who then makes the preparations that are required to get the issue repaired with a care supplier. You get a phone call a day later or may not know there was an issue before you register using the business. The property management organization may also make your leasing obligations to to get. The company will do what’s required to accumulate if your tenant is making a payment. In certain arrangements, the organization is going to also take-over paying taxation, insurance, and the mortgage on the portion of property. You actually need to do-nothing but appreciate after after all the the invoices are paid, the revenue which is sent your way.

With all the advantages, you’re probably questioning exactly what to employing a property management organization, the downside should be. From hiring one the primary variable that stops some landlords is the price. All these providers will be paid for by you. The price must be weighed by you from the time frame you’ll save time that you may subsequently use to follow additional revenue-producing efforts or just take pleasure in the fruits of your expense work.

Benifits From An Orthodontic Care

Orthodontics is the specialty of dentistry centered on the identification and treatment of dental and related facial problems. The outcomes of Norman Orthodontist OKC treatment could be dramatic — an advanced quality of life for a lot of individuals of ages and lovely grins, improved oral health health, aesthetics and increased cosmetic tranquility. Whether into a look dentistry attention is needed or not is an individual’s own choice. Situations are tolerated by most folks like totally various kinds of bite issues or over bites and don’t get treated. Nevertheless, a number people sense guaranteed with teeth that are correctly aligned, appealing and simpler. Dentistry attention may enhance construct and appearance power. It jointly might work with you consult with clearness or to gnaw on greater.

Orthodontic attention isn’t only decorative in character. It might also gain long term oral health health. Right, correctly aligned teeth is not more difficult to floss and clean. This may ease and decrease the risk of rot. It may also quit periodontists irritation that problems gums. Periodontists might finish in disease, that occurs once micro-organism bunch round your house where the teeth and the gums meet. Periodontists can be ended in by untreated periodontists. Such an unhealthiness result in enamel reduction and may ruin bone that surrounds the teeth. Less may be chewed by people who have stings that are harmful with efficacy. A few of us using a serious bite down side might have difficulties obtaining enough nutrients. Once the teeth aren’t aimed correctly, this somewhat might happen. Morsel issues that are repairing may allow it to be more easy to chew and digest meals.

One may also have language problems, when the top and lower front teeth do not arrange right. All these are fixed through therapy, occasionally combined with medical help. Eventually, remedy may ease to avoid early use of rear areas. Your teeth grow to an unlikely quantity of pressure, as you chew down. In case your top teeth do not match it’ll trigger your teeth that are back to degrade. The most frequently encountered type of therapy is the braces (or retainer) and head-gear. But, a lot people complain about suffering with this technique that, unfortunately, is also unavoidable. Sport braces damages, as well as additional individuals have problem in talking. Dental practitioners, though, state several days can be normally disappeared throughout by the hurting. Occasionally annoyance is caused by them. In the event that you’d like to to quit more unpleasant senses, fresh, soft and tedious food must be avoided by you. In addition, tend not to take your braces away unless the medical professional claims so.

It is advised which you just observe your medical professional often for medical examinations to prevent choice possible problems that may appear while getting therapy. You are going to be approved using a specific dental hygiene, if necessary. Dental specialist may look-out of managing and id malocclusion now. Orthodontia – the main specialization of medication – mainly targets repairing chin problems and teeth, your grin as well as thus your sting. Dentist, however, won’t only do chin remedies and crisis teeth. They also handle tender to severe dental circumstances which may grow to states that are risky. You actually have not got to quantify throughout a predicament your life all. See dental specialist San – Direction Posts, and you’ll notice only but of stunning your smile plenty will soon be.

MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellows announced for 2018

Entering its sixth year, the MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellows program continues to invite a diverse array of professionals to learn from each other and from the Media Lab community. This year’s cohort includes doers and catalysts working on issues ranging from social justice and equity to education, environmental protection, human rights, creativity, and scientific discovery.

The program aims to expand the lab’s network of collaborators and help the lab broaden efforts to address some of the world’s most pressing issues. This cohort brings a well-founded perspective and knowledge in the space of open access: from information, to education, to resources. Each new fellow brings a great appreciation for collaboration, as well as an understanding that to achieve the greatest impact in their work, there needs to be an open conversation between a variety of fields — a hallmark of the Media Lab approach.

The new fellows have already begun working with both current and former Director’s Fellows and the Media Lab community. Upcoming events include a design and access workshop in Berlin; a fashion and sustainability mini-conference in Los Angeles and Boston; collaborative work with Media Lab students; and the design and deployment of an educational and training curriculum for new prosecutors in Philadelphia (in collaboration with a Media Lab member company).

Media Lab Director Joi Ito says, “Each cohort of Director’s Fellows is an opportunity to imbue diversity and unexpected points of view into the Media Lab, as many of the fellows approach issues from an orthogonal direction compared to students and faculty. I can’t wait to see what happens as this year’s cohort connects with the Media Lab.” “

The 2018 fellows are:

Jamira Burley, a youth and social justice advocate who has made it her mission to employ her personal experiences as the driving force to improve the lives of others. Currently, she serves as the Head of Youth Engagement and Skills for the Global Business Coalition for Education.

Ben Draper, the executive director of the Macomber Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, a self-directed learning community for children ages 5 to 18. The Macomber Center has no curriculum, requirements, or evaluations; its students are free to play and explore independently and collaboratively, with support from knowledgeable, helpful adults.

Ifeoma Fafunwa, the founder and creative director of iOpenEye Ltd, a Nigerian production company driving social change through performance art. She co-wrote and directed the popular stage play “HEAR WORD! Naija Women Talk True” — a collection of monologues based on true-life stories of Nigerian women.

Liz George, an “ancient photon wrangler” who has spent her entire adult life building instruments to study the universe. Since 2017, she has worked as a detector engineer at the European Southern Observatory near Munich, Germany, developing optical and infrared detector systems for the Extremely Large Telescope.

Allegra Libonati, a freelance theater and opera director who has spent the past nine years as resident director of the American Repertory Theater. Her new immersive “Peter Pan” retelling, which is set to tour China later this year, combines acrobatics, circus, puppetry, dance, martial arts and physical theatre.

Giorgia Lupi, the co-founder and creative director of Accurat, a data-driven design firm with offices in Milan and New York. In her practice, she challenges the impersonality that data communicates, designing engaging visual narratives that re-connect numbers to what they stand for: stories, people, ideas.

Margarita Mora, who runs the Conservation Stewards Program at Conservation International, which pioneered the conservation agreements model.Margarita has dedicated the past 15 years to making conservation a viable alternative for communities, working with 19 countries around the globe.

Amanda Nguyen, the CEO and founder of Rise. After surviving a sexual assault, she helped write the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, which passed unanimously in the House and Senate, and was signed into law in 2016. She has also served at NASA, and was President Obama’s Deputy White House Liaison to the U.S. Department of State.

Julia Reda, a politician and an advocate for access to knowledge and culture through copyright reform. In 2014, she was elected to the European Parliament for the German Pirate Party, representing a young worldwide movement of people who believe in using technology for the empowerment of all.

Harper Reed, a hacker/engineer who builds paradigm-shifting tech and leads others to do the same. Harper loves using the vastness of the Internet to bring people together, whether as chief technology officer of Obama for America and Threadless.com, or as CEO of his company Modest, Inc.

Just drop it: Baker House Piano Drop

MIT students are known for asking big questions that forever change the world. Other times, the question they ask is: “Why don’t we drop a piano off the roof?”

The Baker House Piano Drop is one of MIT’s longest-running rituals, and this year — 46 years after the initial drop — it’s still going strong.

The first piano drop took place in 1972 and was masterminded by Charlie Bruno ’74. According to a post made to Baker House – The Historical Collection by Mark Fischler ’74, a participant in the maiden piano drop, the idea was born from a house meeting debate over what to do with a broken piano that had been sitting around Baker House. Someone suggested they push it out of a window, but this idea was shot down: Student handbook guidelines prohibited throwing objects out of dorm windows. But Bruno found that the handbook said nothing about throwing things off of dorm roofs. Handbooks were consulted, and the students discovered that Bruno was right. A motion was passed, and after some planning and prep work, the piano was dropped.

Nearly half a century later, Bruno’s legacy lives on, not only in the tradition he started, but in a new unit of measurement. A “Bruno” measures the volume of the dent left after a piano is dropped six stories. Fischler claims that after the drop, the Baker Hall snack bar offered a special on 1.0 Bruno milkshakes (about a liter).

The Baker House Piano Drop has since been moved to appropriately coincide with Drop Day, the last day to drop classes for the spring semester. In the months leading up to the event, student organizers work together on a safety plan with guidance from the Baker House manager, the Division of Student Life’s environment, health and safety manager, and representatives from MIT Facilities and MIT Grounds.

On Drop Day, Baker House residents whose dorm rooms overlook the drop are informed to keep all windows and blinds shut, and a perimeter is set-up for spectators. That afternoon as drop time nears, students, MIT Police, Cambridge Police, and other community members gather around a grassy clearing by Memorial Drive to watch as the piano falls. The piano is decorated by the Baker House residents and is often filled with candy or confetti, to add to the celebratory nature of the drop. Once it hits the ground, students rush in from the sidelines to grab a few coveted pieces of the demolished instrument.

While pianos are certainly harmed in the making of this event, all dropped pianos are nonworking, completely beyond repair, and donated to the residence hall instead of being sent to a junkyard.

This year, the Piano Drop was accompanied by a local food fair, and a giant sheet cake, courtesy of Lamarca Bakery, commemorated the event. Local eateries that provided complimentary samples included Top Shelf Cookies, This Haiti, Pierce Brothers Coffee, and High Lawn Farm.

Piano Drop organizers also made T-shirts, cleverly parodying the Nike slogan “Just Do It” with “Just Drop It.” In recent years, these shirts have been sold for a good cause, and this year was no different: All proceeds from the T-shirt sales were donated to a charity selected by Baker House residents.

Making driverless cars change lanes more like human drivers do

In the field of self-driving cars, algorithms for controlling lane changes are an important topic of study. But most existing lane-change algorithms have one of two drawbacks: Either they rely on detailed statistical models of the driving environment, which are difficult to assemble and too complex to analyze on the fly; or they’re so simple that they can lead to impractically conservative decisions, such as never changing lanes at all.

At the International Conference on Robotics and Automation tomorrow, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) will present a new lane-change algorithm that splits the difference. It allows for more aggressive lane changes than the simple models do but relies only on immediate information about other vehicles’ directions and velocities to make decisions.

“The motivation is, ‘What can we do with as little information as possible?’” says Alyssa Pierson, a postdoc at CSAIL and first author on the new paper. “How can we have an autonomous vehicle behave as a human driver might behave? What is the minimum amount of information the car needs to elicit that human-like behavior?”

Pierson is joined on the paper by Daniela Rus, the Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Sertac Karaman, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics; and Wilko Schwarting, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science.

“The optimization solution will ensure navigation with lane changes that can model an entire range of driving styles, from conservative to aggressive, with safety guarantees,” says Rus, who is the director of CSAIL.

One standard way for autonomous vehicles to avoid collisions is to calculate buffer zones around the other vehicles in the environment. The buffer zones describe not only the vehicles’ current positions but their likely future positions within some time frame. Planning lane changes then becomes a matter of simply staying out of other vehicles’ buffer zones.

For any given method of computing buffer zones, algorithm designers must prove that it guarantees collision avoidance, within the context of the mathematical model used to describe traffic patterns. That proof can be complex, so the optimal buffer zones are usually computed in advance. During operation, the autonomous vehicle then calls up the precomputed buffer zones that correspond to its situation.

The problem is that if traffic is fast enough and dense enough, precomputed buffer zones may be too restrictive. An autonomous vehicle will fail to change lanes at all, whereas a human driver would cheerfully zip around the roadway.

With the MIT researchers’ system, if the default buffer zones are leading to performance that’s far worse than a human driver’s, the system will compute new buffer zones on the fly — complete with proof of collision avoidance.

That approach depends on a mathematically efficient method of describing buffer zones, so that the collision-avoidance proof can be executed quickly. And that’s what the MIT researchers developed.

They begin with a so-called Gaussian distribution — the familiar bell-curve probability distribution. That distribution represents the current position of the car, factoring in both its length and the uncertainty of its location estimation.

Then, based on estimates of the car’s direction and velocity, the researchers’ system constructs a so-called logistic function. Multiplying the logistic function by the Gaussian distribution skews the distribution in the direction of the car’s movement, with higher speeds increasing the skew.

The skewed distribution defines the vehicle’s new buffer zone. But its mathematical description is so simple — using only a few equation variables — that the system can evaluate it on the fly.

The researchers tested their algorithm in a simulation including up to 16 autonomous cars driving in an environment with several hundred other vehicles.

“The autonomous vehicles were not in direct communication but ran the proposed algorithm in parallel without conflict or collisions,” explains Pierson. “Each car used a different risk threshold that produced a different driving style, allowing us to create conservative and aggressive drivers. Using the static, precomputed buffer zones would only allow for conservative driving, whereas our dynamic algorithm allows for a broader range of driving styles.”

This project was supported, in part, by the Toyota Research Institute and the Office of Naval Research.

Removing health care barriers and boundaries

Two years ago, MIT research scientist Amar Gupta and his wife Poonam were on a trip to Los Angeles when she fell and broke both wrists. After being whisked by ambulance to a private medical center where she underwent a series of tests, staff members informed Poonam that they couldn’t treat her further because she was not a member of the hospital’s health care system. The staff spent hours trying to arrange for treatment elsewhere, but when they couldn’t find another local facility that would accept the referral, the couple was forced to take the hospital’s stunning advice: return to Boston with the fractures and consult a surgeon there.

The episode abruptly ended the couple’s trip, but it also, due to delays in obtaining the needed surgery for his wife, forced Gupta to give up a major professional opportunity in the Los Angeles area. In his view, the experience was bitter confirmation of the need for his work addressing dysfunction and inefficiency in the U.S. health care system — and it inspired him to redouble those efforts.

Gupta, who teaches MIT’s popular 6.884/HST.S58 (Telemedicine and Telehealth for Enhancing Global Health) course, has been instrumental in several major technological advances at MIT and at two other universities where he held professorships. He pioneered content-based image search techniques on microcomputers and developed character-recognition technology widely used today for electronic check-processing. He developed neural-network algorithms for reading mammograms that dramatically reduce the incidence of false negatives and false positives. He also developed a neural network-based system to reduce a national pharmacy chain’s drug-inventory level from $1 billion to half that amount while maintaining the same overall probability for finding a drug in stock when needed.

But Gupta, also previously the first senior research scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management, has spent much of his career dealing with what comes after invention: deployment. He notes that there’s no shortage of innovative technologies that languish unused. Many fail to serve a need. Others are impractical. Still others have simply been blocked by institutional, legal, or policy hurdles. Gupta has worked to both persuade organizations to adopt useful innovations and to change laws hindering adoption. “Amar is among the small fraction of researchers who propose innovative ideas and who can also address the institutional and policy challenges related to broad use of their ideas,” says Phillip Clay, former MIT chancellor and professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

The need for such expertise and experience is particularly acute in health care as the United States struggles to contain costs and reduce inefficiencies. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) alone spends $1 billion annually just to reimburse transportation costs incurred by veterans undergoing medical treatment, according to research published in Telemedicine and Journal and e-Health, the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association. In 2017, the VA announced plans to provide telemedicine services regardless of where patients and providers are located, disregarding state laws restricting interstate practice of telemedicine. Supporting such developments is Gupta’s challenge of the constitutionality of state laws and regulations that inhibit the practice of telemedicine, outlined in an article he co-authored, with Deth Sao, in Health-Matrix: The Journal of Law-Medicine, in 2012.

While doctors and state medical boards may prefer the tradition of state-level regulations, regulation of interstate commerce remains the domain of the U.S. federal government, Gupta notes. “I cannot think of another [computer science] faculty member who has written a similar controversial paper in a law journal and whose policy recommendations have led to such profound impact at the national level,” says Ram Sriram, chief of the Software and Systems Division of the Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland.

Sriram is particularly interested in Gupta’s work in the area of health care interoperability and his efforts to link information from electronic health record (EHR) systems, internet of things devices, pharmacy systems, and lab systems. Gupta is taking a consortium approach that was previously used to foster machine-based reading of amounts on bank checks, Sriram notes. Interoperability is crucial for the widespread adoption of telemedicine, and the adoption of banking technologies can serve as a model, Gupta explains. “We really need to have some rational way of thinking about telemedicine across state boundaries as well as across national boundaries,” he says. “If each of the states is going to have different laws, it becomes a much bigger barrier to employing it.”

A key component of Gupta’s work on telemedicine deployment is ensuring that students learn about the issues. In his popular telemedicine course, offered through the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), he emphasizes the practical over the theoretical by bringing in guest speakers from government, industry, and medical schools. The new course received very high evaluation scores from students, a rare achievement, Clay notes.

The course “is a fantastic and quite unique forum for exploring telemedicine in all its dimensions, and Gupta’s experience and accomplishments make him the perfect person to run it,” says Jeffrey Flier, a Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor and former dean of Harvard Medical School. Flier was a recent guest in the class.

The course resonates with many of the students personally. Sudhanshu Mishra ’17, from Bangalore, India, noted that his home country has a growing shortage of doctors given the rate of population growth and the capacity of Indian medical schools to produce doctors. “The only way the health care needs of the population can be met is if there’s an amplifying factor,” says Mishra, who is now enrolled in the EECS master’s in engineering program. “So that’s where telemedicine comes in.”

Mishra has seen it in action. His mother is a doctor, and she frequently receives text messages from remote patients with medical complaints, he says: “Often, she’s able to figure out what’s wrong and provide a course of action.”

In addition, Gupta’s concept of the 24-Hour Knowledge Factory involves using globally dispersed teams that can assure that work continues smoothly around the clock. The concept can also help address another long-standing problem: declines in the job performance of health care professionals working overnight shifts, compared with their counterparts on daytime shifts.

With that in mind, Emory University recently transferred several doctors and nurses to Australia as part of the effort to provide better overnight service to patients in Atlanta. The medical team in Australia works 12 hours during daytime there, then hands things off to the Atlanta staffers, who work during their own daylight hours, then, in turn, hand things back to their Australian counterparts. Gupta is now analyzing data from the project. “Right now, they’re only looking after American patients, and they’ve only been licensed to practice in the U.S.,” he says. “But I can see a day when all this happens on a global basis.”

In most countries today, patients no longer need to fly thousands of miles for treatment of injuries, suffering additional pain and discomfort due to delays in medical attention. Widespread adoption of telemedicine concepts will allow more patients to be treated at or near home. Gupta’s harrowing experience has simply strengthened his resolve to continue working toward a goal he sums up as “health care for all: better, quicker, and less expensive.”

Ashley Smart named associate director of the Knight Science Journalism Program

The Knight Science Journalism Program (KSJ) at MIT has announced that Ashley Smart, senior editor at Physics Today and former KSJ fellow, will be joining the team in August as associate director.

As associate director, Smart will play a central role in helping to manage KSJ — an elite mid-career fellowship program that brings prominent science journalists from around the world for 10 months of study and intellectual exploration at MIT, Harvard University, and other institutions in the Boston area. He will also serve as a senior editor at Undark, the program’s award-winning digital science magazine, and help oversee alumni outreach and journalism training projects.

“We are thrilled to have Ashley join the KSJ staff in such a pivotal role,” says KSJ program director and Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist Deborah Blum. “And we’re looking forward to working with him on expanding KSJ’s role as an increasingly valuable resource for science journalists around the world.”

Smart has worked as an editor at Physics Today, in Washington, for the past eight years, recently taking on oversight of its respected features section. He received a doctorate in chemical and biological engineering from Northwestern University in 2007, and followed that with a two-year postdoctoral position at Caltech. He was a member of the KSJ fellowship class of 2015-16. He is a co-chair of the diversity committee of the National Association of Science Writers and a member of the board of directors of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. He is a co-founder of the blog HBSciU.com

“KSJ is really a tremendous resource for the science journalism community and one with a long, rich tradition,” Smart says. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to help build it further. And I’m excited to be returning both to the program and to MIT.”

Smart will succeed retiring associate director David Corcoran, who joined the program following a distinguished career at The New York Times, including serving as editor of the paper’s Science Times section. Corcoran will continue to serve as books editor of Undark and to work with the magazine’s popular podcast.

Professor Emeritus Leon Trilling dies at 93

Leon Trilling, a professor emeritus in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, and co-founder of the Massachusetts Department of Education’s statewide METCO Program, passed away on April 20. He was 93.

Trilling was born in Bialystok, Poland, on July 15, 1924, the son of Oswald and Regina (Zakhejm) Trilling. The family fled to France in the 1930s, and in 1940, Trilling came to the United States and enrolled as an undergraduate at Caltech. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1946.

Trilling received a BS in mechanical engineering in 1944, a master of science in 1946, and a PhD in aeronautics in 1948, all from Caltech. He was also for a time a Caltech research fellow and instructor. After a year in Paris on a Fulbright Scholarship, he began his MIT career in 1951 as a research associate in the Department of Aeronautical Engineering, which eight years later was renamed the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAstro). Trilling spent 1963 studying gas dynamics at the University of Paris on a Guggenheim Fellowship.

At MIT, Trilling focused his research on the development of jet aircraft; the history of engineering, technology, and science; and the role of the science and mathematics curricula in middle schools. In 1978, in addition to his position in AeroAstro, he joined the faculty of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society, based in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, where his teaching centered on the history of engineering, technology, and science — in particular, the relationship between technology and the military.

Trilling’s community involvement began in 1965. He and his family had settled in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he served as president of the Brookline School Committee. He was well aware of the lack of diversity in the classroom. He believed that equal economic and cultural opportunity begins with equal educational opportunity, and he helped to design a program that would expand public school students’ educational opportunities, increase diversity, and reduce racial isolation by allowing individuals to attend schools in communities other than their own.

Concerned Brookline residents including Governor Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty worked closely with Trilling to transform his idea into reality. “This was a time when people of color could not live in the town of Brookline,” Dukakis recalls. “Leon was deeply involved. He was active at a time when some of these ridiculous prejudices and biases were beginning to crumble. He had a very strong set of values, and we greatly admired what he did.”

In 1966, Trilling’s vision of educational equality became METCO. The program has expanded beyond Brookline, and today, as administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, is the second-oldest voluntary program in the country dedicated to increasing diversity in schools.

Trilling’s leadership helped bridge cultural and racial differences and increase diversity on the MIT campus as well. He founded MIT’s Integrated Studies Program; played pivotal roles in the Office of Minority Education, the MIT Second Summer Program, and the Course XVI Outreach Committee; served as academic advisor to the MITES program; and co-directed the New Liberal Arts program. He was a senior staff member of The Institute for Learning and Teaching and was passionate about introducing minority students to science and engineering.

Professor Emeritus Louis Bucciarelli ’66, was a student of Trilling’s in the early 1960s while studying for his PhD in aeronautics and astronautics, and later, he became Trilling’s colleague in the department. “Throughout my years on the faculties of the School of Engineering and the program in STS, Leon was a natural ally in working to broaden undergraduate education,” says Bucciarelli. “He was always available to hear me out, to read and critique my proposals and essays. He was a mentor who showed how, with clear thinking, persistence and drive, it was possible to bridge the cultures of engineering and the humanities at MIT.”

In 1972, Trilling invited Wesley Harris, now the C. S. Draper Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, to join the MIT faculty. “He served as my mentor, my guide, and my counselor,” says Harris. “He provided a philosophical basis that allowed me as an African American to flourish in a sharply racist environment. He had a sense of humanity that he exercised in such a way that everything he touched became better.”

In a 2002 interview with Clarence G. Willis, founder of MIT’s Black History Project, Trilling explained, “The essence is to create an atmosphere which is encouraging to young people of a minority background who would consider the possibility of careers in the field, to keep them interested, to keep them confident that they can do the job, and to show them that there are role models for them at MIT to be sure, and elsewhere, also.”

Merritt Roe Smith, the Cutten Professor of the History of Technology in the STS program, remembers Trilling as one of the first professors he met when he came to MIT in 1978. “I remember him as a true gentleman scholar, whose European background and education made him a special type of intellectual who deeply appreciated the humanistic and social science dimensions of engineering,” he says.

“We ended up teaching a course together on the role of the military as a catalyst of technological change. It was in that class that I came to appreciate his technical expertise and how he deftly combined it with a wide-ranging knowledge of the history of science and technology. He was a genuinely good person who cared a lot about students of all ages. I will miss him. His was a special presence among us.”

After his retirement in 1994, Trilling continued teaching at MIT for another 23 years. As recently as 2016, Trilling took public transportation to Kendall Square in Cambridge each day and climbed the steep stairway to the MIT campus. In a video produced that year by Jonathan Sachs for Boston’s Commission on Affairs of the Elderly, Trilling revealed his secret to longevity. “Keep busy,” he said. “Get yourself emotionally involved, and feel that you’re doing something useful.”

Trilling explained the motivation for his work in justice and civil rights in his interview with Willis. “It comes from having come as a Polish Jew to the United States in 1940 and having been welcomed for what I was, given every opportunity and being … profoundly inspired by this hospitality,” he said. “In fact, this is what the United States means to me most, that it is an open society which believes in and tries to promote equality of opportunity.”

In 1996, Trilling received MIT’s Martin Luther King Leadership Award in recognition of his “deep and enduring commitment to improving the quality of education for people of color.”

Harris describes Trilling as “a true renaissance man, a learned scholar, a highly cultured individual, and extremely well read.” Generations of students will remember him for his insights and inspiration, his soft-spoken manner, and his signature red neckties.

Trilling was preceded in death by his wife, Edna. He is survived by two sons, Roger and Alex, and one daughter-in-law, Marlene.

The Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics will sponsor a memorial service for Trilling on Thursday, May 31 at 4 p.m. in the MIT Chapel. For more information and to rsvp, visit bit.ly/trilling-memorial.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Trilling’s name may be made to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Workshop explores intertwined future of food production, water, and climate

There is little doubt that the Earth’s rapidly changing climate will have a significant impact on agriculture around the world. Yields are likely to increase in some places and decrease in others, and regions may shift to entirely different crops and practices. But many important aspects of just how and where those impacts will occur remain unknown.

While all global climate models show an overall increase in surface temperatures over the coming decades, when it comes down to regional effects on temperature and rainfall there are areas of significant uncertainty. At the same time, it’s clear that changes in agricultural practices and in the tastes, needs, and demands of the planet’s growing population can, in turn, have potentially dramatic effects on the climate itself. Important details of those potential impacts also require much further study.

To clarify some of what is known about these complex interactions, and what areas have a pressing need for further research, a two-day MIT workshop this week brought together a group of specialists from around the world to explore the interactions of food, water, and agriculture in a changing climate.

There were some clear messages that, while perhaps not widely known, are uncontroversial in the research community: Specific practices by individuals, including both farmers and consumers, can make a big difference, whether it’s deciding what kind of fertilizers to use on a crop, which seeds to plant, how often to till the soil, or what kinds of animal and plant products to include in one’s diet. All of these choices could greatly decrease — or increase — the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Nearly a quarter of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, said John Reilly, co-director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. So changes in that sector can have a big impact.

The workshop, organized by the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS) at MIT, was titled, “Climate change, agriculture, water, and food security: What we know and don’t know.” Reilly, speaking at the workshop’s opening session, said “there’s a lot of work still to do” in untangling the complex web of interactions in this area. “We should be cautious in thinking about what we know. It’s still a young field.”

“A lot of conventional wisdom is wrong,” said David Lobell, deputy director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University. For example, he said that studies of climate change and agriculture often focus on projected rainfall changes, but actually it is the temperature increase itself that has the greatest effect on crops. And while improvements in seeds and cultivation methods are continuing to increase yields, that progress has slowed down.

What’s more, while farmers and economic analysts tend to focus on increases in crop yield, there has been less attention to the fact that as yields increase, the nutritional value of the crop can decrease significantly in protein, vitamins, and micronutrients.

While climate influences crops, the growing methods can also affect the climate. For example, irrigation of crops ends up putting more moisture in the air, which can cause those areas to warm up less than they would otherwise, Lobell said.

What people choose to eat can also have a big impact. Peter Smith, professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland, said that while most efforts to curb global warming focus on the supply side, managing the demand side “is one of the big dials that we can control” to affect climate outcomes.

In the area of food and agriculture, “some of the demand-side measures have the potential for impacts that exceed all the supply-side measures put together,” Smith said. For example, reducing the roughly one-third of all food that gets wasted globally — whether thrown away or spoiled — could significantly reduce the needs for land, labor, water, and energy to produce that food.

Smith also said that changing people’s dietary choices even a bit could put a big dent in greenhouse gas emissions — and potentially make people healthier at the same time. Shifting to an all-vegan diet, for example, could reduce overall emissions from agriculture by two-thirds, he said.

But much less drastic measures could also make a difference, he said: “It doesn’t require binary choices.” Just eliminating or reducing consumption of red meat, the most greenhouse-gas intensive food, could reduce emissions by almost a third, according to Smth. “A decrease in meat consumption could have an absolutely enormous impact,” he said — and be much better for people’s health. “Diets that give us substantial health benefits also give us a healthier environment, and are more sustainable,” he said.

Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research, told the workshop that “I can’t underscore enough how important the work you’re doing here is. … These are the sorts of things that MIT likes to do — to solve problems of society that require a deep knowledge of science.”

3Q: Hazel Sive on MIT-Africa

In 2017, MIT released a report entitled “A Global Strategy for MIT,” which offered a framework for the Institute’s ever-growing international activities in education, research, and innovation. The report, written by Richard Lester, associate provost for MIT overseeing international activities, offered recommendations organized around three broad themes: bringing MIT to the world, bringing the world to MIT, and strengthening governance and operations. 

Specifically, Lester identified China, Latin America, and Africa as global priorities and regions where the Institute should expand engagement.  

Reflecting that increased focus, the MIT-Africa initiative, led by Faculty Director Hazel Sive, a professor in the Department of Biology and member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, has launched a new website, africa.mit.edu, to further formalize MIT’s commitment to expanding its already robust presence in Africa. Sive spoke with MIT News about the initiative’s future and Africa’s position as a global priority for MIT.

Q: Can you start by explaining what the MIT-Africa initiative is?

A: MIT-Africa began in 2014 as a mechanism to promote and communicate connections between MIT students, faculty, and staff, and African counterparts in the spheres of research, education, and innovation.

Together with the enthusiastic participation of many faculty, senior staff, and students, I originated the MIT-Africa initiative because a number of us who are either from Africa (I am from South Africa) or interested in the continent were doing important work together with African colleagues. We thought that the strong connections MIT was making in Africa should be understood more broadly, and that tremendous synergies would develop from sharing our work and promoting joint projects.

The initiative provided the first public face of MIT engagement with Africa, comprising a portal to disseminate information, and a means to invite potential collaborators to connect with MIT. We developed community through the MIT-Africa Interest Group; through supporting student groups such as the African Students Association and through a growing network of MIT students who have interned or worked in Africa.   

MIT-Africa both consolidates Africa-relevant opportunities and directly promotes new programs. Multiple MIT initiatives and units include an Africa focus: the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI), D-Lab, the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab (J-WAFS), the Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (J-WEL), the Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI), MITx, the Legatum Center, and others.

The tagline for MIT-Africa is “Collaborating for impact,” and through the pillars of research, education, and innovation, our goal is to develop even more substantial collaborations between the MIT community and in Africa.

Q: What are your thoughts on Africa’s inclusion as a priority in MIT’s recent global strategy report?

A: We are very pleased that MIT has recognized the importance of Africa in the world and as a focus for the Institute.

At the outset of the MIT-Africa initiative, we brought together an Africa Advisory Committee for strategic discussions. Last year, at the request of Richard Lester, we put together a strategic plan for MIT engagement in Africa, and the findings in this document interfaced with his decision to define Africa as a global priority for MIT.

In our plan, we made it clear that MIT priorities overlap with issues of vital importance to Africa — in tackling critical challenges relating to the environment, climate change, energy, population growth, food, health, education, industry, and urbanization. We are confident that this emphasis will facilitate expanded connections between MIT and our African collaborators and supporters.

A useful outcome of formalizing MIT’s priority of Africa engagement is recognition of our already extensive engagement with Africa. MIT has projects in half the countries of Africa! There are hundreds of examples in progress, from water utilization in Mozambique to entrepreneurship in South Africa and education in Nigeria. We are well-represented, and this engagement is growing rapidly.

The new website is both a way to acknowledge the outstanding scholarship and work already progressing on the continent, as well as a call to expand collaborations in a high impact way.

Q: What’s next for MIT-Africa?  

A:  Our strategic discussions identified key priorities over the next five years. These include: higher visibility of MIT in Africa through “MIT-Africa” branding, coordination in purpose and scope of MIT engagement in Africa, increased student internship and travel opportunities, increased research funding, new collaborations in education, expanded innovation presence, revised Africa-relevant education at MIT, and increased numbers of African trainees at MIT.

We are well on our way to meeting these goals, aided by a team with broad experience. For example, in 2014, we sent two students to Africa through MISTI, and last year we sent 92, so this has been a hugely fast-growing program. The MISTI Global Seed Fund Program newly includes Africa, and units such as J-WAFS, J-WEL, and ESI offer research funding that can be focused on Africa. A key aspect encompasses our alumni who envision a significant and influential African and African diaspora alumni group.

The distinguished MIT-Africa Working Group advises on policy, strategy, and implementation. Many members are leaders of other MIT initiatives, facilitating development of intersecting and productive joint programs with MIT-Africa.

All of this takes effort and collaborators, and we look forward to an expanded set of connections. We extend an invitation to potential collaborators: Come and speak with us. The expertise at MIT is enormous, and our focus on Africa-relevant engagement will have outcomes that advance intellectual, societal, and economic trajectories.

Self-driving cars for country roads

Uber’s recent self-driving car fatality underscores the fact that the technology is still not ready for widespread adoption. The reality is that there aren’t many places where today’s self-driving cars can actually reliably drive. Companies like Google only test their fleets in major cities, where they’ve spent countless hours meticulously labeling the exact 3-D positions of lanes, curbs, and stop signs.

“The cars use these maps to know where they are and what to do in the presence of new obstacles like pedestrians and other cars,” says Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “The need for dense 3-D maps limits the places where self-driving cars can operate.”

Indeed, if you live along the millions of miles of U.S. roads that are unpaved, unlit, or unreliably marked, you’re out of luck. Such streets are often much more complicated to map, and get a lot less traffic, so companies aren’t incentivized to develop 3-D maps for them anytime soon. From California’s Mojave Desert to Vermont’s White Mountains, there are huge swaths of America that self-driving cars simply aren’t ready for.

One way around this is to create systems advanced enough to navigate without these maps. In an important first step, Rus and colleagues at CSAIL have developed MapLite, a framework that allows self-driving cars to drive on roads they’ve never been on before without 3-D maps.

MapLite combines simple GPS data that you’d find on Google Maps with a series of sensors that observe the road conditions. In tandem, these two elements allowed the team to autonomously drive on multiple unpaved country roads in Devens, Massachusetts, and reliably detect the road more than 100 feet in advance. (As part of a collaboration with the Toyota Research Institute, researchers used a Toyota Prius that they outfitted with a range of LIDAR and IMU sensors.)

“The reason this kind of ‘map-less’ approach hasn’t really been done before is because it is generally much harder to reach the same accuracy and reliability as with detailed maps,” says CSAIL graduate student Teddy Ort, who was a lead author on a related paper about the system. “A system like this that can navigate just with on-board sensors shows the potential of self-driving cars being able to actually handle roads beyond the small number that tech companies have mapped.”

The paper, which will be presented in May at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Brisbane, Australia, was co-written by Ort, Rus, and PhD graduate Liam Paull, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Montreal.

For all the progress that has been made with self-driving cars, their navigation skills still pale in comparison to humans’. Consider how you yourself get around: If you’re trying to get to a specific location, you probably plug an address into your phone and then consult it occasionally along the way, like when you approach intersections or highway exits.

However, if you were to move through the world like most self-driving cars, you’d essentially be staring at your phone the whole time you’re walking. Existing systems still rely heavily on maps, only using sensors and vision algorithms to avoid dynamic objects like pedestrians and other cars.

In contrast, MapLite uses sensors for all aspects of navigation, relying on GPS data only to obtain a rough estimate of the car’s location. The system first sets both a final destination and what researchers call a “local navigation goal,” which has to be within view of the car. Its perception sensors then generate a path to get to that point, using LIDAR to estimate the location of the road’s edges. MapLite can do this without physical road markings by making basic assumptions about how the road will be relatively more flat than the surrounding areas.

“Our minimalist approach to mapping enables autonomous driving on country roads using local appearance and semantic features such as the presence of a parking spot or a side road,” says Rus.

The team developed a system of models that are “parameterized,” which means that they describe multiple situations that are somewhat similar. For example, one model might be broad enough to determine what to do at intersections, or what to do on a specific type of road.

MapLite differs from other map-less driving approaches that rely more on machine learning by training on data from one set of roads and then being tested on other ones.

“At the end of the day we want to be able to ask the car questions like ‘how many roads are merging at this intersection?’” says Ort. “By using modeling techniques, if the system doesn’t work or is involved in an accident, we can better understand why.”

MapLite still has some limitations. For example, it isn’t yet reliable enough for mountain roads, since it doesn’t account for dramatic changes in elevation. As a next step, the team hopes to expand the variety of roads that the vehicle can handle. Ultimately they aspire to have their system reach comparable levels of performance and reliability as mapped systems but with a much wider range.

“I imagine that the self-driving cars of the future will always make some use of 3-D maps in urban areas,” says Ort. “But when called upon to take a trip off the beaten path, these vehicles will need to be as good as humans at driving on unfamiliar roads they have never seen before. We hope our work is a step in that direction.”

This project was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation and the Toyota Research Initiative.

Addressing bias, inequality, and accessibility in breastfeeding

Over 175 engineers, advocates, health care experts, parents, and students gathered at the MIT Media Lab April 27–29. It was a weekend hackathon, like so many at MIT, but it contrasted starkly from a typical hackathon in many ways. For one thing, dozens of babies were in attendance — cuddled to chests in baby carriers, toddling around the hackers’ ankles, napping in arms, and nursing. For another, the babies weren’t a coincidence or a concession; you might say they were the guests of honor. The adults were gathered for an unusual purpose, and not just by hackathon standards: to make breast pumping not suck.

In the United States, only 22 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months. New parents face challenges including stigma, lack of access to education and resources related to breastfeeding and pumping, unfriendly employer policies, unforeseen costs, and racial bias in the health care system.

The first Make the Breast Pump Not Suck Hackathon, in 2014, focused on the technological and physical difficulties of pumping; the basic technology and structure of the standard breast pump hasn’t changed much since its creation in the 1850s. This year’s hackathon, a collaboration between the Media Lab’s Center for Civic Media and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College, set out to address the many complex challenges standing in the way of successful breastfeeding and pumping.

“The first time the Media Lab hosted a breast pump hackathon, we quickly learned the importance of building with, not building for,” says Ethan Zuckerman, head of the Center for Civic Media and a judge for one of this year’s hackathon prizes. Moreover, “as important as involving women who are breastfeeding is understanding parents who don’t feel able to breastfeed: people who lack community support, who have jobs that don’t provide time to pump. With the support of the Kellogg Foundation, we were able to work with amazing groups in Boston, Michigan, Mississippi, and New Mexico who helped us broaden our community.”

The team’s focus on equity and diversity resulted in a hackathon where some 70 percent of the participants were people of color; of the 29 teams, over two-thirds focused on issues of racial, economic, and social equity in the breastfeeding and pumping experience. Instead of the standard first, second, and third place hackathon prizes, the organizers arranged for 12 prizes that highlighted the diverse experiences and relationships of the participants and their projects.

The Center for Civic Media sponsored the Media for Change Award, to honor the team using participatory media to address systemic gaps in postpartum support. The winning team, led by Kimberly Seals Allers, created an app called Irth (birth, without the B for bias), drawing on her background as a journalist and a woman of color who experienced racial bias in the hospital where she gave birth — something shared by 21 percent of black mothers and 19 percent of Hispanic mothers hospitalized for childbirth, according to the most recent Listening to Mothers survey.

Allers says, “I am on a mission to equalize the experience of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum support in this country. I believe everyone deserves a fair experience in pregnancy, birth, and beyond, and the right to have the information and tools to achieve that.” To that end, Irth collects user experiences filtered by race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, income, and more. It also features a content community, providing users with information, tools, and resources based on exactly who they are and what they need. Irth, which has been in development for about seven months, is a project of Allers’ nonprofit, Narrative Nation. The team also included Matt Takane and Yvonne Takane and their baby, Clark; Emily S. Bottis; and Jenny Liu.

Recognizing that no amount of hackathon innovation can overcome many of the core legal and political issues faced by new parents, the organizers also set up a Make Family Leave Policy Not Suck Policy Summit to run concurrently with the hackathon. “Despite the evidence showing the public health benefits of paid leave, including for breastfeeding, in the U.S. it’s a luxury for the few,” says Binta Beard, a health and public policy consultant who helped create an agenda intended to support building relationships and solution-oriented strategies. “Only 14 percent of workers qualify for paid leave, and 25 percent of women return to work within 10 days of delivery.”

Like the hackathon, the summit emphasized the social and racial iniquities endemic to the new parent experience. “A focal point of the summit was elevating the expertise of black, brown, immigrant, and low-wage worker women, creating inventive advocacy strategies to advance paid leave policies throughout the country,” Beard explains.

Media Lab Director Joi Ito tied together the event’s themes in his remarks on Sunday. “Most of the problems we have today are complex and are caused by engineers and designers making products for other people, without understanding the real issues and without involving the people who are in the system in the design process,” he said. “We take a participatory design approach at the Media Lab, so that the people to whom the result matters most can not only participate in the design process, they can also be the designers.”

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.