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President Obama honors UVM robotics scientist at White House ceremony

first_imgFor his work to understand how to build better robots, Joshua Bongard, a researcher at the University of Vermont, received Friday the highest award given by the US government to young scientists.President Barack Obama announced Bongard as one of 94 winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers on Sept. 26.Bongard received the award today at a ceremony at the White House. Bongard is only the second researcher in UVM history to receive the PECASE award, which provides $500,000 in research funds over several years.At a ceremony Friday in the White House, President Barack Obama announced UVM robotics researcher and assistant professor Joshua Bongard as one of 94 winners of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest award given by the U.S. government to young scientists.  After the ceremony, Bongard displayed the award.  To his right is Dr. John P. Holdren, the President’s science and technology advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  To his left is Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, assistant director for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation.Inspired by evolutionBongard’s far-reaching work looks to nature for ideas. “The goal is to borrow ideas from neuroscience and evolution to help us build better and more intelligent robots,” he says.So far, scientists have had little success in building resilient machines that can continually perform behaviors that are fairly simple but require ongoing adaptation to changing conditions ‘ like paving a road or cleaning up a toxic dump. But Bongard is on a mission to make them.”The prevailing approach to create such machines is to copy physiological and neurological systems observed in animals, and build them into robots,” Bongard notes. “This raises the issue however of what, from among the infinitude of existing biological structures, should be copied.”Instead of guessing, Bongard has innovated systems in which computer programs copy the dynamics of biological evolution and replay them in a virtual space with numerous generations of synthetic creatures ‘ something like a highly sophisticated video game.The resulting algorithm yields ideas for robots that have optimized their neurological structures ‘ and their behaviors and body plans ‘ over many generations of being tested by virtual evolution, instead of human guesswork.With these ideas in hand, Bongard and his students can then build actual robots in their workshop that are adaptable and capable of responding to novel challenges.”My long-term goal is to give back to neuroscience and evolutionary biology, to give us a different tool to investigate: why does intelligence evolve?” Bongard says. “Under what conditions will intelligence evolve? Could we ever consider a machine to be intelligent, or is intelligence something limited to biological organisms?”Presidential visionRecognizing this kind of innovative work, the PECASE awards “embody the high priority the Obama Administration places on producing outstanding scientists and engineers to advance the Nation’s goals, tackle grand challenges, and contribute to the American economy,” the White House wrote in a press release.In 1996, the National Science and Technology Council was commissioned by President Clinton to create a program that would support and honor outstanding scientists and engineers early in their research careers ‘ from this council came the PECASE award.Each year, more than a dozen federal departments and agencies nominate scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments “show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the awarding agencies’ missions,” the White House press office wrote.”It is inspiring to see the innovative work being done by these scientists and engineers as they ramp up their careers ‘ careers that I know will be not only personally rewarding but also invaluable to the Nation,” President Obama said in the White House release. “That so many of them are also devoting time to mentoring and other forms of community service speaks volumes about their potential for leadership, not only as scientists but as model citizens.”An innovatorBongard, an assistant professor of computer science in UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, was one of 21 nominees presented by the National Science Foundation for the most recent round of awards.Bongard’s research has received national and international attention, and has been featured in Wired magazine, the Boston Globe, The Voice of America, Popular Science, and many other outlets. He also received a fellowship from Microsoft Research in 2007 for research related to self-healing robots ‘ one of five given nationwide. He was named by MIT as one of the world’s top innovators under 35.”This award allows me to continue with my basic scientific research, but it also allows me to create tools that draw many people into my research beyond my graduate students,” Josh Bongard says. “Through this award, we’re developing a web interface that will allow people to perform evolutionary robotics experiments without having a background in evolution or robotics.”UVM. 10.14.2011###last_img read more

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In comedy and in credit unions – delivery makes all the difference

first_imgI’m a big fan of podcasts – I listen to them, I make them, I study them, I even read books about them—and I learn a ton by listening to them. Podcast are a great content channel, and I’m glad more are being made each day. I hope your credit union sees the value in producing one for its members. But I can’t listen to podcasts while I work and there are many times when I don’t want content or information in audio format. If I’m searching for a quick answer, I just need an article I can scan. Other times I need to learn and see how to do something, so a quick video tutorial is the best way to deliver the information I seek.Why do my personal content digestion preferences matter? Because everyone has them, and if your credit union is putting out content, and spending time, resources and money on creating what you know will benefit your members, you’re only half-valuable unless you think about where they are physically and mentally when you deliver it to them.Even with a limited marketing / content development team and budget, the best way for your organization to effectively deliver valuable content is to have a diversity of delivery options. This isn’t to say every time you have a campaign to execute, you need a blog post, a podcast, a video, an engagement contest, a news release, a pitch to local media, and ten other methods for getting your content out. But you should have a menu of options you’re skilled at producing and pick the method that best matches the content and the strategic timing of delivery. Then think like your audience and imagine where they are in their lives and days when your content might float across their attentions.Let’s see a sample of what this looks like. On your content calendar this month (you have one, right?!) you are planning to deliver content related to:personal finance education seriesnew product launch/updatemembership drive and community eventshousing market / economic updatesYou might want to align your content, delivery channel and timing as such:Financial education: Podcast: Released on Fridays on website, shared via social throughout weekend.New product launch: News release, media pitch, newsletter/direct mailing to members: Released on Monday morning.Membership drive/event: Video of member testimonials, Infographic of community impact stats: Released 7-10 days prior to event, shared on social media in evenings.Housing market news: Interview with expert source, audio and video format: Shared via email to members with loans, around noon on Wednesday. There is an art and a science to matching content with delivery and timing, so closely measuring results, learning what combinations work best, repeating and re-examining often is vital for success with your specific audience.Here at Filene, we are going through a similar journey. At our core, we are a research organization and in that way, our research is our product. When a new research report is ready, we have so much love and passion for it that the first thing we want to do is blast it out in full 100-page PDF glory to everyone in the world. But we’re getting savvier about segmenting who in our audience would most appreciate that delivery method (the likes of Andrew Downin, for one!) versus when the research is better suited for delivery via a short-form executive summary, or presentation deck of main findings, or an infographic visually representing key results, or an interactive microsite with quizzes, or multimedia storytelling with audio clips, video interviews, and written descriptions. And the timing of when the report needs to be released will help drive those strategic delivery decisions and vise-versa.  At the end of a day’s worth of content consumption, I am full and exhausted, but better for the knowledge I’ve gained if the delivery channels met my needs. The founder of viral content website Upworthy, Peter Koechley, spoke recently at an event I attended about what it took to create content that engages 50 million people monthly. He reminded us that whatever we’re doing, we’re not just vying for attention or market share against others doing the same thing as us. The reality of the world we live in today is that no matter who we are if we have a message to tell, we’re all essentially ‘Kompeting with the Kardashians.’ May your message survive its journey and safely reach its destination. 19SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Holly Fearing Holly lives and breathes social media; if you can’t find her IRL, try reaching out on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, and you’ll likely get her right away. … Web: www.filene.org Detailslast_img read more

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IAPF offers tacit endorsement of compulsory saving, collective DC

first_imgThe Irish Association of Pension Funds (IAPF) has tacitly endorsed a mandatory pension system as the least complex and costly reform option if the current government wishes to boost participation rates.The industry body also suggested that a shift towards an auto-enrolment or a compulsory pension savings system could warrant the launch of collective defined contribution (CDC) funds, and said government should let the private sector operate any scheme unless it felt the need for a provider of last resort.In its response to the Universal Retirement Savings Group (URSG), which launched an informal consultation with stakeholder groups following its launch in February, the IAPF did not explicitly endorse a mandatory system and said it accepted the “political reality” that auto-enrolment may be easier to deliver.Despite this admission, the IAPF said complexities arising from an auto-enrolment approach would easily fall away if the government chose compulsion, suggesting there were “clear advantages” to a mandatory system. “Overall, it should be less complex and costly to administer, there is less need for compliance checking and establishing who should be included and when.”The IAPF’s words echoed those chosen by the OECD when it reviewed Ireland’s pension system in 2013.The think tank’s report backed compulsory saving and suggested auto-enrolment was a second-rate policy, with the former a “less costly and more effective” means of increasing coverage.In a letter to the URSG, IAPF chief executive Jerry Moriarty said the association had “some difficulty” in answering the consultation, as it did not set out a clear objective for the proposed Universal Retirement Savings Scheme (URSS).“We believe that if this had been done and the population of likely participants established it would be much easier to look at issues such as operation and investment,” Moriarty said.The response said the Irish government should play no role in operating the URSS outside of regulation, noting the importance of establishing a trusted system, and contrasting this with the government’s 0.6% pensions levy and the use of the National Pensions Reserve Fund to support struggling banks during the financial crisis.“That said, there may be a need for a provider of last resort that would be able to take on low contributions on an uncommercial basis,” the consultation said, in a likely reference to the UK’s launch of the National Employment Savings Trust.The consultation also suggested the reform could see the launch of CDC funds, as these could be more appropriate than individual accounts. “If a collective DC arrangement was established it could provide more equity across generations and therefore more certainty of achieving the desired goals.”The IAPF alos said any investment strategy would need to take an appropriate amount of risk to meet agreed objectives, in an absence of a pre-determined replacement ratio for the URSS.It also argued that there should only be limited investment choice, with a default fund a necessity.Asked about the timeline for its introduction, the IAPF said it preferred a “big bang” approach, allowing for the system to establish scale “sooner, rather than over generations”.The URSG has previously said that it would look to table its proposals by the end of the year, but minister for social protection Joan Burton has not given any indication of when the system would be in place, insisting there would be a “very gradual” rollout once economic factors allowed for the launch.last_img read more

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ESPN President Skipper resigns to deal with substance addiction

first_img(REUTERS) – Walt Disney Co’s John Skipper resigned yesterday as president of ESPN, the company’s most important network, due to a problem with addiction.“I have struggled for many years with a substance addiction,” Skipper, who was also Disney Media Networks co-chairman,” said in a statement. “I have decided that the most important thing I can do right now is to take care of my problem.”George Bodenheimer will be the sports network’s acting chairman for the next 90 days, ESPN said in a statement. He had been its president from 1998 to 2011 and executive chairman until May 2014.An ESPN spokeswoman declined to comment on who may be considered as Skipper’s successor.Skipper’s departure comes within a few days after Disney struck a deal to buy film, television and international businesses from Rupert Murdoch’s Twenty-First Century Fox Inc for $52.4 billion.Skipper, who became ESPN president in 2012, has led the network to a series of long-term distribution agreements with major rights holders, including the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.But ESPN has also struggled with subscriber losses and ratings declines. Last month, it said it would lay off about 150 employees.Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger, who extended his stay at the company through 2021 to oversee integration of Fox’s businesses, lauded Skipper’s candour and backed his decision.Disney shares were down 0.2 percent at $111.09 yesterday afternoon.last_img read more

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