National News

Quitting the Bakken: one oil worker walks away

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:38

In the past few years, workers from all over America have flocked to North Dakota for jobs in the booming oil industry. For a lot of people struggling through their own hard times, it’s been an opportunity for a second chance. And for some, it was their last resort. But since summer 2014, oil prices have dropped by half. Some 75,000 oil workers nationwide have lost their jobs, and more have had their hours cut.

Apryl Boyce is one of those workers. She's 42, tall, tough-looking and pretty, with long blond hair tucked beneath a crocheted beanie. She came to the Bakken last fall and has spent months driving a one-ton truck all over the oil field, at all hours of the day, as a hot shot, a driver who hauls equipment from one job site to another. Recently, things have slowed down a lot.

"It used to be you’d get called out at four in the morning and be doing runs until 10 at night," she said.

Now, she waits by the phone most of the day. There are 80 fewer drilling rigs here in North Dakota than there were six months ago. That means less to haul around.

At the office of Badlands Service Group, the small oil field company Apryl works for, owner Jim Levasseur said his work force is 40 percent smaller than it was a few weeks ago. He's been cutting people's hours — and then a lot of them have quit.

"They’re wanting 60 to 80 hours a week, and if they’re only going to get 40 hours a week, they’re going to go home," he said. "It may not be as much money, but at least they’re home every night and not sacrificing."

Given how dangerous the oil field is, Jim said, he doesn't blame them for leaving. "People get killed up here on a weekly basis. These are the worst conditions I’ve ever seen for working."

Safety is only part of why Apryl is leaving. Her unpleasant housing situation is another major contributor. A week ago, Jim combined employee housing to cut costs. He asked Apryl to move in with 11 young men in a tired old ranch house on what used to be the outskirts of Williston, which is now hemmed in by new apartment buildings.

"I try to wear bulky pajamas and heavy sweatshirts and try to be as unattractive as possible," she said. "Because I don’t want to provoke any unwanted comments."

Apryl looked for other places to live, but an average one bedroom here still runs over $2,000. Her ad on Craigslist seeking housing didn’t work, either: She received a bunch of offers of free rent in exchange for sexual favors.

"There weren't any legit, comfortable offers," she said.

But there's another reason, a deeper reason, why she decided to leave. Ten years ago, her mother died. At that time Apryl sold everything she owned (except a storage unit full of her mother's cookbooks) and began bouncing from job to job: oil field trucker in Colorado, cattle ranch cook in Wyoming. She was running, she said, from anything she used to do, anything that made her feel like herself — until she got to the Bakken.

"It took the absolute grungiest, dingiest, darkest part of life to make me realize you can stop running," she said.

The oil field slowdown has given her a chance to pause. To think about what brought her to the Bakken, and what no longer keeps her there.

"I lost myself in the oil fields," Apryl said. "I lost myself chasing money for all the wrong reasons, and I’m not going to let it happen again."

Two days later, Apryl left Williston for a mountain town in Colorado she had talked about a lot. She’s running again, but this time to a place that feels like home.

Quitting the Bakken: one oil worker walks away

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:38

In the past few years, workers from all over America have flocked to North Dakota for jobs in the booming oil industry. For a lot of people struggling through their own hard times, it’s been an opportunity for a second chance. And for some, it was their last resort. But since summer 2014, oil prices have dropped by half. Some 75,000 oil workers nationwide have lost their jobs, and more have had their hours cut.

Apryl Boyce is one of those workers. She's 42, tall, tough-looking and pretty, with long blond hair tucked beneath a crocheted beanie. She came to the Bakken last fall and has spent months driving a one-ton truck all over the oilfield, at all hours of the day, as a hot shot, a driver who hauls equipment from one job site to another. Recently, things have slowed down a lot.

"It used to be you’d get called out at four in the morning and be doing runs until 10 at night," she said.

Now, she waits by the phone most of the day. There are 80 fewer drilling rigs here in North Dakota than there were six months ago. That means less to haul around.

At the office of Badlands Service Group, the small oil field company Apryl works for, owner Jim Levasseur said his work force is 40 percent smaller than it was a few weeks ago. He's been cutting people's hours — and then a lot of them have quit.

"They’re wanting 60 to 80 hours a week, and if they’re only going to get 40 hours a week, they’re going to go home," he said. "It may not be as much money, but at least they’re home every night and not sacrificing."

Given how dangerous the oilfield is, Jim said, he doesn't blame them for leaving. "People get killed up here on a weekly basis. These are the worst conditions I’ve ever seen for working."

Safety is only part of why Apryl is leaving. Her unpleasant housing situation is another major contributor. A week ago, Jim combined employee housing to cut costs. He asked Apryl to move in with 11 young men in a tired old ranch house on what used to be the outskirts of Williston, which is now hemmed in by new apartment buildings.

"I try to wear bulky pajamas and heavy sweatshirts and try to be as unattractive as possible," she said. "Because I don’t want to provoke any unwanted comments."

Apryl looked for other places to live, but an average one bedroom here still runs over $2,000. Her ad on Craigslist seeking housing didn’t work, either: She received a bunch of offers of free rent in exchange for sexual favors.

"There weren't any legit, comfortable offers," she said.

But there's another reason, a deeper reason, why she decided to leave. Ten years ago, her mother died. At that time Apryl sold everything she owned (except a storage unit full of her mother's cookbooks) and began bouncing from job to job: oilfield trucker in Colorado, cattle ranch cook in Wyoming. She was running, she said, from anything she used to do, anything that made her feel like herself — until she got to the Bakken.

"It took the absolute grungiest, dingiest, darkest part of life to make me realize you can stop running," she said.

The oilfield slowdown has given her a chance to pause. To think about what brought her to the Bakken, and what no longer keeps her there.

"I lost myself in the oilfields," Apryl said. "I lost myself chasing money for all the wrong reasons, and I’m not going to let it happen again."

Two days later, Apryl left Williston for a mountain town in Colorado she had talked about a lot. She’s running again, but this time to a place that feels like home.

Why RadioShack's bankruptcy ended in an auction

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:36

A bankruptcy auction began for RadioShack Monday. One bidder is Standard General, a hedge fund that is also a major RadioShack shareholder and creditor. It wants to keep approximately half RadioShack's stores open through a deal with Sprint. But other bidders are expected to be liquidators, looking to simply sell off all RadioShack's assets. 

The bankruptcy auction is a different approach than the restructuring and relaunching that characterized, for example, American Airlines' bankruptcy. But Peter Gilhuly, co-chair of the insolvency practice at Latham and Watkins, says it's actually more common, especially for retailers. 

"Auctions are wonderful mechanisms for determining a price and allocating a resource," says Bob Hansen, professor of business administration at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

But bankruptcy auctions legally can optimize only that price, looking for the "highest and best offer" to pay back creditors — even though the different plans will have vastly different outcomes for the business. Standard General says its plan will save 9,000 jobs.

"That's what makes this news," says Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities. "We just don't know. And people's jobs are in the balance."

Big changes on the way to the NFL

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:30

Forget basketball and the NCAA tournament for a minute here. Let's talk football.

The NFL is having its annual owners meeting this week in Phoenix, out of which have come two things of note:

One: the NFL's gonna suspend its longstanding and much-hated blackout rule for this coming season. That's the rule that had kept home games off television in local markets unless they're sold out 72 hours before kickoff.

And two: the league will broadcast the October 25 Jacksonville vs. Buffalo game online via Facebook or YouTube.

When you consider that the NFL signed $27 billion worth of television contracts just a couple of years ago, it's an interesting first step.

Singapore Mourns Founding Leader Lee Kuan Yew

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 08:22

The city state began seven days of national mourning after Lee's death today at age 91. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was "grieved beyond words" at Lee's death.

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An Object Of Desire: Hope And Yearning For The Internet In Cuba

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 07:57

Without a doubt, the Internet in Cuba is tough. The politics are thorny; getting it is difficult. But there are signs that change is on the horizon.

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Yemen Descends Into Chaos As Foreign Minister Seeks Help From Neighbors

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 07:18

Britain reportedly has withdrawn its remaining special forces, days after a similar U.S. move, in response to the worsening security that the U.N. envoy for Yemen described as the "edge of civil war."

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Ted Cruz Makes It Official

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 07:05

The Texas senator is looking for a boost, as he trails other GOP presidential hopefuls. So he took the bold move of becoming the first to officially declare his candidacy.

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Is Ted Cruz Allowed To Run Since He Was Born In Canada?

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 07:03

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz became the first major candidate to declare for president, but some question whether he's eligible since he was born in Canada. Legal scholars, though, believe he can.

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Paris Bans Some Cars For A Day To Battle Smog

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 05:38

According to one company that measures air quality, the French capital last week briefly dethroned New Delhi and Beijing as the world's most polluted city.

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How a poison pill works

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 05:33

For months, the biggest mall operator in the U.S., Simon Property Group (SPG), has been trying to buy the third largest, Macerich.

SPG has tried everything: SPG asked the board of directors from Macerich nicely, it has thrown money at shareholders, and now it's waging a nasty campaign in the press against the company's directors.

It's a classic example of a hostile takeover, and as SPG has gotten more and more hostile, Macerich has responded with some hostility of its own: a "poison pill."

A poison pill is essentially a deterrent designed to make a buyout very unpleasant for the acquiring company. Poison pills come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have a variety of effects.

Poison pills come in two basic forms: They can either make an acquisition very hard to swallow, or they can have awful side-effects.

The Macerich poison pill falls into the first camp. If SPG attempts to buy up a huge chunk of Macerich — specifically 10 percent or more of the company — current shareholders will be able to buy one preferred share for every share of Macerich that they already hold. This will dilute the value of SPG's 10 percent stake, and also make it doubly expensive to buy Macerich.

Pretty hard to swallow, right?

There is one antidote to this poison, though, and that's money — and SPG has buckets of money. The company may decide it wants Macerich so badly it is prepared to spend the money and swallow the poison — with Macerich right along with it. 

How a poison pill works

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 05:33

For months, the biggest mall operator in the U.S., Simon Property Group (SPG), has been trying to buy the third largest, Macerich.

SPG has tried everything: SPG asked the board of directors from Macerich nicely, it has thrown money at shareholders, and now it's waging a nasty campaign in the press against the company's directors.

As SPG has gotten more and more hostile, Macerich has responded with some hostility of its own: a "poison pill."

A poison pill is essentially a deterrent designed to make a buyout very unpleasant for the acquiring company. Poison pills come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and have a variety of effects.

Poison pills come in two basic forms: They can either make an acquisition very hard to swallow, or they can have awful side-effects.

The Macerich poison pill falls into the first camp. If SPG attempts to buy up a huge chunk of Macerich — specifically 10 percent or more of the company — current shareholders will be able to buy one preferred share for every share of Macerich that they already hold. This will dilute the value of SPG's 10 percent stake, and also make it doubly expensive to buy Macerich.

Pretty hard to swallow, right?

There is one antidote to this poison, though, and that's money — and SPG has buckets of money. The company may decide it wants Macerich so badly it is prepared to spend the money and swallow the poison — with Macerich right along with it. 

Media Dissect Sen. Ted Cruz's Presidential Prospects

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 04:46

The Texas Republican's early focus will reportedly be fundraising and the caucuses. He faces what's likely to be a crowded Republican field for the 2016 presidential nomination.

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SpaceX Puts Its Images In The Public Domain

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 03:42

CEO Elon Musk's decision was prompted by a Twitter follower who asked him why SpaceX had merely placed its images on Flickr and elsewhere with a Creative Commons license.

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What You Need To Know About Ted Cruz

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 03:03

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz announced his presidential bid Monday on Twitter. If the early campaign trail is any indication of how 2016 will play out, he'll be exactly who he's always been.

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A Donation Site Where Schools Can Pass The Hat

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 03:03

DonorsChoose.org replaces classroom bake sales with online crowdfunding.

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PODCAST: Protecting student privacy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 03:00

The long-awaited student privacy bill from the Feds is expected to land Monday. Early indications are it will be better for the Ed tech industry than for student-data privacy advocates and parents. Plus, the National Association of Realtors will release existing home sales on Monday. That number is expected to be up by around 2.5 percent. Will that make up for the disappointing January number when existing home sells fell by almost 5 percent. And it can be very expensive to run for office. Turns out, winning that office can also come with some unexpected expenses. 

Police To Release Findings Of Probe Into Rape Claims Made In 'Rolling Stone'

NPR News - Mon, 2015-03-23 02:51

Also, the magazine will publish an outside review of its reporting that resulted in the flawed story about the University of Virginia student who said she was raped during a fraternity party in 2012.

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Proposed legislation would protect student data

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 02:01
A student privacy bill long in the works is scheduled to be introduced in Congress today, by U.S. Representatives Luke Messer and Jared Polis.

The legislation is expected to prohibit companies from selling students’ personal information to third parties, or from using data for non-educational purposes, like marketing.

Khaliah Barnes, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Student Privacy Project, says there are not enough current restrictions when it comes to student data.

"We're in, unfortunately, the wild west when it comes to student privacy," she says. "We're hopeful the upcoming legislation will correct the current wrongs."

The proposed bill would not prevent states from passing even tougher laws themselves, making some industry giants worried, though so far 125 companies including Google and Apple have signed the Student Privacy Pledge, vowing, among other things, not to sell student data.
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Student data privacy laws around the nation

In 2014, many states considered or passed new legislation protecting student data. You can see which states responded to which issues by clicking on the icons below. You can also click on each state for more details about its laws.

Cloud-computing restrictionsStates which have passed or considered legislation restricting cloud-computing services and vendors.

Limits marketing to studentsStates which have passed or considered legislation restricting the use of student data for marketing

Limits data sharingStates which have passed or considered legislation restricting how student data is shared.

Increases transparencyStates which have passed or considered legislation making the data-collection process more transparent.

Limits data collectionStates which have passed or considered legislation limiting the kind of information that schools and agencies can collect.

Reset view

Laws:

Bills:

  • States with new privacy laws
  • States with legislation introduced in 2014
  • States where legislation was defeated
  • States which rely solely on federal laws
  • New laws or legislation restricting cloud-computing services and vendors.
  • New laws or legislation restricting the use of student data for marketing
  • New laws or legislation restricting how student data is shared.
  • New laws or legislation making the data-collection process more transparent.
  • New laws or legislation limiting the kind of information that schools and agencies can collect.

Sources: Marketplace research and Data Quality Campaign data

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' + databills[i].State + '

'; do{ if(databills[i].billlaw == "law"){ if (firstlaw){ law.innerHTML = '

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'; firstlaw = false } law.innerHTML += '

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'; law.style.visibility = "visible"; }else if (databills[i].billlaw == ""){ if (firstbill){ bill.innerHTML = '

' + "Bills:" + '

' + "This state considered legislation at some point in its 2014 legislative session. The bill, or bills, were neither passed nor voted down. Many states are near the conclusion of their legislative year, but some of these bills could still be passed. Many states considered multiple bills. The types of issues that the legislation addressed are described by the icons accompanying each state on the map." + '

' + "To read the legislation in full, click on each bill‘s number." + '

'; firstbill = false } bill.innerHTML += '

' + databills[i].BillNumber + '

' + '' + '

' + databills[i].Status + '

'; bill.style.visibility = "visible"; }else if(databills[i].billlaw == "dead"){ if (firstbill){ bill.innerHTML = '

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' + "Legislation was considered in this state, but was voted down. To read the rejected legislation in full, click on each bill’s number." + '

'; firstbill = false } bill.innerHTML += '

' + databills[i].BillNumber + '

' + '' + '

' + databills[i].Status + '

'; bill.style.visibility = "visible"; }else{ law.innerHTML += '

' + "This state follows federal laws governing student data. The two main student data laws are the Federal Education Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Children‘s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA)." + '

' + "FERPA limits how, and with whom, a student‘s educational records are shared. It also gives parents the right to look at their child‘s records."+ '

' + "COPPA limits the data a company can collect online from a child under the age of 13, and would be the main source of restrictions for any company that receives student data." + '

' + "A bill was introduced in Congress in July to update FERPA with new restrictions on using student data for marketing, a mandate for more transparency on what data is being collected, and new requirements for data security." + '

' } i++ } while (databills[i].State == state) } } var buttonpushed; //create the map if(parseInt(window.innerWidth) < 786){ var zoom = 3 }else{ var zoom = 4 } var map = L.map('map').setView([39.8, -97], zoom); L.tileLayer('https://{s}.tiles.mapbox.com/v3/dabendschein.j88bdg63/{z}/{x}/{y}.png', { attribution: 'Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA, Imagery © Mapbox', maxZoom: 13 }).addTo(map); map.scrollWheelZoom.disable(); // control that shows state info on hover var info = L.control(); info.onAdd = function (map) { this._div = L.DomUtil.create('div', 'info upright'); var emptystate = " " var emptyicons = [] this.update(emptystate, emptyicons); return this._div; }; info.update = function (state, icons) { this._div.innerHTML = '' + state + '' + '
' + icons[0] + " " + icons[1] + " " + icons[2] + " " + icons[3] + " " + icons[4]; }; info.addTo(map); function filter(criterion) { buttonpushed = criterion if (criterion == 'cloud'){ stateData2 = clouddata }else if (criterion == 'collection'){ stateData2 = collectiondata }else if (criterion == 'sharing'){ stateData2 = sharedata }else if (criterion == 'marketing'){ stateData2 = marketingdata }else{ stateData2 = transparencydata } map.removeLayer(geojson) geojson = L.geoJson(stateData2, { style: restyle, onEachFeature: onEachFeature }).addTo(map); } function reset(){ map.removeLayer(geojson) geojson = L.geoJson(statesData, { style: style, onEachFeature: onEachFeature }).addTo(map); } //puts map geographical data in same order as map information data function syncData(dandata, statedata){ var newlist = [] for(i=0; i < dandata.length; i++){ var x = 0 while(statedata.features[x].properties.name != dandata[i].State){ x++ } newlist.push(statedata.features[x]) } return newlist; } // get colors from JSON data function getColor(d) { var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } return dandata[i].fill; } //new state colors for filter buttons function reColor(d) { var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if(buttonpushed == "cloud"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].cloud }else if(buttonpushed == "collection"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datacollection }else if(buttonpushed == "sharing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datasharing }else if(buttonpushed == "marketing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].marketing }else{ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].transparency } var fill = dandata[i].fill; if (fieldvalue == "x"){ return dandata[i].fill; }else{ return "#6B6B73"; } } function getLineColor(d){ var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if(buttonpushed == "cloud"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].cloud }else if(buttonpushed == "collection"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datacollection }else if(buttonpushed == "sharing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datasharing }else if(buttonpushed == "marketing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].marketing }else{ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].transparency } if(fieldvalue != "x"){ return "white"; }else{ return "yellow"; } } function setWeight(d){ var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if(buttonpushed == "cloud"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].cloud }else if(buttonpushed == "collection"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datacollection }else if(buttonpushed == "sharing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datasharing }else if(buttonpushed == "marketing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].marketing }else{ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].transparency } if(fieldvalue != "x"){ return 2; }else{ return 4; } } function setDash(d){ var i = 0; while (d != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if(buttonpushed == "cloud"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].cloud }else if(buttonpushed == "collection"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datacollection }else if(buttonpushed == "sharing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].datasharing }else if(buttonpushed == "marketing"){ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].marketing }else{ var fieldvalue = dandata[i].transparency } if(fieldvalue != "x"){ return '3'; }else{ return ''; } } function style(feature) { return { weight: 2, opacity: 1, color: 'white', dashArray: '3', fillOpacity: 0.6, fillColor: getColor(feature.properties.name) }; } function restyle(feature) { return { weight: setWeight(feature.properties.name), opacity: 1, color: getLineColor(feature.properties.name), dashArray: setDash(feature.properties.name), fillOpacity: 0.9, fillColor: reColor(feature.properties.name), }; } function highlightFeature(e) { icons = [] var layer = e.target; var panel = document.getElementsByClassName("upright"); if (layer.feature.properties.name != null){ panel[0].style.visibility = "visible"; layer.setStyle({ weight: 5, color: 'yellow', dashArray: '', fillOpacity: 0.7 }); displayIcons(e) } function displayIcons(e){ var i = 0; while (layer.feature.properties.name != dandata[i].State){ i++ } if (!L.Browser.ie && !L.Browser.opera) { layer.bringToFront(); } if(dandata[i].cloud == "x"){ icons.push(cloudicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } if(dandata[i].marketing == "x"){ icons.push(marketingicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } if(dandata[i].datasharing == "x"){ icons.push(sharingicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } if(dandata[i].transparency == "x"){ icons.push(transparencyicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } if(dandata[i].datacollection == "x"){ icons.push(collectionicon) }else{ icons.push(" ") } info.update(dandata[i].State,icons ); } } function displayInfo(e) { document.getElementById("billinfo").style.display="block"; var layer = e.target; var i = 0; while (layer.feature.properties.name != dandata[i].State){ i++ } billPanel(dandata[i].State); displayIcons(e) } var geojson; function resetHighlight(e) { geojson.resetStyle(e.target); var panel = document.getElementsByClassName("upright"); panel[0].style.visibility = "hidden"; info.update(); } function zoomToFeature(e) { map.fitBounds(e.target.getBounds()); } function onEachFeature(feature, layer) { layer.on({ mouseover: highlightFeature, mouseout: resetHighlight, click: displayInfo }); } geojson = L.geoJson(statesData, { style: style, onEachFeature: onEachFeature }).addTo(map); map.attributionControl.addAttribution('Population data © US Census Bureau'); var legend = L.control({position: 'bottomright'}); legend.onAdd = function (map) { var div = L.DomUtil.create('div', 'info legend'), labels = []; // labels.push(' ' + "Bill"); // labels.push(' ' + "Bill Defeated"); // labels.push(' ' + "State Law"); // labels.push(' ' + "Federal Law"); div.innerHTML = labels.join('
'); return div; }; legend.addTo(map); document.getElementById("billinfo").style.display="none"; function closeModal() { document.getElementById("billinfo").style.display="none"; // document.getElementById("state").style.visibility="hidden"; // document.getElementById("bill").style.visibility="hidden"; // document.getElementById("law").style.visibility="hidden"; // document.getElementById("statecontent").style.visibility="hidden"; }

What a school science project looks like in 2015

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-03-23 02:00

Students from across America will be demonstrating science projects at the White House’s fifth annual science fair on Monday. With technology transforming what’s possible in the classroom, President Barack Obama will be introduced to a rather impressive line-up, which includes research that seeks to identify cures for cancer and ebola, as well as an “urban” wheelchair with parts from a 3D-printer.

“A lot of the change has come through the use of technology, and really, through the apps that have been developed for tablets and cell phones,” says Norm Brennan, a science teacher at the Mirman school in Los Angeles. Brennan, who was the California State Science Fair Teacher of the Year in 2014, has been teaching for 20 years now.

“I had one group of boys who used an iPhone app for G-forces," he says. “They were testing the impact of helmets and concussions and putting jell forces to see how that would lessen the effect using an app on an iPhone.”

Then there was a student who used a 3D printer to print a prosthetic arm, which was robotically controlled by putting hooking it up to a glove. Another student developed an app that microbiologists can use to count the number of microbes in a given colony. "Instead of counting them by hand you can take an image through an ipad and it counts for you,” says Brennan. 

Funding is sometimes an issue, he admits, but since he teaches at a private school, parents sometimes help out. The school is also planning on applying for grants that fund science or STEM-based projects, Brennan adds.

Science fairs, he says, have certainly come a long way since he was a student. Back then, he was studying the impact of magnetic waves on a colony of ants on the move, so he placed magnets in an ant-infested area and waited to see what would happen.

“It had no effect on them,” he says. “They walked right by.”

 

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