Office of Science and Technology Policy Blog
- Posted byon September 20, 2013 at 2:34 PM EST
Dr. Lina Nilsson, Tekla Labs Cofounder. (Photo credit: Make Magazine)
What motivated you to start Tekla Labs?
After I finished my PhD, I traveled for a year across Asia and South America on a Bonderman Travel Fellowship, designed to allow recipients “to come to know the world in new ways.” It worked. While traveling, I visited different science labs. Some had very limited resources, which got me thinking about globally open access to physical tools and infrastructure. I see this as the new horizon for democratizing science, beyond open data and open knowledge movements (such as open access science journals).
Furthermore, as a scientist, I am deeply motivated by enabling hands-on science teaching. To this end, Tekla Labs is beginning to work on collaborative projects with U.S. colleges and schools.
- Posted byon September 18, 2013 at 4:47 PM EST
When students excel in math and science—when they see themselves as the builders, programmers, discoverers and inventors of our future—they help America compete for jobs and industries of the future. To make that happen, it’s important to inspire more kids to get excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Recognizing that building awareness at the local level is critical to this effort, US2020, an independent initiative unveiled during this year’s White House Science Fair in support of the Administration’s Tech Inclusion efforts, has launched a competition that challenges cities across the country to use their convening power to bring together schools, non-profits, and private-sector and community leaders to spark mentoring movements within local communities.
US2020 is a coalition of education nonprofits and U.S. technology companies that aims to make mentoring the new normal in the STEM professions, just as pro-bono work is common in the legal profession. Specifically, participating companies are committing to have 20 percent of their STEM employees engage in at least 20 hours a year of mentoring or teaching by the year 2020, with the long-term goal of mobilizing 1 million STEM mentors annually by the year 2020.
You can learn more here about the competition and the resources that US2020 aims to provide to participating cities.
By providing mentors who can serve as positive role models, describe what it’s really like to work in science and technology, and help connect youth to internships and jobs, US2020 is just one promising outcome of this Administration’s call for an “all hands on deck” effort to spark kids’ imaginations so they see themselves as the inventors of our future.
Learn more about White House initiatives in support of STEM education across the country, and get involved in building America’s future!
Katie Dowd is Senior Advisor at OMB and Kumar Garg is Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director at OSTP
- Posted byon September 18, 2013 at 2:35 PM EST
The RFP-EZ Marketplace is an online platform and built tools that make it easier for innovative small tech businesses to bid on government contracts, while also making it easier for federal agencies to identify the bids that offer the best value for taxpayers. RFP-EZ was launched by the U.S. Small Business Administration in January 2013 and was developed by the SBA and one of the inaugural Presidential Innovation Fellows teams.
Before RFP-EZ was launched, most such Requests for Proposals contained highly specialized language that only seasoned government contractors understood. By simplifying the language and streamlining the process, RFP-EZ has opened up the bidding process to hundreds of small businesses offering services at significantly lower prices. RFP-EZ has yielded very promising results and is already saving taxpayer dollars, with prospects for even more savings going forward.
Building on the early successes of the program, SBA recently announced that the new and improved RFP-EZ Marketplace is ready for business and another round of Federal procurement innovation is underway. The RFP-EZ Marketplace has been enhanced to include simplified bidding, simplified listings, and an expanded selection of opportunities such as web design, mobile application development, content management, and video production and transcription. Check out existing opportunities at https://rfpez.sba.gov/.
Leveraging feedback we received from entrepreneurs and Federal contracting officers, the current class of Presidential Innovation Fellows will continue work to improve the platform, scale its initial results across the Federal Government, and add innovative new capabilities.
If you’re interested in helping to move the ball forward on PIF projects, please get involved! You can learn about current and future rounds of the PIF program at whitehouse.gov/innovationfellows, contribute code on GitHub, or visit Data.gov to help turn openly available government data into new products, services, and jobs.
John Paul Farmer is a Senior Advisor in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
- Posted byon September 16, 2013 at 1:47 PM ESTBroadband access is essential to the Nation’s global competitiveness. It drives job creation, promotes innovation, expands markets for American businesses, and supports improved education, health care, and public safety. Today, however, too many areas still lack adequate access to this crucial resource.One way the Administration is working to bolster broadband deployment is by reducing barriers for companies to install broadband infrastructure on Federal properties and roads. The Federal Government owns or manages nearly 30 percent of all land in the United States, including 10,000 buildings nationwide. These properties can provide excellent pathways for deployment of broadband infrastructure. That’s why, last year, President Obama signed an Executive Order to make broadband construction projects along Federal roadways and properties cheaper and more efficient.Today, we are announcing new steps to build on this progress, including the launch of several new tools and resources to help make it easier for companies to build out high-speed Internet, particularly in underserved communities, and the release of a progress report on implementation of the President’s Executive Order. Both the tools and the report were developed by a Federal Working Group made up of 14 Federal agencies charged with managing Federal properties and roads.Some of the tools and resources for broadband carriers released today, in response to recommendations from the Working Group, include:
An interactive mapping tool that allows carriers and communities to view and identify opportunities to leverage Federal properties for the deployment of high-speed Internet networks. For example this map can help the wireless industry identify Federal rooftops where commercial antennas can be placed to support wireless networks. The national map includes data on broadband availability, environmental or historic information, property locations, and contact information so companies can easily obtain more information. The map was built with open government data, displayed in a new way to make it easier for carriers to take advantage of Federal assets in planning or expanding their networks.
This interactive map displays Federally owned buildings and lands, with point of contact information, where a commercial antenna installation might be sited. The map also contains several layers of data useful to broadband deployment. The map layers offers visibility into, for example, the location of National parks, protected wilderness areas, and lands of tribal significance. (Screenshot from 9/16/13)
These are just a few examples of advances resulting from the Working Group’s efforts over the past year to identify challenges in deploying broadband infrastructure and develop solutions to improve the process.While much work remains ahead, the Obama Administration is committed to continued collaboration across all levels of government and with the private sector and general public to help accelerate broadband deployment and drive meaningful community outcomes.Ron Hewitt is the Director for the Office of Emergency Communications at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Martha Benson is the Public Buildings Service Assistant Commissioner at the General Services Administration’s Office of Real Property Asset Management. Ron Hewitt and Martha Benson are the Co-Chairs of the Broadband Deployment on Federal Property Working Group.
A “Dig Once” guide, which includes best practices and policies to help carriers time their broadband deployment activities to periods when streets are already under construction—an approach that can reduce network deployment costs along Federal roadways by up to 90 percent.
A new broadband inventory toolkit that can serve as a one-stop shop for companies to access permitting forms, lease agreements, and other Federal broadband application documents from various agencies. This web page will make it easier for carriers to navigate the process for accessing Federal lands and properties, which can involve multiple Federal and state agencies that have their own processes for granting access to their assets. In addition, the General Services Administration, as directed in the Executive Order, is working to implement common forms and templates across agencies, such as a single master application for deploying broadband on Federal properties, to provide multiple broadband service providers and public-safety entities with streamlined business documents for the deployment of wireline and wireless facilities on Federal property. Going forward, the Department of Agriculture is also working to develop an on-line electronic application form to further streamline the process.
In the coming weeks, we will also be launching an online broadband projects platform, located on the Department of Transportation’s Federal Infrastructure Projects Permitting Dashboard , which will allow agencies to identify and expedite key broadband projects and to publicly track their status.
- Posted byon September 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM EST
In honor of Connected Educator Month this October, the White House will host a “Champions of Change” event to celebrate local leaders in education, whose creative approaches in using technology to enhance learning serve as examples of what we should strive for in every classroom, for every child. These leaders will be invited to the White House to celebrate their accomplishments and showcase their actions to support more connected schools and students.
This past June, President Obama launched the ConnectED Initiative, a bold effort to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed wireless internet in five years, calling on the FCC to modernize its existing E-Rate program to meet this goal. As part of the initiative, the President challenged the federal government as well as states, districts, schools and communities to help prepare all teachers to thrive in a connected classroom and leverage technology to re-imagine learning.
- Posted byon September 6, 2013 at 3:50 PM EST
Artist's rendering of the space laser communications demo. (Image courtesy NASA)
Tonight, if you’re around the East Coast, you may be able to see a bright object quickly rising near the horizon about a half hour before midnight.
NASA's Lunar Atmosphere Dust Environment Explorer (or LADEE) mission is scheduled to launch from the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore at 11:27 pm EDT tonight. It should be visible (clouds permitting) up and down the East Coast, and as far inland as Pittsburgh.
LADEE is a robotic mission that—after taking about 30 days to make the trip—will enter orbit around the Moon to gather detailed information about the extremely thin lunar atmosphere, conditions near the surface, and environmental influences on lunar dust. A thorough understanding of these characteristics could help scientists understand other planetary bodies and inform any future exploration—human or robotic—of the Moon.
But there’s more to LADEE than just dust.
In President Obama’s historic 2010 Kennedy Space Center speech, as he challenged NASA to send humans into deep space for the first time, he also noted that this type of exploration would require investments in and development of breakthrough space technologies.
LADEE will be testing one of these breakthrough technologies—specifically, a new kind of laser communications. One of the big problems with any space mission is getting data back to Earth. Right now, all of those cool pictures from our Mars rovers are only able to come back to Earth very slowly—think of the early days of dial-up Internet. Just one image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes about 1.5 hours to transmit back to Earth. LADEE includes the first test of laser communications that can potentially lead to higher data rates from deep space, which could mean broadband speeds from the Moon. Some might call this the first step of an Interplanetary Internet.
Future and more complex missions will require significantly higher data rates than existing communications allow, enabling entirely new missions of scientific discovery using next generation instruments and high-data-rate communications for exploration. The technology demonstrated by optical communications on LADEE is directly applicable to the next generation of NASA's space communications network. This is why NASA’s newly created Space Technology Mission Directorate is pursuing the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration—the next step in developing space communications systems of the future. The demonstration will use lasers to encode and transmit data at rates 10- to 100-times faster than radio.
Optical laser communications will enable a variety of robust future science and human exploration missions—providing a higher data rate, and delivering more accurate navigation capabilities with reduced size, weight, and power requirements. Someday, maybe, the Solar System will be peppered with a high-speed interplanetary communications network much like the wireless Web currently spinning here on Earth.
Phil Larson is a Space Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Mike Gazarik is NASA Associate Administrator for Space Technology.
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