Local Hoop Shooting Robot Now Locked in Bag

Steve Aumack and Nate Phillips work on the robot operator control panel as the team gets ready for the competition in Salt Lake City March 15. Photo by TK Thompson/ladailypost.com

A team of 14 Los Alamos High School students and 10 adult mentors built a robot that can shoot hoops. The team began work Jan. 7 and wrapped up the project Feb 21.

The group is competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition. The competition involves short games played by robots. The students build and program their robots, which are remotely controlled during the competition.

Each team receives a kit of parts made up of motors, batteries, a control system, a PC and a mix of automation components – but no instructions. Designing and programming the robot is up to the students.

This year’s competition is Rebound Rumble. The object is to manipulate the robot to score as many baskets as possible during a two-minute and 15 second match.

The competition also includes a balancing component in which the robots are required to balance on a bridge.

The group is heading to Salt Lake City March 15 to compete in the regional round of the competition.

Ben Schilling works on the robot's pit stop enclosure for the upcoming competition in Salt Lake City. Photo by TK Thompson/ladailypost.com

The Los Alamos robot now lives in a locked bag. The robot was placed in the bag at midnight Feb. 21 when all work had to be completed. Photo by TK Thompson/ladailypost.com



Former New York Times Reporter to Talk on State of Nuclear Threats and Possibility of a Nuclear 9-11

Phillip Taubman

Former New York Times reporter Philip Taubman talks about the current state of nuclear threats, including Pakistan, North Korea, Iran, and the possibility of a nuclear 9-11 at a presentation beginning at 6 p.m. March 15 at Los National Laboratory’s Bradbury Science Museum.

Taubman also will talk about his newly published book, “The Partnership: Five Cold Warriors and Their Quest to Ban the Bomb.”

The talk is open to the public; seating is limited to 100.

Taubman is a former Moscow and Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the New York Times.

He worked at the Times for more than 30 years and also worked at Esquire and Time.

He was twice awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting and for Foreign Affairs Reporting.

Now a consulting professor at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, Taubman in his book explores in-depth the bipartisan efforts of George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry, Sam Nunn, and Sid Drell to reduce nuclear threats and ultimately abolish nuclear weapons.

A book signing at the Otowi Station Bookstore next door to the museum follows Taubman’s talk.

Clairvoyance and Confusion: Some Remarks on Composite Hypothesis Testing

By James Theiler, LANL

James Theiler of the Space and Remote Sensing Sciences Group at Los Alamos National Laboratory is presenting a talk at 12:15 p.m. Friday in the Medium Conference Room at the Santa Fe Institute:

Abstract: The composite hypothesis testing problem is one of the great unsolved problems of statistics — but it is not unsolved because it is particularly hard; it is unsolved because it is fundamentally ambiguous. It is also enormously useful: it lies at the core of what it means to do science, and provides a nice framework to do target detection in multispectral imagery.

For simple hypothesis testing, the aim is to distinguish which of two hypotheses is most consistent with observed data. This problem is straightforward, and unambiguously optimal solutions can be expressed in terms of likelihood ratios.

It gets confusing (or composite) when the aim instead is to distinguish between two families of hypotheses. The “clairvoyant” solution chooses a single member from each family and then uses the simple likelihood ratio. Although the clairvoyant solution isn’t very useful by itself (since, by the very statement of the problem, you don’t know which member to choose), it provides a valuable building block for constructing more effective solutions to the composite hypothesis testing problem.

For 50+ years, the so-called generalized likelihood ratio (GLR) has been the workhorse solution for composite hypothesis testing problems, and for good reason: it is straightforward, unambiguous, and quite general. But it is not the only solution, and (except for a very few cases) it is not the optimal solution.

Among the alternatives is a recently introduced class of solutions that goes by the name “clairvoyant fusion” — the GLR is a special case of clairvoyant fusion (which makes CF a kind of generalized GLR), but the other cases provide new ways to solve composite hypothesis testing problems. This talk will ask some questions about clairvoyant fusion: is it really new? is it any good? how can you tell?

Bayesian zealots will wonder why this abstract has not said anything about their favorite topic. Well, it just did. And so will the talk.

What Otowi Station Bookstore Shoppers are Reading

The Otowi Station Bookstore Best Sellers List for the week of Feb. 28-March 5:

  1. Intelligence: from Secrets to Policy, Mark M. Lowenthal
  2. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  3. Skies and Other Poems, Mike Katko*
  4. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  5. Los Alamos: Beginning of an Era, LANL*
  6. ITIL V3: a Pocket Guide, Van Haren Publishing
  7. Your Inner Fish, Neil Shubin
  8. 109 East Palace, Jennet Conant
  9. Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction, John Austin
  10. The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach about Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan
*Local or regional author

2012 Northeastern New Mexico Science and Engineering Fair Winners

Grand Award/ISEF Regional Qualifier for Physical Science (paid trip to International Fair in Pittsburg in May)

  •  Holly Erickson, 11th gr. LAHS

ISEF alternate for Life Science:

  • David Murphy, 9th gr., LAHS

Paper Competition Winners (1st and 2nd go to State)

  • 1st Senior Div. – Holly Erickson, 11th LAHS
  • 2nd – Devon Conradson, 9th. gr. LAHS
  • 1st Junior Div. – Elise Koskelo, 8th. LAMS
  • 2nd – Ruby Selvage, 6th Pinon

Regional Awards and State Qualifiers  (1st and 2nd go to State)


  • 1st – Holly Erickson (11th)
  • 1st – David Murphy (9th)
  • 1st – Ani Nadiga (9th)
  • 2nd place, Joe and Adrian Abeyta (10th and 12th)
  • 2nd – Devon Conradson (9th)
  • 2nd – Maria McTeigue (10th)
  • 3rd – Simon Redman (11th)


  • 1st – Steven Chen (7th)
  • 1st – June Cooke (7th)
  • 1st – Hunter Eaton (8th)
  • 1st – Cole Kendrick (8th)
  • 1st – Elise Koskelo (8th)
  • 1st – Nick Koskelo  (8th)
  • 1st – Maia Menefee (7th)
  • 1st – Jovan Zhang (8th)
  • 2nd – Justin Holmes (7th)
  • 2nd – George Margevivius (7th)
  • 2nd – Andy Shen (7th)
  • 3rd – Rachel Wallstrom (8th)
  • 3rd – Connor Bailey (8th)


  • 2nd – Miriam Wallstrom (6th)
  • HM – Sequoyah Adams-Rice (6th)


  • 2nd – Sarah Shipley (6th)
  • 3rd –  William Butler (6th)


  • 2nd – Colin Hehlen (6th)
  • 2nd – Noah McCabe (6th)
  • HM – Mychael Garcia (6th)
  • HM – Jenny Paige (6th)


  • 2nd – Junseo Kim (6th)
  • 3rd – Chelsea Lovato (6th)
  • 3rd – Richard Thompson (6th)
  • HM – Marja Graham (6th)


  • 1st – Ruby Selvage (6th)
  • 3rd – Jayde Tucker (6th)
  • HM – Graem Taylor (6th)

Editor’s Note: The 2012 Science Fair is dedicated to David Graham and Frutoso A. Lopez, who both recently passed away. Graham, from Des Moines, New Mexico, served the Highlands University Northeastern New Mexico Regional Science Fair as an excellent mentor and judge for many years. Lopez was an exemplary math teacher from Taos, New Mexico, where he taught and mentored many students in math and science for more than 30 years. These two fine men will be truly missed in the scientific community. -Rosalie Martinez, Science Fair Director.

LAHS Science Bowl Champs Defend Regionals Title

By Libby Carlsten

LAHS Championship Science Bowl Team for the Northern New Mexico Region from left, Alexandr Wang, Micha Ben-Naim, Scott Carlsten, Paolo Venneri (coach), Lorenzo Venneri (holding trophy) and Kevin Gao. Photo by Eli Ben-Naim

For the third year in a row, the Los Alamos High School Science Bowl Team won first place in the Regional Science Bowl Saturday on the Albuquerque Academy campus. Approximately 34 teams from New Mexico high schools competed in the regional event.

Launched in 1991, the Science Bowl is a highly competitive science education and academic event among teams of high school students who compete in a fast-paced verbal forum to solve technical problems and answer questions in all branches of science and math. Each team is composed of four students plus an alternate.

LAHS Senior Scott Carlsten is team captain. Team members include Lorenzo Venneri (12th grade), Micha Ben-Naim (12th grade), Kevin Gao (11th Grade) and Alexandr Wang (9th grade.)  Team Coach is Paolo Venneri and the Science Bowl Club Advisor is Kathy Boerigter, a Los Alamos Public Schools science teacher.

The three LAHS seniors, Carlsten, Venneri, and Ben-Naim, have been on the winning team each year from 2010 to 2012.

The LAHS championship team has earned an all-expenses paid trip to compete at the National Science Bowl April 25-30.

The national event in Washington, DC is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and includes several days of science activities, sightseeing, and competitions.

Teams enjoy the entire national science bowl experience and the opportunity to participate in cutting-edge science seminars and hands-on science activities.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu traditionally speaks at the closing event of the competition.

This is the third time since 1994 that the Los Alamos High School team has won the Regional Science Bowl competition.

Additional Los Alamos High School students who participated in the Regional competition are Megan Kelley (12th grade), Aaron Bao (11th grade), Rohan Iyer (12th Grade), Daniel Ben-Naim (9th Grade), Alex Swart (9th grade), Colin Redman (9th Grade), Willie Zhao (9th Grade) and  Sam Sherrill (9th grade.)

NNSA Leadership to Testify Before House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development


Tom D'Agostino

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senior officials from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development Tuesday at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino will be joined by NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington and Admiral Kirkland Donald, director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion and NNSA Deputy Administrator for Naval Reactors.

D’Agostino will highlight President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request for NNSA, which seeks the resources required to achieve the President’s nuclear security objectives and improve the way the NNSA does business in a tough fiscal environment.


A Glimpse of the Engineering Behind the Science at LANL

LANL Associate Director of Engineering Steve Girrens discusses current data on R&D engineering demographics at the Lab. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

By Carol A. Clark

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories about the important role engineers play at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

February is National Engineers Month and several local engineers recently appeared on the Behind the White Coat Program now airing on PAC 8 to spotlight the role engineering plays at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Steve Girrens, LANL’s associate director for engineering participated in the five-part series sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank. He explained what first drew him to the Laboratory.

“I was attracted by the name and what it stood for; big important science,” Girrens said. “For me in particular, space nuclear power. I chose what was then “Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory” over an offer from Bell Labs. Immediately, I was given the opportunity of harnessing the science of heat pipes into a practical device that could radiate waste heat in orbit and be launched on the shuttle.”

During the interview at the PAC 8 studios at 20th Street and Central Avenue, Girrens spoke about how he sees the collaboration between science and engineering.

“It doesn’t do physicists any good to have lofty ideas about how things work if someone can’t bring their concepts to actual, tangible, functional reality,” he said. “Without the engineering side of the house, one might say, it’s all smoke and mirrors. The Lab needs an engineering fabric to glue together its capabilities to support science. Engineers provide expertise that is conversant in the Lab’s science and that can meet science requirements with engineered systems; engineers deliver the tools enabling science.”

Girrens said that there is excitement in the challenge to apply science creativity “to satisfy bounding constraints and realize the widgets that will solve problems.”

“I recall a saying attributed to former LANL Director Sig Hecker that went, ‘The smartest people do work on the most interesting science.’ I’ve learned that the best engineers seek to provide tools for the most interesting science. They want to make a difference on science that matters,” Girrens said.

Girrens shared several charts to illustrate current data on R&D engineering demographics including the various engineering fields at the Lab.

“Glovebox engineering is one field. In order to enable one of our most important and unique missions – plutonium science – engineers deliver the glovebox (a sophisticated environmentally isolating and radiological shielding chamber), the equipment supporting the glovebox utilities (poser, cooling, gases, vacuum) and the material manipulation tools and equipment (furnaces, machining, instrumentation) that goes inside to do the work, which may even include substantive robotics,” he said. “Engineers deliver the comprehensive suite of tools enabling plutonium science.”

Engineering job prospects are solid for the future as LANL seeks to keep its pipeline filled, Girrens said, adding that early career engineers are continuously sought to replenish and maintain capabilities serving LANL’s principle mission areas of stockpile stewardship, global security and energy.

Girrens also touched on the entry paths for students, what kind of student will be accepted at the Lab and what they will do when they arrive.

“First, I must emphasize that 56 percent of all R&D scientists and engineers currently at the Lab were students or Postdocs,” he said. “Last year alone, 71 percent of all R&D hires were former students or Postdocs. “The Lab’s UGS and GRA programs are instrumental. We also have the Los Alamos Dynamics Summer School program seeking candidates for the 13th year. Most any type of engineering student can find a match at the Lab with a GPA of about 3.2.  It is difficult for students to actually do engineering until they are UGS late juniors or seniors. The lab is very exciting and rewarding for GRAs and Postdocs.”

Before accepting his current position last fall, Girrens led LANL’s Technology Transfer Division. He also served in other capacities at Los Alamos, including the Engineering Sciences and Applications Division and as a group leader for Weapon Response and Engineering Analysis.

Girrens has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Wichita State University and a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Colorado State University.

Visit http://www.pac8.org/ for the LANL engineering series air times and dates.

Rep. Jim Hall’s Morning at the Hive

Rep. Jim Hall, R-Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Sandoval counties visited the Los Alamos Daily Post operation inside the Hive in White Rock Thursday morning. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com


Rep. Jim Hall, left, learns about a hydroponic grape plant growing project underway in the wet lab at the Hive from Jung Hong. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com


Richard Browning discusses technology innovations with Rep. Jim Hall during his Thursday morning visit to the Hive. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Wanted: Los Alamos’ Top Engineers

Los Alamos MainStreet News

Los Alamos Next Big Idea Festival attracted the attention of James Karhu, casting producer with the new Discovery Channel competition show Top Engineer.

Karhu contacted Suzette Fox at Los Alamos MainStreet, organizer of Next Big Idea to get help identifying interested inventors, machinists and engineers to appear on the show.

“The Discovery Channel is looking for America’s most creative and daring techies, machinists, inventors and engineers to design, build, and blast their way to a Grand Prize,” Karhu said. “A handful of lucky men and women will be chosen to take on exciting challenges from various engineering fields. An engineering degree is not required, but we are looking for people who can design, build, test and integrate an idea into a final product that works. We are looking for visual effects experts, accomplished home shop machinists, contractors and engineers with backgrounds in electrical, civil, structural or mechanical engineering. If you have an outgoing personality and are ready to get your hands dirty for the chance to win a grand prize and the title of top engineer, then we want to hear from you.”

Send applications to topengineercasting@gmail.com with your name, age, location, phone number, a recent photo, and a brief explanation of why you would be a great participant. The deadline to submit is March 7, 2012 by Karhu encourages submitting sooner as the show is already beginning to screen applicants. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or residents at least 21 years of age. For more information about the show, visit www.pilgrimstudios.com/casting/topengineer

Next Big Idea is Los Alamos’ annual festival of science, invention, innovation, and discovery. This year’s festival will be held Sept. 14-15. The organizing committee is actively looking to connect with potential exhibitors and with people who are interested in helping to organize the activities and events. Call Suzette Fox at 661-4844 or visit www.nextbigideaLA.com