News Briefs

Drone-testing Facility Takes Flight
by Chris Carroll

The National Capital Region’s only outdoor drone testing site has opened in the university’s Discovery District, even if technically, it’s indoors.

UMD and the A. James Clark School of Engineering were allowed to proceed with the Fearless Flight Facility (F3) in the tightly controlled airspace around Washington, D.C., because it’s contained by a giant net canopy 300 feet across and 50 feet high.

The setup allows students and faculty to develop and test unmanned aerial systems in all kinds of wind and weather while satisfying national security requirements.

“F3 allows us to pursue an aggressive UAS research agenda that would not be possible without the protection of a netted enclosure,” says Darryll Pines, Clark School dean and Farvardin professor of engineering.

Diversity Research Center Opens
By Lauren Brown

The University of Maryland has launched the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education, a national hub for research, policy and professional standards in this field.

“We will engage with a broad range of thought leaders with expertise in diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education representing diverse communities, governmental agencies, higher education institutions and international partners to set an ambitious agenda for the development and distribution of research, scholarship and best practices,” said Roger Worthington, interim associate provost and chief diversity officer, and professor. “We will work with colleges and universities to think through critical issues and develop customized plans to help move them forward.”

He will lead the center, housed in the Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education Department of the College of Education, with Director Candace M. Moore, assistant clinical professor.

Congressman Addresses Winter Grads
By Lauren Brown

U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) delivered the winter commencement address to UMD graduates on Dec. 19 and received an honorary doctorate of public service.

Before an estimated 4,600 degrees were conferred, Cummings encouraged graduates to direct their ambition toward a greater good. “Our personal dreams mean nothing if they do not benefit other people,” he said.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Cummings became the first African American to be named speaker pro tem of the Maryland House of Delegates. He has represented the state’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1996.

Also at the ceremony, 2nd Lt. Richard W. Collins III was awarded a posthumous Bachelor of Humane Letters degree. He was killed on campus last spring, just before he was to graduate from Bowie State University.

“This is a fitting memorial to a young man whose life and death have touched our community so deeply,” UMD President Wallace D. Loh said.

Study Asks Big Questions About Big Data
by Chris Carroll

The emerging field of big data analytics is developing techniques to rein in the chaos that fills the internet—from old social media posts to government records to stats from your latest run—but few ethical guidelines exist for researchers or companies that use the data.

The National Science Foundation has funded a four-year, $3 million project to tackle the issue in a project called “Pervasive Data Ethics for Computational Research.” Headed by Katie Shilton, associate professor of information studies, it will study issues including user consent, risk assessment and regulations.

“Whether mobile phone apps, website search engines, wearable technology or social platforms, consumer information has become highly trackable and available,” Shilton says. “This has resulted in an ethically questionable free-for-all in research and marketing.”


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