Posts tagged computer

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Mining big data for performance clues as a study guide

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CU-built software uses big data to battle
forgetting with personalized content review

Computer software similar to that used by online retailers to recommend products to a shopper can help students remember the content they’ve studied, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.

The software, created by computer scientists at CU-Boulder’s Institute for Cognitive Science, works by tapping a database of past student performance to suggest what material an individual student most needs to review.

For example, the software might know that a student who forgot one particular concept but remembered another three weeks after initially learning them is likely to need to review a third concept six weeks after it was taught. When a student who fits that profile uses the software, the computer can pull up the most useful review questions.

Using computers to battle forgwtting

Using computers to battle forgwtting

“If you have two students with similar study histories for specific material, and one student couldn’t recall the answer, it’s a reasonable predictor that the other student won’t be able to either, especially when you take into consideration the different abilities of the two students,” said CU-Boulder Professor Michael Mozer, senior author of the study published in the journal Psychological Science.

The process of combing “big data” for performance clues is similar to strategies used by e-commerce sites, Mozer said.

“They know what you browsed and didn’t buy and what you browsed and bought,” Mozer said. “They measure your similarity to other people and use purchases of similar people to predict what you might want to buy. If you substitute ‘buying’ with ‘recalling,’ it’s the same thing.”

The program is rooted in theories that psychologists have developed about the nature of forgetting. Researchers know that knowledge—whether of facts, concepts or skills—slips away without review, and that spacing the review out over time is crucial to obtaining robust and durable memories.

Still, it’s uncommon for students to do the kind of extended review that favors long-term retention. Students typically review material that was presented only in the most recent unit or chapter—often in preparation for a quiz—without reviewing previous units or chapters at the same time.

This leads to rapid forgetting, even for the most motivated learners, Mozer said. For example, a recent study found that medical students forget roughly 25 to 35 percent of basic science knowledge after one year and more than 50 percent by the next year.

Over the last decade, Mozer has worked with University of California, San Diego, psychologist Harold Pashler, also a co-author of the new study, to create a computer model that could predict how spaced review affects memory. The new computer program described in the study is an effort to make practical use of that model.

Robert Lindsey, a CU-Boulder doctoral student collaborating with Mozer, built the personalized review program and then tested it in a middle school Spanish class.

For the study, Lindsey and Mozer divided the material students were learning into three groups.  For material in a “massed” group, the students were drilled only on the current chapter. For material in a “generic-spaced” group, the students were drilled on the most recent two chapters. For material in a “personalized-spaced” group, the algorithm determined what material from the entire semester each student would benefit most from reviewing.

In a cumulative test taken a month after the semester’s end, personalized-spaced review boosted remembering by 16.5 percent over massed study and by 10 percent over generic-spaced review.

In a follow-up experiment, Mozer and his colleagues compared their personalized review program to a program that randomly quizzes students on all units that have been covered so far. Preliminary results show that the personalized program also outperforms random reviews of all past material.

So far, the program has been tested only in foreign language classes, but Mozer believes the program could be helpful for improving retention in a wide range of disciplines, including math skills.

It’s not necessary to have a prior database of student behavior to implement the personalized review program. Students can begin by using the program as a traditional review tool that asks random questions, and as students answer, the computer begins to search for patterns in the answers. “It doesn’t take long to get lots and lots of data,” Mozer said.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the McDonnell Foundation.

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CU: Build your own 3-D video game

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Got an hour? CU-Boulder program lets
you build a video game, learn to code

In just one hour, school kids, teachers and any code-curious member of the public with an Internet connection can now create their own 3-D video game using a tutorial built by a team at the University of Colorado Boulder in preparation for the global “Hour of Code” event happening the second week of December.

CU-Boulder’s game-building program allows people with zero experience coding to design their own 3-D worlds by “inflating” hand-drawn 2-D icons and then programming those objects to interact in defined ways. For example, a participant could easily create a 3-D version of the classic arcade game Frogger by inflating a frog and then writing a line of code that would tell the program to squash the frog if it collides with a truck that has also been programmed to move horizontally across the screen at a set speed.

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CU-Boulder’s online game-building tool is among a variety of self-guided tutorials that have been created for the Hour of Code, an event that aims to recruit 10 million schoolchildren to spend one hour during the week of Dec. 9-15, dubbed Computer Science Education Week, learning the basics of coding. The event, spearheaded by the nonprofit code.org, is designed to spark excitement about coding among youth in order to bolster a future interest in computer science, a field that’s increasingly important to a wide range of careers as well as everyday life.

“Programming should be easy and exciting,” said CU-Boulder computer science Professor Alexander Repenning, who led the project. “But that’s not where we are. The perception of the public is that it’s hard and boring. Our goal is to expose a much larger as well as broader audience to programming by reinventing computer science education in public schools.”

CU-Boulder’s Hour of Code tutorial—which can be found at http://hourofcode.com/ac—builds on two decades of Repenning’s research, which has pioneered drag-and-drop programming tools for kids called AgentSheets and AgentCubes. Repenning and his team also have developed Scalable Game Design, a curriculum teachers can implement to help their students use AgentSheets and AgentCubes to learn computer science through building their own video games.

Students can use the same tools and their new computational thinking skills to build science simulations—the coding needed to lay out what should happen when a truck collides with a frog is not that different from the coding needed to outline the chemical reaction that occurs when two molecules collide, for example.

The Scalable Game Design project recently received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to continue to expand nationally.

From the beginning, the purpose of Scalable Game Design was to give school kids a taste of coding that might be able to flip the often-held belief that computer programming was not something they wanted to learn.

Repenning and his team began to reach out to kids in the local Boulder Valley School District, offering video game-building workshops as an after-school activity. The participants loved it, but the kids who initially showed up were the usual suspects—boys. In subsequent years, the project was introduced into classes that were already being taught during the school day, exposing all kinds of kids who might not normally be inclined to try computer programming, especially girls and minority students, to code.

“We asked them after, ‘Did you enjoy the activity?’ And they said, ‘Yeah. We love it and we want to do more of it,’ ” Repenning said.

The program is now ubiquitous in Boulder-area middle schools, and beginning about five years ago, Repenning received a $1.5 million grant from NSF to expand the program to schools outside the local district, especially districts with widely varying demographics, from inner-city schools to extremely rural schools and Native American communities. To implement the expansion, CU-Boulder hosted trainings on campus each summer to prepare teachers to deliver the program.

During the first expansion, Repenning and his colleagues also discovered that the way the video-game curriculum was taught impacted the degree to which girls, who are vastly underrepresented in computer science, were interested in coding. Direct instruction appeared to turn girls off, while inquiry-based approaches got the girls as excited as the boys.

Repenning has since received two more NSF grants. The first, for $1.5 million, is being used to follow up on how pedagogy affects girls studying computer science. The second and most recent grant—$2 million awarded in August—recognizes the achievements of the initial expansion effort and is being used to further spread Scalable Game Design across the country.

After the initial expansion, the Scalable Game Design team measured the success of the program by gauging the interest students had in learning more about computer science after they finished designing a video game and by analyzing the games themselves to see if the design of the games demonstrated a grasp of coding concepts. With positive results in both categories, NSF gave the team a green light to further expand the program by offering some teacher-training programs online.

The Hour of Code tutorial built on the Scalable Game Design infrastructure now allows anyone who is interested to get a taste of video game programming. More information on the Hour of Code can be found at http://csedweek.org/. Anyone interested in participating in the Hour of Code or using CU-Boulder’s Hour of Code program in their classes can find information athttp://hourofcode.com/ac.

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Child porno a no no

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Local man arrested on child pornography charges

A 69-year-old man from Boulder has been arrested on several charges involving child pornography.  Renato Alfano (DOB 05/09/1944) turned himself in at the Boulder County Jail on an arrest warrant prepared by Boulder Police Department detectives.

This case began at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office during an Internet investigation they were conducting.  An investigator located a computer in Boulder which was sharing child pornography and then contacted Boulder police. The suspect was Renato Alfano.

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Police conducted a search warrant of Alfano’s home and found a number of child pornography files on the computer.  Alfano admitted to detectives that he viewed the child pornography.

Alfano will face charges in Boulder that include Sexual Exploitation of a Child (distribution of child pornography) and Sexual Exploitation of a Child (possession of child pornography).

The case number is 13-9440.

Anyone with information about this case may contact Detective Jack Gardner at

303-441-1851. Those who have information but wish to remain anonymous may contact the Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or 1-800-444-3776. Tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimeshurt.com. Those submitting tips through Crime Stoppers that lead to the arrest and filing of charges on a suspect(s) may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 from Crime Stoppers.

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CU: more computers for more kids

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CU-Boulder expands popular
Computers To Youth program

The University of Colorado Boulder Environmental Center is expanding its Computers To Youth program to include more students and more interactive activities.

Computers To Youth provides high school students from underrepresented communities with upgraded used computers and hands-on training from CU-Boulder student mentors. Its purpose is to benefit underserved youth in Colorado and protect the environment. The computer systems received by the high school students through the program are designed to enable academic achievement that will encourage students to attend college.

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“Not only do the high school students but also the college student mentors see this as an inspiring learning experience,” said CU-Boulder engineering student and Computers To Youth mentor Rebecca Miller. “The fact that CU-Boulder put together this program that saves resources, prevents waste and enables future scientists and engineers is completely brilliant.”

The next Computers To Youth event will be held Saturday, Nov. 9. Fourteen high school students from the Family Learning Center in Boulder, guided by CU-Boulder student mentors, will go through surplus computer components, bundle parts, load the latest software and take their newly built computer systems with them. The day also will include a new competition in which teams will race to disassemble and reassemble a demonstration computer.

“As technology increasingly becomes a part of daily life, those without computer access risk falling behind,” said Jack DeBell, the CU Environmental Center’s recycling program development director. “This consequence, known as the digital divide, tends to affect economically disadvantaged populations, especially youth. With such a great amount of computer equipment being discarded by a technologically advanced campus, it only makes sense that some of this equipment be “upcycled” to bridge the digital divide.”

The CU-Boulder student mentors are part of the statewide MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) program. CU-Boulder’s MESA Center is headquartered in the Department of Pre-College Outreach Services in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement (ODECE).

MESA Colorado also refers high school students to the Computers To Youth program.

With two additional Computers To Youth events slated for the spring semester, about 55 youth will be served by the program this academic year. The Denver Area Telecommunications Educational Telecommunication Consortium (DAETC) has enabled the increase in the number of participants, up from 48 last year, according to DeBell.

The CU Environmental Center has held numerous computer-build events since it began restoring and redistributing computers in 2001. In 2005, it received the Dell Higher Education Leadership Award to fund the collection of unused personal computers from the campus community and divert the equipment from landfills.

Also part of the Computers To Youth program is CU’s Property Services department. Other contributors have included the Community Computer Connection and Microsoft Corp.

“Hopefully this project will create additional collaboration with community groups and corporate sponsors in Colorado,” said St. Vrain School District teacher Karen Hunter, whose high school participated in Computers To Youth last year. “The students’ new-found confidence as a result of the amazing folks at CU-Boulder tells it all.”

For more information about Computers To Youth visit http://www.colorado.edu/ecenter/other-programs/computers-youth.

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CU study; Death of microbes could determine time of death

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An intriguing study led by the University of Colorado Boulder may provide a powerful new tool in the quiver of forensic scientists attempting to determine the time of death in cases involving human corpses: a microbial clock.

The clock is essentially the lock-step succession of bacterial changes that occur postmortem as bodies move through the decay process. And while the researchers used mice for the new study, previous studies on the human microbiome – the estimated 100 trillion or so microbes that live on and in each of us – indicate there is good reason to believe similar microbial clocks are ticking away on human corpses, said Jessica Metcalf, a CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher and first author on the study.

“While establishing time of death is a crucial piece of information for investigators in cases that involve bodies, existing techniques are not always reliable,” said Metcalf of CU-Boulder’s BioFrontiers Institute. “Our results provide a detailed understanding of the bacterial changes that occur as mouse corpses decompose, and we believe this method has the potential to be a complementary forensic tool for estimating time of death.”

Dead and dying microbes could determine time of death for forensics pathologists

Dead and dying microbes could determine time of death for forensics pathologists

Currently, investigators use tools ranging from the timing of last text messages and corpse temperatures to insect infestations on bodies and “grave soil” analyses, with varying results, she said. And the more days that elapse following a person’s demise, the more difficult it becomes to determine the time of death with any significant accuracy.

Using high-technology gene sequencing techniques on both bacteria and microbial eukaryotic organisms like fungi, nematodes and amoeba postmortem, the researchers were able to pinpoint time of mouse death after a 48-day period to within roughly four days. The results were even more accurate following an analysis at 34 days, correctly estimating the time of death within about three days, said Metcalf.

A paper on the subject was published Sept. 23 in the new online science and biomedical journal, eLIFE, a joint initiative of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust Fund. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Justice.

The researchers tracked microbial changes on the heads, torsos, body cavities and associated grave soil of 40 mice at eight different time points over the 48-day study. The stages after death include the “fresh” stage before decomposition, followed by “active decay” that includes bloating and subsequent body cavity rupture, followed by “advanced decay,” said Chaminade University forensic scientist David Carter, a co-author on the study.

“At each time point that we sampled, we saw similar microbiome patterns on the individual mice and similar biochemical changes in the grave soil,” said Laura Parfrey, a former CU-Boulder postdoctoral fellow and now a faculty member at the University of British Columbia who is a microbial and eukaryotic expert. “And although there were dramatic changes in the abundance and distribution of bacteria over the course of the study, we saw a surprising amount of consistency between individual mice microbes between the time points — something we were hoping for.”

As part of the project, the researchers also charted “blooms” of a common soil-dwelling nematode well known for consuming bacterial biomass that occurred at roughly the same time on individual mice during the decay period. “The nematodes seem to be responding to increases in bacterial biomass during the early decomposition process, an interesting finding from a community ecology standpoint,” said Metcalf.

“This work shows that your microbiome is not just important while you’re alive,” said CU-Boulder Associate Professor Rob Knight, the corresponding study author who runs the lab where the experiments took place. “It might also be important after you’re dead.”

The research team is working closely with assistant professors Sibyl Bucheli and Aaron Linne of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, home of the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility, an outdoor human decomposition facility known popularly as a “body farm.” The researchers are testing bacterial signatures of human cadavers over time to learn more about the process of human decomposition and how it is influenced by weather, seasons, animal scavenging and insect infestations.

The new study is one of more than a dozen papers authored or co-authored by CU-Boulder researchers published in the past several years on human microbiomes. One of the studies, led by Professor Noah Fierer, a co-author on the new study, brought to light another potential forensic tool — microbial signatures left on computer keys and computer mice, an idea enthralling enough it was featured on a “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” television episode.

“This study establishes that a body’s collection of microbial genomes provides a store of information about its history,” said Knight, also an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist. “Future studies will let us understand how much of this information, both about events before death — like diet, lifestyle and travel — and after death can be recovered.”

In addition to Metcalf, Fierer, Knight, Carter and Parfrey, other study authors included Antonio Gonzalez, Gail Ackerman, Greg Humphrey, Mathew Gebert, Will Van Treuren, Donna Berg Lyons and Kyle Keepers from CU-Boulder, former BioFrontiers doctoral student Dan Knights from the University of Minnesota, and Yan Go and James Bullard from Pacific Biosciences in Menlo Park, Calif. Keepers participated in the study as an undergraduate while Gonzalez, now a postdoctoral researcher, was a graduate student during the study.

“There is no single forensic tool that is useful in all scenarios, as all have some degree of uncertainty,” said Metcalf. “But given our results and our experience with microbiomes, there is reason to believe we can get past some of this uncertainty and look toward this technique as a complementary method to better estimate time of death in humans.”

Gene sequencing equipment for the study included machines from Illumina of San Diego and Pacific Biosciences of Menlo Park, Calif. The Illumina data were generated at CU-Boulder in the BioFrontiers Next Generation Sequencing Facility.

To access a copy of the paper visit http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01104. For more information on the BioFrontiers Institute visit http://biofrontiers.colorado.edu.

-CU-

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City wants citizen reports to document the flood

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 Crowdsourcing map to capture Boulder flood data and stories

The City of Boulder has launched a ‘Community Flood Assessment’ crowdsourcing map to capture flood data and stories from Boulder residents and businesses.  This resident-scientist approach will empower the Boulder community to contribute to our shared learning and documentation of this historic event.

Community submittals are called ‘reports,’ and users can attach photos or videos to enhance their story or data submittals. The easy-to-use map creates geo-located pins associated with specific date-and-time categories like:

  • Flooding;
  • Road damage;
  • Path Damage;
  • Property Damage;
  • Debris; and
  • Overflows.flood aftermath pics 1

Residents are asked to backdate reports, so all users can have a better understanding of what happened and when (i.e. post data when it actually happened, not with the current date and time).

This specific data on place-and-time flooding activities will assist in the city in assessing the entire flood event and help inform future planning efforts.

The mapping application, called Crowdmap (powered by Ushahidi), was originally designed and built to crowdsource crisis information.  The mapping application can be used on a desktop computer and is also Smartphone enabled with apps for both iPhone and Android devices.

Residents are encouraged to read the Crowdmap Terms of Use and Privacy notice.  Once posted, all data, photos and videos become public domain and can be used by all site users including the City of Boulder.

For more Boulder flood information, visit www.BoulderFloodinfo.net or sign up for flood info updates right to your email inbox.

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CU researchers: Our brain is like a computer

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Our brains give us the remarkable ability to make sense of situations we’ve never encountered before—a familiar person in an unfamiliar place, for example, or a coworker in a different job role—but the mechanism our brains use to accomplish this has been a longstanding mystery of neuroscience.

Now, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have demonstrated that our brains could process these new situations by relying on a method similar to the “pointer” system used by computers. “Pointers” are used to tell a computer where to look for information stored elsewhere in the system to replace a variable.

For the study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team relied on sentences with words used in unique ways to test the brain’s ability to understand the role familiar words play in a sentence even when those words are used in unfamiliar, and even nonsensical, ways.

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For example, in the sentence, “I want to desk you,” we understand the word “desk” is being used as a verb even though our past experience with the word “desk” is as a noun.

“The fact that you understand that the sentence is grammatically well formed means you can process these completely novel inputs,” said Randall O’Reilly, a professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and co-author of the study. “But in the past when we’ve tried to get computer models of a brain to do that, we haven’t been successful.”

This shows that human brains are able to understand the sentence as a structure with variables—a subject, a verb and often, an object—and that the brain can assign a wide variety of words to those variables and still understand the sentence structure. But the way the brain does this has not been understood.

Computers routinely complete similar tasks. In computer science, for example, a computer program could create an email form letter that has a pointer in the greeting line. The pointer would then draw the name information for each individual recipient into the greeting being sent to that person.

In the new study, led by Trenton Kriete, a postdoctoral researcher in O’Reilly’s lab, the scientists show that the connections in the brain between the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia could play a similar role to the pointers used in computer science. The researchers added new information about how the connections between those two regions of the brain could work into their model.

The result was that the model could be trained to understand simple sentences using a select group of words. After the training period, the researchers fed the model new sentences using familiar words in novel ways and found that the model could still comprehend the sentence structure.

While the results show that a pointer-like system could be at play in the brain, the function is not identical to the system used in computer science, the scientists said. It’s similar to comparing an airplane’s wing and a bird’s wing, O’Reilly said. They’re both used for flying but they work differently.

In the brain, for example, the pointer-like system must still be learned. The brain has to be trained, in this case, to understand sentences while a computer can be programmed to understand sentences immediately.

“As your brain learns, it gets better and better at processing these novel kinds of information,” O’Reilly said.

Other study co-authors include David Noelle of the University of California, Merced, and Jonathan Cohen of Princeton University. The research was supported by an Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity grant through the U.S. Department of the Interior.

-CU-

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Teen’s death a tragedy for schools, a lesson for us all

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Written by  on Sep 9th, 2013. | Copyright © EdNewsColorado.org

It was a hot August afternoon and football practice was just getting underway at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora. Amid the gruff calls of assistant coaches and the smack of colliding shoulder pads came Coach Monte Thelen’s matter-of-fact voice at the end of each play, “Stay up, stay up, stay up!”

Football players at Cherokee Trail High School take part in a “thud” practice as an assistant coach looks on.

It was a half-pads “thud” practice and he wanted players to stay on their feet.

“We’re trying to limit the number of times players hit the ground with each other,” said Thelen. ”We didn’t do that 10 years ago. I’m not even certain we did that eight years ago.”

This kind of safeguard is just one of many measures that has been employed over the last several years to help prevent an invisible and potentially life-threatening injury: concussions. In the Cherry Creek school district, where Cherokee Trail is located, the issue resonates with particular intensity because it is where Jake Snakenberg, a Grandview High School freshman, was playing football in 2004 when he took a routine hit and died of “Second Impact Syndrome” the next day.

Along with increasing awareness about concussions in the NFL and at the collegiate level, the 14-year-old’s death helped change the way youth concussions are handled in Colorado, giving rise to the Jake Snakenberg Youth Concussion Act, which took effect Jan 1, 2012.

The death of an athlete may be the most frightening consequence of concussions, but memory problems, concentration problems and other temporary cognitive deficits are more common outcomes. So while coaches and other advocates of good concussion management certainly want to prevent lethal ”second hits,” they also want to ensure that concussed students have an efficient recovery so they can function in the classroom.

“It’s not just about return to play. It’s not just about sports,” said Karen McAvoy, director of the four-year-old Center for Concussion at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children ”You cannot return to play until you have 100 percent returned to learn.”

While experts agree that “Jake’s Law” has improved concussion management practices, they say that the state’s school districts and even its doctors do not always approach concussion management in a uniform way.

In Colorado, there is no statewide database on the number of youth concussions, sports-related or otherwise. However, national studies suggest that high school athletes sustain an estimated 136,000-300,000 concussions per year and the numbers have steadily increased. A 2011 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that concussion rates in high school athletics increased by 16 percent annually from the 1997-1998 school year to the 2007-2008 year. The same study found that the most concussions occurred in football, followed by girls soccer.

Impact of Jake’s Law

Jake’s Law, which applies to students 11-18 in school, club or recreational sports, requires that students suspected of sustaining a concussion be removed immediately from practice or games. In addition, students must be cleared by a doctor or other health care provider before returning to play. Finally, the law requires coaches to take annual trainings on the signs of concussion.

McAvoy said the legislation also helped emphasize the medical side of the concussion equation. Prior to the legislation, families were under no legal obligation to get kids suspected of sustaining concussions during sports checked by a doctor, and some chose not to, she said. With its return-to-play medical clearance provision, the law changed that.

“Through all of this the thread that you see is the culture change,” said McAvoy, who was a school psychologist at Grandview High School when Snakenberg died.

McAvoy said districts like Cherry Creek, Jeffco and Dougco have been at the forefront when it comes to developing effective concussion management programs.

Dr. Danny Mistry, chair of the Concussion Task Force in Grand Junction, said that despite a dramatic increase in awareness because of Snakenberg’s death and his namesake law, youth concussion management practices vary widely around Colorado. Although there are exceptions, he said, the east side of the state is generally ahead of the west side.

“It varies because of resources and education,” said Mistry, who practices at Western Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Grand Junction, and who is a primary care team physician for Colorado Mesa University and the Colorado Rockies, as well as a team physician for USA Swimming.

In communities where concussion management is lagging, it may be due to both health care providers and the school system.  For example, Mistry said, some doctors may not see many youth athletes and may not be aware of the latest protocol for concussion management. In addition, school districts often can’t afford widespread staff training on concussions.

Like others experts, Mistry and McAvoy emphasize that student concussions must be managed by a team including athletic staff, parents, health care providers and teachers, who can often provide critical feedback about how a concussed student is functioning in the classroom.

Mistry said he hopes the National Institutes of Health or state departments of education will eventually set aside money to educate schools on concussion management.

“We’re in the midst of an epidemic and we have to stem the tide,” he said.

Tools of the trade

Talk to high school coaches and athletic directors around the state and you’ll hear about a variety of tools in place for concussion prevention, identification and management. Often, they’ll note that changes were underway even before Jake’s Law took effect — they saw the direction the pendulum was swinging.

That swing may have started in 2009, when Washington passed the first in a flurry of state statutes on the issue, the Zackery Lystedt Youth Concussion Bill. Today, the District of Columbia and every state except Mississippi have some sort of youth concussion law.

In Colorado, concussion prevention and education efforts include switching to lower-contact drills, reducing the weekly number of full-contact drills, experimenting with protective equipment such as the “Guardian Caps” that fit over football helmets, giving coaches pocket-sized cards listing concussion symptoms and having players and their parents read and sign concussion information sheets.

The free REAP Project booklet from the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children is used widely in Colorado. It has also been used in New York and Florida.

Many school districts also use a highly-regarded concussion management protocol written by McAvoy called REAP, which stands for Reduce, Educate, Accommodate, Pace. Contained in a colorful 11-page booklet available for free from Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, the protocol emphasizes the team approach, the careful monitoring of physical, emotional and cognitive symptoms, and a graduated “return-to-play” that allows student athletes to ramp up physical activity over the course of several days.

As recommended in REAP, districts have increasingly addressed cognitive symptoms of concussions, such as mental fatigue and difficulty concentrating, by making accommodations in the classroom such as reduced note-taking or extra time on tests.

Mark Kanagy, assistant principal of Windsor High School and athletic director in Weld RE-4 School District, said this is true in his district. In some cases, the district has put in place a temporary 504 plan, which are normally used to accommodate students with disabilities, for a concussed student.

Some Colorado districts also use a computer-based test called ImPACT, which measure students’ neurocognitive function at a baseline level as sports seasons begin, and can be administered after a suspected concussion to help determine whether new deficits exist.

While experts caution that ImPACT tests aren’t foolproof, they say they can be one piece of the puzzle in determining whether students are affected by concussion. The test is used at about 100 Colorado middle and high schools, according to company officials.

Paul Cain, athletic director for Mesa County District 51, said his district pays about $1,000 a year to use ImPACT for students in football, soccer, lacrosse, basketball, baseball, softball, diving, and cheerleading, as well as for students in other sports whose parents have requested it.

Kanagy, assistant principal of Windsor High School and athletic director in Weld RE-4 School District, said ImPACT “makes things more quantifiable…It helps take some of the guesswork out of it.”

He said a student might feel fine and have no headaches or other symptoms after a concussion, but if the post-injury ImPACT test doesn’t align with the baseline test, it can indicate something is still wrong.

Still, not everyone thinks ImPACT is an ideal tool. They say that students packed in a computer lab taking the test may not earn reliable baseline scores because they are distracted or deliberately performing poorly. In addition, not all doctors know how to interpret the test.

McAvoy said most school districts never use ImPACT because of its cost. “And that’s okay,” he said. “ImPACT is not necessarily where I would put limited resources.”

Trickle down effect

As standards for concussion education and management among youth athletes have risen, advocates say non-sports concussions in youth are starting to get more notice as well. Those concussions may result from a car accident, a fall or a bicycle crash outside of school, which means school staff don’t always know about them right away, if at all.

 

“Our biggest issue is getting non-athletic concussions communicated to our schools,” said Cain. “As a community that’s the next thing we need to work on.”

It’s not unusual for non-athletic concussions to outnumber sports-related ones. During the 2011-12 school year, about 60 percent of 200 student concussions in District 51 were not sports related, said Mistry. At Cherokee Trail High School, there were 25 non-athletic concussions last year compared to 15 sports-related.

“Really it comes down to the responsibility of the parent, the responsibility of the child,” said Steve Carpenter, athletic director at Cherokee Trail.

While some families inform the school nurse about out-of-school head injuries and, in Cherry Creek district staff receive training on recognizing non-athletic concussions, Carpenter said, “Those are tricky ones.”

McAvoy said while Jake’s Law exclusively addresses sports concussions in 11-18 year olds, concussion guidelines she co-wrote for the Colorado Department of Education, also address concussions sustained outside of sports and in students under 11.

Still, since parents aren’t required to seek medical advice for non-athletic concussions, it can be hard for school staff to know how to proceed, she said.

“When does a school feel comfortable releasing them back to recess, physical education and those kinds of things?”

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CU study: Soot suspect in mid-1800s Alps glacier retreat

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Scientists have uncovered strong evidence that soot, or black carbon, sent into the air by a rapidly industrializing Europe, likely caused the abrupt retreat of mountain glaciers in the European Alps.

The research, published Sept. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may help resolve a longstanding scientific debate about why the Alps glaciers retreated beginning in the 1860s, decades before global temperatures started rising again.

Thomas Painter, a snow and ice scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is lead author of the study, and co-authors include Waleed Abdalati, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Swiss-glaciers-melting

Glacier records in the central European Alps dating back to the 1500s show that between 1860 and 1930, loosely defined as the end of the Little Ice Age in Europe, large valley glaciers in the Alps abruptly retreated by an average of nearly 0.6 mile (1 kilometer). Yet weather in Europe cooled by nearly 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius) during that time. Glaciologists and climatologists have struggled to understand the mismatch between the climate and glacier records.

“Something was missing from the equation,” Painter said.

To investigate, he and his colleagues turned to history. In the decades following the 1850s, Europe was undergoing a powerful economic and atmospheric transformation spurred by industrialization. Residents, transportation, and perhaps most importantly, industry in Western Europe began burning coal in earnest, spewing huge quantities of black carbon and other dark particles into the atmosphere.

When black carbon particles settle on snow, they darken the surface. This melts the snow and exposes the underlying glacier ice to sunlight and relatively warm air earlier in the year, allowing more and faster melt.

To determine how much black carbon was in the atmosphere and the snow when the Alps glaciers began to retreat, the researchers studied ice cores drilled from high up on several European mountain glaciers. By measuring the levels of carbon particles trapped in the ice core layers and taking into consideration modern observations of the distribution of pollutants in the Alps, they could estimate how much black carbon was deposited on glacial surfaces at lower elevations, where levels of black carbon tend to be highest.

The team then ran computer models of glacier behavior, starting with recorded weather conditions and adding the impact of lower-elevation black carbon. By including this impact, the simulated glacier mass loss and timing finally were consistent with the historic record of glacial retreat, despite the cool temperatures of the time.

“This study uncovers some likely human fingerprints on our changing environment,” Abdalati said. “It’s a reminder that the actions we take have far-reaching impacts on the environment in which we live.”

“We must now look closer at other regions on Earth, such as the Himalaya, to study the present-day impacts of black carbon on glaciers,” said Georg Kaser, a study co-author from the University of Innsbruck and lead author of the Working Group I Cryosphere chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s upcoming Fifth Assessment Report.

Other institutions participating in the study include the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the University of California, Davis.

CIRES is a joint institute of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and CU-Boulder.

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CU police: Two suspects wanted in connection with backpack, laptop theft

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 Police are trying to identify two male suspects who investigators believe are responsible for stealing an unattended backpack outside the Target store, located at 2800 Pearl St., on July 12, 2013. The incident occurred at approximately 3:54 p.m.

 

The male victim told investigators he was waiting outside the store for an acquaintance to arrive. When the acquaintance showed up, the victim walked away from his backpack for a few minutes, forgetting that he had left it behind. Inside the backpack were personal items and a Samsung laptop computer.

Backpack theft suspects

 

When the victim remembered that he’d left his backpack, he went back to retrieve it and found that it was gone. Surveillance video from Target shows two males, one of whom is believed to have stolen the backpack and laptop. A surveillance photo is attached.

 

The main suspect is described as:

 

  • White male
  • Age unknown
  • Brown hair
  • Wearing a green windbreaker and shorts, and a white bicycle helmet
  • Carrying a blue backpack on his back and the stolen backpack in his arms.

 

The second suspect is described as:

 

  • White male
  • Age unknown
  • Wearing blue jeans, a light colored shirt and a red hat.
  • Carrying a dark colored backpack on his back and walking two bicycles away from the scene.

When the male suspect stole the backpack, he was seen walking south as he left the area.

 

The case number is 13-9117.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Craig Beckjord at 303-441-3336. Those who have information but wish to remain anonymous may contact the Northern Colorado Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or 1-800-444-3776. Tips can also be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website at www.crimeshurt.com. Those submitting tips through Crime Stoppers that lead to the arrest and filing of charges on a suspect(s) may be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000 from Crime Stoppers.

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