Category: Business & Technology

SXSW Security & Safety Plan 2015


2

AUSTIN – As people flood downtown for South by Southwest, from March 13 through the 22, last year’s fatal crash will be on the minds of venues, authorities and companies collaborating to create an exciting and relaxed atmosphere in downtown Austin.

The Austin Police Department is bringing all the equipment and personnel it can to maintain a safe environment for the music and film festival. During a Public Safety Commission meeting on Jan. Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 9.56.18 PM5, Assistant Chief Jason Dusterhoft outlined the festival’s safety strategies including traffic response forces, stro nger barricades and a 15 percent increase in officers downtown. He said the goal is to have more cohesiveness and communication among the different participants.

“We will have issues,” Chief Dusterhoft said, “But we hope to be able to respond to them more quickly.”

Commander of Special Events Tim Pruett, later said that there are rules and application processes venues have to follow. Lines can only be held for a certain amount of time, and they cannot block sidewalks, entrances, or exits out of parking lots. Venues are required to have people working the lines, he said.

 

Click HERE for the whole story.

Austin Beerworks: One big drunk family

By: Mikhaela Locklear, Melanie Price, Jonathan Garza and Cooper Haynie

Austin Beerworks owners Michael Graham (far left), Adam Debower, Mike McGovern and Will Golden started ABW in 2011.

Austin Beerworks owners Michael Graham (far left), Adam Debower, Mike McGovern and Will Golden started ABW in 2011.

AUSTIN – Nestled among rows of industrial buildings in North Austin, is a local hidden treasure belonging to four craftsmen, but rest assured, they generously share their riches.

Austin Beerworks is an owner-operated craft brewery deep in the heart of Texas that originated from four beer and business geniuses. The owners, Adam Debower, Will Golden, Michael Graham and Mike McGovern come with a variety of backgrounds but teamed up to do what men do best, beer.

The four men had backgrounds in Texas, business and beer and formed the perfect combination, Graham said.

It takes more than just the original four to produce the quality and quantity that ABW has grown to produce, which is where the rest of the crew comes in. ABW staff includes a team of “beer workers” from management and brewers to bartenders and Immortal Sex Gods, you’ll have to check out their biographies for that last one.

“We hire personalities, you can train people how to brew beer,” Graham said.

It is quite possible ABW has more personality than beer.

“It’s like a big drunk family,” said Kyle Shutt, bartender.

In August 2014, ABW unveiled a 99-pack of their Peacemaker Anytime Ale, according to The New York Daily News. All 20 of the 7-foot-long 99-packs were sold out the same day they were introduced, which started a major social media discussion and put ABW on the map nationwide.

ABW is a testament to Austin’s booming craft-beer brewing community.

“The beer scene in Austin has really exploded in the past three to five years,” said Michael Graham, co-owner of ABW.

And that it has. Several years ago a map of breweries in the Central Texas area might have shown one sole suggestion: Shiner. However, craft beer breweries have sprouted throughout the greater Austin area.

While the ABW craftsmen work long weeks supplying thirsty Texans with their liquid gold, they don’t stop at just the brewing. They can, package and deliver their masterpieces to stores and restaurants. However, ABW brews can’t be found far from Central Texas, making it all the more magical.

What would anyone want to do after a day full of manual labor besides drink a beer (or 6) and relax with some of Austin’s finest? That’s just what happens, when production ends the party starts.

Tasting Room

serve beer4

Bartender Katie Newman shares a quick laugh with her fellow employee, Jody, as she pours a customer’s drink.

In order to share the genius these craftsmen create daily, the brewery transforms into a tasting room Thursday – Sunday evenings (check times) welcoming beer connoisseurs to come experience the magic they create.

Not only can you sample and learn about the brews, but you can do so alongside those who brewed them, ask questions and get to know the short but huge history behind the inevitably expanding company.

The brewery can be difficult to find for an average passerby, which is why many people only know about ABW via word of mouth, Shutt said.

cup

On weekend afternoons, the brewery becomes a tasting room for hundreds of people to visit, drink a few beers and socialize with friends.

Currently, all it takes is $10 to down three pints and take home the signature ABW glass. (Experts tip: after the multiple visits you are likely to have, bring back five glasses for a trophy to honor your dedication and liver) 

Each afternoon and evening the tasting room is open, a local food truck is on site offering some grub to accompany the Pearl Snap Pilsner or Fire Eagle IPA. The trucks change, but often times ABW shares updates on whats to be expected. 

Austin Beerworks is located at 3009 Industrial Terrace Austin, TX 78758.

ABW: Signature Brews

Austin Beerworks Core Four brews are brewed year-round and are the center of the success ABW is today.

Austin Beerworks Core Four beers are brewed year-round and are the root of the success ABW is today. (Courtesy of ABW)

Fire Eagle IPA, Black Thunder German Style Shwarz, Pearl-Snap German Style Pils and Peacemaker Anytime Ale make up what ABW refers to as the “Core Four.”

As they say, “It’s all about having a strong core.” What sets ABW apart from many breweries is the can. “Beer always tastes better out of a keg, right? Think of our cans as tiny kegs,” the ABW website cleverly states.

In reality though, cans keep the beer colder and are more friendly on the environment. Similarly, the 6-packs are attached by a recycled reusable plastic top.

ABW gets regular and free advertising on social media by its loyal loving fans. Some begging for Peacemaker in stores nearby and others raving about their evening spent in an industrial park with a room full of booze.

 

 

Photos by: Jonathan Garza & Mikhaela Locklear

Coding Success: How an Organization is Helping Students Succeed in Growing App Industry

phone-gif-title

By Chelsey Pena, Lazaro Hernandez and Lauren Lowe

Mobile applications, better known as apps, have become a large part of everyday life. From checking the news on Twitter to cashing a check with your bank, the variety of utilities that can be created for your phone are almost limitless.  Signs of mobile app development slowing down aren’t anywhere in sight.

A student-run Mobile App Development organization at the University of Texas’ computer science department is aware of the potential for mobile app development. MAD, as the organization is known, has made it part of their mission to offer free lessons to students interested in app development.

“If you look at the industry, there is huge demand for mobile applications that have a large user base because the company can use that,” MAD founder Sai Avala said. “Students are going out and pursuing it on their own because they have an idea. Applications are particularly relatable to people. Mobile phones took a fraction of the time to be popular and things are just speeding up.”

App Infograpgic title

Click on the image above to see the full infographic.

 

It’s true the mobile app industry is growing, there are currently more than two million apps in existence across a variety of different application outlets. To put the number in perspective, during the 2014 fiscal year Apple reported making $10 billion just on their iOS apps, which was more revenue than all Hollywood movies generated last year.  This is because the demand from consumers to have a specific tool on a phone continues to grow.

Students have begun to see the financial potential of app development. MAD, founded by computer science seniors Niko Lazaris and Avala just last year, has already grown to be one of the largest organizations in the computer science department with more than a hundred members. The organization offers courses everyday focusing on iOS, Android, and web app development.

The University of MAD, or uMAD, is a conference hosted by the organization that gives students a chance to learn more about mobile app development through industry professional developers. Last month, the conference saw more than a hundred students come out to the event. A few of the big name companies that made an appearance were BuzzFeed, HubSpot and RetailMeNot.

WATCH: Mobile App Development at UT

 

“We started this and expanded it because it was a common interest between us,” Lazaris said. “It’s picked up because mobile app developers are in demand now. We want to see our community be successful. We want to see them get jobs. The conference allows us to get as engaged as possible without power points, just hands on with the engineers.”

Despite classes being taught by students for students, the results speak for themselves. Many MAD members have gone on to create and release their own apps after taking classes from the organization.

UMAD developers

Mobile App Development (MAD) students work on their code during a beginner course on Android development.

“I joined the club about a year ago, and started coming to all of the meetings” said computer science student Tomas Rodriguez who now teaches MAD’s advanced Android class. “It’s about the time you put in. During the summer I created a World Cup app that a lot of people downloaded but has since been taken down, but it’s because of what I learned from this.”

MAD isn’t the only group catching on to the popularity of developing apps, UT’s curriculum is as well. This semester’s course schedule includes classes on Mobile Computing and Mobiles News App Design, a crossover course with both journalism and computer science students.

Professor Robert Quigley of UT’s journalism school, teaches the crossover course. He says that offering these kinds of classes to students allows them to collaborate and explore all aspects of the development process.

“To develop a complete mobile app from scratch, students have to pull from nearly everything they know, and then some,” Quigley said. “It’s not just coding – it is design, writing, critical thinking, teamwork and much more. I love the intersection of humanities and technology, and this class is designed to give the students experience in that space.”

In terms of the future of mobile apps, the industry does not show signs of slowing down production.

“Apps are here to stay,” Quigley said. “It will be interesting to see how they transition over to the wearable space. Will wearables just be notifications or are there bigger uses we haven’t thought of yet?”

Looking Back

The mobile app industry is so dominant today it’s hard to believe it was almost nonexistent less than a decade ago. Take a look at how the mobile app industry has evolved over the years with our interactive timeline.

A Fraction of the Whole

By Megan Breckenridge, Samantha Rivera, Jeff Barker, Taylor TurnerProject 2 thumbnail

A Fraction of the Whole

Kathryn Vasquez, known to her friends and coworkers as “Kat,” is but one of the many students on campus suffering a major blow from the school’s recent Affordable Care Act adoption.

Vasquez is an advertising student at the University of Texas In August, she, along with three fellow coworkers, were promoted to program assistants at the Recreational Sports Center—one of four rec centers located at the University of Texas.

As a program assistant, Vasquez takes on multiple tasks on a weekly basis. The four-person team creates semester-long schedules for three facilities they oversee.

Additionally, program assistants must complete payroll twice a month to ensure that all employees under their supervision are paid accordingly. Furthermore, Vasquez is scheduled to work three shifts a week. Needless to say, she has got a lot on her plate.

Just when you think this hectic schedule couldn’t get any worse, we learn that Vasquez must accomplish all these weekly tasks as well as attend her weekly shifts without surpassing 19 hours a week?

Affordable Care Act in Longhorn Country

Vasquez is but one of many students who have experienced major changes within the year and a half.

In December 2013, students working on campus were privy to speculation of the University scaling back on student-employee hours. The rumor had students like Vasquez deeply worried, and quite frankly in a panic.

Olivia Ruiz, a former student-employee at the University of Texas shared the hardships she was expecting to face once the school mandated the campus-wide audit that would limit employers to scheduling student-employees to 19 hours of work a week. The 19-hour limit would run from Monday to Sunday.

“I pay for my car, my rent, my groceries,” said Ruiz, “I used to work just under 40 hours a week when I attended UT, and even then I was able to just get by.”

 Like Ruiz, Vasquez is paying her way through school. Her job on campus is the main source of income.

Vasquez is aware of the recent changes in light of the push for Obamacare.

“I just wish we had the ability to opt out if we’re already insured,” said Vasquez.

 Other End of the Spectrum

Meredith Duncan, also a student at the University of Texas is pursuing a degree in Business Management. She works in the business office located at Gregory Gym, the largest indoor satellites facility for the Recreational Sports Program on campus.

Since becoming an employed student on campus, Duncan has been restricted to working no more than 19 hours a week. To her knowledge, students do not typically work more than the allotted amount, with the exception of special circumstances. These special circumstances may include part-time students or seniors registered for few classes.

Duncan noted though, that recently she has been asked to clock in a few extra hours, surpassing her weekly average of 16 hours a week. She expressed discomfort about having to take on extra hours at work due to the fact that she’s a full-time student at the competitive business school at her university.

When Duncan talked about the hour limit implemented at the University of Texas, she discussed the University’s intentions to push students to prioritize school over work.

“UT has a policy, you cannot work over 19 hours a week to make sure you are working on your school work,” says Duncan.

When asked if she believed the reduction in weekly hours was harmful, she fully supported the thought behind the hour restriction. Duncan explained that when she initially began working on campus, her supervisor emphasized the need to restrict student-employee hours in order to allow them to adequately focus on school.

 Is the Affordable Care Act Working?

In 2009, Presidobamacare-sign-ups-commonwealth 2ent Obama shed light on the alarmingly high rate of uninsured Americans at the time. What struck a chord with many was the way Obama depicted a situation that could happen to anyone at any time. According to a speech given in early September of that same year, Obama claimed one in three Americans went uninsured at one point in their lives. He also talked about how easily health insurance could be lost.

Proof in Numbers

Since its implementation, the Affordable Care Act has stunned many disbelievers. Although the numbers haven’t yet been made official, the total percentage of uninsured Americans has decreased significantly. According to the New York Times, there’s been a 25 percent reduction of uninsured residents. That roughly represents around 8 to eleven million Americans.

Of that 25 percent, half have applied and been approved for Medicaid insurance. As a result of the act, several states broadened the eligibility for insurance to those earning a relatively low income. Additionally 3 to 4 million young adults have become newly insured.

Health Care Industry

Many question whether or not the A.C.A. has improved or hurt the health industry. After serious scrutiny, Wall Street analysts and several experts in the health industry have drawn the same conclusion—the health industry is thriving as a whole.

With many citizens becoming newly insured, business is being brought to several spectrums of the healthy industry. New clients are filing in to insurers. More and more patients with the means to pay are being seen in hospitals across the country. There have also been more Americans seeking prescribed medication as a result of affordable consultations.

“The irony is if you look sector by sector, the A.C.A. has resulted in pretty substantial earnings across the board,” said Paul H. Keckley, a managing director at the Navigant Center for Healthcare Research and Policy Analysis.

Urban Outfitters’ site plan exemption for the Drag

Small Businesses Say Good Bye To Guadalupe at Hands of Big Corporations

By Claire Hogan, Chelsey Pena, and Andrea Rogers

AUSTIN—The vessel that runs through the heart of the city known as Guadalupe Street, or as many say the Drag, has been a staple to the University of Texas. The street that lies parallel to UT is lined with restaurants and shops, both local and corporate. Many of these local shops have called the Drag home since their establishment and have resided next to bigger businesses, until now.

The store Manju’s at 2424 Guadalupe St., popular for women’s apparel and accessories, will finally close it’s doors at the end of this month after 37 years of residency on the drag. This isn’t because the game day favorite is going out of business, but instead being pushed out by a competitor.

Manju’s owner Kavida declined an interview but briefly said that closing her business is not of her choosing.

Select the image below to view an interactive map of the property

map-screen-grab

A few doors down at 2406 Guadalupe the Pennsylvania based retail giant Urban Outfitters is housed. The two story establishment that sells both men’s and women’s apparel, as well as house décor, records, books and other miscellaneous gifts, has plans to expand their franchise on the drag.

Chris Johnson the Development Assistance Center Manager in the City of Austin Planning & Development Review Department says that although Urban Outfitters has not directly announced an expansion, they have expressed interest.

“Urban Outfitters had a meeting with his Planning and Development Review team back in December about some options they were considering for the land,” Johnson said. “They discussed remodeling the existing buildings for new businesses or even building a multi-tenant development with an entertainment area that included a restaurant and bar on the floor level.”

Both partial and total demolition permits have been applied for the addresses that include Urban Outfitters, what were originally Pipe’s Plus, Texadelphia and Longhorn Lux, and Manju’s. With the exception of Mellow Mushroom, BHF Guadalupe LLC owns all of the addresses on the same strip as Urban Outfitters.

The Washoe Company based of out Luling, Texas owns Mellow Mushroom. The pizza-based restaurant’s lease will end later this year, but there is no word on either a renewal or sale of the property.

Of the addresses owned by BHF Guadalupe LLC, the only address that will remain intact is Chase Bank. Despite being able to stay at their drag location, representatives at the bank say that their parking in the back of the address has been purchased and they will soon have to park elsewhere.

Most recently on January 20th, the 2424 partial demolition permit application was submitted for a remodel to accommodate an Urban Outfitters MEN store at what currently is the Manju’s location.

Urban Outfitters has declined to comment on any purchases, renovations, additions and permit proposals they have made.

This isn’t the first instance of a major corporation buying out small businesses to add or expand their brand. In just the last year 7-11, ATT&T have moved into the drag taking over what once were local shops like the Co-Op Market.

Student’s that that regularly shop on the drag say that part of what keeps Austin weird is having these local shops that cater to the personality of the city.

“These small businesses make up what Austin is and what America is,” UT student Sahare Wazirali said. “I think as long as local business have an equal opportunity for advancement, then I think it’s fair. But what ends up happening is that bigger corporations end up making more money and they have more power and money to do these things. [Buy out small businesses]”

An official date for construction to begin on any of these properties has yet to be announced.

Compare images from the Drag in 2009

. . . And the Drag in 2014.

UT Nears Water Conservation Goal

By Anderson Boyd, Mackenzie Drake and Kylie Fitzpatrick

DSC_1483

Cooling station number five at UT uses reclaimed water to remove rejected heat from the buildings on campus.

When Markus Hogue taps his iPad, the ground moves.

Eight sprinklers shoot from the manicured lawn of the Belo Media Center, spraying water in a semi-circle over the verdant grass.

Hogue, irrigation and water conservation coordinator for University Facilities Services, taps the glass screen again, and the sprinklers disappear, leaving only wet spots on the surrounding concrete as evidence of their existence.

The iPad is connected to a central computer accessible from anywhere on campus, and acts as a mobile command hub for Hogue. It is part of a large-scale irrigation system overhaul that has reduced its water usage by 66 percent, Hogue said.

“We’re saving the University $800,000 a year,” Hogue said. “We’re hoping to save [water] at a hundred million gallons a year [as well].”

This irrigation overhaul is a main reason University Facilities Services is nearing a 20 percent reduction in water and energy usage, a goal originally set for a 2020 completion. Announced in 2012, the goal sits at about 80 percent completed, according to Patrick Mazur, technical staff associate for Energy and Resource Conservation.

DSC_1262

Patrick Mazur points out cooling towers and retrofitted buildings around the UT campus.

Because the project uses 2009 as a baseline year for comparisons, Mazur said a plumbing retrofit of education and general, or E&G, buildings done on campus and at the J.J. Pickle Research Center in 2008 does not officially count toward the project. Data supplied by Facilities Services shows an estimated $2.5 million saved from the plumbing retrofit, which saw 2,220 low-flow toilets and 592 china fixtures installed between 2008 and 2009.

Mazur said Facilities Services only retrofitted E&G buildings because other departments such as University Athletics and Division of Housing and Food Services operate as their own autonomous entities, known as auxiliary enterprises. This means they have their own budgets and receive their own bills for water and energy usage from the University power plant. Mazur compared it to running a hotel.

“They really have more of an incentive, quite frankly, to use less [water and energy] because they get billed, just like you would at your house,” Mazur said. “Since they pay directly for their water usage it’s in their best interest to keep things minimized.”

The University buys 95 percent of its water from the City of Austin Water Utility, with the other five percent recovered through French drains in landscaped areas and through collecting condensation off of air handlers in the cooling stations. Mazur said there is some talk of harvesting rainwater from campus roofs to further reduce water used for irrigation, but only the Belo Media Center, Student Activity Center, Kinsolving and Jester West dormitories and the Biomedical Engineering building currently have useable collection tanks.

DSC_1562

The sprinklers are connected to Hogue’s iPad, and can be turned on and off remotely from anywhere on campus.

Utilities and Energy Management, responsible for maintaining the University power plant and cooling stations, uses about 50 percent of the water on campus. Ryan Thompson, maintenance manager for Utilities and Energy Management, said the department uses reclaimed water supplied by the city in their cooling stations because it is a quarter of the price of potable water, which saves the University money in the long term.

“These [cooling towers] are the biggest water users on campus, so our goal was to use the city’s reclaimed water which is a cheaper less energy intensive water source,” Thompson said. “It saves us the money and its more sustainable in the long run for the community.”

Mazur said there is no immediate conservation project as of right now. Current conservation efforts include buying new laboratory equipment such as vacuum pumps and pipette cleaners that better conserve water, since science labs and related buildings consume more water and energy than non-science buildings.

DSC_1502

Reclaimed water is supplied by the City of Austin and is a fourth of the cost of potable water.

The University produces its own chilled water, steam and electricity, according to Mazur. It even sits on its own power grid, which can be used as backup in case the city’s main grid fails.

“We are completely autonomous from the city of Austin. The water is the only thing we don’t make on campus, with the exception of the recovered water,” Mazur said. “But we want to be good stewards and not waste unnecessarily. It costs us, it costs money to buy that water; it’s foolish to let it go down the drain.”

B-Cycle or B-Hit?

By Adam Beard, Juan Cortez, Heather Dyer, and Landon Pederson.

Red bikes with baskets are becoming a common sight along the city streets of Austin, Texas. The B-Cycle program, which launched in December of 2013, is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week bike-share program that has gone from 11 stations to 45 stations, doubled its first usage projections and set national records.

Four different stations surround the 40 Acres of the University of Texas, including two on Guadalupe Street. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Four different stations surround the 40 Acres of the University of Texas, including two on Guadalupe Street. Photo by Landon Pederson.

The main goal of the program is to bridge the transportation gap in public transit by providing a final-mile connector from the city’s mass transit system to their final destination and to reduce Austin’s traffic downtown.

However, many believe B-Cycle could be harming a different traffic problem – bicycle safety.

Cyclists interested in using B-cycle need a credit card to access the system. Once the card is swiped, cyclists can choose a bike from the rack and ride it to a station near their destination. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Cyclists interested in using B-cycle need a credit card to access the system. Once the card is swiped, cyclists can choose a bike from the rack and ride it to a station near their destination. Photo by Landon Pederson.

“I don’t really feel that safe as a bike rider myself,” said Bea Scott, a frequent bike rider in Austin. “A lot of times, a lot of people don’t really know what they’re supposed to do.”

Scott referred to both cyclers and drivers having confusion on the roads, which in turn, can cause a lot of accidents. In fact, the city of Austin has seen its bicycle accidents increase by 15 percent almost every year since 2007.

With the increase in bicycles due to the B-Cycle program, some are expecting this will only continue and perhaps get even worse.

“I’ve just heard such horror stories about people getting hit because there’s confusion as to who is turning or if the biker was going to go through a crosswalk,” Scott said. “Because of that confusion and also the fact that a lot of people don’t wear helmets, it’s really concerning.”

Although the number of bicycle accidents is increasing in Austin, the percent might be higher if all

Austin B-cycle was created to provide Austinites and locals another mode of transportation to explore downtown and the surrounding area. Photo by Landon Pederson.

Austin B-cycle was created to provide Austinites and locals another mode of transportation to explore downtown and the surrounding area. Photo by Landon Pederson.

accidents were reported. The Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying “people tend to only report a bicycle accident to the police when there is an injury or major damage. Most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.”

Despite all of the controversy, B-Cycle officials have yet to see a problem with its program.

“It hasn’t really been an issue for us,” said Elliott McFadden, the CEO of B-Cycle Austin. “Bike share systems have a stellar safety record throughout the world, and that is so far the case here.”

Austin resident Joy Messie does not see an issue either.

Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying unless an injury or major damage is involved, “most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.” Photo by Landon Pederson.

Austin Police Department recently released a statement saying unless an injury or major damage is involved, “most bicycle accidents go unreported by the parties involved.” Photo by Landon Pederson.

“I’ve moved around a lot, and this is definitely the city I’ve lived in that has the most bike lanes and most biker-friendly stuff,” Messie said. “Some of the drivers in the city I think could do a better job.”

The answer to the question of bicycle safety in Austin remains split, but there are people out there trying to improve the city’s conditions. Nathan Wilkes, an engineer with Austin’s Bicycle Program, said Austin is looking to create a plan that would make for a safer transportation system.

He also added that 39 percent of residents fall into the category of “interested but concerned” to ride a bicycle on the streets. Wilkes said he believes there are ways to make cycling a more appealing option.

                                                                                   One includes what was recently implemented on Guadalupe Street – a cycle track that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic.

Nevertheless, there are still concerns for increasing bicycle accidents with the new B-Cycle program, especially because the program enables people to ride bikes that don’t normally use them on the city’s roads.

 

 

Grocery shopping trends check out the digital aisle

By Joe McMahon, Alice Kozdemba and Silvana Di Ravenna

Grocery shopping in Austin, like many things in these days of smartphones and tablets, is going digital. Instacart is one of the newest services that offers Austinites an online grocery shopping service with HEB, Central Market, Royal Blue, Costco and Whole Foods.

The idea of grocery shopping at the touch of a button is gaining popularity in the U.S. as more grocery deliver services are entering the market. Photo by Silvana Di Ravenna

 

Instacart allows customers to purchase all stock items from these Austin area stores, with the exception of alcohol and in house prepared food items. Customers have the option of getting their order delivered to an address within the city limits or picking up the order at the store. Adam Alfter, an Instacart representative at the Whole Foods Market in Austin, spoke about his experiences delivering food, and the ease the service offers to customers

“When I used to deliver, it would be to a lot of young mothers,” Alfter said. “People who are busy with kids who wanted to bypass the hassle of wrangling them into a car and getting them to the grocery store.”

 

Alfter, a full-time chef,  works with Instacart on the side. He no longer delivers, but stays in the store and does the actual shopping for customers who place their orders online.

“Probably one of the reasons I do this on the side is because I don’t mind being in a grocery store,” Alfter said. “It’s obnoxious going grocery shopping for some people because it can take two hours sometimes.”

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 10.15.32 PM

Accoring to Rachel Malish, Whole Foods’ Austin Media Community Relations Coordinator, the selling approach grocery delivery services are pitching  to consumers is that it saves shoppers time.

“I think what it does for us is it gives time back to customers when they don’t have time to go to the store and explore the aisles,” she said.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 10.15.52 PM

Instacart was initially launched  in San Fransisco in 2012. It has since then expanded and Austin became the 12th city to offer the service in May.

“One of the things that we did when we launched it in Austin, was that we asked people if they wanted to use Instacart and in return we gave them a $5 gift card that they could go use in the store for a cup of coffee and read a magazine, or go to the bar and get a flight of wine,” Malish said, “So there’s definitely still effort put into bringing customers into the store as well as encouraging them to use the Instacart services.”

Instacart announced  a national deal with Whole Foods Market on Sept. 8 but despite it’s national score, it isn’t the first service to help shoppers speed up the weekly chore in Austin. Some smaller local delivery services such as Austin Grocer, Speedy Grocer and Greenling have all been in operation longer than Instacart. Founded in 2005, Greenling, which operates solely as a delivery service, also has the full selection of a grocery store, and everything they carry is locally or sustainably produced, or certified organic. Aside from the organic focus, Greenling Marketing Team Lead, Aspen Lewis, described the business relationship they have with farmers.

“We work directly with the producers and distributors,” Lewis said. “And we do have a warehouse, so local farmers will come directly to us from their farms and the rest we buy from distributors just like Whole Foods or any other grocery store would.”

“It’s definitely a space that’s heating up,” she said. “Some services only provide local produce so it’s much more of niche market, and then there’s services that don’t actually hold inventory, that just goes by on-demand. We’re able to offer a wider variety of items because we do hold our inventory and we can take customer requests more easily.”

Lewis, who said she has long had a passion for teaching people how to cook, thinks that home delivery helps consumers embrace traditional cooking and promotes healthy eating habits.

“One of our main tenants is that people have increasingly gotten away from the kitchen and that’s the reason our food has gotten so bad,” she added, “So making it exciting to create things at home is something I really enjoy about my job.”

These businesses also take to social media and highlight customers making these healthier choices.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 10.16.07 PM

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 10.16.20 PM

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 10.16.38 PM

 

With socialization, transportation and now grocery shopping going digital, it’s anyone’s guess what will be next.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 10.16.48 PM 

 

3-D Technology Finally Free For UT Students

By: Jamie Balli, Silvana Di Ravenna, Briana Franklin, and Breanna Luna

14

UT’s first 3D printing vending machine is the hot topic of technology accessible for students.
Photo Credit: Breanna Luna

AUSTIN – With all the talk about 3-D printing, a few questions still remain. What is in it for the consumer? How does 3-D printing work? Is it costly?

Since early September, 3-D printing has been available at no cost for all students at the University of Texas at Austin. The printer is located in the “T-Room” inside the Mechanical Engineering Building on campus.

Third-year aerospace engineer Kenzie Snell heard about the 3-D printer in the Longhorn Rocketry Association where students had to use it for their rockets. Students in other engineering courses are also using the printer for class projects.

“For my engineering design graphics course I had to recreate a water valve pipe that we took the dimensions of, created 3-D images of them, and then printed them for a final project,” Snell said.

2

This rabbit was designed and printed using free 3-D technology
Photo Credit: Silvana Di Ravenna

A software development group at the university’s school of engineering created an online portal for students to upload their own designs to the 3-D printer. And here is how the process of 3-D printing works. Each design is reviewed by an engineering student for approval. Students are notified via text message once their design has been approved and is in the process of printing. A second and final text message is sent when the design is finished printing and can be picked up.

“No one has to walk up to the machine and load files which is what typically happens with 3-D printers, and involves students kind of hanging around until it becomes available’’ said Dr. Carolyn Seepersad, associate professor of mechanical engineering at U.T.’s Cockrell School of Engineering.

According to Seepersad, students are customizing parts for themselves, including cuff links, initialed designs, and longhorns for the graduating class. Lately, Seepersad has noticed a significant amount of Pokemon figurines being printed.

“If they can draw it up on their computer, then they can print it out and have it pretty quickly, which is easier than going to the machine shop and trying to make it out of wood, steel, or metal,” said Seepersad.

3

Students can pick up their creations at the Innovation Station once they are completed
Photo Credit: Silvana Di Ravenna

3-D printing is also being used to make complex shapes in low volume that are not made with other manufacturing techniques used for high volume. According to Seepersad, 3-D printing “is not going to replace other forms of manufacturing,” but it’s going to “supplement manufacturing in very viable ways.”

“Essentially, what you would make in five pieces and glue them together in an assembly shop, a 3-D printer can do it in a single step,” said Dr. Vikram Devarajan, University of Texas alumnus and 3-D printing expert.

According to Devarajan, 3-D printing was invented about 20 to 25 years ago, and because all of the original patents have already expired, the cost of printing has since decreased. This has made 3-D printing much more affordable for the consumer.

The 3-D printer available for the students uses materials that are relatively inexpensive. The mechanical engineering department has offered to help pay for materials, but donations are also being accepted.

“We can print parts almost continuously and only have a couple thousand dollars of material costs at the end of the year,” said Seepersad. “The labor of keeping the machine updated and maintained is probably the biggest expense.”

According to Devarajan, U.T. owns several printers that employ two main types of additive manufacturing processes.The 3-D printer available for all students is based on a process called FDM [Fused Deposition Modeling] and is more reasonable in material costs. The other process, SLS [Selective Laser Sintering], is more expensive but can print more complex designs and is widely used in the medical and the aerospace industry.

“We couldn’t afford to open up [the SLS] process to students because of the material costs,” said Seepersad. “The parts printed from the 3-D printer downstairs rarely print anything that has more than a dollar’s worth of material.”

3-D printers range in price depending on the complexity of the printer itself. Printers using the SLS modeling process can print complex designs such as organs and complex flow field geometries. At U.T., a human heart modeled from a CT scan was printed, according to Devarajan.

“You can go buy an FDM 3-D printer for $1,000,” said Devarajan. “The SLS printers I have operated at U.T. are about half a million dollars each.”


3D Printing from Briana Franklin on Vimeo.

Researchers Buzz About ‘Bee-Friendly’ Plants

 

J. Tharladson shows a colony of bees pollinating a honeycomb tray at Round Rock Honey hive site in Round Rock, Texas. (Photograph by Alice Kozdemba)

J. Tharladson shows a colony of bees pollinating a honeycomb tray at Round Rock Honey hive site in Round Rock, Texas. (Photograph by Alice Kozdemba)

 

By Elizabeth Williams, Maria Roque, Katherine Recatto and Alice Kozdemba

Gardeners, beware—plants marketed as “bee-friendly” may be laced with pesticides that have been proven to harm the buzzing pollinators, according to a recent study.

The study, released by Friends of the Earth U.S. and the Pesticide Research Institute reported that 51 percent of plant samples advertised as “bee-friendly” contained harmful neonicotinoids, or neonic pesticides. The plant samples were purchased at major garden retailers like Home Depot and Wal-Mart from 18 cities across the U.S. and Canada, including stores in Austin.

The findings of the report fall in line with a study published by the Harvard School of Public Health in May, which linked the pesticides as a possible cause of colony collapse disorder, or CCD.

CCD is the phenomenon of worker bees disappearing from their hives. It has been reported in North America and Western Europe since 2006 after beekeepers were discovering their hives had been mysteriously emptied, with no trace of dead bees to be found.

“People are purchasing these plants with the idea that they want to attract bees and be helpful to bees, and instead they are unknowingly, in some cases, actually poisoning bees.” Luke Metzger, founder and director of Environment Texas 

The losses reported in 2006 ranged from 30 to 90 percent of beekeepers’ hives, according to the USDA. While some beekeepers are reporting a bounce-back from CCD in the last year, the causes still remain at large.

“We can use alternatives for these plants, and I think it’s especially concerning because, again, people are purchasing these plants with the idea that they want to attract bees and be helpful to bees, and instead they are unknowingly, in some cases, actually poisoning bees,” said Luke Metzger, founder and director of Environment Texas.

Without the bees’ pollination, foods like apples and onions would never make it to the dinner table. According to the study, approximately two-thirds of food crops rely on commercial pollinators, and more than 140 crops are grown with neonic pesticides, including corn, soy and wheat.

“When that happens to an entire hive, or happens to even hundreds or thousands of hives at one time, that causes a problem because that means that plants don’t get pollinated, fruit doesn’t result, and the entire food system can be compromised,” said Konrad Bouffard, owner of Round Rock Honey, a local beekeeper and honey producer.

Agrochemical businesses like Monsanto Co. and DuPont have said that neonic pesticides, which are used to soak seeds before planting, should not be present in levels that affect bees after the plant has flowered. The companies have cited mite infestations as a cause of dwindling bee populations.

While researchers have also noted habitat loss and disease as possible causes of CCD, neonic pesticides are a direct human intervention that has been proven to negatively affect bee behavior.

“It’s a combination of all these things coming together, and the straw that broke the camel’s back, or the one that stressed the environment to the point of breaking, is the neonicotinoids,” Bouffard said. “If you take out the neonicotinoids, then you don’t have the breaking point anymore.”

When crops are treated with neonics, the chemicals travel and are distributed throughout the entire plant, including areas like pollen and nectar. The pesticides can also be present in soil.

The pesticides are neurotoxins that can change the way bees behave, even when the pesticides are not at lethal levels said Nancy Moran, a biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Ingestion of these pesticides can also make bees more susceptible to disease and less able to fight off mite infestation.

“Bees have very complicated behavior,” Moran said. “They go to a flower, then they go back to the hive and do this special dance that tells the other bees where the flower is, and if they do the dance wrong because their brains are not working right, then the other bees will not find the flower.”

Neonic pesticides are a direct human intervention that has been proven to negatively affect bee behavior. 

Natural diversity provides bees with the healthiest pollinating opportunities.

“We don’t put our bees on the edge of farms, even organic farms,” Bouffard said. “There’s so much seed out there that has been touched by Monsanto and those places.”

In 2013, the European Union banned neonic pesticides until 2015 to see if honeybee populations increase. In the U.S., Congress proposed the Saving America’s Pollinators Act in 2013 and President Barack Obama called on the EPA and other federal agencies to create a strategy that would take steps to protect bee populations.Several states including Minnesota, Oregon, New York, California and New Jersey have also banned certain strains of the neonic pesticides.

Metzger said that the best way to get truly bee-friendly plant options is to talk to the staff of garden stores and let them know that consumers want neonicotinoid-free plants.

“I think that kind of direct consumer pressure, as the stores see the public demand for them to stop using it, they’ll respond to that,” Metzger said.