Tech Roundup - December 10, 2021

Fri, 12/10/2021

Welcome to ‘Tech Roundup,’ where we highlight some of the most significant tech news items from Nebraska and the surrounding area. If you have a news item you would like to see in the Roundup, please email


Billions of Infrastructure Funds are Coming to Your State, Here’s Where it’s Going to be Spent

Nebraska Public Media

  • So far, Nebraska state leaders have yet to provide plans on how they plan to spend the $3 billion allocated to the state in the infrastructure bill.
  • Speaking at an agricultural expo Tuesday, Gov. Pete Ricketts said the main focus will be improving Nebraska’s roadways and bridges.
  • Access to high-speed internet has also been an issue in the state. The bill would allocate at least $100 million to increase broadband coverage in the state. The Southeast Nebraska Development District has been gathering internet speed reports from across the state, and they have found slower speeds in most rural parts of the state.
  • Additionally, the state will receive $358 million over five years to improve water infrastructure. Supply chain issues have created problems for utilities providing water to smaller towns.


Crash test showcases strength of Nebraska-developed roadside barrier

Nebraska Today

  • Researchers from the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility conducted a rare tractor-tanker crash Dec. 8 to test how a newly designed and significantly shorter concrete roadside barrier performs in a crash.
  • For the past decade, Midwest Roadside Safety Facility Director Ron Faller and a team of researchers — including Cody Stolle, Joshua Steelman and engineering graduate students — have been designing a thinner, shorter barrier that could lead to the first change in national standards in many decades. Currently, the standard roadside barrier to handle MASH TL-6 trucks is 90 inches tall, and the last test was in the late 1980s at the Texas Transportation Institute.


New Nebraska law takes action against crypto-mining company

Lincoln Journal Star

  • State banking officials have issued a cease-and-desist order against a crypto-mining investment company after it took $725,000 from a Nebraska investor and her mother.
  • The order bars Satitech Mining and Machinery, an online company, from offering or selling securities in Nebraska until the securities are registered with the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance and company officials are registered as broker-dealers or broker-dealer agents under state law. The order took effect Nov. 10.
  • Department officials were alerted to the situation under a new state law aiming to protect elderly Nebraskans and other vulnerable adults from financial exploitation.


Firm Behind Nebraska Niobium Project Quiet During Annual Meeting

Nebraska Public Media

  • NioCorp, the company hoping to dig a Niobium mine in southeast Nebraska, held its annual stockholders meeting outside Denver on Thursday, but could reveal nothing about the status of the project.
  • For over a decade, Colorado-based NioCorp advanced proposals to extract the minerals Niobium, titanium, and scandium found below the farmland near Elk Creek, Nebraska. Manufacturers use the elements to create strong metal alloys.
  • Last month the company also filed a $200 million Shelf Registration Statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Taking the action allows NioCorp to move forward with a new security offering. It allows the company to move quickly, making the shares available when market conditions are favorable.


Husker team takes leading role at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

Nebraska Today

  • The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has received a five-year, $51 million grant from the National Science Foundation that will advance cutting-edge work in subatomic physics at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest, most powerful particle accelerator located near Geneva, Switzerland.
  • The university takes over at a critical point in time for the Large Hadron Collider. The instrument is poised to begin its third data-taking run in 2022, which is expected to double the size of the current CMS data set of proton collisions.


'Magic alchemy': Artists talk about inventing the NFT and digital art at Lincoln exhibition

Lincoln Journal Star

  • When Kevin McCoy began looking into Bitcoin in 2012, he realized that there was a kind of “magic alchemy” going on in the digital currency’s blockchain that could create something that was simultaneously scarce and ubiquitous.
  • Two years later, McCoy turned that revelation into a non-fungible token, or NFT, selling “Quantum,” a digital art work within a blockchain. The NFT, however, languished until about 2017 when it started bubbling up with sales and trades of CryptoKitties, virtual cats.
  • McCoy and his wife and collaborator, Jennifer, were in Lincoln earlier this month to attend the opening of “Lincoln Tunnel to Lincoln, Nebraska,” their exhibition at Fiendish Plots and to meet with students and faculty of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Johnny Carson School of Emerging Media Arts. The exhibition will run through December.


Nebraska 511 to include more weather information

Lincoln Journal Star

  • Nebraskans will be able to get more information on weather and road conditions this winter through the Department of Transportation's 511 system.
  • The department Monday announced three main enhancements to the service: adding weather system data so that people can see the progression of storms, creating a dedicated page for commercial drivers to get information, and integrating crowd-sourced data about weather and road conditions from the Waze app.


"The Quality is Very Good:" Ricketts Defends Nebraska Roads

Nebraska Public Media

  • "One of the things I want to see is what we can do with regard to our expressway system – see how we can apply it there," Ricketts said. "Then, of course, roads and bridges are going to be a big deal, especially our county roads, and how we can help out with that. We've had our county bridge match program since 2016 that has been wonderfully successful, so we would like to build on that foundation and continue to improve our county bridges."
  • The governor continued, saying the state rebounded with its roads specifically after the 2019 floods. "We had actually 10,000 miles of highways closed at one point. [We] repaired 27 bridges and really turned those around in a very short manner to be able to get those back up and running."
  • When asked about growing supply chain issues, Governor Ricketts said his team is working with other governors and the federal government on possible solutions. He's also weighing an executive order to relieve some of the supply chain strain.


As Labor Shortages Continue, Could Robots Provide An Answer?

Nebraska Public Media

  • Now, more than ever, robots are making their way into people’s lives and not just in urban coastal cities like New York City and Los Angeles. Right here in Nebraska, there are robots that can bus tables, check inventory and more.
  • In the town of Aurora, Nebraska, right off Highway 34 and 11th Street and down a small, winding gravel road, sits Jojo’s Gelato and Grill. Once inside, there’s one employee that draws a little more attention than the others: a child-sized robot, zipping from table to table with plates of food.


Omaha Doctors Warn the Sickest COVID Patients on Ventilators are Under 40

Nebraska Public Media

  • Public health officials and doctors are warning of a new trend: People under 40 are now the sickest COVID-19 patients on ventilators.
  • Those patients can be as young as 18 years old, according to doctors from Omaha hospitals and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, who hosted a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
  • Dr. Matt Donahue, acting state epidemiologist, said state data show some obvious facts like unvaccinated people being hospitalized at a far greater rate. But there’s also facts like this: “Young unvaccinated 30-year olds are being hospitalized at similar rates as vaccinated individuals over 80," he said.


Small Nebraska Town Experiencing Water Filtering Issues

Nebraska Public Media

  • A northeastern Nebraska town is experiencing challenges with tap water quality.
  • Terry Uding works in utilities for Lyons, a town of about 800 people roughly 75 miles north of Omaha. Its tap water has recently turned a dark brown color at times. Uding said it's because of an old filtration system that needs replacing. Lyons is experiencing the pitfalls of supply chain delays and is working with a contractor to replace its filtration system.


How Supply Chain Issues Could Affect Nebraska Christmas Stores

Nebraska Public Media

  • Christmas season is here and local businesses are gearing up for the season, but supply chain issues may affect some Nebraska stores.
  • Craig Trump usually orders Christmas home decorations overseas. He’s the owner of Pinecrest Tree Farm in Blue Springs, in southeast Nebraska. But this year, he’s only received 50% of his orders.
  • "I think a lot of those [orders] are still sitting on ships somewhere out in the ocean," he said.


What We Are Reading

Adam Thompson, Lecturer and Assistant Director of the Kutak Ethics Center recommended the following article addressing “how automated facial analysis technologies intersect with the historical genealogy of racialized gender.”

Auto-essentialization: Gender in automated facial analysis as extended colonial project

Big Data & Society

Thompson writes:

Ruha Benjamin warns us about technological benevolence in her groundbreaking Race After Technology (2019, Polity).  Technological benevolence refers to the attitude toward technology that sees it as the great neutralizer.  The attitude leads people to replace humans with technology with the thought so long as humans don’t feature in that role, obligations are met, or outcomes will (likely) be better.  But, as Benjamin points out, the inference is invalid.  Technology can be just as, and sometimes more, problematic than their human counterparts.  In their recent work Scheueman, Pape, and Hanna (2021, Big Data & Society) remind us of Benjamin’s concern.  They worry that facial recognition technology doesn’t eliminate bias but reinforces it in a manner that effectively works to support the domination of one gender over another.  Hence, using facial recognition technology to replace or enhance human capacity in various fields may violate or thwart our efforts to carry out our obligations to destroy systems of domination and oppression. 

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