August 22, 2014

USC’S McNair Center lands home for research

Harris Pastides USC president

Harris Pastides
USC president

The University of South Carolina’s McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research announced Monday it has secured a 13,500-square-foot office and research home near downtown Columbia.

The school announced a new five-year lease agreement with SC Research Authority on Monday. The building has housed the offices for the center for the past two years, but will now expand to include a new $4.5 million research center.

The new Advanced Composite Materials Research Center will include an automated fiber placement machine for use in developing new lightweight composite structures and advanced robotic technology used to build aircraft composites. At the official facility announcement Monday, USC President Dr. Harris Pastides said this will be the first time such a state-of-the-art industrial machine will be owned outside a corporate entity.

“That’s the kind of equipment and facility that will allow companies, large and small, to come to South Carolina and play their role as best they can in developing the great aircraft and parts of the future,” Pastides said.

Pastides said for some time now the university has had the students and the faculty, but not have the right physical space to conduct the kind of research that Boeing and other aeronautic companies want. But he said the massive center allows the university to conduct the type of research that will attract other companies to the state.

“We hope to attract, maybe even lure, other companies that can’t afford that machine where they are, but would move to South Carolina so that they can have an opportunity to work with it and work with us,” he said.

The McNair Center has more than two dozen contributing researchers working in a wide range of aerospace-related fields. Pastides said the center cannot be more aptly named because Lake City native Ron McNair worked long and hard to transform himself from small town dreamer to physicist/astronaut. Pastides said the story of Ron McNair’s life continues to serve as an inspiration.

“When it came to attending college, they told him he couldn’t go to MIT. They told him he couldn’t become an Air Force pilot or an astronaut. So that’s the kind of role modeling that will continue to inspire us. When people tell us ‘no you can’t,’ we’ll say ‘Ron McNair did; we can, too.’”

Construction on the Advanced Composite Materials Research Center is expected to begin in August.


Converse College basketball coach resigns after shoplifting arrest

Former Converse College Head Basketball Coach Kaye Waldrep (Image: Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office)

Former Converse College Head Basketball Coach Kaye Waldrep (Image: Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office)

The head women’s basketball coach at Converse College in Spartanburg has resigned after being charged with shoplifting on Tuesday.

A Converse spokeswoman said in an email Wednesday that the college had accepted the resignation of head basketball coach Kaye Waldrep, effective immediately. The spokeswoman said the college was unable to make any further comment on a personnel matter.

According to WSPA, the 35-year-old Waldrep was seen trying to hide and steal over $500 worth of merchandise from a Kohl’s Department store.

The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s office incident report said Waldrep and 38-year-old Ricky Dean Ponder were seen selecting perfume and tennis shoes and trying to hide the items in Waldrep’s purse before attempting to leave without paying. The pair were detained by security guards until deputies arrived.

The police report says Waldrep and Ponder admitted to the deputies that they attempted to steal the items and were arrested and issued tickets for first-offense shoplifting under $2,000.

Waldrep was hired by the college in 2012 after she spent four seasons as the assistant basketball coach for the College of Charleston women’s team. Waldrep began her coaching career in 2001 at her alma mater, Newberry College.

Converse College has removed Waldrep’s profile from the school’s athletics page.

Patrick Ingraham contributed to this report

USC awarded $11.3 million grant for new pharmacy research center

Randall Rowen

Randall Rowen

A research center dedicated to developing the next generation of drugs to treat everything from diabetes to cancer will be created at the University of South Carolina thanks to an $11.3 million federal grant.

The five-year grant is one of the largest competitive awards in the university’s history and will establish the Center for Targeted Therapeutics (CTT) at the USC College of Pharmacy (SCCP). Interim executive dean of College of Pharmacy Randall Rowen says the grant award is a big step.

“I think both the university and the college is going to have a very significant impact on the citizens of South Carolina,” Rowen said. “So, even though this is federally funded, it is something that is clearly going to benefit our citizens, our students and so forth in the training of future investigators. And they will go all over the country, if not the world.”

The center will work toward creating drugs that target diseases on a molecular level without the adverse side effects common of traditional pharmaceuticals. USC pharmacy professor Igor Roninson, who school leaders say played a major role in securing the grant, will lead the new center.

[Read more...]

Report: SC trails in well-being of children

childrenSouth Carolina remains 45th in the nation in child well-being, according to the annual Children’s Trust “Kids Count” report.

The report also shows that poverty among South Carolina’s children has gotten worse, rising from 23 percent in 2005 to 27 percent in 2012. Melissa Strompolis of Kid’s Count South Carolina said educational achievement continues to lag behind as 72 percent of the state’s 4th-graders are not proficient in reading and 69 percent of 8th-graders are not proficient in math.

She said that does not bode well for the future. “Those are very concerning because with all the new and the economic boost that it seems that South Carolina is seeing, we want our children to be able to fill those jobs and contribute to South Carolina’s economy,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “But they will need the education to be able to do that.”

Kids Count is a major initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Nationally, the report shows that 23 percent, or 16.4 million U.S. children, are living in poverty. That rate is up from about 19 percent in 2005.

The report reveals that 36 percent of the state’s children lived in homes where their parents lacked secure employment, an increase from 30 percent in 2008. Strompolis says living at or near poverty causes a numbers of stressors on the family and that can lead to child abuse and neglect. Strompolis said South Carolina did show some improvement in the area of health and well-being.

“We’ve had a reduction in the rates of child and teen deaths,” she said. “We’ve also seen a reduction in the number of teens giving birth, which has also been very positive for South Carolina.”

But despite the progress, Strompolis said South Carolina continues to lag near the bottom in the well-being of its children because other states are making just as much or more improvement. Strompolis says Kids Count is sharing information with counties as a call to action so that steps can be taken, at the grassroots level, to improve various environments so children can thrive and achieve.

“What Children’s Trust is working to do is to take all of this information and put it out at the county level,” she said. “So that local communities and stakeholders can take this information back to their respective counties, which will include their county data, and work to make improvements because we may see some regional variation from one county to the next.”

OSHA investigating state school for at-risk youth in McCormick

John de la Howe School (Image: JDLH)

John de la Howe School (Image: JDLH)

Workplace safety officials are now investigating a state-funded school for at-risk youth in McCormick.

The Greenwood Index-Journal reports the state Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) is looking into the John de la Howe School aging buildings. The move comes after OSHA said it received a complaint from an anonymous school employee who claimed problems with mold, asbestos, and hazardous chemicals around the school.

The paper reports the complaint describes the administrative building and cafeteria to be in a state of “wanton disrepair,” noting rainwater entering live light fixtures in the cafeteria, large holes inside and out, an outside freezer that can be potentially lock an individual inside, and a lack of a fire suppression system. In the administrative building, the complaint claims there are falling terracotta roof tiles that may contain asbestos

The John de la Howe school has been subject to several probes this year. The state Inspector General issued a report in January that criticized a lack of oversight and controls that led to the school spending almost $87,000 per student enrolled. 65 students are currently enrolled in the school, according to the report. The state Department of Education began temporary oversight of the school this year, in response to the Inspector General’s report and several resignations by school leaders.

The school was established in 1797 according to the will of Dr. John de la Howe. According to the will, de la Howe’s estate of 2000 acres in McCormick County was left to the state to care for 12 poor boys and 12 poor girls in a school based setting with preference to be given to orphans. The school became a state agency in 1918.