Georgia State University receives $10M grant to advance research in artificial intelligence, robotics and edge computing

Jonathan Shihao Ji. Photo provided by Georgia State University.

Jonathan Shihao Ji, a computer science professor at Georgia State University, received a $10 million grant from the Department of Defense to address critical problems in artificial intelligence and robotics with a focus on human-robot interaction, 3D virtual environment reconstruction, edge computing and trustworthy AI.

In recent years, AI has become more and more prevalent in our world, powering search engines, voice assistants and self-driving cars. But Professor Ji thinks it can do more.

“It has been claimed recently that AI is the new electricity,” Ji said. “It can empower and will transform almost every industry in the next several years.”

One major area of research for the center will involve Boston Dynamics’ Spot — a four-legged, dog-like robot — which was acquired by Ji with another Department of Defense grant last year.

Using Spot, Ji hopes he and his fellow researchers will be able to advance AI technology by developing a natural language interface for the robot, which could increase the number of useful tasks that it can perform.

“AI research is a rapidly developing field, but the advancements we are seeing are typically years in the making,” said Sara Rosen, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “The award of the CoE-ACS represents the culmination of years of boundary-pushing research, which has spanned Dr. Ji’s time at Georgia State and in industry. I am excited to see this research taken to the next level, and am thrilled that Georgia State is a player in advancing the frontiers of AI and robotics.”

— Derek Prall

Maternal Health Center receives $2.3 million federal grant

On Monday, the Center for Maternal Health Equity at Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) announced funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

The center will receive $2.3 million over five years, part of a $90 million grant in new awards to support the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, which helps combat maternal mortality and improve maternal and infant health, particularly in underserved communities.

“Georgia has one of the worst rates of maternal mortality and morbidity in the US, especially for people of color. In addition, a third of the counties in Georgia are considered maternity care deserts due to a lack of healthcare providers,” said Dr. Natalie D. Hernandez-Green, Executive Director of the center. “This new funding from the federal government will allow the Center to expand on our vital work to eradicate this disparity and dramatically improve health outcomes for pregnant and postpartum people in urban and rural areas throughout the state — a community-based approach that serves as a model to other communities nationwide.”

MSM is among those awarded to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions.

— Allison Joyner

City to hold LGBTQ Youth Pride Summit and Festival

Image via the City of Atlanta website.

The City of Atlanta will hold a Youth Pride Festival and Summit on Oct. 29. 

The event is intended for LGBTQ youths and adults ages 25 and under. A press release says it will “create a safe space” for attendees to “enjoy family-friendly resources, programming and activities.”

Activities will include workshops on financial and life skills; interactive events like yoga and art therapy; peer support groups; meetings with public safety officials for “mutual understanding”; free services such as haircuts, professional clothing and hygiene essentials; and a health clinic hosted by the Fulton County Board of Health and the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. 

Mayor Andre Dickens, in the press release, calls the event “a celebration of our commitment to creating safe, empowering spaces for LGBTQ youth.” The Mayor’s Office has a Division of LGBTQ Affairs

The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Overtime Elite Arena, 230 17th St.

No one over 25 will be admitted aside from parents, guardians, chaperones, event staff, volunteers, vendors and media. Registration is required on the City website.

— John Ruch

SCAD Paint Our Parks initiative unveils mural at Sara J. Gonzalez Memorial Park  

Image via SCAD SERVE’s website.

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) SERVE Paint Our Parks public art initiative recently unveiled a new mural at Sara J. González Memorial Park in Atlanta’s Westside on Oct 11. SCAD SERVE Alumni Ambassador and acclaimed artist, illustrator, musician, and author José Ray conceptualized the piece, which now enlivens the first public park named for a Latino in the state of Georgia.

Envisioned by SCAD President and Founder Paula Wallace, SCAD SERVE’s Paint Our Parks initiative focuses on serving citizens of the university’s hometowns in Atlanta and Savannah through the creativity, expertise, and altruism of SCAD’s supremely talented network of students and alumni.

“At the perfect intersection of community engagement and student opportunity sits the SCAD Paint Our Parks initiative,” said artist José Ray. “I am truly honored as an alum to be recognized by SCAD and chosen to lead our team to bring to life this mural at Sara J. González Park. The enthusiasm and support from the community are a true testament to the positive impact of the program. It proves the power of public art to foster meaningful conversations and prompt interaction between people all along the spectrum of life. There was a strong sense that we are walking in the philanthropic footsteps of Sara J. González, for the Latino community and beyond!”

The park’s namesake, Sara J. González, was a changemaker and tireless champion of the Hispanic community in Georgia. As a personal tribute, González’s granddaughter, accomplished SCAD graphic design alumna Paulina de la Valette, assisted the artist in the creation of this intricate mural design, interweaving symbols of precious mementos and personal effects such as jewelry, scarves, and fans. The mural captures González’s lively essence and pays homage to her proud Hispanic heritage.

An enthusiastic team of volunteers composed of SCAD students, faculty, and staff, as well as the family of Sara González and neighborhood community members, participated in the painting of the mural. The result is an inspiring, reimagined recreational space for the community at the all-abilities playground that embraces inclusivity, unity, and family.

— Derek Prall 

Underground Atlanta announces Halloween-themed interactive bar

Underground Atlanta recently announced the grand opening of an immersive Halloween and horror-themed scare bar designed by a film crew currently sidelined due to a strike. Uniting their creative prowess, Haunted Underground promises to bring a truly chilling experience to Atlanta.

Lead designer Ron Hammond explained: “We wanted to create a space that incorporated every type of horror film genre from the widely known to the cult classics. The “Red Room” or “Blood Lounge” was greatly inspired by the 2018 film “Suspiria,” a remake of the 1977 Italian supernatural horror film of the same title… If it’s an all-night mesmerizing dance party with your friends or a lounge vibe so unique you look like you’re on the set of next season’s American Horror Story, there’s a space for everyone.”

— Derek Prall

Vote Run Lead Action holds Georgia political training to prepare women to manage campaigns or run

Photo provided by Vote Run Lead.

Vote Run Lead Action, a leading nonprofit training resource for women to run for political office, is holding a statewide training designed for women and gender-expansive people interested in running for the Georgia State Legislature in 2024 and other elected positions on Oct. 21 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Alpharetta. The event will also include training for aspiring campaign managers.  

“Vote Run Lead Action envisions a country with women as the majority of officeholders at every level of government, forging the reflective democracy we deserve,” said Sabrina Shulman, Vote Run Lead Action’s chief political officer. “Our goal is to dismantle obstacles to equitable representation and place women’s experiences, perspectives, input, and expertise at the forefront of the democratic process to transform the lives of our families, communities, and our country.”

The training will feature a dynamic, participatory and supportive learning environment where participants can explore their strengths and learn from other elected officials and successful campaign managers. There will also be small group discussions exploring campaign management. Through this training, participants will learn directly from experts on the ground who have built and managed successful campaigns around Georgia and will forge connections with fellow leaders.

For registration or more details, click here.

— Derek Prall

The Flying Biscuit Café celebrates 30-year anniversary

This month, The Flying Biscuit Café, an all-day breakfast restaurant chain, celebrates 30 years in business. In 1993, Flying Biscuit opened its first location in Candler Park. Fast forward to today, Flying Biscuit has expanded with over 30 franchise locations across the Southeast.

“The Flying Biscuit has become a neighborhood institution, a place where guests can count on a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and a wide variety of great food made with fresh ingredients,” said Brent Fuller, Brand Leader for the Flying Biscuit Café. “With the positive reception and interest we’ve received in entering additional markets, we know that there is a significant growth opportunity for our concept and our brand. We’re excited to have grown as much as we have over our first 30 years, and we look forward to continuing it in the future.” 

— Derek Prall 

Georgia Works celebrates 10th anniversary

Bill McGahan, left, was clearly touched when Georgia Works CEO Darlene Schultz and board member Henry Grady announced the nonprofit’s new intake center would be named after him. (Photo by Maria Saporta.)

It’s been quite a decade for Georgia Works, a nonprofit that provides housing and employment to homeless men. The nonprofit held a celebration to mark its 10th year in business and to honor its founder, Bill McGahan.

McGahan, a retired investment banker, launched the program to help homeless men get back on their feet back in 2013. Georgia Works has been operating out of the Gateway Center downtown ever since.

Now, the nonprofit is renovating the historic Odd Fellows building at 250 Auburn Ave., where it will expand its services once the project is complete in about a year.

McGahan, who now spends most of his time in Puerto Rico, came back to Atlanta for the 10-year celebration, which was held at the law offices of Nelson Mullins at Atlantic Station on Oct. 5.

At the reception, the current leaders of Georgia Works surprised McGahan. The “intake” center that will be located on the first floor of the Odd Fellows building will bear his name. The intake center is where homeless men seeking employment and housing are asked to take a urinalysis test to show they are free of drugs and alcohol.

— Maria Saporta

Metro schools reach above-average graduation rates, DCD below average

Earlier this week, the Georgia Department of Education released its data on school systems around the state.

Regarding the four-year graduation rate for the Class of 2023, the state stands at 84.36 percent, slightly increasing from last year’s 84.06 percent rate.

Other school systems in the metro area made gains in this category, including Atlanta Public Schools (86.6), City Schools of Decatur (94.1) and Fulton County Schools (90.3).

DeKalb County Schools received a 75.77 percent rating, almost ten percent below the state average.

“The 2023 student graduation cohort were ninth graders during the start of the pandemic,” said Dr. Devon Horton, Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools. “Despite the chaos of school closures, forced virtual learning and adjusting to a new school environment, I am encouraged to see only a slight decline in our four-year graduation rate.”  

— Allison Joyner

Henry County Sheriff’s Office hosts 5K run, walk

Flyer via the Henry County Sheriff’s Office.

On Sat., Nov. 4, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office Foundation, will host a Deputy Dash 5K run and walk at the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.

The run is a Peachtree Road Race qualifier and all proceeds will go to Camp Sunshine, which provides support and memorable experiences for children battling cancer and their families.

Everyone from all fitness levels is invited to this family-friendly event.

Click here to register.

— Allison Joyner

Chamblee purchases land to create park

Last week, the City of Chamblee recently announced its land purchase to create a park for its residents.

According to the Chamblee Parks and Recreation Department, the property is located on Woodacres Road in South Chamblee, which has been considered a park desert.

Jodie Gilfilan, Director of the Chamblee Parks and Recreation Department, says the park will provide access to parks and facilities to those living there.

“The city will be tearing down the existing structure and creating a passive park while exploring other recreational uses, such as trails and gardens, in the near future,” said Jon Walker, City Manager for the City of Chamblee.

As part of the planning process, the city plans to host public meetings for residents to give input soon.

— Allison Joyner

Winners announced for Morehouse Film Festival

Image via Morehouse Film Festival materials

Last month, the Morehouse College Human Rights Film Festival announced its winners during their festivities.

Among those were the film “Honor Student,” which won best narrative feature, “Teacher” for “best documentary feature,” and “Sammy Without Strings,” for best student film.

Click here to see the complete list of winners.

— Allison Joyner

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