RESEARCHER: LIGHTNING STRIKE COINCIDES WITH MINE EXPLOSION
Martin Chapman, director of the Virginia Tech Seismological Observatory (VTSO) and research assistant professor of geosciences in the College of Science, reports that a seismic event occurred at the time of the explosion at the Sago Mine on Jan. 2, correlating with lightning strikes in that area. Numerous lightning strikes were recorded by WeatherBug, a provider of weather information via a network of 8,000 stations across the U.S. "We have a lightening network," explains Bob Marshall, CEO of the WeatherBug United States Precision Lightning Network. "When we saw that these events were near Sago, we called the U.S. Geological Survey, who referred us to Martin Chapman at Virginia Tech. Martin then checked the seismic station readings for the time of the lightning strike." As of Jan. 10, VTSO had two readings from two West Virginia stations on the seismic network. Chapman emphasizes that it is too early to draw conclusions about the cause of the explosion and that he and others continue to gather and analyze data to provide more information for investigators of the tragedy. VTSO staff members are looking for additional information from other stations on the VTSO seismic network.
VIRGINIA TECH RANKS AMONG "BEST VALUES" IN PUBLIC COLLEGES
Virginia Tech ranks in the nation's top 20 public colleges and universities that offer a first-class educational experience at a bargain price, according to Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. Released on Jan. 10, the Kiplinger 100: Best Values in Public Colleges list places Virginia Tech 20th among 100 institutions where students can receive "a stellar education without graduating with a mountain of debt," according to the publication's editors. Identified from a pool of more than 500 public four-year colleges and universities, the top 100 colleges were ranked according to academic quality, cost, and financial aid opportunities. Although three other Virginia universities made the top 20 list, including the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, and James Madison University, Virginia Tech remains the lowest-cost public university in Virginia. Of the 15 four-year public colleges and universities in the state, Virginia Tech has the lowest overall cost to attend (tuition, mandatory fees, and room and board). In addition to its low overall cost, Virginia Tech has begun a program to steadily increase financial aid to ensure access for all who qualify to study at Tech. Beginning in the 2006-07 academic year, the university will increase its level of institutional funding for financial aid provided to undergraduate students from low- to moderate-income families. An innovative financial aid program, "Funds for the Future," will protect these students from tuition and mandatory fee increases during their four years at the university. Along with tuition- and fee-increase protection, qualifying students who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid will be considered for additional grant assistance from Virginia Tech's Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.
The airdate has changed for the episode of ABC's hit show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" featuring the design and construction of a Blacksburg home for former Virginia Tech employee Carol Crawford Smith. To design the house, the show worked with many of the same architecture faculty members and students who created Virginia Tech's solar house, which took home the top prizes for architecture and livability in the 2005 Solar Decathlon. As well, Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students worked alongside professionals and other volunteers to build the new house in just one week. As reported in the Winter 2006 issue of Virginia Tech Magazine (which will begin mailing this week), the show was originally scheduled to air in late January but will now air in mid-February at the earliest. For schedule updates, go to http://abc.go.com/primetime/xtremehome/. In late April, look for an article on the project in the Spring 2006 issue of Virginia Tech Magazine.