Rolla-Region Coverage | St. Louis Public Radio

Rolla-Region Coverage

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Missouri University of Science and Technology is expected to announce furloughs and layoffs this week, similar to those at most colleges and universities, but the cuts could include degree programs.

S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani said financial challenges caused by the pandemic provide a chance for the university to improve the focus on its core, and that could include eliminating majors.

“This is the opportunity for us to see what programs we can integrate. What programs that have been, frankly, lingering for the last several years [that] we can potentially sunset,” Dehghani said during a recent virtual town hall meeting.

Rolla Books and Toys repopened under new rules from the city to help protect workers and customers from coronavirus. 05-13-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Rolla ended its stay-at-home order earlier this month, but two weeks into the reopening of the economy with restrictions, the situation is getting mixed reviews from businesses.

Rolla Books and Toys tried curbside pickup and orders in March but closed after an unsuccessful week. Now they are back open with clear shower curtains surrounding the cash register area to protect workers, six-foot boxes taped off on the floor to promote social distancing, and a large hand-sanitizer dispenser at the front of the store for customers to use. 

That’s what retail looks like now in Rolla during the coronavirus pandemic.

Provided photo from Fort Leonard Wood, taken April 2020
Fort Leonard Wood

Unlike other areas of Missouri where health officials believe the peak of coronavirus passed more than a week ago, Fort Leonard Wood has yet to see the worst, post leaders say. And they are asking for help to make sure people follow the rules.

According to the latest data, the virus may continue to spread at Fort Leonard Wood, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin said.

“The trend of cases, community spread and community testing in our region do not indicate that we are on a downward slope or side of this curve,” Martin said.

Statue of St. Patrick looking over the Missouri S&T quad, 4-24-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — With some data suggesting the region and state hit its peak in coronavirus spread more than a week ago, Missouri University of Science and Technology is planning to start a slow process of bringing people back to campus.

School officials announced the plan during a recent virtual town hall meeting, the latest in a series held every week since the coronavirus pandemic reached the area.

“The optimism [about the data] points us in a direction of looking at repopulation of campus in a well-thought-out, phased approach,” said Dr. Dennis Goodman, the university's medical director. “Getting ready for that phase that is going to occur in August which will be a large population surge.”

A Public House Brewing Company employee brings pizza to a curbside customer. It's a small business trying to make it in a collge town where the students have largely left town. 4-02-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Like most small businesses in the U.S., those in college towns are trying to find a way to stay afloat amid stay-at-home orders and social distancing because of the coronavirus.

But they often face a double whammy, with a sizable amount of the population leaving as dorms are closed and classes are moved online. That’s what’s happening in Rolla, home to Missouri University of Science and Technology.

Rolla is a town of about 20,000, and that includes about 8,000 students at Missouri S&T. While an exact count isn’t known, many of those students left campus and the city to return home to complete their classes online.

Online screen shot from 4/22 virtual town hall meeting
Facebook

The U.S. Department of Defense announced Wednesday that it is lifting the suspension of new recruits going to basic and advanced training at bases like Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood.

That means hundreds of new soldiers will be arriving at Fort Leonard Wood amid concerns of spreading coronavirus.

The base’s commander, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, said the new soldiers’ experience will be vastly different than before, including numerous coronavirus precautions.

Gov. Mike Parson signs the legislation that has Missouri recognize professional licesnes of military spouses that move into the state. 4-21-20
Jaclyn Driscoll | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4 p.m. with Gov. Mike Parson signing the bill

Some spouses of military members will have an easier time finding a job when they move to Missouri.

Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday signed legislation to have Missouri honor the professional licenses that military spouses hold from other states.

Parson said the move will help military spouses avoid hiccups in their careers when they relocate to Missouri, and will also help fill open jobs.

Parson and some lawmakers have expressed interest in expanding the program to non-military families to help make the state more attractive.

Fort Leonard Wood, taken 7-26-19
File photo | Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Hundreds of soldiers who graduated from training at Fort Leonard Wood should be at their next post, but travel restrictions due to the coronavirus have stalled those movements.

It also means that family members have not been able to see their loved ones in the brief windows between assignments.

Alex Englemann of Stockton, California, graduated from basic combat training at Fort Leonard Wood more than three weeks ago. His father, John, was on his way to Missouri for the graduation ceremony, but turned around when it was canceled because of coronavirus concerns.

Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology are analyzing millions of tweets to track the nation’s mood and behavior during the coronavirus outbreak.

And they say the data could help devise strategies to deal with this pandemic and others. 

Computer science professor Sanjay Madria and Ph.D. student Yasin Kabir created a program that started searching Twitter in early March for trending topics, keywords, phrases and other elements in tweets that give some insight to the public sentiment about coronavirus.

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin spoke on Facebook Live about the confirmed coronavirus case at Fort Leonard Wood 03-25-20 screenshot from Facebook
Facebook

FORT LEONARD WOOD — Maj. Gen. Donna Martin returned to Facebook on Wednesday in what was billed as a virtual town hall meeting to praise the procedures in place to keep the coronavirus in check.

The briefing came days after the first confirmed case of the virus at the installation in Missouri’s Ozarks that has tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians coming through every year.

Martin said the infected soldier was on leave in New York before the Department of Defense banned such travel. The soldier returned to base, followed protocol and reported for a medical check.

Eric Schneider sits at a computer wearing a mask prototype and working on revisions for the next version. March 23, 2020. JA 3-23-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8:10 p.m. March 25 with production continuing

Production of protective face masks at Missouri University of Science & Technology, which had been paused pending FDA approval, has resumed. They won’t be delivered to Phelps Health Medical Center until the FDA approves them. Missouri S&T and the hospital are pleased with the final design and are optimistic it will be approved.

The students, who are continuing to work around the clock, are also producing face shields, which do not require FDA approval.

Missouri S&T professors Rex E. Gerald II and Jie Huang with the sensor they are developing that could help screen people for viruses like coronoavirus. Photo from Missouri S&T, provided March 2020
Tom Wagner | Missouri S&T

ROLLA — Researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology are developing an electronic sensor that can detect viruses by analyzing someone’s breath. 

The technology could be used in the future to manage the spread of an epidemic like coronavirus. The prototype of the sensor is designed to be a first-level screening for viral diseases that affect the lungs. 

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin spoke at a virtual town hall meeting on Facebook to talk about Fort Leonard Wood's response to coronavirus (Facebook screen capture from 03-18-20)
Facebook

Maj. Gen. Donna Martin took to Facebook on Wednesday to hold a virtual town hall meeting on Fort Leonard Wood’s response to coronavirus concerns, and delivered a message of some things being exactly the same and some very different.

All troop training exercises and classes, including basic training, will continue. New recruits from all over the country will still come to the military installation in Missouri’s Ozarks to take the first steps toward becoming a soldier.

But service members and their families on base face significant restrictions in travel. All personal leave has been canceled, and travel is only allowed in military-approved scenarios where COVID-19 screening protocols are in effect.

Provided photo of Dale Martin from Missouri S&T, taken in 2017
Missouri S&T

ROLLA — The Rolla Regional Economic Commission’s new leader has no economic development experience, and his hiring marks a shift in the group’s focus.

Dale Martin was the head men’s basketball coach at Missouri University of Science and Technology for 22 years. He started as the executive director of RREC this month.

The new Sumers Welcome center employees a glass, curtain wall design.  [9/27/19]
James Ewing

Updated at 8:40 p.m. March 13, with new information about St. Louis University and the University of Missouri System 

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on college campuses in the St. Louis region, but many university admistrators are taking precautions by suspending in-person instruction and transitioning to online teaching platforms for varying periods of time.

Here's how the insitutions are responding.

Missouri S&T students in the campus Havener Center on Feb. 28, 2020, raising money for coronavirus supplies for a Chinese hospital.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Missouri University of Science and Technology students from China are raising money to help their home country fight the new coronavirus, but so far they haven’t found a way to get money or supplies to China.

The school’s Chinese Scholars and Students Association started taking donations in the middle of last week and have already raised more than $4,000.

Missouri S&T students Dibbya Barua and Justin Adler look at a water sample taken from Schuman Park Lake in Rolla, Missouri on July 26, 2019.
Sutapa Barua | Missouri University of Science and Technology

Students at the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla are building a portable water filter that can help people who lack access to clean water. 

The graduate engineering students are using paper and nano-size silica particles to filter toxins produced by harmful growths of algae. They plan to demonstrate their project at the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Student Design Competition in June at a technology conference. 

Water-filtering technologies that exist on the market are often complicated and inaccessible to remote, rural communities that need them the most, said Sutapa Barua, a Missouri S&T chemical engineering professor who advises the students. 

Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri University of Science and Technology chose the state Capitol building to launch its yearlong 150th anniversary celebration, in part to get lawmakers' attention as it asks for more state funding.

More than 100 people gathered in the Capitol rotunda Tuesday morning to hear from university officials, students and lawmakers.

Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani told the crowd that the school, which started as Missouri School of Mines and was later called the University of Missouri-Rolla before taking its current name, has a proven track record.

The Sanvello app is available to all University of Missouri students at all of its campuses 02-21-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

Stress, anxiety and depression can be part of the college experience for many students, so the University of Missouri System is hoping a mobile app can help them cope better and be healthy.

The university purchased the rights for students on the campuses in Columbia, St. Louis, Kansas City and Rolla to download and use the app called Sanvello. Normally it costs $8.95 a month. 

It has functions including self-assessments, guided meditations, breathing exercises and behavioral studies that are designed to help manage mental health issues.

Kaitlin Taylor from Senn-Thomas Middle School puts the finishing touches on her team's model city for the Future City Competition. 1-25-20
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Twenty teams of Missouri junior high students took a crack at solving a big problem: What will cities of the future look like as they try to address clean water shortages?

Future City is an annual competition challenging sixth through eighth graders to design and build a model of a city and present it to a group of judges. This year’s theme was “Clean Water: Tap Into Tomorrow.”

The teams gathered at Missouri University of Science and Technology over the past weekend to present their ideas and compete for a chance to represent the state at a national competition in Washington, D.C.

Advancements at Missouri S&T could make charging electric cars, like this Tesla at a charging station in Rolla, cheaper, faster and safer.
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — As more industries, including transportation, are looking to electricity to deliver more power, Missouri University of Science and Technology wants to help meet that demand.

The school is leading a research effort to develop the equipment needed to deliver voltages that are up to 100 times what are found in the average household outlet.

“The goal is to figure out how to deliver high voltage cheaply and safely,” said Mehdi Ferdowsi, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T.

One of the 30 seat regional jets that began serving the airport at Ft. Leonard Wood when Contour Airlines took over the service in Feburary 2019 01-08-19
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

FORT LEONARD WOOD — Passenger counts at the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport were down from February through October of 2019 compared to the previous year.

That’s despite a new airline coming in and upgrading the departing planes from eight-seat propellor planes to 30-seat jets.

When Nashville-based Contour Airlines replaced Massachusetts-based Cape Air, local officials were confident it would improve and expand service. But it’s taking a bit longer than expected for that to come to fruition.

Chantae McMillan meets with supporters at a fundraiser at her hometown of Rolla 12-25-19
Jonathan Ahl | St. Louis Public Radio

ROLLA — Chantae McMillan came back to her hometown for the holidays, in part for some help as she looks to qualify for the Summer Games in Tokyo next year.

“Olympic athletes don’t get a paycheck,” McMillan said at a fundraiser at Public House Brewing Company in Rolla. “We rely upon sponsors. And I have always been able to rely on people in Rolla who have always helped me.”

A soldier at Fort Leonard Wood is tested for TBI using the experimental Brain Scope, part of research going on at the base and Phelps Health in Rolla. 12/5/19
Matthew Doellman | Phelps Health

Diagnosing traumatic brain injury faster so treatment can start right away is the focus of a $5 million research project centered at Fort Leonard Wood and nearby Phelps Health Hospital in Rolla.

Traumatic brain injury is a head injury from an external force that can do long-lasting damage to the brain. Phelps Health is a community hospital that serves a county of fewer than 50,000 people, but is conducting research that could revolutionize the way the Army treats everything from concussions to serious brain injury. 

Missouri S&T researchers Ryan Smith, Marek Locmelis, Jonathan Obrist-Farner and research assistant Gabriela Ramirez examine a soil sample as part of their research into toxic contaminants. 11-25-19
Tom Wagner | Missouri S&T

ROLLA — The spring floods in Missouri and Illinois caused more than $1 billion in damage and may have left behind chemicals that could hurt the environment and end up in drinking water.

“A lot of times we don’t take measurements right after a flood. So we don’t have a really good idea of how long it takes for these things to get flushed out,” said Ryan Smith, a geologist at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla. 

Kyle Wernke conducts the Missouri S&T Orchestra.
John Francis

ROLLA — Kyle Wernke is an up-and-coming composer, but he doesn’t teach at a high-profile music school. 

There are no music majors in his orchestra, and the students spend more time on equations than they do on scales. Wernke teaches at Missouri University of Science and Technology, a school known much more for engineering than for performing arts.

Missouri S&T Chancellor Mo Dehghani gives his State of the University Address 11-11-19
Tom Wagner | Missouri S&T

Mo Dehghani, who has led Missouri University of Science and Technology for 100 days, already has ambitious plans to increase the size and impact of the school.

He laid out his vision for the campus in Rolla during a State of the University address last week. 

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