Wednesday, May 23, 2007

From: Michael Brown
To: FEMA Staff

Are you proud of me? Can I quit now? Can I go home?

A bad Katrina memory has become such a bad e-mail example that the authors chose to open their book with it.

"Bad things can happen on e-mail," they warn.

And now for the good example to come outta all the storm mess:

Last night we watched a nifty program on PBS' Nova about a DARPA sponsored Grand Challenge run by robot cars out in the Mojave Desert. No, not remote-controlled cars. Cars, trucks, SUVs with their own navigation systems, with their own ways of propelling themselves, and with their own ways of seeing obstacles and avoiding them. Start 'em up, be good parents, and let 'em go. Now, most of the focus was on two different engineering teams from Stanford and Carnegie-Mellon...but what I found most intriguing was the story of the team that placed fourth in the Challenge with a vehicle called the Kat-5. I'm just glad they posted the story of these guys online, because it was treated as a bit of a throwaway in the TV program.

Team Gray, at the last minute (relatively speaking), on a shoestring budget (again, relatively speaking), and with a hurricane or two bearing down on their homes while they did it all, got pretty damn far. I applaud these people for their ingenuity and their can-do attitude.

In these crazy times, when all kinds of natural and unnatural forces are seemingly lining up to kick this area in the teeth, it's good to see this. It's also good to learn about the people who came out of the engineering programs that Tulane president Scott Cowan killed because they were supposedly money losers. The brainpower of Team Gray alone would have probably helped put a now-defunct department on the map.

Oh, well.

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