It wasn't all bad...

The week's good news: May 21, 2020

Catherine Garcia
A forest.


Virginia Tech therapy dog beloved by students receives honorary doctorate

Call him Dr. Moose. Moose is an 8-year-old therapy dog at Virginia Tech's Cook Counseling Center, who was adopted by Dr. Trent Davis, a counselor and coordinator of Virginia Tech's Animal-Assisted Therapy program. Moose started working on campus six years ago, and during his time at Virginia Tech, has participated in more than 7,500 individual and group counseling sessions and over 500 outreach events, helping students with anxiety and trauma and serving as an ambassador for mental health awareness. Moose was awarded an honorary doctorate in veterinary medicine last Friday from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Moose is used to getting accolades — in 2019, he was named an Animal Hero by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association. When he's not working with students, Moose can be found playing tug of war, swimming, or eating. [WSET]


Canadian company aims to have its drones plant 1 billion trees by 2028

Drones may soon be buzzing in a forest near you, dropping seeds and helping restore the landscape. Flash Forest, a Canadian startup that launched in 2019, uses drones to fire seed pods into land, in some cases flying into areas inaccessible to people. In May, Flash Forest plans on planting 40,000 trees north of Toronto, and will then move onto other regions. Their goal is to plant 1 billion trees by 2028. "When you look at the potential for drones, we plant 10 times faster than humans," Angelique Ahlstrom, Flash Forest co-founder and chief strategy officer, told Fast Company. Seed pods are packed with a proprietary mix that makes them germinate faster and hold onto moisture, even in a drought, and controlled studies have shown high rates of tree survival. The drones can plant 10,000 to 20,000 seed pods every day, and as the technology advances, that number could be upped to 100,000 trees daily, Ahlstrom said. [Fast Company]


All-girls robotics team in Afghanistan hopes its ventilator prototype will save lives

The Afghan Dreamers, an all-girls robotics team, is using car parts found in marketplaces to create a ventilator prototype that could change the health-care system in Afghanistan. There are only 200 working ventilators in Afghanistan, with many of them hand-operated, and doctors asked the Afghan Dreamers to create a mechanical device. "Even if it saves just one patient's life, I'll be happy," team captain Somaya Faruqi, 17, told NPR. They have been working off of an open source design from MIT, and collaborating with U.S. doctors who provide guidance on clinical issues. Unable to buy pieces online or at electronics stores, the girls found a way to get around their lack of traditional components. "Most of the material we're using is actually from Toyota Corolla car parts," Faruqi said. The team is almost finished with the prototype, and if successful, it's estimated each ventilator will cost just $200 to make. [NPR]


Alaskan grocer travels 14 hours to collect food to stock store's shelves

When your store is the only place in town to buy groceries, you do what's necessary to ensure the shelves are never empty. Toshua Parker owns Icy Strait Wholesale in Gustavus, Alaska — population 450. The town is only accessible by boat or airplane, and Parker used to have his Costco orders delivered via Alaska's ferry system. Because of the pandemic, the ferry isn't stopping in Gustavus. To keep the town fed, Parker and his employees have been making weekly trips to Juneau, where they pick up the orders in person. It's a 14 hour round-trip on a converted military landing craft, which gets loaded with food and other essentials to stock the store. This "doesn't seem like a big deal," Parker told CNN. "Alaskans are fiercely independent and resourceful; you really have to be to survive here. So when a problem arises, we don't typically look to someone else for help, we just find a way to do it." [CNN]


Senior citizens become DJs for new online radio hour

Two of America's newest DJs are Bob Coleman and Ed Rosenblatt, retirees who spin old favorites on Radio Recliner. Radio Recliner is a 60-minute show that streams online, with new programs released every day at noon. All of the DJs live in senior care facilities, where they record their song introductions and transitions before sending them to producers. Radio Recliner was launched in April as a way to ensure that seniors who are in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic can still connect with the outside world. Listeners can also send in their requests and dedications. Coleman, 88, loves country music and is known as the "Karaoke Cowboy." Rosenblatt, 80, recently started teaching himself how to play the ukulele and performed the Beach Boys song "Sloop John B" at the end of his show. "Everybody knows that song," he told The Associated Press. [The Associated Press, Radio Recliner]