University of Delaware professor Sunil K. Agrawal is designing and constructing small robotic devices to mimic the flight of birds and insects. The devices will carry miniature cameras and fly in flocklike formations to send surveillance data back to a central computer for processing. Such detailed information would be useful in industrial and military applications, and in rescue operations to map interiors of collapsed buildings.

The Cobb County, Ga., school district started work on a cable channel focused on local education. Parents and others will be able to watch school board meetings, sporting events and other education news at home. The 24-hour programming will reach about 150,000 households. -- USA Today

Iowa now delivers virtually all child support payments to custodial parents by direct deposit or debit bank cards. Customers may opt to have payments directly deposited in their bank accounts, which about half of recipients have chosen to do, or receive a bank card. About 45,000 custodial parents receive benefits through the cards.

Louisiana's Tulane University and Entergy Corp. established the Entergy-Tulane Energy Institute, a center dedicated to the study of energy markets and institutions, and the related issues of environmental and natural resources management. The institute aims to help solve energy challenges, such as ensuring reliable operation of the electric transmission grid and defining economical and environmentally friendly ways to increase electricity production.

Mississippi is implementing 41 touchscreen computer terminals in 19 Driver License Stations statewide. The computerized driver license test is designed to be faster and more user-friendly but will also enhance the security of the test itself because each test is individually constructed in a random fashion from a database of over 800 questions. No two test applicants will ever get exactly the same test.

The University of Montana's Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group will produce software for NASA's Hydrosphere State Mission. The mission's HYDROS satellite -- tentatively set to launch in 2009 -- will allow researchers to use radar data to study Earth's freeze-thaw transition and soil moisture on a daily basis. Studying the global freeze-thaw characteristic should lead to improved weather forecasting, flood prediction and understanding of how spring thaws trigger the growing season.

Government and conservation agencies began a study of loons in New York's Adirondack region. Using satellite telemetry, scientists will study migration routes and wintering grounds of the birds that occupy the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park during the summer. Researchers hope to create conservation strategies as a result. The public can follow loon travels at the Web site.

A new West Virginia voter registration system is expected to reduce fraud. All of the state's 55 counties will share a computer database of voters. Previously each county kept its own voter rolls, making it difficult to determine if someone was registered in more than one county. With the new system, counties will receive daily updates on voters to purge or add. -- USA Today

Miriam Jones  |  Chief Copy Editor