Denver news in 5 minutes: What you need to know today, Sept. 23

An elder-care robot, a Rockies win, real fall weather and more.

Sunset over City Park West, Sept. 19, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty; cityscape; cowx; sunset; skyline; weather; evening;
Sunset over City Park West, Sept. 19, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Hey, did you hear? It’s fall.

Yes, it’s that exciting time of year when we celebrate encroaching cold, death and darkness, all in the name of pumpkin spice and sweaters.

Today, we’re marking the changing of the seasons with clouds, rain and a 20-degree temperature drop. Also: robots.



Denver news in 5 minutes: What you need to know today, Sept. 23

An elder-care robot, a Rockies win, real fall weather and more.

Sunset over City Park West, Sept. 19, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty; cityscape; cowx; sunset; skyline; weather; evening;
Sunset over City Park West, Sept. 19, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Hey, did you hear? It’s fall.

Yes, it’s that exciting time of year when we celebrate encroaching cold, death and darkness, all in the name of pumpkin spice and sweaters.

Today, we’re marking the changing of the seasons with clouds, rain and a 20-degree temperature drop. Also: robots.


This DU lab could raise a fleet of empathetic robots to answer Denver’s eldercare crisis

As Colorado’s elderly population booms, one DU robotics lab may be developing a solution to a national caregiver shortage.

Dr. Mohammad Mahoor demonstrates Ryan to the Denver Regional Council of Governments, Sept. 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) denver; colorado; drcog; aging; eldercare; robotics; futurism; kevinjbeaty; denverite;
Dr. Mohammad Mahoor demonstrates Ryan to the Denver Regional Council of Governments, Sept. 21, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The metro area has a challenge: we’re getting older, and fast. Colorado is the third-fastest aging state in the nation, and authorities say we’re not yet prepared for the economic and social impacts that are expected to mature by 2030.

The Denver Regional Council of Governments, our federally-recognized Area Agency on Aging, estimates that one in four area residents will be 60 or older in 15 short years. One major problem that will manifest, they say, is a lack of workers to take care of that frailer, increasingly isolated population. That’s where University of Denver professor of engineering and computer science, Dr. Mohammad Mahoor, hopes to make an impact.

This week, Mahoor introduced Ryan to DRCOG’s staff. Ryan is his prototype “socially-assisted” robot that he hopes will provide companionship to elders with mobility and cognitive issues. Equipped with cameras and software to recognize and imitate emotion, researchers think Ryan could someday be a friend to lonely elders and a tool for overworked caretakers.



Colorado pension board calls for higher contributions, cuts

The Public Employees’ Retirement Association is 58.1 percent funded, down from 62.1 percent in December of 2015.

The board that oversees Colorado state pensions on Friday recommended higher contributions from employees and taxpayers along with cuts to retirees’ benefits, arguing that the changes are necessary to shore up the underfunded pension system.

The Denver Post first reported the board’s recommendations, which came at the end of a three-day retreat at a resort in Colorado Springs. Lawmakers must approve the changes as well.


An earlier start: Once rare, more Denver charter schools are embracing preschool

Caroline Hiskey, a preschool teacher at KIPP Northeastern Elementary in Denver, reviews letters with the help of "Phonics Lion." (Ann Schimke/Chalkbeat)
Caroline Hiskey, a preschool teacher at KIPP Northeastern Elementary in Denver, reviews letters with the help of “Phonics Lion.” (Ann Schimke/Chalkbeat)

By Ann SchimkeChalkbeat

In many ways, the new preschool in Denver’s growing Green Valley Ranch neighborhood looks like any other preschool.

At playtime, a little girl trots toy dinosaurs across a table heaped with plastic animals. Nearby, a 4-year-old boy shows off a picture he drew with lots of red scribbles and dots. There is the usual collection of books, tiny plastic chairs and colorful rugs.

There are also telltale signs that the preschool is run by KIPP, one of the country’s largest college prep charter school networks. The classrooms are all named for colleges, like in KIPP’s higher grades. The preschoolers wear blue polo shirts emblazoned with the school’s logo. A crisp blue banner in the hallway proclaims them the “Class of 2031.”