ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News


Studying Octopi Leads To Camouflage Breakthrough.

Fox News  (8/21, Barrie) reports the Office of Naval Research’s collaborative invention of a new, thin, flexible material for future use in camouflage. Reverse-engineered by studying octopi, the technology measures light exposure then matches it by heating a thin layer of temperature-sensitive dye. Though only a small-scale black and white prototype, development of a color system is underway. The article closes by drawing attention to other scientific breakthrough facilitated by studying squid and cuttlefish, relatives of the octopus.

In a recent blog post by Katherine Harmon Courage for Scientific American  (8/22, Katherine Harmon), Courage reports similarly, though focuses on the biology of the octopus as well as other potential applications not suggested by Fox News, such as in clothing and reading-writing equipment.

Higher Education


Virginia, West Virginia Getting Portion Of NASA STEM Grants.

The AP  (8/21) reports that NASA is giving the Virginia Community College System a portion of $17.3 million in National Space Grant and Fellowship Program funding “to increase student and faculty engagement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at community colleges and technical schools.” Noting that individual allotments for agencies has a maximum value of $500,000, the AP reports that NASA said it chose agencies that “outlined ways to attract and retain more students from community and technical colleges in STEM education and develop stronger collaborations to increase student access to NASA’s STEM education content.”

Another AP  (8/21) article adds that the Community and Technical College System of West Virginia will receive over $17.3 million from the National Space Grant and Fellowship Program. NASA said the “winning proposals outlined ways to attract and retain more students from community and technical colleges in STEM education.”


NYTimes: For-Profit Colleges Do Not Belong In Federal Job Training System.

In an editorial, the New York Times  (8/22, Subscription Publication) argues that for-profit colleges have been “ripping off students and taxpayers for years by making false promises and cashing in on federal job-training program,” and “do not belong in the nation’s job-training system.” The Times notes that the Workforce Investment Act provides a “reliable source of money for these institutions” and argues that state and Federal labor officials “need to monitor more aggressively the performance of training providers and remove institutions with a checkered history.”


University Of Texas Launching Houston Engineering Institute.

The Houston Chronicle  (8/22, Wermund) reports that the University of Texas has unanimously voted to launch an Engineering, Research, and Education Institute in Houston, aiming to satisfy a growing demand for engineers as well as create internship opportunities and increase presence within the “global energy capital.” The UT system plans to hire an executive director within 90 days, followed by the development of an operating budget and business plan.

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Former ASEE President Ernest Smerdon Dies
Smerdon was dean of engineering at the University of Arizona, vice-chancellor for the University of Texas System in Austin, and senior education associate in the Engineering Directorate of the National Science Foundation, among other roles. Read his obituary.

I-Corps for Learning
NSF will provide up to $1.2 million to support research into how the I-Corps program’s focus on the “ditch of death” between research and development can help address the gap associated with bringing a promising education practice to a common, widespread utilization. Learn more about participating in I-Corps for Learning. Proposals must be submitted by September 30, 2014 to be considered for participation in the January 2015 cohort.

Research and Development


Study: Oceans May Be Trapping Heat, Causing Slowdown In Earth’s Warming.

AFP  (8/22) reports that according to a study published in the journal Science, “an apparent slowdown in the Earth’s surface warming in the last 15 years could be due to that heat being trapped in the deep Atlantic and Southern Ocean, researchers said Thursday.” The findings “suggest that such cycles tend to last 20-35 years, and that global warming will likely pick up again once that heat returns to surface waters.”

Industry News


Team Develops New Method To Power Medical Implants.

MIT’s Technology Review  (8/22, Jacobs) reports that a team from Stanford University “has developed a new method of sending magnetic fields well below skin level to power devices that would otherwise need batteries,” such as potential “devices that regulate insulin levels, control appetite, lower blood sugar, or treat brain injuries.” Kip Ludwig, the program director for neural engineering at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health, “says [the] method is promising but years from any clinical application. Still, there is so much promise in bioelectronics, he says, and the powering issue needs to be addressed.”

Engineering and Public Policy


Wyoming Official Tells Moniz Approval Of Big Power Line Projects Takes Too Long.

The AP  (8/21, Gruver) reports that board chairman for the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority Mike Easley yesterday told Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz that “the federal government is taking far too long to approve major power line projects.” Easley said “federal review of two major power transmission projects in Wyoming, the TransWest Express and Gateway West projects, has been taking years longer than planned.” According to Moniz “development of some infrastructure indeed is not keeping pace with booming energy development.”

The Casper (WY) Star-Tribune  (8/22) reports Moniz did not address “projects specifically, but he said U.S. energy development has surged to the point that there’s talk about needing infrastructure to export more oil and gas.” He stated, “We are very interested in finding all the ways we can, in the federal government, assist with the development of our infrastructure. … Frankly, I think the infrastructure has not in many, many ways caught up with the new production levels.” The Star-Tribune notes that “the hearing was part of an Obama administration review of U.S. energy supplies and distribution.”


CBP Turns To Lockheed To Help Track US-Mexico Smuggler Communications.

SIGNAL Magazine  (8/21, Jontz) reports on Lockheed Martin’s LUMEN Active Defense technology of sensors, which is being used by US Customs and Border Protection along the Texas-Mexico divide to help “detect rogue cellular base stations devised to circumvent cellular service providers.” Without much elaboration, Michael Peters, a software engineer for Lockheed, explained that the company recently installed the technology on CBP’s border towers.

Elementary/Secondary Education


Chicago Students Learn To Develop Mobile Apps.

The Chicago Tribune  (8/20, Elahi) reports the Mobile Makers for High Schools program launched this week at 7 area schools. The program teaches students to design and build apps for Apple mobile devices in the company’s program language, Swift. Administrators say the program will help students “explore entrepreneurship” and develop marketable skills.


STEM Competition Lets High School Students Pitch Ideas, Form Business Plan.

The Current In Carmel (IN)  (8/22) reports the Bright Ideas STEM program from the Bright House Networks is a competition designed to have high school students dream up ways to make the world better. The competition is open to teams and individuals and finalists will have the chance to pitch their ideas to and develop a big plan for selling their product.


Grant Brings Together Native Americans With STEM Mentors.

The Indian Country Today Media Network  (8/21) reports a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation called Lighting the Pathway to Faculty Careers for Natives in STEM brings together Native Americans in Oklahoma with mentors who guide them into STEM careers. The program is funded by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and aims “to crate an intergenerational community of students and scholars” among Native Americans.


Students Start Toy Company Aimed At Getting Girls Interested In Science, Engineering.

The Sacramento (CA) Bee  (8/21) reports a University of Illinois engineering student and a recent graduate are responsible for the toy start-up Miss Possible, which plans to make dolls and related apps that are aimed at getting girls interested in engineering and science. They have raised $80,000 since July to begin production of their first doll, Marie Curie.


Maryland Teacher Writes Cookbook Series To Reinforce Math, Science Concepts.

The Gaithersburg (MD) Gazette  (8/20, McEwan) reports a Kensington, Maryland resource teacher published her second cookbook for elementary students “Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds.” The series of books are meant to reinforce lessons in math and science through cooking recipes at home. The books recipes are preceded by a scientific explanation of the concept covered and contains followup questions.

Also in the News


Physicist Argues For Measure To Assign Ownership Of Resources Mined From Asteroids.

In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal  (8/22, Subscription Publication), K. Dean Larson, a Ph.D. physicist who is the coordinator for the Planetary Society in the national capital region, makes a case for the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities In Deep Space (Asteroids) Act, which was introduced by Reps. Bill Posey and Derek Kilmer. Noting that the measure assigns the ownership of resources mined from asteroids to “the entity that obtained such resources,” Larson argues that it will provide the basis for a new space economy, and its passage would signal the US’s support for the economic development of space.

Thursday’s Lead Stories


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