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

Leading the News


GM To Introduce Automatic Driving Features On Cadillacs For 2017 Model Year.

The Los Angeles Times  (9/7, Hirsch) reported that GM “plans to start selling cars that can drive partially in an auto-pilot mode and that can exchange speed and safety data with similarly equipped vehicles.” The first of these features are accepted to appear on Cadillacs in the next few years, “but over time will move down market into GM’s other brands.” The system “will allow drivers to switch the vehicle into a semi-automated mode in which it will automatically keep the car in its lane, making necessary steering adjustments, and autonomously trigger braking and speed control to maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.”

CNET News  (9/7, Musil) reported GM CEO Mary Barra said on Saturday, “With Super Cruise, when there’s a congestion alert on roads like California’s Santa Monica Freeway, you can let the car take over and drive hands-free and feet-free through the worst stop and go traffic around. And if the mood strikes you on the high-speed road from Barstow, California to Las Vegas, you can take a break from the wheel and pedals and let the car do the work.”

Higher Education


University Of Colorado Boulder Teams Win At Mars Student Design Contest.

KUSA-TV  Denver (9/6, Shiff) reported on its website that two University of Colorado Boulder student aerospace engineering science teams won awards at the International Inspiration Mars Student Design Contest sponsored by the Mars Society. The teams were charged with designing real-world space missions to Mars and to the moon, and KUSA noted that “the judging panel was made up primarily of current and former NASA officials.”


Purdue Announces Competency Degree Program.

The Lafayette (IN) Journal and Courier  (9/4) reports that Purdue University’s College of Technology has introduced “a competency degree program” which “allows students to progress at their own rate as they demonstrate mastery of specific skills, rather than performance measured only at fixed calendar intervals of classroom time.” Under the program, students will receive “competencies” to “indicate to employers what graduates can do” instead of receiving grades. Students will “experience yearlong industry-sponsored design projects, study abroad programs and design-lab courses their freshman year.”


Princeton To Change Sexual Misconduct Policies After OCR Input.

The New York Times  (9/8, Kaminer, Subscription Publication) reports that Princeton University officials are considering making “significant changes” on policies regarding “allegations of sexual misconduct, including lowering the standards required to find someone guilty in its disciplinary proceedings.” The piece notes that the school is undergoing “a continuing federal investigation” of its policies, and reports that the changes “would bring its procedures in line with those at peer institutions and in compliance, administrators say, with federal requirements.” The article notes that Princeton has adhered to “a higher burden of proof” than the “preponderance of evidence” standard most colleges have adopted, and reports that this contradicts “a nationwide directive from the Office of Civil Rights at the federal Education Department that said Title IX…required the lower ‘preponderance of the evidence’ threshold.”

The Washington Post  (9/5, Anderson) reports that the move would make Princeton “the latest high-profile school to revise its disciplinary policies amid a national movement to combat sex assault on campus.” The piece notes that OCR has been investigating Princeton “since December 2010 in connection with its response to sexual violence reports and compliance with” Title IX. The Post notes that in addition to the “preponderance of the evidence” shift, the school is also considering establishing “a team of three investigators to specialize in cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct.”

Engineering Technology Leadership Conference
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Diversity at ASEE
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NSF’s Revolutionizing Engineering Departments
This funding opportunity enables engineering departments to lead the nation by successfully achieving significant sustainable changes necessary to overcome long-standing issues in their undergraduate programs and educate inclusive communities of engineering students prepared to solve 21st century challenges.

Research and Development


San Andreas Fault Studies Halt Without Funding.

The San Jose (CA) Mercury News  (9/7, Krieger) reports the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth lacks the engineering expertise and $3 million to $10 million required to put seismic sensors at the bottom of a two-mile deep hole; the project aims to discover how quakes start and stop, whether they send signals before rupturing, and what controls timing and severity. Due to competition for National Science Foundation grants, several smaller, “worthy” projects could be supported for the same sum, while other nations have drilled for their own experimentation.



Robotics Sales Driving Engineer Demand.

The Dayton (OH) Daily News  (9/8, McClory) reports $788 million in robotics sales for the first half of 2014, with a 16% revenue increase since the same period 2013, driving demand for engineers and challenging the notion that automation kills jobs. A Pew Research Center survey evidences this shifting perception, with 48% believing advances displace blue and white collar jobs and 52% expecting innovation to create industries; on the other hand, McKinsey Global Institute reports robotics and 3-D printing will effect 24% of the global workforce, saving $1.2 trillion in manufacturing and $3 trillion medicine, retail, logistics, and personal service by 2025.

Industry News


Chinese Engineer Charged With Stealing Trade Secrets From Wisconsin GE Unit.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  (9/8, Vielmetti) reports that Jun Xie, 41, a “Chinese engineer who worked in Waukesha for a subsidiary of GE Healthcare stole about 2.4 million files of trade secrets and other confidential company information and sent it to China, according to GE and the FBI.” Xie, “who joined the medical equipment giant in 2008, had been suspended and hit with a civil suit by the company in July,” and on Wednesday, “just as that action appeared closed with Xie’s agreement to an injunction ordering him to return what he could and cooperate with the company’s investigation, he was charged in federal court with criminal theft of trade secrets and appeared in court.” The case “is at least the second involving theft of sensitive technical data by a Chinese citizen working in the Milwaukee area.”


UMaine Offshore Wind Turbine Withstood Severe Storms.

The AP  (9/6) reported that according to the University of Maine “a scaled-down offshore wind turbine successfully withstood more than a dozen severe storms in its first year.” At an event on Friday, “UMaine officials and members of Maine’s congressional delegation marked one year since the deployment of VolturnUS, a prototype that’s one-eighth the scale of a full-size turbine.” The school “also signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy that will give the university $3.8 million to continue design and engineering work on the full-scale turbine.”


General Atomics Aeronautical Systems To Test UAV Detect-And-Avoid Systems.

“General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) planned to conduct functional flight tests of an unmanned aircraft detect-and-avoid (DAA) system early this month in advance of trials on the NASA Ikhana Predator B slated to begin in November,” according to the Aviation International News  (9/4, Carey). Additionally, the article reported that Brandon Suarez, GA-ASI project engineer, said the company plans to commit two days to software regression and hardware functional testing of the system on its own Predator B at the General Atomics Gray Butte flight ops facility in Palmdale, CA.

Engineering and Public Policy


Americans Driving Heavier This Summer.

The American Society of Civil Engineers  (9/5, Nonis) reported online in its blogs that FHWA data show “that Americans traveled on our roadways in force this spring and early summer,” with vehicle miles traveled having “hit its highest level in six years between July 2013 and June 2014.” In fact, the first half of this year brought “the fourth-highest mileage number ever since the FHWA first began collecting VMT information nearly eight decades ago.”


Interior Secretary Urges Opponents To Find Common Ground On Energy.

In a “Sunday Spotlight” segment on ABC’s This Week (9/7, Stephanopoulos), Sally Jewell talked about her tenure as Secretary of the Interior, stating, “One of the reasons I took this job was because I wanted to be part of the solution to climate change. … We can’t transition to a renewable energy economy overnight. We’re dependent on coal. We’re dependent on oil and gas.” Regarding criticism from environmentalists, Jewell said: “This job is full of absolutes on both sides. … We have to work together on common ground to move forward. That’s what my job is about.”


New Mexico Nuclear Waste Plant May Take Years To Reopen.

Reuters  (9/8, Zuckerman) reports that according to the Energy Department, it may be years before the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico is fully reopened. Dana Bryson, deputy manager of the Carlsbad Field Office, which is responsible for the site, said that a plan should be completed in a few weeks for review. Bryson said that the key issue is making sure that waste disposal requirements are met by all shipments to the plant.


Environmentalists Call For Preemptive Removal Of Four Susquehanna River Dams.

John Waldman, an author and Queens College biology professor, Karin E. Limburg, a professor of environmental and forest biology with the State University of New York, and Amy Roe, an independent conservation advocate, argue in the New York Times  (9/8, Subscription Publication) against Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license renewals for two of four hydroelectric dams along the Susquehanna River, ultimately proposing the four’s removal entirely. The trio justifies their plea by citing devastated migrations of shad and other species (despite “futile” fish ladders and elevators) as well as the accumulation of sediments soon to flow downriver which would “choke” the Chesapeake Bay.

Elementary/Secondary Education


Tennessee Paper Presses Local Officials To Support CTE School.

In an editorial, the Chattanooga (TN) Times Free Press  (9/6) asked, “Will Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd be the passionate champion for a centralized vocational high school as his general election opponent Kenny Smith has been for the past 15 years, or will he become just another voice in a nearly 25-year parade of people who suggested students have needed such an option since the closing of Kirkman Technical High School in 1991?” In the past, added the Times Free Press, Hamilton County Commissioner Chester Bankston said he would like to see such a school established. Bankston “added anecdotally that because Hamilton County couldn’t produce even half of the 500 electricians for construction then starting on the Watts Bar nuclear unit, the rest had to be hired elsewhere.” The Times Free Press urged Boyd to pitch the school idea to businesses that might be able to offer financial support.


School Looks To Promote Student Learning Outside Of Traditional Classrooms.

The Wall Street Journal  (9/8, Campoy, Harte, Subscription Publication) reports students at Houston’s A+ Unlimited Potential private school will be spending only a portion of their time in traditional classroom this year as they engage in a teaching program that pushes students to learn outside of a school building. Supporters of programs like this contend that mobile technology like laptops and wireless internet can facilitate student learning in ways different from a formal school setting.


New State Science Standards Change How Teachers Teach, Come With Criticism.

WDRB-TV  Louisville, KY (9/8, Konz) reports on how Kentucky’s Next Generation Science Standards are changing how the state’s teachers are approaching science education during their first year of implementation. The new standards encourage students to “exhibit scientific thinking,” according to the state Education Commissioner put it. The new standards “don’t arrive without controversy” as conservative groups “see the standards as another step toward a federal takeover of education,” despite the fact that the “science standards were designed and individually adopted by states.”

Friday’s Lead Stories


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