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

Leading the News

Navy, NASA Practice Orion’s Ocean Recovery.

The Los Angeles Times  (9/18, Leasca) reports that on Monday, NASA, the Navy, and Lockheed Martin conducted an ocean recovery rehearsal of the Orion capsule, “the space agency’s latest achievement in deep-space exploration” that makes its first flight in December. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, when aboard the USS Anchorage, told the publication, “I’m not sure Americans particularly grasp the significance of what’s going to happen. … The most powerful nation in the world will be sending a spacecraft intended to carry humans farther than we’ve been in 40 years. We have not designed a spacecraft to do this since the Apollo era. So when we launch in December, it will be something that a whole generation of Americans have not seen.” Detailing the operations and the road the Orion program took to reach this point, the article notes that there is anticipation for the time when astronauts will be on the spacecraft. Bolden said, “Will we get there? I believe we will. … There are a lot of people who don’t think so, but I happen to believe we will.”

Orion Spacecraft Lead Engineer Profiled. On its website, WWSB-TV  Sarasota, FL (9/18) profiles Sarasota native Patrick Rodi, one of the lead engineers on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. He says working on the spacecraft “is very excited and has a lot of similarities to the Apollo Space program of the past.” Rodi noted, “The Orion vehicle is about 60% bigger than the Apollo spacecraft so we have a lot more volume to work with, we can hold four or possibly even six astronauts and we have more room for equipment.”

Higher Education

Northeastern University Unveils 3D Nanoprinter.

The Boston Globe  (9/17, Borchers) reports Northeastern University Center for High-rate Nanomanufacturing’s new 3D printer can produce layers as thin as 20 nanometers, 1,000 times thinner than conventional 3D printers. If commercially expanded, the development could drastically reduce the costs of “everything from consumer electronics to prescription drugs,” citing the potential for printed silicon chips and drug-delivering patches. The machine works unconventionally by coating templates with nanoparticles, controlled with electric charge. The printer was developed in a partnership with Milara Inc., funded by $24.5 million from the National Science Foundation and $7 million from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. Printers will likely sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million, while commercial applications are expected in one to two years.

Question And Answer With Professor On Future Of Virtual Reality Tech.

The Chicago Tribune  (9/17, LaValle) features a question and answer piece with Steve LaValle, professor of computer science and robotics at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and former principal scientist at Oculus VR, about the promise of virtual reality’s intersection with robotics. LaValle cites telepresence, the reduction of sensory discomfort, entertainment, and aiding the immobile as future applications for the growing industry of virtual reality.

Westfield State Breaks Ground On New Science Center.

The Springfield (MA) Republican  (9/19) reports that Westfield State University hosted a “ceremonial groundbreaking of the $33 million science center” on Thursday, noting that interim President Elizabeth H. Preston told assembled dignitaries that the building, “scheduled for completion in August 2016, will not only serve as a state-of-the art educational facility, but its design will also enhance the surroundings.” The piece explains that the new center “will house state-of-the-art science laboratories, a suite of simulation labs for nursing and health science programs, and a technology-rich, interactive classroom that will serve many academic departments including economics and management, psychology, geography and regional planning, mathematics, and computer and information science.”

WSHM-TV  Springfield, MA (9/19) also covers this story on its website, noting that the center “will consist of laboratory space intersected by knowledge corridors for informal learning spaces available to students for study.”

SUNY New Paltz Wins $10 Million Grant For Engineering, 195 Jobs.

The Middletown (NY) Times Herald-Record  (9/17, Nani) reports Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that SUNY New Paltz has won a $10 million NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant to expand its mechanical engineering’s 3D printing program and build a 20,000-square-foot “Engineering Innovation Hub.” The program is expected to generate $75 million, create 195 full-time jobs, and graduate 300 engineers over the next 10 years, by offering tax-free space to local companies and community colleges through Start-Up NY. Dan Freedman, dean of the School of Science and Engineering, stated students majoring in STEM have doubled in the past five years, with the largest gains in engineering.

Vendors Display Future Of College Recruiting Efforts.

The Washington Post  (9/18, Anderson) reports on the way that technology is changing the college recruitment process, noting that the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which is holding its annual convention in Washington, DC, “on Thursday opened an exhibit hall…that points the way to the future of recruiting.” Venders at the event displayed “a number of tools to help them fill college classes or provide information to help students navigate a bewildering market,” and were “notable for their youth and enthusiasm for the technological revolution at hand.”

College Debt Leaves Millennial Grads Less Wealthy, Stable Than Parents.

Bloomberg News  (9/19, Smialek) reports on Pew Charitable Trusts findings that despite 82% of Generation X Americans with bachelor’s degrees earning more than their parents did, only 30% are wealthier; among those without college degrees, 70% surpassed equivalent parent income with just over half wealthier. The findings suggest that student loan debt is largely to blame, potentially inspiring “economic aftershocks” as millennials may retire later, lower their living standards, and struggle to finance their children’s educations. The study was based upon Panel Study of Income Dynamics data on parent-children pairs spanning 1968 to 2011. The remainder of the report detailed the comparative findings.

Researcher Decries Amenities’ Contributions To Rising College Tuition.

Matthew LeBar, a researcher at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, argues in Forbes  (9/18) that the rising cost of college tuition is, in part, driven by escalating student service and amenity provisions as part of schools’ competition for enrollment. Citing jacuzzis and “extravagant” entertainment fees, LeBar argues “schools should be in the educating business.” LeBar closes by stating students should have the choice to purchase such services, which LeBar estimates to cost students roughly $500 annually based on figures from the University of Iowa.

From ASEE
Video Interviews – Leaders at NSF and the Navy Discuss the Future of Engineering
Watch interviews with NSF Assistant Director for Engineering Pramod Khargonekar, who talks about exciting NSF projects and opportunities for ASEE members, and Rear Admiral David Johnson, who discusses the importance of technology to the U.S. Navy and where naval research is headed.

ASEE Perks
ASEE launches “ASEE Perks” a new collection of discounted products and services, only for members.

Advances in Engineering Education – New Issue; Call for Papers
AEE released its Fall 2014 issue. In addition, AEE has put out a call for papers on flipped classrooms in STEM. Read more.

Research and Development

Shorebird-Inspired Water Harvester Significantly Outperforms Competition.

The Voice of America  (9/19, Lapidus) reports University of Texas at Arlington engineering professor Cheng Luo and doctoral student Xin Heng have developed a device for harvesting water from fog and dew, modeled after the beaks long-billed shorebirds such as sandpipers. The device’s two rectangular glass plates open and close at a hinge near a collection tube, causing condensation to accumulate and fall. Over a two-hour span, the device outperformed other natural and artificial fog-collectors by 400 to 900 times, potentially aiding water-scarce areas.

Professor Argues For Changes To Research Publishing Model.

In commentary for the New York Times  (9/19, Subscription Publication) “The Upshot” blog, Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, writes that research funded by the $30 billion the US government spends every year “to support basic scientific research” is “driven — and distorted — by the academic publishing model,” noting that the “intense competition for space in top journals creates strong pressures for novel, statistically significant effects,” meaning that “studies that do not turn out as planned or find no evidence of effects claimed in previous research often go unpublished, even though their findings can be important and informative.”

Seismic Surveying Off East Coast May Begin Next Year.

McClatchy  (9/18, Subscription Publication) reports that as soon as Spring 2015, seismic surveying may begin along the East Coast. The “American Petroleum Institute said the seismic blasts are safe and are being overly restricted by the government.” In a statement, the group explained, “Operators already take great care to protect wildlife, and the best science and decades of experience prove that there is no danger to marine mammal populations.”

Coverage was also picked up by the Columbia (SC) State  (9/18), the Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram  (9/18), and the Sacramento (CA) Bee  (9/18).

New Spacesuit Design Would Not Need Gas To Maintain Pressure.

The Washington Post  (9/18, Feltman) “Speaking of Science” blog reported that a team led by MIT’s Dava Newman has proposed a theoretical spacesuit that uses “mechanical counterpressure” instead of gas to maintain atmospheric pressure in space. The “lightweight, stretchy suits” would contract when heated. So far the researchers have developed “a cuff” with these properties. According to the article, if successful, the suit would allow astronauts greater mobility than current suits. However, maintaining the right pressure for long periods of time could be “tricky.”

ComputerWorld  (9/18, Gaudin) notes that NASA did fund the research.

Workforce

High-Tech Job Demand Unmet In Pittsburgh, Nation.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review  (9/19, Satyanarayana) reports on unmet, growing tech job demand both in Pittsburgh and nationally, particularly for non-entry level positions. The article details initiatives to meet demands, from increased STEM education to reimbursement programs for employers who provide training, citing that many smaller businesses cannot afford on-the-job training. James Craft, a professor who specializes in workforce issues at the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business, cites a market in Pittsburgh for coding bootcamps, which colleges and universities could host, adding that Pittsburgh needs to offer more apprenticeships and send fewer international students away.

Boosting Hispanic STEM Education Crucial For Economic Growth.

The National Journal  (9/19, Boschma, Subscription Publication) reports that the demand for STEM jobs, projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow by 1 million by 2022, must be met by young Hispanics, the largest growing American demographic. Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, stated the initiative is “completely about our economic future.” The article goes on to evidence the shortage of Hispanics in STEM fields as well as many of the Administration’s initiatives to promote STEM education among Hispanics, closing on efforts to aid Hispanic serving institutions such as Georgia Tech.

Engineering and Public Policy

Despite Difference, US And China Are Working On Clean-Energy Technology Projects.

Bloomberg News  (9/19, Lynch) reports “the threat of climate change is driving China and the U.S. – frequent rivals and the world’s two largest greenhouse-gas emitters – to collaborate on dozens of potential clean-energy breakthroughs.” In their research laboratories, over “1,100 Chinese and American scientists are engaged in a joint program marrying public and private money and talent.”

Moniz Praises 3D Printed Car.

Roll Call  (9/19, Leonard, Subscription Publication) reports Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz praised “efforts to produce a crowd-sourced electric car, the structure of which was printed in 44 hours at the International Manufacturing Technology Show last week.” Speaking at the American Energy and Manufacturing Competitiveness Summit, Moniz said, “the technology, which was developed with the help of Oak Ridge National Laboratory was a ‘very interesting demonstration’ of the kind of cost-cutting research into new materials and design that is necessary for meeting energy efficiency goals.” The vehicle “is a two-seat, non-highway electric car, designed by Michele Anoé of Italy in an online challenge and built by Local Motors, which hopes to retail the vehicles for $18,000 to $30,000, ClimateWire reported.”

White House Announces Energy Efficiency, Solar Power Initiative.

USA Today  (9/18, Koch) reports the White House “ahead of next week’s international summit on climate change” has “unveiled 50-plus new public and private efforts Thursday to boost the use of two non-polluting power sources: solar and energy efficiency.” The White House “announced $68 million in federal funds for 540 renewable power and energy efficiency projects in rural areas, including 240 solar ones” and it is “proposing stricter rules for commercial air conditioners that could save more energy than any prior standard” as well as “partnering with military bases to launch a veterans’ solar job training program.” Earlier this week, “Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released reports that show how much the cost of solar has fallen in the last decade as its growth has soared.” LBNL says in 2013 “the cost of installed residential and commercial solar panels fell 12% to 15%.”

The Hill  (9/19, Cama) reports that according to the White House “the actions would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 300 million metric tons by 2030, the equivalent of 60 million cars’ emissions in a year” and “save $10 billion in energy costs.” The announcement yesterday, “together with commitments from states, communities, companies and others, are part of President Obama’s second-term push to reduce carbon emissions in an effort to mitigate climate change.”

The Hill  (9/19, Cama) reports the Energy Department said yesterday “it will propose efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners that could yield the most energy savings of any appliance standard.” DOE “said the standards for commercial unitary air conditioners, which are usually housed on the roofs of large buildings, will save 11.7 quads of energy over the lifetimes of units sold for 30 years.” In a fact sheet the White House said, “That is equivalent to more than half of all the residential energy used in one year, making this potentially the largest energy savings estimated for any efficiency standard issued by DOE to date.” The rules that were proposed “were part of a set of solar energy and energy efficiency actions the White House announced Thursday.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Facebook CEO Looks To Attract Students To STEM Fields.

The AP  (9/19) reports that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke Thursday at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, California, telling students that “understanding technology and computers ‘is going to be really critical to having a lot of options and doing what you want.’” The AP notes that the firm is “donating 50 laptops and creating a class to teach students how to create their own mobile apps” at the school, and reports that the event is “part of Facebook’s campaign to encourage more young people, especially girls, to pursue careers in” STEM fields.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

 

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