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

Leading the News

Graduates With STEM Degrees Expected To Be In High Demand.

USA Today  (10/15, Malcolm, Webster) reports that prospects for college graduates are improving for those with “tech, engineering and computer skills.” In addition, computer engineers, “data analysts, physician assistants, software developers and petroleum engineers, to name a few, are expected to become the most lucrative and highest demand professions in the next three years,” according to a USA Today analysis of workforce projections by Economic Modeling Specialists.

Higher Education

University Of North Carolina Chapel Hill Student Gives Boy 3D Printed Prosthetic Hand.

An iReport from CNN  (10/15, Kleighru) reports on University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill graduate student Jeff Powell’s work 3D printing prosthetics, which he believes could be produced for as little as $20 per hand in materials. The piece follows him and Holden Mora, the first to receive one of the printed hands, closing on Powell’s aspirations to start a nonprofit.

Journalist Condemns Speech Codes, Free Speech Zones On College Campuses.

In his USA Today  (10/15, Campbell) column, Don Campbell weighs in on restrictions to free speech on college campuses. Campbell argues that when colleges ask students to constrict their freedom of speech for the sake of civility, Campbell argues, they do so as “a proxy for intimidation and suppression.”

Hillary Clinton Calls For Student Debt Solutions.

The AP  (10/14) reports that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the annual UNLV Foundation dinner in Las Vegas on Monday night, said that “more needs to be done to ensure young people can achieve their dreams and free students from onerous college debt.” The piece quotes Clinton saying, “I think our young people deserve a fair shot.”

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Research and Development

Scientists Find Oil Platforms Support Huge Fish Populations.

The Chemical Engineer  (10/15) reports that “oil platforms, long thought to be a scourge on marine life, are actually some of the world’s most productive marine habitats, off the southern Californian coast at least.” According to the article, “marine biologists from Occidental College, UC Santa Barbara and the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management carried out surveys of marine life at 16 oil platforms off the coast of southern California ranging from 45–100 m tall, over periods of between five and 15 years,” and “they developed a model to estimate fish production at each site, measured by the total weight of fish.”

The piece also appears at the Futurity  (10/15).

US Navy Demonstrates Swarming Capability Of Unmanned Boats.

Federal Computer Week  (10/14, Lyngaas) reports that the US Navy “is claiming a technological breakthrough” in the development of unmanned boats that “could be deployed in dangerous areas to avoid casualties and are considerably cheaper than manned boats.” According to FCW: “The Office of Naval Research announced Oct. 5 that it demonstrated the swarming capability over the course of two weeks in August on the James River in southeastern Virginia. Those demonstrations involved as many as 13 boats that used either autonomous or remote control, the office said in its announcement.” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said in a statement that the demonstrations were “a cost-effective way to integrate many small, cheap and autonomous capabilities that can significantly improve our warfighting advantage.”

Engine Soot Emissions Cut In Half Using Biofuel.

LiveScience  (10/14, Dickerson) reports that NASA’s Earth Observatory released a photo showing a Falcon 20-E5 flying within 300 feet of NASA’s DC-8 plane on May 7 as part of the ACCESS II mission, “designed to measure how different aircraft fuels influence air quality — and, ultimately, climate change — by flying a jet close behind a plane and studying its emissions.” Bruce Anderson, ACCESS principal investigator at the Langley Research Center, said, “It was something like a roller coaster at times, as we were twisted one way or another. … And yes, it was a good idea to keep the airsickness bags handy.” During the test flights, the DC-8’s engines used a JP-8 jet fuel or “a half-and-half mix of JP-8 fuel and renewable biofuel made from Camelina plant oil.” Anderson said, “Our findings show we definitely see a 50 percent reduction in soot emissions from the DC-8 when it burns the blended fuel as opposed to jet fuel alone.”

Researchers Identify New Magnetic Cloud Coming From The Sun.

BBC News  (10/14) reports that a team led by Miho Janvier of Dundee University have identified “a new kind of magnetic cloud emanating from the Sun,” one that is different “from those kicked up during solar flares.” Janvier said that identifying objects like this new cloud is important for future studies and predictions of space weather.

Study: Climate Change May Shorten Concrete’s Lifespan.

In its “Ideas” blog, Kevin Hartnett Boston Globe  (10/11, Hartnett) cites a new Northeastern University “worst-case” study suggesting the metal rods within reinforced concrete beneath coastal cities like Boston and comprising many of its buildings could be subject to long-term corrosion and decay, accelerated by climate change’s rising temperatures. The two civil engineers who authored the study expect the deterioration to begin in 2025, with 60% of Boston’s concrete buildings facing structural deterioration by 2050. To give a reference for cost, Hartnett cites a 2002 report from the Federal Highway Administration estimated $4 billion yearly to maintain the nation’s concrete bridges. The remainder of the piece surveys the ancient history of concrete and its modern use before closing on recommendations by the authors to increase concrete building’s cover thickness by 3 to 12%, increasing costs by 2 to 4% but offsetting enhanced carbonation and chlorination rates.

Industry News

Musk Says Other Auto Firms Adopting Tesla’s Patents.

USA Today  (10/15, Woodyard) reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk told the paper that some rival auto companies have taken him up on his offer to allow others to share some of his firm’s 200 patents for free. Musk “opened up Tesla’s patent book in June in a bid to try to foster more of a market for long-range electric cars.” Musk said, “We have had a number of inquiries from other car companies and we’ve told them to go ahead and use them.”

Model S Electronics More Like Consumer Device Than Car. The Los Angeles Times  (10/15, Hirsch) reports that IHS, an automotive research firm, dissected a Model S and found that “the design, components and manufacturing process that went into the car’s infotainment and instrumentation systems have more in common with a tablet or smartphone than they do with a conventional automobile.” IHS’ Andrew Rassweiler said “the electronic architecture of the sporty electric car is dramatically different from the approach of other automakers and their parts suppliers.”

The International Business Times  (10/15, Young) reports Rassweiler’s team found “something rivaling the highest-end instrumentation and infotainment systems in six-figure German luxury cars.” He said, “This approach required a major investment in big displays and touch panels, similar to the approach Apple took when designing the iPhone and iPad.”

Investors Business Daily  (10/15, Seitz) reports the Model S “infotainment system features a massive, 17-inch touchscreen display made by TPK Holdings,” which is “10 inches larger than the typical screen size used in automotive head units, IHS said.” The system “is powered by a 1.4-gigahertz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor.”

Gigafactory Expected To Create 6,500 Manufacturing Jobs By 2020. In a piece for the Motley Fool  (10/14), Adam Galas wrote that US manufacturing jobs “have taken a beating in the last few decades,” dropping 41% from a peak of 19.5 million in 1979. However, Tesla is looking to turn that around with its Gigafactory, which is “expected to create 3,000 construction jobs and 6,500 factory jobs once it’s fully online in 2020” and through “economic multiplier effects, up to 22,000 jobs might be added to the local economy.”

Pittman: Commercial Space Industry Experiencing The “Most Exciting Time.”

David Livingston at the Space Show  (10/13) podcast interviewed Bruce Pittman, Director, Flight Projects, and Chief System Engineer at the Space Portal, NASA Ames Research Center, about how this is “the most exciting time every for commercial space” because of developments like “COTS, commercial payloads to the ISS, SpaceX, and lots of smaller companies working with small satellites… the 3D printer on the ISS, the growth of spaceports, the industry spreading out into multiple states, and investment capital coming to the industry.” According to Livingston, when asked about how the Space Launch System will affect commercial enterprises, Pittman believes that there will be “synergistic enhancements for both SLS and the commercial space industry.” Toward the end of the program, Pittman reportedly thought that “more commercial activities on the ISS, the upcoming Bigelow module for the ISS, & the Google Lunar XPrize” would be the areas to watch in the coming months.

Engineering and Public Policy

Politico Analysis: Keystone Pipeline Irrelevant In Midterm Elections.

Politico  (10/14, Schor) reports that the Keystone XL pipeline “is increasingly irrelevant in the midterm elections and the energy markets — even for the groups that have fought so hard to either build it or block it.” While neither side will say the pipeline is “less important than it once was,” green groups and the oil industry “are both moving on.” Politico notes that “both sides have already won: Keystone is stalled, yet oil is booming.”

Colorado Candidates Talk Energy Policy.

The Denver Post  (10/15, Bunch) reported on an energy forum at which candidates for Colorado Governor and US Senate spoke on their energy platforms. US Sen. Mark Udall called for government support for renewables while his Republican opponent cautioned against Federal government intervention. Gov. John Hickenlooper sought compromise between regulation and industry, and his Republican rival Bob Beauprez called for regulation cuts.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Vermont Fourth Graders Learn To Code Using Scratch Educational Program.

Vermont Public Radio  (10/15, Albright) reports on Hartford, Vermont fourth graders are learning computer programming basics through Scratch, an educational software platform in which students build custom, modular narratives with cartoon characters. The piece moves to a brief discussion in closing about the state’s adoption of new Federal science benchmarks, known as Next Generation Science Standards, which “dovetail” the Common Core.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories


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