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

Leading the News

National Supercomputing Center Gets $1.5 Million Data Visualization Grant.

The AP  (11/12, AP) reports the National Center for Supercomputing Applications has received a $1.5 million grant to develop three museum shows and nine science documentaries to show how integral supercomputing and data are to daily life.

The Urbana/Champaign (IL) News-Gazette  (11/11, Wurth) reports that the team will be led by University of Illinois Professor Donna Cox, director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at NCSA in Urbana, to raise awareness about the Centrality of Advanced Digitally Enabled Science. The piece details many of the AVL’s works, including a recent show on extreme solar storms, and Cox’s collaborations with various high-profile producers. The nine documentaries will be distributed online via YouTube, Hulu, and other outlets.

Higher Education

For-Profit Colleges Cashing In On GI Bill.

Fortune  (11/11, Fortune) reports on the large amounts of money that for-profit colleges are able to make off of the GI Bill, which is not subject to the 90-10 rule, “which bars for-profit schools “from getting more than 90% of their revenue from the government.” The article cites reports from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee showing rising revenues amid rising enrollment by veterans in such colleges. The piece describes ED’s new gainful employment rule in favorable terms, but notes that it “doesn’t directly address the problem of for-profit colleges targeting veterans and gaining access to their education benefits.”

TIME  (11/12) reports on this issue through the prism of veterans enrolled in colleges owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc., which was sued by the state of California in 2014 for “illegally using the official seals of the United States Navy, Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard in its advertising in an effort to recruit recently discharged service men and women.” The piece then segues into an exploration of for-profit colleges’ “controversial” relationship with for-profit colleges, noting that the post-9/11 GI Bill “had unintended consequences,” making it a low-hanging target for for-profit college firms.

Many Colleges Make SAT Optional.

The CBS Evening News (11/11, story 7, 2:15, Pelley) reported that Wake Forest University is among “a growing number of schools that have dropped the requirement for an SAT score,” noting that “some 800 schools now let students apply without it.” Wake Forest Dean of Admissions Martha Allman is shown saying, “We see many students who simply don’t test well. They have intellectual curiosity and drive and have all the tools to be successful college students but that Saturday morning test is their nemesis.” The segment cites research indicating that there are “found no significant differences in graduation rates and GPAs between” those who submit SATs during college applications and those who do not.

November Prism Online (ASEE members only)
The cover story, “Corporate Blinders,” presents an engineering ethics case study.

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

Research and Development

Philae Lander Readied For Historic Comet Touchdown.

The New York Times  (11/10, Chang, Subscription Publication) continued coverage of how the ESA’s Rosetta mission about comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko will release the Philae lander on Wednesday to attempt the first landing on a comet’s surface. The article noted that both NASA and the ESA will broadcast the attempt, as both agencies have contributed instruments. As with previous coverage, the article notes how this mission to a comet, which involves long-term monitoring, differs from those in the past.

Reuters  (11/10, Bryan, Sheahan) reported that the ESA will decide Tuesday whether or not to go ahead with the landing attempt. The article notes that even if the attempt is not successful, Rosetta will continue with its mission through 2015.

According to BBC News  (11/10, Amos), Philae has been placed in an “active state” because managers will have a short window to release the lander. The article also notes that ESA project scientist Matt Taylor said that the mission’s focus will “go through a major gear change” no matter what happens on Wednesday. Taylor said that instead of doing “science on the side,” the spacecraft will be in its “main phase” of observations.

USA Today Op-Eds Debate Worth Of Manned Spaceflight Following Recent Crashes.

USA Today  (11/10) editorialized that the recent Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crashes highlight the “inherent dangers of the thermal rocketry,” which is still very expensive and not likely to come down in price any time soon. According to the article, the most “exciting things,” whether from NASA or private spaceflight, involve unmanned spacecraft. To the editors, the robots sent into space have “increased exponentially,” whereas they imply that little exciting comes from manned spaceflight.

However, in an opposing op-ed in USA Today  (11/10), Lyn D. Wigbels, president of the American Astronautical Society, wrote that there should not be an “either-or” debate of manned versus unmanned spaceflight because both are needed. While manned spaceflight is more costly, it is “unsurpassed” in ‘inspirational benefits and productivity.”

Officials Streamline ISS Experiment Certification Process.

Aviation Week  (11/10, Carreau) reported that ISS officials are “streamlining” the certification process so that “scientists, engineers from the private sector and academia as well as partner nations and the agency itself” can get their experiments to the ISS faster. Ryan Prouty, “an ISS program research integration manager who leads the NASA Revolutionize ISS for Science and Technology (RISE) team,” said, “From the station perspective, if as a program we don’t make this philosophical shift, we won’t make it. We have to make this shift and become a customer-based organization. … If we do this right and we are successful, we should be able to look back three to four years from now and see a square wave of change in the program and how we do our business.” Duane Hightower of the ISS management integration office added, “We are trying to spread the word as fast as we can.” According to the article, Hightower said that the new system reduced costs by 75% and certification time down to under three months. Trent Martin, assistant director for advanced development projects in JSC’s Exploration, Integration and Science Directorate, said, “We fully expect to get more projects to the space station with the same amount of resources. … Hopefully, we can get the word out to folks outside the NASA community that it’s not really that hard to get things to the space station. It’s not really as expensive and time-consuming as you might imagine if you have something that could benefit from the microgravity environment.”

The War On Science May Be “Discouraging” For Supporters.

MSNBC  (11/12, Benen) reports that the “prevailing political winds have to be discouraging” to supporters of modern science. The article cites examples of naysayers such as each of the incoming GOP senators who all deny climate change as well as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) who “likes to mock NIH research as a punch-line.”

Genetic Technology Could Impact Sex, Relationships, Love.

Business Insider  (11/12) reports Google is working on a project, entitled Calico, to find ways to “cheat death” with gene mutation. “Scientists have already successfully extended the lives of other organisms” including Baker’s Yeast and lab mice. The article explores the ways that sex, marriage, love, and relationships would be altered if such technology was in practice to extend lives. Francis Collins, the director of the National Genome Research Institute, “believes there’s a lot of good that can come from genetic technology. But he also describes how challenging genetic issues — like the ability to hand-pick children — will become.”

South Carolina Researchers Studying Offshore Wind Technology.

McClatchy  (11/11, Subscription Publication) reports that South Carolina and “other Eastern states are exploring” wind power “with task forces and studies.” The article notes that “local universities are already becoming research leaders in the budding regional offshore wind farm industry, common in European waters but foreign to American.” Brian Krevor, an environmental protection specialist with the BOEM, said, “There are a lot of great universities within South Carolina that are really spurring some of the research in wind energy and the offshore environment.” Coastal Carolina University, the University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston are “receiving some $1.5 million in federal and state grant money to research what areas wind developers should embrace or avoid off the coast.”

Industry News

Ethicist Describes How Bionic Technology Will Change Human Experience.

Susannah Locke of Vox  (11/11, Locke) interviews University of Pennsylvania ethicist Jonathan Moreno on the future of bionic technologies, artificial limbs, regenerative tissue engineering, and the limits of human augmentation. Moreno contends that advancements will begin therapeutically and meet cultural obstacles in the form of “evolutionarily conserved ideas about the human body.” The piece also touches on the pseudo-cyborg nature of contemporary humanity through the wide use of smartphones.

Military’s DARPA Lab Creates Wearable Machine To Help Soldiers Run Faster.

CBS News  (11/12, Reid) reports on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s development of bionic technologies, such as Arizona State University’s compressed-air driven running aid, to increase the mobility of US troops as well as those with disabilities. The piece features other technologies such as networks of tiny robots and equipment capable of allowing users to climb glass walls, as well as prior DARPA projects including stealth aircraft, early contributions to the Internet, and components in today’s smartphones.

Engineering and Public Policy

DOE Study: Knowledge Of Energy Use Leads To Behavioral Changes.

The Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette  (11/11, Moore) reported on an energy use study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and funded by the DOE. In the study, employees of PNC Financial Services were split into four groups that were given different levels of information about their energy use. The study found that “employees able to access information on their energy usage and given the power to control it decreased consumption more than five times as much as those who knew they were being monitored but had no information and no control,” according to the article.

DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge Promotes Decarbonization.

The Hill  (11/11, Stepp, Contributor) reports on the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge initiative, which promotes decarbonization. According to the article, the goal of the Better Buildings Challenge is to “gently push US industrial and commercial building owners to commit to cutting energy consumption 20 percent or more over 10 years.” Furthermore, “the program’s premise is really simple and low-cost: set a broad building efficiency goal, get some early buy-in, share best practices and facilitate some competition to push building owners into action.”

New Nevada Congressman Supporter Of Yucca Mountain.

The Las Vegas Sun  (11/11, Phillips) reports that new Nevada congressman Cresent Hardy is “the first member of Nevada’s congressional delegation in decades to publicly say he would support a proposal to store the nation’s nuclear waste inside Yucca Mountain.” He said, “If everything is safe, if the science says its safe for transportation, safe for storage, safe for all of the above, then I’m a supporter of it.” Hardy’s “position puts him at odds with members of his own party, such as Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who opposes the project under any circumstance.”

Tuesday’s Lead Stories


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