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

Leading the News

“The Domes” Helps Train Astronaut For Current And Future Missions.

Brent Rose at Gizmodo  (11/19) writes about the Systems Engineering Simulator, or “The Domes,” at the Johnson Space Center, where researchers “learned to fly, drive, and design better space vehicles.” Rose notes that another function is to help crew training and engineering analysis for ISS operations. When Rose visited the facility, one of the domes was set up as a cockpit of a vehicle that could one day drive on the moon or Mars. NASA’s Amy Efting said, “They’ve also looked at using the same chassis as a multi-mission space exploration vehicle, so it could potentially go to an asteroid. … So we can actually run a bunch of different simulations in this same mockup. Or we have the capability to roll this mockup out and put another one in, like Orion, or something like that.” No matter the setup, Rose comments that the simulations are “incredibly immersive,” although some, like those involving the ISS, are “massive.” Rose adds that the Domes are some of the “easiest” tools NASA has to train astronauts before they go into space.

Marshall Space Flight Center Overlooked, But Does Important Research For NASA. Randall Marsh at Gizmag  (11/19) writes that the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is “one of NASA’s more off-the-radar facilities,” but works on some of NASA’s “most important research.” These projects include “3D printing technology and research” and the Space Launch System. According to Marsh, MSFC’s “most interesting, yet little known,” facility is the ISS Payload Operations Integration Center & Laboratory Training Complex. Marsh reiterates that even though the center is often “overlooked,” it does “some of the most important research and engineering for the future of the organization.”

Higher Education

US News Offers Thumbnail Sketch Of Gainful Employment Rules.

The US News & World Report  (11/19, Mayotte) “Student Loan Ranger” blog runs an article on ED’s latest gainful employment rules, noting that the for-profit lobby has filed suit to have them overturned. The piece points out that the 945-page set of regulations may not be easily comprehended by the layman, and offers a Q&A to explain some of its most salient points. The topics include the intended purpose of the rules, the range of institutions to which they apply, the bare bones of what the rules require, how they will impact consumers, and how consumers can find information about programs’ debt-to-income rates.

WSJournal Op-ED: End Use Of Racial Preference In College Admissions.

Richard D. Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation, a consultant for lawsuits against Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for using racial preferences in student admissions, writes in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal  (11/20, Subscription Publication) that liberals, as well as conservatives should applaud the lawsuits. Kahlenberg argues that race is no longer a good marker for being disadvantaged and that the current policies may disadvantage Asians. He calls for using other strategies to create genuine diversity, such as preference for high-achieving students in economically disadvantaged areas, allowing substantial transfers from community-colleges, and no longer giving legacy preference to alumni’s children.

South Dakota Joins Distance Education Collaborative.

Madison (SD) Daily Leader  (11/20) reports that South Dakota has been approved to join the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, “a nationwide effort making distance education courses more accessible to college students across state lines.” The article explains that South Dakota Board of Regents CEO Jack Warner said that SARA “makes it easier for higher education institutions to participate in interstate delivery of distance education and for states to regulate the process.” The AP  (11/20) also covers this story.

Candidates for ASEE’s Board of Directors
Positions include President; Vice President for Finance; and Vice President for External Relation.

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

Seaborne Death Lasers Being Tested By Navy.

Popular Mechanics  (11/20, Schechter) reports “the Navy just completed an operational demo of a new ship-based Laser Weapon System (LaWS) in the Persian Gulf” which is “meant to take out enemy drones or attack boats that might swarm a large vessel.” The system “already aced maritime tests in 2011 and 2012, but the Navy wanted to see how it would perform at sea under the kind of harsh conditions it could encounter in battle.” Unlike past lasers, “the new solid-state lasers are smaller, run on electricity, and cost only about $1 per shot.” The Navy hopes to have the system combat-ready by 2016.

Injectable Treatment For Wounded Soldiers In Development.

The Phys  (11/20, Garcia) reports “a new, injectable material developed by team of researchers from Texas A&M University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology could buy wounded soldiers the time they need to survive by preventing blood loss from serious internal injuries.” The device consists “of a biodegradable gelatin substance that has been embedded with nano-sized silicate discs that aid in coagulation.” Akhilesh Gaharwar, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Texas A&M and member of the research team, “ If a soldier experiences a penetrating, incompressible injury – one where it is difficult if not impossible to apply the pressure needed to stop the bleeding – he or she can inject the material into the wound site where it will trigger a rapid coagulation and provide enough time to get to a medical facility for treatment.”

Goddard Researchers Developing New Type Of CubeSat.

Paul Scott Anderson at AmericaSpace  (11/19) writes that “a NASA skunkworks team” is developing on an “advanced” six-unit (6U) CubeSat called Dellingr that is expected to be delivered to the ISS “possibly as early as January 2016.” Goddard Space Flight Center researchers are developing the Dellingr, which “doubles the payload” of the previous CubeSat model designed back in 1999. Michael Johnson, chief technologist of Goddard’s Applied Engineering and Technology Directorate, said, “Rapid advances in the performance and efficiency of miniaturized systems are enabling a future only limited by vision and imagination. .. We need more cost-effective approaches to achieve compelling Earth and space science. A 6U capability provides one way to accomplish the goal.” Chuck Clagett, Dellingr project manager, also said, “Our goal is to create a platform that is successful more than 90 percent of the time – similar, in fact, to sounding rocket flights.” Luis Santos Soto, Dellingr deputy project manager, added, “Dellingr is an innovative, fast-track mission that demonstrates our ability to execute reliable, small science-grade missions inexpensively and rapidly. For us, this is a pathfinder. It symbolizes the dawn of a new age for CubeSats at Goddard.”

Rosetta Mission Has Not Ended With Philae Lander.

Bloomberg News  (11/20, Lauerman) continues coverage of the Rosetta mission and what the Philae lander may have discovered about comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko before it went dark. Discussing the potential implications of the research, Essam Heggy of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “Knowing the inner structure of the comet is the most exciting aspect of the mission. … It’s like medical imaging.” JPL’s Mark Hofstadter added, “By looking at the details of abundances in the comet and comparing them to Earth, we can get an idea of not only what temperatures and conditions were when the comet was formed, we can get an idea of whether comets provided these molecules to Earth.” Joel Parker, a director at the Southwest Research Institute, noted that the public is likely to be “surprised” when they discover that the Rosetta mission has not ended with Philae after researchers release “fantastic new pictures and observations.”

Industry News

U.S. Air Force Official: Boeing Facing Challenges With KC-46A Integration, Testing.

Defense News  (11/19, Mehta) reported that while speaking at a Defense Writer’s Group breakfast, the U.S. Air Force’s military deputy for acquisition, Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, “says Boeing is being challenged by integration of its KC-46A Pegasus tanker, and warned that further slips may imperil key target dates.” Still, Pawlikowski also called the integration and test portion of production “probably the most challenging part of any program.” Meanwhile, Boeing spokesperson Caroline Hutcheson said, “The challenges that Boeing is addressing on its initial engineering and manufacturing development aircraft are leading the company to re-plan elements of its tanker work flow, and its internal schedules, to remain on track to meet our commitment to the Air Force.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Tech Visas Expansion Will Be Part Of Obama’s Immigration Plan.

Bloomberg News  (11/20, Dorning, Burrows) reports “President Barack Obama will let more foreign graduates of U.S. colleges with scientific and engineering backgrounds temporarily work in the country, partially addressing technology industry leaders’ desire for more skilled employees.” To do so, “Obama will expand a program that now allows foreign graduates in science, technology, engineering and math fields to work in the U.S. for up to 29 months, said a person familiar with the White House plan.” The expansion will be part of “executive actions Obama plans to take as soon as tomorrow.”

Google Engineers Discuss New Approach To Combating Climate Change.

In a discussion with Google engineers, Greentech Media  (11/20, Lacey) reports on Google’s current approach to combating climate change since cutting investment in renewable energy Research and Development. Google engineers Ross Koningstein and David Fork stated that Google was discouraged by analyses that found even “wholesale adoption of renewable energy” would not result in “significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions.” Koningstein and Fork now believe that they need “something truly disruptive to reverse climate change,” something that hasn’t been invented yet. To achieve that at Google, they have implemented at 70-20-10 plan in which employees spend 70 percent of time on “core business,” 20 percent on project “related to core business,” and 10 percent on “strange new ideas that have the potential to be truly disruptive.”

House Passes Bill Limiting EPA’s Use of “Secret Science.”

The Hill  (11/20, Marcos) reports the House passed the measure, H.R. 4012, “largely along party lines,” which prevents the EPA from “issuing new regulations unless it provides the scientific data to justify them.” The measure was part of the GOP’s legislative package aimed “to limit EPA’s regulatory powers.” Republicans said the measure enhances transparency, with House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith stating, “Costly environmental regulations should only be based on data that is available to independent scientists and the public.” Rep. Henry Waxman questioned why Republicans want more data when they “have tried to ignore the science” like climate change. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson said the measure “will not improved the EPA’s action,” it will only “stifle public health protections.” The White House has threatened to veto the legislation.

Parties Clash On House Floor Over Secret Science Reform Act Of 2014. The Dallas Morning News  (11/19, Miller) reports Texas Reps. Lamar Smith and Eddie Bernice Johnson “squared off” on the House floor about the Secret Science Reform Act. Smith, chairman of the House science committee claimed the Act “stops the EPA’s use of unverifiable science,” while Johnson retorted that the Act was “an insidious attack on the EPA” stemming from Republicans “obsession” with two scientific studies by Harvard and the American Cancer Society. Rep. David Schweikert said the act would open up the science to the public, allowing it to be vetted. Rep. Rush D. Holt, who has a Ph. D in physics, stated the republicans argument is “a blatant misunderstanding of how science operates” and “an affront to science.”

Perrone Supports Secret Science Act, Chides EPA For Faulty Scientific Reliance. In the Congress Blog of The Hill  (11/20, Perrone, Phd), Joseph Perrone, the chief science officer at the Center for Accountability in Science, expresses support for the Secret Science Reform Act by stating the Environmental Protection Agency’s nondisclosure of scientific data “qualifies as a bad secret.” Perrone states the “red flags” surrounding the EPA’s “scientific processes run even deeper” than using “secret science.” Perrone chides the EPA for “cherry picking research, misinterpreting studies, [and] failing to disclose data.” Perrone uses the EPA’s plans to “unveil new limits on ground level ozone” that could cost $90 billion each year as an example, citingDrs. Julie Goodman and Sonja Sax’s stance that the EPA “failed to consistently evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of ozone studies” and even misinterpreted statistics.

Senate Expected To Approve Keystone When GOP Takes Control Next Year.

Bret Baier reported on Fox News’ Special Report with Bret Baier (11/19) that following the failure of Keystone XL pipeline in the Senate on Tuesday, Kansas’ two Republican senators “say the Senate will move quickly” to approve the pipeline “after assuming control of the chamber next year. Kansas is one of the states the project will go through.”

A Wall Street Journal  (11/20, Subscription Publication) editorial argues that the pipeline vote shows that billionaire Tom Steyer, who spent $74 million in the midterm elections, bought the remaining Democrats in the Senate, nearly all of whom are devout liberals or scared to risk losing the cash Steyer can provide.

In his column for the Washington Post  (11/20, Lane), Charles Lane similarly criticizes Senate progressives over the vote, arguing that by supporting the filibuster, they are “being intellectually dishonest and traducing their values,” and doing so “pointlessly,” because “Keystone XL would not boost greenhouse gas emissions significantly, according to State Department experts,” and with or without it, “Canada’s oil sands will still be turned into crude oil and shipped, often by rail, to markets in the United States and elsewhere.”

Pipeline Deal Is Possible. Reuters  (11/20, Holland, Rampton) reports that Administration sources say a deal on the pipeline is not impossible, but any such deal would have to include concessions on other parts of the President’s his domestic agenda, such as infrastructure investment, eliminating tax loopholes, or cutting carbon emissions.

Poll: 56 Percent Support Building Pipeline. The Huffington Post  (11/19, Edwards-Levy) reported that a Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted before Tuesday’s vote, found that most American support the pipeline proposal. According to the poll off 1,000 US adults, which was conducted Nov. 14-17, 56 percent “support building the pipeline to transport oil from Canada through the United States to oil refineries in Texas,” and proponents “feel more strongly than opponents: 31 percent support the pipeline strongly, while just 12 percent strongly oppose it.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Retired Engineer Helps Chandler, Arizona Schools Bolster STEM Programming.

The Arizona Republic  (11/17, Olalde) reports on a STEM partnership between Arizona’s Chandler Unified School District and SAE International, bringing F1 in Schools programming to students with a focus on engineering and robotics. The piece focuses on a retired engineer’s decision to donate his time to advancing the district’s engineering curriculum, coaching their FIRST Robotics team, and helping to implement the SAE International program. The piece details those projects in an ongoing effort to promote STEM interests.

Second Annual “Hour Of Code” To Feature “Frozen” Characters.

The Washington Post  (11/19, Layton) reports that “is preparing to unveil its second annual ‘Hour of Code’ lesson, but with an assist from Disney designed to attract more girls to participate.” The nonprofit will include “two female characters from Disney’s wildly popular ‘Frozen’ movie” in its latest “free lesson that teaches students to write computer code.”

Major National Study Will Train Teachers To Use Mathematical Modeling In Class.

The Bozeman (MT) Daily Chronicle  (11/20) reports 72 Bozeman, Montana teachers will partake in a $1.3 million National Science Foundation funded, three-year IMMERSION study on how intensive training can affect teachers’ use of mathematical modeling in class. The research will be led by Montana State University with collaboration from George Mason University and Harvey Mudd College. Teacher selection will begin in the spring, with professional development planned for the summer; the project will continue through 2017.

Barbie Book Criticized For Being Sexist.

The Los Angeles Times  (11/19, Schaub) reports a new book published my Random House, titled “Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer”, is facing backlash as readers have found the book to be sexist. “Reaction to the book has been overwhelmingly negative, with 100 Amazon customers giving the book one-star reviews.” One reviewer said, “I found the sexist drivel that this book portrays to be especially inflammatory, so much so that I’ve placed it near my fireplace for emergency use during a power outage.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories


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