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

Leading the News

NASA Preparing For Orion Test Flight.

NBC Nightly News (11/30, story 8, 2:20, Quintanilla) reported on the “tremendous anticipation in Florida’s Kennedy Space Center,” which is preparing for Thursday’s test of the Orion spacecraft. NBC (Costello) added that Orion “represents NASA’s next frontier,” and this will be “a critical unmanned test.” Mike Sarafin, the Orion flight director, said, “We intend to test ourselves on this mission and we intend to test our spacecraft before we put humans on board.” Costello continued that in the three years since the last space shuttle flight “America has paid Russia 37 million dollars to carry things to the space station.” Meanwhile, “NASA has given commercial space companies the job of eventually sending astronauts and supplies to the station.”

The Florida Today  (11/28, Dean) reported the Orion capsule will launch on a Delta IV Heavy rocket and orbit the planet twice as part of Exploration Flight Test-1, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Bill Hill, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, said, “This is really our first step on our journey to Mars.” However, Orion continues to deal with “tight funding, technical challenges, bureaucracy and political uncertainty.” It remains “overweight and still searching for missions.” Additionally, a habitat module to extend mission durations and a lander haven’t been funded. Meanwhile, an independent review concluded that budget increases will be needed if Orion is to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s.

CNN  (11/30, Barnett) reports Orion will carry over a million people’s names on a microchip, Cookie Monster’s cookie and Ernie’s rubber ducky from “Sesame Street,” as well as an oxygen hose from an Apollo 11 spacesuit, some lunar soil, a fossil, as well as “lockers filled with flags, coins, patches, poetry and music.”

The Space News  (11/26, Foust, Subscription Publication) reports, “NASA is promoting the flight as a major milestone in Orion’s development,” with Hill saying, “EFT-1 is absolutely the biggest thing that this agency is going to do this year.” Still, “Garth Henning, Orion program executive at NASA headquarters, emphasized that this flight is part of a much larger set of tests needed to demonstrate the vehicle’s ability to safely carry crew beyond Earth orbit.”

The Houston Chronicle  (11/30, Berger) reported the Orion test “offers NASA and engineers…an achievement they desperately need.” The article details the history of the program since the loss of the shuttle Columbia. However, “NASA can’t afford to send” Orion “anywhere of consequence.” Critics of NASA’s current direction believe the agency “is being set up to fail, because Congress kept some of the program alive without providing funds to take full advantage of what the rockets and spacecraft are capable of.”

The Aviation Week  (11/26, Morring) reports, Mark Geyer, NASA’s Orion program manager, said, “We have a lot of cool models that tell us how it should behave as we go through ascent, and how it will behave when it’s under the chutes; but now we’ll get to measure it in an actual environment.”

The Alabama Live  (11/28, Roop) reports, “The flight has been called a ‘BF deal’ by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.” While “most people” watching the launch will be looking “to see if NASA can make a high-profile launch and test on the first try,” others will be examining “how much excitement” is generated. Ben Ianotta, editor of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ magazine “Aerospace America,” wrote in an October editorial, “The mission will provide NASA managers and members of Congress with their best gauge yet of the public’s willingness to support human spaceflight as a national priority for the 21st century.”

SPACE  (11/30, Kramer) reports that NASA “will air various media and public events in the run-up to Orion’s launch,” beginning Tuesday. The AP  (12/1) reports the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama “will open the theater in its Davidson Center for live viewing of the launch, flight and splashdown.”

Bay News 9 Tampa (FL) (11/29, 6:35 p.m. EST) reports, “Space Coast leaders are hoping the national attention will dispel rumors that the space industry is moving out of Florida.” BAY9 (Hume) added that Orion’s launch “has many implications. For NASA, it’s the first step in one day sending humans to Mars or an Asteroid. For Brevard County, it’s a chance to show the world, that the space industry is alive and well.”

Also covering this story are ABC News  (11/28), the Denver Business Journal  (11/28, Avery, Subscription Publication), WOFL-TV  Orlando, FL (11/30), the Denver Post  (11/30, Keeney), the Tampa Bay (FL) Times  (12/1, Krueger), the Charlotte (NC) Observer  (11/28, Southmayd), CFLN-TV Orlando, FL (11/29, 6:09 p.m. EST), and the Spaceflight Insider  (12/1, Nowakowski).

Orion Engineers Profiled. The Denver Business Journal  (11/28, Avery, Subscription Publication) reported in its “Boosters Bits” blog profiled Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. engineers Heather McKay and Dan Baca, who helped design parts of the Orion space capsule. The article notes that McKay met NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless when she was 10 at a take-you-daughter-to-work event.

The Bluefield (WV) Daily Telegraph  (11/30, Archer) profiled Lockheed Martin engineer Lisa Akers, who worked on the Launch Abort System.

Higher Education

University Of Washington Uses “Redshirt” Program For Future Engineers.

The Seattle Times  (12/1) reports on a program that offers “automatic acceptance into the University of Washington’s engineering school,” noting that the State Academic Red Shirt (STARS) program “enrolls promising engineering students — many of them women and minorities — to give them an additional year of collegiate academic work before they’re ready for the big time.”

APSCU Pushing Back Against Gainful Employment Rules.

USA Today  (11/28, Theobald) reports that the for-profit college sector is “fighting an Obama administration regulation that could threaten financial aid for hundreds of thousands of their students.” The article portrays ED’s latest gainful employment rules as “the most recent clash between those who believe many for-profit schools exploit students and leave them heavily in debt, and those who argue the schools are over-regulated and treated unfairly compared with public and private non-profit schools.” USA Today notes that the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities “filed a federal lawsuit to block the rule” a week after it was released, and quotes Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying in announcing the rule, “Career colleges must be a stepping-stone to the middle class. But too many hardworking students find themselves buried in debt with little to show for it.”

ED Approves Sale Of Corinthian Colleges To Company With Student Debt Collection History.

The Washington Post  (11/29, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that ED has approved the sale of half of Corinthian Colleges Inc.’s 107 campuses to ECMC Group for $24 million. The approval allows ECMC, which runs Premiere Credit, “one of the biggest debt collectors” for the ED, to convert those campuses to a non-profit school under a separate subsidiary, the Zenith Education Group. ECMC president David Hawn stated his “firsthand understanding” of student debt issues “bothers” him and he sees the move as an “opportunity for [ECMC] to now make a difference.”Rep. Steve Cohen was “shocked” by the ED’s support and questioned if the move “was in the best interest of students or taxpayers.” Barmak Nassirian, director of Federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities stated the ED decided Corinthian was “too big to fail.”

WSJournal Blasts ED’s Involvement In Corinthian Colleges’ Sale To ECMC. A Wall Street Journal  (12/1, Journal, Subscription Publication) editorial criticizes the Department of Education’s involvement in the sale of for-profit Corinthian Colleges’ schools to government contractor Educational Credit Management Corporation Group (ECMC), noting that the Department is taking 50 percent of the $24 million sale as well as $17.25 million payment in return for agreeing not to sue Corinthian.

Michigan State University Gets $500,000 For Bioengineering Fellowship.

The AP  (11/30, AP) reports that Jack and Dottie Withrow have donated $500,000 to Michigan State University, to endow a graduate fellowship at the school’s new Department of Biomedical Engineering. Jack, who attended MSU for undergraduate and graduate school, served as executive vice president at Chrysler and president / CEO of Lectron Products. The program will offer master’s and doctoral programs, though undergraduate offerings may follow.

ASEE Members Named Professors of the Year
Sheri Sheppard of Stanford University and John Wadach of Monroe Community College are two of the four 2014 U.S. Professors of the Year.
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.

Research and Development

New Jersey To Sell $525 Million In Debt For STEM Programs, Environmental Projects.

Bloomberg News  (12/1, Young) reports that New Jersey plans to sell $525 million in debt, including $450 million for STEM programs and the remainder for environmental projects. The piece focuses on New Jersey’s weak credit standing, beleaguered by the state’s pension system.

Army Testing Load-Lifting Exosuits.

Military Times  (11/30, Lilley) reports that US Army researchers are testing “futuristic-looking exosuits” that “could cut a wearer’s exertion level by 25% when carrying a 100-pound load and might let an unburdened soldier run a four-minute mile.” The article reports that Maj. Christopher Orlowski, who runs the program for DARPA, said the “Warrior Web” technology “could be tested in a realistic setting in less than two years.”

North Dakota Researchers Aim To Make Plastics From Crop Materials.

The AP  (12/1, Kolpack) reports that researchers at North Dakota State University “are trying to come up with a way to make plastic out of crops, so they can be broken down by a special light and turned into another product.” Explaining that the purpose is to prevent “bags and other long-lasting plastic products” from becoming long-term pollutants, the article reports that NDSU Department of Coatings and Polymeric Materials Chairman Dean Webster said, “We make the product, we use the product; when we’re done with it, we take it apart and make the next product out of it. That kind of closes that whole loop on the life cycle of a product.”

NREL Engineers Work On Smart Home.

In an article titled “Colorado Lab Tests ‘Smart Home’ To Talk To Grid” the AP  (11/28, Ogburn) reports that engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory “are testing versions” of a smart home “in their Energy Systems Integration Laboratory,” where Bryan Hannegan is the associate director. The goal is “to maximize how homes use renewable energy, and minimize disruption to the grid.” Senior NREL engineer Dane Christensen says that “making homes more efficient is a key part of reducing climate change impacts.” Christensen stated, “Buildings are our nation’s largest emission sources of global warming gases. They lead to more than transportation in terms of the overall climate impact. And so we really want to tackle that.”

Successful UAV Proof-Of-Concept Sense And Avoid System Test.

The Flightglobal  (11/26, Parsons) reports General Atomics Aeronautical Systems says its tested a proof-of-concept sense and avoid (SAA) system for unmanned air vehicles in “the first successful test of the” Federal Aviation Administration’s airborne collision avoidance system for unmanned aircraft. Also finished are “the first flight tests of a prototype air-to-air radar called due regard radar (DRR) that enables UAVs to detect and avoid other aircraft in flight and is the first of its kind designed specifically for a remotely piloted aircraft.” Frank Pace, president of aircraft systems at GA-ASI, said in a statement. “Our proof-of-concept SAA system is now functional and ready for extensive flight testing with the FAA, NASA, and our industry partners.” General Atomics Aeronautical Systems “working toward integrating the SAA system onto a Predator B owned by NASA, which will then serve as the primary aircraft for further testing through December at the Armstrong Flight Research Center.”

Drexel University Develops Software For Modeling Cellular Divisions In 3-D.

The Philly (PA)  (11/24, Zaleski) reports on Drexel University’s development of software specifically for modeling the division of cellular division in 3-D. The Lineage Editing and Validation program has crucial implications in the study of stem cells and cancers. The software may be open-source for wider application and refinement.

Engineering and Public Policy

Huerta Talks About FAA’s Regulatory Efforts Involving Unmanned Aircraft.

During appearances on two Sunday news shows, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta discussed how his agency is addressing the use of unmanned aircraft (UAVs) by civilian and commercial users.

On CNN’s State Of The Union with Candy Crowley (11/30), Huerta said, “Unmanned aircraft has both great potential as a use for things like surveillance of power lines and so forth, but we care – first and foremost – about maintaining a safe aviation system. So how we integrate them into our national air space system is done with safety as our paramount concern. … A big part of what we need to do is educate people on what the rules are. There are laws that govern how we fly things within our national air space system. This technology is evolving and the regulations are evolving with it.”

Later (11/30) in the interview Huerta was asked about the criticism the FAA has received from commercial entities. Huerta said that commercial pilots “are very concerned that these [UAVs] are difficult to see and they don’t really have a good understanding of how they interact with other aircraft. … So it’s for that reason that we have a plan for a staged and thoughtful integration of unmanned aircraft where we look at lower risk uses first, and then gradually work to others.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

NASA Helps Promote STEM Education At Maryland High School.

The Washington Post  (11/30, Wiggins) reports that NASA and the College Park Aviation Museum are helping to promote students’ exposure to science and technology with the establishment of a new STEM program at DuVal High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Through the program, students take part in special classes and enrichment opportunities, receive a computer, and work with NASA mentors in their final year.

F-Rated Florida Elementary School Hopes Influx Of STEM Funding Improves Outlook.

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel  (11/25, Roth) reports on robotics classes at Hamilton Elementary School of Engineering and Technology in Sanford, Florida. In July, the school had received an F from the state; with $2.1 million from the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, its new STEM focus aims to turn around that rating. The school now has a robotics lab and will soon have 3-D printers thanks to a Verizon grant.

Florida Students Design And Build Micro-Satellite For 2015 Launch.

The AP  (11/29, Lepri) reports that Florida middle and high school students designed a micro-satellite, built by Florida International University students, to be launched into space in mid-2015. The piece overviews the development of the 30-month, 4,000-hour program, which was funded in full ($8,500) by a third-party donor.

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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