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

Leading the News

Johns Hopkins Team Wins Award For Improved Ebola Protective Suit.

The Washington Post  (12/14, Sun) reported that a new protective suit for healthcare workers fighting Ebola designed by a Johns Hopkins’ team “has been chosen as one of the winners in a global competition for solutions to increase the protection and comfort of front-line workers battling Ebola.” “The suit is easier to take off, and has a small battery-powered source to cool the user by blowing air into the hood, said Youseph Yazdi, executive director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Bioengineering Innovation & Design,” the Post reported, adding that “U.S. officials hope a version of the new protective suit could be on the ground within a few months.”

Reporting prior to the announcement of the competition’s winner, the New York Times  (12/13, A7, Mcneil, Subscription Publication) also reported on the Ebola protective gear various competitors had developed, including, “protective gear that zips off like a wet suit, ice-cold underwear to make life inside the sweltering suits more bearable, or lotions that go on like bug spray and kill or repel the lethal virus.”

Higher Education

NRC Grants To Support Nuclear Science And Engineering Program In Massachusetts.

The Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette  (12/15) reports that the NRC has awarded four grants worth $1.1 million to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Massachusetts. The funding will support faculty development and research, scholarships, and curriculum development in WPI’s new Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) Program. In a statement, NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane said of the awards: “The NRC is pleased to sponsor these grant programs as they offer college and university recipients an opportunity to encourage their best and brightest to pursue careers in nuclear engineering, health physics, radiochemistry, and related sciences.” The Telegram & Gazette notes that the NRC has awarded $15 million in grants to 37 colleges and universities.

Harvard President Discusses Upcoming Federal College Rating And Harvard Issues.

The Washington Post  (12/16, Anderson) reports that as the Department of Education college rating is expected to be released soon, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said “I think it raises the issue of what do you rate them for?” He believes the rating should be based on a variety of points, including the number of graduates going into public service. He also wants to challenge the growing view that college is not a worthwhile investment, and argues that college is important for not only economic reasons. Faust also explains Harvard’s new office to investigate sexual assault claims, as both the college and law school are being Federally investigated for their responses to such claims. Harvard is also the defendant in an affirmative action case over Asian American admissions.

Stanford Study To Analyze Artificial Intelligence Over Next Century.

The New York Times  (12/16, Markoff, Subscription Publication) reports that a Stanford University study set to last a century will examine how artificial intelligence influences society. The study, funded by a donation from Microsoft Research managing director Dr. Eric Horvitz, will have a committee of professors who will select scientists for a panel, which will write a report for 2015 publication as the first of a series of regular reports. Roboticist Sebastian Thrun believes A.I. will have increasing power over time, while some scientists are concerned that A.I. technology has the potential to replace human workers and facilitate government surveillance.

From ASEE
#ASEEYoADiversity One-minute video – Freeman Hrabowski: “We need to change the culture. We assume most people wont make it in STEM.”

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November Prism Online – Now Open to Public
The cover story, “Corporate Blinders,” presents an engineering ethics case study.

Research and Development

NC State Researchers Developing Stacked Monolayer Semiconductors.

AZoNano  (12/16) reports that a team of North Carolina State University researchers “has found that stacking materials that are only one atom thick can create semiconductor junctions that transfer charge efficiently, regardless of whether the crystalline structure of the materials is mismatched,” noting that this could lead to much cheaper manufacturing of such devices as “solar cells, lasers and LEDs.” The piece quotes NC State assistant professor of materials science and engineering Linyou Cao writing in a paper on the research, “This work demonstrates that by stacking multiple two-dimensional (2-D) materials in random ways we can create semiconductor junctions that are as functional as those with perfect alignment.”

Industry News

BAE Systems Will Acquire Eclipse Electronic Systems.

Space News  (12/16, Subscription Publication) reports that BAE Systems is acquiring Eclipse Electronic Systems, “a manufacturer of space-qualified signals intelligence gear.” Accuning it gains regulatory approval, the deal should “close during the first quarter.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Los Angeles Taking Steps To Address Vulnerability Of Aqueducts To Earthquakes.

The Los Angeles Times  (12/16, Xia, Lin) reports Los Angeles officials are “taking concrete steps” to address the vulnerability of the city’s water supply to earthquakes. The three major aqueducts that provide 88 percent of Los Angeles’ water cross the San Andreas fault 32 times, and an earthquake along that fault “could destroy key sections of the aqueducts, cutting off the water supply for more than 22 million people in Southern California.” Mayor Eric Garcetti has asked for proposals for protective measures and alternatives. The article notes that according to an earthquake engineering expert with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, until now the utility “hasn’t had the resources to extensively study various retrofit options” for the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which crosses the fault through a tunnel under the mountains. The LADWP is considering placing a plastic pipe through the tunnel as an interim solution.

DOE Issues Draft Environmental Impact Statement On Plains & Eastern Clean Line Project.

Arkansas Business  (12/15, Hogan) reports that the US Department of Energy “released a 3,700-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a $2 billion, 720-mile transmission line project” known as the Plains & Eastern Clean Line. The line would be built by Clean Line Energy Partners, including a “$100 million converter station” in central Arkansas, either in Pope County or Conway County according to the DOE. It would also “include converter stations at the endpoints, near Guymon, Oklahoma, and Memphis, Tennessee.” The DOE “will hold 15 public meetings in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas in January and February.”

The Arkansas Times  (12/15, Brantley) in its “Arkansas” blog reports on the Arkansas Business story, adding that the Sierra Club “last week reiterated its endorsement of the project as a way to get clean energy on the grid.”

The Tulsa (OK) World  (12/16, Walton) reports on the department’s release, adding that Clean Line Energy Partners called the draft statement “a major step forward” for the project. It also points out that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted the project “approval to sell transmission service to customers at negotiated rates and to negotiate agreements for 100 percent of the line’s capacity.” Further coverage appears at Electric Light & Power  (12/16, Galli).

Minnesota PUC Approves New Xcel Plans For Solar, Natural Gas Generation Units.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune  (12/16, Shaffer) reports that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission “on Monday authorized more than $500 million in new electrical generating units for Xcel Energy, including the state’s largest solar power project.” That proposal is for a $250 million solar installation “with panels sited at up to 20 locations across Xcel’s service area.” In addition to the solar project, the state PUC approved plans for “two large natural gas-fueled generation units” to be built in Burnsville and Mankato.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Huntsville Students Display Their Manufacturing Products.

The Huntsville (AL) Times  (12/15, Bonvillian) reports that on Monday at a Huntsville school board meeting, Huntsville students displayed some of the products they created while participating in “the district’s advanced manufacturing academy and through Greenpower USA.” While the focus was on the Greenpower USA program, the article notes that Huntsville students will be the first ones in the US “to design and create hardware for the International Space Station.” By utilizing a 3D printer, the students are developing a bracket clamp.

E-Learning Software Tops Educator Shopping List.

THE Journal  (12/15, Schaffhauser) reports on the findings of CompTIA’s September survey of 400 K-12 educators and administrators. Half of schools already have e-learning software, with 29% expecting to acquire or update software; similarly, half have classroom management software, with 19% to add or update. The findings also touched on the prevalence and demand surrounding game-based learning, massive open online courses, social media, and software allowing for collaboration between teachers. The piece touches on the influence of those platforms on teaching, assessed by the survey.

Monday’s Lead Stories

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