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

Leading the News

Moniz, Biden Visit Norfolk State University.

The AP  (1/16) reports Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, Vice President Joe Biden and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe visited “Norfolk State University on Thursday for a discussion on cybersecurity careers.” The “visit came days after President Barack Obama committed $25 million in grants to invest in cybersecurity education at historically black colleges and universities.”

The Hill  (1/16, Bennett) reports the grant is “designed to give students interested in cybersecurity the opportunity to take advantage of resources at historically black colleges and national labs.” Moniz said that “opening the DOE facilities to students will also give access to internships and potential jobs.” Moniz went on to say that there is “tremendous pressure to get talented people in this area,” and “to do that, the government must work to get ‘more women, more minorities into these programs.’”

The New York Times  (1/15, Subscription Publication), the “Post Politics” blog of the Washington Post  (1/16, Wilson), the “Morning Cybersecurity” blog of Politico  (1/16, Kopan) and the “Morning Energy” blog of Politico  (1/15, Guillén) preview the visit to Norfolk State University.

Higher Education

NYTimes Backs Obama’s Community College Goals.

An editorial in the New York Times  (1/15, Subscription Publication) says that “President Obama’s proposal for making community college tuition-free seems a reasonable response” to workforce education needs, but argues that “states and localities that have been starving community colleges for decades will need to begin holding them to higher standards and commit to sustained financing instead of using the new federal money to dodge their own financial obligations.” The Times points out that notwithstanding criticism of the plan, expanding access to postsecondary education is crucial to establishing a workforce with skills appropriate to “the information age.”

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Research and Development

MIT Researchers Use Diaper Substance To Improve Microscopy Resolution.

The Marietta (GA) Daily Journal  (1/16) reports that researchers at MIT have devised “a new trick for revealing tiny details under a microscope” which “draws on a technology that helps make disposable diapers so absorbent.” Researchers were attempting to “think of new ways to get super-high resolution out of lab microscopes,” and “hit on an unusual strategy: Rather than trying to make the devices more powerful, why not make the microscopic specimens under the microscope grow larger, so they’ll be easier to inspect?” The researchers used a substance similar to sodium polyacrylate, “which swells up as it absorbs liquid in diapers.”

RIT Incubator Firm Creates Head Injury Prevention Technology.

WXXI-FM  Rochester, NY (1/16) reports online that a company called BlackBox Biometrics, which “evolved from an incubator” associated with the Rochester Institute of Technology, has created technology to “alert people ahead of time and possibly prevent head injuries.” The firm’s Linx Impact Assessment System is a wearable device that “helps evaluate potentially concussive forces on the playing field.” A sensor is worn on the head and interfaces with an app that “allows parents, coaches and athletic trainers to monitor how hard and how many times an athlete is hit playing sports.”

Study Finds That Chondrules May Not Be Planetary Building Blocks.

The International Business Times  (1/15, Pandey) reports that a study by MIT and Purdue University scientists questions whether meteorites are the “building blocks of planets.” Current theory holds that chondrules in meteorites coalesced to form the planets we have today. In the new study, the team simulated collisions between protoplanets and found that they formed the chondrules now found in meteorites. Furthermore, they discovered that objects the size of the moon were formed before chondrules as wells.

The Daily Mail (UK)  (1/15, O’Callaghan), Science Times  (1/15, Wu), Nature World News  (1/15, Iacurci), Utah People’s Post  (1/15, Walker), China Topix  (1/15, Verayo), and Capital Berg  (1/15, Trommler) also cover the story.

NASA Working On Ways To Overcome Challenges For Future Mars Colonization.

The Business Insider  (1/15, Orwig) interviews astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman, who discussed how “radiation and technology” are the two hurdles that need to be overcome in order to establish colonies on Mars. There are currently “40 scientists at institutions across the country” and close to a dozen centers established by NASA working on how to protect people from the increased amount of radiation they will experience while traveling to Mars. Hoffman said that once on Mars, people will have to know how to use Martian resources because it is too costly to launch everything from Earth. To move that technology forward, NASA will launch the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resources Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) on its Mars 2020 mission to see whether it can turn the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. Hoffman, MOXIES principal investigator, said would like to scale that up into a larger version that astronauts could one day use on Mars, according to the article.

ACCJC Gives CCSF Two-Year Reprieve.

Inside Higher Ed  (1/15) reports that the Accrediting Commissioner for Community and Junior Colleges has “granted” City College of San Francisco “a two-year restoration of its accreditation status,” which the commission moved to revoke in 2013 “citing financial mismanagement and a wide range of other problems.” The article suggests that this would have doomed the “huge institution,” and notes that the ACCJC “has come under fire during the process, and received a reprimand from the U.S. Department of Education.”

Report: Women Discouraged From Entering Fields With “Brilliance” Perception.

Bloomberg News  (1/16, Colby) reports that according to a new report scheduled for publication in the journal Science, “women are discouraged from entering a broad range of academic fields – from philosophy to physics – that are perceived as requiring an innate brilliance they are led to believe they don’t possess.” The report “found women were much better represented in fields where practitioners believed hard work was the main prerequisite for achievement,” adding that the trend held up “not only in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but also in fields as diverse as music composition and education.”


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Industry News

Google Aims To Get Self-Driving Cars On Road In Around Five Years.

Bloomberg News  (1/15, Trudell) reports that Google “sees fielding a self-driving car on public roads in the U.S. within about five years without having to seek permission from regulators.” Google self-driving car director Chris Urmson said at the Detroit auto show, “We think we’re within a couple of years, probably within five years.” He added that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “could certainly reactively ban it, but we don’t think that they need to grant permission ahead of time.”

The New York Times  (1/14, Kessler, Subscription Publication) reports Urmson “acknowledged that a certain percentage of consumers are ‘really passionate about the driving experience’ and take pleasure in muscular performance and steering through curves.” However, he added, “But a lot of people buy a car because they want to get from one place to another.” He also said that Google “is exploring the idea of teaming up with a traditional automaker to manufacture such a car.”

Along those lines, Reuters  (1/15, Lienert, White) reports Urmson said, “We’d be remiss not to talk to … the biggest auto manufacturers. They’ve got a lot to offer,” adding, “For us to jump in and say that we can do this better, that’s arrogant.” Slate Magazine  (1/14, Oremus) reported in its “Future Tense” blog that in “terms of actual news,” that “leaves us pretty much where we were six months ago, when Reuters reported that Google had met with ‘several of the world’s largest car makers’ as early as 2012.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Canada Puts Off Summit With Obama, Some Say Because Of Keystone.

The Washington Times  (1/15, Wolfgang) reports that the White House on Thursday confirmed that Canada “has postponed the North American Leaders Summit scheduled for next month but would not say whether tension over the Keystone XL oil pipeline is the reason.” Canada said that the summit “will be held later in 2015, though no exact date has been set.” Some Canadian media outlets, the Times adds, “reported that the meeting was rescheduled because of President Obama’s continued indecision on Keystone, which the Canadian government strongly supports.”

Pro-Keystone Vote Count Remains At 63 In Senate. The Hill  (1/16, Sotomayor, Thoet) reports that the current Senate vote count on the legislation to force the approval of the Keystone project stands at 63 votes for it, with the rest opposed. However, while there are “perhaps four members” who could switch from opposition to support, “few believe they will.” Still, “the numbers bear watching as the debate continues.” The legislation needs 67 votes to overcome an expected Presidential veto.

Manchin, Whitehouse Write To DOE, EPA In Favor Of Carbon Capture Technology For Coal-Fired Power Plants.

The Hill  (1/16, Barron-Lopez, Cama) reports Democratic Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Joe Manchin wrote to the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday “to promote carbon capture and utilization technology for coal-fired power plants.” Whitehouse and Manchin “agree on the science of climate change and that something should be done,” but they have “been known to clash over the role of coal.”

The Charleston (WV) State Journal  (1/16) reports the senators wrote to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, “CCU transforms carbon dioxide from a waste disposal problem into an economic resource and could lower the cost of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.”

Thursday’s Lead Stories

Administration Rolls Out Methane Rules.
Moniz, Biden Head To Norfolk To Announce Funding For Cybersecurity Education Consortium.
Texas A&M Spending Big To Recruit Top Researchers.
Study Finds Faster Growth In STEM Jobs, Ranks Best Cities For STEM Workers.
Rickford Still Expects US Will Approve Keystone XL Pipeline.
West Virginia Education Board Declines To Adopt Anti-Climate Change Standards.

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