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

Leading the News

Microsoft Gets Positive Coverage For New HoloLens Headset.

Microsoft’s announcement of the HoloLens headset is greeted with acclaim from both mainstream and technology sector media. The AP  (1/22) reports Microsoft displayed the HoloLens Wednesday as it unveiled Windows 10. The device “lets users view and interact with three-dimensional images.” The company “did not say when it will be available for sale. But they talked about using it for games as well as more serious purposes, such as helping a surgeon visualize a new operating technique or showing someone how to perform plumbing repairs.” The Washington Post  (1/22, Tsukayama) also writes that “Microsoft’s take on smartglasses…does not yet have a firm release date.”

The New York Times  (1/22, Manjoo, Subscription Publication) writes that “the HoloLens is wondrous…and it suggests that interacting with holograms could become an important part of how we use machines in the future.” The new device “isn’t a gimmick. Microsoft has clearly put a great deal of engineering work into this project.” While “the promise of virtual reality is held up often in tech circles these days,” practical applications “have always seemed limited. Microsoft has spent a lot of time thinking about why people would use holograms.” The Wall Street Journal  (1/22, Stern) similarly says that Microsoft has given though to the practical uses for the innovation.

The Los Angeles Times  (1/21, Dave) says HoloLens was a “surprise announcement” that “grabbed all the attention” at an event intended to focus on Windows 10. It is “similar to a number of augmented and virtual reality products,” but “is a more immersive experience.” The Seattle Times  (1/22, Dudley) says that while HoloLens “was developed by the Xbox group,” it “is much more than a game accessory.”

Among the other sources reporting on HoloLens and Windows 10 are the BBC News  (1/22, Taylor) website, CNET News  (1/21, Statt), ComputerWorld  (1/21, Gaudin), Mashable  (1/21), PC Magazine  (1/21, Segan), SlashGear  (1/21, Burns), and Tom’s Guide  (1/21, Andronico). Bloomberg TV (1/21, 6:01 p.m. EST) and CNBC (1/21, 2:09 p.m. EST) also briefly mentioned HoloLens.

Higher Education

Illinois Community College Creating Fracking Degree Program.

McClatchy  (1/21, Johnson, Subscription Publication) reports that Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Illinois is starting a petroleum drilling technology program, which will focus on fracking. The first students will enroll in the program this fall. The article notes that an American Petroleum Institute study “found that the oil and gas industry has created 263,700 jobs in Illinois as of 2012” and that “the industry contributes $33.3 billion to Illinois’ economy, or about 5 percent of the total economy, each year.”

Louisiana College President Criticizes ED College Rating Plan.

The Houma (LA) Courier  (1/21) reports that Bruce Murphy, president of Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, “has joined a host of other state administrators in opposing the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System that President Barack Obama announced in 2013.” The piece reports that Murphy and other critics say “a ratings system could provide a disincentive for colleges to accept students considered high risk.”

WSJournal Criticizes Administration’s Plan To Decrease Tax Benefits Of College Savings Plans.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal  (1/22, Subscription Publication) criticizes the Obama Administration’s plan to decrease tax benefits of college savings plans and accounts, saying the White House is using the supposed defense of the middle class as a way of giving more power to the Federal government.

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NASCAR’s Patrick Promotes Women In Tech At Cal Poly.

KEYT-TV  Santa Barbara, CA (1/22) reports that NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, “the only woman to ever lead both the Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500,” is “helping to lead an effort to attract more women into the field of technology.” On Tuesday, Patrick appeared at Cal Poly “to bring more attention and awareness to STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) and inspire current and future women who will study in what historically have been male-dominated fields.” The San Luis Obispo (CA) Tribune  (1/21) also covers this story.

Engineering and Public Policy

Moniz Outlined DOE Actions To Improve Performance Of Projects.

The Engineering News Record  (1/26, Hunter) reported Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Jan. 15 “outlined actions his department is taking to improve project management and performance on troubled projects,” such as the Mixed-Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility and the Hanford Waste Treatment Plant. The steps included “requiring more-developed designs” before projects are started, “reconstituting the Energy Systems Advisory Board process and establishing a portfolio review board to provide independent assessments” of the risks associated with “all major capital projects.”

Senate Maneuvers Around Climate Change During Keystone Debate.

As part of the Keystone debate on Wednesday, the Senate passed an amendment acknowledging that the climate is changing, but turned back measures attributing it to humans.

The AP  (1/22, Cappiello) reports that the Senate on Wednesday “acknowledged” that climate change is “real but refused to say humans are to blame.” The measure, an amendment offered during the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, passed 98-1. It simply said that “climate change is real and not a hoax.” However, a measure sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R), who was leading the Keystone effort, was also introduced. The proposed measure, which said that humans “contributed to the problem fell one vote short of the 60 needed for it to be adopted, but it was supported by 15 Republicans,” including potential 2016 contender Sen. Rand Paul (R). The Senate was “divided, 50-49, on another measure that claimed human activities ‘significantly’ altered the climate.”

McClatchy  (1/22, Cockerham, Subscription Publication) says that by rejecting the measure saying that humans have contributed “significantly” to climate change, the Senate “rejected the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change.” The Democrats “pushed for the climate change votes as an attempt to get Republicans on the record in advance of the 2016 elections.”

Politico  (1/22, Schor) says with the series of votes, Republicans “head-faked” the Democrats.

The Washington Post  (1/21, Bump) reports in its “The Fix” blog that the measure that passed was introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) and co-sponsored by noted climate change skeptic Sen. James Inhofe (R). Inhofe argued that the “climate changes all the time,” but that it was a “hoax” that man was responsible.

Landowners Renew Challenge To Keystone. Bloomberg News  (1/22, Harris) reports that three Nebraska property owners who sued unsuccessfully to overturn the law clearing the way for the Keystone XL pipeline have asked the Nebraska state Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. The landowners, in a rehearing request, “said in a court filing Tuesday that the judges who denied them their victory overlooked key facts.”

Clinton Won’t Be “Pinned Down” On Keystone. The Hill  (1/22, Barron-Lopez) reports that Hillary Clinton “refused to be pinned down on the controversial Keystone XL” project on Wednesday. During a visit to Winnipeg, Canada, Clinton said, “I’m not going to express an opinion, this is in our process and that’s where it belongs.” Clinton “has repeatedly said in the past she would not voice her opinion on the $8 billion oil sands project ever since she was secretary of State, when the review first began.”

Romney Says Humans Are Contributing To Climate Change. The AP  (1/21) reports “outlining his possible rationale for a third presidential bid,” on Wednesday in Utah, Mitt Romney said “that political leaders in both parties are failing to address the nation’s most pressing problems — climate change, poverty and education reform, among them — as he acknowledged lessons learned from his failed 2012 presidential campaign.” Although he hit “familiar Republican points,” he “at times sounded like a Democrat.” Of climate change, Romney said, “I’m one of those Republicans who thinks we are getting warmer and that we contribute to that.”

Investigators Attempting To Determine Cause Of Oil Spill Into Yellowstone River.

The AP  (1/21, Brown) reports investigators and Brigder Pipeline Co officials on Wednesday “tried to determine the cause of the 40,000-gallon [oil] spill that has contaminated downstream water supplies in the city of Glendive,” Montana. Workers “recovered about 10,000 gallons of oil from a ruptured pipeline that spilled crude oil into the Yellowstone River.” Bridger Pipeline spokesman Bill Salvin said Wednesday, “What we’re working in is identifying places where we can collect more oil. The cleanup could extend for a while.”

NBC Nightly News (1/21, story 8, 0:35, Williams) reported that the spill has resulted in “thousands of people” being unable to “drink the water” in Glendive. NBC said “emergency responders have trucked in several thousand gallons of bottled water for the people there.”

Almost 3 Million Gallons Of Saltwater Leaked From North Dakota Pipeline. The AP  (1/21) reports North Dakota state officials “say nearly 3 million gallons of saltwater generated by oil drilling has leaked from a…pipeline though the environmental effects aren’t immediately clear.” The AP says the leak is the “largest saltwater spill since the state’s oil boom began in 2006, and nearly tripled the size of the previous record.”

House Approves Bill To Increase Speed Of Natural Gas Pipeline Approval.

The “Floor Action” blog of The Hill  (1/22, Marcos) reports that the House yesterday passed legislation “to expedite the federal review process for natural gas pipeline applications.” The bill, which was passed 253-169, “would allow automatic approval of natural gas pipelines if federal agencies don’t act within a certain timeframe.” The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, under the measure, “would be ordered to approve or deny a pipeline application within 12 months.” The Hill notes “agencies responsible for issuing licenses or permits must act within 90 days after FERC issues a final environmental review, though the deadline could be extended by 30 days if the agency demonstrates it can’t finish in time.” However, “if the agency doesn’t make a decision by then, a pipeline would automatically be approved.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

High School Seniors Encouraged As Edison Scholars Program Deadline Approaches.

The World Journal  (1/21) carries a press release on the 2014-15 Edison Scholars Program’s Feb. 1 application deadline for seniors who either live in or attend high school in Southern California Edison’s service area. The program “offers $1.2 million in scholarships to students planning to pursue college studies in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields.” Thirty scholarships “valued at $40,000” will be awarded and scholarships recipients “may also be eligible for summer internships at SCE after completing their second year of college.”

This story was also covered by the Epoch Times  (1/21).

NASA Takes Part In “State Of STEM” Event.

The US News & World Report  (1/21, Bidwell) reports on the third “State of STEM” event which took place at the White House on Wednesay as part of the “Big Block of Cheese Day.” The article notes that “several NASA astronauts on the International Space Station” and others answered questions about STEM careers. NASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan also took part in a panel “about the different roles of women in STEM.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

Senate Rejects Democrats’ Keystone Amendments.
Obama Calls For More Access To College, Pre-K In SOTU.
Princeton Researchers Aim To Push Toward Fusion Energy.
Monterey Technologies Beats Lockheed For $40M NASA Contract.
Demoltion Strategy, Not Bridge Design, Blamed Likely Cause Of I-75 Overpass Collapse.
US Senators To Introduce CTE Bill.

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