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

Leading the News

Navy Unveils Firefighting Robot.

Popular Mechanics  (2/6) reports that the Naval Research Lab has unveiled a “firefighting robot,” noting that the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR) “won’t make the mistakes a human could when deploying a hose or other firefighting tool, and could go places a person cannot.”

TIME  (2/5, Fitzpatrick) reports that researchers at Virginia Tech worked on the project, quoting ONR’s Dr. Thomas McKenna saying, “We set out to build and demonstrate a humanoid capable of mobility aboard a ship, manipulating doors and fire hoses, and equipped with sensors to see and navigate through smoke. The long-term goal is to keep sailors from the danger of direct exposure to fire.”

The New York Daily News  (2/6) reports the robot “was developed by researchers at Virginia Tech so it could act like a firefighter, walk on uneven floors and use thermal imaging to identify overheated equipment.”

CBS News  (2/6), Fox News  (2/5), and Mashable  (2/5) also cover this story.

Higher Education

Obama To Promote Community College Proposal In Indiana Today.

The Indianapolis Star  (2/5, Lobianco, Star) reports the President plans to travel to Indianapolis today to promote “the benefits of Indiana’s statewide community college system” and “his proposal to pay for the cost of community college as a bipartisan initiative and has made stops in conservative states, such as Idaho and Kansas.” Press secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday, “I think this is an effort to continue that theme, that the president is going to go to Indiana, which has a bit more of a purplish hue than either Idaho or Kansas does.”

Administration Extending Pay As You Go Student Loan Program.

Inside Higher Ed  (2/6) reports that the Administration has announced that “extending its income-based repayment program to 5 million existing student loan borrowers will cost taxpayers more than $9 billion.” The piece notes that the announcement comes as ED has “raised its estimate of the long-term cost to the government of all federal direct loans.”

Clemson Project Encourages Female Engineers.

WSPA-TV  Greenville, SC (2/6) reports online that Clemson University has launched a project aimed at “helping to fight the stereotypes and encourage more women to go into engineering.” Clemson’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) program is starting a new webinar series to connect students with mentors working in engineering.

#ASEEYoADiversity. These institutions have model programs for student retention, many focused on minorities and women.

Diversity Committee Newsletter. Read the Winter edition, with updates on the Year of Action.

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Research and Development

Researchers Say They Have Developed Graphene Layer For Use As LED Display.

Digital Trends  (2/5, Stobing) writes that a University of Manchester team says it has “been able to successfully engineer a layer of graphene that can be used as an LED display.” The semi-transparent screen is said to be “no more than forty atoms thick.” Digital Trends considers the possibilities for the technology, such as “full fledged computers wrapped up in something the size of a pen with a screen that rolls out from inside, or 4K displays that you can fold up to fit in your back pocket.”


Information Technology Offers The Most, Best Jobs.

InfoWorld  (2/5, Snyder) summarizes the findings of a report by CompTIA, which was based heavily on a survey of 649 diverse companies, and which “projects that IT spending in the United States will grow by 5.1 percent this year,” up from 2014’s growth of 2.4 percent, and that IT spending will “represent more than $1 trillion in hardware, software, and services” in 2015. Infoworld also summarizes a second report by Glassdoor, which identified 25 of the “best jobs in America,” 10 of which were in IT. According to the article, “the highest-rated tech job was software engineer, with an average base salary of $98,074.”

Industry News

Tesla, Apple Try To Lure Employees From One Another.

Bloomberg News  (2/5, Higgins, Hull) reports Tesla motors is actively poaching employees from Apple, and to-date the automaker has nabbed 150 former Apple employees working on everything from engineering to law. The article points out that evidence of Apple employee’s work is evident in the touch screens, updates, and controls found in the new Tesla models. 9 to 5 Mac  (2/5, Beasley) reports that for its part, Apple is trying to lure some of Tesla’s employees with quarter-million dollar signing bonuses and sixty percent salary increases. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that Apple has had limited success with luring some of its employees away, and some analysts say this is evidence of Apple’s plans to enter the car industry. AppleInsider  (2/5) also covers this story.

Engineering and Public Policy

Illinois Officials Decry DOE Decision To End Funding For FutureGen.

The AP  (2/6) reports that Sen. Mark Kirk and Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois, “are speaking out against the recent decision to end federal funding for a clean-coal project in Meredosia.” On Wednesday, Kirk and Rauner “issued a statement…regarding the long-planned FutureGen project.” The GOP lawmakers “said they were thoroughly disappointed in the U.S. Department of Energy’s decision to bring a hasty end [to] the project.” Kirk and Rauner said, however, that “they will not give up on advancements in clean-coal technology and bringing more new jobs to Illinois.”

Bloomberg News  (2/5, Snyder, Drajem) says that DOE’s decision to pull “the plug on a project” is “a significant setback for development of a technology that may be critical to the future of coal.” The project “was supposed to demonstrate the feasibility of a new, climate-friendly way to use coal” but “the combination of approaching deadlines, leery investors and reluctant power buyers scuttled the project.”

Dominion Virginia Power Planning Multiple Large-Scale Solar Projects In Virginia.

The AP  (2/5) reports that Dominion Virginia Power “is planning to develop multiple large-scale solar projects” in Virginia “totaling 400 megawatts of electricity.” Dominion said Thursday that the projects “estimated to cost $700 million are expected to be operational by 2020 and power 100,000 homes.” Dominion says it is “actively working to select sites around Virginia by evaluating terrain and other electrical and environmental factors.” The article notes that Dominion “already has several solar projects around the country.”

House Committee Approves Bill Authorizing Higher Rates Of Return On Solar Facilities. The Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch  (2/5, Bacque) reports on the solar announcement, noting the projects “could add about 50 cents to a typical residential customer’s bill” and will require approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission. The Times-Dispatch also notes that on Thursday, the House of Delegates’ Committee on Commerce and Labor “voted in favor of a bill that would allow utilities building solar facilities to receive a higher rate of return on those projects when they file for rate-adjustment clauses.” The committee “also supported a bill that would require Dominion Virginia Power to file an integrated resource plan annually, rather than every other year,” a plan that “gives state regulators the company’s forecasts for future electricity needs and its plans to meet those needs.” According to the article, “a bill in the Senate that would change regulations for Dominion also includes a requirement that the company file its resource plan each year.”

Boehner Calls On Kerry To Be More Transparent About Keystone.

The Hill  (2/5, Barron-Lopez) reports the State Department was “scolded” yesterday by House Speaker John Boehner yesterday “for refusing to release comments submitted by agencies on the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.” Boehner said, “When Secretary [of State John] Kerry was sworn in, he guaranteed — and he used that word, ‘guaranteed’ — a fair, transparent and accountable review of the Keystone pipeline.” The Hill notes that “eight agencies were asked to comment by Monday on whether the $8 billion pipeline is in the nation’s best interest, and all eight complied.” Boehner stated, “I am calling on Secretary Kerry to address this issue, and immediately deliver the transparency and accountability that he promised the American people.”

Nebraska Landowners Ask Judges To Block TransCanada From Seizing Land For Keystone. Bloomberg News  (2/5, Harris) reports that landowners in Nebraska “opposed to TransCanada Corp.’s plan to run the Keystone XL oil pipeline through the state asked two judges to block the Canadian company from seizing property.” Made on Wednesday in the cities of York and O’Neill, the requests “followed by a day a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report that production of crude to be transported from Canada’s oil sands will significantly increase greenhouse gases tied to global warming.” Approximately “90 Nebraska property owners have now joined in two lawsuits to block TransCanada’s bid to acquire easements across privately owned land through which the proposed pipeline will pass.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Illinois Axes State Science Exams For 3 Grades.

The Chicago Tribune  (2/5) reports “state officials say science standards are outdated and students shouldn’t be tested, but federal law requires the exams.” In the latest move dealing with “testing in Illinois, the longtime state science exams for fourth-, seventh- and 11th-graders have been cut from the lineup of spring exams — even though they’re required by federal law.” The decision “has disturbed some science educators and put Illinois in conflict with the federal government at a time when tensions continue over Chicago Public Schools’ refusal to give new state reading and math exams to most students.”

Wyoming Bill Which Would Reinstate Review Of Science Standards Moves Ahead.

The Sheridan (WY) Press  (2/6) reports “House Bill 23, a bill that would reinstate the review of the Next Generation Science Standards, continues to work its way through the Wyoming Legislature.” The measure “sponsored in part by Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, seeks to repeal the 2013 budget footnote that prohibited any funds from being spent on the consideration of the NGSS in adoption of uniform student content and performance standards.”

Lockheed Martin Gifts $2 Million To Expand STEM Curriculum In Orange County Schools.

The Orlando (FL) Sentinel  (2/5) reports “classwork that exposes students to science, engineering, technology and mathematics will be expanded to all of Orange County’s 184 traditional public schools within three years under a $2 million grant from Lockheed Martin.” The grant will provide funds “for the school district to expand greatly the reach of Project Lead the Way, a nonprofit that develops courses in the so-called STEM fields.”

The Orlando (FL) Business Journal  (2/6, Ribbens, Subscription Publication) reports “Orange County Public Schools is the second urban school district to expand programming through Lockheed’s national agreement with PLTW.”

STEM School Leader Profiled.

Education Week  (2/6, Atkeson) profiles Patty Quiñones, the executive director of innovation for the St. Vrain Valley School district in Longmont, Colo., which “was awarded a $16.6 million grant from the Race to the Top Fund.” Quiñones says the district was able to develop a STEM academy when it “renovated Skyline High School for $14 million.” That allowed the district “to design and create unique educational spaces that were directly aligned to the curriculum” the district wanted to implement.

Thursday’s Lead Stories

FCC’s Wheeler Calls For Regulating Broadband As A Public Utility.
ED Releases List Of Sites Experimenting On Alternative Degree Routes.
White Paper Describes Decline In US Corporate Research.
Cable Currently The “Showstopper” In Space Elevator Development.
DOE Cuts Funding For “Clean Coal” Plant FutureGen 2.0.
Kennewick Students Win National App Development Competition.

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