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

Leading the News

Amtrak To Install Inward-Facing Cameras In Locomotives.

NBC Nightly News and several other major national news outlets report on Amtrak’s announcement Tuesday that it plans to install inward-facing video cameras inside locomotives to more closely monitor engineers. The announcement comes in the wake of the deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia. Most reports note that the NTSB is investigating the Amtrak crash, and that investigators are focusing on the actions of engineer Brandon Bostian. For instance, NBC Nightly News (5/26, story 8, 0:25, Holt) reported that Amtrak’s announcement was made “as investigators are searching for clues into the train engineer’s actions just before” the Philadelphia crash. According to the report, the train engineer “told investigators he couldn’t remember what happened.”

According to the New York Times  (5/27, Mcgeehan, Subscription Publication), Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman said that he made a decision “over the weekend” to install the inward-facing cameras in all locomotives, starting with the “70 that operate along the Northeast Corridor.” Later, the article notes that inward-facing cameras would have shown whether Bostian “pushed the throttle forward, speeding up the train, and what he might have done to slow it down.” The Times adds that NTSB officials said that the Amtrak train’s “emergency brakes had been engaged” moments before the derailment, “but slowed it to only 102 miles per hour, from 106.”

The AP  (5/27, Lowy) reports that the Amtrak train in the Philadelphia crash was equipped with an outward-facing camera and a “black box” data recorder, “but neither of those devices reveals what was happening inside the cab.” According to the report, the NTSB has been recommending that the FRA “require passenger and freight train cabs to have audio recorders since the late 1990s.” It adds that five years ago, the NTSB “revised that recommendation…to include inward-facing sound and video recorders.”

The Wall Street Journal  (5/27, Maher, Subscription Publication) reports Boardman said Amtrak is working with the FRA on installing the inward-facing cameras.

CNN  (5/27, Hoye) reports online that a spokesman for the NTSB said that the agency’s investigation is “looking in to Bostian’s ‘situational awareness,’ as part of the ‘human factors’ component” of the probe. According to the article, another NTSB official said that the “‘only way’ an operable train” could speed up “would be for the engineer to push the throttle, and the train’s recorder should show that throttle movement.” NTSB Member Robert Sumwalt is quoted as saying during an interview with CNN last week, “We will be looking at that to see if that corresponds to the increased in the speed of the train.”

Higher Education

ED Investigation Finds Little Evidence Loan Servicers Are Fleecing Troops.

The Washington Post  (5/27, Douglas-Gabriel) reports that a year after Education Secretary Arne Duncan vowed that ED would investigate student loan servicers to make sure they were not “unlawfully charging active-duty service members high interest rates on student loans,” the department on Tuesday released a report indicating that “less than 1 percent of the troops’ files it reviewed from 2009 to 2014 contained violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), a federal law that extends legal and financial protections to military personnel.” ED investigated “the four largest servicers—-Navient, Great Lakes, Nelnet and American Education Services.” The Post quotes Under Secretary Ted Mitchell saying, “For all of the sacrifices they have made on behalf of our country, our brave service members have the right to the benefits provided to them under federal law and should not be subjected to additional red tape to manage their student loans.”

ED’s Efforts To Rein In For-Profit Sector Described.

In a New York Post  (5/26) column, Michelle Celarier writes about the clash between the for-profit college sector and ED in recent years, describing how ED’s insistence on holding the industry accountable with gainful employment rules has led to taking stocks and even the demise of Corinthian Colleges Inc. The piece describes how the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities successfully fought off ED’s first attempt to implement such rules, and predicts that the sector will continue to fight reforms.

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Research and Development

Science Fiction Can Help Inspire Future Missions.

Business Insider  (5/26, Dickerson) reports that science fiction authors are interested in writing about Mars again now that scientific research has shown it may have once harbored life. Geoffrey Landis of the Glenn Research Center, who writes science fiction in his spare time, said that these stories in turn can inspire people to travel to Mars because “one thing science fiction can do is explore the ideas of why someone would want to go to another planet. … We can make the readers start asking ‘why would I want to go to Mars?’” Meanwhile, the article notes that it will take more support from the government if “a NASA-backed plan” will ever take place.

Drexel Engineer Researching Improved Industrial Boiling.

WHYY-FM  Philadelphia (5/27) reports that Drexel University engineering professor Matthew McCarthy “is researching how a strain of the tobacco mosaic virus, a former nuisance to farmers, could help form a coating that improves the boiling process” in industrial applications. The individual virus particles form a matrix to which bits of nickel can adhere at the nano-scale level. The coating “acts to nudge” bubbles “loose from the bottom of the pan by sucking water down in between the tiny blades.”

Industry News

IDC: Expect Slowdown, Few Changes In Global Smartphone Market.

USA Today  (5/26, Molina) reports research firm IDC reported that smartphone shipments are expected to grow 11.3% this year, down from 27.65 growth in 2014. IDC reports that the slowdown in growth is caused by weaker forecasts for the China market and the Android OS. The report from IDC predicts this will be the first year that smartphone growth in China will be behind the global market.

CNET News  (5/26, Reisinger) reports total shipments this year will hit 1.4 billion units, with Android systems accounting for 1.15 billion shipments or 79.4% of the worldwide market. Apple is expected to come in second with 237 million shipments and 16.4 percent of market share, and Windows Phone will have 46.8 million shipments and 3.2 percent market share. The article predicts that by 2019, Android will still maintain 79 percent of the worldwide market, with iOS holding 14.2 percent, and 5.4 percent for Windows Phone.

Engineering and Public Policy

New FAA Rules Allow Blanket Authorizations For Certain Drones On All Test Sites.

The East Oregonian  (5/26, Sierra) reports the FAA announced last week the “blanket authorization for certain unmanned aerial vehicles for all drone test sites.” The new and less restrictive FAA rules allow tests sites to operate any vehicle under 55 pounds up to 200 feet in the air anywhere in the US “except restricted airspace and areas close to airports or heliports.” The article says and FAA press release states, “The new authorizations also let the test sites fly various types of UAS under a single (authorization certificate) making it easier for them to conduct research missions.”

EIA Report Highlights Significant Impact Of Coal Rules.

The Daily Caller  (5/26, Bastasch) reports that a new report from the Energy Information Agency lays out the impact of the EPA’s “Clear Power Plan,” predicting that the economy “could take a $1.4 trillion hit by 2040” because of the regulations. The EIA “forecasts” that the regulations will “more than double projected coal-fired power plant retirements in the next five years, from 40 gigawatts to 90 gigawatts, and coal production could collapse more than 30 percent in the next decade.”

Kansas Challenge To EPA Air Pollution Plan Rejected By Federal Court.

The Hill  (5/26, Cama) reports “a federal court has rejected Kansas’ challenge of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) disapproval of an air pollution plan from the state.” In 2011, the state filed the case “after the EPA decided Kansas did not go far enough in ensuring that its air pollution did not blow to neighboring states as part of the agency’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.” The agency “had rejected Kansas’ state implementation plan for the so-called “good neighbor” rule, which requires that states account for cross-state winds when deciding how to comply with federal air rules.” In its decision, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote, “EPA acted well within the bounds of its delegated authority when it disapproved of Kansas’s proposed SIP.”

Proposed EPA Regulations Would Bring Emissions To Historic Low.

The Hill  (5/26, Cama) reports that the EPA’s proposed climate rules would bring the power sector’s carbon emissions to historic lows, according to the Energy Information Administration. A report from the EIA says that cutting the industry’s carbon emissions 30 percent by 2030 would bring them down to 1980s levels, though they could creep up after 2025 if states opt to satisfy the rules by gaining credits instead of actually reducing pollution.

Obama Administration Announces Program To Help Fund Solar Industry.

The Hill  (5/26, Henry) reports the Energy Department “announced a $32 million funding program to support jobs and research in the solar energy sector on Tuesday.” Twelve million dollars of that funding “will go toward projects to train solar technicians and provide information about solar power to ‘other professionals in related fields such as real estate, insurance, finance and fire and safety,’ according to the Department of Energy.” The money “will go toward the Obama administration’s goal of training 75,000 new solar workers by 2020.” The Energy Department “will also spend $15 million on projects to develop new concentrating solar power (CSP) collectors, which are the most costly component of a solar power system.” The rest of the money “will go toward at least three projects to collect and share data on the solar industry, such as power production and financial information.”

The E&E News PM  (5/27) reports that the Energy Department said in a statement, “By improving data access and establishing industry-wide standards for solar energy system performance, this effort will enable innovative new business solutions to increase solar energy adoption in the United States.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Maine Governor Vetoes Next Generation Science Standards Bill.

The Portland (ME) Press Herald  (5/26) reports that Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has vetoed legislation “that would have required the state to adopt new Common Core-aligned science standards, saying it would be too costly and comes at an already busy time for Maine’s educators.” The article notes that Maine is one of the 26 states that developed the Next Generation Science Standards, which are supported by the Maine Science Technology Engineering and Math Council, “which described the standards as superior to Maine’s current standards and more likely to foster job growth.” The paper reports that the NextGen standards “place a stronger emphasis on engineering and using the scientific method to solve problems.”

South Dakota Science Curriculum Similar To NGSS.

Education Week  (5/27, Heitin) reports in its Curriculum Matters blog that South Dakota has created a science curriculum that looks “a heck of a lot like” the Next Generation Science Standards, but has “at least a few edits” on the age of the Earth and on climate change. The standards use the three “dimensions” of the NGSS, the same numbering system, and often the same phrasing. Evolution, climate change, and the age of the Earth are all addressed, but with more ambivalence as to whether they are scientifically fact or merely “supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence,” as the standard for evolution notes.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

As Part Of Settlement, DOJ Could Force GM To Plead Guilty.
Georgia College President Criticizes ED College Rating Plan.
French Company Develops 3-D Heart Modeling Program.
UAE Space Agency Lays Out Its Strategic Framework.
Industry Considering 100-Year Service Lifespan For Nuclear Plants.
Experts Place More Blame On US Army Corps Of Engineers 10 Years After Katrina.
High Schools Pushing Students Towards Aviation And Aerospace Studies.

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